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What is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?

What is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?

When asked what is the unpardonable sin, some Christians might think it is suicide; it’s not. As tragic as it is, a person who commits suicide does not mean he or she automatically goes to hell.

However, the Scripture teaches that there is an unpardonable sin that will keep people out of heaven – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

Let us look at what the Bible says about the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit and understand exactly what it is so that we will not commit it.

The Unpardonable Sin in Jesus’ Day

In a confrontation with the religious leaders during His ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke of an unforgivable sin called the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” He said that whoever commits this terrible sin would never be forgiven. Indeed, they could not be forgiven in this life or the next.

What is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit in the Bible

What Does it Mean to Blaspheme?

The Greek word blaspheme is translated “slander.” It has the idea to “speak against, insult, or curse.” In Scripture, the word is used for insults hurled at both God and humans.

For example, the Greek noun blaspheme is used of people slandering one another. The apostle Paul used it in his letter to the Ephesians when he encouraged the believers not to “slander” others (Ephesians 4:31 NIV). In this context, it speaks of insults or curses one person directs at another.

The word translated blasphemy can also be used for strong insults or curses directed against God. Scripture records several examples of people cursing the God of the Bible.

The Israelites who came out of Egypt were accused of insulting or blaspheming God, for not only did they build a golden calf; they also claimed that this image was the actual god who brought them out of the land of Egypt (Nehemiah 9:18).

These acts by the people were considered insults or blasphemies against God. We find that Jesus Himself was accused of blasphemy by the religious leaders because He claimed the right or ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:7). They realized that God alone can forgive sins so they assumed Jesus was blaspheming by claiming the same authority.

Cursing God: A Serious Offense

We read in the Old Testament that cursing God was an extremely serious offense. Those who openly defied the Lord were to be cut off from the people, whether native-born Israelites or foreigners (Numbers 15:30-31). In Leviticus 24:15-16, we read that those who cursed the Lord were worthy of the death penalty.

Therefore, simply stated, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would involve some type of insulting or cursing the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Jewish audience which Jesus addressed certainly knew the serious nature of such a sin.

The background of Jesus’ statement about the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can be found in Matthew 12:22-30.

Jesus healed a man who was possessed by a demon, His demon possession made him blind, mute, and probably deaf. This combination of illnesses made it impossible for anyone to cast the demon out of the man because there was no way anyone could communicate with him.

When the people saw Jesus heal the man they wondered if he could be the long-awaited Messiah. Indeed, who else but the Messiah could perform such a miracle? However, not everyone was convinced.

The Jews Accused Jesus of Blasphemy

The suggestion that Jesus could be the promised Messiah brought a quick response from the religious leaders:

But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons” (Matthew 12:24).

They accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. In other words, they could not deny His power but rather they attributed it to some evil or demonic source. Who would want to follow someone who is working with Satan?

Since the religious leaders were supposedly in a position to determine the source of Jesus’ miracles, this accusation had to be answered by the Lord.


Jesus’ Response: Satan does not Work against Himself

How did Jesus respond? By showing them how illogical their arguments were. He made it clear that Satan would not cast out Satan. We read this in Matthew 12:25-29. Satan was not in the business of casting out himself. The power to exorcise demons belongs to God and Him alone.

The fact that Jesus could cast out demons made it plain that the power of God was operating among them. Therefore, these people were held responsible to respond to God’s miraculous power in their midst.

To reject God’s work among them was insulting or cursing God. It was blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned earlier, the Old Testament prescribed the death penalty for those who did such things.

Consequently, attributing Jesus’ Spirit-led miracles to a demonic source was the worst sin that they could commit. Indeed, by doing so, they were cursing the God of the Bible.

Jesus’ Response to those who Commit such a Sin

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ words about the fate of those who blaspheme against God the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10-11, Jesus was recorded saying no forgiveness is possible for those who commit this sin while Mark quotes Jesus calling this eternal sin (Mark 3:28-30).

Nature of the Sin of Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

From the above-mentioned sources, we can make some important key points from Jesus’ statements about the nature of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Sin was Unforgivable

First, this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.

When the religious leaders attributed the miracles that Jesus performed to demonic forces, Jesus made it plain to them the seriousness of their sin by telling them that there would be no forgiveness in this life and in the next for what they had done.

Indeed, this sin would keep the offenders out of heaven. In Mark’s gospel, we read Jesus calling this sin an “eternal sin.” In other words, it has everlasting consequences. Anyone who engages in such insults to God will not be forgiven whether in this life or in the next to come.

It is a Public Rejection of Jesus and His Message

We discover something else from Luke.

It also seems to consist of some public rejection of the ministry of Jesus as well as that of His disciples. In His next statement, after speaking of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says that the Spirit will be with His disciples as they testify about Him before the religious authorities (Luke 12:11-12).

It is, therefore, seemingly more than a lack of belief in Christ. It is also the public denial of the testimony of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.

Sins done in Ignorance against Jesus can be Forgiven

Interestingly, Jesus said that sins against Him could be forgiven but there would be no forgiveness of those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. This seems to mean that people could ignorantly or unintentionally say things against Jesus without committing the unpardonable sin. Forgiveness is still possible for those who do this.

However, if a person knowingly and defiantly speaks insults against the power of the Holy Spirit, who is testifying to the truth of Jesus and His message, there is no forgiveness possible. This was an especially terrible sin that the religious leaders were committing.

What does it mean to Blaspheme the Holy Spirit

They were publicly attributing Jesus’ miraculous power to the devil. It was not done in ignorance. In fact, it was a willing rejection of the God of the Bible, the God whom they were supposed to be serving.

Furthermore, they were doing it publicly, in front of the multitude. By doing so, they were pitting their authority against His.

It was an Insult to God

Especially in this particular context, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was working in Jesus as well as through Jesus. The Spirit of God was testifying to everyone that Jesus was the Messiah.

Rejecting the message of the Spirit was the same as rejecting or insulting the God of the Bible.

It was a Continual State of Sin

Something else worth noting is that these religious leaders were in a continuous state of sin by denying that the miracles of Jesus were accomplished through the power of God. Thus, they were in a constant state of sin or rebellion against God.

What made matters worse was that these men were the religious authorities, the spiritual leaders. Their testimony carried great weight with the people. Their false accusations could not go unchallenged.

In fact, this continual rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit is the one sin that would keep them out of heaven. All other sins could and would be forgiven.

This was what Jesus meant when He spoke of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. These religious leaders were committing the unforgivable sin. No forgiveness was possible as long as they were doing this

Related Article: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit

Conclusion

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the public attributing of the work of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ to Satan. The Holy Spirit testified of Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. Refusal to acknowledge this obvious testimony of the work of God was blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was more than one particular sin which the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were committing. It is a continuous state of publicly insulting or cursing the work of the Holy Spirit which was done in the Person of Christ.

Since there could be no real question that the miracles of Jesus had been brought about through the power of the Holy Spirit, anyone who would consciously and publicly reject this fact and attributes His work to Satan or some demonic force could not expect to be forgiven in this life or eternity

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit meant eternal damnation. Consequently, this is the one sin that would keep people out of heaven.


*Excerpt is taken from “Living in the Light of Eternity” (The After Life Series Volume 1) by Don Stewart.

Types of Christian Prayers

Types of Christian Prayers

The Bible teaches that God is the Father of all who believe in Jesus Christ and that He is a loving Father. Since God loves His children, He wants them to communicate with Him. This is the very definition of prayer – talking to God.

As God’s children, all Christians have the privilege and the right of approaching God through prayer. It is through prayer that Christians personally communicate their deepest thoughts, needs, and desires to God.

Indeed, prayer is one of the most important things that believers can do.

The topic of prayers is quite broad and cannot be tackled in a single post. In this article, we will look at the kinds or types of prayer that can be prayed by believers in Jesus Christ.

Types of Prayer in Christianity

From Scripture, there are several types of prayers:

Prayer of Confession

Even though God has forgiven Christians all of their sins, not one of them ever lives a perfect life. We all still sin; no one is exempted. These sins need to be acknowledged before God. Consequently, prayer always involves a confession of our sin.

The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught to His followers as a model of prayer when He gave His discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount, includes a prayer of confession.

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name … And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:9, 12).

Likewise, the psalmist emphasized the need for confession of sin. He wrote:

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

1 John 1:9 NKJV

When King David realized that he committed a great sin against the Lord, he prayed a prayer of confession (Psalm 51:1-4).  Likewise, Daniel and Ezra realized the importance of confession, humbled themselves before the Lord, and confessed their sins as well as the sins of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:20; Ezra 9:5-6).

One of the questions Christians often ask is: Should we pray (confess) only the sins that we remember? What about those that we do not remember? The simple answer is, we ought to pray for those sins that we do not remember.

In psalm 19:12, the psalmist asked God to cleanse him from his secret (hidden) faults – those faults that were perhaps unknown to him, or those that must have slipped through his mind.

And the Lord is loving, compassionate, and forgiving. He promised to forgive our sins when we confessed them to Him (1 John 1:9).

All of us should want to walk worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus, and confession of sin will help us achieve that because it gets us back on to the straight and narrow way that the Lord has for each of us.

Prayer of Petition

Much of our prayer is for ourselves; this is called the prayer of petition.

And there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, James says we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). And at times we do not receive what we have asked for because we have the wrong motive (James 4:3).

The key to receiving what we have asked for is to ask for the things that God wants for us. Psalm 37:4-5 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

In other words, we should want things that God wants and desire for ourselves the things that God desires for us.

Prayer of Intercession

When we ask for things that are not for ourselves, it is called a prayer of intercession, and the one asking is called an intercessor. Let us take a look at some examples in Scripture of those who prayed or interceded for the needs of others.

Paul indicated that he always prayed for the church at Thessalonica and said that he would continually ask the Lord to meet their needs (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

The prayer of intercession does not necessarily have to be for a certain individual or group of individuals; it can also be for an entire city or entire nation. The psalmist declared that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).

Blessings for Blessing Israel

In times of global chaos, disaster, or pandemic, like what we are going through right now as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, Christians need to get down on their knees and intercede for the nations.

Intercessory prayer is important because it emphasizes that we are not merely to address the Lord for our needs but we need to think about others too.

Jesus also told us to pray for our enemies – those who have hurt us, are persecuting us or making things difficult for us, may it be within our family circle, community, or society (Luke 6:28). This is something difficult for us to do. Indeed, we need the Holy Spirit’s help and direction to pray for those with whom we are enemies.

Prayer of Praise, Worship, and Thanksgiving

When we pray, we do not only ask God to do something for us or others. There are times when our prayers consist of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Jesus began His model prayer for His disciples with praise to God:

In this manner, therefore, pray: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Consequently, we begin our prayers with words of praise and worship to the Lord. The psalmist wrote about the need to bow down and kneel before our God (Psalm 95:6-7). We should also pray with a thankful and humble attitude before the Lord, especially when we remember all that He has done for us.

In Exodus 13:3, the children of Israel were told to remember what the Lord has done for them.

And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.”

The apostle Paul says that we should give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) and told the church at Thessalonica that he constantly gave thanks to God as he continually prayed for them (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

Thankfulness and praise should always be part of our prayer life.

Prayer of Benediction

The prayer of benediction is a prayer of blessing for others. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

This is the type of prayer that we should often pray. We should desire God’s blessings to be bestowed upon others.

Prayer Containing All the Above Elements

The Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-13When we pray The Lord’s Prayer or use it as a model for our prayer, our prayer will likely contain each of the above-mentioned elements.

For example, when we pray, we will probably confess our sins, pray for others, pray for ourselves, give thanks to God, and pray a specific prayer of blessing for others. While this is not the case with every prayer we pray, these elements will certainly be in most of our prayers.

The psalmist wrote:

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly, God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me” (Psalm 66:16-20)!

Conclusion

The prayers we offer to God should contain these elements of confession, petition, intercession, praise, thanksgiving, and blessing. This is the biblical way in which we should pray.

However, there may be times when we miss some of these elements in our prayer. The important thing is this: we need to pray!


Reference: Prayer by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Renowned pastor and New York Times bestselling author of The Prodigal Prophet Timothy Keller explores the power of prayer.

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance on how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

Dr. Keller’s previous books have sold more than one million copies. His Redeemer Presbyterian Church is not only a major presence in his home base of New York, but it has also helped to launch more than two hundred fifty other churches in forty-eight cities around the world. His teachings have already helped millions, the majority of whom pray regularly.

And with Prayer, he’ll show them how to find a deeper connection with God.

Ecclesiastes 3 Explained

Ecclesiastes 3 Explained

Ecclesiastes 3 is unarguably one of the most quoted Bible passages not only by Christians but also non-Christians, especially when talking about the meaning of life. Now, why is that? What is this passage all about? What is Solomon, the author, trying to tell us about life?

An Introduction to the Book of Ecclesiastes

Some argue that the book of Ecclesiastes may not have been written by Solomon but by somebody else under his instruction. However, there are powerful arguments that the author was Solomon himself.

The author calls himself “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” in Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12. And Solomon was the best qualified Davidic descendant for the quest in this book as he was the wisest man who ever taught in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:16; 1 Kings 4:29-30).

The description of Qoheleth’s exploration of pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3), impressive accomplishments (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6), and unparalleled wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:7-10) were fulfilled only by King Solomon.

Note 1: The Hebrew title Qoheleth is a rare term, found only in this book (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8-10). It comes from the word qahal, “to convoke an assembly, to assemble.” Thus, it means “one who addresses an assembly, a preacher.”

The Septuagint used the Greek word Ekklesiastes as its title for this book. Derived from the word ekklesia, “assembly, congregation, church,” it simply means “preacher “ The Latin Ecclesiastes means “speaker before an assembly.”

Ecclesiastes 1:1 in Hebrew reads, “The words of Qoheleth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.”

The book of Ecclesiastes was probably written late in Solomon’s life, about 935 B.C. If this is so, the great glory that Solomon ushered in early in his reign was already beginning to fade; and the disruption of Israel into two kingdoms would soon take place.

Jewish tradition asserts that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon in his youthful years, Proverbs in his middle years, and Ecclesiastes in his latter years. There are no references to historical events than to personal aspects of Qoheleth’s life and the location was Jerusalem, the seat of Israel’s rule and authority.

A Time for Everything

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon affirms in fourteen paired statements that God is at work in our individual lives, seeking to accomplish His will. It must be noted that all of these events come from God, and they are good in their time.

A Time to be Born and a Time to Die

Ecclesiastes 3:2a

Things like abortion, birth control, mercy killing (euthanasia), and surrogate parenthood may give the impression that humans control birth and death, but Solomon said otherwise.

Birth and death are not human accidents; they are divine appointments, for God is in control. We may foolishly hasten death, but we cannot prevent it when our time comes, unless God wills it, such as in the case of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:1-8.

Psalm 139:16 NKJV

A Time to Plant and a Time to Harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3:2b

Farmers may plow and sow, but only God can give the increase (Psalm 65:9-13). “Harvest” translates a word that may refer either to reaping or pulling up unproductive plants.

A successful farmer knows that nature works for him only if he works with nature. This is also the secret of a successful life: Learn God’s principles and cooperate with them.

Casting Away Stones and Gathering Them

Ecclesiastes 3:5

Israel is indeed a rocky land, and farmers must clear their fields before they can plow and plant. To hurt an enemy, you would fill the enemy’s field with stones (2 Kings 3:19, 25). People also gathered stones for building walls and houses.

Whether stones are good or bad depends on how they are used. If your enemy fills your land with rocks, don’t throw them back. Instead, build something out of them!

A Time to Tear and a Time to Sew

Ecclesiastes 3:7

This tearing and mending probably refer to the Jewish practice of tearing one’s garments during a time of grief or repentance (2 Samuel 13:31; Ezra 9:5).

God expects us to sorrow and grieve during bereavement but not like unbelievers who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At times we must get out of the needle and thread and start mending.

A Time to Love and a Time to Hate

Ecclesiastes 3:8

God’s people are expected to love others, even the unlovable, following Jesus’ example. But are they allowed to hate? The fact that the next phrase mentions “war and peace” suggests that Solomon may have had the nation primarily in mind.

However, believers are expected to hate some things such as covetousness (Exodus 18:21), evil (Psalm 97:10), the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6), the doctrines of Balaam and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14), and the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19.

The inference in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is plain: If we cooperate with God’s timing, life will not be meaningless. Rather, everything will be “beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), even the most difficult experiences of life. Life is something like a doctor’s prescription. Taken alone, the ingredients might kill you, but properly blended, they bring healing.

Making Sense of God’s Gift: Life

Ecclesiastes 3:10

Given the travail that we experience from day to day, life may seem like a strange gift, but it is God’s gift just the same. We exercise ourselves in trying to explain life’s enigmas, but we don’t always succeed.

If we believingly accept life as a gift and thank God for it, we will have a better attitude toward the burdens that come our way. If we grudgingly accept life as a burden, then we will miss the gifts that come our way. As Dr. Warren Wiersbe said, “Outlooks help to determine the outcome.”

What Does Ecclesiastes 3 Mean

Understanding God’s Plan

Ecclesiastes 3:11

God created man (us) in His own image and has given him dominion over all other creatures (Genesis 1:26-28). Humans, therefore, are different from the rest of creation. God “has planted eternity in the human heart” and we are linked to heaven.

Don Richardson, a well-known missionary and author, used the phrase “eternity in their hearts” to describe the phenomenon of redemptive analogies in almost all aboriginal cultures. Almost every culture has customs, traditions, or ways of thinking that reflect basic biblical truth, and these can be used by missionaries to explain the gospel

The bottom line here is, God accomplishes His purposes in His time, but only when we enter eternity will we begin to comprehend His total plan.

Contentment and Enjoyment

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Teacher hinted at contentment in Ecclesiastes 2:24 and was careful to say that this enjoyment of life was God’s gift (see Ecclesiastes 5:19; 6:2 and 1 Timothy 6:17). Solomon is not encouraging pagan hedonism but rather the practice of enjoying God’s gifts as the fruit of one’s labor, no matter how difficult life may be.

Life appears to be transitory, but whatever God does is forever. So, when we live for Him and let Him have His way, life is meaningful and manageable. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s enjoy what we do have and thank God for it.

Fear God and Submit to Him

Ecclesiastes 3:14

The proper attitude for us is the fear of the Lord, which is not the cringing of a slave before a cruel master but the submission of an obedient child to a loving parent (see Ecclesiastes 5:7; 7:18, 8:12-13; 12:13). If we fear God, we need not fear anything else, for He is in control.

Proverbs 9:10 also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

God Controls the Cycle of Life

Ecclesiastes 3:15

This verse helps us recall Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 and gives us the assurance that God controls the cycle of life. The past seems to repeat itself so that “nothing under the sun is truly new” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but God can break into history and do what He pleases (see Isaiah 46:10).

God’s many miracles are evidence that the cycle is a pattern and not a prison. God’s own Son broke into human history through a miraculous birth. He then died on a cross and rose again, thus conquering the life-death cycle.

The Common Fate of Man and Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18-21

God will judge when history has run its course, but God is judging now.

In the experiences of life, God is testing humans (“proves to people”). (The Hebrew word means “to sift, to winnow.”) God is revealing what humans are really like; He is sifting them.

For example, when someone leaves God out of his or her life, that person becomes like an animal. (See Psalm 32:9; Proverbs 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:19-20.) He or she lives like a beast and dies like a beast.

As Solomon thought of an animal dying and its body decomposing, he realized that the same happens to the human body. We sensed that he hoped there was a different destiny between humans and animals, yet in his thinking “under the sun,”  he saw no real reason to believe it.


Enjoying Life Everyday

Ecclesiastes 3:22

Is there a way for man to know what will happen after him? Nothing, because death ends it all, and therefore ultimately his life has no more significance or meaning than the life of an animal.

So in ending, Solomon calls us to accept life, enjoy it a day at a time and be satisfied. We must never be satisfied with ourselves, but we must always be satisfied with what God gives to us in this life.

If we grow in character and godliness and live by faith, then we will be able to say with Paul, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Vanity: The Key Theme of Ecclesiastes

The key theme of Ecclesiastes is vanity. It reports the results of a diligent quest for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in human life. The Preacher poignantly sees the emptiness and futility of power, popularity, prestige, and pleasure apart from God.

The word vanity appears thirty-seven times to express the many things that cannot be understood about life. All earthly goals and ambitions, when pursued as ends in themselves, lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. Life “under the sun” (used twenty-nine times) seems to be filled with inequities, uncertainties changes in fortune, and violations of justice.

But Ecclesiastes does not give us an answer to atheism or skepticism; God is referred to throughout. In fact, it claims that the search for man’s summum bonum must end in God. Satisfaction in life can be found only by looking beyond this world. Contentment and joy are found only in God.

Note 2: Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning “the highest good,” which was introduced by the Roman philosopher Cicero, to correspond to the Idea of the Good in ancient Greek philosophy.

Conclusion

Although the Preacher concluded that time is short and there is no eternity on earth, He connected beauty and eternity as ideas implanted in the human personality by God. Obviously, beauty in God’s creation or in our own creative efforts awakens in us an awareness of eternity.

When King Solomon wrote the balance and harmony of all the various aspects of human existence, he concluded, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. The word translated “beautiful” in Ecclesiastes 3:11 is not the term translated “good” in Genesis (Genesis 1:12, 25, 31).

The word in Ecclesiastes is much closer to the English word “beautiful” with its emphasis on visible attractiveness rather than internal harmony.

Beauty gives us a glimpse of what endures forever – maybe as though it were a pale reflection of some aspect of God’s perfect beauty. A sunset, a scene of mountain grandeur, the ocean at peace or in a frenzy, a symphony, a painting, a poem or an innocent child can stab the human heart with a certainty that God – a personal God who embodies perfect beauty – is the source of all this.


References:

New King James Version Study Bible edited by John Hagee

The New Living Transformation Study Bible edited Dr. Warren Wiersbe

Recommended Resource: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Found: God's Will Does God have a path for me? How do I make the right choices in life? Why is it so difficult to uncover God’s will?

Trusted pastor and teacher John MacArthur answers these vital questions and more.

Offering assurance that God does have a plan for your life and that He wants you to know it, MacArthur examines six powerful biblical principles that will give you direction, fill you with purpose, and give you the confidence to live out His plan for you.

When those five fundamentals are operating, we’re free to exercise number six – and do whatever we want!

A Prayer for the Nations

A Prayer for the Nations

With the current situation we are facing today, the nations need prayers desperately. We could blame the COVID-19 for causing this global pandemic, or the wicked for our nations’ lack of moral direction, but the church must bear the responsibility.

Let’s face it, our churches live far beneath the standards of holiness established in the New Testament. The church has become so compromised that they ordain homosexuals, defend abortion, and denies the truth of God’s Word. Let us be warned that when a nation abandons God, He abandons that nation.

Today, more than ever, Christians need to get down on their knees and unite in prayer. But where and how do we start?

How to Pray for the Nations

Praying for the NationsChapters 78 to 81 of the book of Psalms give us a blueprint on how to pray for the nations with a call for praise, repentance, and restoration and concludes with God’s expectations and promises.

In Psalm 78, Asaph recalls Israel’s history, which was saturated with God’s provision, His leadership, His miracles, and His working power. But despite all that, the people had become stubborn and rebellious, and they suffered because of their disobedience.

One thing we can learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. If we study the Bible and church history, we discover that Israel made that same mistake.

Asaph did not want the people to imitate the “exodus generation” that died in the wilderness, or the third generation in Canaan that turned to idols, or the ten tribes that forsook the Lord and established a new kingdom and a false religion.

Asaph wanted the people to trust God, to learn from the past, and to obey God’s word. Only then could they be sure of the blessings of the Lord.

A Call to Praise God 

The first blueprint on how to pray for the nations is a call for praise for the wonderful things God has done in the past and still doing at present. Before we even pour our hearts out at the feet of Jesus, we are to give Him all the praises. As the Bible points out, God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).

Going back to Psalm 78, Asaph reminds the nation of Israel God’s law that each generation of Jewish people must pass on God’s Word to the next generation and not hide from their children the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done (Psalm 78:2-3).

This law still applies to the church today. Sadly, many nations have abandoned God. In America, God has been omitted from the public school textbooks to separate church and state even at the expense of truth. Historical revisionists are rewriting America’s history by presenting the founding forefathers as evil and corrupt.

Why? So that the coming generations will ignore what they said and did to make America great. In reality, America’s history is full of God’s grace and power in the establishment of this nation, and there are countless examples of leaders who pursued God’s grace and power in times of trouble.

Remembering the Mayflower Compact

On the Mayflower, the future colonists drew up the first written agreement for self-government ever put in force in America. After sixty-five days at sea, the pilgrims anchored their ship off Plymouth Rock.

Before going ashore, forty-three pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, which begins with the words, “Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” Today, that document would be attacked by the ACLU demanding separation of church and state.

At Valley Forge, as the ragged soldiers braced themselves against bitter winter wind and fought hunger, George Washington knelt in the snow to pray. God answered him. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln pleaded with God to spare the Union. God answered. Lincoln’s speeches were full of scripture. Today, he would be ridiculed for his faith.

In World War I, America’s doughboys knelt in the trenches, hiding from mustard gas and praying to God for victory. He answered. During World War II, there were numerous times when the war could have been lost – Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Dunkirk – but the hand of God spared us.

Some of you perhaps still remember D-Day or The Battle of Normandy, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was raised by praying parents, sculpted the D-Day invasion on the Normandy Beaches.

The day was not going well as the US troops were pinned down by gunfire. But believers started praying. Hundreds of people gathered and knelt on a gymnasium floor to pray for American troops. Nobody knew what was happening on the front, but they knew they needed to pray and they did, all day and all night. And God heard their prayers.

What does this story tell us today? For us to claim God’s blessings on our nation’s future, we must praise Him for all the blessings He has bestowed in the past. Every nation must acknowledge the work that God has done for them and humbly plead for His help.

Let every nation put God back into their lives, into their government, and into their society. May we always remember to give God all the praises and adoration for all His mighty deeds, grace, and mercy.

A Prayer for the Nations

Repentance is the Key

The next part of the blueprint is repentance. What is repentance? When John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus, went about preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand, he started out by preaching repentance (Matthew 3:1-2).

In the Bible, the word repentance literally means “the act of changing one’s mind.” But true repentance is more than just feeling remorse, regret or feeling bad about your sin. Isn’t it turning away from sin? Sure! But it involves more than that.

In its fullest sense, repentance involves a complete change in the heart and mind of a person resulting in a radical and persistent pursuit of holy living and walking with God in obedience to His command.

In praying for the nations, we must first and foremost repent of the way we have failed God over and over again. We must recognize that God is sovereign and that the national welfare is at stake. Without His intervention, the nations would fall.

In Psalm 79, Asaph lamented over the destruction of Jerusalem

“O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance; Your holy temple they have defiled; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps.” (Psalm 79:1)

“For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.” (Psalm 79:7)

Yet, Asaph knew that God isn’t finished with the Jewish nation. He then pleaded for God’s help for the glory of His name but no deliverance came. Then it hit him! He needed to confess his own sins and the sins of his contemporaries and repent (Psalm 79:8).

In the same way, we need to confess and repent of our sins and the sins of our nation. We need to acknowledge that without God’s intervention, we will fall; all the nations will fall. Let us ask God to not hold against us our former iniquities.

“Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.” (Psalm 79:8)

Here’s a song called, “Stand in the Gap” (Pray for the Nations) by Tom Inglis.

Stand in the Gap (Pray for the Nations) Lyrics and Chords

A Plea for Restoration

Restoration is the third phase of the blueprint. Three times Psalm 80 carries the prayerful words “Restore us, O God.” (See Psalm 80:3, 7, 19.)

We know that God restored Israel numerous times. And so, this should be our plea as well – for God to restore our nation to the day when “in God we trust” was a way of life and not just a meaningless slogan on a piece of paper or coin.

Psalm 81 proclaims God’s expectations from us. This is the foundation upon which everything rests. As God expected the Israelites to follow His ways, God expects us to do the same.

“But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:11-13)

If they had, God would have subdued their enemies and fed Israel with the “finest of wheat” and with “honey from the rock” (Psalm 81:16).

May we learn from Israel’s history and not repeat their mistake. The only thing God requires from us is to heed His voice and walk in His ways.

Promise of Blessings: God Heals a Nation

God’s expectations for our nations or for any nation are no less.

Israel’s history shows how a nation can find and lose favor with God and what God will do if the people repent and ask to be restored. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

In this well-known text, the Lord promised to answer every request. He was willing to forgive His people when they sinned if only they would humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their sins.

Although some scholars say this is only applicable to the nation of Israel because God has never made a covenant with any other nation but them, Christian believers today can claim this promise because they are God’s people.

Our nation needs to be restored. Our nation needs our prayers. Let us take our country back to God one heart at a time, one home at a time, one city at a time.


Recommended Resource: The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

How to Pray for the NationsIn this book, bestselling author Anne Graham Lotz will teach you how to pray effectively for your nation, for your families, and for yourself.

Many people today find that their prayers don’t “work.” And like a broken cell phone, DVD player, or TV remote, they throw prayer out as unnecessary “clutter” in their busy lives. Anne Graham Lotz has found that while prayer does work, sometimes the “pray-ers” don’t. So, she has turned to the prophet Daniel for help.

The Daniel Prayer is born deep within your soul, erupts through your heart, and pours out on your lips, words created by and infused with the Spirit of God quivering with spiritual electricity.

It’s really not an everyday type of prayer. It’s a prayer birthed under pressure. Heartache. Grief. Desperation. It can be triggered by a sudden revelation of hope. An answer to prayer, a promise freshly received, a miracle that lies just over the horizon.

Join Anne in a thrilling discovery of prayer that really works.

For extended study into The Daniel Prayer message, Anne has also created The Daniel Prayer video study and study guide. Available now.

Study Bibles for Beginners

Study Bibles for Beginners

For new believers, understanding and interpreting the Bible on their own could be a real challenge. I know many Christians who are very zealous in sharing the Word and also in encouraging others, and I do admire them for that.

The only issue I have is that they often take verses out of their contexts in support of a topic that is not in any way related to it. This is called “proof-texting,” one of the common errors of biblical interpretation.

How do we avoid committing this error? Having a good study Bible will help. If you are serious about the Word of God, it’s time you invest in a good study Bible that will help you to understand and properly interpret God’s Word.

Regular Bible vs. Study Bible

What is the difference between a study Bible and a regular Bible? They are the same in that they both contain the Word of God: 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

The difference is that a study Bible has additional features such as book introduction, historical context, cross-references to other Bible passages, outlines or maps, extensive study notes and explanations of key doctrines, devotionals, and so much more.

But which study Bibles are recommended for beginners? In this post, I will be sharing with you a list of my recommended study Bibles.

Selecting a Study Bible

Choosing the best study Bible can be overwhelming because there are hundreds of great choices. So how can one possibly determine which one suits them best? Can we even say that one study Bible is better than the rest? I don’t believe so. But I would say that there are a few that are better than the rest.

Let me also mention that in selecting a study Bible, there are certain things you need to consider. First is the translation. We have the NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, CSV, NLT, and numerous other options. How do you select which one is best for you from among them?

The Best Study Bibles 

If you are a beginner or new believer, I highly recommend that your first study Bible is one that focuses on interpretation rather than on application. You can always purchase an application study Bible later on.

So here we go.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: August 23, 2016

Editors: Craig S. Keener & John H. Walton

Description: The Bible was originally written to ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles.

It includes subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the texts read.

So, for us to truly understand the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world and language. This is what the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of biblical times.

These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible (Third Edition)

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

Editor: Jack W. Hayford

Description: Take a deep and powerful look at Scripture — and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit as you encounter God in His Word.

This best-selling NKJV Bible draws on the expertise of an expanded team of respected, Spirit-led scholars, led by Pastor Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way and chancellor of The King’s University.

With over 2 million copies sold, the NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Bible continues to equip God’s people to live in His kingdom, exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and lay hold of God’s promises.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Quest Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: November 19, 2011

Editor: Christianity Today Int.

Description: Get answers to the Bible questions you have … and questions you haven’t yet pondered!

The NIV Quest Study Bible features over 7,000 notes written in an engaging question and answer format that gives insight into the common, uncommon, and sometimes perplexing passages from the Bible.

You will have the opportunity to consider questions like, “Why did God send angels to Jacob?” “What prevents God from hearing our prayers?” and “Why does God test us?” as you explore God’s Word using the many study helps.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

The Jeremiah Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesAuthor: Dr. David Jeremiah

Publisher: Worthy Books

Publishing Date: November 26, 2013

Description: Drawn from more than 40 years of study, Dr. David Jeremiah, one of America’s leading Bible teachers, has produced a deeply personal and comprehensive study Bible packed with features specifically focused to help you discover what Scripture says, what Scripture means and, most importantly, what Scripture means to you.

The Jeremiah Study Bible presents the best of biblical insight and study tools along with clear, practical application to bring about authentic transformation in your life.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

The MacArthur Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 5, 2013

Editor: John F. MacArthur

Description: The NASB MacArthur Study Bible is a classic resource that is perfect for serious study.

Dr. John MacArthur has collected his pastoral and scholarly work of more than 35 years to create the most comprehensive study Bible available. No other study Bible does such a thorough job of explaining the historical context, unfolding the meaning of the text, and making it practical for your life.

Features: A 25-page concordance, including people and places, more than 20,000 study notes, charts, maps, outlines, and articles from Dr. John MacArthur, Overview of Theology, Index to Key Bible Doctrines.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersNIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

Publisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

General Editor: D.A. Carson

Description: Biblical Theology allows you to ponder the individual stories and themes of Scripture while observing how they all fit together in God’s grand biblical narrative.

It answers the question, “How has God revealed his word historically and organically?”

With three articles introducing Biblical theology and 25 articles unpacking key themes of Scripture, the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible equips you to follow the progressive unfolding of God’s story.

Features: Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV), previously published as NIV Zondervan Study Bible, 28 theologically rich articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung, 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes, Hundreds of full-color photos, more than 90 maps, and over 60 charts, Comprehensive book introductions, Over 60 trusted contributors, Cross-references and the NIV Comprehensive Concordance, Single-column, black letter edition, Two ribbon markers, and more.

Best Places to buy: Amazon ChristianBook Distributors

The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 10, 2015

General Editor: John Hagee

Description: The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail.

The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features: Introduction to Bible Prophecy, Index to Prophetic Passages, Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy, Diamonds for Daily Living, God’s Great Promises, God’s Great Salvation, Evidences, Spokesmen for God, Bible Insights, Bible Prophecy Charts, and Full concordance.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

NLT Life Application Study Bible (Third Edition)

Best Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Tyndale

Publishing Date: October 1, 2019

Description: Today’s number 1 selling study Bible, the NLT Life Application Study Bible, has been thoroughly updated and expanded, offering even more relevant insights and spiritual guidance for applying God’s Word to everyday life in today’s world.

This study Bible for women and men answers real-life questions and provides practical yet powerful ways to apply the Bible to your life every day.

Explore the stories and teachings of this NLT study Bible with verse-by-verse commentary. Gain wisdom from people in the Bible by exploring their accomplishments and learning from their mistakes.

Survey the big picture of each book through overviews, vital statistics, outlines, and timelines, and grasp difficult concepts using in-text maps, charts, and diagrams.

Best Places to buy: Amazon & ChristianBook Distributors

Compass Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: February 11, 2014

Editor: Ecclesia Bible Society

Description: Do you want to start reading and applying the Bible to your life, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Let Compass point you in the right direction.

Packed with Bible-reading helps and using an energizing, new Bible translation, Compass is a Bible designed with you in mind.

Features: In-text notes that include cultural, historical, theological, and devotional thoughts, God’s Promises—Thomas Nelson’s bestselling guide to Scripture for your every need, Book introductions, Reading plans for every day of the year, Topical Guides to Scripture and notes, and In-text maps.

Best Places to buy: Amazon ChristianBook Distributors

Closing Thoughts

Why do you need a study Bible?

A study Bible is a great supplementary resource that will help you understand Scripture more clearly as you read it. It can also help you interact with God’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way and to properly apply it in your life.

Jesus, the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

Jesus, the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

In the Old Testament, God made many promises to Abraham and to the nation of Israel as a whole. But if there is one promise that should make New Testament believers excited is the promise made by God to Abraham that He would make him a channel of great blessings not only to his own family and future descendants but to all the families of the earth.

Has this promise been fulfilled? Indeed! The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham and to his spiritual descendants. In all that Jesus did and said He sought to please His Father in heaven and to bring Him glory.

Bible Verses: Genesis 12:1-3 & Matthew 17:1-3

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Jesus is the Fulfillment of God's Promises

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him (Matthew 17:1-3).

Reflection and Meditation

As we read in the verses quoted above, there is a condition to the promise. This shows that while God’s love is unconditional, all His promises come with a condition.

In the case of God’s promise to bless Abraham, his descendants and all nations of the earth, the condition for its fulfillment was simple and straightforward: “Go from your family and country to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

Abraham not only believed in God’s promise, he promptly obeyed and did as the Lord commanded him. God chose Abraham as His instrument of blessing – that through him and his descendants would come the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who would reveal the glory and blessing of God’s kingdom, and bring salvation for all who would call upon His name.

Jesus, the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

The Lord Jesus came to fulfill all that Moses and the prophets spoke. Like Abraham, He was ready to part with anything that might stand in the way of doing the will of God. Jesus knew that the success of His mission would depend on His willingness to embrace His Father’s will no matter what it might cost Him personally.

On three occasions, Jesus told His disciples that He would undergo suffering and death on a cross to fulfill the mission the Father gave Him. As the time draws near for Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross, He takes three of His beloved disciples to the top of a high mountain. And there He was transfigured before them with Moses and Elijah, overlooking the summit of the Promised Land.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light (Matthew 17:2).

The Glory of Jesus Revealed

Why did Jesus appear in dazzling light with Moses and Elijah? The book of Exodus tells us that when Moses had met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (Exodus 34:29).

The apostle Paul wrote that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness (2 Corinthians 3:7). After Elijah, the greatest of all the prophets had destroyed all the priests and idols of Baal in the land, he took refuge on the mountain of God at Sinai.

There God showed Elijah His glory in great thunder, whirlwind, and fire, and then spoke with him in a still quiet voice. God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” And then directed him to go fulfill the mission given him by God.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of God's Promises

Jesus, likewise, appears in glory with Moses and Elijah, as if to confirm with them that He, too, is ready to fulfill His mission. Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited Him in Jerusalem – betrayal, rejection, and crucifixion.

Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave His approval: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5).

The Father glorified His son because He was faithful and willing to obey Him in everything. The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and His apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God’s presence would fill the temple again (see Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10).

Jesus Christ is the Way to Glory

The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see His glory; He wants to share His glory with us. And Jesus shows us the way to the Father’s glory. All we need to do is follow Him and obey His words.

Jesus fulfilled His mission of Calvary where He died for our sins so that Paradise and everlasting life would be restored to us. He embraced the cross to win a crown of glory; a crown that awaits each one of us, if we, too, will follow in His footsteps.

Jesus’ Followers are Partakers of His Glory

Luke’s gospel tells us that while Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John were very sleepy, and when they were fully awake they saw His glory along with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:32).

How much are we missing of God’s glory and action because we often get sleepy spiritually? Many things can keep our minds asleep to the things of God, such as mental lethargy, a very comfortable life, and even sorrow. These things can keep us from thinking things through and facing our doubts and questions.

Are you spiritually awake? Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Christ. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we, too, are called to be witnesses of His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Lord wants to reveal His glory to us, His beloved disciples. Do you seek His presence with faith and reverence?

Let us desire to see the glory of God and pray that the Lord Jesus will always keep us alert to Him, to His word, action, and presence in our lives.


Why Do Wicked People Prosper?

Why Do Wicked People Prosper?

In Psalm 73, Asaph expressed his struggles and doubts which are similar to those we find in the book of Job. Why do wicked people prosper and the righteous suffer? In the first verse (Psalm 73:1), the psalmist affirmed that “God is” so he was not an atheist or an agnostic, and he was certain that the God he worshiped was good.

Furthermore, he knew that the Lord had made a covenant with Israel that promised blessings if the people obeyed Him (Leviticus 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Deuteronomy 30:1-20).

But it was these foundational beliefs that created the problem for him because he observed that the unbelievers don’t face problems “like everyone else” (Psalm 73:5). If the Lord was good and kept His covenant promises, why were His people suffering and the wicked prospering?

When the Wicked Prosper

How often do we see the ungodly shamelessly flaunting their perverted lifestyle during gay rights parades on the evening news? They neglect what God has to say about it (Romans 1:24-28). Take a look at this photo taken in Tel Aviv, Israel in a Gay Pride Parade. Yes, the very nation where Christianity started; God’s chosen nation. 

Why Do Evil People Prosper

And what about those who support abortion and claim that a woman’s right to choose is greater than the life of “unwanted tissue?” They too, neglect what God has to say about life in the womb (Isaiah 44:2). Worse, there are people in the government today who has gone to the extreme of legalizing late-term abortions. 

Yet they seem to be worry-free and are enjoying a wonderful life compared to those who choose to live in accordance with what the Word of God says. When our system of justice seems to abandon all standards of morality, where do God’s people make their appeal?

While we cannot deny the goodness of God in our everyday lives, it is also undeniable that God is good (perhaps too good) to the wicked and proud, thus making it easy for some of us to envy the wicked and their prosperity.

If God is good and just, the plans of the wicked should not succeed, they should be punished and only the righteous should prosper. But that is not what Asaph saw (Psalm 73:12), and it is not what we see either. We see the wicked enjoying the same prosperity, oftentimes more prosperous than God’s people.

This then can cause one to question what the reward of godliness is.

Doubt vs. Unbelief

There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt comes from a struggling mind, while unbelief comes from a stubborn will that refuses surrender to God. The unbelieving person will not believe, while the doubting person struggles to believe.

Based on the evidence he saw around him, Asaph came to the wrong conclusion that he had wasted his time and energy maintaining clean hands and a pure heart. If he had ever read the book of Job, then he had missed its message, for we serve God, not for what we get out of it but because He is worthy of our worship and service regardless of what He allows to come to our lives.

Satan has a commercial view of the life of faith and encourages us to serve God for what we can get from Him, and Asaph bought into that philosophy. Although he knew that what he said about God in the first verse of his Psalm is true, it has always been and will always be true, still, his feet almost slipped (Psalm 73:2).

But before going public with his unbelief and resigning his office, Asaph paused to consider the consequences. How would the younger believers in the land respond if one of the three sanctuary worship leaders turned his back on the Lord, the covenants and the faith (Psalm 73:15)?

To abandon the faith would mean undermining all that he had taught and sung at the sanctuary! The more he pondered the problem the more his heart was pained (Psalm 73:21-22). So he decided to go to the sanctuary and spend time with the Lord in worship.

Godly Life vs. Godless Life

Asaph got a new perspective on the problem when he considered, not the surrounding circumstances, but the destiny before him. He realized that what he saw in the lives of the prosperous, ungodly people was not a true picture but only pretense (Psalm 73:20).

As we continue to Psalm 73:23-28, we see the striking contrast between Asaph’s picture of godly life and the godless life described in Psalm 73:4-12). The ungodly impress each other and attract admirers, but they don’t have God’s presence with them.

The Lord upholds the righteous but casts down the wicked (Psalm 73:18). The righteous are guided by God’s counsel (Psalm 73:24) but the ungodly are deluded by their own fantasies. The destiny of the true believers is glory, but the destiny of the unbelievers is destruction (Psalm 73:19, 27).

Why does God let Evil People Prosper

True Riches Are Found in God Alone

The possessions of the ungodly are but idols that take the place of the Lord, and idolatry is harlotry (Exodus 34:15-16; 1 Chronicles 5:25).

Even death cannot separate God’s people from His blessing, for the spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord, and the body waits in the grave for resurrection (Psalm 73:25-26; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Justice is Coming

Whenever we face problems and conflicts in our lives, we want to take control and make things happen. But we need to realize that God is just (Psalm 25:8) and vengeance belongs to Him (Psalm 94:1).

Do you feel bad seeing the wicked prosperous and they seem to get away with everything? Don’t fret! A day is coming when all will be set right. When we come before the Supreme Court of Heaven, there is no Fifth Amendment, no jury or evidence tampering, no deception, no fraud, and no dream team of lawyers.

In our Father’s Supreme Court, there is only truth and holiness. There, the Lord will be the defense and the Rock of refuge for the righteous or He will bring on the wicked their own iniquity and cut them off in their wickedness.

Will God be your defender and refuge? Or will He cut you off? Find rest from adversity by following the laws of our Supreme Court Judge.

How to Live in the Light of God

How to Live in the Light of God

In the Parable of the Lamp (Mark 4:21-25), our Lord used a common object (a lamp) in a familiar scene (a home). The lamp was a clay dish filled with oil, with a wick put into the oil. In order to give light, the lamp had to “use itself up,” and the oil had to be replenished. If the lamp was not lit, or if it was covered up, it did the home no good.

It’s the same thing with Christians, whom Jesus referred to as the light of the world; they are to let their light shine for all to see (Matthew 5:14-16). But to be a light of the world, we must live in the light. So how does one live in the light of God?

The Lamp and the Kingdom of God

What does the image of light and a lamp tell us about the kingdom of God? Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and to avoid stumbling or losing their way.

*Related Article: Out of Darkness into Light

The Jews also understood “light” as an expression of the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. We see many passages from the Old Testament Scriptures that describe how God’s light guides and helps us grow in our knowledge of Him and His truth and wisdom for our lives. (See Psalm 36:9 and Psalm 119: 105.)

How to Live in the Light of God

Living in the Light of God

Ever asked why the Lord calls us the light of the world? Why has Jesus compared us to a city on a hill? Are we not called to shine in the midst of darkness, and stand up high for those most sunk down?

If you hide your lamp beneath a bushel, you will soon notice that you yourself will be in the dark. You will find others bumping into you. So what can you do to illumine the world?

1. By being a light-bearer of God’s truth and love.

Having received the Light (Jesus) and His truth, we are not to hide, suppress, or destroy it. Rather, we must let it prevail. We have the solemn responsibility to spread it in whatever way as God gives us the opportunity. But then you may say, “I don’t think I can.”

Of course, it will not be easy if we are trying to do it on our own. But if we allow God’s grace, truth, and power to work in us, He will enable us to be a light-bearer without fear or reservation. God will also fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we may shine brightly with the radiance of His truth, love, and goodness.

Just as natural light prevails over the darkness around us and enables us to see clearly, so the light of Christ in us will shine in the hearts of all and enable them to hear and believe God’s Word. We just have to trust and obey God.

2. By being a witness for Christ.

Jesus called John the Baptist “a burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35) because he bore witness to God’s word and pointed others to Jesus, the true light and Savior of the world.

Our call and mission, like John the Baptist, is to be a witness for Christ so that many others may hear the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) and be set free from the blindness of sin, ignorance, and deception.

3. Let your faith produce good works.

Be a reflection of God’s light. The good is not preoccupied with darkness. It rejoices in being seen (John 3:21). It exults over the very pointing which are made at it. Christian modesty not only wishes to be modest but also wishes to be beheld as what it actually is.

No other than the apostle James said faith that does not produce good works is dead (James 2:26). However, I must clarify that the Bible does not teach we are saved by good works. Rather, good works come as a result of genuine faith, and it is genuine faith that saves.

Be Careful Little Ears What you Hear

How to Live in the Light of God There is a warning in Mark 4:24-25: “You must take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

In other words, the more we hear the Word of God, the better we are able to share it with others. But we must pay close attention to what we hear as well as know what we hear (Luke 8:18). Because our spiritual hearing determines how much we have to give to others.

Christians should do well to put themselves under good teachers. We are to choose a spiritual family whose leaders teach the whole counsel of God. And upon hearing the Word, we must receive it with gladness.

When we have the godly habits of receiving God’s Word and living it, we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.

Results of Living in the Light

Jesus remarks that nothing can remain hidden or secret. We can try to hide things from others, from ourselves, and from God. How tempting to shut our eyes from the consequences of our sinful ways or bad habits, even when we know what those consequences are.

How tempting to hide them from others and even from God. But, nonetheless, everything is known to God who sees all.

There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God’s light and who seek His truth and goodness. Those who listen to God and heed His voice will receive more from Him.

They will not lack what they need to live as Christ’s disciples. And they will shine as lights that show the wisdom and truth of God’s word. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God’s light and truth?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

In Mark 1:14-15, we read that after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Gospel of God

John 3:16As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His in Galilee, His home district. John’s enemies had sought to silence Him, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

What is the Gospel of God which Jesus came to preach? The word “gospel” literally means “good news.”

When a king had good news to deliver to his subjects he sent messengers or heralds throughout the land to make a public announcement – such as the birth of a newborn king or the victory over an invading army or occupied force.

God sent His prophets to announce the coming of God’s anointed King and Messiah.

After Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and anointed by the Spirit He begins His ministry of preaching the Gospel – the good news that the kingdom of God was now at hand for all who were ready to receive it.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus proclaimed that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls His disciples to believe in the gospel – the good news He has come to deliver.

What is the good news?

It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God as Ephesians 6:15 says), of hope (the hope of heaven and everlasting life – Colossians 1:23), of truth (God’s word is true and reliable – Colossians 1:5), of promise (He rewards those who seek Him – Ephesians 3:6), of immortality (God gives everlasting life – 2 Timothy 1:10), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God – Ephesians 1:13).

God sent us His Son not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into His heavenly kingdom – a kingdom ruled by truth, justice, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ mission. It’s the core of His gospel message.

God Rules over All

What is the kingdom of God? The word “kingdom” means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign” and the power to “rule” and exercise authority.

The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. The Scriptures tell us that God’s throne is in heaven and His rule is over all (Psalm 103:19).

God’s kingdom is bigger and more powerful than anything we can imagine because it is universal and everlasting (Daniel 4:3). His kingdom is full of glory, power, and splendor or glory (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Book of Daniel, we read that this kingdom is given to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:14, 18, 22, 27). The Son of Man is a Messianic title for God’s anointed King. The New Testament word for “Messiah” is “Christ” which literally means the “Anointed One” or the “Anointed King.”

Conditions for Entering the Kingdom of God

How does one enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do in order to enter the kingdom of God: repent and believe.

A. Repent

Repentance is the first step. Repentance means to change – to change our way of thinking and our attitude, disposition, and life choices so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of our hearts rather than sin, selfishness, and greed.

If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin that is mastering us.

True repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and sorrow for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord Jesus gives us the grace to see sin for what it really is – a rejection of His love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what is good and in accord with His will.

God’s grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from His love and truth.

B. Believe

To believe is to take Jesus at His word and to recognize that God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to free us from the bondage of sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of His Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with Himself. He is our Father and He wants us to live as His sons and daughters. God loved us first (1 John 4:19) and He invites us in love to surrender our lives to Him.

When we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives and believe the gospel message, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of His kingdom. He gives us the grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31).

Do you believe that the gospel – the good news of Jesus – has the power to free you from the bondage of sin and fear?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God

Becoming Fishers of Men

Like fishermen, we are called to gather in people for the kingdom of God. When Jesus preached the gospel message, He called others to follow as His disciples and He gave them a mission “to catch people for the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:16-20).

What kinds of disciples did Jesus choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages.

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under His direction and power.

God Chooses Ordinary People to Catch People

When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think that we have nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like you and me, can offer and uses it for greatness in His kingdom.

Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for His glory?

Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will “catch people” for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel.

Do you witness to those around you the joy of the Gospel? Do you pray for your neighbor, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of His love?

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

In part one of this article, we answered questions that have to do with the origin of the Bible, its nature, the authors, and how they got their message from God. As we continue with the tough questions about the Bible, we will be answering questions about the inspiration and authority of the Bible, its reliability and the reliability of the biblical witnesses.

The Inspiration of the Bible

What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired? 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) declares that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Combine this truth with 2 Peter 1:20-21, which affirms that the Scriptures were given by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” and we see that inspiration as a whole is the process by which Spirit-moved writers produced God-breathed writings.

Are the very words of the Bible inspired by God, or only the ideas?

Numerous Scriptures make it evident that the locus of revelation and inspiration is the written Word – the Scriptures (Greek gapha) – not simply the idea or even the writer, but his actual writing.

Notice the reference to revealed or divinely inspired “Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21), “words taught by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13), “the Book” (2 Chronicles 34:14), “His (God’s) word” (2 Samuel 23:2), “My (God’s) words” (Isaiah 59:21), and “the words that the Lord Almighty had sent” (Zechariah 7:12).

When referring to the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, the New Testament most often (more than ninety times) uses the phrase “it is written” (eg. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus described this written word as that which “comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

So important were the exact words of God that Jeremiah was told, “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word” (Jeremiah 26:2).

What does it mean when we say that the Bible is Inspired

So, it was not simply that men were free to state God’s word in their own words, the very choice of words was from God. Exodus 24:4 records, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.”

In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses writes, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Sometimes God chose to emphasize even the tenses of verbs.

Jesus said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). Paul based his argument on a singular versus a plural noun in Galatians 3:16, insisting, “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Even one letter (the letter s, for example) can make a big difference. Jesus went so far as to declare that even parts of letters are inspired. In English, if a t is not crossed, it looked like an i. Thus, Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

Does the Bible claim to be inspired on all topics or just spiritual ones?

Inspiration does guarantee the truth of everything the Bible teaches, implies, or entails (spiritually of factually). Paul affirmed that all Scripture, not just some, is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter declared that no prophecy of Scripture comes from man but it all comes from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Jesus told His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In this same discourse He added, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). And the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42), recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament, which was considered to be sacred Scripture along with the Old Testament.

The inspiration of God, then, extends to every part of Scripture. It includes everything God affirmed (or denied) about any topic included in Scripture. It is inclusive of not only what the Bible teaches explicitly but also what it teaches implicitly. It covers not only spiritual matters but factual ones as well.

The all-knowing God cannot be wrong about anything He teaches or implies. Jesus verified historical and scientific matters, including the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5), the flood during Noah’s time (Matthew 24:37-39), and even Jona being swallowed by a great fish (Matthew 12:40-42).

Indeed, Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things” (John 3:12)?

Why do some people misunderstand what is meant by the inspiration of the Bible?

The Bible is inspired by God with regard to everything it teaches. There are, however, a number of common misunderstandings:

  • That every part of a parable has to convey a fact rather than help the parable illustrate its point (see Luke 18:2).
  • That everything it records is true rather than something merely taught or implied (Genesis 3:4).
  • That no exaggerations (hyperboles) are used (Psalm 6:6; Luke 14:26).
  • That all statements about God and creation are purely literal (Job 38:7; Hebrews 4:13).
  • That all factual assertions are technically precise by modern standards as opposed to a common observational standpoint (Joshua 10:12).
  • That all citations of Scripture must be verbatim as opposed to faithful to the meaning (Psalm 2:1 and Acts 4:25).
  • That all citations of Scripture must have the same application as the original (Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15) rather than the same interpretation (meaning).
  • That the same truth can be said in only one way as opposed to many ways, as it is in the Gospels.
  • That whatever a writer personally believed, as opposed to merely what he actually affirmed in Scripture, is true (Matthew 15:26).
  • That truth is exhaustively revealed or treated as opposed to adequately presented in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:12).
  • That quotations imply the truth of everything in the source it is citing rather than just the part cited (Titus 1:12).
  • That a particular grammatical construction will always be the customary one rather than an adequate one to convey the truth.

How do we know these misunderstandings aren’t part of what inspiration covers?

What the Bible says must be understood in view of what the Bible shows. What it preaches must be read in view of what it practices. The doctrine of Scripture is to be understood in light of the data of Scripture.

For instance, the Bible uses round numbers. Thus, when the Bible claims to be true, it does not mean to exclude the use of round numbers (2 Chronicles 4:1-22). The same is true of hyperboles, figures of speech, observational language, and literary genre (as poetry, parable, and the like).

In short, everything the Bible affirms is true, but what is meant by truth must be understood in the light of the phenomena or data of Scripture.

The Authority of the Bible

Does the Bible claim to have divine authority? The Bible uses many other words or phrases to describe itself in ways that validate its divine authority. Jesus said that the Bible is indestructible (Matthew 5:18); it is infallible (or completely reliable and authoritative) or “unbreakable” (see John 10:35); it has final and decisive authority (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), and it is sufficient for faith and practice.

Jesus spoke of the sufficiency of the Jewish Scriptures, “‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Paul added this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

How far does this divine authority extend?

The extent of divine authority in Scripture includes all that is written, even the very words – including even the smallest parts of words and the tenses of verbs. Even though the Bible was not verbally dictated by God to humans, nonetheless, the result is just as perfect as if it had been.

For the biblical authors claimed that God is the source of the very words of Scripture, since He supernaturally superintended the process by which they wrote, using their own vocabulary and style to record God’s message (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Reliability of the Bible

Evangelicals affirm the reliability of the biblical text from God to us. Can we trust the Bible historically? Is it really a reliable record?

Since the historical reliability of the Bible is a crucial link in knowing that the Bible is the Word of God, it is important to address these questions.

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible

Does the Bible have errors in it?

The original text of the Bible does not teach any error. The logic of the Bible’s errorlessness is straightforward:

1) God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

2) The Bible is God’s Word (John 10:34-35).

3) Therefore, the Bible cannot contain errors.

Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God and God cannot breathe out falsehood, it follows that the Bible cannot contain any falsehood.

Are there errors in Bible Manuscripts and translations?

There are some minor copyist errors in the Bible manuscripts. A couple of examples will suffice. The Masoretic Text of 2 Chronicles 22:2 says Ahaziah was forty-two, yet 2 Kings 8:26 asserts that Ahaziah was twenty-two. He could not have been forty-two (a copyist error), or he would have been older than his father.

Also, 2 Chronicles 9:25 affirms that Solomon had four thousand horse stalls, but the Masoretic Text of 1 Kings 4:26 says he had forty thousand horse stalls, which would have been way more than needed for the twelve thousand horsemen he had.

It is important to keep these things in mind with regard to these copyist errors:

  • No original manuscript has ever been found with an error in it.
  • They are relatively rare.
  • In most cased we know which one is wrong from the context or the material found in parallel passages.
  • In no case is the doctrine of Scripture affected.
  • They vouch for the accuracy of the copying process since the scribes who copied them knew there were errors in the manuscripts but they were duty-bound to copy what the text said.
  • They don’t affect the central message of the Bible.

Someone, may, in fact, receive a message with errors in it, yet have 100 percent of the message come through clearly. For example, suppose you received a message from Western Union that read as follows: “Y#u have won 20 million dollars.”

No doubt you would gladly pick up your money. And if the telegram read in any of the ways that follow, you would have no doubt at all:

  • “Yo# have won 20 million dollars.”
  • “You #ave won 20 million dollars.”
  • You h#ve won 20 million dollars.”

Why would we be surer if there are more errors? Because each error is in a different place, and with it, we get another confirmation of every other letter in the original message.

Three things are important to note. First, even with one line, error and all, 100 percent of the message comes through. Second, the more lines, the more errors – but the more errors, the surer we are of what the intended message really was.

Finally, there are hundreds of times more Bible manuscripts than there are lines in the above example. And there is a greater percentage of error in this telegram than in all the collated biblical manuscripts.

Are the copies of the Bible reliable?

The biblical scribes were meticulous in how they copied Scripture. The overall reliability has been measured in several ways.

First, with regard to any major doctrine in the Bible, there has been no loss whatsoever. Every important truth of Scripture from the original text has been preserved intact in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Second, errors that exist in the copies are in minor matters, such as numbers that affect no major or minor doctrinal matter in the Bible. In fact, in most of these, we know either from the common sense of the text, the context, or other passages which ones are correct.

Third, not only is 100 percent of all the major truths and the vast majority of minor truth of Scripture preserved in the manuscripts we have (and in the translations based on them), but more than 99 percent of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we possess.

The reason is twofold: (1) we have thousands of manuscripts, and (2) we have early manuscripts. The proximity to the original text and the multiplicity of the manuscripts enable textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with more than 99 percent accuracy.

Renowned Greek scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed that all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of the verses in the New Testament. Another noted Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, said the real concerns of textual criticism are on “a thousand part of the entire text” (making the New Testament 99.9 percent pure).

The Reliability of the Biblical Witnesses

Were the biblical witnesses reliable? Yes, they were very reliable for many reasons.

First, the writers of Scripture were by and large contemporaries of the events. Moses was a witness of the events in Exodus through Deuteronomy (see Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:24). Joshua was a witness of the happenings reported in his book (Joshua 24:26), as were Samuel (1 Samuel 10:25, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah after him.

The same is true in the New Testament. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus. Mark was a contemporary and associate of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Luke was a contemporary who knew the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). And John was a disciple of Jesus and eyewitness of the events (1 John 1:1-2).

Second, in the case of the New Testament writers, all eight (or nine?) of them were either apostles or associated with the apostles as eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. These were all men who held the highest standards of ethics and were willing to die for their beliefs, as most of them did.

Third, these writers were credible as indicated by:

1. Their tendency to doubt whether Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:3; Luke 24:11; John 20:24-29).

2. The inclusion of material that reflected badly on themselves (see Matthew 16:23; Mark 14:47).

3. The multiple accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc.) that establish their words by two or three witnesses as the court required (Deuteronomy 17:6).

4. The divergence in accounts that reveals they were not in collusion (see Matthew 28:5; John 20:12).

5. Confirmation of the accounts through hundreds of archaeological finds.

6. The evidence for early dates for the basic material about Jesus’ death and resurrection by A.D. 55-60.

Noted historian Colin Hemer confirmed that Luke wrote Acts by A.D. 62. But Luke wrote the gospel of Luke, which says the same basic things about Jesus that Matthew and Mark say before he wrote Acts (say, by A.D. 60)

Further, Bible critics admit that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:1-9, which tells of the death and resurrection of Jesus, by about A.D. 55. This was only twenty-two years after Jesus’ death, while more than 250 witnesses of His resurrection were still alive (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).

Would the New Testament witnesses have stood up in a court of law?

Simon Greenleaf, one of history’s greatest legal minds, former Harvard law professor, and author of a book on legal evidence, carefully applied the rules of legal evidence to the Gospel accounts in his book The Testimony of the Evangelists.

Greenleaf argued that if the Gospels were submitted to the scrutiny of a court of law, “then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import.”

He added, “Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”

Here’s a 3-minute video presentation by Daniel B. Wallace explaining why we can still trust the New Testament even when the original manuscripts are different.

Conclusion

The Bible both claims and proves to be the Word of God. Both the internal and external evidence overwhelmingly reveal the accuracy of the Bible.

Having examined its origin, nature, and reliability, we may confidently assert that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who recorded it in the Word of God.

Here’ part one of Answering Tough Questions About the Bible.


*Reference:  Who Made God? (Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith)

*Recommended Resource: From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible
By Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix

The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

This is a long-trusted resource for understanding why we can trust the Scriptures really are God’s word.