Author: Alice A. Anacioco

God’s Will On Prayer

God’s Will On Prayer

I am certain that every Christian knows how to pray. But believers in Jesus Christ must know God’s will on prayer. We may be able to communicate with God constantly and regularly. We can even recite the longest prayers. But not knowing the will of God on prayer often leads to disappointments.

How so? That’s because we may not receive the answers that we’re expecting. In other words, God may not grant our prayers and petitions. But knowing what God wants us to pray about and presenting them to Him will lead to a desirable outcome.

The Christian’s Prayer Life

We often hear people say that the backbone of the Christian life is prayer. That being said, a Christian who spends less time in prayer may not be able to withstand trials and difficulties. On the other hand, a Christian who always takes the time to seek God’s counsel even on the simplest matters will be victorious.

How often should Christians pray, and how long? In this post, we will look at just two of the passages that talk about the will of God on prayer.

The Will of God on Prayer

Encouragement on Prayer

The Bible verse that is often quoted when exhorting and encouraging believers to maintain a healthy prayer life is 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We read, “Pray without ceasing.”

Reading the complete sentence, this is what it says.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Understand that in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul addresses the believers in Thessalonica concerning the Day of the Lord. He assures them that when this dreadful day comes, it will not overtake them as it does those who are in darkness. He then goes on to encourage them to remain sober and watchful.

In light of this future event, Paul exhorts them to comfort, uphold and be patient with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15). Finally, he gives them three important instructions:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • In everything give thanks

Rejoice Always

Other translations render this verse as “Always be joyful.”

Now, we must clarify that happiness is synonymous with joy. Although most people use these words interchangeably, they are not the same thing. I’d say happiness is always superficial and is dependent on external factors.

For instance, one’s happiness stems from having a successful professional career or having all the money to buy his or her wants. But whenever they fail to reach their goals, their happiness will quickly turn to sadness and disappointment. In short, the source of happiness is worldly possessions and accomplishments.

Happiness vs. Joy

In contrast, joy starts from the inside which inevitably extends outwardly. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is rooted in God; the source of joy for the Christian is God.

When the Word exhorts Christians to “rejoice always,” this goes to say that we are to be joyful not only in happy times but in sorrows also. And we can do this because our joy is not based on circumstances but on God.

Keep in mind that although circumstances change, God does not!

Pray without Ceasing

It is the will of God for Christians to pray continually.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, we can’t close our eyes, bow our heads, be on our knees, or fold our hands non-stop. It does not mean we keep mumbling our requests and petitions to God. You see, these are customs of prayer, not prayer itself.

We all know what prayer is. It is how we communicate with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5). Prayer is communicating with God. And we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.

This is not to eliminate the significant value of setting a time when we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of closet prayer (Matthew 6:6). But there is also room – and great value – in every moment-of-the-day fellowship with God.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

We must understand what this phrase is saying. We don’t give thanks FOR everything but IN everything.

Imagine having to comfort a friend or relative whose loved one just got murdered. How are you supposed to tell them to thank God for what just took place?

There will be times when we have to deal with difficult and impossible situations. God does not command us to thank Him for any tragedy that He allows. Rather, we thank God despite what happened because we recognize that His sovereign hand is in charge. Scripture assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Things happen not by fate or chance, as some often claim. God is still on the throne and He is in control. Nothing happens that God does not allow.

Charles Spurgeon quote on prayer

The Will of God for Christians

After each one of these exhortations: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, we are told to do this because it is the will of God.

The idea here is not that this is the will of God so we must do it. Rather, we can do it because this is God’s will. It isn’t easy to always be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, but we can do it because it is God’s will.

The will of God in prayer and every aspect of life is doable not because we are tough or capable. We can do all things because God enables us to. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

Persistence in Prayer

The story of the widow and the judge and Jesus’ illustration while teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) are very telling. They give us a very important principle on prayer – be persistent. This means we should always pray and never give up.

In Luke 18:1-8, a widow came to a judge seeking justice in a dispute with her enemy. This judge is described as someone who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. Initially, the judge ignored the woman’s plea. But because she kept bothering him, the judge finally decided to avenge her.

In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, He used the example of a friend who went to his neighbor at midnight to borrow some bread for his unexpected guest. At first, his neighbor refused to help because they are already tucked in bed. But the man kept knocking and showed no sign that he was giving up.

Jesus said although the neighbor won’t do it for friendship’s sake, he will get up and give the man whatever he needed because of his persistence.

Partnering with God

The principle Jesus taught His disciples on prayer still applies to Christians today.

We are to learn a lesson from the unjust judge who rendered a just decision in the end. When we cry out to God day and night, He will surely bring about justice for us and will not delay (Luke 18:6-7).

How to Pray the Will of God

After Jesus’ illustration on the importance of persistence to His disciples, He says this in Luke 11:9-10.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (See also Matthew 7:7-11.0

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we pray persistently, it’s not that we are trying to persuade God to do anything.

Persistent prayer isn’t about convincing God to do anything. Rather, it is about passionately partnering with God in what He already wants to do.

Final Thoughts

It is the will of God for His people to never give up on prayer. Although there will be times when God seems to be ignoring our prayers and petitions, He assures us in the Word that He is always listening.

To make our prayer effective, we need to pray under God’s will.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

We pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 7:10) and realize that God always answers prayers.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy KellerChristians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in 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, 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.

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

One passage that is often grossly misinterpreted by some Christians is Peter’s vision of unclean food (or animals) in Acts 10:9-16. Accordingly, this account in the New Testament shows how believers today are free to eat anything and everything. Unlike the OT saints who had to adhere strictly to several dietary restrictions, we can consume all kinds of meat, including the blood of animals.

By the way, this post is not about whether Christians can eat blood or not. It is also not about eating foods sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-13). I have another article that tackled this problem among believers in the church at Corinth.

Peter’s Vision in Acts 10

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven (Acts 10:9-16, NIV).

Interpreting Peter’s Vision

The most important principle of Bible interpretation is to do it in the context of the passage. This is because context determines the meaning.

We must always consider the immediate context. What do the surrounding verses say? What’s the overall theme and train of thought of the passage? Or the overall context or theme of the entire book? To correctly assess the meaning, the interpreter should look at all the circles of context.

Hermeneutics: Basics of Bible Interpretation

The church was born on Pentecost as followers of the risen Lord gathered in one place, and the Holy Spirit came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:1-2). Scripture tells us that they were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). We see that the focus of Christ’s ministry was the lost sheep of Israel, the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24).

But when we get to chapter 10, we see a pivotal shift in the book, for it records the salvation of the Gentiles.

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

What Peter saw had nothing to do with food; what’s clean or unclean. Instead, God used a vision about food to teach Peter that the Gentiles were not unclean. Peter was hungry, and a vision about food would certainly speak to his condition. Furthermore, the distinction between “unclean” and “clean” foods was a major problem between the Jews and the Gentiles in that day.

Peter’s Christian friends criticized him for eating with the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Yet, God used this centuries-old regulation (Leviticus 11:1-47) to teach Peter an important spiritual lesson. Peter got the message, loud and clear (Acts 10:28, NIV).

The fact that Peter invited the three men (Gentiles) who came looking for him to lodge with him (Acts 10:19-23) is another indication that the walls were coming down. The following day, He set out with the men and some of the other believers from Joppa. When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius and his relatives and close friends met with them.

God Shows No Partiality

Faith comes only through the Word (Romans 10:17) and Peter preached that Word.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with Him” (Acts 10:34-38, NIV).

God does not show partiality when it comes to sin and salvation (Romans 2:11; 3:22-23; 10:1-13). He is no respecter of person as far as nationality and race are concerned. All people have the same Creator (Acts 17:26) and all people need the same Savior (Acts 4:12).

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

As Peter was just getting started in his message, the people believed, and the Holy Spirit came on all of them (Acts 10:44).

“And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:44-47)?

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:15-17).

The witness of the Spirit was crucial, for this was God’s own testimony that He had indeed saved the Gentiles.

With this event, the period of transition in the early history of the church ended. Believers among the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles have all received the Spirit of God and are united in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).

The Same Gift for All: Salvation

As soon as he returned to Jerusalem, Peter was met by members of the strong legalistic party in the church of Judea (the Jewish believers). They rebuked him for fellowshipping with Gentiles and eating with them.

Note: Keep in mind that these Jewish believers did not yet understand the relationship between law and grace, Jews and Gentiles, and Israel and the church.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Acts 11:5-12

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance, I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”

Peter told them the story from the beginning. And when he was finished, the Jewish legalists dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).

Closing Words

The vision of Peter shows us that salvation was made available to all who believe (John 3:16). “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

As Christians, we are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction.

Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews. And some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This attitude can create serious division in the church even today. So, we must follow the example of Acts 11:18.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks (Author), William D. Hendricks (Author), Charles Swindoll (Foreword)

Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks For every person who draws strength and direction from the Bible, there are many more who struggle with it. Some call it a long book with fine print and obscure meaning. Some call it a mystery, a chore to read, or an undecipherable puzzle.

The good news is you can easily solve this problem. With over 300,000 sold, this revised and expanded edition of Living by the Book will remove the barriers that keep Scripture from transforming your life. In a simple, step-by-step fashion, the authors explain how to glean truth from Scripture.

It is practical, readable, and applicable. By following its easy-to-apply principles, you’ll soon find yourself drawing great nourishment from the Word—and enjoying the process! The Living by the Book Workbook is the perfect compliment to provide practical application of lessons.

Is John the Baptist “The Elijah?”

Is John the Baptist “The Elijah?”

Believers and non-believers alike have heard about John the Baptist. He is not only known to be the cousin of Jesus; he’s also the forerunner of the Messiah. But why do some people say that John is the “Elijah” that is to come?”

John the Baptist: Spokesman for God

John is one of the most prominent figures in the Bible. He was the first prophet called by God some 400 years after Malachi. John fulfilled the prophecy given in Isaiah 40:3.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for God.”

John the Baptist in the Spirit of Elijah

Some biblical prophets, including Isaiah, had prophesied a new exodus, by which God could gather His people from exile (Isaiah 11:16; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Hosea 3:14-15). He would establish a way through the wilderness, as He had led His people through the wilderness of old.

John was a herald preparing the people for this event and for the coming of “the Lord” by which the Hebrews text of Isaiah referred to God Himself.

A Voice from the Jordan

It was down the hills of Jordan that curious people from Judea came to hear “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Luke 3:4). John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, by preaching sermons of judgment against sin (Luke 3:7-18). He also baptized in the Jordan River those who heeded his message and repented (Luke 3:2).

Have you ever asked why John started preaching in the wilderness? Accordingly, the wilderness was one of the few places where prophetic figures could safely draw crowds, but of course, it lacked the amenities of civilization.

A first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, also reports that John baptized people in the wilderness, inviting them to spiritual transformation. Josephus, however, adapts his description of John to appeal to Greek readers, as he depicts the “sects” of Judea (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes).

The Gospels, however, portray John in a way more in keeping with authentic Judean prophets, a preacher of the imminent new era of God’s reign.

John the Baptist in the Spirit of Elijah and Elisha
Photo Credits: Aleteia.Org

In the Spirit of Elijah

John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah, for he was the Elijah-to-come spoken of by Malachi 450 years earlier (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:2-15; 17:9-13). Like Elijah, John the Baptist wore rough clothing (2 Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6; Luke 7:25) and ate what he could from the land.

More important, like Elijah, he stood unwaveringly before unjust religious and political authorities. He was also bold to judge them according to God’s standards (Matthew 3:7-9; 11:7; Luke 3:19-20). (Note: See 1 Kings 17:1; 18:21-40 for further reference.) Yet Jesus Himself was even greater!

As Elijah departed for heaven, his successor Elisha, received a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9-15). As if in confirmation of this fact, the writer of the biblical books of the Kings records twice as many miracles performed by Elisha than by Elijah.

Similarly, Jesus’ ministry far surpassed that of His predecessor, John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17).

In the Spirit of Elisha

Most Christians appreciate the prophetic ties which connect Jesus to both John the Baptist and Elijah. The ministry of Jesus, however, can also be compared to that of Elisha, with John the Baptist playing the key intermediate role. The diagram below shows this:

John the Baptist Like Elijah

Both Elisha and Jesus moved about the towns and village of Galilee and Samaria, doing good among the common folk by healing lepers (2 Kings 5:1-27; Luke 17:11-19). They have multiplied loaves of bread for hungry multitudes (2 Kings 4:42-44; Luke 9:12-17) and raised the dead (2 Kings 4:18-37; Luke 7:11-17).

Nain, where Jesus raised a dead boy was less than two miles from Shunem, where Elisha did the same, prompting the residents of Nain to exclaim, “A great prophet has risen up [again] among us” (Luke 7:16).

Was John the Baptist Elijah?

The Bible calls John the Baptist “the Elijah to come” because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. But he was not Elijah in a literal sense. John was the New Testament forerunner who pointed the way to the arrival of the Messiah, just as Elijah filled that role in the Old Testament.

John did not only deny that he was the Christ, he also specifically denied that he was Elijah (John 1:19-21).

Now, this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then, are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”

John identified himself as the messenger of Isaiah 40:3, not “the Elijah” (Malachi 3:1).

One other thing, Elijah himself appeared with Moses at the Mount of Transfiguration after the death of John the Baptist. This would not have happened if Elijah had changed his identity to John.

Conclusion

John the Baptist is not Elijah. Scriptures such as Mark 8:28 and Mark 6:14-16 show that both King Herod and the people distinguished between Elijah and John the Baptist.

But how do we reconcile the teachings that Jesus identified John as Elijah and John the Baptist denying that identification? We must not overlook the key phrase that Jesus used. He said, “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14).

Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist as Elijah did not rest on the premise that John was the actual Elijah. Rather, it hangs on the people’s response to his role. If the people willingly believed in Jesus as the Christ, John functioned as Elijah. But if they rejected Jesus, as the Pharisees did, John did not perform this role.

John the Baptist is a type of Elijah. As he announced the first coming of Jesus, the prophet Elijah announced the Second Coming of the Lord. Malachi 4:5-6 says Elijah will return before the Tribulation.


Reference Materials:
  1. The Transformation Study Bible (Edited by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe)
  2. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
  3. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible (Edited by John Hagee)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Systematic Theology, Second Edition: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

Systematic Theology by Wayne GrudemThis new edition of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem may be the most important resource you can own for helping you understand Scripture and grow as a Christian.

The most widely used resource of the last 25 years in its area, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem has been thoroughly revised and expanded (all 57 chapters) for the first time while retaining the features that have made it the standard in its field: clear explanations, an emphasis on each doctrine’s scriptural basis, and practical applications to daily life.

If you are someone who thinks theology is hard to understand or boring, then this new edition of Systematic Theology will likely change your mind.

Psalm 51 Devotional

Psalm 51 Devotional

Today’s post is a devotional and reflection on Psalm 51. In this chapter, we read of King David’s confession and repentance after the prophet Nathan rebuked him of his sin (See 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Living in a No-Fault Society

We live in a society where most people have adopted the “I’m-not-responsible” mentality. Every time we do something wrong, we say, “Oh no, not my fault!” We blame our parents, others, and even God, but never ourselves.

Picture this scenario after the fall:

Adam was out walking with his sons Cain and Abel. As they passed by the gates of the Garden of Eden, one of the boys asked, “What is that dad?” Adam replied, “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.”

See? Adam faced responsibility like a modern man – he blamed his wife.

But isn’t this what Adam did? Oh yeah! When he and his wife were caught in disobedience and God confronted them, Adam immediately pointed his finger at Eve. And Eve in her defense blamed the serpent.

We’ve been living in a no-fault generation since the time of Adam and Eve.

You Are the Man!

In Psalm 51, Prophet Nathan has confronted David with a story of wrongdoing: “King David, a poor man’s lamb was stolen and eaten by a rich man giving a party. What shall be done?” David, reacting instantly said, “The man who did this should die!”

Nathan looked at the ashen face of King David and said, “You are the man!”

Psalm 51: David's Confession and Repentance

Right there and then, King David confessed and repented. The fountains of his soul broke as the pent-up passion of remorse, shame, guilt, and anxiety released the flood of tears. He approached God’s throne sobbing and said:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Taking Full Responsibility

Without hesitation, David took full responsibility. As king, he held absolute power, living beyond the reach of the people. Why confess? There was not a reporter waiting to ask, “Is it true that your subordinate set up a rendezvous with Bathsheba?” No one else knew about this. Yet, David confesses of his “transgressions, iniquity and sin (Psalm 51:1-3).

While a modern man would say, “It’s the woman’s fault for bathing naked in the moonlight on the roof. She should have used a shower curtain. She did it on purpose!” Or turn at the prophet of God and say, “You, Nathan, are out of step with the new morality.”

David claimed the sin as his own without ever mentioning Bathsheba. He never tried to blame Uriah either.

How do you react when a servant of God confronts you with a sin you thought nobody else knew? Do you immediately confess and repent? Or do you harden your heart and point out the hypocrisy of others, especially your church leaders?

David’s Three-Part Confession

David’s confession had three parts, not one thought three times, but three different views of one repentance.

“My transgression” was the open rebellion against God, knowing what he did was wrong, yet he did it anyway. “My iniquity” refers to David’s deception in trying to hide his sin. To conceal the fact that David got Bathsheba pregnant, he murdered Uriah.

There is no such thing as a secret sin. Sooner or later, God will expose all deception and shout it out from the rooftops. “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

“My sin” was David’s murder of Uriah, breaking his fellowship with God. David acknowledged his sin before God and said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4).

Psalm 51 Devotional

To restore his fellowship with God, David cried to God, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Hyssop was the branch with which the blood of the lamb was applied over the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt in the night of Passover. Once the blood was applied, that home was safe from the death angel.

The Bible says, “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission from sin (Hebrews 9:22).

A Plea for Restoration

David was a musician since childhood. He had played for Saul and brought gladness to his heart. But because of his sin, he could no longer enjoy music. Sin had destroyed his song and so he begged this of God:

“Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).

Sin consumed him like the excruciating pain of a broken bone.

Nathan told David that God would forgive him, but the sword would not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). David suffered deeply for his sin. His first child with Bathsheba died shortly after its birth (2 Samuel 12:15-18). His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Absalom became a rebel who wanted to kill him (2 Samuel 15 – 17).

David first asked God to “blot out his sin” and then to “wash it away” (Psalm 51:1-2). The Hebrew word for wash meant “to trample.” In those days, women put clothes in the stream and trampled them clean with their feet.

There is no English word for the Hebrew word here translated “cleanse.” The closest word would be to “unsin.” It means that when David stands before God, He will say to him, “I find no fault in this man. He is whiter than snow.” God will not say, “Oh, David, you had a great career but you ruined it by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah.”

David Looks Ahead

After David’s confession, Nathan said, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s sin was gone – forgiven instantly. David continued to be open to the word of prophecy, and as he looked into the future, he saw the millennial reign.

“Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18).

What a joy and encouragement to know that God will not count our sins against us when we confess and repent. When we cry out to God, He does not retain His anger forever and pardons our iniquity. He will show us compassion and casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Concluding Thoughts

We must take responsibility for our lives and stop making silly excuses. When we go astray from the will of God, we must accept that we are “guilty as charged” and confess our sins. God will rush to blot them out, never to remember them again (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

We must not try to conceal our sins, nor blame them on others. We must, by all means, avoid doing things that we know full well are in rebellion against God.

Each of us must choose the New Jerusalem or the Lake of Fire. Our eternal soul is at stake. When we come before God and cry out to Him, He promises to forgive and restore us.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David by Eugene H. Peterson

Prayer is both our most human action and our most human language. But, as with any other language, we may find ourselves clumsy and undisciplined in our attempts at it.

Praying with the Psalms can help Christians become fluent in the language of prayer, encouraging us to pray even when we don’t feel like it, and to learn prayers that are both honest and right.

Based on the life and words of David, the Psalms provide insightful reflections on depression, anger, frustration, fear, and insecurity, as well as joy exhilaration, triumph, and gladness.

Praying with the Psalms offers daily readings to guide us in expressing to God the wide range of human emotions. Through this enriched communication with God, we are led to a deeper understanding and a truer following of his will.

The Power of Great Faith

The Power of Great Faith

The great faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 is one of the well-known stories in the Bible on the power of faith to heal. This centurion was a man of power and influence. Everything about this officer should have prevented him from coming to Jesus.

The centurion was a professional soldier, and Jesus was a man of peace. He was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. Yet, when this one centurion’s servant became ill, he sought help from the Great Physician. Why?

It’s because this soldier had one thing working for him. He was a man of great faith. He understood that Jesus, like himself, had authority and was under authority. All Christ had to do was speak the word, and the disease would obey Him the way a soldier obeyed his officer.

Faith to Heal

When the centurion came to Jesus asking for help, Jesus said that He would come to his house to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-7). But the centurion said Jesus did not have to come to his house. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Jesus marveled and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)! And his servant was healed that same hour.

So, you see, faith is not only a saving faith but a healing faith. The Word of God promises divine healing and miracles (Psalm 107:20).

The Power of Great Faith

Jesus Promises Healing

In the first promise of healing, the Lord said this in Exodus 15:26:

“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

David said that God’s medicare program was so successful for the Israelites that …

“He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes” (Psalm 105:37).

The Agent of Healing

Healing is not a result of wishful thinking. The centurion didn’t wish healing upon his servant. Instead, he sought out the One who had the power to heal, Jesus the Son of God.

We read this in Isaiah 53:4-5.

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.”

The words borne and carry denote more than sympathy. They represent actual substitution and the removal of the thing being borne. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), death and all its power were conquered, including the power of sickness. Disease is subservient to Jesus.

The healings of Jesus were continuous. Jesus never turned away anyone seeking healing.

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Healings in the Church Today

Does Jesus’ ministry of healing continue until today? This is the question that many Christians are asking. Let us look at what Scriptures say about this.

To the church, Jesus said this:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

This promise has never been rescinded. At the beginning of the New Testament church, this power was committed not only to the apostles, who would soon pass away. It was also passed on to the elders (James 5:14).

People could be healed in every church where elders would pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil in the name of Jesus. The power of Jesus to heal has never been diminished. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 12:8).

The centurion said, “Speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We, too, can call on Jesus to heal us. We call on Jesus and exercise great faith because the power of great faith to heal is still at work today.

Does God Always Heal?

If God still works miracles today and His healing ministry continues, why is it that some people don’t get healed? Perhaps you know somebody who was terminally ill and had been prayed over many times but did not receive their healing.

I used to have this question too. I wondered why God heals some and lets the others succumb to death. What could be God’s basis for deciding who gets healed and who doesn’t?

I wrote an article as to why doesn’t God heal everyone who asks in faith for healing. In it, I shared the story of a former Muslim who came to faith in Christ. After studying and comparing the Quran and the Bible, he concluded that the evidence for Christianity is more compelling.

You can read all about it here.

At the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that God is sovereign. We may not have the answers to all our questions but we need to trust God for He knows what He is doing.

Closing Thoughts

Twice the Gospels record that Jesus was amazed (or marveled) at the faith of the centurion: 1) Matthew 8:10-12 and in Luke 7:9 and 2) at the unbelief of the Jews (Mark 6:6).

This is an early indication that the Jews would not believe, but the Gentiles would. Also, in both of these miracles, our Lord healed from a distance. This was a reminder of the spiritual position of the Gentiles “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12).

Praise God for healing; praise God for miracles!

How is your faith? Can you say with confidence that you have great faith? The kind of faith that heals?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Faith Believing in the God Who Works on Your Behalf by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall

Faith by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall What can we learn from the Scriptures about how to trust God no matter what, and believe in something that is not yet seen?

As a young man with only weeks to live, Yonggi Cho was healed of terminal illness, saw the resurrected Jesus, and quickly began sharing God’s hope with others. Those listeners became the world’s largest church.

In Faith, Pastor Cho and Dr. Wayde Goodall share how to:

  • Understand and grow in your faith.
  • Walk with the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Overcome mistakes and continue to depend on Christ in times of discouragement.
  • Believe for and trust God’s supernatural power.
  • Use every situation to accomplish tremendous things for God’s kingdom.

For our lives to work, we need faith—the kind of faith that gives birth to hope and chooses to believe in every circumstance. God will answer prayer, heal, and perform signs and wonders as we walk daily by faith. You can trust God as your source, security, and assurance.

Who is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2?

Who is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2?

2 Thessalonians 2 describes the revelation of “the man of sin,” who is believed to be the Antichrist. Paul tells us some of the things he will do, but he says that for now, his identity remains secret until the restrainer is taken out of the way.

But who or what is the restrainer mentioned by the apostle in verses 6 and 7 that is holding back the man of sin from being revealed?

Bible Verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

The Restrainer is the Spirit-Indwelt Church

The Identity of the Restrainer

We know that God is at work restraining evil in general. But the exact identity of the restrainer has baffled expositors with multiple solutions offered. Paul must have told the church at Thessalonica who the restrainer was. He says, “And now you know what is restraining…” (2 Thessalonians 2:6).

However, he does not tell us in this or any other of his letters. What he tells us is that the restrainer is at work until He is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7b).

So, who is this person, or what kind of entity is it that is restraining the appearance of the Antichrist?

Down through the centuries many candidates have been suggested:

  • The Roman Empire
  • The Jewish State
  • The Apostle Paul
  • The Preaching of the Gospel
  • Human Government
  • Satan
  • Elijah
  • An Unknown Heavenly Being
  • Michael the Archangel
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Church

Clues to the Identity of the Restrainer

Saint Augustine was transparent when he confessed not knowing who the restrainer is. But several clues can help us identify the “one who is holding back.”

First, the restrainer holds back the man of sin. Second, the restrainer is referred to with both neuter and masculine verbs (participles). The phrase “what is restraining” uses a neuter verb, suggesting a principle. The phrase “He who now restrains” uses a masculine verb, suggesting a person.

Third, whatever the restrainer is, he or it must be removable. Last, the restrainer must be powerful to hold back the outbreak of evil under the Antichrist.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

These four clues permit only one satisfactory identification for the restrainer – God Himself. In this case, it is God the Holy Spirit who is the restrainer. But that still leaves some loose ends. Why is the Holy Spirit referred to as both a principle and as a person – like a what and a who?

And how can the Holy Spirit, who is omnipresent, be removed from the earth? These are legitimate questions. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and cannot be removed from the earth.

Moreover, millions of people will be saved during the Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-14). The convicting, drawing, regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential for anyone to be saved both now and in the Tribulation. (See John 3:5; 16:7-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3.)

So, how can the Holy Spirit be the restrainer? The answer is that the Holy Spirit is at work during this age in and through the church.

The Spirit-Indwelt Church

There are four key reasons for identifying the restrainer to be the church indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

First, this restrainer requires omnipotent power. Second, this view adequately explains the change in gender – from neuter to masculine (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). In Greek the word pneuma (Spirit) is neuter. But the Holy Spirit is also consistently referred to by the masculine pronoun He, especially in John 14–16.

Third, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as restraining sin and evil in the world (Genesis 6:3) and the heart of the believer (Galatians 5:16-17). Finally, the Holy Spirit uses the church and its proclamation and portrayal of the gospel as the primary instrument in this age to restrain evil.

We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We are the temple of the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately (1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19; Ephesians 2:21-22).

The restrainer then is the work of the Holy Spirit through His people in this present age. Amazingly, our present age is described as the age of restraint. The presence of believers in the world exerts a powerful influence upon the wicked world.

Worship with the City Harvest Church with their song “Come Holy Spirit.”

The Removal of the Restrainer

The Rapture will change everything. When the rapture occurs, the Spirit-indwelt church and its restraining influence will be removed. That will release the world to sin as it never has before.

Christians who stand for civic righteousness and law and order will no longer be present exerting their influence. The church’s salt and light will be extracted from the earth. For a time at least, only unsaved people will hold government office. Satan will be able to put his plan into full swing by bringing his man onto center stage to take control of the world.

Evil will erupt and expand unchecked beyond anything known in the history of man. It will be like the removal of a huge dam. The world will be inundated with evil of unimaginable scope and severity.

However, the Holy Spirit’s return to heaven will not be a complete withdrawal from the earth, but a reverse Pentecost of sorts. His activity will be like it was in the Old Testament.

Donald Grey Barnhouse says this:

“During the Great Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will still be here on earth, of course! How can you get rid of God? But He will not be indwelling believers as He does now. Rather, He will revert to His Old Testament ministry of coming upon special people.”

Conclusion

The Holy Spirit (that indwells the believers) is hindering, standing in the way, and restraining the powers of evil. Until He is taken out of the way, and immediately the man of sin (the lawless one) then shall be revealed.

As soon as the church is removed from this world, there will be no more restraining forces against evil. As a result, the man of sin will take over using the powers that will be given to him by Satan. The world will be plunged into darkness such as the world has never seen before, or will ever see again.

The forces of darkness are at work now. But the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is keeping Satan from taking absolute control over all the earth.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

The End by Mark HitchcockReference: The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock.

The end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades.

Mark Hitchcock’s book is that comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven.

It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic―the end of the world.

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

One of the biggest objections against Christianity is its claim of exclusivity. Christianity asserts that it alone has the truth about God and salvation. In other words, it is the only true worldview. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and His sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to redeem man from eternal destruction.

But how could there be only one true religion? What about the billions of people in the world who are sincerely worshiping God the best way they know how? How could a good God send them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

Aren’t all religions the same? Some people believe that all religions may be superficially different but fundamentally the same. However, one of the greatest Christian apologists in the twenty-first century said it’s the opposite. He said all religions are fundamentally different and at best superficially the same.

In today’s post, I would like us to take a closer look at one of the most common Bible verses Christians use to defend their claim that salvation can be attained through Jesus and Jesus alone.

Bible Verse: John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

What is Jesus saying here? Whom is He saying these words to? First, we need to read the entire passage beginning from verses 1 to 6 of John chapter 14. It reads:

John 14:1-6

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

Going back to chapter 13, we read the scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. That was before the feast of the Passover when He already knew that His hour had come to go back to the Father (John 13:1).

Jesus then revealed this to His disciples (John 13:33) which made them very sad. So, when we go to chapter 14, we read Jesus comforting them. He tells them to not lose heart because He’s not abandoning them. He is going back to the Father but promises to come back for them once everything in heaven is ready.

Jesus had been preparing His disciples to deal with this event (His leaving them and going back to the Father). Yet, they failed to grasp the reality that it was going to happen sooner than they expected.

Thomas then asks where Jesus was going and how they can know the way (John 14:5). To which Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Christianity’s Exclusivistic Claim

While people who hold to a different worldview criticize Christians for their claim, the truth of the matter is every religion makes an exclusivistic claim. Exclusivism is not only true of Christianity; it’s also true of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every other religion. This is why there are no Buddhist Christians or Islamic Hindus.

What makes Christianity different from the rest of these religions? While all the other worldviews hold to a work-based salvation, in Christianity you are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). You are saved by placing your faith in something God has done, not something you can do.

No one can earn their way into heaven no matter how they try to live a good life. No one is good enough. Perhaps, using man’s standards, some would qualify. But based on the standards of God, no one will be able to meet the requirements. The bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Jesus is the Way to the Father

Notice that Jesus said He is the way. He did not say, “a way,” which could mean “one in many.” Jesus specifically said He is the way, as in “the one and only.”

Here’s a video of Oprah Winfrey in one episode of her show wherein she denied that Jesus is the only way. Thankfully, someone in her audience boldly argued that what the Bible teaches is clear; that there is one way and only one way and that is through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to come to the Father?

1. To Obtain His Favor

To come to the Father is to obtain His favor. 

God’s favor generally refers to His acceptance and approval. Well, who does not want God’s approval? Who does not want to make the Father proud? If children do all they can to have their earthly father’s “thumbs up,” how much more do God’s children want to please Him? In short, it’s about what we can do.

But almost everywhere in the New Testament., the word favor is translated as grace. God’s favor is not necessarily material or financial. It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. We do not have to do anything for God to bestow upon us His blessings

Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

2. To have Access to His Throne by Prayer

To come to the Father is to have access to His throne by prayer.

Jesus’ teaching for us to pray in His name is explicit in Scriptures such as John 14:13-14 and John 15:16. By teaching us to pray in His name, Jesus is claiming to be the mediator and reconciler between man and God. It is only through praying in Jesus’ name that believers can approach God.

Paul acknowledged this in 1 Timothy 2:5 when he said, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Romans Catholics believe they can pray to Mary, making her a co-mediator and equal with Christ. But there is no biblical support for this. It is only through Jesus that we can approach God’s throne of grace.

3. To Enter His Kingdom

To come to the Father is to finally enter His Kingdom.

Where is the Father and where is His Kingdom? The Father is in heaven. We see this stated in Isaiah 66:1 and repeated in Acts 7:49. However, this does not mean that God’s access is limited.

God is transcendent; He is omnipresent and omnipotent.

Jesus’ understanding of Himself as to how we can approach God is exclusive. He said this in John 10:9 (NIV), “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.”

No other options are open. If you want to gain access to the Father in heaven you must go through Jesus, not Mary, or anyone else.

Jesus’ audience clearly understood this. Peter clearly understood this that’s why he said in Acts 4:12 (NIV), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

No man can obtain any of these things except by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. It meant coming in His name and depending on His merits.

All Roads Lead to Rome

There is an old saying that “All roads lead to Rome.”

This is often used as a way to understand different religions; that they each lead to God in their own way. Oprah Winfrey argued that people may not necessarily call it heaven. But at the end of the day, no matter which path we choose to take we will all end up in the same beautiful place.

That cannot be further from the truth. I would like to use a maze, as an illustration, to prove that there can only be one way to heaven. If you choose the wrong path, you will surely end up in a different place.

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

There are only two destinations for man after his life on earth: heaven or hell. There’s no such place as purgatory. When a person dies, his fate has been sealed and cannot be reversed. His final destination has been decided (Hebrew 9:27).

In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, heaven is a real place and so is hell. But do you know that most people who believe in literal heaven refuse to believe in a literal hell?

They say that hell is just a “concept;” that hell is the darkness inside of you. Again, that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus talked a great deal about heaven but he talked three times more about hell than He did heaven.

Does God Send People to Hell?

If Jesus is the only way, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Will God condemn them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

In one of Dr. Frank Turek’s apologetics lectures, somebody in the audience asked the same question. Dr. Turek said there’s something wrong with the question. People are not condemned to hell only on the occasion of not believing in Jesus; they are already condemned because of sin. (See John 3:17-18.)

We have to understand that we’re not going to hell because we do not believe in Jesus. It’s like asking, “Am I going to die because I did not go to the doctor?” No! You will die because you have a disease! So no, you will not go to hell for not believing in Jesus, you’re going to hell because you sinned (Romans 3:23).

Let’s get this crystal clear. God doesn’t send people to hell. Hell is not God’s choice for men, heaven is. Hell is the choice of men who want to reject God. When God created man, He created him with “free will.” We were not created to be robots!

So ultimately the choice we make for eternity is made by the submission of our will to our heavenly Father. God will not violate our will because it is a sacred gift that He gave to us.

Going to Hell is a Choice Quote

Jesus is the Truth

When Jesus said He is the truth, you must understand that He is not just referring to an idea. The TRUTH here is a person – the Lord Jesus Christ! (See John 8:32, 36.)

Jesus said He is the truth. So if Jesus is the truth, it doesn’t matter what other people think and believe because truth is truth whether we believe it or not.

Earlier, we asked the questions: How can Christianity be the only true religion? What about the billions of religious people around the world who are sincerely worshiping God in the best way they know how?

What makes faith valuable is its object, not its sincerity. If the object is false then sincerity is irrelevant. Should believers be sincere in their beliefs? Absolutely! But sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true.

If I believe that two plus two equals five, I’m dead wrong, no matter how sincerely I believe it.

People who hold a different worldview, such as the Muslims, acknowledge Jesus to be a morally good person; they believe in His virgin birth and that He performed miracles but they do not believe He is the Son of God and that He is God.

What one believes about Jesus is crucial. In Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asked His disciples the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Why Christianity is True

Jesus is the Life

Christ is the author and giver of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal. Eternal life in heaven is made possible only through Christ.

Let’s take a look at these Bible verses:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Conclusion

If Jesus is not the exclusive way to salvation, but just one way, then why did He have to suffer and die? In fact, why did He live at all?

For what possible reason would God become incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, live a life of perfect obedience, service, and self-denial, suffer torture, and then executed in one of the most horrible ways imaginable if there were other avenues to God?

The truth of the matter is, no one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness can come to God the Father except through Jesus. We cannot save ourselves from eternal damnation in hell through our own efforts. We cannot attain eternal life no matter how much we try to live a moral life.

Salvation in Christianity

Is salvation exclusive to those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ? Absolutely! Is Jesus’ sacrificial death sufficient to redeem us? Absolutely! Jesus said, “It is finished!” He has conquered death and emerged victoriously and we too can have the victory in Christ. But have we surrendered our lives completely to Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t merely point the way, He is the Way. Jesus does not teach us truth, He is the Truth. Jesus does not represent one avenue to life, He is the Life. “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB).


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ by Lee StrobelIs there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God? Former atheist and Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel takes an investigative look at the evidence from the fields of science, philosophy, and history.

In this revised and updated bestseller, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, asking hard-hitting questions – and building a captivating case for Christ’s divinity.

Strobel asks challenging questions like:

  • How reliable is the New Testament?
  • Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible?
  • Is Jesus who he said he was?
  • Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?
What About the Contradictions in the Bible?

What About the Contradictions in the Bible?

One of the common arguments against the inspiration of the Bible is the “supposed” contradictions. Many skeptics ask how Christian scholars and theologians can explain away these contradictions.

The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, thus, God is the one who is responsible for its content. Since this is the case, we need to address the matter of the so-called contradictions that are contained within its pages. If the Bible contains errors then it is inconsistent with the God it reveals.

How can the Bible, the written Word of God, disagree with itself?

The Law of Contradiction

What constitutes a contradiction? The law of non-contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be both A and non-A at the same time. In other words, it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time.

If one can demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture, then and only then can he prove a contradiction. For example, if the Bible said (which it does not) that Jesus died by crucifixion both at Jerusalem and at Nazareth at the same time, this would be a provable error.

Contradictions in the Bible Explained
Photo Credits: Slideplayer.Com

Dealing with Alleged Contradictions

One of the things for which we appeal concerning possible contradictions is fairness. We should not minimize or exaggerate the problem, and we must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt.

This is the rule in other literature, and we ask that it also be the rule here. We find so often that people want to employ a different set of rules when it comes to examining the Bible, and to this, we immediately object.

Contradiction vs. Difference

When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.

Let’s look at some of the commonly quoted Bible passages.

The Blind Men at Jericho

Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus (Matthew 9:27-31), while both Mark and Luke mention only one (Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43). However, neither of these statements denies the other, but rather they are complementary.

Supposed you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend Henry and tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend, Jake, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police.

When your friends compare notes, there is seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If you had told Henry that you talked only to the mayor, you would have contradicted that statement by what you told Jake.

The statements you made to Henry and Jake are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category. Many think they find errors in passages that they have not correctly read.

The Healing of the Two Blind Men
Photo Credits: Rainbowtoken.Com

The Death of Sisera

In the book of Judges, we have the account of the death of Sisera. Judges 5:24-27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain him with her hammer and tent peg while he was drinking milk. On the other hand, Judges 4:21-22 says she did it while he was asleep.

However, a closer reading of Judges 5:25-27 will reveal that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment of impact. Thus, the discrepancy disappears.

The Angels at the Tomb

How many angels appeared to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday?

While Matthew and Mark mention only one (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8), Luke and John seem to mention two (Luke 24:1-7; John 20:1-2).

But notice that Matthew and Mark do not say there was only one angel. To have a contradiction, Matthew or Mark would have to say that there was only one angel, which they didn’t. Luke and John say there were two, but wherever there are two, there is always one. This simple truth must always be kept in mind.

The gospel authors may have made different statements as a result of them focusing on a particular issue. But there was no contradiction.

Inaccurate Translation

Sometimes two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. Knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties. We must understand that both the Greek and Hebrew languages, like all languages, have peculiarities that make them difficult to render into English or any other language.

A classic example concerns the accounts of Paul’s conversion.

What Did Paul Hear?

Acts 9:7 (KJV) states, “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 (KJV) reads, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Bible Contradictions Explained
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These statements seem contradictory, with one saying that Paul’s companions heard a voice, while the other account says no voice was heard. However, a knowledge of Greek solves this difficulty.

As the Greek scholar W. F. Arndt explained:

The construction of the verb “to hear” (akouo) is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it is used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative.

The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard, or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not.

The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this, it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory.

Acts 22:9 does not deny that Paul’s associates heard certain sounds; it simply declares that they did not hear in such a way as to understand what was being said. Our English idiom in this case simply is not so expressive as the Greek.

Final Thoughts

We have looked at just a few examples of the seemingly contradictory passages in the Bible and how to deal with them. It must also be stressed that when a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error.

Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances and do not necessarily involve and error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.

While all Bible difficulties and discrepancies have not yet been cleared up, it is our firm conviction that as more knowledge is gained of the Bible’s past, these problems will fade away.


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Reference: Josh McDowell Answers Five Tough Questions

Recommended Resource: The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe

The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas HoweThis comprehensive volume offers readers clear and concise answers to every major Bible difficulty from Genesis to Revelation, staunchly defending the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

Written in a problem/solution format, the book covers over 800 questions that critics and doubters raise about the Bible. Three extensive indices-topical, Scripture, and unorthodox doctrines-offer quick and easy access to specific areas of interest.

Multipurpose in scope and user-friendly in format, “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties” offers the resources of five books in one:

  • a critical commentary on the whole Bible
  • an apologetics text
  • a Bible difficulties reference
  • a theology manual treating important doctrines
  • a handbook on verses misused by cults
What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

One of the exciting parts of high school life is filling out slum books and answering questions such as “What is love?” It was quite interesting to read different answers.

But if you are looking for the best definition and illustration of love, you may want to open your Bible to John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Love of God

We see in this text a perfect example of a “cause and effect” relationship, wherein one event causes another to happen. It is a combination of action and reaction.

A cause is something that produces an event; an effect is what results from the event. In this case, the cause is God’s love and the effect is Him sending His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world.

God created man out of love and it is also out of love that God chose to save man from eternal condemnation. You see, there was no need for God to create man; God did not need man.

The Biblical Definition of Love

This is exactly why Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” isn’t theologically sound. There is a phrase that says, “You did not want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” This is a complete fallacy and has no biblical standing at all.

The Triune God is complete within Himself. In the community of the Trinity, there is a perfect love relationship, unity, and fellowship. So, why did God create man? It’s because God is love.

God created man to be the object of His love, the apple of His eyes, and the joy of His heart.

Love: God’s Motivation

In the story of creation, we read that before God created man, He prepared everything first. God made sure that the environment was comfortable and convenient for man and the only thing left for man to do was to take care of the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 2:8-15).

God planted Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden and gave him full dominion over everything else. And when God saw that Adam needed a “suitable partner,” He immediately put him into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created a woman out of it (Genesis 2:21-23).

Again, God did this out of love. Adam didn’t have to ask. God determined that man needed a “suitable partner” and immediately took action (Genesis 2:18).

But after everything that God did for man, what did man do? He willfully and deliberately disobeyed God. Yet, because God is love, merciful, and gracious, He still chose to forgive man.

We know the rest of the story. Man got caught up in this cycle of rebellion and repentance. And throughout history, we see God’s love for His people manifested over and over and over again.

God was in no way morally obligated to save man (human beings, male and female). But He did it out of love. We must understand that God is not full of love; He is love.

Love is God’s character; it’s one of the things that make Him God. God’s love motivated Him to give His Son for the world.

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Mutual Love Between the Father and the Son

For us to understand the depths of God’s love for us and the world, we must first realize how much the Father loves the Son.

John repeatedly emphasizes the mutual love between the Father and the Son in several passages (John 3:35; John 10:17; John 14:312; John 17:24), revealing an intimate relationship; an affection expressed in self-giving sacrifice. To save the world He so loved; God was willing to endure the pain of losing His Son.

Parents, can you bear to see your only child getting punished for somebody else’s fault? Let alone see your child suffer and die knowing that he/ she hasn’t done anything wrong?

Can you punish your only child for his schoolmates’ sin? I don’t think so! It is the instinct of parents to protect their children at all costs.

Years ago, a story broke about a mother who was willing to go to prison for her son’s crime. Accordingly, a young man accidentally killed their neighbor after a heated argument. He went home and told his mother what had happened. When the police got to the crime scene, they found the mother with the murder weapon.

If our earthly parents will do everything for their children, how much more our heavenly Father. Imagine the pain that the Father experienced at the sight of the suffering and death of His Son that He, the Father Himself, inflicted.

At the cross on Calvary, God poured out His wrath upon His Son (the cup). God watched as Jesus suffered and died to satisfy God’s justice. We must never forget that God is love but He is also just.

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

Going back to our text, we see that the object of God’s love is the “world.” But who or what embodies the “world?” There are different interpretations from Bible teachers, scholars, and denominations. Some argue that God’s special love is only for Israel. Others say it’s for the church and still, others believe it is for the elect.

But several passages tell us that Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone. He shed His blood not just for some special groups of people but for all as we read in passages such as 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:9 and Galatians 3:28.

However, let us be careful not to get sucked into the assumption that because God gave His Son for the world then everyone is automatically saved. This just means that salvation became available to anyone.

If we read John 3:17, God’s purpose in sending His Son was not to condemn; the world was already in a state of condemnation as a result of man’s sin.

The great news is, God provided the gift of salvation for all and it’s free. All we have to do is choose to either receive or reject it. One must believe and continues to believe in the Son of God to avail of the gift of eternal life.

The Wholeness of God

The Father Gave His Begotten Son

I cannot overemphasize the biblical truth that God’s love caused Him to sacrifice His only begotten Son. But let us look more closely at what the term “begotten Son” means and what is its significance.

If you are reading from a modern Bible translation such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, etc., the phrase used is “one and only Son,” which was especially appropriate for a particularly beloved child, normally, an only child.

Interestingly, this same phrase was used to highlight Abraham’s obedience to God when asked to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering unto the Lord on the altar he was asked to build at Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:15-16). But before Abraham could slay his son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a ram instead.

The story of Abraham and Isaac was a foreshadowing of what was to take place at Calvary many years later. God provided a ram for Moses to sacrifice in the place of Isaac but He provided His only Son as an atoning sacrifice for all (1 John 2:2).

People say “I love you,” all the time but oftentimes they don’t mean it. Actions speak louder than words, right? Well, God did not stop at the words, “I love you.” He demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to suffer and die for us. And He did it while we were still in our sins (Romans 5:8).

This is the biblical definition of love – sacrifice.

The Justice of God

I would like to pick up where I left off on the justice of God because this is where many Christians struggle and sometimes stumble.

We understand pretty well the phrase, “God is love.” We all agree that God loves us so much; He loves us unconditionally and He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save us from destruction out of His great love.

But when we read that Jesus had to suffer and die to satisfy God’s justice, we can’t seem to comprehend why. Most people think that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ were inflicted upon Him by Satan.

Of course not! Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? To appease God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice. What do you mean?

God is Just

Let me say it again, God is love but He is also just. There was no way God would just sit back and let the sinner go unpunished. Man sinned and he needed to pay. Sins have consequences.

It’s like when you commit a crime, you have to pay the penalty. You go on trial and when convicted you’ll be sentenced according to the heinousness of your crime.

The punishment for man’s sin (rebellion against God) is eternal condemnation, i.e., death or separation from God (Romans 6:23). But because God is love, He wasn’t going to let man be condemned forever. So, He came up with a solution – He sent His Son to pay the penalty instead.

The Father Crushed His Son

Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to crush Him…” Crushed who? His Son! How did the Father crush the Son? By pouring out the fullness of His wrath upon Jesus.

What was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? For the Father to take the “cup” away from Him (Mark 14:36). But what’s in the cup? The wrath of God. When the cup was poured out on Jesus, He took upon Himself the sins of the world and the punishment from God. And when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) the penalty was paid in full.

The Bible tells us that during those three hours that Jesus hung on the cross, there was darkness all over the land (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-46), which tells us how horrible Jesus’ death was that God had to conceal it from the people.

Conclusion

Are you still in search of true love? Look no further. Come to Christ in repentance and receive His gift of eternal life. God sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could enjoy eternal life with Him.

“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

But just like any other lover, God desires for us to love Him back. And if you truly love the Lord, you are to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You are also to love others as yourself (Mark 12:28-31).

These two are better known as God’s Greatest Commandments.


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Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

Description:

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost.

In this treatment of many of the Bible’s passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as “God hates the sin but loves the sinner,” but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does.

Carson blends his discourse with a discussion of how God’s sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.

An Overview of the 4 Gospels

An Overview of the 4 Gospels

Do you sometimes wonder why the New Testament contains four different gospels of the one authentic gospel? Isn’t one gospel account of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ enough? How should we understand the Gospels as works of literature? And what do the Gospels tell us about Jesus?

Any one of these Gospels alone would not do justice to Jesus’ life and ministry. Each Gospel writer wrote about Jesus to a different audience for a different purpose to give a unique perspective on His life. Together, the four Gospels give us a more complete picture of who Jesus was and what He accomplished during His ministry.

Different symbols for the Gospels are often used to communicate the distinctive of each account. A lion, symbolizing Matthew, represents strength and royal authority, a bull, representing Mark, portrays service and power, the figure of a man, for Luke, stands for wisdom and character; and eagle, John’s symbol, represents deity.


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The following capsule summaries of the Gospels will help you understand the distinctive of each Gospel.

Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is written to a Jewish audience to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Old Testament prophecy. The key expression is “that it might be fulfilled” (Matthew 1:22; 8:17; 12:17; 21:4) and it quotes more from the Old Testament than any other Gospel.

It uses alienating sections of teaching and narrative material to emphasize Jesus as Teacher. A major theme in Matthew’s Gospel is the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God – God’s rule in the world and human hearts.

Other dominant themes are the church (Matthew 16:18; 18:19), the Second Coming of Jesus (Matthew 25), and the ethical teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5–7).

Overview of the 4 Gospels

Mark

The Gospel of Mark is probably the first Gospel written, and Matthew and Luke may have used Mark as a source. It focuses on Jesus as a servant who ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of others.

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest; it is written to a Gentile audience, particularly Roman citizens. It uses brevity in accounts, with rapid movement, to give a sense of urgency to the Gospel message. The key expression is “immediately” (Mark 1:10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 28, 31, 42).

Mark’s purpose was to show that Jesus was the Son of God; a Roman soldier’s words at Jesus’ death were, “Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Mark 1:10 (NKJV)

Luke

This was written by a Gentile writer for Gentiles, to give the full story of Jesus’ life, from His birth to the birth of the church. It records many of Jesus’ parables not found in the other three Gospel.

It is universal in outlook, portraying Jesus as the compassionate Savior of the world, with love for all people, whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile; He reaches out especially to women and the poor and the outcast of society.

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit and the central place for prayer. The key expression is “it happened” or “it came to pass” (Luke 2:15; 5:17; 17:11, KJV).

Overview of the Four Gospels

John

The Gospel of John focuses on the theological meaning of Jesus’ actions, rather than on the actions themselves, and emphasizes who Jesus is, rather than what He did.

It includes many lengthy discourses of Jesus around which narrative is woven, and uses many keywords, such as “life, light, love, witness, glory, water, and truth,” to portray Jesus as God’s eternal Son.

It also presents Jesus as God incarnate through seven miraculous sings. The key expression is “believe” (John 1:7, 12, 20:31).

John’s clear purpose in writing is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

An Overview of the Four Gospels

Final Thoughts

The first three Gospels were first labeled the Synoptic Gospels by J. J. Griesbach, a German biblical scholar, at the end of the eighteenth century. The English adjective “synoptic” comes from the Greek “sunovyi” (synopsis), which means “seeing together,” and Griesbach chose the word because of the high degree of similarity found among Matthew, Mark, and Luke in their presentations of the ministry of Jesus.

These similarities, which involve structure, content, and tone, are evident even to the casual reader. They serve not only to bind the first three gospels together but to separate them from the gospel of John.