Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reasons Why Water Baptism Is Important And Relevant For Christians Today

Reasons Why Water Baptism Is Important And Relevant For Christians Today

The main reason a person would reject baptism as necessary for Christians today is a mid to late Acts dispensationalism that says the body of Christ did not start until sometime late in the book of Acts. That argument relegates baptism to a supposed transitional time for Israel immediately after the ascension until Paul could come with the full teaching of the body mystery. So some of my points below are in reference to that teaching.

Reasons why water baptism is important and relevant for Christians today.

  1. In His last great commission before leaving the earth, Jesus specifically commanded it. Matthew 28:19. This really should end the argument right here.
  2. There is not a single verse that says water baptism was for a transitional period and is not required for Christians today. If the first point didn’t end the argument, this one really should. However, 1 Corinthians 1:17 is severely misused by some to prove water baptism is not essential for today, but the context is overlooked. I repeat: there is not a single verse in the New Testament that clearly states water baptism was for a transitional time and is no longer relevant for today.
  3. Paul told us to consent to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus Christ - 1 Timothy 6:3 (I know the context is not water baptism, but the point is made that the teaching for the church does not come from Paul alone and that Paul himself told us to obey the words of the Lord Jesus). So it doesn’t work to bring up the argument that Paul doesn’t repeat teaching on water baptism like he did the Lord’s Supper.
  4. Jesus is the head (Eph. 1:22; Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18) and cornerstone (Eph. 2:20) of the church, not Paul. So I would fully expect the teaching on salvation (John 3) and the one body (John 17:21) to be present in Jesus doctrine, which it is. Therefore, Jesus commandment to baptize in Matthew 28:19 is just as essential. This also means that teaching does not have to be present in Paul’s writings for it to be true for the church.
  5. Jesus and the apostles together form the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) and they were all baptized. So was Paul. In fact, everybody in the early church was baptized in water. We follow their example (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus wasn’t baptized for remission of sins, but to reveal Himself to Israel (John 1:31). Is the disciple above his master (Matt. 10:24)? We should follow Christ’s example and Paul’s example and the example of every apostle.
  6. Just like my Dad has always said that a straightforward reading of Genesis 1 indicates 7 literal 24 hour days, so a straightforward reading of the New Testament indicates that Christians baptize the converts.
  7. History proves this out as the vast majority of those who have correctly believed the gospel and the Bible as the infallible, inspired word of God have nearly all preached water baptism as the first step of discipleship and obedience after salvation. It is a small minority indeed who say that water baptism is not necessary for today. This should not be a major point in the argument, but it does prove that a straightforward reading of the Scriptures indicates that baptizing converts in water is something that Christ expects us to do.
  8. Water baptism is not a sign, unlike tongues and handling of snakes in Mark 16:17-18. Those are said to be signs that “follow them that believe”. Water baptism is never spoken of as a sign. A sign is a miraculous event that bears witness to the work of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues was one such sign (not a commanded ordinance), but water baptism is NEVER called a sign. Water baptism is not a miraculous event that the Holy Spirit performs after salvation, like speaking in tongues in the book of Acts. Instead, it is a step of obedience to the last great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19.
  9. Did I mention there is not a single verse that clearly states water baptism is not for today? Paul spent the entire book of Galatians explaining that circumcision is not required for Christians. He made no such statement about water baptism.
  10. In Acts 15:23-29 when the apostles (and Paul was present) sent a letter to the Gentile believers, why did they not explain that water baptism was not necessary? Had the full revelation not been revealed to Paul yet? Was this still a transitional time? Why was the Philippian jailer baptized as late as Acts 16? The point is that doing away with water baptism severely complicates the understanding of the early New Testament church.
  11. And did I mention that Jesus Himself clearly commanded water baptism?
  12. To do away with water baptism, you have to invent a whole system of belief that connects a lot of fuzzy dots, pull out a couple tough verses (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16) to prove that water baptism was essential during a transitory time (which transitional time is not clearly stated in Scripture), disregard Jesus own clear commandment, say the body of Christ starts later in Acts when Acts 1:5 makes it clear the one body (by baptism of the Holy Ghost) is in existence at Pentecost, and in general complicate the matter (like trying to explain away James 2:24 as transitional).

Conclusion: It greatly complicates Scripture to explain away water baptism. Instead, we should simply follow the commandment and example of the Lord Jesus Christ and baptize believers in water as an outward picture of salvation (which also includes a picture of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection). Baptizing in water does not mean I have all the answers to all the tricky verses of Scripture, but it makes a whole lot more sense and it does mean I am following the commandment and example of Christ as the first step of discipleship after faith in Christ.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What did Paul mean by "For Christ sent me not to baptize"?

1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel”

Some use this verse to say that baptism is not a requirement for the church today. Their biggest mistake is to quote the verse out of context:


1 Corinthians 1:
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Points to consider:

  1. If Christ did not send Paul to baptize, did he sin in baptizing some as he mentioned in verses 14-16?
  2. If Christ did not send Paul to baptize and it is not essential for the church age, why did he baptize those? And why were Corinthians saved and baptized as late as Acts 18:8 under Paul’s ministry if Christ did not send him to baptize?
  3. Given that Paul did at least baptize some, including Gentiles, doesn’t it make sense that the context of verse 17 is verses 11-15 where contention was causing people to say “I am of Paul”? And doesn’t it make sense that the reason Paul did not usually baptize is as verse 15 says “Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name”?
  4. Given this context of Paul desiring to avoid contention by not baptizing, wouldn’t it make sense and match what Peter did with the first major conversion of Gentiles in Acts 10 where in verse 48 it says “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”? Doesn’t it make sense that while Paul baptized very few and focused on preaching the gospel, that Gentile believers were still baptized by others, as in Acts 18:8?
  5. Paul said “For Christ sent me not to baptize”, but did he ever discourage baptism or clearly command that water baptism should stop? Why did Paul write a whole book to the Galatians explaining to them how circumcision is not necessary for salvation, but he spend zero time explaining and commanding for water baptism to stop?


If this is one of the best verses used to prove that baptism is not necessary in the church age, it sure is not a good one. The context makes it clear that Paul is saying he doesn’t baptize because he doesn’t want people to brag they were baptized by Paul. Paul focuses on preaching the gospel and rarely baptizes personally so he can discourage those who say “I am of Paul”. That is clearly the context, and to drag verse 17 out of that context is to do a disservice to the text.

In Acts 10:48 and Acts 18:8, Gentiles are clearly baptized after salvation and after Paul has been commissioned by Jesus Christ. The practice to baptize in water is not discouraged or clearly taught against in any New Testament book. Paul is saying that his main commission from the Lord is to preach the Gospel. The fact that Paul does not give many statements on water baptism or that he even says “Christ sent me not to baptize” does not prove that it is not essential.

My questions above would need to be thoroughly and solidly answered if 1 Corinthians 1:17 is to be used as a proof text for the position that water baptism is not essential for today. And if this verse is not a good one to use for such a position, then there are very few other verses to lean on for such a dogmatic belief and the entire structure starts to crumble.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Gospel: A Present Spiritual Reality In The Life Of Every Believer

The Gospel: A Present Spiritual Reality In The Life Of Every Believer

The Bible says that a believer is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), “buried with him” (Romans 6:4), “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2), but “alive unto God” (Romans 6:11) and “risen with him” (Colossians 2:12), as well as seated “together in heavenly places with Christ” (Ephesians 2:6). All of those phrases are spoken of in context in the present tense as though I am crucified, buried, dead, raised from the dead, and seated in heaven all at the same time, right now. To borrow a question from Nicodemus in John 3:9 -- how can these things be? Jesus convicting rebuke in verse 10 is “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” How long have I been saved and I don’t understand what it means to be crucified, buried, dead, risen, and seated in heaven with Christ?

These phrases represent more than just cute sayings or visual imagery for the Christian. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, my standing is in the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1), that Christ was crucified for my sins, died and buried, rose again the third day, and ascended up to heaven where he “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). It is more than just an outward identification, as water baptism. It is more than just the forgiveness of sins and possession of eternal life. The truth of my standing in Christ runs deeper than the deepest sea and higher than the highest star. I am, right now, crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, dead with Christ, risen with Christ, and seated with Christ all at the same time. The gospel is a spiritual reality in the life of every believer. My flaw is that I fail to believe the gospel as literally as God meant for me to know and believe it (trace the words like know, believe, and reckon through Romans 6, 7, and 8).

How can these things be?

Jesus died 2,000 years ago on the other side of the planet. He is also no longer dead. Not only did He rise from the dead, but he ascended back up to heaven. So how could I, a Christian in the 21st century, possibly be a partaker (word used on purpose) of the gospel of Christ? How could I be crucified with Christ when it happened 2,000 years ago in another country, especially seeing he is no longer dead!? Get ready for some doctrine ...

When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, I received the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit joined unto my spirit and we became “one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17), much like a marriage (Rom. 7:1-4). This same Spirit circumcised me (Col. 2:11) so that I (my soul) was no longer “in the flesh” or joined to it (Rom. 8:9; Rom 7:5), although I (my soul) am still geographically trapped inside this “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), much like an ice cube can be unstuck from an ice tray while still seated inside it. But this spiritual circumcision, which is directly related to the new birth (John 3:6), is like I actually died (put off the body - Col. 2:11; death is a separating of the soul from the body - Gen. 35:18) and had my spirit regenerated/quickened (Col. 2:13) so that I was no longer spiritually dead and separated from God (Rom. 8:7). So before I was saved, I was dead to God but connected to the flesh. Now that I’m saved, I’m separated from the flesh and connected to God by the Spirit. I am (that is, the new me) a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), born of the Holy Spirit by the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23), with a new mind (Eph. 4:24) that strives against the mind of the flesh, as though I had multiple personality disorder (Rom. 7:5-25)! The Holy Spirit inside of me is like new wine in old bottles (Matt. 9:17). Having not yet reached perfection (Phil. 3:12) or the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23), my present, imperfect state is an unstable, double-minded condition (James 1:8) where my carnal flesh continually strives against my Holy Spirit indwelt and regenerated spirit (again, see Romans 7). This double-mindedness (Rom. 7:25) emphasizes the importance for a Christian to continually submit to the mind of Christ. In spite of this imperfect state, I spiritually possess, by the Holy Spirit and the gospel, the life of Christ. As I grow in the knowledge of what Christ has given me by His Spirit, I yield “unto God, as those that are alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13). My increased faith and understanding of what Christ has done for me produces obedience.

(If you don’t understand that last paragraph, go back and study the passages. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit and the nature of body, soul, and spirit is vital to understanding salvation more completely. You need to really know what the Holy Spirit has done inside of you.)

The Holy Spirit is eternal, outside of time, and had (or perhaps “has” is a better word) a significant role in the offering of Jesus on the cross as an offering for my sin (Heb. 9:6-28). The Holy Spirit inside of me right now is not a 2,000 year older version of the Holy Spirit by which Christ offered himself to God. It is the same Spirit, transcendent of time and space (Eph. 4:6). It is by this Holy Spirit that we have been made “partakers of Christ” (Heb. 3:14), “partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Heb. 6:4), and “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). To partake is to participate, to take part, or to have a share in something. It is like I have a direct connection to Christ on the cross, a direct connection to Christ in the grave, a direct connection to the resurrected Christ, and a direct connection to Christ seated in heaven. How could we comprehend cell phone and internet technology, radio waves and television, but not understand our joining unto Christ? The significant role of the Holy Spirit in salvation and joining us to Christ is exactly why Jesus had to go away so that the Comforter could come (John 14:16).

But how can these things be?

Christ died and rose from the dead 2,000 years ago. That was the past. Aren’t I reading into this just a little too literally? How could I right now be joined unto His death 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem? The problem is we are not reading the Bible literally enough. Did you notice that Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8), as though His death was already a reality in eternity past? Or did you notice that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, He was still pictured as “a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Remember, the Holy Spirit is eternal, transcendent of time and space, above and outside our own physical reality. To God, one day is the same as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). This is because God is outside of time and, in fact, created time “in the beginning”. By the eternal Spirit, Christ has always and will always be the Lamb slain for my sins. He stepped out of eternity and into time to die for my sins.  But that event 2,000 years ago was offered “through the eternal Spirit”, Who is outside of time. Think of it from God’s perspective like every second of history is happening all at the same time. When I got saved, I was joined unto that same eternal Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), which means I am also joined unto both His death and life at the same time. Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension are a continual, present reality for me on a spiritual level.

What this means for me is that when I received the Holy Spirit, Christ’s life became my life (Col. 3:3-4). His righteousness is my righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). His crucifixion is my crucifixion (Gal. 6:14). His death is my death (2 Tim. 2:11). His resurrection is my resurrection (Rom. 8:11). Because he is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:2) and I have His Spirit, then I am also seated in heaven (Eph. 2:6). Christ’s resurrection and ascension are not yet physical realities for me, although they will be one day (1 Thess 4:14-18), but they are indeed spiritual realities for me, right now. I am most obedient as a Christian when I live in this knowledge that I possess Christ, His righteousness, death, and resurrection (Rom. 6:11).

Living the eternal in the daily

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just something we believe and hold onto, but a spiritual reality we live in and are joined unto. My life is not just identified with Christ, HE IS MY LIFE (Col. 3:3-4). Since He died and I am joined unto Him, I can “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) to sin. Since He was “obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8), I can obey by the same power. Since He conquered sin, death, and the grave and my spirit is joined unto His eternal Spirit, I am assured the victory over sin and death, not just in the future, but also victory over sin in my daily life (1 Cor. 15:53-58). When Paul talks about the “new man, which is renewed in knowledge” in Col. 3:10, he is telling us to remind ourselves of the present reality that we are dead and risen with Christ (see context of Colossians 3). Although my carnal mind in the flesh often hides this fact, I am living Christ’s resurrected life right now! (new wine in old bottles!) I have the not yet, now, in Christ.

Every day I need to preach the gospel to myself. Every day I need to remember that I am joined unto Christ, joined unto His crucifixion, joined unto His death, joined unto His resurrection, and joined unto His ascension all at the same time by the Holy Spirit who is outside of time. God, through the eternal Spirit, has given me the life of Christ right now and forevermore. I live the eternal in the daily. How true are these things? So true that when “Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). When He appears in glory, so do we!

The gospel is not just a belief system or an identifying mark, but a present spiritual reality in the life of every believer. You cannot believe these things literally enough. I look forward to the day the gospel is complete in me, when I put off the body of sin and see Christ face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). Until then, I daily live in the gospel of Christ and “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Monday, July 15, 2013

He Cannot Sin

He Cannot Sin. What on earth is 1John 3:9 talking about?

1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

I recently listened to a message where the speaker said that 1 John 3:9 is about habitual sin and an exhortation to not sin. He completely missed the point of the verse. So do a number of other Christians who think the verse is saying that a Christian will never commit habitual sin.

1 John 3:9 is NOT a direct exhortation to stay away from sin (although 1 John was written for that purpose -- see 1 John 2:1), which is a good thing to do but it is not what the verse actually says. It specifically says "he cannot sin", which seems directly contradictory to 1 John 1:8 that says we are lying if we say we have no sin. The verse does not say "don't sin", it says "he cannot sin". So how does a Christian understand the difference between 1 John 1:8 that says I sin and 1 John 3:9 that says I cannot sin?

The answer is clear in the first part of the verse "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin". It is my SPIRIT that is born of God (John 3:6), not my flesh. Get that. Very important to understanding the passage. My flesh is where I sin (Rom. 6:6, "body of sin"; Rom. 7:17-18,23) but my new man CANNOT sin because it is born by incorruptible seed - the word of God, 1 Peter 1:23. A Christian is 2 people - a new man trapped in an old man's body, but the "new creature" is regenerated/quickened by the Holy Spirit and cannot sin. The new man (Eph. 4:24), new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), spiritual mind (Romans 7-8), and living in the spirit (Romans 8:9) are all different terms and phrases describing the same thing: my spirit that is born again (John 3), regenerated (Titus 3:5), and quickened (Eph. 2:1-6; Col. 2:13) by the Holy Spirit of God. All of this is possible because I am in Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), who died for my sins, condemned sins in His flesh (Rom. 8:3), and conquered death by rising from the dead. I am no longer guilty or under condemnation of the law. But while trapped in this body of sin and death, I can live the resurrected life of Jesus Christ right now (Gal. 2:20) and I don’t need to wait for “the redemption of our body” which is still future (Rom. 8:23 - the rapture, see 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4). I have the not yet, now, in Christ.

1 John 3:6 says "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not". Although spiritually I am always in Christ and that cannot change (Eph. 1:4; Col. 2:7), 1 John 3:6 is a practical command and application that I must abide in Christ to stay away from sin (see John 15 for a similar passage). But the practical command in verse 6 should not take away from the doctrinal truth of verse 9 that my new man is born of God and cannot sin.

1 John 3:9 seems contradictory to a verse like 1 John 1:8, but it is because I'm a new man that cannot sin temporarily trapped in an old man's “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6). The thing is that the new man has been spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11) and is not "in the flesh" (Rom 8:9). This separation between my flesh (old man) and my spirit (new man) is where the victory comes from when I yield unto the righteousness of God in my spirit. See Romans 6:12-18 on the yielding, which describes 2 kingdoms warring inside of me wanting to reign, but Christ has already given me the victory.

1 John 3:9 explains WHY I can obey 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not”, because I have a new nature that CANNOT sin created by God to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10). The key then is to “yield” to (Rom. 6) and “abide” in (1 John 3:6) Christ who not only intercedes on high (1 John 2:1) but also lives within me (Col. 1:27).

Christian, remind yourself every day that Christ has given you a new nature in Him that cannot sin.

Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

UPDATE 7/16/13

Please note that Christians will bring up 2 arguments against my teaching: (1) the wording in other versions, and (2) the tense of the Greek verb. I'm not an expert in #2. However, please reference this article -- http://www.faithalone.org/magazine/y1990/90march2.html -- which gives a decent summary of those 2 issues and teaches the verse similar to what I have done. (I don't know anything else about that other website or even if the Greek explanation is good, but include the link for added benefit and reference.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses?

Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses?

Question: Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses? Or is nature just on autopilot since Creation? I have a hard time believing there is a middle ground. If all natural disasters are caused by Him, what about all weather patterns (each drop of rain, each period of drought, every temperature level in every location which indirectly affects our ecosystem indefinitely)? This question hinges significantly on the sovereignty of God issue - God can, of course, cause a tornado in Oklahoma that kills people, but does He? Everyone wants to say that God would never purposefully send a person to Hell, but in those scenarios He does, because those people could accept Him at some point in the future.

I will answer this question by simply listing some verses in an order that makes sense. Then I will give a brief description at the end. Hopefully this will prompt you to study these passages further. The one that helps make the most sense, if you look at it in detail, is the first couple chapters of Job.

God is in control

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 

Mat 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Summary: Every ounce of our being is held together by God's power. That doesn't sound like autopilot to me.

Natural Laws

Genesis 1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Psalm 74:16-17 The day [is] thine, the night also [is] thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

Psalm 104:19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

Psalm 119:91 (see context of verse 90) They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all [are] thy servants.

Psalm 148:6 (see context) He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Jeremiah 31:35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, [and] the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts [is] his name:

Jeremiah 33:25 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant [be] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;

Examples: laws of life (biogenesis; Genesis 1), chemistry, planetary motion, physics, mathematics, logic, uniformity of nature.

Summary: God has setup natural laws that govern the universe. Might seem like the universe is running on autopilot, but remember Colossians 1:17.

Cause of suffering and natural disasters

Romans 8:22 (see context) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Summary: The ultimate reason for all death and suffering in the world is Adam's sin, passed down to us (Romans 5:12). Since I already know that God is in control, He obviously allowed it to happen.

God creates evil vs time and chance

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].   (compare evil in Isaiah 47:11)

Psalm 148:8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

Ecc. 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Summary: In this case, evil is bad storms and the like. God clearly creates those things. Ecclesiastes is not saying that time and chance means that God is not in control, but that good things and bad things happen to everyone.

Hand of the Lord vs hand of the Devil (Job)

Job 1:11-12 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath [is] in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Job 1:16 While he [was] yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1:21-22 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 2:3-6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he [is] in thine hand; but save his life.

** Was it God or Satan afflicting Job????

Summary: Satan did it, but Job said it was the Lord and Job 1:22 says Job spoke correctly. Therefore, saying that God afflicted Job when it was actually the Devil is a very accurate statement. But how can this be? See next point ...

The Devil as a tool in God’s hand

Isaiah 10:5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (see context, and verse 15)

God using others -- Jeremiah 51:15-23

Zechariah 14:2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Romans 13 - the powers that be are ordained of God

Summary: Even the Devil is just a tool in the Master's hand. God is working all things, even our sin, even the Devil's evil plans, for God's own purposes and glory. That's how wonderfully powerful and glorious God really is.

End Summary: Sickness, death, and disasters are ultimately caused by man’s sin.  But God is in control and every ounce of our being exists by His power.  Even though the Devil or the laws of nature are working in our world, the Bible attributes it to God.  Even the Devil is just a tool in the Master’s plan.  The laws of nature, the Devil, and others are really just “powers that … are ordained of God”.  So yes, God sends the hurricane and tornado that kills people because the “powers that be are ordained of God”.  God has allowed certain powers (the Devil, the laws of nature, etc.) to be in control, but it is still God on the throne and in charge.  If this seems unfair, remember that the original cause of all death and suffering is our sin, but Christ took the curse for us on the cross (Galatians 3:13).  If God is to blame for allowing/making these bad things happen (and I’m not saying that He is), remember that it is because of our sin but God took care of it all on the cross when He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins, something planned by God before the foundation of the world.

In short, it is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no God causes suffering. But in the Biblical answer, I see the wonderful message of the gospel of Christ - who died on the cross for our sins (the cause of all the world's problems) and rose from the dead - that we might have the promise of eternal life.

Short Answers To Tricky Verses On Election, Predestination, and Foreknowledge

The following verses supposedly support Calvinism on election, predestination, and foreknowledge

Purpose: To quickly show you that not one of the controversial verses in the Bible says or hints that God chose who would believe in Jesus Christ. The purpose is NOT to give you a detailed explanation of each verse or cover all the difficulties of each passage.

John 1:12-13
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • Verse 13 is the controversial one, but it does not prove Calvinism at all.  When it says “nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” it is talking about the new birth, NOT believing in Jesus.
  • Verse 13 is saying that you can’t will the new birth.  You can believe on Jesus (verse 12), but you can’t will the new birth.
  • After you believe on his name, God makes you born again, something you can’t force.  If believing in Jesus didn't cause the new birth, then you couldn't force the new birth to happen no matter how hard you tried.  This is not Calvinism and this is the first verse to really understand because it lays the foundation for the rest. John 1:13 is NOT saying you can't willingly believe on his name, but you can't will the new birth. Very plain.

Acts 2:23
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
  • In this verse those who crucified Jesus fulfilled the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”.  But this has little to do with who would or would not believe in Jesus.
  • Very similar to what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, which see.
  • This doesn't prove anything about Calvinism's irresistible grace where God forces you to believe on Jesus, just that God who knows the future can work all things according to His own purposes and glory.

Romans 8:29-30
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
  • The verse does NOT say he predestinated us to believe in Jesus.  It says He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son (total fulfillment still future - see verse 23).  There is nothing in the verse that says God chose who would believe in Jesus.
  • Calvinists will try to use verse 30 to say the order of events is:  regeneration → faith → justification / new birth / salvation.  They switch faith and regeneration to prove their point of irresistible grace.
  • But the order of the verse is foreknowledge → predestination → called → etc.  Foreknowledge precedes predestination, which weakens the Calvinist argument considerably.
  • Also, a Calvinist will define “called” as “effectual calling” (irresistible grace), given the wording in this verse “who he called, them he also justified”.  But what in the verse says that “called” means God chose who would believe in Jesus?  Called could easily mean “called to be saints” Romans 1:7.  In other words …
  • Nathan Ham Summary: God pre-determined that those who believe in Jesus would be conformed to the image of His Sons, called saints/holy, justified, glorified. A Calvinist would have to very clearly prove that "called" means his idea of irresistible grace, which definitely does NOT fit all the times that "called" is used in the New Testament.
    Once again, there is nothing in the passage that clearly says God chose who would believe in Jesus.

Ephesians 1:4-5
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
  • Chosen us when?  Before the foundation of the world.
  • Chosen us where?  In Him (Christ).
  • Chosen us to what?  Believing on Jesus?  No!!!  Chosen us to be Holy and without blame and to be adopted as His children.
  • In other words, before He made the world God chose that those in Christ would be holy, without blame, His children, etc.
  • The key is how to get in Christ so you get those things.  That’s where the new birth comes in (remember John 1 above).
  • Again, this verse says nothing about God choosing who would or would not believe in Jesus, but God choosing what would happen to those in Christ.

Ephesians 1:11
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
  • Once again, there is nothing in the verse that says God predestinated us to believing in Jesus.  He predestinated us to obtain an inheritance.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
  • Oh no, doesn’t this prove calvinism??!!!!  No, silly.
  • Chosen to believe?  No.  Chosen to salvation.
  • How?
  • Chosen through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.
  • So God chose you to be saved through sanctifiction of the spirit and belief of the truth.  It doesn’t say God chose you to believe.  It says God chose "you" to salvation ("you" meaning the brethren he is writing to, who have already believed on the Lord).  That is not calvinism.  Very similar meaning to the John 1 passage above.

1 Peter 1:2
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
  • Elect to believing in Christ?  No.
  • It says we are elect to OBEDIENCE and sprinkling of the blood of Christ.

Then we are left with the “difficult” passage in Romans 9.  But notice that NOT ONE TIME does Romans 9 say that God, in every single case, chose who would believe in Jesus.  All Romans 9 says is that God can do what He wants because He is God.  But it doesn’t prove calvinism at all.  Actually, the context of Romans 9 is Jews vs Gentiles. A Calvinist would probably try to poke many holes in what I just said, but my purpose isn't to give a complete argument. I simply want you to show me a clear verse where God said that He chose, in every single case, who would believe in Jesus. You can't find the verse because it doesn't exist.

Remember, my purpose is not to tackle every difficulty of every controversial verse on the topic of Calvinism. Go back and read those verses listed above. Not a single time in any of those passages does God clearly say He would always choose who would believe in Jesus. Every single time it is clearly God choosing the BENEFITS of those who believe in Christ. This point significantly weakens the Calvinist argument.

More importantly, don't believe me. Don't believe any author. Believe the words of God in context. Next time someone tells you the passage says something that fits his doctrinal views, just read the words and see if it does.