Category Archives: Bible Study

Three Things About Barnabas

Preaching Through Acts

For several months I have been preaching through the Book of Acts again, both in our Wednesday-night Bible study and for Bible school classes at Covington Seminary. It’s always a blessing, to say the least.

The Book of Acts is Luke’s written record of the early Christian church. In it, he records for us key events and people through which God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, birthed, nurtured, and sent out those who would “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Taking a few verses at a time, I have sought to deliver what it is God wants our little congregation to learn and apply in our context, especially at this time in which we are in.

Barnabas

One of the key personalities in Acts is a man by the name of Barnabas. He was a Levite from the country of Cyprus who became a follower of Christ. He was a generous man, a godly man, and one whose name fit his personality; he was the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was the type of guy that truly cared about people and wanted to see them succeed. He was more than just a team player; he was a motivator, the kind of man who would step down from the pedestal so that someone else could shine. As a matter of fact, it was Barnabas who introduced Saul (Paul), the former persecutor of Christians, to the church at Jerusalem (talk about having someone’s back!).

But in preaching through chapter 11 of Acts, I came across a description of Barnabas that left me very convicted. The way Barnabas was described should be how we are described: good people, full of the Holy Ghost, and full of faith (11:24).

A Good Man

The first thing said about Barnabas was that he was “a good man.” Now, a lot of people think they are good people, but not all are. As a matter of fact, there’s no other place in Acts where Luke describes a person as “good.” Only Barnabas gets that distinction.

Being described as “good” meant that he was a man with whom no one could find fault. He must have been a man of strong character, a man who kept his word, and a man who would do anything for anybody, including give the last coin to one in need. He was the kind of man Jesus was talking about when He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). Barnabas was genuine, the “real deal.”

Full of the Holy Ghost

Barnabas was also “full of the Holy Ghost.” What does that mean? Well first off, let’s think about the description of “full.”

The Greek word translated as “full” is one that meant not only to be filled up but filled up to the point of overflowing. Barnabas was totally yielded and filled with the Spirit, so much so that His presence spilled over onto others. The “son of consolation” was an encourager, just like the Spirit controlling and empowering him.

Full of Faith

Barnabas was not only full of the Holy Ghost but also of faith. Simply put, Barnabas was fully convinced and persuaded with what he believed to be true. There was no doubting, no hesitation, no reluctance, no hiding, no timidity. Barnabas was sure in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is one reason he was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see what was going on in Antioch of Syria.

The Result

Now, let’s look at what happened because of Barnabas’ character, his spiritual power, and his sure faith.

“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” – Acts 11:23-24 

First, because he was a good man, he was not jealous of the good things happening in Antioch; he rejoiced that the grace of God had been poured out on the believers there!

Second, because he was full of the Holy Ghost, what was in his heart (as Jesus described) had to be shared, so he “exhorted” them and encouraged them in their faith.

Third, because Barnabas knew what temptations and trials could come, especially with the persecution following Stephen’s death fresh on his mind, he encouraged the new believers to be pro-active in their devotion to the Christ. He knew that the only way to have a strong faith is to purposefully “cleave unto the Lord.”

Fourth, many people were added unto the Lord! Because of the spirituality and faith and character of godly Barnabas, not only were new believers in Antioch strengthened, but many more people came to know Christ!

The Challenge

Here’s the thing. Why aren’t more people coming to a saving faith in Jesus? Why aren’t more of our churches encouraged? Why aren’t more Christians spiritually maturing in their faith? It’s because we don’t have enough men and women like Barnabas.

Be a good person! Seriously, be the type of man or woman that people can trust and rely on. Be the type of person that people can tell you care. Be generous, compassionate, trustworthy, and consistent. Be people of honor and character.

Be filled with the Spirit! Do you know what it means to be completely filled with the Holy Ghost of God? It means there are no little rooms, closets, or boxes in your heart where there is written a note to God which says, “Private! Hands off!” Every are of your life – every secret part – should be yielded to and controlled by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, you are self-controlled and rebellious, and thereby powerless.

Be full of faith! Grow your faith. Study God’s Word. Know why you believe what you believe. Don’t be a coward! If you are shy or feel intimidated to share your faith with others, ask yourself why that’s so!

Would you be afraid to warn your neighbor a murderer was crawling through his bedroom window? Would you be afraid to yell “fire!” if flames were engulfing the rooms of a hotel where people were sleeping? It’s only because you are NOT full of faith that you are not bold; you have doubts the fire is real and the murderer really means to harm.

You and I need to be more like Barnabas.

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Filed under Bible Study, Faith, Preaching

Arguments for Eternal Security

My Outline

bibleBecause I just commented on a post by a fellow blogger who believes one can lose his salvation, I am re-posting this sermon outline.

The following is an outline I used a couple of years ago. It starts off with some arguments against the “once-saved-always-saved” position. The next part lists six basic arguments in favor of the eternal security of the believer.

Of course, this is only an outline, not the sermon. However, you can click below for a link to the audio.

“Eternal Security” 

Arguments Against “Once Saved, Always Saved”

  1. Observational – How people live that believe it.
  2. Free Will – We are created with a will; we’re not slaves.
  3. Scriptural (Hebrews 6; 1 John 3:9; 5:18)

Arguments FOR “Eternal Security”

  1. Creational Argument: We are New Creations (2 Cor. 5:17)
    1. It took a supernatural act to change us
    2. We can’t act supernaturally to change us back
  2. New Birth Argument: We are Born Again (John 3:7,16)
    1. By the Spirit – Jn 3:6
    2. By the Word of God – 1 Peter 1:23
    3. We are not God, so we must remain “born again”
  3. Children of God Argument
    1. Born that way – 1 John 5:1; 1 Peter 1:23
    2. Adopted – Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5
    3. Abba – Gal. 4:1-7
  4. The Possession Argument – We belong to Christ
    1. Purchased – 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23 (Bought with a Price)
    2. Given by the Father – Jn. 6:37-40; 10:28-30
    3. Will never be separated – Rom. 8:35-39
    4. Romans 14:8 – For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
    5. He can keep what is His – 2 Tim. 1:12 “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” See also: 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  5. The Marriage Argument
    1. Ephesians 5:25-28, 31-32 – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church…This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
    2. He is faithful, even when we are not.
      1. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 “…if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful…”
      2. He is God, not man! – Hosea 11:7-9
  6. It’s a Gift
    1. 2:8-9 Gift of God, by grace
    2. Romans 11:29 KJV – For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance (irrevocable)

Click on the link below to listen to the audio. As you might be able to tell by the opening remarks, I believe it was a sermon we needed, but the devil was opposing. Nevertheless, hearts were encouraged.

https://riversidesermons.sermon.net/main/main/20657994

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Filed under Bible Study, Preaching, salvation

They Did Believe, But…

I’m on my last day of “vacation” in Charleston, S.C., visiting with our oldest daughter and her husband, but I’ve still found time to sit and quietly study. As a matter of fact, I’ve had some wonderful times of peaceful, uninterrupted periods of reading and note taking. 

Which brings me to what I want to share with you this morning, while I have a moment and it’s fresh on my mind. 

I’m good friends with a legendary Church of God gospel group, the Branham Family. In one popular song that Donna Branham (Coleman) wrote, she sings about the story of Peter being released from prison (Acts 12:1-19), then coming to the house where the church was praying. In short, the song makes the argument that even though they had been praying all night, because they were shocked to see Peter at the door, they must have not really believed the prayer would be answered. 

Then, as the title of the song describes, the chorus leads us to acknowledge that “someone in that house believed when they prayed…” because the proof was that Peter did get released. The assumption, then, is that because the people were amazed to see Peter at the door they must have not really believed God would deliver him from being executed the next day. 

And honestly, that’s what a lot of people think about these early Christians. They tend to detract from the fact that they were in one accord pleading with God all night long for Peter’s life, and then describe the prayer warriors as “faithless.”

I disagree. 

You see, as I have been studying Acts 12 (along with the rest of the book), it doesn’t appear that the church that prayed for Peter was faithless; it’s just that they were shocked at how God answered. 

Think about it, just because Peter and the other “apostles” experienced a similar angelic deliverance in Acts 5, that doesn’t mean they were going to assume it would happen again. After all, both Stephen and James had now been killed, not delivered, so why were they to assume the doors would open on their own for Peter this time? 

Yet, they did pray all night for Peter, which is far more than we might see today. Could it be that what they were praying for was Peter’s life to be spared, and possibly by changing the heart of Agrippa? 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a message to the Church in Acts 12, and I think it’s more than “believe when you pray.” 

I believe the message to us today might be more like, “Don’t be amazed when God answers your prayers in an unexpected way.”

I mean, the church might have been expecting to wake up the next morning to hear word that Herod Agrippa had accepted Christ as his Messiah, or something. But I think it’s unfair to judge this fearless and committed group of early believers as unbelieving pew-warmers just going through the motions.

They DID believe, but they never expected how miraculous the answer would be. 

So, keep praying and believing; you might be surprised at what God has planned. 

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Filed under Bible Study, Church, Faith

Prayer Request and Blog Suggestion

Good Friday morning, everyone! It’s a cold one here in Tennessee, let me tell you.

Anyway, I have two things I’d like to share with you if you have a second.

First, my daughter, Katie (age 22…she just had a birthday) is having gallbladder surgery today. It’s her first major surgery. I would appreciate your prayers, as I’m sure she would, too.

UPDATE: Katie is out of surgery and doing well 🙂

Second, I was glancing through some stuff this morning and came across a blog I’d never seen before. I don’t know anything about the author at this point, but if you’re a preacher or public speaker of any kind, what I read in a short time was impressive and beneficial.

It’s called BIGIDEASONLINE: Highlights From Today’s Preaching Posted Daily.  The actual web address shows a different type of title, but that’s what the blog page looks like. Check it out 🙂

But, speaking of preaching, I recently preached a sermon on biblical fasting. When you have a moment, why not take a listen and then share your own thoughts. I’d appreciate it.

God bless!

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“By” or “Through”: That’s the Question (An Examination of John 1:3)

Introduction

Tuesday morning, after a cup of coffee with some great, godly men in our community, I was standing out in the parking lot of a local restaurant discussing the morning’s plans. It was during this short conversation that the subject matter briefly switched to that of Bible translations.

There we were, standing by the cab of a pickup truck when one of these men – a great friend to our family and church – said something akin to the following:

“The reason I will only use the King James Bible can be illustrated by the change in one word, and that word is found in the first chapter of John. There, the King James Version says, ‘all things were made by Jesus,’ but every other version – every single one – changes that word ‘by’ to ‘through.’ I have a problem with that. As I see it, there’s a big difference between ‘by’ and ‘through.’ Either everything was made by Jesus, or it wasn’t.” (Again, this was not an exact quote, but close.)

Therefore, it might take more than the average 500-word blog post to unpack, but I want to address this apparent conflict between “by” and “through” as found in John 1:3.

Doing the Research

You know, the last thing one should do when confronted with an unknown is say to the one making the assertion, “Nuh uh!” Right after my friend said what he did about every other translation of the Bible changing “by” to “through,” I pulled out my iPhone and pulled up BlueLetterBible.com.

Seeing what I was doing, the gentleman goaded me a little and said with a slight chuckle, “You gotta look that one up, don’t ya?” I grinned as I nodded…the subject changed back to hardware for about 30 seconds…then we went our separate ways.

But I did look it up. It wasn’t difficult to do, either. The Bible-study tools we have access to in an instant, even on our smartphones, are literally mind-blowing. At no other time in history have we had so much knowledge available so quickly right in the palms of our hands. Therefore, it didn’t take more than a few seconds to learn that my friend’s assertions were spot on… The KJV was actually the only one to render John 1:3 with a “by,” not a “through.”

For example:

  • John 1:3 (KJV) – All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • (NKJV) – All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
  • (NIV) – Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
  • (ESV) – All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • (CSB) – All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.

Yes, I did my research, and what I found was that my friend’s assertion was true: every other translation of the Bible changed the word “by” to “through.” However, my research wasn’t complete; it was time to consult the original languages.

It’s All Greek

Like I said above, the study tools we have these days are amazing, and there’s really no good excuse for any Bible student to claim ignorance. For example, if all one had was access to one online tool such as BlueLetterBible.com, then what used to take hours of study could be done in mere moments. Then if you add to that all the other free websites available, including what’s available from online libraries, and then throw in some relatively inexpensive (but voluminous) programs like Logos, oh… my… goodness! It’s hard to comprehend how blessed we are!

So, when it became obvious that “by” had been replaced by “through,” I decided to take the next logical step and look up the source of the translations in question: the original Greek word, διά (dē-ä’).

It may sound unbelievable to you, but there are still people out there who think Jesus spoke Elizabethan English. However, the Bible was not originally written in the language of Shakespeare. In actuality, John 1:3 was written in Greek, so “by” and “through” are only translations of the Greek word διά (Strong’s G1223).

The next question should then be: “What does dia mean?”

Grab Your Concordance

Well, every Bible student should have a Strong’s Concordance in his personal library, even if his library only consisted of a Bible and one other book. Therefore, let’s take a look at Strong’s and see what we find.

G1223: διά diá, dee-ah’; a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through (in very wide applications, local, causal, or occasional):—after, always, among, at, to avoid, because of (that), briefly, by, for (cause) … fore, from, in, by occasion of, of, by reason of, for sake, that, thereby, therefore, × though, through(-out), to, wherefore, with (-in).

According to Strong’s Concordance, dia is a word that denotes “the channel of an act; through…” Therefore, is it really an act of theological sabotage to translate John 1:3 with through instead of by?

Is it possible that Jesus was the One through whom God the Father made all things?

You see, it is not heresy to say that the Father made all that is through Jesus, the Word of God. No, it is actually MORE theologically sound and true to Jesus’ own words to say that He was the agency or “channel” of creation, rather than the one acting unilaterally in creation. Why do I say this? Consider the actual words of Jesus as recorded by John…

  • John 4:34 (KJV) – Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
  • John 5:19 (KJV) – Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
  • John 6:38 (KJV) – For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

If Jesus had acted alone and created all things by Himself, then His own words would expose a critical inconsistency. The fact seems to be that even though Jesus was and is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, He still had to act in accordance with the will of the Father, and therefore saying “all things were created through Him” is more theologically consistent with the nature of the Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead.

A Dose of Commentary

I learned a long time ago that commentaries can be very useful if used properly; I go to them after I have already read the Scripture and done all the exegesis I can do with the study tools at hand. Therefore, it was only after I did the above study that I consulted several scholarly commentaries. For the benefit of this discussion and for your edification, allow me to share the following directly from the sources.

The New American Commentary: John 1-11

The preposition dia (“through”), used in connection with creation here, should not be taken to mean that the Logos is essentially inferior to God, as the Arians argued. But the early Christians, in attempting to discuss simultaneously the work of both the Father and the Son in creation, sometimes tried to hold both together through the use of two prepositions. The Father’s activity was linked with the preposition ek, which carries the sense of “origin,” and the Son’s activity was linked with the preposition dia, which carries the sense of “mediation” (e.g., the early Christian creedal statement in 1 Cor 8:6; also see Heb 1:2 for the use of dia).

The Pulpit Commentary: St. John (Vol. 1)

In asserting that the Logos is he or that through whom all things were made, the writer does not lower the dignity of the Logos by regarding him merely as the οργανον of the Father, because the same preposition is used of the relation of the Father to the world or to his servants (Rom. 11:36; Gal. 1:1; Heb. 2:10). Elsewhere St. Paul powerfully affirms the same application of διά (1 Cor. 8:6) to Christ’s part in the Creation, reserving for the One God, the Father, the preposition ἐκ. From God and by or through God are all things, still “all things” derive their existence “through” the activity, the will, the thought, of the Logos.

Word Studies in the New Testament (Marvin R. Vincent)

By Him (διʼ αὐτοῦ). Lit., through him. The preposition dia is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, through the prophet (Matt. 1:22, on which see note).* It is the preposition by which the relation of Christ to creation is usually expressed (see 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), though it is occasionally used of the Father (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 11:36, and Gal. 1:1, where it is used of both). Hence, as Godet remarks, it “does not lower the Word to the rank of a simple instrument,” but merely implies a different relation to creation on the part of the Father and the Son.

Again, it would seem to me that it is more theologically sound to translate John 1:3 the way all the other translations do it as opposed to the KJV.

Right or Wrong?

But after all that has been said, was the King James Version’s translators wrong in their use of the word by instead of through? Actually, no.

You see, the whole reason we have newer translations of the Bible is because the English language changes over time. Some words have different meanings today than they used to, and that is why we rarely speak of wearing our “gay clothing” to church, or “fetch[ing] a compass” as we travel (Num. 34:5).

At the time the KJV translators did their work, the meaning of “by” was probably more nuanced than today and would have been understood by the reader of the day to have the same depth of meaning as “through.” However, for the modern reader, by implies more of a literal meaning. For example, if my daughter made a wooden elephant figurine, and if you asked who made it, I could answer, “It was made BY Haley.” If we applied the same meaning to the “by” in John 1:3, then we would literally be on the road to heresy, for Jesus did not act unilaterally (own His own), but by the will of the Father (John 5:19).

So, by may have been the best word for the verse in the 17th-19th centuries, but through better conveys the Truth to those in the 21st.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the translators of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible were men of superior capability. I dare say that finding modern scholars and intellects with similar credentials would be exceedingly difficult. Therefore, because they did such a great work, it would be wise to consider their words when debating the heart of this discussion.

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place … Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue (the modern, common way of speaking), the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) [John 4:11] without a bucket or something to draw with…”

“For is the kingdom of God become words or syllables? why should we be in bondage to them if we may be free…?”

 – from: “The Translators to the Reader,” a prefix attached to the original 1611 edition.

It really boils down to this: What does the Bible really say? Sometimes we have to set aside our preconceived notions in order to honestly exegete Scripture. The last thing we want to do is let a literary bias lend support to a faulty theology, even if our intentions are noble.

Ultimately, though, Jesus is the Door “through” whom we must enter; there is no other Way to the Father. If a translation can’t make that clear, then we have a problem.

So, let me say “Thanks” to my friend. Without his comment, I’d never walked down this rabbit trail 😉 

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HELL…It’s Not Just a Curse Word

Believe me, it’s not an easy subject to discuss, even though millions of people every day use it as a curse word. However, if Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven, don’t you think we should, too?

Some people accuse us preachers of making this stuff up in order to scare people. Others, like Bertrand Russell, reject Christianity because of Christ’s teaching on the subject. Nevertheless, it’s clearly biblical, and it’s clearly horrible, so how can we say we love people if we don’t warn them?

If you can spare the time, I invite you to listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday morning. Should you become concerned about the fate of your soul, I would encourage you to go to the “Eternal Life” page on this blog for further information.

If you find the attached sermon helpful, please share it with someone who needs to hear.

Click on the picture for link to the audio.

 

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Our Proverbial Future

The Other Blog

Many of you may know that I have another blog, and some of you may take advantage of it on a daily basis.

The other blog is ProverbialThought.com, and it has been a daily/semi-daily part of our lives for several years, bringing to us the wisdom of Proverbs – with a twist.

But here’s the thing… we are coming to an end to another rotation, and I’m wondering what to do next.

The Future of “Proverbial Thought”

If you haven’t yet gone to my other blog – one that has been co-written by some wonderful people – go there now and see what you think.

Where should we go from here?

Start over – again? With a fresh group of contributors?

What about listing all of the past posts in pages, just like I started doing with the first two chapters?

I would love to know what you guys – you other bloggers and readers, you Bible students – think.

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