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Sabbath: The Shadow of True Rest

The Sabbath was instituted by God from Mount Sinai to teach Israel specific spiritual truths about the work of Christ. Thus, according to the scriptures, the Sabbath was a temporary shadow of a greater reality in Jesus. In Nehemiah 9:13-14, notice what the Levites say concerning the Sabbath: “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant. The Sabbath was made known to them when the law was given on Sinai, not before, as some have supposed. Further, there is no evidence that anyone observed the Sabbath before it was taught to Israel at Sinai; yet, aside from Nehemiah 9, there is other evidence against the view that the Sabbath was a command that had been since the beginning of mankind. In Deuteronomy 5:2-4, Moses introduces the ten commandments (the Sabbath included), stating that “The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us”. According to Moses, the Sabbath was not known by anyone before Sinai; not to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

Another misconception about the Sabbath is that it is separate from the Law of Moses, so that, even if the Law of Moses ceased, the Sabbath keeps going. This is not what the scriptures teach. The Apostle Paul identified the Sabbath as part of the “handwriting of requirements” that were “nailed to the cross”: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  (15)  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.  (16)  So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, (17)  which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:14-17). Looking further at this passage, we find that Paul encourages the church to not allow the Judiazers to judge (condemn) them in their refusal to observe the Law of Moses, in which he includes “sabbaths”. He had just stated that these things were nailed to the cross, meaning they were put away the same day that Christ was crucified. Then Paul makes another striking point concerning dead laws like the sabbath, he states that they “are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” This is a fascinating word picture. The term “shadow” in the original Greek is skia, defined as a shade caused by the interception of light; an image cast by an obit and representing the form of that object; a sketch, an outline. And the word “substance” is soma in the original, and is defined as a body; that which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself. So, the Sabbath gave Israel a rough and blurred sketch of Christ and the work which He would accomplish once and for all. By the Sabbath, God allowed Israel to experience on a short-term (one day a week) and physical way that He would provide a greater rest for His children in Christ.

God had taught Moses concerning the reason behind the Sabbath: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11). The term Sabbath comes from the idea of ceasing; thus it is a ceasing from the work of the week. God demonstrated this first in the work of creation, accomplishing His task in six days, and ceasing on the seventh. God taught this order as a picture of Christ and salvation, whether it be the Israelites’ work week or His creation of all things. God, after creation, used the number seven throughout the biblical message to symbolize that He accomplishes whatever work He does. And if He has promised to do any particular task, the number seven should flash before our eyes as a figure that God will most certainly accomplish what He had promised. A good example of this is found in Daniel 9:24-27 when Daniel prayed for the future of God’s people. God’s response was that “seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city”. The Hebrew for “seventy weeks” is actually “seventy sevens”. The text refers to all the things that God had determined to accomplish concerning the Jews. In this text, God explains how Jerusalem would be rebuilt again after the Babylonian captivity; how the Christ would come, but be cut off; and how Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. In this destruction, the Jewish nation would be put away by Christ, and the kingdom of God would be restored to people professing godliness (Matthew 21:43-45). So, the text of Daniel 9 is an excellent example of how God uses the symbolic number seven to speak concerning the tasks that He either has or will accomplish.

And ultimately what did Christ accomplish? Eternal salvation for all who believe His word. Christ is the true substance of the Sabbath for what He accomplished on the cross. His sacrifice was for our salvation. His death was to bring us rest. Not the little physical rest that the Sabbath provided, for that was a mere shadow, but the great spiritual and eternal rest that Christ provides through His death. The Sabbath was a physical demonstration (as with everything in the old law) of the spiritual realities that Christ would accomplish on our behalf. Sinners to cease from sin. Sinners who are weary and heavily burdened by sin would find rest for their souls in Christ. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 11:28-30.

In the New Testament, the Hebrew writer brings us all the way back to the creation of the world when he speaks of God’s rest. When the Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness, God said, “SO I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” (Hebrews 3:11). He is referring to the land of promise (Canaan), but it is evident by God calling it “My rest” that, like the Sabbath day, the land of Canaan was intended to be a shadow of God’s rest (Hebrews 4:3-5) which He provides for us in Christ. The spiritual city of God is the true promised land (Hebrews 11:10; 12:22) and Jesus has already given us true rest from our sins (Romans 8:1-2). So, the very idea of the Sabbath day taught and foreshadowed the eternal rest from sins that is accomplished in Christ. And we don’t go back to the shadow when we have the substance. The new testament church is not to look back in order to revive the Sabbath day but must follow the pattern which the Holy Spirit guided the church: to come together on the first day of the week to worship, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and to give to the work of the church (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

Article by Tanner Campbell

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The name of this tree is quite a mouthful, but this tree’s name is largely all the details we have concerning it. Many artful depictions of this tree have been made through the centuries, and it is usually portrayed as some mutant apple tree, but it was not an apple tree, it was its own type of tree, one that was uniquely recognizable. In fact, Eve did not call it by the name we know it by, she only identified it as “the tree which is in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 3:3). The purpose of God in planting such a tree has been a subject of much interest, but often the wrong conclusions are formed, and this affects a proper understanding that we could have about God, evil, and free will. So, this article is intended to challenge the way that mankind often thinks concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The thoughts and conclusion made here may be right or wrong; nevertheless, my intention is to provoke further thought and study into this matter.

For the most part, it is commonly believed that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted in the garden of Eden by God to provide a means by which man could have free will and choose either to do what is right or wrong. I disagree. What are your thoughts on free will? My idea of it may be incorrect, but I’d say that free will was not given to us so that we can choose either good or evil; free will was given to us so that we can choose to do good. God didn’t say: Here is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you may choose to refrain from it and do good or you may choose to eat of it and do evil. No, God didn’t say that at all. Give careful consideration to what God said: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God never gave man a choice to eat, He straightforwardly said “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” That doesn’t sound like a choice to me. But notice that God does give man free will, just not in the way that some people think of free will. Look again at how God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat”. I believe that this is the reality of what free will is all about. It has nothing to do with the freedom to choose between good and evil, but it has everything to do with freely choosing all kinds of good. There are so many good things that we can do of our own free will that align with the image of God. Is this not the point Paul made to the Galatians when he described the fruit of the Spirit? “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). We have so many good things to choose to do and there is no law against them (to me, the statement “no law against them” is the biblical definition of free will). But on the contrary, with the works of the flesh, there is law against those things, we have not the choice or the free will to choose evil, God has granted us free will to do a world of good. So then, choosing to do evil is an abuse of our free will. It is an abuse of the ability that God gave us to choose good things. It is an insult to being made in the image of God to misuse our power to do good by doing evil instead.

The presence of the tree is not for the purpose that it would cause man to sin, for man could have sinned in any number of other ways (such as if he shirked his duty to “keep and tend the garden”, or if the woman evaded her role as a helpmeet, or if the man chose not to “hold fast to his wife”). The presence of the tree was not to cause sin but to stand as a testament to the love and trust that man must place in God. Consider it, just as the tree of life demonstrates man’s eternal fellowship with God, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil demonstrates the love that man has for his creator. Jesus said, “if you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and again, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10). Notice that love for our God is demonstrated by walking in his commandments, thus not knowing evil. Without laws, such as “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat”, could our love ever be acted upon, or would love for God even exist?

Likewise, without law from God, would there really be trust or faith in God? Recall that God explained the reason for the commandment to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This allows man the position to place his trust in God’s word and to obey the command because they have faith in their creator to do good to them. God’s instruction for man to abstain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is for the same purpose as any other command He has given man through the years. See, for example, the purpose of the law of Moses: “And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 6:24). To not partake of the tree was for their own good, to preserve man’s life; even today, to follow the law of Christ means life and peace for us, it is for our good always, to preserve us alive. But if we were not given commandments, what works could we do that would demonstrate our trust in God (James 2:17)? So then, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not placed before man to allow him the choice to do evil, it was placed before man to afford him the proper means by which he could daily demonstrate his faith in God’s word and the love he has for his Creator.

Article by Tanner Campbell.

The Elephant and the Blind Men

The tale of the blind men and the elephant is quite old, though we do not know exactly when or where it came to be told. The tale is usually told like this:

“A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first man, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, “This being is like a thick snake”. Another, whose hand reached its ear, said “it seemed like a kind of fan”. As for another, whose hand was upon its leg, said, “the elephant is a pillar, like a tree trunk”. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said that the elephant “is like a wall”. Another who felt its tail described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk and stated that the elephant was hard, smooth, and like a spear.”

The tale’s purpose is to expose the limits of man’s perceptions and how important it is for us to know the whole context of a matter. When left at that, it is a good message. The problem is when people go beyond the point of the tale and use this against the absolute truth of God’s word. Nowadays, those who reject that there is absolute truth and deny that there is only one way to God are using this story to prove their point. They say that truth is relative, just like how the blind men all described the elephant in totally different ways, but they were all talking about the same elephant. They say in application that there are many ways to get to God, just as the blind men came to know the elephant through different ways. And anyone who says that there is only one absolute truth and only one way to heaven is accused by them as simply being a blind fool who thinks they have it all figured out like any one of the blind men in the story.

First, it is very dangerous to prove one’s view of religion based on an analogy! Second, the details of the tale actually work against the idea that truth is relative. Think about it, someone uses this story to prove that no one has the whole truth, but like the blind men, we have just a small piece of the whole. This, they say, is why we should be accepting of all beliefs, and we ought to coexist. But they have neglected a very important detail of the story: each one of those blind men were flat-out wrong in the “truth” they told about the elephant. The elephant was not like a tree, wall, fan, snake, etc. Their views were all erroneous and should be rejected. If someone believed that elephants were of the same family and likeness as the snake, then they would fail grade school; their belief would be intolerable because we have all seen enough of an elephant to know that their belief is just plain false.

There is another problem with using the story to prove the acceptability of all faiths and many ways to God, I’d say this is the most important consideration of all. While focusing on all the blind men in the story, there is someone else that is often neglected and not even considered: the narrator. The storyteller was there to report all that the blind men did and thought concerning the elephant. The storyteller was not blind. The storyteller saw the whole elephant and understood exactly what the elephant really was. The storyteller could see the whole truth of the matter, it was, in fact, absolute truth. So, suppose we honestly consider all the players in the story. In that case, we will see that there are a group of men whose “relative truth” that they told concerning the elephant was all falsehood, and there was a bystander that could easily see the absolute truth concerning the elephant. This way, we could properly apply this story to the various views of God and salvation. Today, there are many who are blind, who trust in their own private interpretation of religion. Others have considered the many inconsistencies of man’s beliefs and have concluded that truth is relative, but they failed to realize that there are still others that are not blind to the evidence and all the revealed word of God, and these are able to testify to the absolute truth of God’s word, thus rejecting all the notions of relative truth from the spiritually blind.

Even Pilate scoffed at the idea of absolute truth when he asked Jesus “What is truth?” (John 18:38). But Jesus said that the very reason why He came into the world was so that He “should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37). And again, Jesus bore witness to the fact that there is absolute truth when he said to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). So if what we believe is not in accordance with the Father’s revealed word, it cannot be the truth. We must conclude that there are not many ways to get to God when we hear that the one who died for us and was raised in power said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Further, his disciples said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). God’s word gives us the full picture of the proverbial elephant when it explains our existence, our sin, our need for a Savior, who our Savior is, and how to get back into fellowship with God through Him. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The scriptures explain that salvation came by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5), and that, through our faith in the Savior (Ephesian 2:8), we would obey His will (Matthew 7:21), and turn from our sins (Acts 3:19), confess His name (Romans 10:9), be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38), and begin to walk in step with the word of God (Galatians 5:25). This is absolute truth. To say that salvation is by only some of these things (whether just grace or just faith) is not relative truth, it is falsehood. May we not be spiritually blind, but always strive to see the whole truth as revealed by God in His word.

Article by Tanner Campbell

On what day was the Church Established?

Saying that the church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is easy to say, but a little challenging to prove. Likewise, saying that the church began before Pentecost, whether at the resurrection of Christ or the ascension of Christ, is also very difficult to prove. Of course, there are other opinions out there, such as the church beginning with John the Baptist in the wilderness, or that the church had been around since the old testament times, but these views can be dispelled using straightforward scriptures that say otherwise (such as Matthew 16:18 and Jesus’ use of the future tense “I will build My church”). But the first two opinions that I mentioned carry some real weight to the argument, so we will be spending our time considering these two.

Let me first say that neither view has a scripture that straightforwardly states that the church was established on a certain day. Both views must rely on necessary inference, however, necessary inference cannot verify both views, for that is impossible. The very concept of necessary inference is that the scriptures are providing us with a forced conclusion of a particular matter without the addition of human thought and opinion. Therefore, two opposing views cannot claim necessary inference, either one view has properly followed conclusions from the biblical text while the other has injected bias, or neither has properly followed what is necessary to make a truthful conclusion of the matter.

To one, the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2 signals the beginning of the church; to the other, the coming of the Spirit is a significant event but does not necessitate the beginning of the church. To the latter, what is more significant for the church’s beginning is the resurrection of Christ, they assert then, that the 120 disciples of Acts 1:15 are already the Lord’s church. And there is some good argumentation for that view. One simple argument is that Acts 2:41 says “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” If this is the beginning of the church on Pentecost, then why would Luke say that the 3,000 were “added”? The implication of this view is that they were added to the church, thus the church was already in existence as the 120 disciples. However, there is a flaw in the implication, for we could just as easily say that Luke was stating that the 3,000 were added to the other disciples and that the statement has no reference to the 120 already being the church.

Another argument for this position is how, on the very day that Jesus was resurrected, he breathed upon the apostles on that Sunday evening and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19-23). Now, there is debate as to what is happening here, but I take the position that Jesus means what He said and that they did receive the Spirit that day (though unlike the way they received Him on Pentecost), and this gave them authority as men inspired by the Spirit; the same authority we see them exercising in Acts 1 with the appointing of an apostle to replace Judas. This may also be the means by which Jesus opened their understanding to comprehend the old testament scriptures (Luke 24:45). The idea that the apostles had the Spirit before Pentecost is not too hard to accept, for, in some manner, they have had the Spirit since the time that Jesus called them to be His disciples (Luke 9:1-2), and not just them but the seventy also (Luke 10:17). However, what they did not have was the promise of the Spirit which would be poured out upon them and plenty of others as well, according to the promise given by the old testament prophets and confirmed by Jesus. What is the promise? In short, that salvation would be brought down, and the Spirit of God would be revealed in a variety of miraculous (non-human and non-natural) ways to confirm this salvation in Christ. Thus, even if we attempt to prove that the church existed as the 120 disciples prior to Pentecost, we must still admit that it was lacking in some crucial things. And if it is lacking, then can it really be the church at all? More on this later.

Many accept that the church was established on Pentecost but cannot argue their position very well. If we believe something because it is what the church generally holds to, then we have a creed and not a belief established by faith in the word of God. In my experience, many who view the church as established on Pentecost hang their hat on the word “church” appearing in the Pentecost narrative in Acts 2:47 (“and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”), but that statement doesn’t necessitate the beginning of the church at that point. Further, they’d be disappointed to hear that the word “church” is not actually in Acts 2:47 according to the Greek manuscripts (with the exception of the 5th century Codex Bezae), and all English translations (as far as I know) do not include the word “church” in Acts 2:47, excepting the King James Version and its revisions. The statement would more literally be translated: and day by day the Lord kept on adding together those saved.

If it could be said that there is a scripture that states when the church was established, it would be Isaiah 2:2-5 and the parallel text in Micah 4:1. Consider some of what God said would come to pass: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills, And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”  The prophets of God are speaking about when the “mountain of the Lord’s house” would be “established” and what that would look like. The house of God that they refer to is the church according to the new testament (1 Timothy 3:15), and in the prophetic language, the church is sometimes illustrated as a great mountain (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Daniel 2:35, 45; Zechariah 8:3). So, Isaiah and Micah are telling of the establishment of the church. The key details they give us concerning the church’s establishment is that the “word of the Lord” would be spoken “from Jerusalem” and all nations will hear and flow to the church. This is not descriptive of the disciples prior to Pentecost, but this picture certainly fits what happened on the day of Pentecost. It was there on that day of Pentecost, a Sunday morning at 9 AM (Acts 2:15), that the word of the Lord was heard from Jerusalem and all nations heard it (Acts 2:5, 9-11). This is the event that the prophets spoke concerning the establishment of the church.

What compels me is what I find missing among the disciples prior to Acts 2. Consider for a moment something Paul said about the church in Ephesians 1:22-23. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The church is “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”, but prior to Pentecost, the disciples do not appear to fit the bill of being “the fullness” of Christ, thus they cannot be the church. What was missing in them was the ministry of salvation that so well defines the church from Pentecost to the present day. Paul had also spoken to Corinth concerning the “ministry of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:3-8), but without the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2, there is no “ministry of the Spirit”. Paul said that he and others were “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit”, thus the ministry of the new covenant came by the Spirit which Jesus told His disciples to wait for (Acts 1:4). Paul further states that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Salvation (“life”) and the new covenant came to all men by the ministry of the Spirit; so, before the Spirit’s arrival, the disciples lacked the fullness of Christ, meaning they lacked what is distinctly “the church” as defined by Paul in Ephesians 1:22-23.

Article by Tanner Campbell

Bible Study #4: How to Study a Single Verse

In this article, we will consider simple methods for digging deeper into a verse of the bible. This concept of bible study allows us to spend a study period meditating solely on a single verse that we’ve selected. The selection of the verse may stem from many things: from a scripture read during a recent sermon or class; from a bible class that we’re preparing for; from our own personal bible reading or study of a book or chapter; or maybe a verse that we’ve always loved and want to spend more time with. However the verse is selected, we can be assured that we’re about to gain a deep understanding of the text that will not be soon forgotten, and the many fruits that come by opening our hearts to God’s breath cannot be exaggerated. Let’s consider how this may be accomplished.

  1. Understand the context.

First things first, reading the context that surrounds the selected verse will do us a world of good. The context will provide the proper setting for the verse and keep us from subconsciously making up our own setting which may adversely affect our approach and understanding of the verse.

 

  1. Read the verse out of other translations (parallel study).

While this is not absolutely necessary, it is a quick and easy step we can take, and more often than not, we’ll be glad we did it. Reading the verse out of a few different translations can make the verse more understandable, for we will have read the same message from different arrangements and word choices. Selecting a few word-for-word translations like the NKJV, ESV, and CSB, are a good start, followed by a (so-called) “enhanced” translation like the NLT or NIV. I would never recommend an “enhanced” translation to be anyone’s primary bible, as they can give an incorrect interpretation to the text; so, while they can be helpful for deeper study, they should always be taken with a grain of salt. The text of 2 Timothy 3:16 is a good example of the differences in translations that we can benefit from in our studies:

  • NKJV: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
  • ESV: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
  • NLT: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.

 

  1. Write out the verse yourself.

A critical process in bible study is the writing portion. There simply is no substitute for it. Nothing can compare to writing when it comes to committing something to memory. But the exercise of writing out a verse is not merely memory work, that’s only a side benefit, it is for seeing every single detail in the verse. And if you want to take this a step further, write down the verse, starting from a new line on the paper after each word that you feel you want to emphasize. You may end up with 2-3 words on each line, or even just one word on each line. It would look something like this for John 3:16,

  • God
  • So loved
  • The world
  • That
  • He gave
  • His only
  • Begotten Son
  • That
  • Whosoever Believes
  • In Him
  • Should not perish
  • But have
  • Everlasting life

 

  1. Ask the Five W’s and How.

Just like we discussed last week when studying a chapter, the same questions can be asked for single verses, too. Write down the answers to the questions (any that apply) of who, what, when, where, why, and how. This technique of investigators and journalists will help you gather all the facts and see every detail. Taking again the example of John 3:16, here is what this step looks like:

  • Who? God
  • What? Loved
  • Who? The world
  • How? By giving the world a gift
  • What? He gave His only Son
  • Why? To give the world everlasting life
  • How? Whoever believes
  • Who? The Son

 

  1. Look up words from the verse.

By this point, we are well on our way to a full comprehension of the selected verse, however, we can employ this step if we just want to dig even deeper, or if we are still having some difficulties understanding some of the verse. Usually, at this point, the difficulties that remain are due to the word usage of the verse. A good start would be to use a standard English dictionary to look up as many words as we want from the verse. But if we need something more, I recommend the use of dictionaries of bible words, such as:

  • Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (for old testament words)
  • Thayer’s Greek to English Lexicon (for new testament words)
  • Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicons (for both old and new testament words).

All of these are easily obtainable nowadays and are free to use on the internet and free bible study software and bible study phone apps. If you want to consider more information, you can use an expository dictionary, such as:

  • Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
  • Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

These expository dictionaries go beyond the definition of words and attempt to explain the words as they are used in the biblical text. For example, Thayer’s Lexicon defines the word agapao, translated “love” in John 3:16, as “of persons: to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” While Mounce’s Expository Dictionary says this concerning agapao, “In secular Greek especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning, used frequently as a synonym of eros (sexual love) and phileo (the general term for love). If it has any nuance, it was the idea of love for the sake of its object. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning and perhaps because of this slight nuance of meaning, the biblical writers picked agapao to describe many forms of human love (e.g. husband and wife, Eph. 5:25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely, in other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love.” So, we see how an expository dictionary can be helpful, however, a regular lexicon of bible words is more important, as they give the direct definition of a word without adding their own spin on the word, which could potentially contain faults.

May these methods aid you in your studies, and may much fruit be produced from your labors in the word of God.

Article by Tanner Campbell.

Bible Study #3: How to Study a Chapter

In the last article, we considered a simple and effective method for studying a whole book of the bible. The goal was to gain an understanding of the overall message and purpose of the book, the big picture. But if we want a deeper understanding of the book, we should turn to chapter studies and single-verse studies on verses of significance, or verses we are having a difficult time understanding. We will deal with verse studies next time, but first, we should know at least one effective method for studying a chapter and its paragraphs. Below is one such method.

  1. Divisions and Summaries: Divide the chapter into smaller sections and record the divisions in your notes. Divisions within chapters are usually easy to identify for they are often in line with the paragraphs within the chapter; new paragraphs usually suggest a change in subjects or a new branch of the same subject. Many bibles already have sub-headings that divide the chapter up, which can be helpful for us, especially starting out, but these sub-headings are not perfect and may be ill-placed in your estimation; that’s okay, you do your own study. Record the chapter divisions that you see and summarize what is being discussed in each section with just a sentence or two. I’ll exemplify this later. Also, record any keywords in each section. A keyword can either be a word that is used multiple times within the section or a word that emphasizes the message of the section.
  2. Analysis: An analysis of each section of the chapter is where we dig deeper and ask the necessary questions to fully expose the text to our understanding. Even the simplest and most elementary questions should be asked out of each section, this will keep us from making mistakes in our understanding of the text. The best approach, one that effectively works for any text of the bible is to use the Five W’s. When reading a section of scripture, ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions may seem elementary, but these are the very questions skillfully used by researchers, investigators, and journalists today; and they have been the standard of information gathering and problem-solving since the days of ancient Greece, if not longer. This method is a great way to teach ourselves to gather all the facts found in the text. People often read a passage of scriptures and then begin to conjecture with their opinions; such are not good bible students, they do not know how to study the bible. Asking the Five W’s will force us into seeking all the facts, which will leave little room for speculation. Note that there may be multiple who, what, why, etc. questions, as seen in the examples below. The first example is Hebrews, the first chapter. These examples are for you to see how these methods are put to use, reading over them will not necessarily give you a better grasp of the texts unless you practice these methods on your own.

Hebrews, Chapter One

  • Section One: Verses 1-4.
    • Summary: God has now spoken to us through His Son.
      • Keywords: Spoken, Son.
    • Who? God
    • What? Has Spoken
    • When? “In these last days”
    • How? By His Son
    • Who? His Son
    • Why? He is the heir of all things, creator of the worlds, the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of God’s person, the upholder of all things, the purger of sins, the one sitting at the right hand of God.
    • Where? N/A
  • Section Two: Verses 5-14.
    • Summary: God has now spoken through His Son, who has brought a better word to us than God’s previous messengers.
      • Keywords: Angels
    • Who? Jesus
    • What? Is better than
    • Who? The angels
    • Why? He is the Son, not a messenger; He is worshiped, not the worshiper; He is on the throne, not ministering to the one on the throne.

 

 

1st Timothy, Chapter One

  • Section One: Verses 1-11.
    • Summary: Paul reminds Timothy of his purpose in Ephesus, to stop false teachers and maintain the truth in the church.
      • Keywords: doctrine, commandment, love, law.
    • Who? Paul
    • What? Urged Timothy to charge some in the church in Ephesus to not teach a different doctrine or practice.
    • Why? Some in the church have swerved from the truth and have wandered into empty discussions.
  • Section Two: Verses 8-11
    • Summary: Paul summarized the purpose of God’s truths.
    • What? God’s law is good if interpreted and taught according to God’s own design for it.
    • Who? Any person who uses the law lawfully will understand and recognize…
    • What? That the law is not made for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient.
  • Section Three: Verses 12-20.
    • Summary: Paul illustrates the greatest truth of the gospel, that Jesus came to save sinners, using his own experience.
      • Keywords: repeated use of “Jesus Christ”
    • Who? Paul
    • What? Was once an insolent opponent of the truth.
    • What? But Paul received mercy from the Lord.
    • Why? That he would be a foremost example of Jesus’ perfect patience to…
    • Who? Those presently ungodly but who would come to believe in the Lord, too.

As you can see from the last example, there will not always be all Five W’s or a How, that’s no problem, but when we read over a text, we will always ask all the Five W’s and How, and quickly dismiss any of those questions that do not apply. What this method of study accomplishes more than anything is the way it forces us to catch every detail of the text. The interrogative questions, the Five W’s, effectively separate all the facts, all the truths of the scriptures and reveals the whole truth of the text that we can often miss when only reading through a chapter.

Article by Tanner Campbell

Bible Study #2: Studying a Book of the Bible

When it comes to bible study, there are topical studies and expository/textual studies such as a book, chapter, or verse studies. Today we will consider a method of studying a book of the bible. There is no one right method of study, but the method I’ve chosen to detail is very simple, effective, and requires no other resource but a bible. It is a study method that can be done by believers from middle-school age through adulthood. I started practicing this method as a freshman in high school, and I can attest to its effectiveness.

While this is not an in-depth method of study, it is a critical part of study and may lead to deeper study methods. But the point of this method is not to get too deeply entrenched, but to gain an understanding of the overall big picture of the book. Grasping the big picture should always be our first act before attempting to dive into a particular verse or chapter of a book.

The Big Picture Method

  1. Read through the selected book of the bible, stopping after each chapter to write down a very brief summary (1-3 sentences) of the chapter. Also, record any reoccurring keywords the author used either within the chapter or repeated from previous chapters.
  2. While reading through the book and summarizing each chapter, look for any major divisions within the book, such as where the subject matter changes or even the whole theme and purpose of the book changes. Record these observations.
  3. When you have finished the book, fill out the following report and affix it to the front of your written summaries:
    1. Author of the Book:
    2. Background details of the writer (if any):
    3. Book was written to:
    4. The major divisions of the book:
    5. The main theme(s) and purpose(s) of the book:
    6. Keywords:
    7. Questions for further study:

Let’s now practice this method with a few examples. The first example is the book of Jonah. Jonah is a smaller book with only four chapters. Small books are usually easier to start out with because they do not overwhelm the student and they often have only one theme/purpose.

The Book of Jonah

Author: Jonah

Background: a well-known prophet in his day (2 Kings 14:25).

Written to: Not stated, but the inference points to the Jews.

Major divisions: Chapters 1-2: Jonah in the fish. Chapters 3-4: Jonah in Nineveh.

Main theme/purpose: Love your enemies, they deserve salvation, too.

Keywords: Compassion

Questions for further study: Why does Jonah hate the Ninevites so intensely?

Chapter Summaries:

Chapter 1: Jonah is told to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah attempts to run from this task but is swallowed by a great fish.

Chapter 2: Jonah is in the belly of the fish for 3 days, then finally makes an appeal to God. Jonah is vomited onto dry land.

Chapter 3: Jonah preaches in Nineveh and the people are receptive to his words and repent of their sins.

Chapter 4: Jonah is angry that the people repented and hopes that God will destroy them anyway. God gives Jonah an attitude adjustment.

Now that we’ve seen how to do a small book, let’s look at how this method handles a substantially large book. Let’s not get overwhelmed with the big books, remember that, just like the small books, we take them chapter by chapter, stopping to summarize each one. These bite-sized pieces of the book soon cause us to grasp the overall purpose, or purposes, of the book.

The Book of Ezekiel

Author: Ezekiel

Background: A Levitical priest who was called by God to be a prophet during the Jewish captivity in Babylon.

Written to: The Jews

Major Divisions: Ch. 1-24: Jerusalem must fall due to sin. Ch. 25-32: Foreign nations must fall. Ch. 33: Prophecy fulfilled – Jerusalem falls. Ch. 34-48: Jerusalem will be comforted and restored with a glory better than before.

Main Theme/Purpose: The fall of a sinful Jerusalem and the future rise of a holy and victorious new Jerusalem.

Chapter Summaries:

Chapter 1: Ezekiel explains how God called him to be a prophet, which began with a grand vision of the four powerful beings that transport the throne of God.

Chapter 2: Ezekiel continues his explanation, recording God’s words to him. God tells him the difficulty of his task to preach to the stubborn.

And so forth…. We have space for one more example.

The Book of Acts

Writer: Luke

Background of Writer: Gentile disciple who was a physician.

Written to: Theophilus (meaning lover of God)

Major Divisions: Ch. 1: Ascension of Jesus. Ch. 2-6: Acts of Peter. Ch. 7-8: Acts of the deacons. Ch. 9: Conversion of Saul. Ch. 10-12: Acts toward the Gentiles. Ch. 13-21: Acts of Paul / church grows throughout the Roman Empire. Ch. 22-28: Paul on Trial.

Main Theme: The book is a historical record of the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Chapter Summaries:

Chapter 1: Jesus gives final instructions to His apostles and then ascends into the heavens.  After which, Jesus appoints Matthias as the apostle in place of Judas.

Chapter 2: The inspiration of the Holy Spirit begins. The gospel is preached and 3,000 are obedient to it. The church begins.

And so forth….

If you are searching for a way to get better acquainted with God’s word, I hope this method of study will be of use to you or adapted to your way of studying the scriptures. I suppose that if we did an exercise like this, especially when we are new Christians, for all 66 books, we would all benefit from much good fruit (Hosea 4:6).

Article by Tanner Campbell

The Difference Between Bible Reading and Bible Study

I think many people will say that the difference between bible reading and study is the time involved. But this is inaccurate, for neither one must take longer than the other. The difference is not in time but in purpose. Bible reading takes you further through the text, while bible study takes you deeper into the text. A 30-minute reading will take you through the entire book of 1st John, while a 30-minute study may only take you through a few verses of the book. This exemplifies how the two methods complement each other, and how each is lacking without the other. If studying through 1st John verse-by-verse without having read through the book, then the study is short-sighted and nearly blind, for we cannot see the full scope of John’s message. However, reading through the book lacks a richer understanding of the message that bible study provides.

Other than the purpose of each, there are two key differences between bible reading and bible study: 1. The Effort Involved; 2. The Methods Used. Bible study requires a greater degree of effort than reading, this is one reason why bible study is not a practice of some Christians. But bible study also requires a method, a way, or a direction for accomplishing it. Sometimes Christians have not acquired a method of bible study, and this is the other reason why bible study is not practiced by some. Unfortunately, some are unaware that the best and most effective study methods are simple and easy to do. So, in the coming weeks, I hope to provide bulletin articles that explain a variety of methods for bible study that can be readily incorporated into a Christian’s life.

Paul encouraged Timothy in both reading and bible study. He told him to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). A devoted effort was to be given to both reading and doctrine, or teaching. Reading requires mindfulness, and doctrine/teaching requires closer examination or study. Then, in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul told him to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” To rightly divide means “to make a straight cut” (Vine’s dictionary) or “to set forth truthfully without perversion or distortion” (Mounce’s lexicon). The need to ensure a rightful dividing of the word of truth requires both careful reading and study of God’s word to make certain that what we believe, practice, and teach is, without a doubt, the truth found in God’s word.

The Bereans give us another example of bible study; Luke tells us that “these were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). The Bereans were fair and honorable in their treatment of God’s word, for not only did they receive the word “with all readiness” (a willing and eager mind), but they also “searched the Scriptures” day after day to confirm whether Paul was preaching the truth to them. The word “searched” (Greek – anakrino), literally means “to sift up and down; to make careful and exact research as in legal processes”. Luke’s word choices in the narrative reveal that the Bereans were in fact studying the bible (which was only the Old Testament text at that time), and they were doing so with great seriousness and diligence. Luke noted that their choice to study the Bible was sensible (or fair-minded), for what matter is more important to examine and investigate than that of eternal salvation?

David knew the fruits of bible study when he illustrated the life of a godly man in the first psalm:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

The “blessed” man is he that “meditates” on God’s word. To meditate (Hebrew – hagah), means “to be in continual contemplation over a matter” (Ancient Hebrew Lexicon). All Hebrew dictionaries agree that this word specifically relates to the murmuring, whispering, and uttering of that which is on the mind. This, in itself, is a method of bible study, for it applies additional effort into contemplating that which has been read in God’s word.

The Ultimate Goal of Bible Reading and Study

Paul said to the church in Thessalonica, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The goal of bible reading and study is to have the truth of God’s word effectively work in us, to change us, transform our minds, our ways, our behavior, and our words. The power of God’s word effectively draws us close to God, giving us understanding from His infinite knowledge, and fully lighting our way: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Our Lord spoke concerning the degree by which we “take heed” to the hearing of God’s word:

“‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.’” (Mark 4:23-25).

What is the measure that we will use? If our measure abounds in bible study, then so will what we receive back from our efforts, and even more knowledge, understanding, and wisdom will be given to us, along with a clearer and more perfect transformation of the heart. But if we use no measure, even what we once had known and understood will be taken away from us. May we heed the warning of the Lord, and soberly recognize that it is God’s message to us that should matter to man more than all else. And because the message has been so freely handed to us, may we have eager minds to peer into the mind of our God and Creator and find out all things that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Article by Tanner Campbell

On the Other Side of the Garden

This article is a result of my own reading of the book “On the Other Side of the Garden.” This book has been used among women of the church and is being used as ladies bible class material in some congregations.

Virginia Fugate, is the wife of author Richard Fugate. They are very strong Calvinists and this is evident in all their books. As I read the book “On the Other Side of the Garden” I saw so many references to Calvinistic doctrine that the book, in my judgment, is rendered useless. The book’s point-of-view is built on the foundation of error, and therefore the conclusions drawn by the author are fallacies. When one holds such distorted views like Calvinism, their entire viewpoint of scripture and their interpretation of verses are affected by it. This alone should be enough for a Christian who loves the truth to not seek the advice of Mrs. Fugate’s book.

One of the big issues with the book is the many scriptures that are twisted and abused, usually by taking one verse out of its biblical context and making it into something that fits Mrs. Fugate’s point. For example, she quotes Isaiah 14:13-14 and states that Isaiah is referring to the beginning of time and Satan’s war against God (p.21), but the context is clearly about Isaiah’s present day and the pride of the king of Babylon, not Satan. She quotes 1 Corinthians 14:35, “if they (wives) will learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home,” and explains that wives must ask their husbands for truth because women are more prone to misguidance (p.90-91). However, when one looks at the context of 1 Cor. 14:35, they will see that Mrs. Fugate abused the passage, for it is speaking to the wives of the 1st Century prophets, and how their wives alone were not to ask questions while the church is collected for study, but their husbands (the prophets) could answer the wives’ questions at leisure. The rest of the church did not have that luxury, nor did they have the New Testament yet to study at home, so Paul’s instruction is sensible, in context. Another abuse of scripture is her teaching on 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (on page 91). She believes Paul’s instruction: “let the woman learn in silence… I suffer not a woman to teach,” is for everyday life; she states that a wife “is never to usurp his leadership position, nor is she to be his teacher.” She could only reach such a conclusion by taking scripture out of context and putting words in God’s mouth. The context of 1 Timothy 2 is about the public worship of the collected church, and therein a woman is not to take the role of leadership and teaching in the congregation. But Mrs. Fugate twists Paul’s instruction, concluding that a woman cannot share the gospel with a man. To be consistent, she must view Priscilla to be sinning when helping teach Apollos in Acts 18:26. Her doctrine that a wife cannot teach her husband is scary, but she lessens the blow by quickly contradicting herself, stating that “a wife is to ask her husband questions” as a method to bring about a husband’s repentance (p.91), but isn’t asking pointed questions a form of teaching? She proceeds to further confirm her doctrine by using 1 Peter 3:1-2. However, she again misinterprets scripture. She teaches that Peter is telling wives that they cannot teach their husbands the gospel, so the only way they might bring them to salvation is by their godly example alone. This is not at all the point that Peter made. Indeed, Peter said that a lost husband may be won over by the godly conduct of his wife, but Mrs. Fugate believes that is the only way, while Peter views it as a last resort. Notice how Peter began by saying “if any (husband) obey not the word,” look carefully, this context is about husbands that have already heard the word, either from their wives or someone else, and rejected it. Peter shows that there is still hope when the wife continues to live a godly life; she may be able to influence her husband toward salvation. There is no truth to a woman not being allowed to share the gospel with others who may be men, especially their husbands.

Mrs. Fugate also spends much time on a wife’s submission to her husband. On pages 49-53, she strongly asserts that “Biblical submission is not synonymous with obedience.” This is error. Even the definitions of obedience and submission she provides in her book stands opposed to her view. She defines obedience as “under the hearing of commands,” while submission she defines as “under placement or position, status or rank.” The result of these definitions is the same, but not according to Mrs. Fugate. Nevertheless, consider Ephesians 5:22, which says “wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The Greek word used by Paul and translated “submit” is defined by both Strong’s Greek Dictionary and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as “to obey.” So, Mrs. Fugate spends an entire chapter arguing that submission is not obedience, but I must stand with the word of God; a wife is to submit to her husband, which means she is to obey her husband. Take, for example, 1 Peter 3:5-6, which commands wives to be “submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham.” There is no difference in the terms according to God, but Mrs. Fugate still asserts that a wife can be submissive to her husband while not obeying him.

Mrs. Fugate teaches women a doctrine that she calls “Submissive Noncompliance” (p.54), which is the idea that you can always be submissive to your husband while not complying with his word. This is wild! Webster defines “noncompliance” as “failure or refusal to comply with something (such as a rule or regulation).” Friends, “submissive noncompliance” is a mouthful of an oxymoron. No two words in the English language can contradict each other more than these, but Mrs. Fugate teaches it confidently. Her idea is that submission is merely an attitude of respect and does not have to always parallel obedience, so long as the wife remains respectful of her husband. She applies this doctrine of “noncompliance” to a husband commanding their wife to do something unscriptural. Now, it is true that we must always “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), but this means (in the example of a husband leading his wife to sin) that his wife is simply to not submit (not obey) her husband in that matter. Fugate contradicts herself when she explains that a wife can still be submissive in this matter while not obeying her husband. She also contradicts this later in her book, on page 164, when she advises women whose husbands tell them not to attend worship service: Mrs. Fugate says to the women “I recommend that you do not go – at least for a while.” Whatever happened to her “submissive noncompliance” and obeying God in such situations?

In other areas of her book, I found her advice to be very harmful. I already mentioned her erroneous position that a wife cannot teach her husband the gospel, but she goes further, even saying that “if you try to protect your husband from experiencing difficulties in his life, you will be interfering with God’s purposes for those pressures” (p.163).  I say, if a wife follows Mrs. Fugate’s advice, then she would be interfering with God’s design for the woman to be the helpmeet. I have never heard such foolishness as a wife watching idly by as her husband sinks into difficulties (trouble with the law, financial decisions, etc.). God designed the woman to be the man’s helpmeet, that is, a capable helper, another set of eyes, another mind that is different but complimentary to his own. Sisters in Christ, always help your husbands immediately in all things, do not let him get into trouble if you can help it. Save him! Teach him! This is well within your wheelhouse of responsibility as your husband’s helper. God gave man a helper because he needed help, Mrs. Fugate tells you not to help him when he needs it; who should you listen to?

I could spend much more time addressing the many other errors I found in this book, the looseness by which Mrs. Fugate deals with the word of God, and the assertions she makes about God and His Word that are without warrant. But I hope that the above is sufficient for you to leave this book alone, for it will not advise you in the right ways of God. May you share this information with others who might be interested in Mrs. Fugate’s popular ladies class material, or who may have already been through the material. Calvinism is one of today’s most dangerous enemies of the church and the gospel, we mustn’t give it a place in our lives.

Article by Tanner Campbell

The Erosion of Life

More than any other book of the bible, the book of Job dives into the world of physical science and how God has fixed laws of nature, a cycle of growth and decay, destruction and restoration. The book is filled with the answers to so many matters of science, the vast majority of which were not discovered by scientists until the previous century. This means that God told us things in the book of Job that prideful man did not discover until 4,000 years after God informed us of these things.

The book of Job recognizes the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, i.e. the law of decay imposed upon the physical world. Job said, “But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of man.” (Job 14:18-19). It is interesting that Job speaks of erosion when he lived in the early days of the earth. Job lived about 2,000 years from the creation of the earth and about 500 years after the worldwide flood. But Job recognized that it doesn’t take billions, millions, or even thousands of years for the earth’s terrain to change. Job recognized that the “torrents” of storms and calamities bring mountains low, remove the rocks from their places, and carve out new waterways and canyons. This does not take millions of years, the earth changes form constantly due to storms and natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanos, tornados, and hurricanes. But by all this decay, God has bigger purposes for the good of our existence.

Some people today still embrace the ever-enduring idea that God purposes disasters to punish certain people. Now, there is some good reason for this, just look at the flood of Noah’s day, which was certainly a judgment against the evildoer. Job’s friends held the position that God aims for disasters to punish people for their sins. Eliphaz said, “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. (9)  By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.” (Job 4:8-9). And he explains his opinion in more detail in Job 15:20-35. Bildad also believed that suffering was dedicated to the wicked (Job 18:5-21). Zophar, as well, holds the same opinion, saying, “Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung” (Job 20:4-29).

In like manner also, Job’s friends believed that God protects those who are innocent from disasters. Eliphaz put it simply, saying, “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:7). Job, who once possibly agreed with his friends on these matters, argued against it, contemptibly saying, “It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.” (Job 9:22-23).

This cause-and-effect relationship can sometimes be true, and ultimately it is true in terms of eternity. Just as Paul said, “whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:17-18). But, as far as everyday life is concerned, the bible does not teach that daily circumstances are the result of a direct cause-effect response. In fact, Jesus provides more balance to this philosophy, saying, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? (3) No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (4) Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? (5) No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5). So it must not be supposed by us that bad things happen only to bad people and good things happen only to good people, nor is it within our understanding to determine whether a person’s sin caused their suffering (this is where Job’s friends missed the mark), we can only live our lives to the excellence of our abilities and know that we may not see good days until we are finished on this earth.

Disasters must happen, not because someone sinned, but because disasters are critical to the continued existence of mankind and all other life on earth. People tend to blame the devil for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, and droughts, but once again, there is more to all of this than just a cut-and-dry blaming of the devil or even blaming God. Let’s consider for a moment the goodness of God in situations of natural disasters. Plate tectonic activity, which causes volcanoes to erupt and the earth to quake, is crucial for ensuring that landmasses stay above the sea instead of underneath. These catastrophes even bring forth a recycling of nutrients that are vital for the abundance of life on land and sea. Hurricanes do not bring any smiles, but much life on earth and sea is maintained by hurricanes. These great storms bring a periodic concentration of nutrients to species that reside along the continental shelves. And the terrible winds lift salt aerosols from the oceans, ensuring the formation of clouds that will provide rainfall to support an immense amount of life on land. Hurricanes serve as critical thermostats for the oceans; if the waters get too hot, a hurricane serves to cool down the oceans. Lightning, by the way, is a major contributor to nitrogen fixation, a critical nutrient for plants (our food supply). All these things and more are fixed by our God, our designer. Too much or too little of these things and life would be unsustainable. So, we see then that nothing is cut-and-dry, and everything serves purposes known to our Creator and largely unknown to us, the creation.

Article by Tanner Campbell