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In Matt. 14 there is the feeding of the 5000. I was disturbed Sunday when our pastor indicated that the miracle could have been that the people shared their food that they had brought and that was the miracle.   I want to write him a letter about this.

You were certainly in order to be disturbed about the remarks of your pastor. The Spirit speaks very precisely about the feeding of the five thousand. Only unbelief can concoct the imagination that the people "shared their food." Here is how the Spirit tells it.

Verse 17. And they said to Him, "We have here ONLY FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH"
Verse 18. He said, "Bring THEM here to Me."
Verse 19a. Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took THE FIVE LOAVES AND THE TWO FISH, and looking up to heaven,
Verse 19b. He blessed and broke and gave THE LOAVES to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

Verse 38. But He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they found out they said, "FIVE, AND TWO FISH."
Verse 41. And when He had taken THE FIVE LOAVES AND THE TWO FISH, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke THE LOAVES, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and THE TWO FISH HE DIVIDED BEFORE THEM ALL.
Verse 41. So they all ate and were filled.

Verse13. We have no more but FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISHES.
Verse 16. Then he took THE FIVE LOAVES AND THE TWO FISHES, and looking up to heaven, HE BLESSED THEM AND BRAKE, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
Verse 17. And they did eat, and were all filled. 

Verse 9. There is a lad here, which hath FIVE BARLEY LOAVES AND TWO SMALL FISHES.
Verse 11. And Jesus took THE LOAVES; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of THE FISHES as much as they would.
Verse 12. When they were filled.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit extended Himself to push men away from foolish conclusions, such as the one your pastor uttered. How could the incident possibly have been stated any clearer, or be written more often? It requires enormous unbelief to affirm people "shared their lunches, or that there are several possible meanings to the account, as Barclay foolishly affirms.

Let us allow Jesus Himself to comment on the occasion. That should certainly suffice. If men contradict what He says, as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (all of whom spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), then simply throw their words away and take hold of Christ's words. 

Some time after the marvelous event of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus was with His disciples on the other side of the sea. We are told "they had forgotten to take bread." Seizing the opportunity to teach them more perfectly, Jesus remarked, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Immediately, the disciples reasoned among themselves thinking they had been rebuked "because we have taken no bread." Discerning their discussion, the Lord responded, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?" He then referred to the event your pastor questioned. Notice how He referred to it. "Do you not yet understand, or remember THE FIVE LOAVES OF THE FIVE THOUSAND and how many baskets you took up?" (*Matt 16:5-9). He did not call them "the five loaves of the small lad," but referred to them as the source of feeding the five thousand.

You do not need any more commentaries on the subject, although most any commentary over 100 years old will tell you the same thing. The text speaks for itself, and is to be believed.

I do not know how a pastor who stumbles at Jesus feeding five thousand with five loaves of bread and two small fishes could ever announce deliverance from sin, freedom from condemnation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, overcoming the world, or being rid of guilt and a defiled conscience. He was wrong--seriously wrong. In his wrongness, he betrayed his own unbelief.

Intimacy, what is it in Eternal perspective? We will be transformed by the exertion of his exceeding power and we will see Him face to face. What does it mean for all of us to be with Him and follow Him wherever He goes? I want to be with God, but I fear being Eternally close to others, yet I realize we will be transformed and we will see Him face to face. What is intimacy in an Eternal perspective?

Remember, in glory all of God's people will be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29). If God has no compunctions about being close to them, you certainly will not be disadvantaged by it. Think of it in that way.

As to our activity in glory, we will be productive, engaged in the Father's business to a far greater degree than we were here. We will be reigning with Jesus ( Tim 2:12). We will no doubt receive projects that will engage all of our ransomed powers, and bring great glory to God. We will be fully capable of carrying them out, and will find great satisfaction in them. That, I believe, is something of what is involved in reigning with Jesus. To kick eternity off, we will judge the world and angels (1 Cor 6:2-3)--and that is just the beginning.

Am I wrong to believe God is willing to bless anyone?

From one point of view, God is not willing the bless the ungodly and rebellious. From another point of view, He is willing to do so if they receive His Son. He is willing that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). However we may choose to say it, when men choose to live in sin, they forfeit the blessing of God. Conversely, when receive the Son of God, they will be blessed by Him. That is how God has represented it.

I worship with an assembly that teaches consistently from Scripture.   But the pure gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus followed by a plea for men to repent, confess Him, and be baptized is not preached from the pulpit. The words that are spoken consistently address the living of the Christian life and are wonderfully good, but is something vital (being baptized into his death) being left out? How will newcomers know they must be born again into the body of Christ? 
I am an almost-eighty year old lady, a lifetime follower of Jesus, and I am confused. Is it I, or are we drifting?

If there are unbelievers present in the assembly, something must be said to provoke them to call upon the name of the Lord. The Gospel itself, together with a powerful declaration of the necessity of believing, should provoke earnest inquiry by such people. It is then that they are to be told of the necessity of being baptized into Christ. You will recall that Peter did not preach how men were to be saved, but that they must be saved. When they cried out "What shall e do?", he told them without any hesitation. The same was true of the Ethiopian eunuch, Lydia, the Philippian jailor, etc.

When addressing believers, baptism is a pivotal point of teaching. In fact, all of the detailed instruction about baptism is given to those who were already baptized (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 3:10-12; 1 Peter 2:20-21). Our baptism is a spiritual landmark from which mature reasoning is formed, as shown in all of these texts. Also, such teaching will provoke introspection in any hearers that have not yet been baptized into Christ Jesus.

The practice of detailing how men are to be saved from the pulpit is good, but it really does not have its basis in Scripture. As I understand it, men were not even told about baptism until they were convicted of sin and inquired what to do. It seems to me that what is really lacking is a powerful presentation of the Gospel, together with its implications. Such preaching will provoke growth in those who are in Christ, and conviction in those who are not.

I understand that many preachers rarely mention baptism because they do not want to offend anyone. That practice is reprehensible and inexcusable, and represents the "drifting" to which you refer. If that is why your preacher fails to mention repentance, baptism, etc., or if he does not declare these things publicly when people respond, then he is wrong. If, when confronted with inquirers, he PUBLICLY proclaims these things, I would not criticize him.

Please help me answer these statements, made by a friend.

The Holy Spirit is true God. No human heart can contain Him in His infinite fullness. Our bodies are rightly called temples in which the Spirit dwells, but none of us can contain Him totally and exclusively, for then He could not dwell in anyone else. Rather, to have the Holy Spirit is to have His wisdom, power, love, compassion. He it is who, through the Gospel, grants faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior and who works all good within us. 

One might ask, "Does the Holy Spirit have all of me?" Some brush aside this question because they think it means being a religious fanatic. But that is not what is meant when we speak of being filled with the Spirit. To pray, to love the Word of God, to stand on the side of Christ, to please God by doing one's daily work faithfully, to speak a word of kindness and comfort to someone in distress -- this is what is meant. It means that the Holy Spirit has all of you!

Brad is philosophizing about the Holy Spirit -- trying to grasp His presence within the believer with the natural mind. God has spoken on this subject, and there is no need for men to stumble about, trying to explain it in the flawed words of human wisdom. It is best to say it the WAY God says it.

"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal 4:6).

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:38-39).

"And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:32)

"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).
"Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15-16).

Note, these texts do not say we have been given to the Holy Spirit, but that He has been given to us. Our role is to not quench or grieve Him--but it is He Himself who dwells within us. As to being stymied by the Spirit dwelling in us, what about Christ himself dwelling in our hearts (Eph 3:17; Col 1:27), or God the Father (2 Corinthians 6:16). They also dwell within us. Jesus said the Father and Himself would make their home in us (John 14:23).

I am afraid Brad is not aware of the capacity of the human spirit--which was created by God as a habitation for Himself. If enough demons that could fill 2,000 swine could dwell in a single man (Matthew 8:28-32, who was not made to house demons), what can be said of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in a person (for Whom he was made)?

It is always best to speak about spiritual things in spiritual words, not philosophical ones (1 Cor 2:13). When that is done, the Lord Himself can help a person to understand and articulate the truth. Your friend is trying to stuff Scripture into a philosophical mold, and it just won't fit.

The concept that we hear of so often of "total depravity" and "all who are born are sinners" please elaborate on this subject and give some thoughts on how I might answer people who follow this train of thought which I believe comes from John Calvin's theory. Also where on your site can I find more information? Thanks so much. In Christ .

The phrase "total depravity" is not found in the Bible. The Scriptures do teach that through Adam's sin, all became sinners, all died, and all are condemned. The following quotations are taken from the NASB version.

1. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom 5:12).
2. " . . . by the transgression of the one the many died . . . " (Rom 5: 15).
3. " . . . for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation . . . " (Rom 5:16).
4. ' . . . For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one . . . " (Rom 5:17).
5. " . . . through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men . . . " (Rom 5:18).
6. "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners . . . " (Rom 5:19).

No person must allow their theology to say more or less than these Divine utterances affirm. The concept of "total depravity" is attended by a host of human suppositions. Many of them are half-truths. Some, for example, have affirmed that man is incapable of hearing the Lord or responding to Him. This, they say, is the result of, what they call, "total depravity." Yet, after all is said and done, fallen Adam heard the voice of God and responded to it, while in a fallen state (Gen 3:8-12). What is even more, the Gospel is an appeal to men to hear and respond (Rom 10;14-17), confirming the image of God was not completely removed when man sinned--even though it was badly marred.

It is true that there is "none righteous, no not one." It is also true that "there is none that seeks after God," and "none that does good, no not one" (Rom 3:10-12). This condition necessitates the new birth (John 1:13; 3:3-8). That birth does involve the will and participation of man, but its chief force comes from God. We are born of "incorruptible seed" (1 Pet 1:23), convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), and delivered by Jesus (Col 1:13). It is true that "no man can come" to Jesus "except the Father draw Him" (John 6:44,65). It is also true that "no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt 11:27).

What men do with these clear declarations is their responsibility. But they had best not compress them into a theological system or position of their own making. Those who say men cannot respond to God have gone further than the Word of God. Those who accentuate, what they call, "the free will of man," have equally stepped outside the circumference of revelation. The Word of God does speak of the human will (Rev 22:17), but never of "the free will of man." Precious few texts associate being saved with the human will--search and see. The emphasis is always placed on believing, which surely does involve the will. However, it also involves God opening our heart (Acts 16:14), giving us to believe (Phil 1:29), and men obtaining faith from God (2 Pet 1:2).

In my judgment, we must refrain from using terms that reflect human analysis rather that Divine statement. One of those terms is "total depravity." Another is "the free will of man." Man has fallen. Man is corrupt by nature. He has made a sinner through the sin of Adam, as exactly stated in Romans 5:19. However, he can respond to God, and must do so in faith. He cannot offer his natural corruption as a reason for not believing and obeying the Gospel. Nor, indeed, can he sit idly by, waiting for some mysterious moving of the Lord.

Thanks so much Brother Given, but as near as I can tell you didn't answer the thought of children. Born as a sinner? Yet not old enough to respond? That is, hear the word, believe the word, repent, confess and be baptized. What are our answers to be to the young mother who wants to know about the safety net for her child? 

The question "Born as a sinner?" is a philosophical one, that is why I did not answer it directly. Scripture indicates that little children are not condemned--which is another question--yet, in my judgment, it is the proper one. Of little children Jesus said, "Of such is the Kingdom of heaven" (Matt 19:14), and "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt 18:10). When the child resulting from David's sin with Bathsheba died, he said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Sam 12:18). He certainly was not speaking of hell, for David aspired to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psa 27:4).

A young mother must not become distracted by questions that are neither posed nor answered in Scripture. It is enough to know little children are not condemned, even though they will sin with their first opportunity to do so. The Word of God says that through Adam men were "made sinners." It does not go into all of the curious details about that fact, and neither should we. It is enough to know that God is kindly disposed to little children and nowhere gives the slightest indication that they will be condemned. In my view, the mother does not want to know if her child is born a sinner of not, but if it will be condemned while a child. The answer to that question is "No."

Take care not to become distracted by philosophical questions that cannot be answered by a thus saith the Lord. In such questions, we are shut up to the opinions of men, which carry no weight in eternal matters. It is imperative that we encourage people to ask the proper questions, for they are the only questions that can be given proper answers.

I have a friend who is becoming involved in Gnostic writings or a Gnostic bible--not sure exactly which but it seems a little strange to me. He's leaving his wife and justifies it with whatever he's reading and prayer of all things.

You can obtain extensive information about Gnosticism on the following website. This site is developed by the Gnostics themselves, so you will be getting the information straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak (not intended to demean horses).

In a nutshell, Gnosticism exalts knowledge itself, not Christ. It also rests on religious experience, not faith in the Living God and Jesus Christ. It is fundamentally earth-centered, acknowledging that suffering pervades the world. It radically differs from true religion, however, by ascribing the fault for the creation's suffering to the Creator Himself. Genesis is considered a myth by the Gnostics.

Gnostic Scriptures are a compilation of various writings, none of which are recognized by Christians. They include the following.

1. Books of Pistis Sophia. This is part of The Nag Hammadi Library, discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. The translation of this library was completed in the 1970's, and is said to have resulted in "a major re-evaluation of early Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism." One segment of this library deals with what Gnostics call "creative and redemptive myths." Another segment majors on Sophia, whom they call "the feminine deific and spiritual principle." They also contain "The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles," "The First and Second Apocalypses of James, and The Apocalypse of Paul. They represent Jesus as being turned into a God by early Christians, which they say would have disappointed Paul. They also consider the Gospel of Thomas as fundamental, more pure, and entirely different from all other Scriptural writings. 
2. The Bruce Codex 
3. The Gospel According to Mary. This book contains a supposed quote from Jesus: "There is no sin."
4. The Gospel of Thomas.
5. The Gospel of the Lord, by Marcion.
6. The Gospel of Philip.

There are countless other writings, which they call "fragments." All of them tone down sin and a need for a Savior from sin. 

The goddess Sophia ("Wisdom") is central to modern Gnosticism. From Sophia, they affirm, an imperfect being proceeded who was unaware of his origins. This being created the cosmos, or physical universe, which reflects his own imperfection.

Humanity is seen as having the spark of Deity within it by nature--without God or Christ Jesus, without atonement or justification. Death is thought to release this spark of Divinity. If, however, there has not been growth in the area of gnosis, or knowledge, that spark of goodness will again become part of the flawed order -- a sort of reincarnation. One of Gnosticism's recognized scholars (G. Quispel) wrote, "The world-spirit in exile must go through the Inferno of matter and the Purgatory of morals to arrive at the spiritual Paradise."

The Gnostic view of salvation is that we are not saved from sin, but from ignorance. By ignorance, they mean ignorance of spiritual realities. Oddly enough, they believe the chief messenger of illumination, which they call "gnosis," is Christ. However, they believe that he brings salvation, not by suffering and death, but by His life of teaching. Jesus is seen as awakening the slumbering Divine spark within humanity.

Gnostics believe that Divinity is inherent in human nature, though not confined to it. It also places a high priority upon, what they call, the psychological makeup of men. The "knowledge of the heart" takes the precedence over what Scripture refers to as "the knowledge of God."

As you can see, Gnosticism is a conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity, and heathendom. It is a religion that deifies man and humanizes Christ. It denies the need for salvation from sin, and exalts experiential knowledge above faith.

Your friend has become snared by an utterly false religion. If I were you, I would not spend a lot of time delving into their various beliefs. They will do nothing for your spirit. You will find a lot of difficulty influencing your friend, because Gnosticism discounts the Scriptures as we know them, and the Lord Jesus Christ as a means of reconciling men to God.

1) Can there be salvation apart from baptism?
2) What about the "World Council of Churches?"
3) Do tongues and other gifts of the spirit still exist?
4) Billy Graham and the Pope have said that it is possible for non-Christians to be saved, and that Hell is not a place of eternal torment-Why is the "Christian Community" still honoring these fools?
5) What is your opinion of the "Word-Faith Movement" (Frederick K.C. Price, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, and the like)

1) Can there be salvation apart from baptism?
Those subjected to the Gospel of Christ are commanded to be baptized (Acts 10:48). It is the "form," or enactment, of the Gospel of Christ (Rom 6:17), is the avenue of coming into Christ, and the appointed means for obtaining a good conscience (Gal 3:27; 1 Pet 3:21), and is nowhere questioned in Scripture. In the case of infants and those with no capacity for reason, neither believing nor obeying the Gospel is bound upon them. As to the possibility of those who have never been subjected to the Gospel being saved, that is a matter on which God has not spoken, and on which men are advised not to speak. Such cases are in the hands of God, who alone can save or destroy (James 4:12).

2) What about the "World Council of Churches?"
It is an institution originated by men, and is governed by men. In my judgment, it is a feeble effort to unite a religious world, with little regard for those who are "in Christ Jesus," or the unifying effects of faith and love.

3) Do tongues and other gifts of the spirit still exist?
These gifts are given at the discretion of God alone, and through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-7). Their stated purpose is "the common good" of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:4). Such gifts are not present simply because men say they are, neither are they absent because men say they are no longer present. You have asked about something that is strictly governed by God. Where they are, in God's judgment, needed, God will give them as He sees fit. I am willing to let the matter rest there. Where there are professed holders of these gifts, their claims are to be tested (1 Cor 14:29; 1 John 4:1). Believers cannot be exempted from this obligation by embracing a theology that simply denies the presence of such gifts.

4) Billy Graham and the Pope have said that it is possible for non-Christians to be saved, and that Hell is not a place of eternal torment-Why is the "Christian Community" still honoring these fools?
I do not believe Billy Graham said hell is not a place of eternal torment, and I am not at all sure that the Pope did. As to non-Christians being saved, there are whole generations of non-Christians that lived by faith before Christ, for whom He died, and whose sins were remitted by His blood (Heb 9:15). As to those who have never heard the Gospel, God as not appointed us to determine their destiny. It is enough to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

On one occasion Paul spoke of some of his enemies who preached Christ out of selfish ambition rather than pure motives. Of them he said, "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice" (Phil 1:18). We do well to emulate that attitude, for we ourselves will be judged with precisely the same kind of judgment we have judged others (Matt 7:2). This does not mean we condone everything around us. It does mean our judgment had best be tempered with mercy -- particularly when we do not see into the hearts of those we judge, or have all of the facts before us as God does. It is only the merciful who will receive mercy from God (Matt 5:7).

5) What is your opinion of the "Word-Faith Movement" (Frederick K.C. Price, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, and the like)
Kenneth Hagan Sr is the primary proponent of the word-of-faith movement. Those you mentioned are his disciples. This movement views faith as having a creative power of its own, and even represents God Himself as having faith. Proponents some things about faith that are very true -- namely that all things are possible to the one who believes, and that it is the means through which benefits are received from God. Their approach to faith, however, appears to be more like magic than trusting God. Those who teach and embrace such teaching stand or fall to their own master (Rom 14:4). I do not believe they have fairly represented the nature and power of faith. However, I do believe they are closer to the truth on the matter than many with whom I am acquainted who make little or no mention of faith at all.

Here is an interesting one I had never considered. I was recently talking to a Christian married couple who came to me seeking some counsel. They are currently using the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy. However, they just heard about how The Pill works (prevents pregnancy). It actually can terminate a pregnancy after the egg and sperm have joined together. You see the moral and ethical problem this creates. Have you ever done any research on this? Is this abortion? Should Christian couples not use the pill? If you do not have the time or desire to think/research/respond, could you direct me to a web site where I could find help.

Technology and science have created at least as many problems as they have resolved--maybe more. I realize some of the complicating factors of "the pill," and have some strong personal persuasions on the matter. However, those complications are not consistent, and therefore throw the matter into the realm of conscience. We have no right to legislate to others in such areas. We do, as I see things, have a responsibility to set the known facts before them. In this case, the facts are not consistent, and are associated with possibility and probability. That simply means we cannot bind our conscience on another person in the matter.

Faith in Christ and love for God are powerful motivators. We must be willing to trust to the good judgment of those who know as much as can be known about something like this. God will help the trusting individual arrive at a God-honoring conclusion. To put it in the words of Scripture, "And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you" (2 Thess 3:4). In this case, the "command" has to do with walking honorably before the Lord. Trusting in the leading of the Lord, Paul said to the Corinthians, "Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything" (2 Cor 7:16). When dealing with issues a fellow believer cannot yet see, we can say as Paul did to the Philippians, "and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you" (Phil 3:15). I believe this matter falls into that category.

It seems to be, there is a famine of the word--do you agree?

Amen! The days prophesied by Amos are surely upon us again--particularly in the Western world. "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord GOD, 'That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it. In that day the fair virgins And strong young men Shall faint from thirst'" (Amos 8:11-13).

Notice the famine is sent by the Lord as a judgment. In my understanding this has happened because of the failure of the professing church to hold up the truth of God, of which it is the "pillar and ground" (1 Tim 3:15). It is staggering how very little of the Word of God is being proclaimed in our land. The basics of the faith are not known among the churched masses. This is the result of spiritually impoverished preaching. 

One of the very first requirements for beseeching God for a resolution is knowing the seriousness of the problem. I am grateful for your perception of the situation.


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