Category Archives: Doctrine

Doing God’s Will Is Crucial

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21

It is common to ignore clear Bible teaching on the subject of works. Indeed, works do not save us, and no person can cause God’s indebtedness to mankind. But, works are important in the Christian life.

There is no verse more clear than Matthew 7:21. Jesus speaks these words himself. They are a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. There is no textual issue regarding the verse.

The passage arises in the context of false teachers who creep in among true disciples. Our Lord says that words are not enough. We all know people who talk big but do nothing. Jesus’ words target these people. Calling Jesus “Lord” is good, but it is not enough. Jesus says the only one entering the kingdom of heaven is a doer of God’s will. “Do” is an action word, a verb, which points to labor. The Christian is a worker; else, he is lost. Jesus says in verse 23, And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Those who talk big while doing nothing are “workers of lawlessness” and will be eternally lost.

The Sermon on the Mount was not the only time Jesus talked about workers. In Matthew 12:46 – 50, Jesus’ mother and brothers were trying to talk to him. Jesus replied, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). So again, the one who does God’s will is accepted.

Doing God’s Will is Taught by Jesus’ Followers

Doing God’s will is also a theme in James. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). The one who listens, but does not do, is deceived. He has convinced himself that all is good when he is lost. In the same paragraph, James tells his readers what a genuine Christian is. He is a doer. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

You cannot discount the Lord’s words about working as a Christian. It is the purpose of our existence. Paul writes, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus said those good works reflect the worldly man’s vision heavenward, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Doing God’s Will is a Habit of Jesus’ Followers

We should add that doing good works will never place God in debt to you or anyone else. We are saved by grace, and without it, we would be lost. Thousands of prayers, untold hours of good works, and service are meaningless without the grace of God. It is impossible to overstate the necessity of God’s grace. But let no one be mistaken: Our sovereign Lord requires works of those who belong to him. Apathy and a lackadaisical attitude toward serving God is spiritually deadly!

May we be known for our good works of service!

Antichrist Is Not What You Think

Part five of the Come Lord Jesus series on the final return of Christ at the end of time. Today we examine antichrist.

Social media has much to say about antichrist. He is just around the corner and will soon arise. He brings welcomed order to our troubled world and will be a heroic figure destined to save humanity. In truth, he is demonic and a destroyer of all that is good.

As we did when discussing the Rapture, let us ask what the Bible says.

Antichrist in Scripture

“Antichrist” is a biblical term. The word occurs five times in 4 verses. Only John uses the word.

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”

(1 John 2:18)

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

( 1 John 2:22)

“and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

(1 John 4:3)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”              

(2 John 7)

Therefore, the question is not whether it appears in Scripture, it does. But, how is the term defined and used by John? Of equal importance, how are people using the word antichrist today?

The Second Coming

The antichrist is not associated with the return of Jesus and is never used in connection with the end of time. Observe each of the occasions where John used the word. Not once is John speaking of the end of time. His words are always directed toward the very day and time in which he was writing.

More so, John, in all four verses, declares that the antichrist was already present in his first-century world! The antichrist was a specific kind of false teacher: one who “denies that Jesus is the Christ,” and one who does not confess that Jesus is from God” (1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3).

Also 1 John 2:18 and 2 John 7 assert that there were many antichrists in the first-century. The antichrist of the Bible is not a single powerful ruler or influencer. We must reject false teaching on this subject. It is not relevant to say someone has good intentions. The only thing that matters here is the truth.

For more reading, visit this article from the late Wayne Jackson at Christian Courier.

Jesus’ Return and You Don’t Know When

Good people struggle with knowing when Jesus will come again. Stressful times make us long for the shattering of earthly chains and the flight to unknown realms. Like a child waiting to be picked up by his parents after a first overnight away from home, we are increasingly homesick as we await the Lord’s coming. Some people call his return The Rapture, although that term is not in the Bible. We are certain that Jesus will return, but we just wish we knew when he would show up.

Jesus is with us right now. He promised the disciples that he was with us always (Matthew 28:18, 19). But he also told us of another return, one that would swiftly take us to glory (John 14:1 – 4). He alone is the way to the Father – there is no other path (John 14:6). But because we do not know the time and date of his return, we must work in his kingdom until we see him come.

When is Jesus’ Return?

This is where we stumble. In our breathless anticipation of his victorious return, we assume too much. “These are signs of the times,” friends say, or “it’s time for Jesus’ to return!” Self-styled prophets declare a date certain for the end. People have been saying these things for millennia, and they have all been wrong.

Avignon, France, was a lovely village in 1348. It lies on the Rhone river, about 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. During the late Spring, the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, swept through the town.

“When Avignon ran out of ground, Clement consecrated the Rhone; each morning that plague spring, hundreds of rotting corpses would flow down the stream like a mysterious new species of sea creature.” So wrote John Kelly in The Great Mortality. He also reports that 7,000 homes within the city lay vacant because everyone inside was dead. One resident estimates 62,000 people died in the first four months of the year. (Kelly, pg 150). Many believed that the plague was mentioned in the Bible and was a sign of Jesus’ impending return or the Rapture.

But Jesus didn’t come then.

At about the same time (1337 – 1453), the so-called Hundred Years’ War (actually 116 years) claimed close to 3,000,000 dead. In recent history, World War II claimed close to 100,000,000 across six years of combat capped by the final detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan. Indeed such a deadly war with such a horrendous climax must signal the Lord’s return! J. Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the American project to develop atomic bombs, shed a tear when remembering the testing of those bombs. He quoted from the Hindu holy book, Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

But Jesus didn’t come then either.

William Miller, a founder of Seventh Day Adventism, announced that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Many believed his false teaching, disposed of their possessions, and sat down to await the Lord’s return. When the day passed, such sadness followed that the date has come to be known as The Great Disappointment. Miller and those who followed him became targets of jokes, taunts, and even violence. The people who followed Miller were ordinary, everyday people. They were good folk who worked hard and attended church services. They were true believers of Miller. They were confident.

But Jesus didn’t come.

When we declare the coming of the Lord or declare so-called “signs of the times,” we give the world one more reason to laugh and hold us in derision. That may not matter to your faith, but it could throttle those considering coming to Jesus. Let us stick with what we know and accept what we do not. I know Jesus is coming, I don’t know when, but he will come.

Does Cornelius Prove Faith Only Salvation?

Acts 10 records the greatest moment in the history of the Gentile people. With centurion Cornelius, God opened the doors of salvation to all men, not just the Jews. For Gentiles, this event is the “Pentecost” of the Gentile world. Sadly, some Bible teachers have wrested the Scripture from its context and have attempted to force it to say something that it does not. This beautiful story of conversion supposedly demonstrates that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Such teaching is false.

In the study that follows, we will show from the context, both immediate and remote, that baptism was and is essential to salvation.

The story of the conversion of Cornelius spans chapters 10 and 11 in the book of Acts. Because we can know truth (John 8:32), and because God’s word is truth (John 17:17), we should examine what God’s word says concerning Cornelius and baptism for salvation.

According to acts 10:1,2, Cornelius was a “devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” Yet, despite these inspired accolades, Cornelius was still missing something. He was an alien sinner who had not yet been added to the household of faith. He had not experienced the blood of Jesus Christ. He had not obeyed the gospel truth. Indeed, he could not, for salvation had not yet come to non-Jews (c.f. Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9, 10; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:26; Ephesians 2: 11-17).

Peter is the other central character in this narrative. Whereas Cornelius was a Gentile, Peter was a Jew. When confronted with the Lord’s command to eat food that was unclean according to Jewish law, Peter refused (Acts 10:14). It was even considered sinful to associate with a Gentile (Acts 11:2, 3; Galatians 2:11-14). Now, the apostle is commanded to go to the house of Cornelius and to share with him the gospel that previously belonged only to the Jews. This opening to the Gentiles was monumental. Not only would it open salvation to the remainder of the world, but it would also shatter the Jews exclusive attitude.

It is against this background of a devout Cornelius and a faithful yet reticent Peter that the story of Cornelius’ conversion is told.

The conversion of Cornelius is a seminal event

There are only two other occasions in Scripture which rise to the level of Cornelius’s conversion. The first was the giving of the Law of Moses at Mount Sinai. There, God established his chosen people as a divine nation under his absolute authority. The second was the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that time, God established the church. The law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2) represented a major departure from the religious practices of the Law of Moses.

The astute Bible student observes that both Sinai and Pentecost are marked by extraordinary miracles (Exodus 19:16-20; 20:2; Acts 2:1-21). Any time the Lord changed the status quo of religious life, he validated those changes with unquestionable miracles. So it is not surprising that the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church was attended by great miracles.

The miraculous power of the Holy Spirit proved that Peter was doing God’s will.

Peter’s vision, beginning in Acts 10:9, was private. The text says nothing about anyone else sharing that vision. Still, Peter took Jewish brethren with him to Cornelius’ home (Acts 10:23). These traveling companions went into a Gentile’s home because Peter told them it was God’s will. They had no independent confirmation that what Peter said was true. It would appear to anyone else that Peter was violating God’s instructions concerning Gentiles.

But, before Peter had instructed Cornelius to do anything, the Holy Spirit fell upon his listeners (Acts 10:44). Notice the reaction of the Jewish witnesses: they were amazed (Acts 10:45). Peter would depend upon the testimony of these witnesses when he rehearses these events to the Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 11 1-18, esp. vs. 12). Just as the great miracles at Sinai and Pentecost had confirmed a change in God’s covenant with men, the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 confirmed this expansion of the church beyond Judaism.

The words of Peter in chapter 11 strengthen this assertion.He says, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way” (Acts 11:17)? What does he mean, “stand in God’s way?” What was God doing that gave Peter pause? What did the miracle of the Holy Spirit say to Peter? It confirmed his actions both for himself, the Jewish witnesses and the Jews who would soon learn of the conversion and question Peter’s actions.

This outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not confirm salvation. It confirms that Peter was doing God’s will.

Peter was not needed for a faith only conversion

Errant teachers assert that the baptism of Cornelius was unnecessary. If Cornelius is saved by faith alone, there was no reason for Peter to travel to Caesarea. But the Bible says that Cornelius and his household already knew the story of Jesus and his death, burial, and resurrection (Acts 10:37 ff).

If a man could be saved by faith only, apart from baptism, why was Peter sent to preach to Cornelius? Cornelius called for Peter because he wanted to hear what the apostle had to say (Acts 10:22). What did Peter say that was new to Cornelius?

Peter accomplished two things on this trip. He confirmed the oneness of all men before God (Acts 10:34) and taught Cornelius what to do with the facts he already knew. he commanded him to be baptized (Acts 10:48).

Acts 10 must not be extracted from the greater context of the New Testament

Acts 10 must be viewed first in its immediate context, and then in the more remote context of the entire New Testament and even the entire Bible.

Nowhere else is the reception of the Holy Spirit indicative of salvation. In Acts 2:38, the Holy Spirit is a promise after repentance and baptism. In Acts 8:12, people were baptized but, the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit was not given until later when Peter and John came down from Jerusalem. In the case of the Ethiopian and of Saul of Tarsus, neither man rejoiced until after his baptism (Acts 8:26-40; 9:1-19; 22:12-16). Surely one who enjoys the gift of the Holy Spirit would rejoice and not grieve as did Saul!

Baptism is a consistent, essential, part of the plan of salvation

From the very beginning of the church in Acts chapter 2, every Christian was baptized. Aside from the multiple examples in the book of Acts, Paul explains the importance of baptism in Romans 6:2-11. He says that by sharing in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, through baptism, we also share in a “newness of life.” The careful study of this passage will show that baptism is how we join Christ in his death and are united with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).

It is Peter who declares that “baptism also now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21, 22). We are saved by baptism, just as we are saved by grace and by faith. We cannot be saved apart from grace or apart from faith, and we cannot be saved apart from baptism. This was the clear understanding of the apostles and the original Christians. Only years later, did men begin to misunderstand and misrepresent the truth of what is revealed in Scripture.

As it pertains to Cornelius, we observe that even after the Holy Spirit was poured out on his household and after the Jewish witnesses perceived the validation of Peter’s mission to Cornelius, Peter commanded that Cornelius and his household be baptized (Acts: 10:48). In the same way: men today are commanded to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

Never Trust Your Preacher!

Why would a preacher tell you to never trust your preacher? Isn’t trust inherent in the job of preaching? I mean, if you never trust your preacher, who can you trust?

Gallup published a new poll last month which put preachers on par with journalists for trustworthiness. Only 37% of respondents rate clergy as high or very highly honest or ethical people.

“Gallup has measured Americans’ views of the clergy’s honesty and ethics 34 times beginning in 1977, and this year’s 37% very high/high rating is the lowest to date. Although the overall average positive rating is 54%, it has consistently fallen below that level since 2009. The historical high of 67% occurred in 1985.

Gallup suggests the decline is, at least partly related to scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. Christianity Today cites many failures among protestant preachers too. All of this may be so, but my warning isn’t based on a survey.

There’s another reason you should never trust your preacher.

Never Trust Your Preacher Because He Is Human

Human’s err. The Bible is even stronger.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 3:23

“If we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 1:8

“This is a faithful saying and worth of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)

So if I put my faith in a man, no matter how good he may strive to be, I make a deadly mistake. He, like me, is a sinner.

Never Trust Your Preacher Because His Wisdom May Be Faulty

There is a real conflict between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. The same clash happened in the first century too. Paul had much to say about it.

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. “

1 Corinthians 2:12, 13

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’”

1 Corinthians 3:18, 19

Surely we hope that our preachers are steeped in God’s wisdom. We expect and hope that their motivations and passions are driven by the Spirit of God. But remember, we are thinking of our own soul; that precious eternal piece of me that will live forever. Am I that sure that my preacher’s wisdom is divine?

Never Trust Your Preacher Because He Is Not Inspired

God’s word is inspired ( 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). It is infallible and must never be tampered with.

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.”

Deuteronomy 4:2

” I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. “

Revelation 22:18, 19

Your preacher is not inspired because he doesn’t need to be inspired. The word which you possess is from the very mind of God. It has been delivered to us today in a final and complete form. Jude writes that the word was “once for all” delivered (Jude 3).

I do not suggest that your preacher is not inspiring; I hope he is. But that is vastly different from being directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. As preachers, we have nothing new to bring to the theological table. We are spokesmen for what God has already given.

Never Trust Your Preacher Because You Can Understand the Bible

It’s nice to be wanted. It’s nice to feel needed. It’s nice to think yourself important. But when it comes to your knowledge of God’s word, you can understand it through your own study and prayer. You have no need for someone to tell you what the Scriptures say.

Solomon knew that study was hard (Ecclesiastes 12:12). But Paul tells Timothy that study is important.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

The command to Timothy is to study and to be a workman. The Scriptures were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). It is in the word that we find hope and comfort. The Christian was never pointed to a priest or rabbi but instead was always pointed to the word of God.

I know you appreciate, love and respect your preacher. You should. But your soul is far too precious to entrust to fallible men. Be sure and read our coming article on Fact-Checking Your Preacher.

Are the Disobedient Saved?

We recently wrote of the alleged clash between grace and works. Our conclusion was that a man cannot be saved apart from God’s grace. We also affirmed that there is a response, an obligation on the part of man which is also essential. Today, I want to pursue that idea a bit further.

It is common among some to assert that man has no role in his own salvation. They claim that there is absolutely nothing required of a man in order to be saved. That is a popular view and a view that holds some comfort in that we can live any way we desire without consequence. Our eternal salvation is fatalistic occurrence far beyond self. What does the Bible say?

[bctt tweet=”Is our salvation fatalistic? Is it already determined? Surely not!” username=”Preachers_Study”]

Obedience is commanded

God’s word commands obedience. As the Israelites gathered at Sinai, God commanded them, saying, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples…” (Exodus 19:5). Again, “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,  he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil” (Deuteronomy 11:13, 14).

Peter declares that the salvation gift of the Holy Spirit is given to those that “obey him” (Acts 5:32). The writer of Hebrews speaks of the glorious Christ, who, “being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). John says obedience is confirmation of our love for the Lord and our place in his family. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2,3).

Disobedience is condemned

Even more prevalent in Scripture is the condemnation of the disobedient. Instead of asking if obedience is required for salvation we should ask if a man can be saved in his disobedience. Again, it is the Bible that gives the answer.

[bctt tweet=”Instead of asking if obedience is required for salvation we should ask if a man can be saved in his disobedience. ” username=”Preachers_Study”]

Israel was warned of its own demise if they did not obey. Moses warned, Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:20). He repeats, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse;  the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). There is no question that God’s people were required to obey God and were warned of punishment if they did not.

Perhaps the clearest warning against disobedience is from Paul. He writes that Jesus will return and will inflict “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Peters wonders of the end result of those who “do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17). The Bible student must see that obedience is required and disobedience is condemned.

It is only because of God’s stunning love for a lost creation that we have a plan of escape from coming doom. It is only because of his extreme love that we have a savior. It is no blow to his glory that we comply with his commands. Instead, our obedience reflects his goodness and his glory throughout creation!


Grace Vs. Works

There is no clash between grace and works. Both are undeniable biblical concepts. Christians are “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). They are also created to do good works and must be obedient to the Lord’s commands (Ephesians 2:10; Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; Romans 6:17). Any clash between grace and works is man-made and just plain wrong.

[bctt tweet=”Any clash between grace and works is man-made and just plain wrong.” username=”Preachers_Study”]


It Begins With My Personal Sin

We all sin. It’s not absorbed from someone else; it is not hereditary. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and none is righteous (Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3). Sin is the horrible dark bond that every person shares.

The upshot is that we are neither deserving nor worthy of salvation. We are corrupt and saturated with sin and cannot be in the presence of the Holy God for even one second, not to mention an eternity.

[bctt tweet=”The upshot is that we are neither deserving nor worthy of salvation.” username=”Preachers_Study”]


My Sin Cannot Be Overcome

It’s natural, especially in our culture, to think that with enough work we can overcome and fix almost any problem. Advances in science have given us the idea that we can conquer any obstacle. It’s a nice thought, even comforting, but it is just wrong. We cannot fix everything. Just like there are some illness that cannot be overcome even with the finest healthcare, there is a spiritual problem that cannot be overcome. That illness is sin.


Speaking of our salvation as a work of grace, Paul says “this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Our works do not justify us as worthy for salvation (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). When all is written we are still unworthy. Jesus said, “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:9-10). The servant’s work and obedience were expected; that was their duty.


My Obedience is Expected and Necessary

As the servant in Jesus’ parable above, we do our duty. When God determined to bring a massive flood to destroy the terrible wickedness on the earth, he made Noah the object of his grace (Genesis 6:8). Then, God gave Noah a plan of escape. He warned him and told him how to escape. However, it was up to Noah to obey. God did not tell him where to find an ark, nor did he remove him from the earth. Noah survived because God showed him grace by giving him a plan and then because he obeyed the plan (Genesis 6:22; 7:5, 9). Consider Abraham who was the object of God’s love and affection. Abram was told to leave his home and travel to a place that God would command. What did he do? He obeyed (Genesis 12:1-4).


It is by his grace that God teaches us to avoid the coming destruction (Titus 2:11-14). Like Noah, we humbly and gratefully accept this grace and are trained to obey. Could Noah have thanked God for his grace and then refused to build the ark? Would he have been spared? Could Noah have graciously accepted God’s direction to move but remained in Ur? Would he be called the father of the faithful? Can anyone be called faithful who lives in rank disobedience to God? Of course not.


How horrible to divide God’s plan by removing grace or by knifing obedience from what God has said! John was clear: “whoever does not obey the son shall not see life…” (John 3:36). The Holy Spirit is given to the obedient (Acts 5:32). Put negatively, those who do not obey will face wrath (Romans 2:8). Those who do not obey the gospel will face the judgment of the returning Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

[bctt tweet=”Those who do not obey the gospel will face the judgment of the returning Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8).” username=”Preachers_Study”]


Let us handle God’s word with respect and seek to understand it all.



Peter and John miracleMiracles fascinate the mind of almost everyone. Even the skeptic who denies that miracles ever occurred must look with wonder at the great stories of the resurrection. He should ponder how the church came to exist against the backdrop of the resurrection stories which were so easily investigated by people who were contemporaneous with the events themselves. Believe them or not, miracles are an important part of the Bible. They serve an important purpose. Our goal is to identify that purpose and see how it is served by miraculous works and signs.

Biblical miracles are events which cannot be explained by any rational, natural explanation. They require that some law of nature be set aside or suspended. For example, consider the case of a woman who makes a sudden recovery from an illness thought to be terminal. While her recovery may seem astonishing, it is not beyond the ability of science to explain her improvement. In fact, such remarkable recoveries occur often. God may have worked through science to bring about her recovery, but he did not set aside the laws of nature to accomplish that task. In other words, it was not a miracle in a biblical sense.

Consider the case of the impoverished lame man of Acts 3. First, this well-known man had an established, debilitating, and obvious illness: he was crippled from birth. After declaring his intent to heal the man (vs. 6), Peter raised him up immediately, and the man began to walk. The result of the miracle was “wonder and amazement” (vs. 10). Such a response would have given instant validation of the bona fides of Peter and John. As they would speak, the people would listen. From this brief description, we may conclude the following. First, a biblical miracle requires that a condition be confirmed (the man was lame from birth, and everyone knew it). Second, there was an intent perform a miracle (vs. 6). Third, was the miraculous, unexplainable outcome (vs. 7, 8). And, fourth, there was a response of amazement from the bystanders (vs. 10).

Any claim of a modern-day miracle must be tested against the biblical pattern.

Let us show the importance of the bystanders to biblical miracles. In John 3:1-11, Jesus performs the first miracle of his earthly career; he turned water into wine. the result, according to vs. 11 is that his disciples believed in him. In the next chapter (John 4:1-45), Jesus reveals unknown details of a woman’s life. She is amazed, and so are her neighbors (John 4:39-42). In Luke 18:35-43, Jesus heals a man of blindness. Not surprisingly, the result is people “glorifying God” and giving praise to God (vs. 43).

Next, observe the resurrection of Jesus and its result on the beginning of the church. Jesus death was confirmed by hostile Roman executioners who were well acquainted with death. He was placed in a sealed and guarded tomb to prevent the theft of his body and a fraudulent claim of resurrection. Still, he arose on the third day. His death was beyond question. His claim of coming resurrection was well known. And, to verify his resurrected life, the risen Lord appeared unto hundreds of people during about five weeks between Passover and Pentecost (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Pay particular attention to Acts 2. Peter’s sermon was in the city of his death and resurrection. That crucifixion and resurrection happened within less than 2 months of Peter’s sermon. So, the claim that Jesus was risen was made to the same people, in the same city and at the same time of that resurrection. Days later, great angst is seen among the Jewish leaders because of the establishment and growth of the church (Acts 4:13-18). Today, Christianity, predicated upon the resurrection of Jesus, is massive. How did that happen? How shall we explain its growth from its infancy in the city of Jesus’ resurrection? The answer is clear, the people were astonished by Peter’s preaching of the resurrection of Jesus. They heard, were convinced, were amazed, and they responded appropriately. The miraculous resurrection of Jesus confirmed that he was who he was claimed to be. The apostles preaching at Pentecost was likewise confirmed by the miracles of a “sound like a rushing mighty wind…divided tongues of fire” and the apostles began to “speak in other tongues” (Acts 2:2-4).

Miracles confirmed the inspired word that was preached. Any revelation from God today would likewise require such confirmation. Further, that confirmation must rise to the caliber of a biblical miracle for nothing less is acceptable.



We Must Obey God

A doctrine of convenience has descended upon the religious world. People are told to believe on Jesus and that alone will save your soul. This is a false doctrine contrived by man. Belief is certainly essential for salvation, but it does not bring salvation when left alone. To believe in Jesus as the only Son of God is the beginning, but it does not reflect the totality of salvation. In some circles, it is anathema to suggest that man has any part whatsoever in his own salvation, but Scriptures loudly teach that man, while unable to be saved by his own works, is, in fact, a participant in his own salvation.

Isaiah declared that we are separated from God by our own sins:  ”Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, cried: “Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you” (Jeremiah 5:25). The Psalmist wrote that a beautiful land had been turned into a “salty waste because of the evil of its inhabitants” (Psalm 107:34). Sin is man’s problem. It is caused by each man and plagues us all (Romans 3:23). Without God, I am justly condemned. Only the God of the Bible has the solution for sin. Without the grace of God; I cannot be saved. Without the mercy of God; I cannot be saved. Without the love of God; I cannot be saved, etc.

But is there anything I must do to be saved? Is there any human action required for salvation? All but the most dedicated disciple of Calvin will acknowledge that man must believe that Jesus is the son of God. To believe is a human act. That hardcore Calvinist, to be consistent, will demand that human belief is only caused by God in those he has chosen. He would say that such an urging from God is irresistible and there is no free will. The depravity of that teaching is probably best seen in Adam and Eve where he would say that God willed the sin of Adam and Eve thus spoiling his own spotless creation. But, most would accept that belief is a necessary contribution of man towards his own salvation.

The Scriptures teach more. Paul sets a contrast between those who do not obey the truth but instead obey unrighteousness (Romans 2:8). If belief alone is necessary to please God then how, we pled, is it possible to obey unrighteousness? We all believe that unrighteousness exists. Does such a belief make us unrighteous? No, it does not; no more than believing in Jesus makes us righteous! Biblical belief always produces action (James 2:14-26).

To be pleasing to God and to ensure his own survival, Noah not only believed God but worked to build an ark of safety. Abraham believed God and repeatedly acted upon God’s instructions. Lott believed God but also fled Sodom to avoid destruction. The people of Acts 2 obviously believed God but were obedient to Peter’s command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and then continued to live righteously.

More directly we note four important Bible passages, John 3:36; Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17. All four verses are cast in the negative. Each asks the same question: What is the condition of those who do not obey the gospel? We ask the reader to observe the word “obey.” It means to comply with some directive or command. Paul and Peter ask what happens to the one who does not comply with the commands of the gospel?

Other passages are set in a positive tone. For example, in Acts 5:32 Peter says the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. The Hebrew writer says that salvation comes to those who obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:25. John says we can know that we please God when we “obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).

We beg our readers to consider that there is more to salvation than a one-time acknowledgment that Jesus is the son of God. We remain totally dependent upon God for our salvation, but we must comply with the truths he has revealed to us in his Scriptures.


The Paucity of Belief


beliefpaucity – smallness of quantity; scarcity; scantiness:

There is very little real belief left in Christendom and what little there is seems to be decreasing. That is a weighty charge given that much of Christianity teaches that only belief, that is, a mental agreement in some fact, is all that is necessary for salvation. Certainly, the Bible teaches that we must believe to be saved (Mark 16:16; Luke 8:12; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 1:21). However, the common view of “believe” bears little or no resemblance to what the Bible teaches. Biblical belief is replaced by a comfortable, convenient, “agreement” that Jesus is the Son of God. While such an agreement is essential, the one who denies it is antichrist (2 John 7), Biblical belief compels action beyond mental assent.

True belief requires action. If you believe that your child suffers from a debilitating disease, you will do all possible to get them the care and treatment required. Your belief in the diagnosis compels or drives you to action. Your neighbor bangs on your door at 3 AM and tells you that your house is on fire; you smell smoke and see flames. Will you thank him and assure him you believe that your house is ablaze and then return to your bed to complete your slumbers? Of course not. You roust your children and spouse and flee the burning building. Your belief that the house is on fire has driven you to action.

Believers are told to do certain things. For example, believers in Acts 2:38 were told to “repent and be baptized.” Noted preacher Frank Chesser recently observed that it would have been foolish to tell the people on Pentecost that all they needed to do was believe. They already believed! They heard Peter preach, perhaps out of curiosity, and realized they had the blood of Jesus on their hands. Now they believed that the one of whom they demanded death was the Son of God. To tell them to simply believe was redundant. There was more to be done.

In Acts 8, the Ethiopian was already a believer when he commanded his chariot to stop so that he might be baptized. Why the hurry? Why the rush? Were there not better waters in the Ethiopian palace? Would he not desire his family and friends to attend the joyous event? No, he stopped because his belief in all that Phillip taught drove him to the water.

Belief comes first, but it must lead a man to obey all that Jesus has said. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). It is unnecessary to say that “he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned,” for it should be obvious that a man who does not believe will not be baptized. Once we truly believe in Jesus, we will become obedient followers of all that he teaches. Surely that belief extends far beyond baptism. The true believer is a baptized believer who spends his life for the Lord. We must strongly reject the incomplete notion that a Christian is one who only believes. He believes, obeys and serves!