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A person living life without Christ, but is nonetheless a good person and tries to live life morally, how is this person to be judged. Does this person have the benefits of grace or does this person stand in judgment without it? Consider people living during the OT periods, did these people have access to grace? Did these people receive some sort of special dispensation in order to avoid the consequences of sin? Another question. If people who live morally but have no knowledge of Christ, are judged according to universal morality, then why preach the gospel to them? Why not leave well enough alone and let these people continue on their course.

The question is not one of living a moral life, but of seeking the Lord, or engaging in a quest to please Him. God has, we are told, deliberately created and placed all peoples, giving them the advantage in seeking the Lord, which is man's primary vocation: "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27).
Those living before Christ who engaged in such a quest include Abel, Cain, Enoch Noah, the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), devout Jews (Heb 11:13), and Gentiles like Abimelech, Cyrus, the Queen of Sheba, and Nineveh. The atonement of Christ reached backward to such people because they only lacked the opportunity of believing the Gospel. Their hearts were such as would have received the Gospel if it had been known by them.
The same principle applies to those who have a desire to know and please God, yet have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ. Only God knows the hearts of such people, so it is not in order for any of us to speculate about such matters. However, just as there were offerings under the Law for sins of ignorance (Lev 4:2), so the blood of Christ is to be seen as covering those in a state of ignorance who sought the Lord, yet have not heard the Gospel.
Your final question seems to presuppose the Gospel will be rejected. I hope I am not correct in this observation. The Gospel itself is a basically compelling message. When it is preached in power, it has always wrought great results. We preach it to every creature because it intended and tailored for every creature. There is a "fullness of blessing" that comes through the Gospel (Rom 15:29), and that is what we want all men to obtain. Our preaching should not be filtered through speculations about whether or not men will respond to it. After all, it is "THE power of God unto salvation." There is a drawing power in it that transcends all human perceptions.
We are not told precisely how God will judge people who were exposed to limited revelation. However, Paul said the Gospel he preached affirmed the judgment will involve judging the men's secrets through Jesus Christ -- men who showed "the requirements of the law written upon their hearts, their consciences also bearing them witness" (Rom 2:15-16). Whatever the outcome of that judgment, the reception of such people will be strictly owing to Christ's redemption and God's grace, even if they did not know about it while they struggled through the veil of ignorance. This word, Paul says, is inherent in the Gospel.
One final observation. God is not looking for some technicality that will mandate a person's condemnation. Rather, His eyes are diligently scanning the earth to find a person whose heart is right toward Him (2 Chron 16:9). We know there are cases where such hearts were found, and the Lord sent them a messenger (the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius, and Lydia). We also know that when Paul was in Corinth, when it looked as though few people were there who would respond to the Gospel (Acts 18:6), the Lord appeared to Him in the night and said, "For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:10). The following year and a half confirmed this to be true -- yet it was not apparent.

Who is my brother? fellow Christian (i.e., another child of God) or my fellow man? What does 1John2:11 refer to, if the child of Satan hates the child of God--then, he was and is not a brother at all... How does it follow that "he who hates his brother is in darkness, murderers, and do not love God at all" be a brother to one who loves?  If he hates his brother, then he is a brother to the one he hates, but this makes him not a child of God.  Which brings me back to my first question, "Who is my brother?"  Can the one who hates me be my brother?  If so, shall I build him up and love him for the common good as the Spirit and Jesus Christ intercedes.  Is the one who hates me part of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, whom I love? I need to know who I should build up and love for the common good.

You are looking at this the wrong way. The point of John's comments is NOT to identify who loves you, and what your response is to be toward them -- if you love them. Jesus has already told us to even love our enemies. We simply do not have the option of NOT loving, or of being free to hate -- period. The point is our love toward the people of God, NOT the love of people professing to be of God toward us.
John does not mean the one who hates his brother is, in fact, a brother in Christ, and part of Christ's bride. He is speaking about someone PROFESSING they are a Christian, yet acting in contradiction of that profession. That is why he says, "He who SAYS..." (1 John 2:4,6,9). He affirms such a person has lied in their profession. His point is that we are to see to it we are not such a one.
A person who hates is not part of the body of Christ, but is part of the darkness. He is a murderer, and lies if he says he loves God. Those are not conclusions, but are direct affirmations of the Spirit (1 John 2:9,11; 3;15; 4:20). "Hatred" is a work of the flesh, and those characterized by those works have no inheritance in the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21). That is the way it is, and there is not the slightest room for doubt on the matter.
The point of saying these things is not to help us judge every one else, but to help us identify whether or not our own profession is real.

I was told years ago that God turned Ham black for disobedience. If this is
true, where can I find it in the Bible?

This is a religious myth. It was developed by reasoning backward: i.e., since the descendants of Ham appear to have settled in the African region of the world (Psa 78:51; 105:23,27), and because of a hatred of blacks by the proponents of the view, it was taught that becoming black must have been the curse.
The curse of God was actually placed upon Canaan, Ham's son (Gen 9:25), even though it was Ham who saw the nakedness of his father, Noah (Gen 9:22). It is not coincidence that the descendants of Canaan were the ones driven out of the promised land that their land might be given to the children of Israel.

Do you have any thoughts on this word "phileo" brotherly love (kindness) and the "love of the brethren" which is the point of your thought.? I realize that the "love" of the brethren is "agape", but it seems as though there must be a connection here.  I have noted, that in this text, "Phileo" precedes "Agape" not in importance but in order of supplying to one's faith.

There is a lot of Bible-College folklore associated with the Greek words "phileo" and "agape." Here are a few unknown facts.
1. Men cannot serve two masters. They will "love" (agape) one, and "hate" the other (Matt 6:24).
2. Those who love (agape) those who love them are no better than sinners (Luke 6:32).
3. A centurion recommended to Jesus by His disciples is said to have loved (agape) their nation (Luke 7:5).
4. The Pharisees loved (agape) the upper seats in the synagogue (Luke 11:43).
5. John spoke of those who loved (agape) the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).
6. Peter wrote of those who, like Balaam, loved (agape) the wages of unrighteousness (2 Pet 2:15).
7. John said if any man loved (agape) the world, the love (agape) of the Father was not in him (1 John 2:15).
1. While Luke says the Pharisees loved (agape) the uppermost seats, Matthew says they loved (phileo) them (Matt 23:6).
2. Jesus said the Father loved (phileo) the Son (John 5:20). Elsewhere John said the Father loved (agape) the Son (John 3:35).
3. Mary and Martha reported Lazarus' sickness to Jesus because He loved (phileo) him (John 11:3).
4. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus told His disciples the Father loved (phileo) them (John 16:27).
5. John is described as the disciple whom Jesus loved (phileo) (John 20:2).
6. Paul said if any man loved (phileo) not the Lord Jesus, he was accursed (1 Cor 16:22).
7. Jesus said as many as He loved (phileo), He rebuked and chastened (Rev 3:19).
    "Brotherly kindness" emphasizes what is DONE toward the brethren, while agape love emphasizes an intention that is driven by an attachment to them within. God has phileo love for the Son -- which emphasizes His care and direction of Him while He was in the world. His agape love for the Son emphasizes His attraction toward Him because of their oneness.
    In the case of brotherly kindness, love erupts in going beyond saying "Be thou warmed and filled" -- it does something about it. This is found in edification as well as deeds of kindness -- like Dorcas making coats for the women.
    Love (I like the word "charity" here) is added to brother kindness. That is, our view of the brethren is not simply one of doing good to them. It is to go deeper, where we have a preference for them over others. This is the kind of love that "knits" us together (Col 2:2).

I have been asked by a dear friend to comment on the application of John 3:5 to a question from a seeking co-worker of hers pertaining to the necessity of baptism for salvation.  I have studied the issue as far as my limited grasp of Scripture (not to mention Greek) will take me, and I can see no obvious reason that the phrase "born of water" must *necessarily* refer to baptism, if for no other reason than that the word "baptism" is nowhere in either the text or the immediate context...and that it is really not an obvious component of the conversation at hand anyway.  I do not deny that it *could* be the sense of the phrase, but I maintain (currently, anyway) that any certitude that it *is* the sense of the phrase marks an  imposition on the text.  Therefore, I can see no clear basis for introducing John 3:5 into a discussion of the essentiality of baptism for salvation, and I am inclined to urge my friend to take the discussion in another direction, using the corpus of the remaining NT Scriptures that clearly and incontrovertibly speak of baptism's place and weight in the response of faith to the grace of Christ.  Would you agree with my approach and my interim conclusions?

First, you are precisely correct in saying baptism is "not an obvious component of the conversation at hand." It seems to me that men have stuffed their own ideas into this text – a deed with which the Lord is not well pleased, to say the least. There is enough clear teaching about baptism without reshaping certain texts to make them more compatible with favored views.
The text in John 3:5 is spiritually specific, but intellectually vague. As you know, Nicodemus did not grasp what the Savior said – and Jesus said he was a "teacher of Israel." His response was "How can these things be?" What is even more arresting, Jesus said He was speaking to Nicodemus of "earthly things" (3:12) – or things transpiring in earth. I believe He had something larger in view than baptism itself, even though that is an appointed means through which indispensable Divine workings are accomplished.
There is, in my judgment, an implication of baptism in this text, but it is not as clear as our brethren have suggested. If the implication is valid, it cannot be pressed upon anyone beyond their ability to perceive that deduction. That principle is true of all implicatory teaching, which is certainly not the superior form of tutelage.
When Jesus says "born of water," it is NOT sufficiently clear that He was referring to baptism. (I believe Chrysostom was one of the first to make this application). If this does, in fact, refer to baptism in water, what comes out of the water is reborn. The difficulty is that, technically speaking, our bodies emerge from the water, and they certainly are not "born again." They are the part of us that remains unchanged at this time, awaiting the resurrection, when they will be redeemed, as taught in Romans 8:23 and Ephesians 1:14. While that is not an insurmountable obstacle, as you suggest, it seems to me that it prohibits arguing the necessity of baptism from this text. I do not believe that was the point Jesus was making.
I am inclined to believe Jesus was referring to the CLEANSING that takes place when one is born of the Spirit – i.e., the "washing of regeneration" (Tit 3:5), or "the washing of water by the Word" (Eph 5:26). While it is true that the washing away of sins is unquestionably associated with baptism (Acts 22:16), Jesus' emphasis is on the cleansing itself, and not the outward means with which that cleansing is associated. He was telling Nicodemus that being born again involved MORE than merely starting over – like emerging once again from the womb (John 5:4). It involves a genuine transformation of the essential person – born of the Spirit, and a thorough cleansing from the defilement of Adamic association (Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:22)  and personal sin (Rom 3:23; 5:12) – born of the water.
More specifically, and in clear accord with His words, our Lord was declaring the necessity of the new birth itself – something our brethren have not emphasized. From one perspective, there is an implication of baptism. From another, we are driven to the conclusion that cleansing and transformation must occur for baptism to be valid. But these are points of reason that do not establish the necessity of baptism, but the necessity of rebirth, which is Jesus' point. Our Lord summarized His comments by saying "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6), "You must be born again" (John 3:7), and "everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). In this text, He did not place the stress on baptism, so I hardly see what justifies His disciples in doing so. A disciple is not above His master.
In the doctrinal treatise of baptism, the associated cleansing, or remission of sins, is not the emphasis. Rather, it is the identity with Christ that is experienced by this means: baptized into Jesus Christ, baptized into His death, buried with Christ by baptism into death, our old man crucified with Him, being dead with Christ, circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, and raised with Christ through faith in the working of God (Rom 6:3-6; Col 2:11-12). Peter associates baptism with the purification of the conscience, tracing the effectiveness of baptism to "the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 3:21)." None of this can be clearly seen in John 3:5, yet it underscores the marvelous things that have been accomplished in baptism. These realities constitute a much stronger argument for the necessity of baptism than a Sinaitic approach to John 3:5.
Some years ago, I held a meeting in Arkansas. A lady attended the congregation there who was from a Baptist background. For twenty years, ministers and evangelists had tried to talk her into being baptized, using all of the traditional arguments from the Greek, examples of baptism in Acts, John 3:5, etc. The very first night she personally informed me she was not going to be baptized, even if I tried to talk her into it. She promptly turned her back on me, and began walking away. I asked her to give me a minute of her time, assuring her I was not going to attempt to talk her into being baptized. I then asked her if she knew Jesus was baptized. She said she was aware of that. I then asked her if she knew Jesus was going to judge her, and all others as well. She said she knew and believed that as well. I then asked her how she was going to explain to Jesus why she was not baptized after others attempted to talk her into it, while Jesus Himself was baptized when John tried to talk Him out of it. She was willingly baptized that week because she did, after all, really want to please Jesus.

During our Bible study, we discussed whether the church who accepts homosexual practices should be permitted to participate in the Coalition of Care.  During our committee meetings, I have clearly stated that I understand we will not all agree on all interpretations of scripture but we should not allow these doctrinal differences to divide and cause dissension among us. The lady from the homosexual Baptist church is an attorney and seems quite interested in the work we are doing.

The matter of sodomy is not an issue of doctrine, but of morality. The Spirit makes clear what our position is to be toward those who wear the name of Jesus, yet choose to condone flagrant immorality – whether by personal involvement or making allowances for it. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person'" (1 Cor 5:11-13).

In the case of a church that condones such practices, you are faced with a group that refuses to obey Christ. The Lord has spoken on this issue, and even spelled out what the church is to do about a grossly immoral person (1 Cor 5:4-5). They fall into the category mentioned in Romans 16:17: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and OFFENSES, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them."

Righteousness and unrighteousness cannot mingle – even because of an apparently good cause -- like helping the poor. They do not mix, period. They cause an unequal yoke, which is not permitted by our Lord (2 Cor 6:14-18). In my judgment, they will cause your good work to fail. God will not bless the work of those who condone what He condemns -- even if they attempt to join with the saints.

"But couldn't our Coalition committee be a means that God could use to help members of the homosexual Baptist church to receive truth which could change their life styles ?"
The answer to this question is a loud "NO!" You are NOT dealing with a life style" but with a sin of wantonness that is unnatural and pointedly condemned by God. It is a sin that is even beneath the rudimentary restraints of nature (Rom 1:24-26). Keep in mind that God did not send a prophet to such people. Rather He says of them, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Rom 1:28). That is the Divine assessment of those involved in sodomy. Those who think otherwise are simply wrong.

A church that condones "homosexual activity" has sinned with the light shining in their eyes. If Jesus threatened to cut off Ephesus for losing its first love, and vomiting out Laodicea for being lukewarm, what will He do to a Thyatira who condones fornication? He says to such a church, "I will kill her children with death" (Rev 2:18). His words are to be taken seriously.

An alliance with the ungodly is a most serious matter. Solomon and Jehosaphat had "affinity" with the wicked (1 Kings 3:1; 2 Chron 18:1), and no good came from it. Jehu told Jehosaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you" (2 Chron 19:2). Years later, Ezra prayed to God about the people joining through marriage with the wicked: "should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?" (Ezra 9:14). If the anger of God would be directed toward Israel for marrying people from nations who committed such sins, we should not have to think long about how He will react to the enlightened body of His Son, who have tasted of much greater things, joining with those who are guilty of the same type of sins.

Let me again emphasize that you are NOT dealing with those who have a different interpretation of Scripture. That is what the sodomites would have us believe, but they are not telling the truth. You are dealing with people who have a different nature. Sodomy is a sin of preference -- willing rebellion against the most rudimentary revelation of God in nature. For someone -- anyone -- to defend this sin, or have an accommodating attitude toward it, especially in the blazing light of the Son of God, is nothing less than a revelation of an unimaginably wicked heart.

Under the Law, the Lord refused to allow help to come from the hands of immoral people. Here is what He said, "You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog (the word ‘dog' means 'male prostitute' -- NIV, NRSV) to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God" (Deut 23:18). The harlot might have boasted that she had an interest in supporting the good priests who served in the house of God, but her money was not to be received. The same was true for a "dog," or male prostitute.

You, and the brethren associated with you, should talk this out and determine to please God in your effort. The good work you are doing is NOT the fundamental thing, but is a PART of the main thing. That work must bring glory to God, and not have within it elements against which God has clearly spoken. Be selective about whom you accept, without being sectarian and divisive. In the case of sodomy, such people have no part in the kingdom of God in the first place (1 Cor 6:9-10). Those whom God does not allow among His people cannot be allowed to be part of His work. You will have to think of how to best state that, and how to implement it, but it is critical that this be done. God accepts weaker brethren (Rom 14:3). He accepts those who have not yet seen the full scope of the truth (Eph 1:17-20; 4:15). He receives those with honest and good hearts (Luke 8:15). However, sodomites do not fall unto any of those categories. They are in the same class as idolaters, adulterers, harlots, thieves, drunkards, swindlers, and slanderers (1 Cor 6:9-10). The kind of sin they are committing is classified with the "works of the flesh," along with fornication, impurity, debauchery, witchcraft, murder, revelry, etc. The Spirit is careful to say of these sins, "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  (Gal 5:19-21). You do NOT want anyone condoning such behavior, or entertaining an accommodating attitude toward those guilty of such sins, putting their hand on your work. It is "BECAUSE of these things" that the wrath of God will come upon "the sons of disobedience" (Eph 5:5-6).
I have taken the time to say all of these things because of the seriousness of forming an alliance with the ungodly. I am careful to differentiate between immorality and differences in understanding that are the result of varying levels of spiritual growth. Immorality, however, is not an issue of growth. It is not allowed from one's very inception into Christ. Ponder these matters, and seek for understanding from the Lord. I am confident you will obtain God's mind on the matter.

Acts 2:23 says this:  "Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death." It is as though Peter were saying to the Jews, "Do you realize what you have done--Do you understand who this was?"  As if to say that what they did was murder the messiah,  which I guess they did but wasn't that the only way--wasn't that the plan and Gods sovereign timing.  It is as though Peter was saying that the messiah shouldn't have died,  but it he didn't, we wouldn't be able to conquer the grave as He did. The only thing that I can make of this is that maybe so much more could have been accomplished if Jesus had lived longer and ministered longer...What if he had been crucified at age 60.

First, the death of Jesus was a God-ordained event, and occurred at precisely the appointed time. It was NOT orchestrated by men, but by God. Jesus referred to the approach of His appointed death in this way: "The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Mark 14:41). "And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified" (John 12:23). "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:  (John 17:1). He explained to those who came to arrest Him that they were powerless to take Him during His ministry. The only reason they could arrest Him in the garden, was that God had given them power to do so because His hour to die had come: "When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). He informed Pilate of the same truth: "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11).
Doctrinally, it was God Himself who delivered Jesus up: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). Isaiah prophesied He would be "Smitten by God and afflicted" (Isa 53:7). Zechariah prophesied of the Lord smiting the Shepherd and the sheep being scattered (Zech 13:7) – a prophecy to which Jesus referred in Matthew 26:31. Add to this that Jesus actually laid down His life Himself – no one took it from Him. Of this Jesus said, "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (John 10:17-18).
In Acts 2:23, Peter was speaking with all of these things in mind. The determined counsel of God was not only that Jesus would die for the sins of the world, but that He would do so at the appointed time. Long before Jesus was put to death, the Jewish leaders sought to find a way to kill Him (John 5:18; 7:1). Yet, they were powerless to do so, because Christ's time to die had not yet come. That is the whole point of Jesus' words in Luke 22:53.
Add to this that Jesus was NOT born to live, but to die. That voids the thought that He could have done more by living longer. As the time of His death approached Jesus said, ""Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour" (John 12:27). While Jesus did go about "doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38), that is not why He came into the world. Those were acts of His great mercy and kindness – but He really came to take away the sins of the world through His death. Of this John wrote, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). And again, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
Actually, Jesus' main work is in heaven, where He is able to do much more than He did while upon the earth. The day of Pentecost is a case in point. At that time Jesus accomplished more among men than He did in His entire earthly ministry. That earthly ministry was but a small prelude to His greater work from the right hand of God. His earthly life was really a preparation for Him to die, and later to minister to His people as a sympathetic and empathetic High Priest (Heb 2:17-18).
Peter was indicting the Jews for their reprehensible wickedness. While God had appointed the death of Christ, He would not carry it out by the hands of godly people – like holy prophets. Rather, the Lord would allow Satan to gather his diabolical hosts to accomplish God's own will. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said to those arresting Him, "This is your hour and the power of darkness" – that is, God was now allowing them to do their wicked will (Luke 22:53). To do his work, Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3; John 13:27), thereby confirming he was "a devil," as Jesus confirmed earlier in His ministry (John 6:70). Satan also used Jewish leaders, whom Jesus had said were the children of the devil (John 8:44). The fact that God's determined counsel drove the whole matter did not exempt them from guilt, for they had willingly gathered together against Christ, seeking to rid themselves of His restrictive influence. Following Christ's ascension to the right hand of God, and after the Apostles were beginning to encounter fierce opposition, the church came together to pray for boldness to speak the Word. In their prayer, they referred to the same truth Peter declared in Acts 2:23. "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28).
The Jews, however, were not CONSCIOUSLY doing the will of God, even though the will of God was being done. Their hearts were corrupt, and they themselves were being used of Satan, who himself was, in a way, being manipulated by God. Their treatment of Christ was attributed to them as sin. Of that sin holy men said the following. Stephen: "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers" (Acts 7:52). Peter: "But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.  (Acts 3:14-15). Paul: "For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men" (1 Thess 2:14-15).
In summary, Jesus died at precisely the appointed time. From the higher perspective, God delivered Him up for our transgressions, Jesus laid down His own life, and Satan and His hosts were given power for a brief time. From the lower perspective, the Jews killed Jesus to rid themselves of His influence (Psa 2:1-4; Acts 4:25-27), fulfilling God's purpose, but bringing judgment upon themselves (Luke 19:43-44).

I have been considering II Timothy 2:15 in the context of the necessity of private study of God's word, and it has become plain to his uneducated eye that the Greek word spoudazo does not carry with it an intrinsic sense of "study" even though that is the way the word is frequently translated in this passage.  Can any of you explain why such a translation might be viewed as essentially correct?  I can easily see that "diligence" makes sense here (see the NASB), but why would we impose "study" on sodas when that is not the plain meaning of the word?  It seems like an imposition.  Comments welcome and gratefully received.

As used in Scripture, the word "study" is not an academic word, but one of attentiveness and diligence. Solomon used "study" once in the academic sense: "And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh" (Eccl 12:12). The NASB translates the verse as though it was intended for many we know: "But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." The kind of "study" that is referenced in Second Timothy 2:15 does not require a library.

The word translated "study" in Second Timothy is translated "forward" (KJV) and "eager" (NKJV) in Galatians 2:10. It is translated "Endeavoring" (KJV), "being diligent" (NASB), and "making every effort" (NIV) in Ephesians 4:3, First Thessalonians 2:17, Second Timothy 4:9, Second Timothy 4:21, Titus 3:12, Hebrews 4:11, Second Peter 1:15, and Second Peter 3:14).

The text in Second Timothy can very well include the idea of studying the Scriptures, but that would be a strictly secondary consideration in the thought being developed. The objective that is sought is to present ourselves "approved unto God" as a "worker who does not need to be ashamed" -- ashamed of what was said, taught, preached, and in any way articulated in the name of the Lord.

This approval does not come because we have an intellectual grasp of the Scriptures, although that is surely necessary. Rather, it is realized by a proper USE of the Scriptures -- "handling accurately the word of truth." Even then, it is not merely handling the Word in an academically correct manner, with proper verb tenses, moods, and the likes. Rather it is "dividing" the Scriptures as Jesus "divided" the loaves to the multitude -- apportioning it correctly, in accordance with what God Himself intends, and what His people really need.

This kind of "study" involves participating in the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), partaking of Christ (Heb 3:14), and having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), as well as having a grasp of the Scriptures themselves. It also involves avoiding getting caught up in foolish questions that God has not answered, and which tend to accentuate man's intellect rather than God's grace and purpose. The fact of the matter is that everyone will give an account of himself to God. If we are talking about preachers and teachers, they will give an account for what they have said, and how they have discharged their stewardship. That is the time we want to be without shame. It will obviously take a hearty and focused endeavor to be unashamed at that time.

About Blasphemy;  wouldn't refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God be blasphemy?

Blasphemy is speaking against someone -- railing on, or defaming them. That is certainly the result of refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God. However it is not the refusal itself. Refusing to acknowledge and blaspheming are not the same thing. Jesus' own brothers (half brothers) did not believe on Him at the first. However, they did  not blaspheme Him (John 7:5).

Why do people continue to believe they are saved without being baptized?
People "continue to believe they are saved without being baptized" because they have accepted what men have said about baptism. Jesus spoke clearly about it (Mark 16:16). Peter spoke clearly about it (Acts 2:38; 10:47-18; 1 Pet 3:21). Ananias spoke clearly about it (Acts 22:16). Paul spoke clearly about it (Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:11-12; Gal 3:27). It is what uninspired and sectarian men have said about baptism that has caused the problem. ONLY those who believe the doctrines of men "continue to believe they are saved without being baptized." That is a most serious situation, to say the least.

Have a bible teacher that says he has a friend that has the gift of discernment to tell if someone is a Christian or not. I thought only God can make that judgment. Can you share with me from the Bible if such a gift exist? If there is no such gift, can you share a verse or two that supports the view that only God can make that judgment.

This friend would certainly have been useful to the disciples when they did not know who Judas really was (Matt 26:21-25 with John 13:29). He could have also been helpful to Peter who did not declare his perception of Simon until he sought to purchase the ability to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:21). He could also have given assistance concerning certain who traveled with John and the Apostles for some time, then left them in order that it might become clear they really were not of them (1 John 2:19).
There is no evidence that God has ever conferred such a gift. If such a gift did exist, Jesus would not have spoken of having to wait until the harvest for some impostors to be revealed -- when the angels make the final separation (Matt 13:29-30). Jesus said men would be known by their fruit (Matt 7:16,20) -- not by a purported gift of discernment. Add to that the word of the Spirit: "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:11).
The "friend" of the Bible teacher has not told the truth.

Could you explain 1 John 5:14-17 where it speaks of sin "leading to death"? What sin is this? Is this referring to spiritual or physical death? Is this saying that a person who wants to repent cannot or will not be allowed?

The "sin unto death" is a sin that necessarily leads to death -- that is, the person dies by Divine mandate BECAUSE that sin was committed. In such a case, no intercessory prayer or change of mind could have averted the death, for it was a judgment from God. There are no definitive explanations of this such a sin -- and that is not the point of the text. The aim of the text is to instruct us that there are some things that cannot be corrected by prayer. They are the exceptions, and not the rule. There is also no evidence that we will be able to identify those whose sin necessary leads to death.
There are some examples of "sin unto death" in the Scriptures. The individuals committing these sins could not be helped by prayer or any other means ordinarily employed to rescue sinners.
1.  The sin of Er, Judah's firstborn son (Gen 38:7).
2.  The sin of Onan (Gen 38:10).
3.  The sin of Nadab and Abihu resulted in their death (Lev 10:1-2).
4.  The sin of Uzzah resulted in his death (2 Sam 6:7).
5.  King Saul who "died for his transgression (1 Chron 10:13-14).
6.  The sin of Judas resulted in his death (Acts 1:25).
7.  The sin of Ananias and Sapphira resulted in their death (Acts 5:5,10).
8. The sin of Herod, who pridefully received undue honor (Acts 12:23).
9.  Certain in the church at Corinth who desecrated the Lord's table (1 Cor 11:30).





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