How To Understand The Bible


Paul encourages us all to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). That comes from properly understanding the Bible. If two people understand the Bible correctly, then they understand it alike. In truth, all who understand the Bible understand it alike. The fact that there is so much diversity of ideas and denominations shows that people do not know what the Bible teaches.

Desire for Knowledge

In order to know the word of God you have to want to know the word of God. Solomon writes, “whoever loves instruction loves knowledge” (Proverbs 12:1). In any subject, a knowledge of it requires instruction in it. If you want to learn how to fly a plane, you taking flying lessons. If you want to become an expert chef, you go to cooking school. And if you want to become knowledgeable in the word of God, then you need to be instructed what it teaches. If you want to know your Bible, you will study it.

One thing that can make you want to have more knowledge of the Bible is to know enough about God to understand that His revelation needs to be studied. That is why the heart with understanding seek knowledge (Proverbs 15:14). The more you know of God, the more you want to know, and understanding the great nature of God compels one to have a greater knowledge of His word. Indeed, “the prudent heart gets knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

Can Be Rejected

Just as one can willfully seek out a knowledge of God through the knowledge of the Bible, one may also choose to be ignorant. The consequences of this rejection is dire, as God notes through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). This lack of knowledge need not appear only within the completely irreligious. Paul points out that the Jews who refuse to obey the gospel are lost. This lost condition exists even though they contain great amount of religious zeal, but that it is not based upon true knowledge of God (Romans 10:1-3).

These Jews without the gospel need to learn what the Bible says, but that means much more than reading the Bible. If someone reads the Bible but with a preconception about what it teaches, then they will not learn what the Bible says. This is the condition of these Jews. Elsewhere, Paul references the veil worn by Moses. While it was worn to hide the shine of his face from being in the presence of God on the mountain, here we also learn that it was to hide the almost instantaneous diminishment in the shine. This is symbolic of the fading glory of the old law.

Following this, Paul says a metaphoric veil is still worn over the hearts of Jews when they read the prophets yet deny they speak of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:14). In other words, one must by open and honest with the scriptures or read the text is worthless. Paul follows this up by stating that all of the lost, Jew and Gentile, have a veil that keeps the gospel from shining in their heart, but this veil is removed in learning about Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

Requires The Right Attitude

But there were plenty of Jews in the first century who became Christians because they had the right attitude towards the Bible and were in a place to learn it and understand it. One example is the Jews in Berea. They “received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Usually, an emphasis is placed on the daily study portion of this verse, but notice that it is preceded with the attitude we should all have, one where they received the word with all readiness of mind. They told themselves that they would accept what the Bible said regardless of what they previously may have thought.

James describes this mindset when he says that the word must be accepted with meekness (James 1:21). The Greek word for this is used outside of the Bible to describe the ability to break horse. Imagine a large steed being controlled by a small bit in his mouth. That is how the Bible is to the true believer. Some have described meekness as self-control, but here it’s more like allowing yourself to be controlled by someone else, and this other party is God.

In the book of Romans, Paul pleads with the saints that they once and for all present their bodies as a living sacrifice. Having done that, they move on the being shaped by things from Heaven and not from the earth. Having done thus, we are in a place to examine the word of God and accept it (Romans 12:1-2). This is similar to the removal of all filth James mentions so that we can meekly accept the word just addressed priorly.

Peter recalls the occasion when he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. He then makes the point that we have a word of prophecy that is more sure than if God were to open the cloud and speak to us directly as He did on that mount with Jesus (2 Peter 1:15-21). Because we have this word that is definite, sure, and objectively verifiable, no prophecy of scripture is subject to any private interpretation (v.20). If the Bible were somehow the product of men’s thinking and human words, then one interpretation is as good as another, as it may be great literature like Shakespeare. But with the Bible, one interpretation is not as good as another. The only interpretation that is worthwhile is the one God intends for us to reach by careful and honest study.

Our View Of God

All notions of religion begin with how one views God. When it comes from our openness to the Bible, it is no different. Solomon writes that it is a fear of God that is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Further, he adds that it is by a fear of God that men depart from evil (Proverbs 6:16). When one is truly in awe of God, they will do whatever they can to know the will of God. Further, applying the knowledge of this will leads one to depart from evil as part of their service to God.

It comes down to one simple thing: do you love the truth or not (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10). If you love the truth more than all things, including your own mind and way of life, then you will do anything to learn the will of God so that you may perform it. Jesus clearly has this in mind when He speaks to those who were already believing in Him, and He says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Knowing the truth and continuing in the truth is indispensable for discipleship and spiritual freedom from the rule of sin. And nearing His crucifixion, Jesus says in prayer that eternal life is knowing God and the One He sent (John 17:3). Putting all of this together, we fear God and study our Bible with an open mind. This same fear spurs us to live out what we have learned. By so doing, we achieve eternal life.

A knowledge of scripture is often considered a type of illumination. Consider the following:

  • Through Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. Your word isa lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:104-105)
  • The entrance of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)
  • For the commandment isa lamp, and the law a light, reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23)
  • And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19)

Counterwise, living is ignorance and sin is constantly rendered as living in darkness. We have to choose between light and dark, knowledge and ignorance, serving God or following sin. God has given us all a word that can be understood, and therefore it can be understood alike by all.


Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Establishment Of The Church: Part II – The Kingdom, When?


As mentioned priorly, the church in prophecy is sometimes with the name “kingdom.” There are a pair found in Daniel’s book that parallel each other and provide information as to when the kingdom would come. In chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and it troubles him. He gathers his wise men to get a reading of the dream. But since he knew he was surrounded by yes-men, he said he would only believe an interpretation if the person first told him what he dreamed. They all agreed none of them could do it, but Daniel’s name comes us as one of the Jewish slaves who might be able to do this. Of course, he can, with the help of God.

Daniel says the dream is of a statue, head of gold, shoulders of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron with clay and iron mingled in the feet. Also, a rock is cut out without hands and it rolls and strikes the statue and destroys it. When all the dust settles, all that is left is the mountain of the Lord that fills the whole world.

Daniel tells the king that the statue are four successive world empires. Babylon is the head of gold, Daniel comes out and says so much. The rest he calls a second, a third, and a fourth kingdom. We know from history what they are. Following Babylon was the second empire, one of silver, which was the Persians. The Greeks are the third kingdom of bronze. Finally, the iron kingdom is Rome. Some have tied to make the feet into a fifth kingdom, but the iron and clay simply describe the true nature of Rome. Like iron, it has the appearance of strength, but like iron welded to clay, its foundation is weak.

Daniel says regarding the time of Rome, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). This is what is meant by the remainder of the vision. A rock cut away without hands is a reference to the virgin birth of Jesus. In the days of the roman Empire, He will establish His eternal kingdom, which is the church of Christ, the mountain of the Lord.

The second vision in Daniel is for the prophet himself. It’s in the seventh chapter. Instead of four parts of a statue, we have four different creatures. The lion represents Babylon, the bear is Persia, and leopard stands for Greece. The fourth creature is some grotesque I don’t know what it is, but it’s unpleasant, to put it mildly. I’ve heard it called the strong beast or the iron beast.

The first three creatures are no longer around by the time of the iron beast. Regarding this fourth creature, Daniel’s book reads “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). The Ancient of Days is the Father and the Son of Man is Jesus. In the time Rome, this iron beast, the Father will give Jesus an eternal kingdom, just like we read of in chapter two.

Without contradiction, it has been established that the kingdom would come during the time of the Roman Empire. But that still leaves a long period of time, several centuries. Jesus was baptized by John in the fifteenth year of emperor Tiberius, which would be about 29 A.D. (Luke 3:1,21-22). This is almost smack-dab right in the middle of the time of Rome. Both john and Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). While “at hand” is not a specific time period like decade or century, it does let us know it is a time sooner than not.

Now the details line up from here on. Jesus said in Mark, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). We learn to very important things from this verse. First, the kingdom is coming within the lifetime of people present. Second, when the kingdom comes, it will come with power. The nature of this power is unclear, which will manifest itself soon.

Before Jesus ascends back into Heaven, He says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). They were also told to stay in Jerusalem and wait for this coming power (Acts 1:4). So, if we can identify when the Spirit came on the apostles in Jerusalem, we will also know it was the promised power that would signify the coming kingdom. Chapter to of Acts begins: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). The promised and prophesied kingdom came on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus was crucified. This was also the day the church was established (Acts 2:47). That is because the kingdom is the church and the church is the kingdom.

This is important because the Premillennialists believe that Jesus came to establish his kingdom, an earthly one, but failed. So He gave us the church instead as a stopgap measure. Someday He’ll return after tribulations and Armageddon and such and establish an earthly kingdom which shall last for a thousand years. There’s only one problem with this – there’s not a word of truth to it. Christians have already been translated into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). Church and kingdom are perfectly equivalent and fully functioning synonyms in the Bible along with terms like body, household, and temple.


Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Establishment Of The Church: Part I – The Reality Of The Church


The first time we find the word “church” in the Bible, it’s when Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). From this, we know Jesus plans on establishing a church. If someone is a part of something that calls itself church, but it’s not the one Jesus built, then their church is counterfeit and their faith is in human error and not the truth of Christ.

No man has the right to start a new branch of Christianity, whether his name is Luther, Wesley, or King Henry VIII. If the saved are added to the church, and one is a member of something not built by Christ, that person is not saved. We need to learn the truth of the church. Anyone can do that by reading the New Testament for themselves honestly.

There is no Old Testament word for “church,” but that doesn’t it isn’t mentioned in prophecy. Most often, the images of a mountain or a kingdom are used to describe the coming church. Our English word “church” comes from the German word kirche. Originally, it meant all the faithful, but when all those thought faithful were Catholic. With Luther, the word took a new use. It was used to distinguish between the two bodies, the Catholic kirche or the Lutheran or Reformed kirche. Reformed would take another use later to refer to any reformation not Luther’s, and in time became the name for what we today call Calvinism.

It was not long before kirche came to refer to the places of assembly, both Catholic and Lutheran. This is similar to our English phrase “go to church.” I know some members of the church who lose their minds if they hear someone today say that (since the church is the people and not a building). In the Bible, people go into and come out of the synagogue in Antioch (Acts 13:14,42), which refers to a building. In Corinth, Justus lived next door to the synagogue (Acts 18:7), which obviously is a building. Seeing that the same Greek word for a Jewish synagogue is also used for assembly in the Christian sense, it stands to reason that if there is place that is primarily used as a meeting place for Christians, it could also be called church in the same way synagogue is used for the Jews, even though the word in the Greek merely means “assembly.” We don’t see the word church referring to a building in the New Testament because they met in places primarily used for other functions. Christians met in houses, catacombs, school houses, down by the river, and even in the Jerusalem Temple. In the end, to get upset because someone says, “go to church,” shows an ignorance of language and ultimately is majoring in minors.

The Greek word for the church is ekklesia, which means “the called out.” It refers to any group of people set apart for a particular call or purpose. Ours is to make known the wisdom of God in the world (Ephesians 3:8). The Greek word is not an inherently holy word. It is simply the word God in His wisdom chose to describe His saved people. By inspiration, the unholy mob in Ephesus is also called an ekklesia and they were trying to stop the work of the true church. The people of God are called the church, as well as the body, kingdom, and household of God. Our English word “church” is as much of an accommodation and social construct as any other English word.

Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Resurrection of Jesus


Resurrection from the dead is itself materially impossible. It could only occur as a miracle (First Corinthians 6:14). Jesus not only died, but was buried. The tomb adds circumstances that make it more impossible. The tomb was guarded by Romans soldiers. Also, the cover stone was mortared shut (Matthew 27:64-66). When the women arrived on the following first day of the week morning, the soldiers were gone and the stone was moved (Matthew 28:1-4). The stone was moved by the angel of the Lord. The Bible says it was rolled back by the angel. That is not because Jesus could not have moved the stone. This allowed the women and later the apostles to see inside, even go inside. It also disrupted the Roman soldiers and scared them away. Because of this, all can see that it was not only an opened tomb, but also an empty tomb. It wasn’t opened to let Jesus out, but to let us in.

If Jesus was not raised, then what happened to His body remains a mystery. Some say the disciples stole the body. Keep in mind they were skeptical of the women’s claims. Also, this was during the time between Passover and Pentecost when Jerusalem is overcrowded with people from all over the world. The disciples had no place to hide a rotting corpse will so many people there. Some say the Romans stole his body. This is absurd because their lives were put to risk by the resurrection. Others say the Pharisees stole his body. If that were so, all they had to do on Pentecost or any time after would be to produce the dead body and that would have shut up the apostles once and for all and Christianity would have died.

My favorite of all the crackpot false options is that Jesus never really died on the cross, He merely passed out. Later He revived and walked away. This is called the Swoon Theory. Imagine Jesus survived a Roman scourging and crucifixion, also had a spear shoved in His side and into His heart. Here he passes out and is thought to be dead. He is wrapped in about a hundred pounds of linen and spices and placed inside a tomb with a cover stone that weighs about a ton and it is cemented airtight to the opening. Jesus waked from this, moves the stone, and wanders off never to be seen. Believe it if you can, but the best evidence is in support of the Bible claim that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Paul writes that the death, burial, and resurrection is the basis for the gospel and His raised body was witnessed by many (First Corinthians 15:1-8).

  • Peter
  • The Twelve
  • Over Five-Hundred
  • James
  • The Apostles
  • Paul

The twelve is a reference to the apostles, which means Jesus appeared to them twice that Paul has in mind. He uses different references to distinguish the two occasions of meeting. Also, it seems James is the brother of our Lord and not the apostle and brother of John.

There are vital consequences to the Resurrection of Jesus worth evaluating. First and foremost, we have forgiveness of sins because of the Resurrection (Romans 5:10). Also, it proves that Jesus is indeed the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Because of the forgiveness of sins, we can look forward to going to Heaven, which is our hope. And because Jesus lives, our hope is a lively hope (First Peter 1:3). And having been raise from the dead, Jesus wears this indelible mark that serves as the Father’s stamp of approval, particularly to show He is qualified to Judge all of mankind at the end of time (Acts 17:31).

Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Role of the Holy Spirit


The sufficiency of the Scriptures proves there is no semi-Calvinistic direct help by the Holy Spirit to either save us or enable us to live the Christian life. When I speak of sufficiency, I mean it is sufficient informationally and it is sufficient in the manner that it communicates. Keep in mind that as a divine person, the Holy Spirit is a parsimonious being. This means He will not directly operate unless there is an absolute need for Him to do so.

Direct & Indirect

The Holy Spirit did indeed operate directly in the times of miracles. Men unaided could not do the things they did without this supernatural help. The Holy Spirit directly operated on the first century apostles and prophets to reveal and confirm the truth. They revealed the truth through the gift of inspiration and confirmed this by the signs, wonders, and miracles that they did.

Since all direct operations of the Spirit had to do with the word of God, either in revealing it or confirming it, it stands to reason that all latent works of the Spirit would be through this same word. Some people read in the Bible about the Spirit does this or that, and they assume it’s by an immediate and direct act. They do not take into account figurative language and mediated action. For example, Paul writes about being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14), but this is not the Holy Spirit directly leading anyone about. He leads through the word He inspired, as even the context of that passage proves (Romans 8:1-2).

Power Of Scripture

Paul tells Timothy that, “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” (Second Timothy 3:16). What he has to say is regarding “all Scripture,” as opposed to the “holy Scriptures” that refer to the Old Testament seen prior (v.15). Thus, all Scripture, including the New Testament, is inspired by God. The word for “inspired” means God breathed, as if God actually said the words that are written.

Because all Scripture is inspired, all Scripture is profitable. The ultimate ends of this is that Christians may have everything informationally they need to serve and follow God. You do not need the word of God plus other information from the Holy Spirit. It then follows undeniably that the direct operation of the Holy Spirit is not necessary to know the will of God, and since it is unnecessary, it does not happen.

To the Ephesian church, Paul says that when we read what he was given by revelation, we will understand what he has written by inspiration (Ephesians 3:3-4). The Bible is understandable. To say otherwise contradicts the propositional nature of Scripture. The fact that so many people misunderstand it does not mean it cannot be understood. It actually proves how willful and stubborn people are when they approach the Bible. Peter warns of Scripture twisters (Second Peter 2:1-2). They twist the easy stuff as well as the hard verses.

Propositional Nature Of Scripture

There are hard passages and difficult concepts in the Bible. One would expect that in a book that comes from the mind of God. Simply put, what God has revealed to us, He expects us to understand. Anyone who is willing to approach the Scriptures like a blank slate can understand the Bible just by honestly reading it (Acts 17:11; James 1:21). Seeing this is so, no one needs any direct aid from the Spirit in order to understand what the Bible says.

Consider how ridiculous it is to claim one needs the Spirit to understand and interpret the Bible. Imagine someone opening their Bible and they read “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” That person says to themselves, I don’t get it, and then the Holy Spirit comes down and whispers in their ear, “It means that if someone were to believe and then be baptized, then that person will be saved.” And only following this does the reader say, Now I get it! This is foolishness. Since no one needs any direct operation of the Spirit to understand the Bible, no such direct operation occurs.

The Bible is good enough to convict someone (John 16:8). The Scriptures are sufficient to convert a sinner (Psalm 19:7). And the word of God is all you need to be sanctified (John 17:17). We don’t need the Bible plus anything else, much less any direct act of the Spirit. Since we don’t need it, we don’t’ get it. People who insist they have this unScriptural advantage are looking for justification to believe what they want to believe, and not what God intended. This is the acme of foolishness (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 16:25).

Walk According To The Spirit

The work of the Spirit through the word He inspired is made clear in the first few verses of Romans 8, but are willfully misunderstood by poor study that begins with a conclusion and then seeks verification on behalf of the pneumafile. Paul uses a writing style common to his epistles where he explains something fully and refers to it in part later and it is expected to be understood in its fullest sense. He begins by stating that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (v.1a). Those uncondemned are so because they “do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (v.1b).

The explanation for this is “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (v.2). The use of the Holy Spirit in the first verse and the several that follow are given a context here that cannot be escaped. These passages refer to the work of inspiration. There is a law, not the law of Moses (mentioned in contrast in verse 3), but a New Testament gospel law (Romans 3:27; First Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). This law inspired by the Holy Spirit provides eternal life for those who are in Christ. So to walk after the Spirit is to live in accordance with the law of the Spirit.

Christians are in the Spirit just as much as the Spirit is in us (v.9). This is something never really explained by the advocates of a literal and personal indwelling. This is followed by a reference to Christ being in us, which is something no one holds to be literal. Christ dwells in us to the degree that we have faith, which still comes from the word of God (Ephesians 3:17; Romans 10:17). Christ dwells in us through His word, as does the Spirit. Because the word of God directs our life, we are promised a bright future resurrection, which is another way of saying there is no condemnation.

We are led by the Spirit to put to death the lifestyle of the flesh (v.13-14). This again is the law of the Spirit that does this. The Spirit by the law of the Spirit bears joined testimony alongside our own spirit that we are the children of God. In other words, the Holy Spirit describes a faithful person and our own conscience declares we are faithful to the system and therefore obedient.

When one lives in accordance to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, that person is in a state of non-condemnation. This submission to the law of the Spirit, the New Testament gospel system, is how one dwells in the Spirit and the Spirit dwells in that one. It is how one is led by the Spirit and allows one to offer their life as testimony that agrees with the testimony of the Spirit regarding adoption. All of this feeds into the temperament of being spiritually minded (v.6).

This article is a select reading from my book, Biblical Teachings Regarding The Holy Spirit. It is available on Amazon and Kindle. To order, click here.


Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Review of Pentecostalism: Part IV – The Duration of Miracles


The miracles of the New Testament were never intended to endure unendingly. Their era is limited, and by the role and purpose of miracles. If God provided early saints with the capacity to perform the supernatural in order to confirm the preaching of the gospel while the epistles and narratives were being composed, then the miracles would have fully served their purpose when the New Testament was completely written. As a parsimonious being, God would not allow the confirming miracles to endure beyond the time when they would be needed. In the first century, they relied upon the miracles to corroborate their message. Now we can use the Bible to substantiate itself. Since the completed New Testament can validate itself as from God, we have no need for miracles, so God has taken them away.

That Which Is Perfect

Of course, Scripture confirms this. The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is known as the “love chapter.” But it is set in the three-chapter context of the proper use of miracles. Paul’s point is that love is more important than any supernatural capacity. After detailing the high value of love, Paul says three things will disappear: prophecies, tongues, and knowledge (v.8). Since knowledge is joined to prophecies and tongues, it is clearly miraculous knowledge, such as inspiration.

Following this, Paul says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part” (v.9). The phrase “in part” does not mean partially, as if they know and prophesy the whole gospel message piecemeal. It’s closer to our notion of temporary, or put into the context, we know and prophesy by a temporary means, which is miraculously. It cannot be any clearer that miracles were always designed to be temporary, which means they were intended to cease.

In the next verse, Paul says, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (v.10). The Pentecostalists insist this refers to the Second Coming of Jesus, but note that this says that which, not He who is perfect. This is borne out in the original language where “that which is perfect” is in the neuter gender. Contextually, “that which is perfect” is the completed revelation of the gospel.

Paul ties the subject of the miraculous with the context of love with the last verse in the chapter: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love” (v.13). Even after that which is perfect is taken away, faith, hope, and love will still exist. Love is the greatest because it is the only one of the three which is eternal. After Jesus comes, faith shall become sight and hope will be reality, but love will continue in Heaven. If the miracles are to be removed with the Second Coming, then we have an absurdity within this verse. Faith and hope will not continue after Jesus returns, but they will remain after that which is in part shall be done away. Notice how the miracles cannot be taken away with the end of time and the beginning of eternity, where faith and hope will continue, and at the same time end.

The Unity Of The Faith

Another passage to consider is taken from the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to Ephesus: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (v.11). The apostles and prophets can only exist in the time of the miraculous, so the reference to evangelists, pastors, and teachers should also be assumed to be supernaturally-aided roles. We have evangelists, pastors (elders in the local congregations), and teachers today, but they are aided by God indirectly through the word of God.

The purpose of this arrangement is so that saints can be equipped to perform the work of ministry, and this work is for the intent that the church may be edified (v.12). These apostles and prophets will do their supernatural work “till we all come to the unity of the faith” (v.13). This does not mean we will have miracles until we all believe the same thing, for that already existed within the Ephesian congregation (Ephesians 4:1-3). They are encouraged to keep their unity, which means they already possessed it.

Many times, “the faith” is a phrase Paul uses to describe the New Testament message of the gospel. The unity of the faith is the completely revealed New Testament in a single unified form. This is not a reference to a single printed New Testament, which would come later. The unity of the faith is the New Testament Scriptures when they are completely written.

Time Of Apostles

If there are miracles today, then there are apostles today. If it is impossible for there to be apostles in our time, then it is also impossible for miracles to exist in our time. Apostles were called out particularly by Jesus for the purpose of leading in world evangelism. There were two qualifications for an apostle. These are listed by Peter when a replacement for Judas was being indicated. Those qualifications are the person had to be a disciple of Jesus for the three years He ministered beginning with His baptism and they must be an eyewitness to His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).

Of all the disciples, only two men were qualified. Matthias was selected and Justus was not. Notice that a man qualified to be an apostle never was appointed by Christ. Paul was also an apostle. He met the qualifications, but in reverse order. He witnessed the raised body of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). After this, he was with the Lord for three years in the Arabian wilderness where he was taught all that the other apostles were taught (Galatians 1:12,15-18).

Not only did Paul witness the Resurrection of Jesus, by inspiration he notes that he was the last in human history to see this until He returns (First Corinthians 15:8). He was the last appointed by Jesus and the last possible one who even could be qualified. Of all the disciples of Christ, only fifteen men were ever qualified to be apostles, the original twelve, Matthias, Justus, and Paul. Only fourteen were ever appointed.

Plainly, no one alive now fits the bill. And as there are no apostles today, there are no miracles today. In fact, the only way a non-apostle could perform miracles was if an apostle laid hands on them to confer this ability. Philip the evangelist performs miracles and preaches in Samaria (Acts 8:5-7). But those who believed and were baptized were not given the Spirit until Peter and John came down from Jerusalem (Acts 8:14-17). If Philip could have transmitted this ability, he would have, but it took the apostles to bring this about.

This does not mean that every time hands are laid on someone that it is passing on the miracles. That gesture was a common idiom in the Jewish world. The deacons selected for the Jerusalem church had the apostles’s hands laid on them (Acts 6:6), but they were already filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:5). The laying on of hands had nothing to do with the miraculous, but to grant their deaconship.

Timothy had the gift of prophecy in him by the laying on of Paul’s hands (Second Timothy 1:6). There is a reference to the gift of prophecy and the laying on the hands of the elders in the first letter (First Timothy 4:14). There is a vital difference in the two passages. The first text says his gift was “through” the elders’s hands, and the second say it was “by” Paul’s hands. Timothy received the gift of prophecy by the laying on of Paul’s hands. Before this, the elders laid hands on him and prophesied that he would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was a supernatural ability Paul gave to Timothy in accordance to the Ephesian reference to what was appointed Christ until we come to the unity of the faith.

Pentecostal Response

As you may guess, the Pentecostals insist the unity of the faith has to do with the Second Coming of Jesus, although they strain greatly to even make anything close to a convincing argument. Regardless of what this means, it clearly does not mean that. It’s just the answer they must give to protect their doctrine. But the context of the chapter will not allow this interpretation.

First, Paul says that the church may use this unity of the faith to effectively handle false teachers (v.14). If we will not reach the unity of the faith until Jesus comes, then we will have to deal with false teachers in Heaven. This is absurd, so the unity of the faith must mean something else.

Second, the church may also use this unity of the faith to mutually encourage one another and grow. There will be no need for edification and growth in Heaven. In contrast to the Pentecostal line, the clear truth serves to purposes mentioned in the context. We who live after the times of miracles can use the Bible inspired by God to protect ourselves from false teachers and to mutually edify each other and grow as a spiritual body.

The New Testament teaches plainly that the miracles were limited to the first century. Scripture makes that plain, plus it fits the purpose of miracles. It may help to think of the miracles as scaffolding around a building during its time of construction. The scaffolding is put in place to aid the builders while any structure is being built. But once it is done, the scaffolding is taken away. The miracles were the scaffolding of Scripture – they were removed when they were no longer necessary, but the word of God will last forever.

This article is a select reading from my book, Biblical Teachings Regarding The Holy Spirit. It is available on Amazon and Kindle. To order, click here.


Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Review of Pentecostalism: Part III – The Role of Miracles


As I mentioned previously, the purpose of the miracles was the confirm the truth. After Jesus gives a Commission of preaching repentance and baptism throughout the world, He tells the apostles they will do miracles. It concludes with Mark’s recording, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20).

Confirmation In John

There were false Messiahs working in the first century, Jesus warns His disciples about them (Matthew 24:4). The Jewish teacher Gamaliel mentions the failed missions of a few Messianic pretenders in the recent Jewish past (Acts 5:35-37). Jesus Christ and His disciples needed something to make them stand out, to corroborate their message. The first century miracles fit the bill perfectly according to God’s wisdom.

The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all written close together, most likely in the 60s AD. John’s record comes thirty years later. His emphasis is on the Deity of Jesus. He makes his case by use of the corroborating miracles of Jesus. After changing the water to unfermented wine at the wedding feast at Cana, John notes, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). The Pharisee Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night and confesses that the other Pharisees admit that He must be from God because “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).

A nobleman tells Jesus that his son is sick in Capernaum. Jesus tells him that his son is already healed. He returns and on the way meets one of his servants coming to meet him, and tells him his son has recovered. When he learns that this took place the same time he spoke to Jesus, he believed in Him, and consequently, so did his household (John 4:53). When Jesus and His disciples happen upon a man born blind, they ask if he or his parents had sinned. Jesus replies, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). When Lazarus died, Jesus said of this, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). The greatest miracle ever is the Resurrection of Jesus. It, in fact, proves that He is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). At the close of John’s record, he notes, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

Confirmation In The Synoptics

The three synoptic gospel also demonstrate that Jesus’s miracles confirmed the truth. When John the Baptist was arrested, his disciples ask Him if He is the Messiah. Jesus does not explicitly state the word Yes, but He does answer in the affirmative. He tells them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). A paralytic man is lowered through a hole dug in the roof of a crowded house in order to see Jesus. In response to this display of faith, Jesus says his sins are forgiven. The witnesses grumble because only God can forgive. To prove that He has such spiritual power, He demonstrates His authority over the physical by healing him, which astonishes the assembly (Mark 2:9-12). Early in His ministry, Jesus is pressed by the people and sets out into the Galilean Sea and addresses the people. Jesus tells Simon, the boat’s owner, to set out into the deep waters and drop his nets. Simon is at first frustrated because he had fished unsuccessfully all night, but at His word, he agreed. They caught so many fish the nets were breaking. This leads to the faith of Simon, who elsewhere in the Bible is known as the apostle Peter (Luke 5:4-9).

Confirmation In Acts

As it was with Jesus, so too was it with His apostles. The Book of Acts records their ministries, which has many examples of miracles done to confirm the preaching of the truth. Peter and John heal a lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. The occasion became such a spectacle that Peter preached Christ at that moment. They were arrested by the Sanhedrin, and later the rest of the apostles, and told not to preach the name of Christ any more, but the apostles refused. The Sanhedrin wanted to punish them, but decided not to because they feared the people, and the apostles glorified God because of what had been done (Acts 4:21). The gospel is taken to Samaria by Philip the evangelist. He preaches and heals the sick. As a result, “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 8:6). Peter passes through Lydda where a lame man laid paralyzed for eight years, named Aeneas. Peter heals him, and consequently, “all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35).

Soon after this, Peter travels to nearby Joppa. There a well-beloved saint named Tabitha had recently passed away. Peter raises her from the dead. Because of this marvelous deed, “it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (Acts 9:42). Later Paul and Barnabas are on the island of Paphos and they preach to the Roman proconsul, a man named Sergius-Paulus. But an evil sorcerer named Elymas tried to talk the proconsul out of obeying the gospel. Paul chides him for being contrary to righteousness and an enemy to the truth, and then strikes him blind. The response of Sergius-Paulus was, “the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). Notice that the miracle did not cause wonder at the divine sign, but for the word of God. Later Paul and Barnabas travel to Iconium. Luke records how, “they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).

A sum of the work of Paul as well as the other apostles can be read in the end of the book of Romans, at it particularly ties the confirming work of the miracles with the effectiveness of preaching: “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient—in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18-19). The great salvation of the New Testament message “was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:1-4). So when we read in the Bible of the direct operation of the Spirit, it is always revealing and confirming the truth.

This article is a select reading from my book, Biblical Teachings Regarding The Holy Spirit. It is available on Amazon and Kindle. To order, click here.

Posted in apologetics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment