The Number of the Beast

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The number of the beast (666) in Revelation 13 is directly associated with man, man being a servant of the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). This means, in religious terms, man-made religions and churches are directly associated with the mark of the beast because their origins are related to man’s wisdom. Whatever the specific application of 666 in the context of Revelation 13, the principle of man-made religions still applies (Prov. 14:12). There needs to be more respect for God and His Word / Authority than exhibited in the religious world and it people’s lives. RT

The Lord’s Prayer

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It was Jesus’ prayer to the Father for those who belong to Him to be one (John 17:21), that is, to be one in spirit and purpose. This will be the case if those who belong to Him allow the Word to control their lives and the way things are done relative to religious matters. Unfortunately, one can look around and see those who call themselves Christians are hardly one in spirit and purpose. They are not one in name (Baptist Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, etc.) and neither are they one in doctrine (saved by faith alone, not saved by faith alone, once saved always saved, one can lose their salvation, women preacher and elders, no women preachers nor elders, etc.).

Did Jesus’ prayer fail? No, it did not fail, and neither will it fail when those who abide in His word (John 8:31-32) do things in Bible ways and call things by Bible names. This cliché is a powerful one. While some denigrate it, they do so because they have failed to understand and appreciate its influential drawing power. Back in 1982-83, this phrase took me from a man-made institution and started me on my path to study the Scripture in order to be sure I am on the Lord’s path. I don’t want to be on a path set in place by man.

There were consequences (or a fallout) to my decision; I made many, far too many, mistakes in my learning and walking with the Lord. Still, I stayed the course. I was convinced of its rightness then, and no less so today. I desired conversation with any and all in matters pertaining to wisdom of the approach, would even debate any who challenged it. I now have nearly 40 years of experience.

In John 18:38, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” This, too, is a powerful expression. What is truth? From the words of Jesus, His words are truth. That means, in matters pertaining to God, anything that comes from man is not the truth of God. Such things that come from man that are not connected to the truth of God are 1) a person is saved by faith alone. This is not a teaching of the New Testament (James 2:24). Try as one might, it won’t be found. What will be found is one is saved by faith. The two expressions are not the same. If one is saved by faith alone, that means God’s essential command of repentance is not required. Who will argue for this? Some, in reply, say faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Really? It was John who said this is not so when he said some believed but would not repent (John 12:42-43). 2) Some will say, in religious matters, there is nothing in a name. What they mean is this: there is nothing in the name of a religious group of people who call themselves by a name not found in the Bible. As far as they are concerned, all roads (in Protestant Christianity) lead to heaven. Is that true, however? Think along this line. You are a male/husband/father, would you want your wife to take the name of another man when she is married to you? In Ephesians 5, the Lord’s apostle said as the husband is the head of the wife, so Christ is the head of the church (5:23), the church is presented to Himself as a people unblemished (5:26). There is no chance the Lord is going to accept a name He does not recognize. A name denotes identification, possession, even doctrine. Do you think I am wrong? 3) Related to the previous point, in the New Testament, the local church is set up, organized after God’s pattern. In Philippians 1:1, Paul addressed his letter to the elders, deacons and the congregation. Elders? This word corresponds to other English words such as bishop, overseer, pastor and presbyter. In the New Testament, these men are married and with children, but not just children, faithful children. In fact, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to set up the church appointing elders and deacons in every church. Yet, in today’s Protestant churches, we hardly have this. We have “pastor” who is the preacher, married or not, children or not; male or not. Does any of this matter? To the Lord it does.  

The above long paragraph is to illustrate the importance of staying with the Lord’s way, doing Bible things in Bible ways and calling Bible things by Bible names. Some may dismiss it for any number of reasons, but if one’s heart is loyal to the Lord, obedient to the Lord and His way, if one listens and obeys the Lord’s prayer of John 17, this is what he and she will do. RT

Blind Leading the Blind

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If the blind lead the blind, then both the blind and those led by the blind will fall into the ditch.

Who are the blind? When Jesus spoke His words (Matthew 15:14), He was speaking of the religious leaders and their precepts or commands of men. The word tradition, a word Jesus used in this context, is a word that means “passing down.” The word can be understood in a favorable context as well as unfavorable. When Jesus used the word, it was most certainly unfavorable. Why so unfavorable? Because the passing down of teachings from men had the effect of neutralizing God’s word, His will for the nation of Israel. This resulted in religious leaders and teachers setting to the side the Lord’s express will and living by the guidance of man. Jesus called these leaders blind, and to make it even worse, those who follow their teachings are themselves blind.

We live in a context today that is similar. We have blind religious leaders leading blind religious people (or semi religious) and both will fall into the ditch. Here are some examples. First, there is the common teaching that many churches subscribe to what is called the sinners prayer. Here is what they mean: a contrite person is to pray a particular prayer asking Jesus into that person’s heart. This is not Bible teaching; the closest one can get to wanting the Bible to teach this is Luke 18:9-14. Read it, ask yourself if this is a prayer by a sinner asking Jesus into his heart. Now compare that with what Peter said to those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The difference can’t be more obvious. If that is the case, then why do so many people follow this way of thinking? Just like they were in Jesus’ day, they are today. The blind lead the blind. If the blind don’t know (or refuse to believe) what the Bible teaches, how are they going to accurately teach? They can’t.

Lesson: search the Scriptures to see if that which is taught is so (Acts 17:11). If the thinking of your way can’t hold the day throw it away.

Wisdom and Foolishness

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The Proverbs of Solomon. The wise in heart will receive commandments; But a prating fool shall fall (Proverbs 10:8, ASV). Wisdom, by most, is measured by what a person accumulates in experiences. If you live to be 75 then, presumably, you will be wiser than a 55 years old person because you have experienced much more. This is not an unreasonable interpretation, but it is mistaken. Wisdom is not measured by years of experience, but by the knowledge one gains, coupled with consistent application in difficult circumstances, then add to this the years of experience. If wisdom is connected with knowledge, then what is the source of that knowledge? There are only two sources. One source is God, the other source is not. That’s it. Paul wrote, For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor. 1:21). Paul makes a contrast. There is wisdom that comes from man without God with the wisdom that comes from God to man. The wise in heart will hear God and obey, but the foolish person will have little time for God because the Almighty does not perpetuate one ambition in this world. I don’t want to be a fool; how about you? RT

BOND OF PEACE AND DOGS

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The scriptures are clear. The Lord’s apostle said the saints are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). That can hardly happen where there is present a “Mr. Diotrephes” or a “Mrs. Diotrephes.” John wrote with regard to the “Diotrephes” spirit, “I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). This is the disposition of a person who wants his (or her) say and way. Those who are of this attitude and spirit have no regard for the words of the Holy Spirit.

In the “funnies” section of the newspaper, the cartoon “The Middletons” make a perfect illustration. There are two dogs barking continuously (like dogs sometimes do). One dog stops and asks, “What are we barking at?” The other dog replies, “A leaf fluttered to the ground.” “Oh” came the reply. The dogs resume barking fervently. This a perfect illustration of the Diotrephes spirit that exists with some. It begins with a lack of biblical knowledge, continues with failure to gain knowledge of the situation as it needs to be properly understood, then proceeds with a lack of a charitable disposition toward the thinking and ways of someone else, coupled with a desire to have control / power / influence over others (all in a compelled sort of way, at least some of the time), all to arrive at a point of “we don’t need a reason of substance, let us just make up one.”

The Diotrephes spirit in a local congregation is exhibited in more than just what the Lord’s apostle wrote; it’s exhibited in identifying “sound brethren” and only those who are identified can be fellowshipped, in telling a preacher from what exclusive translation he can preach (and it better not be the Greek text!), how the preacher can make no use of illustrations that come from life but can only come from Genesis to Revelation (Paul and Jesus would both have been condemned by the Diotrephes spirited person). The Diotrephes spirit splits churches, sometimes those splits manifest themselves in a congregation imploding, the majority of the saints walking out to start a new work or wandering off “back into the mire.”  

Maybe you know someone in the congregation where you worship manifesting all of this, or only some of it. If so, you are headed down a path that brings frustration, confusion and heartache.

What the Lord’s apostle said in Ephesians is not an option or suggestion, it is a command of the Holy Spirit. Those who divide churches because of the Diotrephes spirit will answer the Lord for their self-exultations. We may wonder, sometimes, who is guilty of this sort of thinking. Generally speaking, however, the Diotrephes spirited person is manifest to all. When we wonder, we can be sure the Lord knows! “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3, ASV). RT

Teach and Help Them

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Teach and Help Them

               Why do people leave the Lord? There are a number of reasons; let me identify some. First, parents talk better than they live; when the child grows up, since the Lord’s way made little to no difference to the parents in the way life was lived, it must not be all that important for the child in his or her own life. Second, what I learn in my science classrooms (through the years), the preacher and the elders can’t or won’t refute (such as evolution). It must be the preacher and the elders are not all that certain about what they believe. Perhaps the preacher and elders have no depth of knowledge to help me as I try to understand the difficulties of life. If they can’t help when science challenges, why should I think they can help in other areas. Third, there is too much confusion in the religious world; I can hardly make sense of it all. All these people who say they believe in God hardly agree on much of anything! Even though I have heard God is not a god of confusion, it seems exactly the opposite is the case. Fourth, I see all these people come to the church building and pretend they are religiously devoted, but then I hear them as they go out the door speak badly about someone or something; I wonder if there is any good that comes from their mouths. Fifth, I have had bad experiences with those who call themselves Christians.                The list could go on, but you get the point. I received an email the other day from The Worldview Bulletin Newsletter that spoke of a research project about people leaving the church (this research was conducted by UCLA; they have a broader understanding of the word church than what the New Testament teaches). The reasons were multiple; the paragraph above reflects some of those reasons. What can we do to give attention to this? First, live what you believe! If you call yourself a Christian, live as Christ did. Don’t be a “fake” Christian. Second, do not have a superficial knowledge of the Bible, but have substantive knowledge, knowledge that can be instilled in the youth because you not only know what the Bible teaches, where it teaches it, but also why it is taught and the importance in living that way. This entails effort on your part, much effort. Put what you learned to good use. Third, don’t make “church going” a matter of convenience or duty, but because you are devoted to the Lord and would rather be no other place. You’ll help yourself by not having too many activities going on. The Lord is your priority, and His saving institution (the church) is your priority also. If you say that you do, and show up infrequently, your children have already learned your priority. Fourth, if problems arise in the church be sure you contribute to a solution rather than the problem. Too many run away. This teaches volumes! Some will turn away regardless, but don’t let that be you. Do what you can to teach them and help them to stay. RT

Walk Sure

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The Proverbs of Solomon He that walketh uprightly walketh surely; But he that perverteth his ways shall be known (Proverbs 10:9, ASV). It’s very important for people to have dignity and integrity in their lives. The word dignity means one is worthy of honor and respect, while integrity means one is honest, having strong moral principles. One’s dignity is sacrificed if the life lived is not worthy of honor or respect. For instance, a person chooses to wallow in pits with hogs engaged in behavior that is destructive to his or her life. This could means drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, greed and many other things. Once this dignity is sacrificed it is exceptionally hard to get back. Associated with dignity is integrity. The strong moral principles that a person should live by, once sacrificed, means the person wanders from one way of thinking to another, like a piece of driftwood on the water. Perhaps in the lives of each of us we have wondered about ourselves whether or not we have cut into or own dignity and integrity, weakening the two pillars in our life that give self-respect. The proverb gives an exhortation that it does not have to be that way, and it won’t be if a choice is made, from the beginning, to choose the Lord’s way. What if I didn’t choose the Lord’s way at the beginning? Then start now. It may be your bad-reputation will follow you, but as you choose to follow the Lord, what was once lost will soon return because people notice the one who walks uprightly, according to a standard not his own. RT

Memory

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The Proverbs of Solomon. The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot (Proverbs 10:7 ASV). Sometimes all we have left are the memories. The memories of my dad, your mother, our best friends. If one were to ask, what is the greatest memory that you have of those who have gone on to their reward, what would you say? With regard to your father, would you say he was there when times were physically tough? What about your mother? There is something about a mom that a dad can never fill, try as he might. Perhaps in your family, your dad was the firm, steady hand that corrected the ship when it got off course. It was that way in my family. My mom, on the other hand, always had a role on the ship’s direction, but her role was more in smoothing out the tempestuous seas of the trip. Maybe an over-powering memory in your life was not a good one at all. Perhaps your father or your sibling was something of a scoundrel. The influence they left on you is one you would like to forget. Quite unfortunate, but one that many have when they think of some family members. What memory will people have of you? Will they remember you as a good teacher, administrator, preacher? Let them remember you as one who lived righteously, made a difference with the words spoken and made an impact in life that is immeasurable

Spiritual Death Analogous to Physical Death?

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It is my purpose in this study to set forth an exegetically sound interpretation of Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus on Ephesians 2:1. In addition to this, I will also set forth common interpretations that are contrary to my own. I will give attention in this presentation to the theology of those who are of a Calvinistic persuasion.

NKJV: And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

ASV: And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins

NASV: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.

KJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins

Williams: You too were dead because of the shortcomings and sins

A brief setting of Paul in Ephesians 1 and 2. CHAPTER 1. Spiritual blessings are in Christ; none outside (1:3). Before the foundation of the world, those chosen to be in Him are to be blameless and holy (1:4). Those chosen in Christ have been predestined to adoption (1:5-6). In Him is redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins (1:7-8). In the wisdom of God this is made known to us in the life and message of Jesus (1:8-10). It is in Him that one inherits from God (1:11-12). One is in Christ after having heard and believed the message preached, sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13-14). Paul’s prays for the saints in Ephesus, for their enlightenment in wisdom, knowledge and the power of God, which is Christ seated at the right hand of the Father (1:15-21). Seated at the right hand of the Father, He is over all things to the church, which is His body (1:22-23). CHAPTER 2. The saints in Ephesus were once dead in sin because of the life they chose to walk (2:1-3). Paul identified himself with those of Ephesus who once walked the same path (2:3). Even when dead in sin, it was because of God’s mercy the saints in Ephesus were made alive in Christ (2:4-7). It was by God’s mercy each one is saved by grace; saved by grace (i.e., taught; 1:13-14; cf. Titus 2:11-12) means each one is God’s workmanship (2:8-10).

An interpretation frequently presented to me. The saints in Ephesus were once dead in trespasses and sins because they walked in accordance with what they wanted to do, having no regard for what God wanted. They willfully chose to indulge their desires in the flesh (2:3). They were dead in sin without regard to their own will, but because of Adam; they are only able to make things worse (volitionally) in their state of “dead in sins and trespasses.” QUESTION: If they could willfully choose to do this (make things worse), on what basis could they not also willfully choose to turn away from doing this? There is none – except that of a theological persuasion.

Connecting this with Paul’s words in Romans 5:12 and 6:3, one enters the realm of death by birth, the one born does not inherent Adam’s sin, that is, one is not judged by God as sinful based on what Adam did! One enters the physical realm of death by birth, one enters the spiritual realm of death by choice.

Interpretations from varied expositors[1]

“Physical death is a condition in which the functions of physical life have ceased; spiritual death is that where the functions of spiritual life are no longer active, and indeed, apart from the intervention of divine grace are no longer possible…” Again, a few lines later we read, “The incapacity of the unregenerated mind for the exercise of spiritual affections, is what is meant by spiritual death.”[2]

Spiritual death is nothing but alienation from God, and this is because “we are all born dead and live that way until we become partakers of the life of Christ.”[3] Chrysostom (who predates Calvin) does not concur with this sentiment. Speaking of spiritual death, he says, “But the death of the soul is the result of a free choice.”[4]

Barnes seems to take a moderate view. He states there is an affirmation of depravity, affirming the fact of it, but “…it does not settle any question as to their ability or power while in that state” to exercise their mental powers of their intellect toward the direction of God. Even though he attempted to exegete, he later writes contrary to this attempt: in regard to religion, the sinner sees no beauty in it “and no human power can rouse the sleeping dead, or open the sightless eyeballs on the light of day. The same power is needed in the conversion of a sinner which is needed in raising the dead” which means God.[5] I interpret this as a contrary remark to his exegetical attempt.

William Hendriksen recognizes that a person dead in trespasses and sins can do good in a natural world. This good, however, is not done with the attempt to please God and/or obey His law. It is “[o]nly when God turns him is he able to turn from his wicked ways” because he is depraved from the time Adam brought sin into the world; man today is guilty of original sin and he merely adds to it his own.[6]

John Stott said of those who are spiritually dead: they are as “unresponsive to him as a corpse.”[7] He does not speak in an explicit Calvinistic way, but with his words he might as well have.

Man has no ability within himself to change. “Men left in their dead state are unable of themselves to repent, to believe the gospel, or come to Christ. They have no power within themselves to change their nature or to prepare themselves for salvation.”[8] Passage used (abused) to support the declaration: Job 14:4; Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:5.

Analysis of the Issue:

In physical death there are no life functions, including the will (that is, the emotional and mental will). Physical life and everything associated with it is completely over – Hebrews 9:27.

In spiritual death, in contrast to physical death, extant are all the capabilities associated with physical life. That means one can live and go to this place or that; one can think and analyze this issue or that. One can willfully choose what he or she wants to do. Calvinism accepts this, but with limitations. They assert there is no ability within the spiritually dead to willfully move in God’s direction. They grant willfulness in life, but not willfulness toward God. Jesus makes clear with His words in John 5, Calvinism is a lie.[9]

Spiritual death is the result of trespasses and sin, in effect, the sin of disobedience (1 John 3:4). Calvinism maintains one is spiritually depraved from the time of birth, going back to the time of Adam and his transgression. The sinful corruption within man extends to every part of man; thus, the natural man is totally unable to do anything spiritually good, he does not have the ability to choose spiritual good over evil.[10] Passages used to justify this declaration: Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3 (among others).

The only way for one to be saved, according to Calvinist theology, is for God to take the initiative. By itself, this remark is not troublesome; it’s what is meant that is false. Calvinism says God’s initiative activity is more than just preaching the Gospel to ears that want to hear; without God’s initiative to the elect only, that is, in addition to Gospel preaching,[11] salvation does not result. Consider the following points.

  • If one has free will while spiritually dead (to make things worse for themselves), but one can’t choose spiritual life on his own volition, then free-will is not total, instead free-will is limited.
  • If free-will is limited (i.e., spiritual life cannot be secured by one’s choice), then if one is prevented from securing salvation because of that limitation imposed from an outside source; thus, the one who prevents salvation is culpable.
  • This is inescapable![12]

Those who are spiritually dead have free-will to do what is desired; a spiritually dead person perpetuates their spiritual death (i.e., they choose to continue in their disobedience). While in this spiritual realm of death, a person can’t be pleasing to God because his spiritual darkness is a matter of choice (Romans 8:3-7). This means no man can determine his own path to God (Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 17:9; 10:23).

The realm of spiritual death is presents a gap, a separation between the created and the Creator (Isa. 59:1-2). This gap can’t be bridged by the created because he does not have the wisdom to know how to do it; neither does he have the capability to accomplish it even if he had to wisdom to do it (which he does not). In fact, that which originates within man is only corruption (Jeremiah 17:9) and can never be anything else. Anything he does that does not have its origin in God’s will falls short (Romans 3:23). Sin and sinful thinking/ways prevents man’s arrival on “God’s landing pad” (so to speak). This gap that exists between the Creator and the created does not prevent the created from choosing to hear and obey.

God, therefore, initiates a bridge (John 3:16), and based on the person’s response to God’s bridge or invitation (Matt. 11:28-30), salvation or damnation is the result. According to Acts 2:21, all who call on the Lord can be saved. Couple this with Hebrews 4:2, we learn the reason salvation did not result with some because the Word preached and heard was not “united by faith” (NASV).

Syllogistic Arguments:

If the Gospel is God’s power to save everyone who believes, it is possible for everyone to believe (Rom. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:9). The Gospel is God’s power to save everyone who believes. Therefore, it is possible for everyone to believe.

If the spiritual realm is associated with the will/volition of man, and if man is still alive to exercise the will/volition that is required in physical life’s use, then the spiritual functions of life are still active (Johnny Polk).

If God’s message is to be preached to the whole world (creation) which is dead in sin, then the whole world (creation) which is dead in sin can hear and obey (Mark 16:15). God’s message is to be preached to the whole world (creation) dead in sin. Therefore, the whole world (creation) dead in sin can hear and obey.

To show partiality in rendering judgment[13] is sin (Gal. 2:11-14). Calvinism teaches God shows partiality in rendering judgment.[14] Therefore, Calvinism teaches God sins when He shows partiality in judgment (I think this fails meeting categorical syllogistic argument standard; use Venn. Needs work).

[1]  Without the resurrection there are none who are dead in sin because Jesus brought life and immortality to light through His message and His resurrection, having overcome the fear of man, which is death (2 Timothy 1:10). Lazarus was dead (physically), yet when the Lord called out, Lazarus heard. Those spiritually dead, when the Lord calls out through the Gospel, the spiritually dead hear.

[2] Justin A. Smith. Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, An American Commentary (vol. 5: Corinthians to Thessalonians), The American Baptist Publication Society, 1890; p. 33.

[3] John Calvin. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, Ephesians (New Testament: Vol. X). IVP Academic; 2011; p. 276.

[4] Chrysostom. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (New Testament: Vol. VIII). IVP; 1999; p. 120.

[5] Albert Barnes. Ephesians. Notes on the New Testament: Explanatory and Practical: Ephesians – Colossians. Baker Book House; 1974; pp. 36-37.

[6] William Hendriksen. New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (Galatians-Ephesians). Baker Book House; 1979; pp. 110-112.

[7] John Stott. The Message of Ephesians. IVP. 1979; p. 72.

[8] Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented. P & R Publishing. 2004; p. 25

[9] “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:24-25, ASV).

[10] Five Points of Calvinism. p. 19.

[11] “The gospel invitation extends a general outward call to salvation to all who hear the message. In addition to this external call, the Holy Spirit extends a special inward call to the elect only. The general call of the gospel can be, and often is, rejected, but the special call of the Spirit cannot be rejected; it always results in the conversion of those to whom it is made” (Five Points, p. 61). RT – if the elect can’t reject, can the non-elect accept? According to Calvinism, to ask is to answer!  

[12] Some are easily able to see this but due to a perceived understanding of (or lack of properly understanding) God’s sovereignty, Calvinism theology is accepted with “I just don’t understand, I only accept it.”

[13] Judgment in this context is not exclusively God’s eternal wrath, but includes both wrath and reward.

[14] “Before the foundation of the world, God chose particular individuals for salvation. His selection was not based upon any foreseen response or act performed by those chosen. Faith and good works are the result, not the cause of God’s choice” (Five Points of Calvinism, p. 31; italics in quote-RT).

The Works of God in John 9:3-4

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I pursue this study not because of minutia reasons, but I want to accurately understand the words as used in the context; as I seek to understand, I wonder if there is a peripheral connection with 1 Corinthians 13:10. Thus, in this study, I am exposing my method of reasoning to see if my approach is flawed or can be sustained. While my understanding of John 9:3-4 may not be negatively received, a possible relation to 1 Corinthians 13:10 is not obvious.

The English word works must be understood within its context; the context in John 9 is Jesus healing (miraculously) the man born blind, giving him sight. It is my contention the word works, as used by Jesus in 9:3-4, is best understood to refer to the miraculous, not to good deeds/works in general, which seems to be the general approach of most (if not all) expositors.

American Standard Version: Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works [ergon] of God should be made manifest in him. We must work [ergadzomai; NIV: we must do] the works [ergon] of him that sent me, while it is day [in relation to that which can be seen or done]: the night cometh [in relation to that which can’t be seen or done], when no man can work [ergadzomai]” (John 9:3-4). 

What are the works of God?

The English word “work” or “works” is used in John frequently (also translated “deed” in KJV). They are in the following passages: 3:19, 20, 21; 4:34; 5:17, 20, 36; 6:27, 28, 29; 7:3, 7, 21; 8:39, 41; 9:3, 4; 10:25, 32, 33, 37, 38; 14:10, 11, 12; 15:24 and 17:4 (a total of 27x in John).

The Greek word translated “work” or “works” is ergon. In the Greek-English Concordance (NIV), the word is used 169x in GNT, translated variously: actions, assigned task, attack, deeds, did, do, does, done, everything, miracle(s), observing, practices, requirements, something, task, thing, this, ways, what he did, work(s). The Greek word has the basic meaning “to work, to be engaged on something” (NIDNT 3:1147). ergon: “in John’s Gospel the word group is specifically used to illustrate the unique activity of Jesus, which is inextricably bound up with the working of God, the Father, as, [for instance] Jn. 5:17…” “Jesus understands his working as the fulfilment of his divinely-appointed mission….Jesus’ miracles also serve this end” (NIDNT 3:1150).

Another word in John 9:4 is ergadzomai, used 8x in John. The word is in: 3:21; 5:17 (2x); 6:27, 28, 30; 9:4 (2x). In the Greek-English Concordance (NIV), the word is used 41x in New Testament, translated variously in John as: done, at work, working, work for, do. The KJV renders the word: work, wrought, labour for.

With the varied translations in the NIV or ASV, the word is multi-functional and is best understood by its use in the context.

CONTEXTUAL SETTING. A common teaching among the Rabbis was the physically impaired was the result of sin in one’s life, expressly conveyed by the apostles in their question to Jesus (9:2; cf. Luke 13:3, 5) and in the Rabbinic response to the blind man in 9:34.  Jesus said there was no act of sin involved in the man born blind; instead, he was born blind so that (Grk: hina, in order that) the works of God would be manifested (“might be displayed in him” NASV).[1]

The pronoun “we” plays a significant role in one’s understanding.[2] Is the “we” understood to refer to Jesus and His disciples or is it inclusive of all those who belong to the Lord in the remainder of this world’s history? I interpret “we” (NASV, ASV, ESV, NET, Charles Williams) as being correct in contrast to “I” (NKJV, KJV, WPNT); I interpret it as a reference to Jesus and the Apostles. If the word “we” is correct and understood to refer to Jesus and His apostles, the term “works of God” in this context can (should?) be understood narrowly, it seems to me.[3] In my estimation, the declaration “we must works of Him who sent me while it is day” presents “book-ends” (if you will) to the longevity (length of time) in which the miraculous will be (or has been) at work. “We” is then associated with the life of Jesus and His apostles.

Often, the words “day” and “night” are interpreted as “as one is alive” and “as one has died” respectively (“night” is the ceasing of works). Thus, with Jesus and His apostles, when they die, these peculiar “works of God” die with them. I understand and interpret the term “works of God” to refer to the miraculous.

If the “works of God” are of a general nature and the “we” applies to Jesus, Apostles, and Christians alike (as most expositors believe), then it is the case only that one in the “night” realm is the one who ceases to work (9:4). Consequently, any man still alive or in the “day” can do the same works Jesus did, which includes the miraculous. While it is “day” the works of God are to be done and, in fact, must be done. If “works of God” is broadly interpreted, room is left for one to understand the same works to include not only works of compassion and mercy but also the miraculous.

MY CASE FOR THE MIRACULOUS. It seems to me the word “works” is to be understood as miraculous, I would even say it is demanded,[4] but especially works peculiar to Jesus/Apostles. If that is not so, then “day” and “night” with a meaning of one’s life/death is problematic. Consider: if general good works are in view (which includes the miraculous), then the miraculous follows or is included in all those who in the “day” and can do the general works of God.[5] If general works of God is the correct interpretation, then no one in the “night” realm one can work when night (death) comes. At least for one, when physical life ceases to exist, it is imperative that all must “get after it” while they are in the “day.” If general works of God is understood to be the best understanding of the passage, then while it is day, all those works that appropriately fall under the category of “general works of God” (including the miraculous) apply in today’s context also.

On the other hand, if “works of God” is specific in application, what is the specificity? My view is the specific is in relation to the miraculous, and both Jesus and the apostles bring the miraculous to a close, when the terms day/night are used in their context, even including those the apostles passed the gifts on to. The words “day” and “night” refer to one’s life, we are told (not an unreasonable interpretation). Perhaps “day” and “night” can include a “window of allowable opportunity” in relation to the miraculous, since this is precisely what is in view with what Jesus intended to accomplish. The “works of God” were revealed in him (the blind man) and Jesus did the “works of Him who sent me” (NKJV).

American Standard Version: Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works [ergon] of God should be made manifest in him. We must work [ergadzomai; NIV: we must do] the works [ergon] of him that sent me, while it is day [in relation to that which can be seen or done]: the night cometh [in relation to that which can’t be seen or done], when no man can work [ergadzomai]” (John 9:3-4).

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] If his blindness was not the result of parental sin or his own, the question that follows then is this: why was he blind, and born blind? Jesus does not give attention to his blindness being connected with sin at all. Brother Lipe said it was not that God made the man blind in order to show His goodness later, but it was allowed for nature to run its course, thus the man was blind (p. 395). Hendriksen, on the other hand, said if a reason must be given to why he was blind, it was the sin of Adam (vol. 2, p. 73).

[2] The “we” (NASV) of 9:4 is attested in less than 1% of Greek manuscripts (WPNT), while “I” is attested overwhelmingly in the remaining (KJV, NKJV). Lenski, Comfort speak confidently of the plural pronoun, as does Robertson in his Word Pictures, while Pickering says on v. 4, “Perhaps half a percent of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, read ‘we’ for ‘I’ (as in NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.). Virtually the same handful of manuscripts also has ‘Him who sent us’ (in this verse), but none of the versions mentioned goes along—a curious proceeding” (E-Sword).

[3] I have not “fleshed-out” how “I” would work in this context in contrast to “we.”

[4] An interesting comment from ICCNT (E-Sword): “Nor, again, is it in the manner of Jn. to report a mere maxim of experience, such as ‘We must all work while it is day’ would be. The force of [dei] goes deeper, for the words of Jesus here (vv.3, 4) express that Divine predestination of events which is so prominently brought out in Jn (see Introd., p. clii, and on 2:4). The man’s blindness had been foreordained in the Divine purpose [hina phanerōthē ta erga tou theou en autō (v. 3)]; and in like manner there was a Divine necessity that Jesus should do the works of ‘Him that sent Him’ (see on 4:34 for this phrase). The only reading that brings out the force of the passage and gives consistency to the sentence is the rec. reading ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με. (I tired of transliterating, so I cut/pasted-RT)

[5] I anticipate a counter reply: “It is conceded the miraculous is involved in John 9:3-4, but ‘general works’ still hold sway because of the common understanding of the term. The miraculous cessation approach must be made elsewhere.”