Our Need Of Compassion

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

It has been said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ.” This statement has often been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. The truthfulness of this statement is easily discerned. One need only spend a short length of time in the Christian church in order to spot the differences between Jesus and the believers who fill the pews.

One may even take a look at their own life, compare it with that of the life of Jesus, and spot the painfully distinct sharp contrast. I by no means free myself from this possibility. We must acknowledge the reality that as sinful human beings we have all fallen far from the mark of Christ-likeness, and that none of us may achieve such a state in our own human power. Neither do I myself claim to have reached this state. Instead it is my hope to engage in open warfare with a specific problem which has reared it’s ugly head inside the churches of today, and exhort you to be a light within your own church.

In view of this, it is prudent to point to one particular aspect of the character of Christ. There is a point in Scripture, particularly in the book of Luke, which is a most forcible illustration of the trait in question. It reads, “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much of the people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” – Luke 17:13-15.

These passages from Scripture describe a woman who was a widow, and who had lost her only son. Her dead son is described as being carried out of the gate of the city, this being the most likely conclusion from the position which Jesus is standing during all of this. Upon spotting the woman and her dead son he ‘had compassion on her’ and said ‘weep not’ right before performing a resurrection. There are a few instances such as this in Scripture where Jesus is moved with compassion at some one’s misfortune, and then he steps in to resolve the issue which caused it.

The keyword to focus on in this particular case is ‘compassion.’ What exactly is compassion? Jesus’ actions in all of these stories give us a great deal of clues as to the meaning of this mysterious word. It is quite clearly linked with caring about the misfortunes of others, as can be shown by the resurrection of this woman’s dead son. One might even go so far as to suggest that Jesus’ words ‘weep not’ indicate that compassion moves a person to speak a word of comfort. Given these obvious examples from Scripture, we cannot be far from the correct track.

What is the meaning of this word in common usage? An internet dictionary defines the word as such:

compassion

[kuh m-pash-uh n]

noun

1.

a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

At this stage, some Christians may protest and even argue that words in the dictionary hold different meanings than that which is used in Scripture. However, if we take a look at Christ’s actions in comparison with the definition given, we can see clearly that the internet dictionary is giving a pin-point accurate description of everything Jesus did and said in this particular story. As if that were not enough, the word used for “Compassion” in the text is defined by Strong’s as:

G4697

σπλαγχνίζομαι

splagchnizomai

splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee

Middle voice from G4698; to have the bowels yearn, that is, (figuratively) feel sympathy, to pity: – have (be moved with) compassion.

With all of the information matching up, there can be no doubt as to the meaning of this word. We are dealing with a character trait which leads to sympathizing with another in their misfortunes and attempting to alleviate their suffering. It is a sad statement I make that this particular trait is missing from the churches of Christianity. While it is not as though every single Christian on the face of planet earth is lacking compassion, one can discern with ease the fact that many Christians do not act like this.

I myself have painfully run into this shocking discovery. I have had to experience the difficulty in attempting to get some one to pray with me over intense emotional battles, only to find myself repulsed with the excuse of “you are dwelling on yourself!” I have heard the horrific responses pour forth from unsympathetic lips desperate for any excuse to selfishly avoid speaking a word of comfort and cheer. And at the same time I would note that those who are following the light found in Scripture on this subject have been difficult to tear-up around without the majority of them surrounding me in an attempt to figure out what is wrong and aid me through the problem. One could hardly camouflage their sorrow around such persons.

The reality of it is, there really is no excuse for unsympathetic behavior on the part of the Christian. In the book of Peter we find a straight forward command, admonishing all to manifest compassion one to another and to be unified. The text reads, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren; be pitiful, be courteous.” – 1 Peter 3:8. Strong’s definitions for two of the words used can be found below. Note that “pitiful” is defined as “well compassioned, that is, sympathetic.” The other definition also stands out as an obvious reference to sympathy.

G4835

συμπαθής

sumpathēs

soom-path-ace’

From G4841; having a fellow feeling (“sympathetic”), that is, (by implication) mutually commiserative: – having compassion one of another

G2155

εὔσπλαγχνος

eusplagchnos

yoo’-splangkh-nos

From G2095 and G4698; well compassioned, that is, sympathetic: – pitiful, tender-hearted.

If we pay close attention to the words, we are to have “compassion one of another.” This statement describes a two-way street. There is no room here for individuals to excuse themselves from manifesting compassion on the grounds that the person did not give it to them. Everyone involved is to manifest the trait. We are admonished also to be pitiful. This would logically mean that such a trait becomes simply how or who we are. Many of these same principles are found in the book of Matthew, when Christ sets forth something many of us know as the ‘golden rule.’

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

Whatever we would like done to us is to be done to others. This is the principle set forth by Christ, and this is ultimately what is needed in the lives of Christians. A reality not often realized is that these principles are more far reaching than many give them credit for. These words of Christ should ultimately shape the words that you as a Christian speak to others, especially when you are confronted with a particular individual who is struggling in sorrow. Therefore there is an ultimate reality that there are certain things that you simply should not say to somebody who is dealing with a serious amount of heartache. Below I have produced a series of examples of common responses which are stereotypes of the wrong things people can often say to each other during a time of sorrow.

You are dwelling on yourself.

God has ordained your pain.

What do you want me to do about it!?

You have brought this on yourself.

You’re throwing a pity party…

You are choosing your own pain!

You need to just move on!

The world doesn’t owe you anything…

Time heals all wounds…

What do all of these responses have in common? With the exception of the last final response, they’re all really quite callous. Three of them are aimed at placing the blame for the individual’s emotional problems on the individual who is suffering. They do this either by implying that the suffering has come about through the person literally bringing it upon them self or through claiming the individual is choosing their pain. One response, by asking the horrid question of “What do you want me to do about it” is obviously indicating that the person probably doesn’t care.

The claims that the person is “throwing a pity party” and that the “world doesn’t owe them anything” both are designed as attacks, aimed at putting the person down for their suffering. The pity party statement also aligns rather nicely with the claim that they “need to just move on”, as both carry an underlying suggestion that the individual’s suffering is either not that big of a deal or that they are repeatedly dwelling on the issue unnecessarily. One of them carries the suggestion that the person is just trying to soak up sympathy from people as a form of attention seeking.

The statement of “God has ordained your pain” is especially disgusting. This makes God out to be a fiend who providentially arranges for the awful things to happen to you as some kind of a grand master plan of making you suffer. It is usually found among a class of Calvinists who hold to the idea that God arranges for even the horrible things to happen to us. This should never be uttered from the mouth of a Christian, especially in the presence of those who are dealing with serious emotional problems. Below there is a series of Scriptures which destroy this kind of theology

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” – Psalm 145:8-9

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17

“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – 1 John 4:16

The idea that God arranges our suffering is destroyed by the fact that the Bible describes him as loving the world, and defines him as love. Ordaining the painful experiences of your life is contrary to love, as this suggests that God wants to hurt you. You cannot desire to hurt some one that you love, as this suggests by default that you do not really love them. Additionally the suggestion that “Every good and every perfect gift is from above” comes with the question attached of, “where is the statement that every evil thing is from above?” I myself have never been able to locate one. In all reality, it is the good things that come from the Father and not the evil things in life. Questions arise in one’s mind as to exactly how God could be good to all and full of compassion, and yet turn around scheme out painful things to happen to his people. Such an act is of course contrary all compassion and goodness.

The theological problems inherent in this kind of thinking aside, the response is an indisputably awful thing to say to some one who is struggling emotionally. A friend of mine once shared with me that he met a woman who had walked away from Christianity because something horrible had happened to her, and she had received similar responses. She had been told God was “testing her”. This ended her having anything to do with Christianity, and is a perfect example of why Christians should watch what they say to some one who is struggling.

The final statement is not as callous as the rest of the responses. It is however not the most helpful reply. The statement of “Time heals all wounds” is a generic phrase which I have aimed at covering responses which are usually something to the effect of, “time will heal it. It will get better with time. Time will make everything all better.” This is what is known as a platitude, which is a meaningless trite phrase or cliche aimed at quelling negative emotion such as sorrow. The phrase or cliche is usually too overused to add any real solution to the problem and is thus not that helpful. Credit must be given where credit is due, the people who usually use these are trying. They should however consider abandoning cliches and think about crafting their responses around Matthew 7:12. Those who have used these responses should think in terms of, “What would I want to hear were I in their shoes?”

This question, which is based on the golden rule, should govern every response that the Christian gives to the suffering of others. You do not have to and should not sacrifice truth in order to this, but somebody who is dealing with severe emotional problems should not be given the callous and compassionless responses listed above. In addition, so far as it can be done without lying to them, they should be told exactly what they want to hear.

If some one chooses to confide in you, your response should be aimed at alleviating their disturbance. If your responses are crafted in this way, than you are on the right track toward encouraging this person. A perfect example would be if some one came to you speaking about a bad breakup, confiding in you over the fact that their heart had been broken. What exactly do you say in this situation?

An effective approach from a Christian perspective would be to remind the person who God is. Texts like the ones quoted above to bring down false theological viewpoints can easily be used to encourage some one in these particular circumstances. The idea that God loves you and that he is full of compassion together imply that he wants to alleviate your sadness, and therefore right away the individual can be pointed to Christ without it sounding like you are attempting to get rid of them. A way in which you might more directly address their suffering is by pointing out that since nothing is impossible with God, he is more than capable of easing their sorrow. You might even consider using texts such as the ones from Psalms below which directly states that God heals your wounds, and is close to you when your heart is broken.

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”- Psalm 147:3

If you do not know what to say, the beautiful thing is that you may craft your response around Bible verses. The promises of the word are not only to encourage you, but they can be brought to bear upon anyone who is struggling. Prayer is also an option with equal weight. This would accomplish almost the same effect as if you had given some word of encouragement. If you put the two together, and hurl all of the encouraging words that you can think of at the individual, provided they are not platitudes, than you really have an effective and encouraging response.

One must also remember that there is a powerful solution to not knowing what to say. It is found in the book of James, in the first chapter. This passage of Scripture suggests that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God for it, and he will liberally distribute it to us. This statement from the Bible is so broad that it could be applied to in such a way as to be the solution to this issue. If you don’t know what to say to some one to encourage them, but recognize a Biblical duty to manifest compassion, consider praying over the matter first before ministering to the individual. Ask God for the wisdom to know what to say and do to help alleviate the individual’s sorrow.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” – John 15:5

With that said, it is important to remember that it is only through Christ that we may develop compassion. He made this clear when he said, “without me ye can do nothing” and “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” Without a connection with Christ, human beings are more likely to go for the callous response or to attempt to get rid of somebody because they’re annoyed at the idea of helping them. The facts are that it is not natural for you or anyone who is a follower of Christ to act this way, as we as human being are sinful and fallen. It is my hope however that you will seek to live up to this light, and manifest compassion toward all of those around.

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Should Christians Play Violent Video Games?

The Lord has put the burden on my heart to address a very sensitive topic. I know that, having come out of these things, I feel it is my duty to bear a decided testimony against them. I could not in good conscience remain silent upon these issues, knowing that I am a watchman on the walls of Zion and that I must sound the warning message. I have seen from the word of God that I must blow the trumpet to warn those in the Churches of Christendom of the danger which I see, although I know that I speak an extremely unpopular message. I cannot help but speak the truth in love, knowing that I will be held responsible if I do not speak that which is on my heart.

“Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” – Ezekiel 33:2-6

Then this would be your official warning. This post is aimed at some very heavy issues, and may be addressing a potentially sensitive topic. Understand that I do not mean this in a judgmental way, but instead I see a Christian duty to sound a warning message, to blow the trumpet about an incoming sword. It is my hope and desire that if you have any of these things which shall be addressed in your life, that you will be willing to change and discard them through the grace of Christ.

I might begin by asking the question, have you worshiped Baal as of late? No Christian worth his or her salt who has any familiarity with Scripture would answer “yes” to that question. It seems a strange sight indeed to enter a professedly Christian church to find an altar erected for the worship of Baal, Moloch, Apollo, or Thor. One might even find the presence of a golden calf in front of the pulpit to be odd. You will find that most churches would express nothing but horror at the prospect of image worship. Many would even protest the erection of a literal altar to Baal as apostasy!

However reality is often not acknowledged. He who ardently protests evil in one form, more readily accepts it in another. It has been said of our enemy, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14. The devil, whose objective is to cause your ruin, would not openly invite you to worship idols. He knows that were he to do so, he would be met and repulsed through the powerful means at the disposal of the Christian in the form of prayer. One appeal to Christ would be enough to defeat the whole Satanic host. However it is a known fact that poison is best received coated in sugar, that the victim remain unaware of what is taking place.

In like manner, we can expect the enemy to make strategic maneuvers to conceal his purposes, masking them in robes of light or a garb of apparent harmlessness. Therefore the defenses of the Christian are broken down and discernment is bypassed. He then more easily invades the soul with his hooks of sin, which many find it difficult to remove. Thus he has successfully caused the ruin of the Christian, and has ultimately lead them to disqualify themselves from the Kingdom of Christ.

In view of all this, I might state that there are few Churches in this day and age that openly worship images. Everyone professing Christianity believes they worship the same God, and they feel secure in this belief. They thus lull themselves to sleep with a false sense of security, unaware of the danger lurking in their lives and in the lives of other Christians that could bring about their ruin. When the enemy comes to them in a form that they have not been searching for, they readily accept the deceptions and snares of Satan.

I may take this so far as to suggest that Christianity has been penetrated by the worship of idols. Yet it is not the golden calf of old that has been erected before the pulpit, that all may bow to it. Instead it is in the form of entertainment. Idolatry is in your very midst in the form of the PlayStation or Xbox-360 that you spent money on which could have been used to further the cause of Christ. It may even have taken the form of your Laptop, through which you would rather spend more time on Facebook or playing Computer Games than you would reading your Bible or praying.

Do my words seem extreme to you? Are they the ravings of a deluded extremist who has taken a journey down legalism lane? If this is the impression that you get from my words, I would like for you to ponder my case. As I present the evidence before you from the Scriptures and ask some hard hitting questions, I invite you to weight it and compare your life with the word of God. Remember that the Bible is the compass which points us on the road to heaven, with it’s instructions as to how to live and find Salvation in Christ. In the word the truth is to be found.

To begin, it is important to point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with electronics. Laptops and Televisions are not in and of themselves idols, it is the way in which they are used which attaches that label to them. The Christian may find spiritual uses for both of these items, as the TV may be used to watch spiritual materials such as sermons on DVD. You will find that a ministry which this blog links back to known as Amazing Facts also puts high quality content out on Television for Christians to avail themselves of. The present writer of this article has used his desktop computer as well as his laptop for spiritual purposes. The availability of high quality Christian literature in PDF format and Bible Programs such as E-sword creates a situation in which a computer can be used for something spiritual and Godly rather than for evil activities.

The real issue is gaming, movies, and television shows. While not literal Baal-worship, these practices have become modernized idols in the lives of Christians. Television shows and movies may be addressed at a later point. It is the object of this post to first address the issue of gaming, as the author of this article speaks from experience. I spent the majority of my life in gaming before becoming a Christian, where I was either playing games on my computer or on the Xbox console. During those days, the games I played were always exclusively real time strategy or first person shooter video games, both of which are known for a high level of violence.

So the real question is, what is it that makes games wrong? Why is it that the Christian should not play them? How are they modern-day idols? Isn’t such a notion legalism? The first issue with video games all comes down to violence, this fact then being the answer to two of these questions. It even lays the charge of legalism in the dust and exposes the sheer ridiculousness of this excuse, craftily concocted to escape rendering obedience. To properly understand how God feels about violence, there are many Scriptural facts which must be considered. We must first go right back to a time that was shortly after the fall of man, where the first human being was ever killed. Christians might be familiar with this story as that of Cain and Abel.

“And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” – Genesis 4:9-10

Those who have familiarity with the Bible know how this story goes. Cain was a tiller of the ground, something more along the lines of a farmer if you will, whereas Abel was a keeper of sheep. Both of them were the children of Adam and Eve. When it came time to offer up sacrifices to God, Cain brought the fruit of the ground while Abel brought the firstlings of his flock. God had respect to Abel’s offering and not Cain’s, which resulted in Cain experiencing anger. In a fit of rage he later killed Abel, and the two passages which we have produced above picture the result of this. God is described as saying to Cain, “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”

This statement suggests a high level of negative emotion experienced on the part of God towards murder. The act here carried out by Cain is forbidden in the sixth commandment, the exact statement of which reads “Thou shalt not kill” – Exodus 20:13. Yet God’s dislike of the taking of human life is put on fantastic display for the Bible Student, as found in the book of 1 Chronicles. We have produced two passages from the twenty-eighth chapter for your perusal. Note that these passages and what they describe allow you to get into the mind of God and understand how he feels about violence.

“Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood.” – 1 Chronicles 28:2-3

It would appear that the taking of human life is a serious issue with God. Serious enough to where David was forbidden to build the temple because he was a “man of war” and “hast shed blood.” If David being forbidden from building the temple was directly attributable to him having been a warrior, than obviously violence does not sit well with God, and certainly should not mark the Christian’s life.

The next and final piece of the puzzle takes us to the book of Philippians, where we find the following instruction from Paul. In the eighth verse of the fourth chapter, he tells us that we should think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and things that are of any praise or virtue. To summarize, Christians should be thinking about only that which is good and not that which is evil. Note that by watching or playing something, you are thinking about whatever the content of the activity you are engaged in is.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

In view of the clear Bible passages which speak against murder and killing, I find myself as a Christian scratching my head in confusion. Passages like those found in 1 Chronicles, Exodus 20, and Genesis 4 seem so plain. They convey God’s mind towards violence and his dislike of it, and yet there are so many in the Churches of Christendom who seem to think that it is okay to play violent video games. Logically speaking, if God feels this way about violence in the real world why would it be okay to view simulated violence? This is applicable whether it be in the form of video games, movies, or television shows. In reality all of these things are packed full of violence and bloodshed to the point where one would think they were visiting the Colosseum of the Roman Empire when partaking of these things.

In fact, the bloody exhibitions of old afford a suitable example and illustration. They display the real problem with humanity and the base nature of mankind. Roman citizens literally watched men get ripped apart by lions and gladiators kill each other for the fun of it. If you think other societies were better, or mankind has somehow advanced beyond this, perhaps you should guess again.

The fact that the violence is simulated does not hide or excuse the perverseness of the action. At the end of the day, playing these games is still the modern-day equivalent of the Colosseum. Those who do these things are still taking pleasure in watching something which looks like real people get slaughtered and killed, and often in increasingly brutal ways.

Therefore the common excuse of “it’s not real, so it’s okay” is starting to loose a lot of power. Destructible environments like those found in Battlefield 3 and increasingly superior graphics suggest that soon enough games will look and feel very real, and yet there will be no outcry among professed Christians as the level of gore increases with these things. It boggles the mind how some one who claims to know Jesus can play these things without an ounce of guilt. The world will always do what the world wants whether it is the literal worship of Baal or the playing of violent video games. The reality is that professed Christians should stop and compare their actions with the Bible standard and ask if what they’re doing measures up.

The real question than is, are any of these things pure? The obvious answer to that question is no. In which case, according to Philippians 4:8 the Christian should not be watching or playing them. 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 and Genesis 4:9-10 combine to demolish any possibility of God liking these things. In fact, as the case of David shows, we might even go so far as to say that God is not pleased with violent video games and those who profess to follow him playing them. If David was forbidden from building the temple on account of him being a warrior, why on earth would it be okay for the Christian to play video games where there is gore and a heavy amount of violence? Why would God be okay with his followers viewing these things for pleasure?

If you as a Christian take pleasure in simulated murder, what is to stop you from finding the real thing pleasing? Why is it that there are Christians who find pleasure in war, as it is portrayed in video games and movies? If one would like to go a lot closer to home than this, why would God be okay with us taking pleasure in watching people break his commandments? While some one might try to argue that “it’s not real” at this point, the simple fact is that if you as a Christian play these things you are taking pleasure in sin in a simulated form as defined by the law of God.

The fact of the matter is that these things are not safe for the Christian to partake of. In the book of Isaiah, we find very powerful reasons supporting these facts. The thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the thirty-third chapter mention that sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Right away we know this addresses sinners and hypocrites in the Church. The next thing asked is, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” This is a mysterious cryptic phrase followed by “everlasting burnings.” The answer is actually quite surprising, in that it mentions “he that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly” and “that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.”

“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;” – Isaiah 33:13-14

In Hebrews 12 we find a key to unlocking the mysterious statement “devouring fire.” “For our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:29. Consuming and devouring are obviously the same thing, thus the statement “devouring fire” and “everlasting burnings” are to be taken as referencing God, which makes sense and clicks into place with the language of righteousness that follows. It therefore stands to reason that these texts are saying that he who shuts his eyes from seeing evil will dwell with God, hence the fear on the part of the hypocrites and the sinners in Zion, they’re obviously fearing for their salvation as the end of time is approaching. This is a gigantic reality check for those who think it is okay to play violent video games as a Christian. The simple fact is that if we have these things in our lives, we cannot expect salvation either.

Yet there are other reasons that the Christian should not play video games. Games generally found to be of the role playing variety have spiritual content in them that the Christian should ardently oppose. Role playing games specifically often have a vivid portrayal of sorcery, and include a list of gods that the player can worship. Right away the Christian should be aware of the fact that this goes against plain Scriptural commands. These are things that should justly alarm the Christian.

“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” – Exodus 20:3-5

Magic is obviously condemned in texts found in the book of Deuteronomy. This should tell you that God does not want us as Christians to have anything to do with video games that have simulated divination. We can see clearly that idolatry is also condemned in the Ten Commandments, as pictured above. To suggest at this point that “it’s not real, so it’s okay” is like saying that you’ve found a way to worship other gods and seemingly get away with it while still supposedly worshiping the same God.

Note that this is the common content among the role playing genre. I have never seen a role playing game which does not include some form of idolatry in which the player has a list of gods to worship or magic at their disposal, with the exception of one series of games, and even those are still addressed by other concerns I have mentioned.

But then there are many questions the Christian should ask themselves as they engage in these activities. Even if they cannot agree with what has been previously stated, the real question comes down to this. How much time is spent in prayer and Bible study as opposed to in gaming? Do you as a Christian find the Bible boring? Do you find no pleasure in the hour of prayer or in searching the word of God?

If you find the Bible boring, it is no doubt because you have these forms of entertainment in your life. I can speak from personal experience when I say that it is difficult to transition from these entertainments into spiritual things. At the beginning of my Christian walk, I found the Bible boring and would have rather been playing video games. While I was not attending Church at this time in my life, I can say that at this point I might have found it equally as boring by comparison to gaming. I did not recognize any need to discard these things. A battle raged in which both God and the games wanted the throne of my heart.

A huge issue with video games not considered by most comes down to worship, which is why I began by asking if you had worshiped Baal lately. Several ways in which we worship God are through time spent with him in prayer and Bible Study, in which we become acquainted with him and communicate with him concerning our lives. But video games inevitably lead to the neglect of these disciplines of the Christian life. They eventually gain control of your heart, the Bible becomes boring, prayer seems repulsive and hard, and pretty soon the Christian will stop these things altogether, even if it is a process which takes years. They then become idols in your lives, as shown by the Ten Commandments where these are not only defined as images that you worship but anything that comes before God. The real question comes down to whether or not God is first in your life, and which would you rather do: Study your Bible or play video games? If you would rather play video games than study your Bible, than this is in fact idolatry.

While some may attempt to argue that the Bible is boring, this is only the appearance because of a long-established habit holding the throne of the heart. Those who would say the Bible is boring have never attempted to study the prophecies, the process of attempting to understand which is like trying to decode a hidden message or engage in detective work. The Bible is like a puzzle at times with it’s deep symbolism. Even the messages of Salvation, and the deep wisdom found in the book of Proverbs, are nothing short of intensely interesting. I can honestly say that Christians would state that the Bible is the most interesting book they ever read if they didn’t have other things in their lives taking control of the throne of the heart.

Beyond idolatry, a very good reason the Christian should discard Video Games of all sorts comes right down to use of time. Video Games are naturally addictive in the way they are designed, otherwise they would not sell as well as many of them do. I can personally testify that in playing massively multiplayer online role playing games before my conversion, huge amounts of time was consumed. Often entire nights were spent in gaming at the expense of sleep. This is time ultimately that could be spent in advancing God’s kingdom or helping the poor, or even hours that could be spent in the Bible gaining a knowledge of the word so that the Christian might become better acquainted with the reasons of their faith rather than simply being a pew warmer who expects to be spoon fed doctrine by their pastor.

While the professed Christian spends huge amounts of time gaming, souls who could be saved go down to Christ-less graves. If nothing else the desire to bring others to a knowledge of Christ or engage in missionary labor should motivate the Christian to discard these entertainments due to the vast amounts of time which they take up. The question should be asked, what are you as Christians doing to build up God’s kingdom while you are playing video games? If you partake of video games, you should understand that Satan gains control of your neighborhood while you sit in front of the Television playing your Xbox. Where is the missionary spirit of Christians? Why are Christians not missionaries in their home neighborhoods!?

The Christian should be a light in his or her community which burns with such a concentrated powerful blaze that people could see it for miles. Yet the light of truth is hidden in the brush while professed Christians sit in front of their Xbox console and play Halo or some racing game! The truth of a crucified and risen savior should be proclaimed with thunder tones that roar across the land. It should be the natural reaction for the Christian to run down the street with a Bible held aloft shouting, “It’s here! It’s here! Everything you need is right here!”

At the end of the day, there really is no escaping the fact that Christians should not be playing violent video games. Neither should they allow the games which bear an appearance of harmlessness to soak up their time so that they are not spending time in the word or attempting to reach the community around them. Yet those who would find themselves locked in a battle with a long-established addiction might be confronted with an awful and bitter struggle to be free of these things. Some might even be confronted with the horrific thought that their life will be boring, should they give up gaming.

There is always excitement to be found in the work of the Lord. The joy of seeing souls converted to the truth, of sharing the word of the Lord with those around you, is far superior to any video game I’ve ever played. Once separated from that which fought for control of the throne of my heart, I began to appreciate the word of God more and more. Prayer, especially for others, became a sweet rich experience. These things altogether have virtually replaced gaming.

It sounds difficult, but it is possible. In the Scriptures we are told that if a man is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things are passed away, and all things become new. You will eventually learn to hate the things you once loved which were wrong, and love the things which you would have previously found boring. I speak from personal experience when I say God can change your taste buds so thoroughly that you find these things of the past disgusting and want nothing to do with them. While you will not be free of temptation, even during those moments God will be there for you to give you power for victory. The way to the throne of grace is always open for you to find help from the friend of the helpless.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” – Romans 13:14

Ultimately to obtain complete victory over video games the Christian should consider Biblical principles. One of the verses quoted above speaks of not making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. This Scripture is suggesting that those who struggle with certain sins should not place themselves in tempting situations deliberately. If the Christian struggles with porn, they should get rid of the films or movies which they viewed and consider getting set up to block websites where these materials can be accessed. If the Christian struggles with drinking alcohol, they should dispose of all alcoholic beverages from their home. Even a Christian with anger problems should consider avoiding the situations which cause them to get angry in the first place. This is applicable to video games and it simply means this.

If you as a Christian are having a huge battle with video games in which you are consistently tempted and unable to gain the victory, you should consider getting every single game and console out of your house. Your computer should be wiped clean of every game that may have been installed on it and you should dispose of all games. If you’re concerned about selling them so that they can be in some one else’s hands, an option also available to you is destroying them. You can run over your Xbox or PlayStation with your car, smash it to bits with a baseball bat, or take your games out and stomp on them before throwing them away. Note that we have the example of the people of Ephesus, those of which who practiced curious arts burned their books when they were converted. Destroying your video games and then promptly chucking them in the garbage is a perfectly acceptable option for the Christian, and might actually be superior to selling them. Those who choose to sell them should not be condemned however, as the goal is to get rid of the games.

However the Christian can find ultimate victory over these things in Christ alone. If you struggle with these things, flee to the throne of grace for aid, and be rid of them at once. Do not attempt to give them up by degrees or make a slow conversion from one type of gaming to another, for when you do this Satan just laughs at you as he still has you caught in his nets. Therefore Christians should depart from these practices completely.

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” – 2 Timothy 2:19

Without Rule Of Law

Anarchy…

What does this word conjure in your imagination? He who can put the most boots on the ground and who has the biggest guns becomes king, or rather a warlord of sorts. This word “anarchy” generates images of rule by warlords, chaos in which the most revolting crimes are committed without penalty, complete and total lawlessness. Hordes of base criminals, best described as predators of the innocent, seem to come forth as though spontaneously generated. Bloodshed and indescribable evil become common place with looting and rioting.

Anarchy is the result of the complete and total breakdown of society, and ultimately what one might term rule of law. Society is governed by these laws, which alongside measures of enforcement, prevent the picture thus described. Although law in society is often broken, the scene pictured is held in check by armed and trained individuals who serve either in the military or police and essentially the Government.

Laws and their enforcement generate restraint with masses of individuals, who would prefer to live peaceably rather than create problems for themselves and their lives as a result of breaking those laws. The average individual knows that remaining in a state of abiding by laws is in their best interest, if they wish to avoid being arrested and thrown in prison, much less shot and killed. Therefore some of the baser crimes that an individual may wish to commit, were no laws present to stop them, may remain somewhat closeted. This is due to the potential to create serious problems, and no doubt because of an inability to perpetrate such crimes as a result of a lack of skills which might be required in order to escape punishment and evade the enforcers of law. Thus a closeted criminal remains a law abiding citizen, provided they do not suddenly acquire the skills that would enable them to get away with crimes.

Human nature is ultimately a base thing. In the book of Galatians, there is a description of what is known as the “Works of the flesh.” Some of the crimes that would come about as a result of anarchy in the land are listed among them. Paul also once wrote that “in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” I have produced this passage, as well as the texts from Galatians 5. Suffice it to say however that this all references human nature, which ultimately leads to the picture of anarchy described above. This is a result of the fact that we are all sinful fallen human beings with base passions, that if not restrained and overcome through Christ, lead to evil. One need only look at the wars consistently waged between countries, and the indescribable evil often perpetrated during those wars, to get a complete picture of what human nature is ultimately capable of.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” – Romans 7:18

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19-21

Note Paul’s use of the word “flesh” in Romans 7. He immediately connects the word with “in me”, indicating that this is something internal. Galatians 5 produces a list of sins of which the flesh is ultimately capable of if not restrained. Putting the pieces together this very clearly references human nature. Some of the things on the list are not necessarily condemned by the laws of man. Adultery, Idolatry, Witchcraft, and Hatred are prime examples of this. However, notice that “murders” is among the list. This in addition to another form of adultery known as rape would be prevalent in a world in which there was Anarchy, merely on the grounds that no rules exist to govern mankind and aid in restraining his base passions.

According to Scripture mankind is base. Therefore were the laws of the land to be removed, anarchy would be the inevitable result. Without rule of law there is nothing to stop this from happening. I then find what the Christian world has done with the laws of God to be strange. Too many echo the oft-repeated assertion that the Ten Commandments have been abolished, and that God’s laws have been nailed to the cross. Given the words of Paul in the book of Romans, I would imagine that this teaching is pleasing to the carnal heart.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” – Romans 8:7

In all reality, there isn’t an ounce of truth to this assertion. To picture the ridiculousness of the abolition of the Ten Commandments, one need only take statements from them such as “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal” or even “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and picture the result of them no longer being in effect. Christians would then be free to hate each other, look at porn, cheat on their spouses, steal from their neighbors, and even murder some one without repercussions from God. Moral restraint becomes arbitrary and goes out the front door, resulting in what one might term a spiritual anarchy.

Many in the Christian world do not oppose these things mentioned. Some will even go so far as to suggest that through love for God and our fellow man, we naturally do the things listed above. That in following the spirit of Christ these things just happen. Yet they turn around and assert that the law of God is abolished. The level of blindness to the contradiction in their thinking is worthy of a palm to the face. It is foolish and contradictory to assert that you naturally keep the law through Christ and yet in the same breath exclaim that it was abolished, for if it had been abolished there would be no keeping of the Ten Commandments at all.

These types of claims demonstrate a complete ignorance of the Biblical definition of Sin, as found in the book of 1 John. The passage in question reads, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” – 1 John 3:4. With Sin defined as the transgression of the law by the Scriptures, it should be clear that to abolish the law is an act which in and of itself removes any possibility of transgression. You cannot break a law which does not exist. Therefore I as a Christian would be free to cheat on my wife, supposing I had one, and could not be held accountable by God for any reason. I could essentially be saved in transgressions, and go to heaven regardless of whatever evil practices were present in my life.

What I have described is of course not possible. The simple fact is that sin has a defined punishment attached to it. This is found in the sixth chapter of Romans, where there are astounding and powerful statements that speak of the possibility for victory over sin. Note that in the text, the “wages of sin” is defined as death. Wages are something earned for work which a person does. Thus by committing sin you earn death. The reality is that this means a person who has earned this will miss out on salvation. If the Ten Commandments were abolished, than it would be very arbitrary of God for anyone to be lost because of Sin. How can you transgress a law which does not exist?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

Were the Ten Commandments ultimately abolished, this would leave the Christian in a position where they could do whatever they want. While the more intellectual have a tendency to make outrageous claims about naturally doing the things mentioned in the law through love in spite of it’s supposed abolition, the less studious and more simple minded would no-doubt take the idea of the abolition of the Ten Commandments as a license to sin. This of course is the ultimate and inevitable conclusion that one may come to. Since sin is defined in Scripture as “transgression of the law”, the thought that the Ten Commandments were done away with creates the suggestion of freedom to transgress, since you cannot break a law which no longer exists.

The senselessness of the teaching that the Ten Commandments were done away with has a tendency to boggle the mind. This teaching is something which I would include on a list of teachings within Christianity that make very little sense, are contradictory in some way, and do not really have a foundation in the Bible. Reality is that Scripture does not teach that the Ten Commandments were abolished at the cross, neither does it teach that it is even possible for the law of God to be done away with. In the book of Matthew, around the fifth chapter, we find a series of strong statements made by Christ illustrating this fact to us.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:17-19

“And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” – Luke 16:17

Christ states specifically “think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” There are some who interpret this word “fulfil” as though this in and of itself abolishes the Ten Commandments on the grounds that the “law was fulfilled”, therefore the logic is that the law was done away with. However were this the case Jesus would be contradicting himself. He would in effect be saying, “I did not come to destroy the law. I came destroy the law.” This is ultimately a reason in which every word used in the text should be considered.

These words of Christ state that it was not his mission to destroy the law, and that nothing was to pass from it. He even used such strong language as “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law.” These terms indicate very strongly that it is impossible for the Ten Commandments to be done away with, as long as the earth still stands and that the term “fulfilled” in no way means what people take it to mean. We then have instruction in the nineteenth verse which completely invalidates the thinking that “fulfilled” means to abolish. These statements of Christ suggest that whoever breaks one of the commandments, and teaches men to do so, shall be “called least in the kingdom of heaven.” This language is very clear, and seems to place questions in one’s mind. Supposing that “fulfilled” means “abolished” how is it that one could be called least for breaking the Ten Commandments? Obviously that wouldn’t make any sense.

G4137

πληρόω

plēroō

play-ro’-o

From G4134; to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: – accomplish, X after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.

Yet if this is all the case, what is the meaning of the mysterious word “fulfilled”? Doesn’t this word prove that Christ meant to abolish the law? Such a conclusion ignores the Greek meaning, produced above from Strong’s Concordance. Note the word “satisfy” and “execute” found in the definition. They seem to be the only definitions among the list produced that actually fit with the meaning of the word, given the rest of Christ’s words in the text, showing that the original meaning of the writer would’ve had to have been something along those lines. Otherwise contradictions and violence is done to the passage. Thus these Bible verses in fact state that it is impossible to do away with the Ten Commandments. Note that the equivalent passage produced above from Luke says virtually the same thing, only this time without using the word “fulfilled.”

Yet even without these texts, there are quite a few New Testament verses which mention the Ten Commandments. Many would be shocked to learn this, as some have claimed that the New Testament does not mention them. Note that in the book of Revelation, there are several verses which mention God’s law. All of these verses are prophetic in their nature. Some of these passages have a future application, while some are presently being fulfilled. If this is indeed the case, how can the Ten Commandments have been done away with? That is a thought which of course causes a man to scratch his head in confusion.

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” – Revelation 12:17

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” – Revelation 14:9-12

The first passage speaks of a dragon wroth with a woman. He then tries to make war with the woman, and the “remnant of her seed” which are defined as keeping the commandments of God. The commandments of God are obviously the Ten Commandments. Jeremiah 6:2 and Revelation 12:9 define for us these other terms. These texts, when combined with Revelation 12:17, teach us that the woman is the Church and the dragon is Satan. Thus Satan is enraged with a church, the remnant or remainder of which are defined as “keeping the commandments of God” and designated as that which the devil makes war with. If the Ten Commandments were done away with, why is Satan making war on the remainder of a church which keeps God’s commandments? This seems a fairly good question.

In the texts from Revelation fourteen, notice that an angel is proclaiming a message. This message is a warning that if anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives the mark in his forehead or in his hand, “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” The very next thing which follows are descriptions of torment via fire and brimstone. What is interesting is the contrast mentioned in the final verse of the three. In the twelfth verse, it says “here are they that keep the commandments of God” and this is then defined as the “patience of the saints.” The saints are obviously the people of God. Such a thought is difficult to dispute. However the saints are defined essentially as keeping God’s commandments. Were the Ten Commandments to be abolished, such a statement appearing in the book of Revelation would be rather outlandish.

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Matthew 19:17-19

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Romans 13:8-9

As one comes across these texts, the idea that the Ten Commandments were done away with starts to vanish. In the statements from the book of Matthew, Jesus appears to connect them to Salvation, telling the rich young ruler to keep them. The Ten Commandments are quite obviously referenced here, as Jesus lists a series of specific commandments which are found in the second table. Note that his statements are not meant to convey these are the only ones which should be kept. The Christian would then be free to worship idols and take the Lord’s name in vain. Such a thought is ridiculous and taking a seriously large amount of license. Instead the Ten Commandments are pointed out.

The next passages are from the book of Romans. Logically these would be statements from which one gets the idea that love does away with or supplants the law, in addition to some texts where Jesus made similar comments. However these texts are not really saying that. Paul starts out by saying that we should owe no man anything but to love one another. Thus he says that we should love each other, and that this “hath fulfilled the law.” He then goes on to list several of the commandments which appear in the second table of the Ten Commandments, and states that they are “briefly comprehended” in the saying “love thy neighbor as thyself.” In other words, if you love your neighbor you will naturally refrain from stealing their things, committing adultery with their wife, murdering them, or coveting their stuff. These texts do not teach that love replaces the Ten Commandments, but rather that if you truly love your neighbor you end up naturally keeping them.

If Jesus made such statements in Matthew 19, and Paul says that we naturally keep several of the Ten Commandments through love for our neighbor, how is it that they have been abolished? Does it make any logical sense for Jesus to respond to the rich young ruler’s question about Salvation in that way, if part of his mission was to abolish them? Why on earth would Matthew be writing those statements years later if they had been done away with after the cross? Wouldn’t this give to Christians the idea that the Ten Commandments were still binding, and that we have a duty to keep them? What of Paul, who claims that we naturally keep them through love for our neighbor? If the Ten Commandments were abolished, how on earth is that possible? Wouldn’t that be contradictory in the extreme to suggest that you wind up naturally keeping them, and yet to claim they were done away with? Isn’t it clear that this would be saying, “you will end up keeping the Ten Commandments, but you don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments”? Isn’t it clear that to abolish the Ten Commandments, based on Paul’s words, would mean that you no longer are required to love your neighbor?

I could further ask how this kind of thinking is harmonized with the book of James. In the second chapter of that book, we find passages which present problems for the thought that the law was abolished. Notice verses eight through eleven, where we find the phrase “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” By default this would obviously connect back to the concept found in the thirteenth chapter of Romans, where we find this same phrase used. Note that James states that if you keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, you are guilty of all. The concept ultimately brought forth by James is that if you break one commandment, you break all of them.

“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” – James 2:8-11

Notice that James extends this concept beyond just loving your neighbor versus having respect to persons. He takes it right down to the actual commandments themselves, noting that if you do not practice adultery and yet run off and kill some one you are a transgressor of the law. We already proved that 1 John defines sin as transgression of the law, and that Romans 6:23 suggests that the wages of sin is death. This means that being a transgressor of the law is something which ultimately causes some one to miss out on their salvation, when all of the pieces of Scripture are studied together. If we were not under any obligation to obey the Ten Commandments, why on earth would James be saying this? His words do not in any way harmonize with the popular teachings of today that the Ten Commandments were abolished.

In all reality, those who claim that the Ten Commandments were done away with do not have any problem with the majority of them. When pressed and confronted, everyone ultimately believes that it is wrong to steal, kill, have sex with another man’s wife, lust, worship idols, refuse to honor your parents, or take the Lord’s name in vain. The real issue is the fourth commandment, or rather the Sabbath. The claim is advanced that he who keeps the fourth commandment is a “judaizer”, and that the Ten Commandments were abolished as a means of skirting around obedience to a command which people are unwilling to obey.

The word “judaizer” is nothing more than an ad hominem attack. Ad hominem is a mistake in reasoning or logical fallacy, in which some one attacks the character of an individual making an argument rather than actually answering their arguments. The claim that the Sabbath is Jewish falls right into this category. The idea is to paint some one who keeps the fourth commandment as pushing false teachings that are associated with Judaism, which is something which most Christians believe shouldn’t be followed any more. We freely admit that the ceremonial or sacrificial system was abolished. Therefore my words should not be misunderstood.

However claiming that the Sabbath is Jewish, that everyone who keeps the Sabbath is into “Jewish practices”, that Sabbath keeping is somehow cultic, or that a Sabbath keeper is a “Judaizer” does not in any way make their teachings false. These claims by themselves do not in any way answer the argument that the Sabbath should be kept, or sweep the Scriptural evidence of such aside. Merely this is just an attack on the character of those who do it, without really proving them wrong from Scripture. And obviously every passage that we have produced from the Bible should prove conclusively how it is impossible for the Ten Commandments to be abolished.

That said, I hope that you see the ridiculousness of the idea that the Ten Commandments were done away with.

 

How To Study The Bible – Part 2 “Tools Of The Trade”

As the Christian begins studying the Bible, they might take notice of certain tools that are available to them. Examples are websites such as those listed underneath the links section of this blog. Others have been mentioned in the previous post, such as the Concordance and E-sword. All of these things have a tendency to enrich one’s study of God’s word.

While the Christian is beginning to get acquainted with these resources, temptation can come upon them. One might think, “how could there possibly be any temptation connected with a tool to help with Bible study?” The answer is that some of these tools actually come with dangers and pitfalls. There are ways in which a Concordance for instance may be misused, through for example a misreading of the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries which a Concordance comes equipped with. The tool allows for problems in both directions, but should not be tossed in the garbage solely on this grounds alone.

Before addressing the Concordance however, it is important to call the Christian’s attention to something known as Bible Commentaries. A Bible Commentary is book or set of books where a man, usually a theologian or pastor, has written about a series of texts or large sections of the Bible. The purpose of Bible Commentaries are literally what the name implies, to give an exhaustive commentary on the Scriptures, unraveling or explaining the meaning of verses. In a general sense the books are filled with the interpretations of the individuals who have written the books, which may or may not necessarily be correct.

The danger inherent in Bible Commentaries is found in the fact that they are an uninspired source of information. Using a Bible Commentary is almost the exact same thing as asking the person sitting in the pew next to you to interpret the text for you, or going to your pastor for all of the answers. One might even go so far as to equate the usage of Bible Commentaries with asking the theologians of your particular denomination about a verse. To clarify, these conversations are not necessarily inherently wrong to have in and of themselves. The problem is when you as a Christian become reliant on asking these individuals or consulting a Bible Commentary rather than studying the text for yourself.

In order to understand the potential problems that this might cause, let us for a moment take a trip back through time. Imagine for a moment that you are a young Jew, living in Palestine during the time of Christ. Jesus has just come to you to reveal himself as the Messiah. Let us imagine for a moment that he has even shown you Scriptures, proving exactly who he is, and shown you a miracle or two. Excited but still somewhat skeptical, you then go to the Pharisees and ask them about these experiences. The very first thing they tell you is that he is some kind of a false prophet, probably demon possessed [as the Jews actually did accuse him of this at one time, see John 8:52], and that everything he says is wrong. Now let us imagine that you come to the conclusion that they are probably right, since they are the leaders and theologians in the Church.

The problem with this picture is that this actually was Jesus Christ, the Messiah. You wound up missing the boat and rejecting Christ because you listened to the so-called ‘theologians’, instead of checking things out for yourself. Christians do this with their pastors more often than not, and the same has been done with Bible Commentaries. It is plausible that the Scriptures could introduce you to some concept which draws you closer to the Lord and has revealed his will to you, yet as you check a Bible Commentary on the verse you all of the sudden find that the person who wrote the commentary has given a completely different meaning to the text, or they have passed it by as dark or obscure.

Worse yet, you might find the individual’s interpretation to be completely erroneous. The fact that Bible Commentaries are uninspired documents creates a situation in which you are likely to adopt the opinions of whoever wrote the books, their theological errors, and whatever dogmas and creeds which they hold to. Therefore blindly accepting whatever materials are found in these books is not the very best policy for Bible Study.

There are several Bible passages which are applicable to this situation that warn against similar behavior. All of them may be seen below. They should be considered in the light of this situation. This is especially since many Christians have a tendency to be wholly reliant either on their Pastor or a Bible Commentary for the true interpretation of Scripture. Christians should remember that you do not have to be a Pastor or Theologian to interpret a passage of Scripture, and that the Bible is it’s own expositor. We are not a part of the Church in the Middle Ages, in which only the clergy could interpret the Bible and therefore the Bibles were kept from the people. You do not need an education from a seminary to figure out the meaning of a Bible text, neither should you rely on some one who has one.

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” – Psalm 118:8-9

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” – Psalm 146:3-4

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5

“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” – Proverbs 14:15

The first of these passages states that it is better to trust in God than in men. The next states directly that we should not put our trust in men, specifically princes are listed. There is also a curse pronounced on those who trust in men and “maketh flesh” their arm, followed by a warning to not believe every single word of a person blindly but to check it out for yourself. Yet complete reliance on a Bible Commentary would cause a Christian to be walking contrary to all of these Bible passages, and is akin to putting one hundred percent trust in your Pastor.

In view of all of these texts, consulting a Bible Commentary should not be our first move when studying a passage of Scripture. Again this would be akin to asking some one in the pews next to you to unravel the meaning for you, rather than studying it for yourself. In which case your beliefs are then based off of whatever their opinions or conclusions are and not the Bible. In view of this fact, it is important to mention that there are great Bible expositors of the past who have discarded Bible Commentaries entirely and began searching the Scriptures with nothing but their Bible and a Concordance. This is an excellent course of action for those who are just getting acquainted with their Bibles.

Somewhat related to Bible Commentaries are Bible Dictionaries. There are very good Bible Dictionaries for the Christian to use, one being the King James Dictionary. You can find this on Blue letter bible. This particular resource is invaluable for understanding the old/archaic english used all over the King James Version of the Bible. If you study from the King James, you might find this to be an awesome resource which could enhance your study of the Scriptures. The main issue however with most Bible Dictionaries is that they contain the theology of whatever Church or Theologian published them to the public, whether it is true or false. Therefore I would give them a similar treatment as Bible Commentaries, ensuring that you do not wholly rely on them when coming to a conclusion or studying a concept.

At this point in our journey, we now turn our attention back to the Concordance. This tool comes equipped with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. This is because the Bible was originally written in these two languages, the old testament having been written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. These dictionaries are an excellent tool, allowing the Bible student to study a word used in a passage in the original language in which it was written. I have personally found that it comes in handy when you run into an old english word which you do not understand, or terms are used that are not clear on the surface.

Below are two passages of Scripture. The first verse uses the term “oblation.” This is an old english word, the surface meaning of which is not clear, as not many use this term today. With a word like this in the King James Version of the Bible you have two options, either you can look it up in a King James Dictionary or you can consult the original meaning of the word using the Hebrew Dictionary attached to your concordance. In the case of this word, both might give you an equally clearer meaning of the statement used. The other passage uses words like “Raca” and “Thou Fool”, which are very strange words on the surface. In addition to the verses, I have produced the meaning of some of these words from the Concordance.

“And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.” – Leviticus 2:4

H7133

קֻרְבָּן קָרְבָּן

qorbân qûrbân

kor-bawn’, koor-bawn’

From H7126; something brought near the altar, that is, a sacrificial present: – oblation, that is offered, offering.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” – Matthew 5:22

G4469

ῥακά

rhaka

rhak-ah’

Of Chaldee origin (compare [H7386]); O empty one, that is, thou worthless (as a term of utter vilification): – Raca.

G3474

μωρός

mōros

mo-ros’

Probably form the base of G3466; dull or stupid (as if shut up), that is, heedless, (morally) blockhead, (apparently) absurd: – fool (-ish, X -ishness).

I have learned by experience that the result is formatted first with the definition of the word, and then the various ways in which it is translated across the Bible. In this case the word “oblation” means “something brought near the alter, that is, a sacrificial present.” The word “offering” comes to mind as one reads the texts. This is one way the word is actually translated, and is a thought that seems to fit given the definition. The word “offering”, although not the same Hebrew word, is even used in the verse. You could even theoretically use Leviticus 2:4 as it stands to define the word “Oblation” as an offering, given the wording of the passage.

Some old english words such as “wherefore”, “ought”, or “unto” do not necessarily have helpful Hebrew or Greek definitions attached to them, and if you struggle with these words I personally recommend either using a King James Dictionary such as the one previously mentioned, or looking them up on the internet [I have done this in some cases and found the definition for old english words like “Unto”].

I will now draw your attention to the words “Raca” and “Thou Fool” found in Matthew 5:22. Note that one is defined as a term of utter vilification, and the other is defined as “dull or stupid, as if shut up, that is, heedless (morally) blockhead, (apparently) absurd.” Both of the definitions given make these terms sound like insults or general hurtful remarks thrust at a person. This gave me the impression that this passage is addressing the statements you might throw at some one in moments of anger, especially since the passages that follow speak of making reconciliation with your brethren in the Church. In this case, this is an example of how a Greek dictionary attached to a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible can enhance some of your studies of God’s word.

These tools can help you unravel confusing words, such as “Raca” and “Thou Fool”. It can even enhance your understanding of what the passage is saying to a certain extent. However one needs to use these tools with caution. There is a right way and wrong way to use these dictionaries. The video below produces an outstanding example of one way in which a Christian can fall into error using this tool if they are not careful. Even following closely beside this problem is the way the definition is set up. As previously noted, you are given the definition of a word and then the way it is translated. Sometimes multiple definitions for one word are given. The Bible Student should always check the context of a passage when they are confronted with this situation to avoid inserting the wrong meaning of a word. Remember that as lay people, most of us are not Greek and Hebrew scholars, neither do we need to be to understand God’s Word.

Another point to take into consideration is that you should avoid consulting the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries first to find the answers as to what the overall meaning of a text is. You should always seek to compare Scripture with Scripture before consulting this tool. In spite of these potential draw backs, I do not advocate discarding this resource, but instead using it very carefully and prayerfully.

Next I want to draw your attention to resources such as E-Sword. Much of the features of E-Sword were dwelt upon in the previous post. We already know that it is complete with a powerful Bible search engine that allows you to control the complete range of the search, whether it is just focused on one book or several books of the Bible. E-sword also comes with features such as a verse analyzer, which examines words in any given verse. It can be set to have a range from one passage in the beginning of a book all the way to the end of a book, and it essentially tells you how many times certain words are used across a book of the Bible or in just a few verses.

According to the program’s built-in user guide, this can help you determine the importance of a word. The tool itself seems handy, and is worth calling your attention to, even though I have not personally used it much in my experience of studying with E-sword. E-sword is also equipped with a split-screen function, allowing you to study at least two verses at once from different books of the Bible. This is very handy for when you have a Bible which has a lot of chain references and you want to look something up without leaving your present position in the Bible.

There is also a Gospel harmony tool, which takes all of the Gospels and shows all of the accounts of the same event. This is something I see coming in handy if one wants to study the varying descriptions of last day events normally found in Matthew 24 across different Gospels. An even cooler feature is it’s built in concordance. Obviously the function of a physical Concordance in finding verses is virtually replaced by the Bible search engine. However E-sword comes with the Greek & Hebrew words built right in. All one has to do is click a button to see Strong’s numbers, which then allow you get the definitions if you hover your mouse over them or click them. You can also download a KJC or “King James Concordance”, which just like a regular Concordance gives you a list of every verse that uses a particular word across the Bible in the same fashion as does a physical Concordance.

The draw back with E-Sword is some of the resources available for download. It seems a lot of Bible programs are made with a philosophy of study which involves an emphasis on consulting Bible Commentaries, something already dwelt upon at length in this article. There are Bible Commentaries and Dictionaries available for download with E-Sword that I would use with caution for the same reasons already dwelt upon, in addition to resources I would not put entire reliance upon if not avoid entirely, such as the Apocrypha [which is uninspired] or the writings of the early Church Fathers. At some future time, a post will be given surrounding some of these writers from the early centuries of Christianity. For the time being it will suffice to say “use and read with extreme caution”, as some of them advocate the worship of the stars, have been known to mix Christianity with Greek Philosophy, and had some weird pagan ideas creeping into their doctrinal thinking.

Some might think this impossible considering these were the early Christians, but remember warnings from Paul concerning this matter, and the fact that even today heresies creep into the Church. In the book of Acts we find the following statements. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” – Acts 20:29-31. In view of this fact, it is important to read with caution.

In conclusion, it is my hope that all of these tools will be helpful in your study of God’s word. I hope also that you find the following videos helpful as you begin to study the Bible.

How To Study The Bible – Part 1

“What on earth do I do with this?” The new believer in Christ often may ask, as a Bible is slapped in their hands. First introductions to the Scriptures can be an intimidating experience. Some who have been freshly converted to the faith may not enjoy the task of reading, and therefore find Bible Study to be difficult if not boring. Others may experience problems in finding the time to sit down and read their Bibles. Perhaps their jobs or families have become so demanding on their time, that it is difficult to make time to study the Bible.

While these problems may confront the new believer, more often than not the task of trying to figure out how to study the Bible is daunting, difficult, and even discouraging. The new believer may wander the Church, asking numerous believers how to study the Bible. It is unfortunate that the individual in this position is most often met with statements such as, “there is no real method to study” or “just read it.” These answers of course do not answer the question, “How do I study the Bible?” Even more discouragement might be met in asking the pastor, as they might simply just respond by handing you Bible Studies that you might go through, without actually teaching you to study.

There is an old saying which holds true to this scenario. If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. Giving packets of studies without teaching the person to study for themselves obviously doesn’t answer the question either. Yet the new believer in Christ might be even more discouraged when they are confronted with the various books of the Bible. Their mind might be filled with questions like, “which one do I start in?” Or they may feel intimidated by all sixty-six books of Scripture, from the various historical books right on down to the book of Revelation.

Still more difficult is the cryptic symbolism found throughout many places in Scripture. One might find themselves asking, “what on earth does this mean?” It can leave one feeling confused, discouraged, and not really wanting to bother reading it because of their lack of understanding. With all these facts in mind, how exactly is the new believer to study their Bible? This seems a good question that not a lot of Christians know how to answer. Perhaps this is one possible reason that the Bible is neglected by so many Christians, even ones of long standing.

In spite of all the challenges and discouragement the new believer may face in this area, they are not to be discouraged. There are Christians, including the present writer of this article, who have learned much about this topic. I speak from experience when I say that it is possible to gain an understanding of Scripture through diligent study and the reception of wisdom from above. It is my hope that some of the things which I have learned by experience and been taught by others will be of aid to you in your own search of the Scriptures.

With that said, one has to consider what the true objective of the question is. Many Christians overlook the fact that the one who asks how to study the Bible is really seeking for methods of interpretation. They are after the means by which they can unravel the meaning of a passage. The new believer wants to know how to dig into the word of God. Telling them to “just read it” doesn’t answer their question or really give them what they are looking for.

I speak from experience when I say that the Bible is a deep book. It may be read from one cover to the next and yet the person completely misses the point. Unless one stops to think about what the word of God is saying, they may not be able to apply the passage to their life. Speed reading is obviously not the very best policy when attempting to study one’s Bible. One may skip over powerful and convicting statements in their efforts to speed read through the Bible in a whole year. In contrast the person who studies one passage until they understand it’s relation to their life and salvation has gained more than the speed reader, and the resulting outward changes will likely be seen.

Than it is therefore important to go very slowly, taking one verse at a time and digesting each thought presented until you have achieved complete understanding. Yet this is not the first step to take in seeking to study the Bible. One of the first things to consider when approaching the Bible is your attitude. Are you approaching the Bible to vindicate your own opinions or prove some doctrinal point? Are you studying the scriptures to find evidence of your preconceived opinions or traditions? If you approach the Bible with this type of thinking, you will wrest the Scriptures every single time.

You will be likely to force meaning upon passages which they do not have or remove them from their context. One can produce all of the disconnected utterances in the world to prove whatever point they want, yet this does not prove them correct, or make their methods of interpretation right. It is important to approach the Bible with a teachable attitude. I would advise you to come to the Bible without a single bias. Be prepared to lay aside all opinions, doctrines, traditional teachings, or the sayings of theologians. Leave these things at the door of investigation and see what the word of God teaches for yourself, and if any of these things do not line up with the Scriptures abandon them.

The next step in this process is to pray. If you neglect prayer, it doesn’t matter what methods of interpretation you use. You will still be liable to wrest and misinterpret statements in Scripture. The only way to avoid this is not only to approach with the correct attitude, but to pray before you start. Ask for the aid of divine guidance, for God to open the Scriptures to you. There are several promises in the Bible which you can apply to your own experience in studying the word, and which you may present in prayer before beginning your study. They may be found below.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” – John 16:13

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” – John 15:26

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

The first verse uses the cryptic phrase “Spirit of Truth”. In order to see exactly what that is, one need only look at the connection between all three passages. The middle verse defines the spirit of truth as the “Comforter”, which is defined as the “Holy Ghost” by John 14:26. The Holy Ghost is also known in Christian circles and in the Bible as the Holy Spirit, thereby making the term “Spirit of Truth” another name for the Holy Ghost. The passage from the fifteenth chapter of John helps to establish this fact, while the other two passages are the promises which are most applicable to your study of the Bible.

The first statement suggests that when the “Spirit of Truth” is come, he will “guide you into all truth.” This means that one function of the Holy Ghost is to reveal the truth to you, and the other passage obviously states that he will teach you all things. This means that the Holy Ghost is somebody you want helping you with Bible Study. If you put the two passages together, he will guide you into the true meaning of Scripture and teach you what verses actually mean! This kind of aid may be received through prayer, as can be shown especially by a reading of Luke 11:9-13. This means that if you start your Bible Study out with earnest prayer for the aid of the Holy Spirit, you will more than likely be met with better results from your study. You will be much more likely to come forth from your study with the true meaning of the text.

Let us imagine that after this step, the new believer turns to the book of John. They begin in the very first passage. Immediately it seems their heart sinks. Why one might ask? The reason being, they are immediately confronted with nothing other than the very first passage of John, which has a very cryptic appearance. The verse reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1. “Word” is used a great many times in this first passage to the point where one is left scratching their head in confusion, wondering if any part of the Bible will ever make sense.

However there is absolutely no need to become discouraged. The Bible is full of statements that are very cryptic in their appearance. This does not in any way mean that they cannot be understood. After all, with those two promises from this very same book in regards to the Holy Ghost, how is it that something cannot be understood? If the Spirit teaches you all things, the idea that you cannot understand the Bible is absurd. Therefore the beginner Bible Student is not to become discouraged.

Yet this passage furnishes us with sufficient evidence to back up that which was earlier stated. Cryptic statements found in the Bible, such as this one, are practically screaming that you should stop and examine them. Speed reading from here forward would cause one to completely miss the thought found in this passage. Therefore it is important to stop and examine the text.

Then from this point forward, your next move is observation. It is key to pay attention to all of the details taking place in any given text. This can help in the process of unraveling the meaning of any given verse. With John 1:1 we learn details such as the fact that the word was in the beginning, that the word is with God, and the Word itself is in fact God. John 14:26 is shown below as an example of how far attention to detail can go.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

From this verse, we learn that that the Holy Ghost is the comforter. We can also see that the Holy Ghost is defined as a “he”, making the Holy Ghost a person. Sometimes words can have huge theological implications, so it is important to pay attention and watch everything that is going on in a verse. Looking at all of the details eliminates focusing in on only half of a text, so be sure and read the entire passage rather than focusing on small snippets. The rest of the verse tells us that the Holy Ghost will bring all things to our remembrance and teach us all things. The end of the passage says, “whatsoever I have said unto you.” Whoever this mysterious person is, it is office of the Holy Ghost to bring what they have said to our remembrance. We’re left with a very important point and question as we look at the details of this text. Just who exactly is doing the talking?

If one were to scroll up in their Bibles to the twenty-third verse of the fourteenth chapter of John, they would learn just who in the twenty-sixth passage is talking. “Whatsoever I have said unto you” is a phrase which is spoken by Jesus. To make this fact much more clear, three passages which occur before John 14:26 have been produced below. They teach us very clearly that there is no change in individuals talking from verse twenty-three on down to twenty-six, therefore making the statement “whatsoever I have said unto you” a reference to the sayings of Jesus. Therefore it is the office of the Holy Ghost to bring whatever Jesus has said to our remembrance.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. ” – John 14:23-25

This fact raises an important point. Details can be found in the context. Everything surrounding a passage has a bearing on the meaning of a verse. Watch for a change in persons talking, a swap of subject, words that link passages together, or details that unravel the verse. As shown by the above texts, something as simple as who is doing the talking can have an important bearing on the meaning of a passage. This can also mean the difference between wresting a text outside of it’s true meaning and coming to a proper understanding of it. Passages isolated from their context is the means by which individuals fall into error. Strange theological ideas can be conjured by isolating passages and phrases and putting one’s own spin on them, making it very important to read a passage in it’s original connection.

A verse-by-verse study of the Scriptures is not eliminated by employing such methods. This in fact only creates a situation in which one needs to examine everything happening surrounding a verse. As for the case of John 1:1, with the text as the very first passage of the book obviously nothing is occurring before the verse. One is more than capable however of looking ahead to determine if anything in the next few verses provides clues as to what the text is talking about.

Supposing nothing is found in the texts that are ahead which unravel it, what is the next move? From here, asking yourself questions about a Bible verse can be a helpful method of unraveling a text. The goal is to attempt to answer them from the Bible. Your questions should target the details of the passage, especially those which remain in obscurity. Therefore one of the most obvious questions you can ask at this point is, “What is the word?” You could also ask yourself, “What is the beginning?” Still another good one is, “What does it mean for the word to be with God?”

The task of attempting to answer these questions from Scripture can be daunting, even seemingly impossible for the new believer. Those who are not completely acquainted with their Bibles would not know how to search for texts which provide the answers for other texts. How is the new believer to answer any questions they may have from the Bible? There is a tool called a concordance, and this in fact is the answer.

A Concordance is like an exhaustive compendium of words used in the Bible. It is a super thick text book composed of every single word used in Scripture. It is arranged alphabetically, making things fairly easy to find. A Bible Student could take “word” from John 1:1, look it up in the Concordance, and find themselves confronted with a complete list of every verse across the Scriptures which uses the word “word.” This would allow you to trace the phrase all across the Bible. You should be able pick these up at most Christian book stores.

However the physical concordance may seem scary. One could spend hours thumbing through the super thick text book before they eventually land on what they’re looking for. Electronic versions are available totally free of charge. They can be used from any one of the links found on this site. In addition, E-sword [which is a Bible program] contains a powerful search engine which has the same functions as a concordance. It is even far superior to a physical concordance, as it will allow you to trace out complete sentences, phrases, or multiple words across the Bible. You can even narrow your search range to only target specific books of the Bible.

I personally recommend E-sword, as it’s search capabilities will greatly speed up the process of searching the Bible. The next step for the beginner Bible student from here is to take a concordance or Bible search engine, and search out answers for the questions that he or she asked. If they asked what the Word is, than their next move would be to type “word” into the search engine. The student is then to trace out the phrase or word until it’s meaning is literally explained. If the explanation does no violence to the main text as it stands, and makes perfect sense, you have found the correct meaning. If not than you need to look again.

If the search range on E-sword is set from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible student is confronted with six hundred seventy-five verses. At first this fact can seem a little scary. However it may be helpful to the beginner Bible Student to set the range to focus first on the book you are already studying, allowing you to get a rapid survey through every passage in the book of John which uses the phrase “word.” If you don’t find anything in the book you are presently studying which answers your questions, you can then widen your search to include the rest of the Bible. Narrowing your search results in this fashion can help you more rapidly land on the correct passage that explains the verse you are studying.

Focusing the search range on just the book of John would cause the Bible student to come across an interesting passage fourteen verses down from John 1:1. The verse reads, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14. It should be obvious that, given this is in the same chapter of the book of John, this is most likely talking about the same “Word.” Although the meaning is not clear on the surface, the fact that it is in the same connection as the first verse should make it abundantly clear that an examination of this passage will unravel at least a portion of the other verse.

Applying some of the earlier steps, one might notice that this verse is stating that the word “was made flesh” and “dwelt among among us.” John 1:1 already defined the word as God. If you put the pieces together as you pay close attention, this means that John 1:14 is saying that God dwelt among us. Another detail is that when the verse says “and we beheld his glory” it is obviously still talking about the “Word”, given the same connection. Still a more striking detail is found when the statement says “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” All of these details furnish you with subject matter for the search engine.

Tracing out the word “begotten” produces only twenty-four texts, so you do not have many verses to wade through at this point. Out of the first twelve texts, only three use the phrase “begotten” in the same way that John 1:14 does. One of those three texts is the very verse in question, therefore eliminating it. The two verses remaining are John 1:18 and John 3:16. Both of them are reproduced below.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – John 1:18

Both of these passages attach the phrase “begotten” to the word “Son”, and imply that the only begotten of the Father is most likely the Son of God. Therefore if one determines who the Son of God is, one has found the meaning of the term “Word.” Searching the phrase “Son of God” produces one hundred and eighty-two verses. Paying close attention to them, you might notice that your Bible search engine [in this case we are using E-sword as an example] is giving you all of the passages that use all of the words you typed in. Therefore a lot of the content in the results has no bearing on what you are looking for. My recommendation at this point is to skim over things rapidly until you come across something that actually literally explains the phrase “Son of God.”

The Bible Student eventually lands on a passage in Matthew. The verse reads, “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” – Matthew 8:29. This verse is defining Jesus as the Son of God. We may therefore conclude that the only begotten son of God is Jesus Christ, making the only begotten of the Father Jesus, and making Jesus “the Word” mentioned in John 1:1.

This brings an important principle to mind. Whenever you come across a cryptic statement in the Bible, remember that it can always be explained by some other portion of the Bible. Comparing one Scripture with another is a practice which can always help to unlock Bible verses that you are confused about. The use of a concordance or Bible search engine makes this much easier than it sounds, and eliminates the need for having a complete knowledge of everything the Bible says in order to compare one verse with another.

In addition, these tools allow you to follow yet another important principle. A sound approach for Bible Study is to line up everything the Bible says about any given topic before coming to a conclusion about a doctrinal point. Neglecting to do this causes an individual to miss the complete doctrinal picture. You cannot gain a full understanding of the Bible’s overall teaching about a subject from one or two verses, or even half of a verse, when the rest of the Bible disproves whatever fallacious conclusions one might draw from snippets.

As you begin to apply these methods, you may want to take notes. E-sword comes with built in note-taking software. The built-in abilities of E-sword are just like any other word processor, with changeable fonts, bullet points, and the ability to make numbered lists. An especially cool feature of the program is the ability to format any Scripture reference you type into the note taking editor as a link back to that verse and a “tool tip”, to where when you hover your mouse over the reference a speech bubble containing the entire verse will appear. All of these abilities massively come in handy when studying the Bible.

Some of you may prefer something which you can hold in your hand. This means one hundred page spiral ring or composition notebooks will be your best friend. Taking notes will allow you to focus in on the details more easily, underlining or circling key phrases and words and noting all of the observations you make. I would even suggest writing down your questions, and any passages which answer them, as well as whatever your final conclusion as to what the passage means is.

At this point it is prudent to give a word of caution. Your objective in studying the passage is not to find or write down what the text means to you, but to unravel the actual meaning of the text and apply it to your life. Another word to define what coming up with what the text means to you is Eisegesis. This is a negative thing which often causes people to go off into error, and is therefore something you want to avoid. Eisegesis is defined as reading something into a text which is not there, or forcing a meaning on a verse which it doesn’t have. A good example would be taking Daniel 7:4 and applying the Lion in the verse to Belgium without proving it from the Bible.

Others have taken Bible passages and reapplied them, giving them a new meaning which they did not originally have or convey. The reapplication of prophecies which have been fulfilled in the past might be another good example of Eisegesis. This is also a pitfall with Bible Study that you want to avoid. As you study through prophecy, a good point to note is that sometimes the Bible gives you the proper interpretation immediately after giving you a specific dream or vision. If that is the case, than interpreting the text as anything other than what it gave you is doing violence to the Scriptures.

You will also want to make sure that you apply figurative terms correctly. As you run into cryptic phrases and statements in the Scriptures, it can be tempting to apply figures anywhere in the Bible. Let us hypothetically suppose that you have just discovered that trees represent people in prophecy. You then turn your Bible to Genesis and you read about the tree of life in Genesis 3. We have produced the passages in mind below. Read them carefully and then think about applying the hypothetical symbolism mentioned to the verses.

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-24

If you think about it, reading these passages with the hypothetical symbolism really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. You would be reading this passage as literally saying, “and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the people of life, and eat, and live for ever.” When you stumble across a figurative term in the Bible, remember that it doesn’t apply to every single verse across the Scriptures. In order to further deduce whether or not one should be applying figurative terms to whatever is taking place in the text, it is important to identify the type of literature in the Scriptures.

A good example would be prophecy vs literal history. In the case of Genesis, the entire book is literal history. You would run into much the same in the book of Exodus. Unless you are dealing with what is known as typology, which is a subject for a later time, generally you are not going to find something prophetic in stories that are to be read literally. Neither will you find anything allegorical among them. It is usually only those who wish to get around doctrines taught in the Bible or those who lack in faith who interpret historical books as allegorical.

Parables can be interpreted in this way, and there are a number of ways in which they may be identified. The first is that generally they are spoken by Jesus, usually beginning with the phrase “there was a certain man” or “a certain man”. Another way that you can spot them is through a statement which directly says that they are parables, an example of which is “Hear another parable” or “And then he spoke in parables.” You can also spot them by the fact that they are spoken in dialog by some one, as well as through their obvious fictional content, one example being talking trees found in Judges 9.

In like manner prophecy generally has similar identifying features. It usually takes the form of dreams or visions, which are always identified as such with a “I’m going into vision now” or “then so and so had a dream” type statement. Their content usually is the most cryptic, and sometimes appear to violate the simple laws of nature on the surface. An example of this is found in Revelation 12, in which the Bible describes a woman standing on the moon and clothed with the sun.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” – Revelation 12:1-3

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

Obviously I have never seen a dragon with seven heads and ten horns, therefore this is meant to be taken in a symbolic sense. Note that later the Bible gives you the interpretation of the symbol used, telling you that the dragon is Satan. Since literal verses do not use this kind of language, or a secondary interpretation is not given, it should be relatively easy to discriminate between the symbolic and the literal in Scripture. With this discrimination, you should be able to pick out when to apply the meaning of figures and when not to. Especially in the case of Genesis should you consider avoiding doing that, as this is where some strange theological ideas are generated from.

At this point, let us say that the the beginner Bible Student still is unable to figure out the meaning of a Bible verse. Scary as that thought may sound, I have in fact encountered this phenomenon. In spite of all my efforts to search around, I have at times struggled with attempting to unravel the meaning of a passage. This happens to the best of us, and is something which will actually enrich your experience in studying the word. The reason being is that it will drive you to your knees in prayer, where you will earnestly plead with God for the true meaning of the passage until he answers you. I can speculate that the Scriptures were designed to do this very thing in order to generate a relationship between you and God, where you are placed in a position of having to diligently inquire in prayer about a text or difficulty.

This experience is likely to have a humbling effect on you. If you come to the Bible with your intellectual pride, depending wholly on yourself or your own abilities to figure out what passages mean, you are likely to have your pride laid in the dust. The rich experience of studying the word is likely to create in you a dependence on God alone for interpreting the Bible. Therefore you should not be discouraged because you come across a text or two that you don’t understand in spite of all your best efforts. It is times like those for which the Bible itself actually offers you a solution, which may be found in all of the promises below.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” – Mark 11:24

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

The first verse is self-explanatory. It simply states that if you ask, God will liberally impart to you wisdom. With that in mind, you basically have no reason to be discouraged by the cryptic symbolism of the Bible, especially that which you find in the book of Revelation. The second verse is virtually stating that whatever you want, if you ask in prayer while believing, God will give it to you. While there are some conditions to this verse as will be discussed at a later time, this passage most definitely applies to the situation in question. The third verse has already been examined, but you can conclude from it that since the office of the Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things”, he will aid you with passages you are struggling over if you just ask and believe.

It is my hope that the new believer in Christ would find these methods helpful as they begin to search the word.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Luke 16:19-31

The above passages from the sixteenth chapter of Luke are cited as a sufficient case for rejecting two doctrines, namely the annihilation of the wicked and the sleep of the dead. These statements are taken to support the concept of the immortality of the soul, and therefore brought forth as proof along with an array of stock arguments to suggest that those who hold to contrary doctrines are nothing short of heretics. Therefore any further investigation into the matter of death or final punishments is effectively stifled, or so it would seem.

Many have been silenced by the above cited verses, shrinking at opposition thus encountered from those who cling to traditional views. Yet no one stops to ask much needed questions. If these statements of holy writ are indeed to be taken as though they support the traditional view of hell, does this then mean that the Bible contradicts itself? Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible, which teaches one point and then turns around and teaches the opposite?

The prudent would admonish one to think on this matter carefully. In the book of 1st Timothy, we find passages which present glaring contradictions to the way in which the above statements from Christ have been interpreted. The passages read, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:14-16

These verses from 1st Timothy are clear. Reading all of the surrounding details, it should be apparent that only God/Jesus is immortal. The words “Who only hath immortality” could not be a more straight forward declaration. With such clarity, the conclusion is inescapable. If only God is immortal, than obviously no part of man is immortal, which means that man does not possess some kind of immortal soul which separates from the body at death. This is what is required in order for a man to receive rewards or punishments immediately upon dying, or to be whisked away to some kind of conscious intermediate state. If man does not possess an immortal soul, then any of the previously listed states in death are impossibilities. In addition, the lack of an immortal soul means that one could not burn in the fires of hell for any length of time without being killed.

Thus a contradiction exists between 1 Timothy 6:14-16 and these statements of Christ. Further complicating the matter are Christ’s own teachings found elsewhere in the gospels. From the fifth chapter of John we find the following, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:28-29.

These passages from John present a problem for the literal interpretation of the above words of Christ. The words “in the graves” present glaring contradictions for this kind of thinking. How is it that anyone could be ‘in the graves’ if they are in either heaven or hell, or some kind of vat for the supposedly conscious dead? Some might attempt to get around this by simply contending that these statements only reference the body, but this would be nothing short of eisegesis. The lack of references to the body present in these passages make any attempt to read the word “bodies” into the verse a clear case of twisting the scriptures. By placing everyone who has died unanimously in the graves, Christ’s words clearly reference the entire man, and cannot be applied to the body alone.

Those who believe that rewards are given at death are immediately confronted with the problem of resurrection. John 5:28-29 clearly gives two resurrections, one of life and the other of death. The titles attached to each indicate their purpose. Yet these would be made obsolete by the idea that when a man dies, he is whisked away to receive his rewards or punishments. It is nothing short of confusion to imagine the soul sent to hell, only to be placed back in the body, so that both soul and body can be raised up, only to be burned some more. Those who hold to this type of a position would do well to re-examine the foundations for their beliefs, while others who think the soul goes to a conscious intermediate state had better ask themselves why Jesus described anyone as being in the graves.

Yet there is one story in the book of John that complicates the matter further. Many Christians are perhaps familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, found in the eleventh chapter of John. The verses which most stand out in view of the words of Christ in Luke 16 read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

In these verses, Jesus seems to cryptically state that Lazarus is asleep. The confused disciples responded by saying that “he shall do well”, in view of the fact that if he slept he would merely awaken and be fine. However, scripture is very clear that Jesus was mentioning Lazarus’ death. These passages generate the obvious inescapable conclusion that Jesus is here referring to death as a sleep. But why is it exactly that Jesus is doing this? For the simple fact that there is no consciousness in death, otherwise sleep would not be a fitting statement to attach to it. This would explain the expressions of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, where he clearly stated “the dead know not anything.”

These facts create serious problems for the literal interpretation of the Rich man and Lazarus. One of the largest is the name of the individual involved. Many Christians contend that the words of Christ in Luke 16 are to be read as a literal history. If this is indeed the case, than we are to believe that Lazarus both slept in his grave and went into the bosom of Abraham. Yet this cannot be possible, as the word “sleep” suggests unconsciousness. A lack of consciousness eliminates the idea that the ‘soul’ is to be immediately transported anywhere upon death, as the whole man sleeps until the resurrection. This fact can be made much more clear by comparing John 11:11-14 with John 5:28-29.

Due to the fact that these passages from the eleventh chapter of John strike directly at the heart of tradition, many might attempt to get around these verses. Some might go so far as to suggest that no consciousness in death is a heresy, and that the word “sleep” as used by not only Jesus himself but by the apostle Paul [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18] references the body alone. If one really contemplates such an idea, it becomes clear just how ridiculous the assertion sounds. Jesus clearly used the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” before he said “Lazarus is dead.” Why did he not say, “Lazarus is in Abraham’s Bosom” or “Lazarus has gone to heaven” or perhaps even “His soul has gone to heaven, while his body sleeps..”? If we are to believe that the body sleeps while the soul goes somewhere else, would these not be more fitting statements? The fact of the matter is the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” clearly is a reference to the entire man.

Even the concept of sleep itself creates problems for the literal interpretation of Christ’s words in Luke 16. Near the very beginning of the story, there are three passages that I would like to especially focus in on. They read, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” – Luke 16:22-24.

To begin, these verses have “consciousness” written all over them. This is evident by the fact that the rich man is described as lifting up his eyes and crying out to “Father Abraham.” Than if this part of the sixteenth chapter of Luke is to be read literally, a contradiction is created between the passages of Luke 16:22-24 and John 11:11-14, both of which contain the words of Christ. Unconsciousness in death would obviously eliminate any possibility of being able to cry out to any one, there being any torment for the rich man to experience when he died, or there being any ability to ‘lift up his eyes’. Yet Jesus clearly stated that death was to be compared to a sleep [which is unconsciousness], and then seemingly turned around and told a story in which a man was consciously transported to hell when he died.

The question therefore remains, does the Bible contradict itself? It is an unfortunate reality that such would cause Atheists to exult and exclaim that we as Christians have been lied to, and that we are foolish for believing in the scriptures. Therefore these contradictions must be resolved. In the very beginning of these statements from the sixteenth chapter of Luke, we find a certain recurring phrase that appears elsewhere in the gospels, usually in connection with parables. Two such examples may be seen below.

“And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” – Luke 15:11-16

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:” – Matthew 21:33

The phrase “there was a certain” or “a certain man” is used by Christ frequently in connection with parables. As shown by the above examples, scripture sometimes directly identifies the parable and sometimes does not. Note that Christ used an obviously fictitious narrative in the fifteenth chapter of Luke as a teaching point. He describes a son, who takes his father’s goods into a far country and wastes “his substance with riotous living.” Most Christians recognize this as the parable of the prodigal son. We find a similar phrase occurring again in Matthew 21, this time connected with a clear statement that he is about to speak a parable.

Does this mean that since Jesus did not directly identify the prodigal son story as a parable, it must be read as literal history? Any Christian spoken to recognizes these descriptions given in Luke 15 as a parable, and will more than likely not take it as a literal history. Indeed, if we are to believe the story given is always literal merely because a clear statement that it is a parable is missing than perhaps we should believe that trees talk. One need only look in the ninth chapter of Judges to verify this fact. “And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.” – Judges 9:7-9

Christians recognize Jotham to be speaking a fable, which is also a fictitious narrative. Yet there are no clear indicators of this fact before he begins to speak. It is only evident from an obviously fictitious element present in the story, such as the concept of talking trees. Therefore the fact that a clear statement of “this is a parable” missing from the text before, after, or during the story does not necessarily mean it is to be taken as literal history. Yet quite a few Christians still mistakenly treat the story of the Rich man and Lazarus this way, thereby wresting it in support of tradition.

The phrase “there was a certain rich man” indicates that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus used similar statements and phrases in connection with fictitious narratives in various locations in the gospels. For more evidence that this story is not to be taken literally, one need only look to the obvious fictitious elements present in the story. The story furnishes us with details such as the Rich man calling out to ‘Father Abraham’ and a request for water to cool the Rich man’s tongue. If one was ablaze in fiery torment, a drop of water for your tongue wouldn’t be very helpful. Additionally, what would be the use in calling out to ‘Father Abraham’? What authority does Abraham have to really do anything? It is obvious that there wouldn’t be much good done in calling out to him.

Even beyond this, Abraham and the Rich Man are described as talking to each other. This conjures the horrific thought that while the saved are in heaven, the lost are burned in full-view of the saved. They are apparently even capable of hearing the shrieks and cries of the lost as they burn throughout all eternity. Yet if that were the case, how would the promise of Revelation 21:4 find it’s fulfillment? [“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4] Enjoying the abodes of heaven is an impossibility with the thought of your suffering friends and loved ones ever before you, much less having to hear it on a day-to-day basis. Unless one holds to the inhumane sadistic conclusion that the saved will find the suffering of the lost “most entertaining” [hint: this position is not found anywhere in the Bible], these facts cannot be observed as anything other than an obvious fictional element.

These fictional elements, taken together with the obvious contradictions, indicate strongly that this story from the sixteenth chapter of Luke is just a parable. As such, interpreting these passages as a literal history is nothing short of a fallacy, if not eisegesis. Worse yet, the literal interpretation of the story creates a paradox between the literal resurrection of Lazarus and the story told by Christ in Luke 16, namely that one was resurrected and the other clearly was not. Therefore how could this parable be taken as literal history? One must think on this carefully, as the word “Lazarus” standing alone does not leave much room for differentiating between characters, if the story is to be read literally. This means that were this a literal history, it would be impossible to take it as referencing anyone other than the Lazarus mentioned in John 11:11-14, therefore creating the paradox of “Was he resurrected…or not?” [See Luke 16:28-31.]

The sheer weight of the contradictions and paradoxes crushes any possibility of basing one’s conclusions of the afterlife on this parable alone. It therefore cannot be taken to be teaching about final punishment, man’s state in death, or some kind of post-death vat for the conscious dead. Others who have sought to answer this and other stock arguments have expounded upon the true meaning of the parable. As for us, we would counsel students of the word who have held to traditional viewpoints to avoid building doctrines off of one or a few obscure verses. It is prudent to line up every single passage on the subject in question, in order to help avoid errors and misunderstanding and to gain a clearer picture on the subject.

The Sabbath A Shadow?

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” – Colossians 2:14-17

“The Sabbath was done away with,” says the believer in Sunday worship. “We don’t have to keep it anymore; it was only for the Jews.” He who worships on Sunday agrees, and then adds “You are denying Christ by keeping the Sabbath!” The claim here is that the Sabbath was abolished at the cross, alongside the Ten Commandments. Therefore we as Christians do not need to keep either of them. The question then remains, is the Sabbath still valid for Christians today?

In the book of 2 Peter, we find the following passages “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16

In these passages from the second epistle of Peter, we are warned about scriptures which are difficult to understand. We are told plainly that they are often wrested by “they that are unlearned and unstable”, to an individual’s own destruction. Yet, as we previously saw when we first examined these passages the specific target of these texts from Peter is Paul’s writings. The logical deduction is that Colossians 2:14-17 especially fall under this warning from 2 Peter, since Colossians was written by Paul. We therefore owe it to ourselves to examine these passages.

A point often overlooked by most is the immutability of the Ten Commandments. In the book of Luke we read, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one title of the law to fail.” – Luke 16:17. The meaning of the mysterious word “title” can be found below from Strong’s Greek definitions. It is the “apex of a Hebrew letter (figuratively the least particle)”, in other words the term “title” refers to the minutest details. If it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for the minutest details of the law to fail, it should be obvious that neither the Sabbath nor the Ten Commandments can be changed or abolished in the slightest.

G2762

κεραία (keraia) ker-ah’-yah

Feminine of a presumed derivative of the base of G2768; something horn like, that is, (specifically) the apex of a Hebrew letter (figuratively the least particle): – tittle.

In addition, the Christian must consider the result of these conclusions. If any one of the Ten Commandments have been abolished, this places the Christian in a position where he is only keeping Nine of them. As we have seen from Luke, it is an utter impossibility for any of them to be abolished. Yet we find even more problems as we turn to the following passages.

“But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, do not commit adultery, said also, do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” – James 2:9-11

“Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:19.

According to James, to break any one of the Ten Commandments causes the Christian to break all of them.

This means that if we as Christians run around teaching that any one of the Ten Commandments have been abolished, we are teaching others to transgress the whole Law. In addition, he who teaches this is also called “least” in the kingdom of heaven according to Matthew. To teach that the Sabbath or any part of the Ten Commandments has been done away with is a serious thing, and could be causing the Christian to transgress the law. 1 John 3:4 defines this as sin. This is a thought which should cause the Christian to stop and put these teachings to the test.

In order to properly test the claims of those who object to the Sabbath, we have quoted the passages from Colossians in context. The very first passage of which reads, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” – Colossians 2:14. The terms “handwriting” and “ordinances” are very important. They are the first pieces in the puzzle of a proper understanding of that which Paul is speaking of. What is their meaning?

Handwriting might seem a little more obvious on the surface than ‘ordinances.’ The logical deduction from a mere surface understanding of the word’s meaning is that this term is a reference to something written by the hand. However, when we take a look at Strong’s Greek definition we gain a slightly deeper understanding of what is taking place in this text.

G5498

χειρόγραφον (cheirographon) khi-rog’-raf-on

Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): – handwriting.

Strong’s definition includes both the obvious understanding of the word, and something just a bit more interesting. It says, “something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)).” The Greek word here is referencing a handwritten manuscript, and not simply just ‘handwriting.’ The implication here is of a paper or book-like document, especially with the word ‘manuscript’ found in the definition.

As we look at the second word, ‘ordinances’ we find much that sheds light on these passages. Elsewhere in scripture, we find other passages where this word ‘ordinances’ is used. These passages read, “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” – Hebrews 9:8-10

The context of these verses from Hebrews, found in verse eight, indicate that the old sacrificial system is here referenced. This is made very clear by terms such as “the first tabernacle” followed by “gifts and sacrifices.” Note that the terms “meats and drinks” are connected directly to “gifts and sacrifices”, indicating that meat and drink offerings are here referenced. This is an important point as this fact sheds light on Colossians 2:16, which reads “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:” The probability is high that “meat and drink” as used in these passages from Colossians is a reference to the same meat and drink offerings found in Hebrews 9:8-10. This is a fact which should become much more apparent as we further examine these passages from Paul’s writings.

Shortly after we read about meats and drinks, we find the statement “and carnal ordinances.” These passages from Hebrews connect the term “ordinances” with the old testament sacrificial system. In view of this fact, it is clear that the word ‘ordinances’ as used in Colossians 2:14 is a reference to the ordinances of the ceremonial/sacrificial system found in the old testament. As we look at the Greek definition for the word ‘ordinances’ as it is found in Colossians 2:14, this is a fact which becomes much more apparent to us.

G1378

δόγμα (dogma) dog’-mah

From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance.

The Greek word for “Ordinances” is defined as a “law (civil, ceremonial, or ecclesiastical)”. The word ‘ceremonial’ as found in the definition opens the door for this statement in Colossians 2:14 to be a reference to the old testament sacrificial system. Combine this with the previous connection of the word ‘ordinances’ by itself with that system as found in Hebrews 9:8-10. It should then be clear that the sacrificial system or rather the ceremonial law is here being referred to when Paul uses the term “ordinances.” Strong’s definition for the word ‘Ordinances’ as found in Colossians 2:14 makes this fact much more obvious.

We now direct your attention back to the word “handwriting”, and especially to the wording of Colossians 2:14. It is important at this point to focus on the words “that was against us, which was contrary to us.” These statements are a direct reference to a statement found in Deuteronomy. The passages found therein read, “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:24-26.

The term ‘book of the law’ is a phrase which is connected to the sacrificial system. Inside this book is written various curses, directions for the sacrificial system, descriptions of feasts which the Jews were to keep, and laws governing other aspects of life. This book is described as being placed ‘in the side’ of the ark of the covenant. This implies that the book was to be placed on the side of it rather than directly inside the ark. It is described as being placed in this position, “for a witness against thee”, a statement which connects these passages from Deuteronomy to Colossians 2:14.

Note that Moses is described as the writer of this book. This is a fact which again connects to Colossians 2:14, as the word “handwriting” is used. This term, as we saw from the Greek definition, references a manuscript or legal document. This fact would logically connect the term and the entire passage of Colossians 2:14 to these passages from Deuteronomy, which we will see references the ceremonial or sacrificial system.

“Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount E-bal, As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.” – Joshua 8:30-31

These passages from Joshua connect the phrase “book of the law” with the sacrificial system. Joshua is here pictured constructing an altar for sacrifices according to directions found in that book, and found giving burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are of course activities only found in the ceremonial system of the old testament. As if what Joshua is here pictured doing is not enough, the book in of itself is termed the “book of the law of Moses.” The term “law of Moses” by itself both references this book and the sacrificial system.

In the book of John we find the following passage, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?” – John 7:23 In this passage, Jesus is here found connecting circumcision to the “law of Moses.” Circumcision was a part of the old testament system. This is a fact which connects the ceremonial law to the phrase “law of Moses.” It is important to note that the Law of Moses and the Law of God are two very different things. A mistake often made in Christian thinking in this day and age is that they are supposedly connected with each other, and therefore the abolishing of the one automatically abolishes the other. As we already saw, the Ten Commandments are immutable and cannot be done away with. This conclusion that most Christians seem to have about both being abolished together is therefore an impossibility.

In view of the fact that the term “book of the law” references the ceremonial system, we then turn our attention to the Ten Commandments.

“And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” – Deuteronomy 4:12-13.

“At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.” – Deuteronomy 10:1-5

From these two sets of passages, we learn that the Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone. This is very different from the book of the law that Moses is found writing. This is made clear by the statements “and he wrote them upon two tables of stone” and “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first.” Later, we see that these Tables were placed inside the Ark of the covenant. Once again, this is very different from the book of the law which is found on the side of the ark. The two laws, the Law of Moses and the Law of God, are two very different things and are not connected to each other.

When Colossians 2:14 uses terms like “handwriting” and “ordinances”, combined with “that was against us” these are all very clear references to the old testament system. This means that in context, Colossians 2:14-17 is speaking about the ceremonial law, and not the Ten Commandments. From the differences thus cited above, we know that these are two different unconnected things. Therefore we know that Colossians 2:14-17 does not do away with the Ten Commandments. Such would be a ridiculous assertion in view of many passages admonishing us to keep them. [Matthew 19:16-17, Revelation 22:14, 1 John 5:3, John 14:15, James 2:9-11, 1 John 2:4.]

In view of this information, we cannot take Colossians 2:16 as though it does away with any one of the Ten Commandments. As we examine the passage closely, this should become much more clear. The verse reads, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath Days.” We previously saw that the terms “meat and drink” are references to meat and drink offerings, a fact which is made so much more clear by the following passages from Ezekiel.

“This is the oblation that ye shall offer; the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of wheat, and ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of barley: Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer: And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord GOD. All the people of the land shall give this oblation for the prince in Israel. And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.” – Ezekiel 45:13-17

Piecing Ezekiel 45:17 together with Colossians 2:16, it is clear that these passages are connected. Both passages mention meat and drink, with Ezekiel 45:17 adding the word “offerings.” In the passage from Ezekiel, “feasts, new moons, and sabbaths” immediately follow the offerings. The way in which the passage lists things mirrors Colossians 2:16 in a most striking manner, further confirming the fact that “meat and drink” in Colossians is a reference to “meat and drink” offerings. Another type of offering, which is burnt offerings, is also mentioned in Ezekiel. This is yet another link to the ceremonial law found in these texts.

What of the term “Sabbaths?” Also referenced as “Sabbath Days” in Colossians 2:16, the term Sabbaths is speaking about the feasts of the old testament system. It should be noted that when in the plural, it does not reference the Seventh Day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Ezekiel 45:17 makes this especially clear as it mentions this term in connection with offerings. The targets here are feasts like the Day of atonement and the Passover, which are festivals that the Jews still observe to this day. In the book of Leviticus we find a description of the day of atonement.

“And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” – Leviticus 16:29-31

Note that the day of atonement, one of the feasts of the old testament system, is here referred to as “a sabbath of rest.” We see this concept again with the feast of booths, and with the feast of trumpets. [See Leviticus 23:24, 39. With the feast of booths specifically the beginning and end of it is titled a ‘Sabbath.’] The term ‘Sabbaths’ and ‘Sabbath days’ in this sense are references to these old testament feasts where the term “sabbath of rest” or “sabbath” is used to describe them.

As we take a look at the Greek definitions for the words “Sabbath Days” and “Holyday”, it becomes unquestionably clear to us that Colossians 2:16 is referencing the feasts of the old testament system. Many believe that this also targets the Seventh-Day Sabbath, but as we will see this is not the case.

G1859

ἑορτή heortē heh-or-tay’

Of uncertain affinity; a festival: – feast, holyday.

Note that the term “holyday” as defined above means “festival”, and is also translated as “Feast.” The two words share the same meaning, bringing us to the logical conclusion that the term “holyday” is actually referencing the old testament feasts, a fact which is most fitting with the context. Complete with the surrounding references to that system of feasts and sacrifices, it should be clear to us that the Ten Commandments are not referred to in Colossians 2:16.

At this point, some go to the Greek definition for the word “Sabbath” and attempt to use this to state that the Seventh-Day Sabbath is also referenced. We acknowledge that the word “Sabbath” can reference the Seventh-Day Sabbath, as shown from the definition below. The fact is however that the word “Sabbath” simply just means “Sabbath”, and without a context you cannot select whether it refers to the Seventh-Day Sabbath or the feasts of the old testament system, or whether or not both is included.

In response, we again point to the context. As we have thus far seen, the system of feasts and sacrifices found in the old testament is referenced here in Colossians 2:14-17 and not any one of the Ten Commandments. All of the surrounding details such as offerings and feasts also place it within this context. We then direct your attention to the end of the Greek definition, which says “likewise the plural in all the above applications”. The Greek here is unquestionably plural. Combined with the context, this means that the feasts are referenced and not the Seventh-Day Sabbath. The term “days”, although supplied by man, fits most strikingly into place with the Greek definition found to be plural.

G4521

σάββατον sabbaton sab’-bat-on

Of Hebrew origin [H7676]; the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension a se’nnight, that is, the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications: – sabbath (day), week.

The Sabbath-Keeping Christian at this point says, “The Sabbath is still binding. It wasn’t done away with at the cross.”