Category: Apologetics

What is the Doctrine of Purgatory?

What is the Doctrine of Purgatory?

The Bible teaches that death closes the period of probation that all of us have here on earth and after death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). All those who die will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

But before we reach our final destination, everyone is in a state of conscious existence after death. Believers are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43) while unbelievers are not.

However, certain unbiblical views of the intermediate state have arisen. One of them is the doctrine of purgatory held by the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

Origin of the Doctrine of Purgatory

In Roman Catholic teaching, purgatory is the place where the souls of believers go to be further purified from sin until they are ready to be admitted into heaven. Thus, they have to go to halfway place between earth and heaven, that is, purgatory.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church believe that not every Christian who dies goes immediately to heaven. The only people who enter heaven immediately are some martyrs and other highly favored individuals. Even if the person dies at peace with the church, if they are not perfect, they have to go through a time of purging.

Most Christians who are not good enough to go straight to heaven have to go through a time of purging. Although these people have been forgiven of their sins, they are still liable to experience some temporary punishment before their admittance to heaven.

They must be properly freed from the blemish of some defects they had received after baptism and they must work out their salvation in purgatory through suffering and a process of purification in this place. According to this view, the sufferings of purgatory are given to God in substitute for the punishment for sins that believers should have received in time but did not.

Once their sins have been sufficiently purged, they can then enter the perfection of heaven.

Further Teachings About Purgatory

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the suffering in purgatory is proportionate to the sins committed in this life. The time spent can vary from a relatively short period, such as a few hours, to thousands of years. However, there is no consensus as to the duration of stay in purgatory or the type of punishment one receives.

While Christians must spend time in purgatory, it supposedly can be lessened by a number of things. The living can do services and give gifts to the church to shorten the time of their loved one. This included purchasing indulgences or certificates signed by the pope which can forgive sin. This indicates that the pope on earth has some jurisdiction in the next world.

Prayer by priests shortens the time spent in Purgatory
Photo Credits: Crux Now

Prayers by priests as well as having masses in the name of the dead can also shorten the time a person spends in purgatory. The dead can do nothing in purgatory to help themselves. It is only their living friends and loved ones who can help them. They are completely dependent upon them to shorten their stay in this place of purging.

Purgatory is a temporary place that will end when the last judgment occurs. Like death and Hades, it will be thrown into the lake of fire. From that time forward, no more suffering will be necessary because everyone will be perfected, ready to enter heaven.

Is Purgatory in the Bible?

Will Christians have to suffer for their sins once this life is over? What does the Scripture say?

Although the Bible speaks of fire as purification, it does not mention a purifying process between death and resurrection that the believer must encounter. It’s not only that purgatory has no biblical basis but it also contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This, however, has not stopped people from attempting to find biblical support for this non-biblical doctrine. Let us look at some of the passages they use and then respond to them.

1. Isaiah 4:4

“When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.”

Argument: Burning, in this context, refers to the fires of judgment; a hint of the doctrine of purgatory.

Response: Isaiah’s reference has nothing to do with purgatory. It speaks of God refining people in this life, not the next. Therefore, this is not a reference to purging the believer after this life is over so they can eventually enter into the presence of the Lord.

2. Matthew 5:25-26

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary delivers you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

Argument: Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount teaches that prison is purgatory, and the last penny refers to the complete payment of the purgation of saints.

Response: Paying the last penny has nothing to do with paying for sin in the next life.

In Roman law, the plaintiff could bring the accused along with him to the judge. The defendant could, however, settle the matter on any terms with the plaintiff as they proceeded to the tribunal.

However, once they reached the tribunal the issue would be settled according to the law. Jesus is encouraging people to settle their differences before it reaches the judge. There is nothing here that remotely suggests a purgatory.

3. Matthew 12:32

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Argument: This verse has an indirect reference to purgatory seeing that Jesus left open the possibility of forgiveness in the next world.

Response: This passage compares this world and the next and supposedly hints at forgiveness in the next world. However, the phrase “this age or in the age to come” was a Hebrew phrase meaning “never.”

If we look at the other gospels which give this same account, the phrase is omitted. This is because Mark and Luke are writing for Gentiles. Besides, they each state that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).

Nowhere does it state, or imply that forgiveness can be achieved in the next life. Jesus said that those who commit the unpardonable sin can never receive forgiveness in this age or in the age to come. Never means never!

The subject in Matthew 12:32 is the “unpardonable sin.” Consequently, it has nothing to do with purgatory.


4. Matthew 18:34

“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”

Argument: This is a reference to the suffering in purgatory. People will remain there and suffer torture until they pay their entire debt for the sins they have committed. They will not be able to leave until their debt is paid.

Response: This is a parable about forgiving others. The torture which the man received was in this life, not the next. The debt he owed was to be paid in this world.

Also, those believers who do not forgive others will suffer in this present life, not in the afterlife. They may lose some of their reward in heaven but they will not be tortured for their lack of forgiveness because Jesus Christ has already paid for those sins.

5. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

“If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Argument: This passage speaks of the believer being refined by fire which is a clear indication of a refining place called purgatory. Once refined, the believer can enter the presence of the Lord.

Response: “He will be saved through fire” does not mean he shall be kept alive amid hell-fire. The fire deals with the works of a person, not their character. Some of their works will receive a reward while other of their works will not.

In addition, this testing by fire occurs on judgment day, not in the intermediate state. Judgment day occurs after the person is raised from the dead. Again, we find no purgatory here.

6. 2 Maccabees 12:41-42, 45 (NRSV)

“So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”

“But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from their sin.”

Argument: This passage clearly states that some type of sacrifice can be offered for the dead. The sacrifices and prayers of the living can help those who have died and are suffering in purgatory.

Response: The teaching of a purgatory found in 2 Maccabees has no relevance at all for believers. The reason is that 2 Maccabees as well as all the apocryphal books are not accepted as “inspired” and therefore should not be taken as an authoritative source of doctrine.

Note: It is in this book that the practice of praying for the dead started.

Believers are in God's presence at the moment of death a

The Doctrine of Purgatory is Unbiblical

Purgatory, a supposed place which exists somewhere between earth and heaven where the righteous are purged of any sins which have not been paid for so they can enter heaven, has absolutely no biblical basis. No such belief is taught or even hinted at.

If the Bible is our final authority on all matters of belief and practice then the fact that the doctrine of purgatory is absent reveals that no such place exists.

Furthermore, the idea of purgatory negates the promises of God that the believer can look forward to being in His joyous presence immediately upon death. Rather they have to look forward to a judgment by fire of undetermined length and character. This contradicts direct statements of Scripture that the believers are immediately with Him.

Also, purgatory robs the believer of any assurance of salvation. Since salvation is looked at as a process, rather than a past completed act, believers can never be assured that they have been completely saved from their sins. Neither can they know how much time they have to be purged before entering heaven.

It would seem to give a very uneasy feeling for those who believe purgatory lies ahead. There is really no assurance about anything.

Conclusion

The doctrine of purgatory, the teaching that people must be purged of their sins after they die before they can enter heaven, is indeed popular in many circles but is unbiblical.

Yes, there is a need for the purging of our sins before we can enter heaven, for without holiness none of us can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). However, the Bible plainly states that this has already happened in the past. We have been purged. Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself the penalty for all of our sins. It is a past completed act. We cannot add to it. All that we can do is accept it by faith. This is what allows us to enter into heaven.

Scripture stresses that we can do absolutely nothing to gain entrance to heaven. Our suffering is meaningless as far as taking away sins is concerned. We have zero ability to get to heaven. Jesus Christ has done it all. He is the only One who can do anything about it. We cannot earn eternal life by anything that we do or say. We are granted eternal life by belief in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9).

There is a hell where people pay for their own sins and this is the only place in the next world where sins can be paid for. Unless our sins are taken care of in this life by Christ, we will have to pay for them in the next life. However, the payment will not be in a temporary place called purgatory but rather in a permanent place called the lake of fire, hell (Revelation 20:14-15, 21:8).


References:

1) What Happens One Second After We Die? by Don Stewart

2) Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Recommended Resource: Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)

Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Recent years have seen much controversy regarding hell: Do we go to heaven or hell when we die? Or do we cease to exist? Are believers and unbelievers ultimately saved in the end?

This second edition of Four Views on Hell, featuring all new contributors, highlights why the church still needs to wrestle with the doctrine of hell.

In the familiar counterpoints format, four leading scholars introduce us to the current views on eternal judgment, with particular attention being given to the new voices that have entered the debate.

Contributors and views include:

  • Denny Burk: Eternal Conscious Torment
  • John Stackhouse: Annihilationism (Conditional Immortality)
  • Robin Parry: Universalism (Ultimate Reconciliation)
  • Jerry Walls: Purgatory

General Editor Preston Sprinkle concludes the discussion by evaluating each view, noting significant points of exchange between the essayists. The interactive nature of the volume allows the reader to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and come to an informed conclusion.

Do Christians & Muslims Have the Same God?

Do Christians & Muslims Have the Same God?

Some assume that Allah, the God of Islam, is just another name for Yahweh or Jehovah, the God of the Bible. Is Allah and Yahweh the same God? Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

No! The God of Islam is not the same God revealed in Scripture. This can be seen in two distinct areas. First, the God of the Bible and the God of Islam have different attributes or characteristics. Second, the God of Scripture is a Trinity while the God of Islam is not.

Difference in Attributes

The Christian God and the Muslim God have different attributes. While the Bible and the Quran attribute similar powers to Yahweh and Allah, they are certainly not the same God. This can be seen in several ways.

Yahweh is a God of Love, Allah is Not

Muslims recite ninety-nine names of God, going three times through a prayer strand with thirty-three beads on it. Christians can agree with Muslims on almost every one of these attributes of God. The fourth attribute is that He is the Holy One, and the forty-seventh is that “He is the Loving One.”

However, holiness and love are not driving passions in many Muslim’s understanding of God. This is seen in a contrast between the God of the Bible and the God of Islam. Islam emphasizes Allah’s absolute power and control and Muslims submit to its many rules.

Yet they cannot have any assurance whatsoever about their standing before God, that is until Judgment Day. Islam teaches that God is aloof in His majestic glory; that He is a God who is detached from all else.

In contrast to this, the Bible depicts God as a personal being whose love and compassion toward humanity was shown by the coming of Jesus Christ. The loving God showed His love for this world by sending His Son.

The most famous Bible verse also referred to as the “Heart of the Bible,” speaks of God’s love for the entire world. We read the following.

Is Yahweh and Allah the Same God

God’s love was demonstrated in sending the Messiah, the Christ.

God is also specifically called love in 1 John 4:8. God is not only “full of love;” the God of the Bible is a God of love.

Yahweh Never Lies, Allah Deceives

It has been observed that in three different places, the Quran seems to teach that Allah actually intentionally deceives people. They are as follows:

“And the disbelievers planned, but Allah planned. And Allah is the best of planners” (Surah 3:54).

Elsewhere it says:

“And when those who disbelieved devised plans against you that they might confine you or slay you or drive you away; and they devised plans and Allah too had arranged a plan; and Allah is the best of planners” (Surah 8:30).

“And when we make people taste of mercy after an affliction touches them, lo! They devise plans against Our communication. Say, Allah is quicker to plan; surely Our messengers write down what you plan” (Surah 10:21).

Note that the English translations of these verses use words like “plan” or “best planner” when speaking of Allah. However, it has been argued that the Arabic word actually means “deceives.” If this is the case, then the Quran teaches that Allah is a God of deception.

This is in contrast to the God of the Bible who does not and cannot lie. Paul wrote this to Titus:

“This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God – who does not lie – promised them before the world began.” (Titus 1:2 NLT).

God cannot and does not lie because this is not part of His nature. We are told the same thing in Hebrews 6:18 (NLT). Indeed, Scripture says that there are two unchangeable things about God: His promise and His oath. Consequently, it is not possible for Him to lie.

Again, the Christian God, the God of the Bible, is the God of truth.

Trinitarian vs. Unitarian

The Quran portrays a different God than that of Christianity. The first duty of a Muslim is to publicly recite the Shahada which says, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

This statement of faith is primary for the Muslim. Allah alone is God and within his nature, there is only one divine person. Islam rejects the Trinity and the New Testament teaching that Jesus Christ is the eternal God. They consider Him only a prophet, for God does not and could not have a son.

The Quran says, “But it is not suitable for (the Majesty of) the Most Beneficent (Allah) that he should beget a son” (Surah 19:92).

In another place, it says, “And behold God will say, “O Jesus the Son of Mary! Did you say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of God” (Surah 5:116)?

The Quran assumed that the Trinity consisted of God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and Jesus’ mother Mariam (Mary).

In no uncertain terms, Islam rejects the Trinity. The Quran further says, “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them” (Surah 5:73).

The Quran, therefore, contains direct attacks against the doctrine of the Trinity. The following statement could not be clearer; Allah does not have a son.

“People of the Book, do not exceed the limits of devotion in your religion or say anything about God which is not the Truth. Jesus, son of Mary, is only a Messenger of God, His Word, and a spirit from Him whom He conveyed to Mary. So have faith in God and His Messengers. Do not say that there are three gods. It is better for you to stop believing in the Trinity. There is only One God. He is too glorious to give birth to a son. To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God alone is a Sufficient Guardian for all” (Surah 4:171).

The Quran assumes that Christians believe in three gods, Of course, this is blasphemy against Allah, the only God who exists.

The Bible Teaches that God is a Trinity

What should the Christian response be to the accusation of Muslims? The Bible teaches that there is one eternal God who has revealed Himself in three eternal persons, or three centers of consciousness. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

These three persons are the one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

Unfortunately, there were some Christians who were teaching false ideas of the Trinity in Mecca. One such distortion of the Trinity claimed that God actually has a wife named Mary. God and Mary produced a child whom they named Jesus.

This is the sort of distortion of the doctrine of the Trinity that Muhammad was acquainted with. He, along with many others, concluded that Christians believed in three gods; “tri-theists.”

Here’s a video of a former Muslim, turned Christian, explaining the Trinity.

The Importance of the Trinity

The importance of the Trinity doctrine cannot be overestimated. There are many reasons why this is so.

This is how God has revealed Himself. God has revealed Himself in Scripture as a Triune God. Scripture teaches that the one God exists in three eternal persons. They are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is what the one true God has said about Himself. He is the only God who exists (Isaiah 45:5; Isaiah 46:9) and He exists as a Trinity.

This is His revelation to us, and we are obligated to believe it, not doubt it, nor question it.

The Trinity is an example of the statement, “God is love.” For all eternity, there has been love between the three members of the Godhead. Consequently, God has never needed anything or anybody because there was love and communication among the different members of the Trinity.

Islam Claims Allah and Yahweh are the Same God

While it is obvious that Allah, the God of Islam, is not the same as Yahweh, the God of the Bible, Muslims insist that it is so. In fact, Islam not only demands that faithful Muslims believe this, it also demands that Jews and Christians believe it as well. This is consistent with their belief that the Quran is the divine revelation from Allah which supersedes the Bible.

Since Muslims acknowledge the Scriptures to be the Word of Allah, they must, therefore, insist that the same God who has been revealed in the Old and New Testament is the same God as revealed in the Quran.

When the Bible and the Quran differ in their characterizations of God, it is the Quran that always provides the final word since it is Allah’s later revelation to humanity.

Of course, Christians and Jews do not accept this line of argumentation since they do not believe the Quran to be the Word of God or Muhammad to be a prophet of God.

Consequently, the differences between the biblical view of God and what the Quran teaches, are further evidence that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam cannot be harmonized.

Conclusion

Although Christianity and Islam each claim that there is only one God that exists, they do not actually believe in the same God. Indeed, the Christian God as the Bible reveals, and the Muslim God, which the Quran speaks of, are entirely different.

As mentioned earlier, Islam believes and teaches about an impersonal God who does not love sinful humanity. He is not someone who can be known on a personal level. This is in contrast to Yahweh, the God of the Bible, who is a personal God and desires to have a personal relationship with each human being.

It is clear: the God of Islam is not the same God as in Christianity. Therefore, the explanation of God, in at least one of these two faiths, must be wrong. Either God is a Trinity or He is not. Islam and Christianity cannot both be true at the same time.

Indeed, Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God.


Reference: Understanding Islam by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: No God but One: Allah or Jesus? A former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

Do Christians & Muslims Have the Same God?Having shared his journey of faith in the New York Times bestselling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi now examines Islam and Christianity in detail, exploring areas of crucial conflict and unpacking the relevant evidence.

In this anticipated follow-up book, Nabeel reveals what he discovered in the decade following his conversion, providing a thorough and careful comparison of the evidence for Islam and Christianity – evidence that wrenched his heart and transformed his life.

In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi recounted his dramatic journey, describing his departure from Islam and his decision to follow Christ. In the years that followed, he realized that the world’s two largest religions are far more different than they initially appeared.

No God but One: Allah or Jesus? addresses the most important questions at the interface of Islam and Christianity: How do the two religions differ? Are the differences significant? Can we be confident that either Christianity or Islam is true? And most important, is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth?

Nabeel shares stories from his life and ministry, casts new light on current events, and explores pivotal incidents in the histories of both religions, providing a resource that is gripping and thought-provoking, respectful and challenging.

Both Islam and Christianity teach that there is No God but One, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus?

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.

God and the Coronavirus

God and the Coronavirus

In their daily briefing on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared COVID-2019 a global pandemic. This is due to the rapid escalation in the number of confirmed cases and deaths in more than 100 countries and territories.

As of today, March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus has infected more than 529,000 and killed nearly 24,000 people, causing one-third of the world to declare a national lockdown or otherwise dramatically restricted travel. (Source: WHO)

These numbers are so alarming that some Christians started asking if the world is going to end very soon, or if diseases such as the novel coronavirus are a punishment from God. We are definitely in the last days, but thinking that God uses diseases to punish people is another thing.

Does God have something to do with the Coronavirus outbreak that is causing thousands of people, including Christians, to suffer and die?

If God, Why the Coronavirus?

In an 8-minute YouTube video, Dr. Vince Vitale, RZIM’s Regional Director for the Americas and Director of the Zacharias Institute, tackled this question.

First, he said that from a philosophical standpoint, something like the coronavirus is referred to as natural evil. But how can there be such a thing as natural evil when what we are seeing today seems to be so unnatural?

This does not seem like it’s the way things are supposed to be, at least as we know God has originally designed it.

To put it in perspective, Vince said that natural evils are not intrinsically evil in and of themselves. Like if you put a virus under a microscope, it can be beautiful to behold. Furthermore, there is a category of viruses, friendly viruses, that are good for the body.

Here is the video.

Do you sometimes wish that we are not susceptible to diseases? What if the laws of physics have undergone a redesign and the fundamental natural features of our universe altered? The end result? None of us ever would have lived.

We need to understand that God designed the universe to be inhabited by us, human beings. This is called fine-tuning in cosmology.

Fine-tuning refers to the precise balance of cosmological constants that allow the observable universe to exist as it does. Any slightest variation in these constants would make the universe significantly different. More importantly, it would not be possible for human life to exist.

Is the Coronavirus a Punishment from God?

We know that God is love and that He loves us unconditionally because the Bible tells us so.

It sounds like a cliché I know, but it’s true. God loves us so much and He does not want us to be separated from Him for all eternity because of our sin. So, what did God do? He sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die for us just so we can have eternal life (John 3:16).

Yes, God loves us! That’s a fact, and He has our best interest at heart. He wants us to live our lives to the full (John 10:10b) and wants to bless us in every way possible. So why diseases such as Covid-19?

Interestingly, some Christian pastors and leaders believe this is God’s punishment for legalized abortion and gay marriage. Articles like this started circulating after Richard Weber Jr, an attorney for the LGBTQ+ community, died of coronavirus complications.

Meanwhile, conservative pastor Rick Wiles and avid supporter of President Donald Trump, claimed the Covid-19 is God’s punishment to Jews for rejecting Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

If we are to take their words seriously, then why is it that many pastors and Bible-believing Christians got infected with the coronavirus? Several of them even died!

If this virus is a punishment from God for the wicked, why are Christians suffering from it too? Why doesn’t God spare His children to show the world that He is the one true God that every people from every tribe and nation must bow down to and worship?

God and the Coronavirus Outbreak

Can God stop the global pandemic that is affecting the entire world? Sure, He can! God is all-powerful and there is nothing too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). So why doesn’t God intervene and stop it so everybody can go back to their normal lives?

Amid this crisis that the entire world is going through, where is God? What does He think about all this? I do not believe one bit that God finds satisfaction at the expense of the suffering of His creation. Remember, if there is someone who understands perfectly what suffering means, it’s the Lord Jesus.

Christ suffered at the hands of His own people. He didn’t have to but He did. He endured extreme shame, suffering, and death on the cross for our sake. It is unreasonable for us to think that He doesn’t care about us nor love us. So, why this suffering caused by a very tiny, invisible, yet potent virus?

Instead of asking why God isn’t stopping this pandemic, the question we should be asking is, “What is God’s purpose for allowing the coronavirus outbreak? What does God seek to accomplish by letting the entire world go through this?”


This global pandemic could be a wake-up call for all Christians. Have we become complacent in doing the Father’s business? Are we sharing our faith with others the way we should? When was the last time Christians all around the world were united to pray for the nations?

We are in the very last days and we should be working double-time to reach out to the lost.

With the current situation, people need to hear that there is a God who loves them and cares so much about them. When people realize that doctors are running out of solutions, they are most certainly open to something else, or somebody else. One who has the answer to their problems and suffering.

If you’ve been paying close attention to the news, you must have read stories about atheist doctors who started calling out to God for help. This is huge! People who do not believe in God are now asking for His help. Do you know what this means? God is opening for us an opportunity to share the Word; let’s not waste it.

Global Effects of Covid-19

It’s devastating to read about people dying everywhere around the world from the novel coronavirus. What’s even more heartbreaking is that many healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses are dying too. These so-called front liners have risked their lives and continue to do so to help and save people who have been infected.

Healthcare professionals, who are now hailed as modern-day heroes, go to work every day. They leave their families behind not knowing if they will ever see each other again. Some might say, “Hey, isn’t this what they signed up for?” And I say, “That’s right!”

As a healthcare worker myself, I am very much aware of the risks that come with this job. I could be exposed to some lethal chemicals, I could contract certain diseases caused by known or unknown bacteria and viruses and end up dying from it.

In the hospital where I work as a Lab. Tech, there are now a few patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Some of our colleagues who were found to have had direct contact with these patients were immediately placed on home quarantine (HQ).

Home Quarantine During Covid-19 Outbreak

Yesterday when I talked to a colleague about the possibility of us getting infected, she was upset that the management refused to give us full details on the current status of our patients who tested positive. While I wasn’t sure what was going through her mind, I could sense her fear, and I understand.

I tried explaining to her that this is one of the risks of working in healthcare. There isn’t any guarantee that no one will get infected among us. All we can do is take the necessary precautions, put on our full PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gown, face mask, face shield, and gloves.

Frequent hand washing and social distancing also play a vital role in staying protected from the virus. More importantly, we need to pray for God’s divine protection and the blood of Jesus to cover us.

God has so many wonderful promises in His Word that we can claim for us and our loved ones. In Psalm 91:1-16, God promises protection, safety, and security for those who trust in the Lord and make Him their refuge and dwelling place.

My concern now is the possible shortage of personnel in healthcare. If doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners continue to get infected with the coronavirus and succumb to it (God forbid), what will happen to the thousands of people who need medical attention?

I can’t even begin to imagine. I can only hope and pray that this crisis will all be over soon.

Impact of the Coronavirus to the World Economy

The effect of the Covid-19 global pandemic is undeniable.

People everywhere are losing their jobs, business establishments are shutting down, the stock market is crashing, the economy is collapsing. We do not know when this crisis is going to end. Will we be able to recover? Will things ever get better?

We are still in lockdown here in Saudi Arabia, just like most territories everywhere else in the world that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 8, 2020, our government imposed a 14-day lockdown in the eastern region after 11 people tested positive for the virus. I thought everything will go back to normal after completing this period. But due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases, (and again just like in other countries especially Italy and America), the lockdown period was extended for another 14 days.

God and the Coronavirus

Not only that we cannot go somewhere else. In a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the government also declared a nationwide coronavirus curfew that started on the evening of Monday, March 23, 2020. For 21 days residents are ordered to stay inside their homes from 7 pm until 6 am.

Excluded from the 11-hour long curfew are people who work in certain industries, including healthcare, food service, and media. The curfew is seriously implemented that violators will be punished with a 10,000-riyal fine, and with jail time after multiple violations.

I just watched a video of the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, saying he wanted so badly to re-open the economy in states that are mildly affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Trump is getting impatient I guess and is very much concerned about the companies that have shut down.

Will they be able to re-open after this crisis is over?

God is Our Only Hope

As we go through this global crisis, we must not forget that God is our only hope. God is not our last hope; He is not our last resort. We do not go to Him only when all else fails. Instead, we must go to Him first.

In trying times such as this, we are to cry out to God for help. Now more than ever, we need to humble ourselves before God and ask for His grace and mercy. We need to pray fervently for the nations. We are to stand in the gap on behalf of our land.

We do not know what the future holds. Will things ever be the same? We can never tell. 

But one thing we know and can be sure of is that no matter what happens, God is with us, He is for us, and He will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). God has already conquered sickness (1 Peter 2:24) and death (2 Timothy 1:10). There is no reason to live in fear.

In the meantime, let us put our trust in God, hold on to His promises and live each day anticipating the Lord’s return.

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.

Answering Tough Questions About The Bible (Part One)

Answering Tough Questions About The Bible (Part One)

In today’s age of increasing cultism, agnosticism, and skepticism, Christians are called on all the more to get answers to the questions being asked about faith, God, and the Bible.

Admittedly, most church members (and even many pastors) are not formally trained in defending the faith and hence cannot always answer tough questions they’re asked. Nevertheless, Christians are commanded to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” (1 Peter 3:15) and also to “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

These are commands not just to Christian leaders but to all believers as well. That is why the apostle Paul insisted that church leaders must “hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

The Origin of the Bible

One of the areas that are mostly under attack is our belief in the Bible as God’s Word. And so, in this post, we will look at some of the tough questions being asked and give brief answers to them.

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

We believe that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who wrote down the very words of God. That is, the Bible has a divine origin, even though it was produced through human instrumentality. But this belief occasions many questions from our culture. How and where did we get the Bible?

The Bible claims to have come from God. Speaking of the whole Old Testament, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Even the New Testament is called Scripture. Paul cited the gospel as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18 and Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16. So, both the entire Old and New Testaments, both Gospels, and Epistles are said to be writings that are “breathed out” by God.

Jesus used a similar expression when He referred to the Word of God coming out of the “mouth of God,” saying to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Who Wrote the Bible?

Not only does the Bible claim to be a God-breathed writing, but it comes from Spirit-moved writers. Peter referred to the Old Testament prophets as men who were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). David added, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).

So, the Bible claims to have come from God through men of God.

The Bible was written by prophets of God. The ultimate source of the Bible is God, but men of God called prophets were the instruments God used to record His words. The role of biblical prophets was unique. They were the mouthpieces of God, commissioned to speak His words, nothing more and nothing less (Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

The whole Old Testament was written by prophets, of which some of them were prophets by office, like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), who wrote the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah in Hebrew or Pentateuch in Greek.

Other Old Testament writers were prophets by gift, that is, they did not belong to the group or company of prophets. But God spoke to them and gave them a message to deliver to the people (Amos 7:14-15).

For instance, Daniel was a prince by profession (Daniel 1:3-6), but he became a prophet by calling and gift. Jesus Himself called him “the prophet Daniel” (Matthew 24:15). David was a shepherd boy, but God spoke to him (2 Samuel 23:2). Even Solomon, the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, received revelations from God as a prophet does (1 Kings 3:5).

Likewise, all the New Testament writers were “apostles and prophets,” since the church was built on this foundation (Ephesians 2:20). They, too, claimed to receive their message from God. Paul, who wrote about half of the New Testament books, was considered to have written inspired Scripture in the same category as the Old Testament.

Matthew and John were among those Jesus promised to lead into “all truth” and bring to their remembrance whatever He taught them (John 16:13, 14, 26) while Peter, who was one of the chief apostles, wrote two books based on his credentials as an apostle and eyewitness of Jesus (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, 16).

The rest of the New Testament writers were associates of the apostles and prophets by gift since God spoke through these servants of Jesus as well (James 1:1; Jude 1 – 3).

Biblical Authors: Mere Secretaries of the Holy Spirit?

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?
Photo Credits: Pinterest.co.uk

The authors of the Bible did not simply take dictation from God. They were not mere secretaries or automatons, but they were faithful to proclaim the whole message from God without adding to it or taking away from it (Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

God used the individual personalities, vocabularies, literary styles, and conscious desires of the biblical authors to produce the Bible. Thus, while being completely from God, the words of Scripture are also human words in particular human languages expressed in distinctive human literary forms.

Nonetheless, the final product is exactly as God-ordained and providentially superintended it to be – the divinely authoritative, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. For the Scripture “cannot be broken” (John 10:35) or “disappear” (Matthew 5:18).

The Word of God is the “truth” (John 17:17) that comes from a God for whom “it is impossible … to lie (Hebrews 6:18. In short, it is without error in whatever it affirms, not only on spiritual matters but also on science (Matthew 19:12; John 3:12) and history (Matthew 12:40-42; 24:37).

In short, the writers of the Bible were humans that God chose to be His mouthpiece through the use of human language and literary forms.

How Did the Prophets Get their Message from God?

The prophets received their message from God in various ways. Some received them in dreams (Genesis 37:1-11), others in visions (Daniel 7:1-28), and some even by audible voice (1 Samuel 3:1-14) or an inner voice (Hosea 1:1-11; Joel 1:1-20).

Others received revelations from angels (Genesis 19:1-29), some by way of miracles (Exodus 3:1-22), and others by way of the lot (Proverbs 16:33). The high priest used jewels known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). And still, God spoke to others as they meditated on His revelation in nature (Psalm 8:1-9; 19:1-6).

Whatever the means, as the author of Hebrews put it, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).

Could Prophets Change or Add to God’s Message?

No, they were forbidden to do so. Biblical prophets were not to add, subtract or tamper with the text of sacred Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; Jeremiah 26:2; Proverbs 30:5-6). God dealt severely with anyone who attempted to change His words (Jeremiah 36:28).

The nature of a biblical prophet guaranteed that he would not add his thoughts to God’s message, for he is one who speaks “everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 4:30). The very nature of a prophet also demanded that a prophetic writing is exactly what God wants to say to mankind.

And since the Bible is presented as a prophetic writing from beginning to end (Matthew 5:17-18; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Revelation 22:9), it follows that the written record of the prophets was considered inspired by God.

Take John’s warning about the words of prophecy in Revelation 22:18-19. This didn’t mean that they could not receive new revelations, but that they could not tamper with old ones.

The Nature of the Bible

Since the Bible claims to come from God, it asserts a divine authority. It claims to be the very word of God (John 10:34-35). But since the Bible was also written by human beings, what does it mean when we call it “God’s Word?”

What Does it Mean that the Bible is the Word of God?

Since God is the source of the Bible, it is appropriate to call it His Word. But since human writers composed every word in the Bible, it is also true that it is their word. Hence, one way to describe what is meant when the Bible claims to be “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) is this: “What the Bible says, God says.”

This is manifested in the fact that often an Old Testament passage will claim that God said it, yet when this same text is cited in the New Testament, it asserts the “the Scripture(s)” said it. Consider these comparisons:

What God says          The Bible says

Genesis 12:3               Galatians 3:8

Exodus 9:13, 16          Romans 9:17


In Genesis 12:1-3, it is God speaking. But when this is cited in Galatians 3:8, it says it is the Scripture… preached the gospel to Abraham.”

Also, in Exodus 9:13-16, it is the Lord speaking. However, when the New Testament quotes this passage, it says, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth’” (Romans 9:17).

At times the reverse is true. For instance, in the Old Testament, it is the Bible that records it, but the New Testament declares that it was God who said it.

What the Bible says     God says

Genesis 2:24                  Matthew 19:4-5

Psalm 2:1                        Acts 4:24-25

Isaiah 55:3                     Acts 13:34

Psalm 16:10                   Acts 13:35

Psalm 2:7                       Hebrews 1:5


In Genesis 2:24, the Bible says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” But when this was cited by Jesus in the New Testament, He said, “Have you not read that He (God) who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Matthew 19:4-5)?

Noted theologian B. B. Warfield made this observation:

“In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God; in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures. In the two taken together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of the directness of authority no distinction was made between them.”

How Else Does the Bible Claim to be the Word of God?

The Scriptures claim to come from God by means of phrases such as “says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:11, 18), “declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 2:3, 9), “God said” (Genesis 1:3, 6), “this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD” (Jeremiah 34:1), and “The word of the LORD came to me” (Ezekiel 30:1).

Such phrases are found hundreds of times in Scripture and reveal beyond question that the writer is affirming that he records the very word of God. In the book of Leviticus alone there are some sixty-six occurrences of phrases like “the LORD said to Moses” (Leviticus 4:1; 5:14; 6:1, 8, 19; 7:22).

*Related Article: The Different Forms of the Word of God

Ezekiel also records countless times phrases like “I saw visions” or “the word of the LORD came to me.” Five times in twenty-eight verses of chapter 12, Ezekiel says, “The word of the LORD came to me” (Ezekiel 12:1, 8, 17, 21, 26), and four times he writes, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” (Ezekiel 12:10, 19, 23, 28).

And in verse 28 he uses the combination, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” and “declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1, 11, 18, 24; 2:1), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:2; 13; 2:1, 3, 5), and other prophets make similar statements. The overall impression leaves no doubt as to the confessed source in God Himself of the messages of the prophets.

Does the Bible Actually Claim to be the “WORD of GOD” in so Many Words?

Yes, it does! Many times, the Bible claims to be the “Word of God” in these very words or their equivalent Jesus told some of the Jewish leaders of His day, “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NIV).

Paul speaks of the Scriptures as “the very words of God” in Romans 3:2 (NIV). Peter declares, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). And the writer of Hebrews affirms, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus used the phrase “word of God” as equivalent to the Law (Torah) and Scriptures, asserting, “Is it not written in your Law … to whom the word of God came and Scripture cannot be set aside” (John 10:34-35).

Isn’t the Bible also a Human Book?

Yes, it is. In fact, one hundred percent human. The Bible was written by human authors, including Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, a number of other prophets, Ezra, Nehemiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and others.

#1. The Bible was composed in human languages (Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament). It is expressed in human literary styles including the exalted poetry of Isaiah, the mournful lamentations of Jeremiah, the parables of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, and the didactic presentation of Paul.

#2. The Bible uses different human literary forms, including the narrative of Samuel and Kings, the poetry of Job and Psalms, the parables of the synoptic Gospels, some allegory as in Galatians 4, the use of symbols as in Revelation, the metaphors and similes of James, satire (Matthew 19:24), and hyperbole (Psalms 6:6; Luke 14:26).

Like other human writing, the Bible uses a wide range of literary forms to convey its meaning.

#3. The Bible reflects different human perspectives. These include a shepherd’s perspective (David in Psalm 23:1-6), a prophetic vantage point in Kings, a priestly perspective in Chronicles, the historical interest of Luke and Acts (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1), and the pastoral concerns of Paul (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).

And unlike a modern book on astronomy, biblical writers speak from an observer’s perspective when they write of the sun rising or setting (Joshua 1:15; 10:13).

#4. The Bible reflects different human thought patterns. These include almost every dimension of finite thinking patterns, from a tightly-knit logical treatise like Romans to the polemics of Galatians, to the expression of a brief memory lapse in 1 Corinthians 1:14-16.

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

#5. The Bible reveals different human emotions. The apostle Paul expresses great sorrow over Israel (Romans 9:2), great anger over the error of the Galatians (Galatians 3:1), melancholy and loneliness over his imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:9-16), depression over hardships (2 Corinthians 1:8), joy over victories (Philippians 1:4), and much more.

#6. The Bible manifests specific human interests. Luke had a medical interest, as indicated by his use of medical terms. Hosea had a distinct rural interest, as did Amos, the shepherd from Tekoa (Amos 1:1). James’ writing betrays an interest in nature (see James 1:6, 10-11).

The interests of shepherds (John 10:1-16), athletes (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and farmers (Matthew13:1-43) are also reflected in the Bible.

#7. The Bible expresses human culture. As a Semitic book, the Bible is filled with expression and practices of its Hebrew culture, such as the common means of greeting by kissing (1 Thessalonians 5:26) and a woman’s use of a veil as a sign of respect for her husband (1 Corinthians 11:5)

Washing one’s feet upon entering a home (John 1:3), shaking off the dust of one’s feet as a sign of condemnation (Luke 10:11), and reclining (not sitting) at meals (John 13:23) are only a few of numerous other examples of human culture.

#8. The Bible utilizes other written human sources. The book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13) and the Books of the Wars of the LORD (Number 21:14) are examples. The records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29) may also fit in this category.

Luke referred to written sources about Jesus available to him (Luke 1:1-4). Paul quoted non-Christian poets three times (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12). Jude cited material from the non-canonical books, The Testament of Moses and the book of Enoch (Jude 9, 14).

These citations do not guarantee the truthfulness of everything in the source but only what is cited. Of course, ultimately all truth comes from God, whatever the immediate source maybe.

How Can the Bible be both God’s Word and Man’s Words?

The Bible is both the word of God and the words of man because God (the source) utilized human beings to convey His word. So, there is a concurrence between what the human authors wrote and what God prompted them to write.

The Bible is both divine and human at the same time in a way similar to the way Christians believe Jesus Christ is both divine and human at the same time.

Of course, as in any analogy, there are some differences. Unlike Jesus Christ who is God, the Bible is not God, and hence it should not be worshiped.


In part two of this article, we will answer questions in regard to the inspiration of the Bible, its authority and reliability as well as the reliability of the biblical witnesses. 

*Read part two here: Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)


*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.

Did Jesus Claim to be the Son of God?

Did Jesus Claim to be the Son of God?

 

We hear this objection all the time: Jesus never really claimed He was the Son of God, or God Himself. Instead, this belief was superimposed on the Jesus tradition by His overzealous followers years after His death. Critics claim that the real Jesus saw Himself as nothing more than a rabbi.

However, this is not what the evidence clearly shows. This truth was summarized by H. R. Mackintosh, a Scottish theologian: “The self-consciousness of Jesus is the greatest fact in history.”

A research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Kevin Vanhoozer, also wrote: “Jesus understood Himself to be the beloved Son of God, chosen by God to bring about the kingdom of God and the forgiveness of sins. Our understanding of who Jesus was must correspond to Jesus’ own self-understanding. If we do not confess Jesus as the Christ, then either He was deluded about His identity or we are.”

Ten Factors Pointing to Jesus’ Claim as the Son of God

There are at least ten factors that point toward Jesus as believing He was the one and only Son of God.

1. Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.”

No scholar doubts that the most common way Jesus referred to Himself was “the Son of Man,” which He applied to Himself more than four dozen times, including in the gospel of Mark, which is generally considered to be the earliest of all the four gospels.

While some critics mistakenly believe this is a mere claim of humanity, the scholarly consensus is that this is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, where the Son of Man is ushered into the very presence of the Almighty, has “glory, authority, and sovereign power,” receives the worship of “all peoples,” and is someone whose dominion is everlasting.

Did Jesus Claim to be the Son of God?

Theologian and philosopher William Lane Craig said, “The Son of Man was a divine figure in the Old Testament book of Daniel who would come at the end of the world to judge mankind and rule forever. Thus, the claim to be the Son of Man would be in effect a claim to divinity.”

Vanhoozer adds an interesting sidelight: “The curious thing about Jesus’ use of the title … is that He linked it not only with the theme of future glory but also with the theme of suffering and death. In doing so, Jesus was teaching His disciples something new about the long-awaited Messiah, namely that, His suffering would precede His glory (Luke 9:22).

2. Jesus applied the “I am” sayings to Himself.

By applying the “I am” sayings to Himself, Jesus made a claim of divinity, at one point declaring, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). This obvious allusion to God’s words to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14) was such an unmistakable declaration of equality with God.

The Jews understood Jesus perfectly so they thought that He had committed blasphemy for ascribing the Name of God to Himself. So they promptly attempted to stone Jesus. Death by stoning was the proper death penalty for this particular sin (Leviticus 24:12-16). But Jesus had not sinned for He was truly God. He was the great I AM in person.

Other passages where Jesus applied the “I am” statements to Himself include John 6:35 (I am the bread of life); John 8:12 (I am the light of the world); John 10:7 (I am the Door of the sheep); John 10:11 (I am the good Shepherd); John 11:25 (I am the Resurrection and the Life); John 14:6 (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life) and John 15:5 (I am the Vine).

3. Jesus forgave sins.

Jesus made a divine claim when He forgave the sins of the paralytic in Mark 2:5. In response, the Jews said, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God” (Mark 2:7)?

The Jews were correct for only God can forgive sins, for sin is a transgression against the law and only the aggrieved person can forgive the guilty one. As theologian D. A. Carson noted, “The only person who can say that sort of thing meaningfully is God Himself, because sin, even if it is against other people, is first and foremost defiance of God and His laws.”

In forgiving sin, Jesus either blasphemed or He was God. But Jesus was God and could forgive.

4. Jesus selected 12 disciples.

Ever wonder why Jesus selected twelve men to be His disciples? Why not eight, ten, or fifteen? Why twelve? What’s with the number twelve?

According to Ben Witherington III, author of The Christology of Jesus, there was a transcendent claim made by the way Jesus selected His disciples. “If the twelve represent a renewed Israel, where does Jesus fit in?” he asked. “He’s not just part of Israel, not merely part of the redeemed group, He’s forming the group – just as God in the Old Testament formed His people and set up the twelve tribes of Israel.

That’s definitely a clue about what Jesus thought of Himself.

Is Jesus God or the Son of God?
Photo Credits: Jesus.Net

5. Jesus taught with divine authority.

The fifth clue about Jesus’ self-understanding comes through the way He taught – with authority. Whenever Jesus teaches, He begins with the phrase, “Verily, verily, I say unto you …” or “Truly I say to you …” In effect, Jesus is saying, “I swear in advance to the truthfulness of what I’m about to say.”

“This was absolutely revolutionary,” Witherington said. He went on to explain that in Judaism, you needed the testimony of two witnesses … but Jesus witnesses to the truth of His own sayings. Instead of basing His teaching on the authority of others, He speaks on His own authority.

So here is someone who considered Himself to have authority beyond what the Old Testament prophets had. He believed He possessed not only divine inspiration, as King David did, but also divine authority and the power of direct divine utterance.


Recommended Resource: Jesus Among Secular Gods – Bible Study Book by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale

Jesus Among Secular Gods Bible Study Book includes six small-group sessions, applicable Scripture, a leader guide, “How to Use This Study,” and personal-study content and activities.

As belief in the secular gods of atheism, hedonism, relativism, and humanism continues to grow, it’s more important than ever for believers to be able to defend and share the claims of Christ. Of course, this clash of worldviews is nothing new.

Throughout Paul’s writing in the New Testament are references to elemental forces that seek to separate believers from the love and truth of Jesus.

Not only has the Christian worldview been devalued and dismissed by modern culture, but its believers are also openly ridiculed as irrelevant. This six-session Bible study challenges the popular and trending philosophies of the day, skillfully pointing out the fallacies in their claims and presenting compelling evidence for absolute truth as found in Jesus and revealed in Scripture.

This study helps seekers explore the claims of Christ and provides Christians with the knowledge to articulate their faith that Jesus stands tall above all other gods.

Did Jesus Claim to be God or the Son of GodSession titles:

  1. Be Prepared
  2. Atheism and Scientism
  3. Pluralism
  4. Humanism and Relativism
  5. Hedonism
  6. Conversations That Count

Features:

  • Six small-group sessions
  • Personal-study opportunities for ongoing spiritual growth

Benefits:

  • Develop confidence in challenging the philosophies and worldview of the day with the absolute claims of Jesus.
  • Be better equipped to respond to difficult questions posed by unbelievers.
  • Learn to competently counter cultural challenges while sharing the Christian faith.

6. Jesus addressed God as “Abba.”

When relating to God, Jesus used the Aramaic term Abba, or “Father dearest.” This reflects an intimacy that was alien in ancient Judaism, in which devout Jews avoided the use of God’s personal name out of fear they may mispronounce it. Dr. Witherington made this observation:

“The significance of Abba is that Jesus is the initiator of an intimate relationship that was previously unavailable. The question is, what kind of person can initiate a new covenantal relationship with God?”

Jesus is saying that only through having a relationship with Him does this kind of prayer language – this kind of “Abba” relationship with God – becomes possible. That says volumes about how He regarded Himself.

7. Jesus received Thomas’ worship.

Another indicator of Jesus’ self-understanding can be seen in His post-resurrection encounter with the apostle Thomas in John 20. Responding to Jesus’ invitation to personally check out the evidence that He had really risen from the dead, Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)!

Jesus’ reply was very telling. It would have been the height of blasphemy for Him to have knowingly received Thomas’ worship unless Jesus really was God. Yet instead of rebuking him, Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Jesus’ choice to receive Thomas’ worship clearly means He believed He was God and thus worthy of that homage. Similarly, when Simon Peter answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus’ reaction was not to correct him but rather to affirm that this was revealed to him by the Father Himself (Matthew 16:15-17).

Did Jesus Claim to be the Son of God?

8. Salvation depends on peoples’ confession to Jesus.

Jesus clearly believed that the eternal destiny of people hinged on whether they believed in Him. He said in John 8:24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

In addition, Jesus said, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).

William Lane Craig put the implication this way, “Make no mistake: if Jesus were not the divine Son of God, then His claim could only be regarded as the most narrow and objectionable dogmatism. Jesus is saying that people’s salvation is dependent upon their confession to Jesus Himself.”

9. Jesus said that He and the Father are one.

An equally overt assertion of divinity is found in John 10:30, where Jesus declared outright, “I and My Father are one.” There is no question about whether His listeners understood that Jesus was saying that He and God are one in substance. Promptly they picked up stones to stone Him “for blasphemy because You, being a man make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

10. Jesus performed miracles.

An equally important factor that should be weighed in assessing Jesus’ belief about His identity is His miracles. Jesus stressed that His feats were a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom. “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

Ben Witherington observed that even though others in the Bible also performed miracles, this statement showed that Jesus didn’t merely regard Himself as a wonder-worker: “He sees Himself as the one in whom and through whom the promises of God come to pass. And that’s a not-to-thinly-veiled claim of transcendence.”

British scholar James D. G. Dunn said, “Whatever the ‘facts’ were, Jesus evidently believed that He had cured cases of blindness, lameness, and deafness – indeed, there is no reason to doubt that He believed lepers had been cured under His ministry and restored the dead to life.”

Fulfilling the Attributes of God

Sure, anyone can believe that he or she is God. But Jesus didn’t just consider Himself God’s Son; He also fulfilled the attributes that are unique to God. Philippians 2:5-8 describes how Jesus emptied Himself of the independent use of His attributes – a phenomenon termed kenosis – when He was incarnated.

This explains how he didn’t always choose to exhibit the “omnis” – omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence – in His earthly existence. Even so, the New Testament confirms that all of these qualities were ultimately true of Him.

For example, in John 16:30, John affirms of Jesus, “Now we are sure that You know all things,” which is omniscience. Also in Matthew 28:20, Jesus is recorded as saying, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” which is omnipresence. And He declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18), which is omnipotence. 

Is Jesus the Son of God or God Himself?

Indeed, Colossians 2:9 reads, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”Jesus’ eternality is confirmed in John 1:1, which declares of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus’ immutability is shown in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” His sinlessness is seen in John 8:29, “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”

Hebrews 1:3 declares Jesus to be “the brightness (or radiance) of God’s glory and the express image of His person.” Colossians 1:17 says, “Jesus is before all things, and in Him, all things consist.” Matthew 25:31-32 affirms He will be the judge of all mankind. And in Hebrews 1:8, the Father Himself specifically makes reference to Jesus as being God.

The very names used to paint a portrait of God in the Old Testament – names such as Alpha and Omega, Lord, Savior, King, Judge, Light, Rock, Redeemer, Shepherd, Creator, the giver of life, forgiver of sin, and speaker with divine authority – are also applied to Jesus in the New Testament.

Read here: God’s Natural and Moral Attributes

Conclusion

Did Jesus claim to be the only Son of God and God Himself? Absolutely! Although we do not read Jesus saying this directly to the effects of “I am the Son of God” or “I am God, worship Me,” He did so in ways that His audience and readers during His time clearly understood.

Who did Jesus believe He was? In his book, New Approaches to Jesus and the Gospels, professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Royce Gruenler, comes to this conclusion: “It is a striking fact of modern New Testament research that the essential clues for correctly reading the implicit Christological self-understanding of Jesus are abundantly clear.”

Beyond just believing He was God, Jesus also proved it by working supernatural deeds, by fulfilling ancient prophecies against all mathematical odds, and ultimately by conquering the grave.

Who did Jesus think He was? Check out this Reasonable Faith original video on the self-understanding of Jesus!

Who Did Jesus Think He Was?

Who did Jesus think he was? Check out this Reasonable Faith original video on the self-understanding of Jesus! #Apologetics #Jesus

Posted by Reasonable Faith on Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Faithlessness is Foolishness

Faithlessness is Foolishness

We live in a world so modern that denying the existence of God is the new norm. In fact, things have become so extreme that people who believe in the uncreated Creator called God are being mocked and labeled as fools.

Wait a minute; doesn’t the Bible say that faithlessness is foolishness? It certainly does in Psalm 14:1. King David paints the portrait of the prince of fools in one sentence: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Psalm 14:1-7 presents a vivid picture of the man who rejects God and his corrupt deeds. David called those who denied the existence of God “fools.” But David did not call them such because they were not smart enough to figure God out. Rather, he had in mind those who simply reject God.

The Meaning of Fool

Our English word “fool” comes from a Latin word that means “bellows,” suggesting that the fool is a person “full of hot air.” In the Hebrew language, there are three basic words for fool: kesyl (the dull and stupid fool), eviyl (the unreasonable and perverted fool), and nabal (morally perverse). Nabal is the word used in Psalm 14:1, which implies aggressive perversity.

The original text does not say that “man is stupid.” We have gone to the moon, transplanted hearts, harnessed atomic power and more. We are not stupid! David knew that too and picked the perfect word to talk about those who are “morally perverse” just like the Nabal of 1 Samuel 25:1:44.

Only the Fool says in his Heart there is no God

Results of Denying God

When men deny God, it will lead them into corruption and abominable works (Psalm 14:2). All that they are, say and do comes from their arrogant (and ignorant) belief that “there is no God.”

This is not to say that all atheists are living immoral lives and all who believe in God are living good lives. It’s just that there is a marked difference in moral behavior between those who take God seriously and those who do not.

When the fools leave God out of their lives, they cause their inner person – the heart, the mind, and the will – to become more and more corrupt. The Hebrew word for corrupt means “rotten, putrid, and decayed,” and evokes an image of milk that has become rancid. It is used to describe Jeremiah’s useless sash (Jeremiah 13:7).

When God looks down to investigate He sees people who are filthy. They have turned their backs on God (Psalm 14:2-3) and refuse to fulfill the purpose for which they were created – to glorify God. We read the same thing in Genesis 6:5, 11-12; 11:5; 18:21 and 1 Kings 14:9-10.

When David says, “There is none who does good; no not one” (Psalm 14:3), he did not mean that there is no human good in this world. But because man is fallen living in a fallen world that he does not do good by instinct. In fact, even the good he may do is tinged with evil.

The indictment is universal; all people, individually or collectively, cannot do anything at all that is good enough to merit heaven – no one, not a single one. The apostle Paul quotes from this passage in Romans 3:10-12 as part of his proof that the whole world is guilty before God and can be saved only by the grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

We all need to be Born Again to Enter Heaven

The LORD, He is God Almighty

The word “God” as used in Psalm 14:1-7 is not the normal word Jehovah but El Jehovah, which refers to the God of the covenant, the God who does something for us. El refers to the Almighty God, the God of authority, the Ruler, the Judge, the Lawgiver.

David’s choice of words shows that humans do not want to know a God who demands anything; they want to be free to participate unimpeded in their sinful behavior. This is so true! It’s not the lack of evidence in the existence of God that atheists deny God. They reject God because belief in a divine Being comes with a sense of accountability to that Being.

The atheist’s rejection of the existence of God is due to a desire to live free of the moral constraints God requires and to escape the guilt that accompanies the violation of those constraints. Author Aldous Leonard Huxley has openly admitted that a desire to avoid moral restraints was a motivation for his unbelief.

Indeed, our concept of God will determine how we live. If we see God as a cosmic bellhop in the heavens responding to our paltry tips, we will live a loose, lukewarm, and loveless Christian life. But God is not a bellhop, and He is not a doting grandfather, smiling benignly in the heavens at godless conduct.

God is a God of patience and power, a God of compassion and correction. Hollywood labels God as someone up there who loves us. That’s true. However, He does demand that “we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).

We are not our own for we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Those who preach the love of God without the discipline of God are preaching a humanistic heresy. Paul taught that if you do not endure chastening, you are illegitimate – not a child of God (Hebrews 12:5-8).

Faithlessness is Foolishness

The fool has deviated faith. The infidel shouts, “I have no belief!” Liar! A man who claims to believe in nothing still believes in something. It requires faith to be an infidel.

The atheist must believe that God is not, that prayer is a waste of time, that heaven is a myth, death is eternal unconscious existence, and that hope for a better tomorrow is weakness. The agnostic has been duped by Satan to believe the wrong things.

The fool defies the creation. The Bible begins with the declaration “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). Without God, there is no creation, no redemption, no deliverance, no healing, no hope. Paul says we can know God by the things He has created (Romans 1:20).

Look at our massive universe with its organization and structure that work together. The fool believes that this magnificent earth is the by-product of an ecological accident. Only a fool would believe that billions of years ago the sun shone on a pond and that life began wiggling in the water and that this life form developed lungs and legs and walked out on land. Finally, it climbed a tree and hung by its tail. Only a fool would believe that!

Here’s a quick video of Rick Warren explaining why it takes more faith to not believe in God than to believe in God.

History Attests God

The fool denies history. Daniel asked God to show him the parade of nations that would come upon the face of the earth. God gave him a vision of the nations in the exact order in which they would appear, the personality of their leaders, and the military methods of conquest (Daniel 7).

How was that known hundreds of years before it happened? An accident? Hardly. There is a God who sits on His throne, who puts kings up and takes kings down (Daniel 2:21).

Want another proof that there is a God? Israel’s history proves God reigns. God’s chosen people were scattered over four continents and sick civilizations. They survived persecution in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and Hitler’s Holocaust. Today the nation of Israel shows that God continues to protect His people.

The Promise of Christ’s Coming

God has promised that the Redeemer will one day come to Zion and deliver His people in mighty power (Psalm 14:7; Isaiah 59:16-21; Jeremiah 31:33-34) and Paul affirmed this at the close of his great discussion of the future redemption of the Jewish nation (Romans 11:25-32).

But what about the wicked? They have no future with the Lord because they preferred not to know the Lord or live for Him. They lived according to the desires of their own heart, not to please the Lord and glorify Him. Those who reject Jesus Christ will spend eternity apart from the Lord and will honestly be able to say in hell, “There is no God – here!”

Closing Words

There is a God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, holy, everlasting, sovereign, unchanging. He is my Father and your Father. He created heaven and earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is coming again in power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

Are you a fool or are you ready to meet Him?

Receive Jesus Christ now as Lord and Savior and confess Him with your mouth for “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).


*Recommended Resource: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
By Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek show, first of all, that truth is absolute, exclusive, and knowable. From there, they proceed to demonstrate that the cardinal Christian doctrines are true beyond reasonable doubt, all convincing for you as Christians to believe, but requiring a leap of negative “faith” if an atheist is to disbelieve them.

Geisler and Turek argue that Christianity requires the least faith of all worldviews because it is the most reasonable. A valuable aid to those interested in examining the reasonableness of the Christian faith.

God’s Unconditional Promise to Israel

God’s Unconditional Promise to Israel

Whether the Jews have a right to their land has been the subject of dispute among many nations up until today. Some say that the Jews have occupied a land that wasn’t theirs and that the occupation must be stopped.

However, the Jews claim that the land originally belonged to them and they have every right to it. They base their claim to the land of Israel on at least four premises and one of them is that God promised the land to the patriarch Abraham.

The Nation of Israel was founded by God

The Bible clearly tells us that Israel is the only nation founded by a sovereign act of God. It all started when God told Abraham to “get out of his country, from his family and from his father’s house, to a land that He will show him” (Genesis 12:1). And then God promised to give him that land (Genesis 12:7).

However, there are two controversies concerning the nation of Israel. The first is whether the promise to Abraham was a promise of literal land or promise of heaven. The second controversy asks whether the promise to Abraham and his seed for a literal land is conditional based upon Israel’s obedience to God or an unconditional promise.

We will then examine Scripture to verify beyond any doubt that God intended for Abraham and the Jewish people to have a literal land upon which they would live.

God's Unconditional Promise to Israel

God Promised a Land

In Genesis 13:14-15, God told Abraham, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are … for all the land which you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.”

And Genesis 15:18 states, “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’” This is a very literal land. Heaven is not described, even allegorically, as the area between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates.

God told Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14).

Israel’s departure from the Promised Land was literal because they went into a literal Egypt. After four hundred years they became a nation of two to three million people and they physically left a literal Egypt for a literal Promised Land – not heaven.

God's Unconditional Promise to the Jewish People
Photo Credits: Piano Bible Chapel

The title deed to the Promised Land was passed from Abraham to Isaac. God said to Isaac, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father” (Genesis 26:3).

The title deed to the Promised Land was then passed to Jacob from Isaac. In Genesis 28:13, God said, “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.”

You have to be in a very literal land to lie on it.

God’s Promise was Unconditional

Was God’s promise to Abraham of a Promised Land conditional or unconditional? Those who believe God’s promise was conditional simply do not understand the blood covenant.

In the Old Testament, there were three ways by which covenants could be made; a shoe covenant, a salt covenant, and a blood covenant.

In the blood covenant, the contracting parties would agree on the terms of the covenant. Then they would take an animal, kill it, split the carcass in half down the backbone, and place the divided parts opposite each other on the ground forming a pathway between the pieces.

The two would join hands, recite the contents of the covenant, and walk between the divided halves of the slain animal. The blood covenant meant they were bound until death, and if either broke the terms of the covenant, his blood should be spilled as the blood of the slain animal. A blood covenant was a permanent and unconditional covenant.

God's Unconditional Covenant with Abaraham and the Jewish People

In Genesis 15, God commanded Abraham to take a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon; and all were split in half except the birds. God placed Abraham in a deep sleep, for no man can look upon God and live, as He prepared to enter a blood covenant with Abraham.

In his sleep, Abraham saw “a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (Genesis 15:17). In the Old Testament, the burning lamp signified the presence of the Shekinah Glory of God. God was binding Himself, unconditionally, by a blood covenant to Abraham and his descendants forever, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land” (Genesis 15:18).

Confirmation that the promise to Abraham and to his seed was unconditional is presented in Psalm 89:30-37. God says, “If his sons [Israel] forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.”

“Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.” God is saying here that He will not break His covenant.

God’s Promise Fulfilled

What about the future of Israel? Israel was reborn as a nation in one day on May 14, 1948, when the United Nations recognized the state of Israel. This was a fulfillment of Isaiah 66:8.

God Promised to bring the Jews back to their own land

Amos writes concerning the restoration of Israel, “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God” (Amos 9:14-15).

The prophets of Israel declared the nation of Israel would be reborn, would be rebuilt, and the Jewish people would never again be removed. When the Messiah comes, He will set up His throne in the city of Jerusalem and of His kingdom, there shall be no end.

*Read more of the promises of God to the nation of Israel in this article: The “I Will” Promises of God

Conclusion

God’s covenant with Abraham and the nation of Israel was unconditional, depending solely upon God who obligated Himself in grace. The unconditional character of this covenant is indicated by God’s declarations “I will” that repeat throughout without corresponding “you must” demands of Abraham.

This covenant contained all that God then began to do, has since done throughout history, and will continue to do.


*Reference Material: 

NKJV Prophecy Study Bible {Top 20 Questions About Bible Prophecy & God’s Great Promises}
General Editor: John Hagee 

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

The subject of human suffering is not easy to understand, for there are mysteries to the working of God that we will never grasp until we get to heaven. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? What can we learn from suffering?

Some people argue that the suffering of the righteous is the major obstacle to faith in God. They reason that God cannot be loving and all-powerful if disasters strike good people. Either he doesn’t love His followers enough to take care of them or He isn’t powerful enough to protect them.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

If God’s love or power is defective, He isn’t worthy of human worship and allegiance.

In the Word of God, there are four great examples of believers suffering for the sake of righteousness: Joseph, Job, Jeremiah, and Paul. In this article, we will look at the accounts of Job and Paul and see what we can learn from them.

The Suffering of Job

Whenever Christians speak of suffering, it is impossible to not consider the account of Job. The Bible describes Job as a blameless and upright man; one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).

Job was prosperous in his family life (Job 1:2-3). The events in this book took place during the Patriarchal Age (Job may have been a contemporary of Abraham or Isaac) when a large family was seen as a blessing from God (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 30:1). His children must have enjoyed each other’s company since they met frequently to celebrate their birthdays.

And after each feast, Job would offer special sacrifices to God not because their celebration was wicked and that they needed to repent. It only shows that Job was a pious man and wanted to be sure his family was right with God.

Until it happened that Job suffered the loss of his wealth and the death of his children, all in one day. Then, sometime later, his health failed, and apparently he would never get well.

Finally, his best friends came and accused him of being a secret sinner who needed to get right with God. Add to this Job’s wife who was of the opinion that he should curse God for letting all this misery befall him (Job 2:9). In her eyes, God had obviously failed Job.

Interestingly, Job never found out why disaster struck him. Job knew what had happened, but he did not know why it had happened, and that is the crux of the matter. Because the author allows us to visit the throne room of heaven and hear God and Satan speak, we know who caused the destruction and why he was allowed to cause it.


The Suffering of Paul

Paul who used to be Saul, the number one persecutor of Christianity, but later on became Paul, the number one propagator of Christianity, had suffered quite a lot for the sake of the gospel.

In his second letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul opened his heart to them (and to us) and revealed the trials he had experienced. To begin with, he had been severely criticized by some of the people in Corinth because he had changed his plans and apparently not kept his promise to visit them again (2 Corinthians 1:12-18).

When Christians misunderstand each other, the wounds can go very deep. Then there was the problem of opposition to his apostolic authority in the church. One of the members – possibly a leader had to be disciplined, and this gave Paul great sorrow.

Finally, there were difficult circumstances Paul had to endure. He was plotted against several times (Acts 9:23, 29; 20:3; 21:30; 23:10, 12; 25:3), was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19), was subjected to satanic pressure (1 Thessalonians 2:18), was beaten and jailed at Philippi (Acts 16:19-24), was ridiculed (Acts 17:16-18; 26:24), was falsely accused (Acts 21:21, 28; 24:5-9; endured a number of violent storms at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25; Acts 27:14-20), was beaten by a serpent (Acts 28:3-4) and was forsaken by all (2 Timothy 4:10, 16).

Learning from Suffering

Perhaps the most painful question confronting the believer is the problem of suffering. Why does a loving and wise God permit His children to suffer?

1. Suffering helps bring out the best in us.

While Satan attempts to use temptation and suffering to bring out the worst in us, God uses them to bring out the best in us.

The hosts of heaven and of hell watched to see how Job would respond to his first test: the loss of his wealth and children. He expressed his grief in a manner normal for that day, for God expects us to be human (1 Thessalonians 4:13). After all, even Jesus wept (John 11:35).

But then Job looked up, worshiped God and uttered a profound statement of faith: (Job 1:21). Instead of cursing God, as Satan said Job would do, Job praised the Lord. Anybody can say, “God gave me what I had” or “God has taken it away,” but real faith says, in the midst of sorrow and suffering, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21 NKJV

But Satan does not give up easily, and he returned to God’s throne to ask for His permission to torment Job physically, which the Lord willingly gave (Job 2:1-7). We get the impression that God was confident that his servant would not fail the test.

Satan was absolutely sure that his strategy of suffering (Job 1:11; 2:4-5) would destroy the faith of Job, which the devil consistently misunderstood (Job 1:9-10). After losing all his wealth and children, and afflicted with painful boils all over his body, Job’s faith in God remained firm. His wife told Job to “curse God and die” which was exactly what Satan wanted him to do, but he didn’t (Job 2:9-10).

The two things Job would not give up were his faith in God and his integrity. Even if God permitted evil to come into his life, Job would not rebel against God by taking matters into his own hands. God used Job’s sufferings to bring out the best in him.

2. God uses suffering to silence the devil.

Satan accused Job of merely serving God for the material blessings involved (Job 1:9-11). We might paraphrase it like this: “The only reason Job fears you is because you pay him to do it. You two have made a contract: You protect him and prosper him as long as he obeys you and worships you.”

We can see that Satan’s accusation against Job was really an attack on God. Satan was telling God, “You are not a God worthy of worship! You have to pay people to honor you.” So the Lord allowed the devil to torment Job to demonstrate that His servant loved God because of who He was, and not for what he could get from Him (Job 1:12).

God found no fault with Job, but Satan did. God’s statement in Job 1:8 echoes the description of Job in verse 1, but Satan questioned it. The word “Satan” means adversary – one who opposes the Law. Imagine a courtroom scene where God and Satan each deliver different verdicts. Satan said Job was guilty, but keep in mind that God said, “Not guilty!”

Romans 8:1 NIV

The readers get the sense that Job’s life was a battlefield over which the forces of light and darkness waged war. Satan suffered a tremendous defeat, but Job never knew it. Eventually, Job’s insight into God grew, but that in no way diminished the horror of his suffering.

Some of the so-called tragedies in our lives have really been weapons of God when He is “silencing our enemies and all who oppose us (Psalm 8:2).” We may not know until we get to heaven why God allowed certain things to happen.

Meanwhile, we are to “walk by faith” and say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. Suffering teaches us to depend on God.

In his second letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul began with a doxology (2 Corinthians 1:3). He certainly could not sing about his circumstances, but he could sing about the God who is in control of circumstances. Paul had learned that praise is an important factor in achieving victory over discouragement and depression.

Despite his suffering, Paul was confident that whatever the Father did for Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He is able to do for him and for us today. We are dear to the Father because His Son is dear to Him and we are citizens of the “Kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

We are precious to the Father, and He will see to it that the pressures of life will not destroy us. God enables us to bear trials. But the first thing God must do is to show us how weak we are in ourselves.

Paul was a gifted and experienced servant of God, who had been through many different kinds of trials. Surely all of his experience would be sufficient for him to face new difficulties and overcome them. But God wants us to trust Him, not our gifts or abilities, our experience or our “spiritual reserves” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “God delivered us, will deliver us and will still deliver us” from all trials. Paul saw God’s hand of deliverance whether he looked back, around or ahead. However, God does not always deliver or rescue us immediately, nor does He always rescue us in the same way. Sometimes God rescues us from our trials, and at other times He rescues us in our trials.

We must never think that trouble is an accident. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment. There are only three possible outlooks a person can take when it comes to the trials and suffering of life.

If our trials are the products of “fate” or “chance,” then our only recourse is to give up. Nobody can control fate or chance. If we have to control everything ourselves, then the situation is just as hopeless. But if God is in control, and we trust Him, then we can overcome circumstances with His help.

4. God is glorified through our trials and suffering.

When Paul reported what God has done for him, a great chorus of praise and thanksgiving went up from the saints to the throne of God (2 Corinthians 1:11). The highest service you and I can render on earth is to bring glory to God, and sometimes the service involves suffering.

Every one of us will face various trials and difficulties in our lives. Some may suffer more but as Christians, we must take each situation as an opportunity to show the world how God is still with us and loves us.

Romans 8:18

Through suffering, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the unbelieving world how Christ is more glorious and precious to us than any pain and difficulty we might endure. While others are anxious and wallowing in depression, we have every reason to thank God and rejoice.

When we place our ultimate hope in Christ rather than in the temporary things of this world, such as trials and suffering, God is glorified.

5. Sufferings will produce fruit.

If we allow suffering to accomplish its purpose, it can bring forth patience (James 1:3; Hebrews 10:36), joy (Psalm 30:5; 126:6), knowledge (Psalm 94:12), and maturity (1 Peter 5:10).

For more of this please refer to this article: The Christian’s Response to Trials

6. Suffering can perfect our character and help us to minister to others.

In every church, there are mature saints of God who have suffered and experienced God’s grace, and they are great “encouragers” in the congregation. Paul experienced trouble, not as punishment for something he had done, but as preparation for something he was yet going to do – minister to others in need.

Just think of the trials that King David had to endure in order to give us the great encouragement that we find in the Psalms.

2 Corinthians 1:7 makes it clear that there is always the possibility that the situation might be reversed: The Corinthians believers might go through trials and receive God’s grace so that they might encourage others. God sometimes calls a church family to experience special trials in order that He might bestow on them special abundant grace.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

God’s gracious encouragement helps us if we learn to endure. “Patient endurance” is evidence of faith. If we become bitter or critical of God, if we rebel instead of submitting, then our trials will work against us instead of for us. The ability to endure difficulties patiently, without giving up, is a mark of spiritual maturity (Hebrews 12:1-7).

God has to work in us before He can work through us. It is much easier for us to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Learning God’s truth and getting it into our heads is one thing, but living God’s truth and getting it into our character is quite something else.

God put young Joseph through thirteen years of tribulation before He made him the second ruler of Egypt, and what a great man Joseph turned out to be! God always prepares us for what He is preparing for us, and a part of that preparation is suffering.

Suffering: A Barrier to Faith?

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis admits that when his wife Joy died of bone cancer he felt as though the heavens had become a barrier of bronze between him and God. Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People reports that the issue of the suffering of people who love God is the ultimate theological question for sensitive religious people.

Oswald Chambers wrote in Christian Disciplines, “Perhaps to be able to explain suffering is the clearest indication of never having suffered.” He concluded that suffering is one of life’s “mysteries that awaken all the other mysteries until the heart rests in God.”

That’s the dilemma: Some conclude that the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God impossible; others conclude the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God imperative.

A Father Suffers

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father let the younger son leave home and suffer sorts of consequences of his folly. He also let his older son at home struggle with his bitterness and pride. The father endured the anguish of watching both sons deal with pain.

God the Father made humans free moral agents, and with that liberty set the course for our suffering and His: ours because tragedies occur in a world marred by human sin, and His because He doesn’t prevent the pain of those He loves.

What the Father offers us is a refuge. We can run to Him and cling with all our might and He will comfort us and share our pain, or we can blame Him and stubbornly suffer.

Closing Thoughts

Why does God allow His people to suffer?

Suffering helps bring out the best in us, produces fruit in us, teaches us to depend on God, can perfect our character and help us to become more like Jesus so we can minister to others.

Suffering is also used by God to silence the enemy (Satan) and for Him to be glorified in the lives of His people. God works out His purposes in the trials of life, if we yield to Him, trust Him, and obey what He tells us to do. 

Whatever suffering we are experiencing right now, let us find comfort in the words of God in Revelation 21:4.

Revelation 21:4 NKJV 

Should you have anything else to add or if you want to share your story: the trials and difficulties you went through, please use the comment section below.