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The Family: It’s Not About Faith, It’s About Power

22 April 2020

The Family: It’s Not About Faith, It’s About Power

It’s not about faith. It’s about power. The Family explores the history of a quietly powerful religious organization with strong ties to US politics.

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Here is Love Vast As The Ocean – in Welsh and English

19 April 2020

Here is Love Vast As The Ocean – in Welsh and English

This wonderful version of the ‘love-song’ of the Welsh revival was recorded in 1995. It is part sung in Welsh, the original language of the hymn, which dates from the 18th Century. It was recorded at The Event Without Walls at the Exeter Showground in 1995. (The identity of the vocalist is unknown – please post her name if you know it)

Ex-Master Mason EXPOSES The Freemasons

30 June 2019

Ex-Master Mason EXPOSES The Freemasons

One of my sources who helped me expose Jim Carrey is featured here. His name is Victor and he sat down for this interview awhile back. Victor gave me permission to use this video.

Read more…

WHAT YOU MUST DO TO OBTAIN THE REMISSION OF YOUR SINS

18 April 2019

WHAT YOU MUST DO TO OBTAIN THE REMISSION OF YOUR SINS

MESSAGESKNOWGOD

You are in debt to God, your Creator, for you have violated His law. His law commands not to kill but you have killed; it commands not to steal but you have stolen; it commands not to commit adultery but you have committed adultery; it commands not to blaspheme the name of God, but you have blasphemed His Holy Name; it commands not to bear false witness against your neighbour, but you love and practice falsehood; it commands not to covet any thing that is thy neighbour’s but you have coveted your neighbour’s goods; the law of God forbids you to make for yourself any carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, and to serve them, but you have made for yourself idols in the form of men, women, and even animals, and you worship them, you pray to them and you serve them in various ways. The law of God commands you to honour your father and your mother, but you dishonour them.

Therefore, before God you are guilty. You experience the sense of guilt inwardly, for your conscience continually rebukes you by attesting that you have acted sinfully toward your neighbour as well as toward God even though you don’t know Him.

Maybe sometimes you try to silence your conscience by doing some good, by giving alms, but it keeps rebuking you, and you know very well this even though you do not want to recognize it. Somebody told you to go to confess your sins to a priest for he has the divine power to remit sins to men. And you did what he told you, you went to a confessional box and after you confessed to him your sins he absolved you. For a moment you thought that your conscience would no longer rebuke you for your sins, but what you thought did not happen for the inner voice that only you can hear keeps accusing you vigorously.

You are desperate, you don’t know what to do to get rid of that frustrating sense of guilt, you don’t know how to obtain the remission of your debts; all remedies have proved vain. Maybe you even thought that only death could expiate your sins, so it is better to put an end to this life; do not commit that act for it would be useless, rather you would increase your sins because you would kill yourself and besides this you would go to hell with all your sins, where there is no chance to be forgiven.

You will say: ‘What must I do then to obtain remission of sins and to get rid of this sense of guilt which is pursuing me day and night?’ Here is what you must do. First of all you must repent of your sins you have committed against God and against your neighbour, that is to say, you must be sorry about all the sins you have committed and you must forsake them. After that, you must believe with all you heart in the Gospel, which is the Good News that God in the fullness of the time sent His Son, Jesus Christ, in this world to make atonement for our sins, that is, to bear our sins upon His body and to die in our place so that He might reconcile us to God. For the Bible says that Christ died for our sins and more than that He rose again for our justification (Romans 4:25). Therefore if you believe in Him you will receive the remission of your sins, as it is written: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43 – NIV).

You may ask me why it is sufficient to believe in Jesus to obtain the forgiveness of sins; well, the reason is that according to God without shedding of blood there is no remission ( Hebrews 9:22). That divine principle was revealed by God under the Old Testament, for He commanded the Israelites to sacrifice some animals for their sins, that is, as a propitiatory offering for their sins. However, the blood of those animals did not take away sins because it was just a shadow of the true blood that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, would shed at the end of the ages. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins from the conscience of men (Hebrews 10:1-4), only the blood of a perfect human being like Jesus Christ (He was found in appearance as a man, however He was also God) could take away sins from their conscience.

Therefore, the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross, was shed so that our sins might be blotted out from our conscience. Do not think that God is a cruel God for acting in that way, for God did that just for the opposite reason, that is, because He is good and merciful.

Whoever you are, that’s what you must do to receive the remission of your sins and to live a life at peace with God. Know this, that there is no other way to be forgiven! Do not deceive yourself any longer, you have been deceiving yourself for a long time, stop deceiving yourself. Now, wherever you are, repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain for the remission of our sins, and you will immediately taste the goodness of God and His mercy, for you will obtain a conscience purified from the dead works of which you are a slave. The peace and the joy of the Lord will enter you and you will be born again; the sense of guilt and condemnation will disappear and you will have the assurance of being forgiven and reconciled to God. You will no longer feel the wrath of God upon you, nor will you be any longer on the way to hell, for in Christ Jesus you will be a son of God and have eternal life. Yes, because besides the remission of sins, through faith in Christ, you will obtain also eternal life, as it is written: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). Therefore you will be sure you will go to heaven when you die. At the present you deserve to go to hell and if you die you will go there, but once forgiven you will have assurance that you will go to heaven by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Do not hesitate to take such important decision, such a vital decision. Do not boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day may bring forth. Many people before you heard this message and thought they had a long life before them and did not obey to it immediately, but they suddenly died and in a few moments they found themselves in the unspeakable torments of the fire of hell. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart: he is calling you to repentance, do not ignore His call. Read more…

On the day of Christ the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is

15 April 2019

On the day of Christ the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is

ESCHATOLOGY

Paul wrote to the saints of Corinth: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Now I will expound briefly these Bible verses.

According to what Luke says in the book of the Acts of the apostles, after Paul had been at Athens, he came to Corinth where he preached the Christ, and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed in the Gospel and were baptized. Therefore, it was Paul who in Christ Jesus begot the Corinthians through the Gospel, it was Paul who as a wise master builder laid the foundation of that spiritual house which arose in Corinth, and the foundation which Paul laid was Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Paul continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among the saints of Corinth, afterward he departed from there. After his departure from Corinth, Apollos came to Achaia; the Scripture says that “when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27NKJV). Apollos preached the Word to the saints of Corinth, for Paul compared the preaching of Apollos to the watering, as it is written: “I planted, Apollos watered” (1 Corinthians 3:6 – NKJV). So Paul laid the foundation and Apollos built on it. However, Apollos was not the only one who built on it, that is to say, who preached and taught among the Church of Corinth, for others did the same. It was lawful for them to build on the foundation, but Paul warned them saying: “But let each one take heed how he builds on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10NKJV). And that is a warning which is still given to all those who build on the foundation, which is Christ Jesus.

Now the true ministers of Christ do not preach themselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, they preach the Good News of peace exhorting people to repent of their sins and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ in order to receive the remission of their sins. When they preach Christ where Christ was not known, they are diligent to lay Christ Jesus as the foundation and then they build on it; that’s why all the churches of the saints are built on the same foundation, that is, Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone, elect, precious to us who have believed in Him. Therefore the foundation of each church of God is Jesus Christ, and Paul says that “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11NKJV); that means that no minister of God has the right to take away this foundation and to lay another foundation in its place. However, while on the one hand we see that no minister of the Gospel who serves God with a pure conscience dares to take away the solid foundation, on the other hand we see that many ravenous wolves (accursed children who preach a different Gospel from the one we accepted) try by their craftiness to take away this foundation from the life of the saints. For these people have only one purpose: to draw away the disciples of the Lord after themselves. Beloved, beware of them!

Let us speak now of the ministers of the Gospel, who do not dare to lay any other foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. As you know, the ministers of the Gospel preach Christ and Him crucified, the remission of sins by faith in His name, and water baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. However, as you know, not all the ministers of the Gospel teach the same thing about certain topics. At this point someone will ask: ‘Which ministers of the Gospel are right and which are wrong? That is to say, ‘Which ministers are building on the foundation gold, silver and precious stones? And which ministers are building on the foundation wood, hay and straw?’ Certainly, not all of them are right, for not all of them teach the same thing concerning those topics. Those who are building wood, hay and straw on the foundation are those whose teachings are inconsistent with the Word of God, and thus these ministers are laboring in vain when they teach these wrong doctrines of theirs.

Let me give you some examples to show you how some labor in vain teaching the believers certain things.

As for the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, some preachers and teachers (who do not set aside the grace of God for they preach the Word of faith) say that one is baptized with the Holy Spirit when he believes in the Lord, while others say that one receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit when he is baptized in water, however all of them say that when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit he does not begin to speak with other tongues. Therefore all of these preachers and teachers have this in common: they teach a baptism with the Holy Spirit which is not accompanied by speaking in tongues. Now, these preachers and teachers teach falsely with regard to the baptism with the Holy Spirit, because the Scriptures very clearly teach (and the facts confirm this) that when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit (that is to say, when one is filled with the Holy Spirit, or when one receives the Holy Spirit) he begins to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gives him utterance. The following Bible verses teach what I have just said: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4); “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46); “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:5-6). What shall we say then about these brothers who preach Christ and salvation by faith in Christ? We shall say that as far as the baptism with the Holy Spirit is concerned they are building straw on the foundation and on the day of Christ that straw will be burned and their labour will prove vain.

However, the fact is that even among those who preach the Word of faith and teach that when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit he begins to speak with other tongues, there are some who do not teach the same thing on the same topic, and sometimes they teach personal opinions which set aside the Word of God. I am going to give you some examples.

Some preachers teach that the commandment concerning the veil (that is, the commandment according to which a woman must cover her head with a veil when she prays or prophesies) applied only to the women of the church of Corinth; they give many absurd arguments and many believers believe them for they think that since these preachers and teachers are well known and speak to many people they must be right!!! I say to you this: these people are building straw on the foundation, therefore they labor in vain teaching that doctrine because on the day of Christ the straw they are building on it will be burned by the fire of God. This teaching of theirs is of no value, that is to say, it is not one of those precious things which are worth building on the foundation, for the Scripture says: “The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10 – NKJV). Now, is man the head of the woman and thus she must be subject to male authority? Yes, he is. Are the angels watching all those who are in Christ? Yes, they are. So the woman must cover her head with a veil (the symbol or sign of authority) when she prays or prophesies in order not to dishonor her head. The fact that this commandment is written only in one of the epistles of Paul does not nullify this commandment because according to what Paul wrote in the same epistle he commanded women to cover their head with a veil in the other churches also, for he said about certain things he wrote only to the Corinthians: “And so I ordain in all the churches” (1 Corinthians 7:17 – NKJV). Therefore the fact that those things were written only to the Corinthians does not mean that he taught them only to the Corinthians. In addition to this, Paul said about the veil: “But If anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16NKJV), therefore at that time all the other churches of God had that good custom! It was not only the church of Corinth that had that custom! I say it again, the teaching which makes the commandment about the veil of no effect is straw, so do not build it on the foundation for if you build it you will suffer loss on that day.

Some pastors say that the following words of Peter: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 – NIV), are addressed only to the married women whose husbands are not believers, for they need to win their husbands to Christ by their chaste conduct!! These people also are building straw on the foundation, for they do not divide the Word of truth rightly. For they quote the words of Peter: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2 – NKJV) to support their doctrine, but they forget the following things. First of all, the fact that Peter said “… that even if some do not obey the word”, means that the commandment “your beauty should not come from outward adornment” was given to both wives whose husbands are not believers and wives whose husbands are believers, for what Peter means when he says ‘that even if some do not obey the word’ is this: ‘so that, if any of them do not obey the word …’, therefore if all those wives whose husbands are not believers are submissive to their unbelieving husbands and they adorn themselves in modest apparel, they will win them to Christ by their chaste conduct. Secondly, they forget that immediately after Peter says: “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Peter 3:5-6 – NKJV). Now, as far as I know, Sarah did not have a husband who did not obey the word, and thus the reason why she did not wear expensive clothes nor did she braid her hair nor did she wear gold jewelry was not that she might win her husband! I know that Sarah was not dressed like the corrupt women because she was a holy woman who feared God and trusted in God, and her husband also trusted in God and feared God (when God tested Abraham, he offered his only begotten son). Beloved, do not build on the foundation the straw which is being built by these people; the commandment of Peter concerning the outward adornment of women is confirmed by Paul and it is addressed to all women who are in Christ, that is to say, to all the unmarried women, to all the married women and to all widows.

Also those who teach that a pastor is also a prophet for he speaks of the things to come which are written in the Word of God are building straw on the foundation, for a pastor is also a prophet if he possesses the gift of prophecy and some gifts of revelation.

Also those who teach that when one speaks with other tongues in the church he speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men, whereas when one speaks with other tongues privately (that is, when he is alone in his bedroom, etc) he speaks to God, are building straw on the foundation because Paul made no difference between the two things; there is not one hint in the Scriptures that things are as these believers teach. Paul said: “He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Corinthians 14:2 – NKJV), therefore even when a believer speaks with other tongues in the church he speaks to God. It follows then that even the interpretation of tongues is addressed to God (a prayer, a song, a thanksgiving) and not to men, for it does not change the direction of the original utterance when the saints are gathered together as a church

I have given you the above mentioned examples to show you that what is inconsistent with the truth is straw and on that day it will be burned and he who has built it will suffer loss. On that day the Lord will separate by the fire what is precious from what is of no value, only what is precious will stand for what is of no value will be burned. When the fire tests each one’s work, he who has built upon the foundation gold, silver and precious stones, will suffer no loss because his work will endure and he will be rewarded for his labour; on the contrary, he who has built upon the foundation wood, hay and straw, will see the wood, the hay and the straw dissolve and his work will not be rewarded, and thus it will prove vain. Paul wrote: “He will suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15NKJV) because he will lose the reward for the work he did (building wood, hay and straw), however he will not be cast into the everlasting fire, not at all, because Paul says: “But he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15NKJV). Therefore the wood, the hay and the straw will be lost, but the brothers who have built those things on the foundation (they built them because of lack of knowledge or because they did not divide the word of truth rightly) will by no means be lost. Be careful, the above mentioned words of Paul do not encourage anyone to build wood, hay and straw on the foundation, rather they arouse fear in us for they lead us to ask ourselves: ‘What am I building on the foundation? Am I building gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and straw? I think that all those who teach the Word of God must examine carefully the things they are teaching to make sure they are building on this foundation things which are of value and which will endure forever and for which they will be rewarded. Know this, that if one refuses to teach a doctrine, which is biblical, just because many do not teach it or because he thinks that if he taught it he would make himself ‘unpopular’ or an enemy of many brothers, he deceives himself; if one wants to teach something which is not scriptural in order to please most of the brethren he deceives himself for on that day he will suffer loss. I know that on that day the wood, the hay and the straw one has built on this foundation will not become gold, silver and precious stones because they are what they are and they will be burnt. Therefore let us take heed to ourselves, lest we labor in vain. Keep in mind, brothers, that the reward we will receive from the Lord for our labor which will prove useful is an everlasting reward, therefore let us see that we build on this foundation only things which are of value lest we see part of our works burnt by the fire of God.

But on that day will be burnt not only the untrue teachings but also the wrong judgements we have passed on things or people because we judged according to appearance or because we judged by the hearing of our ears, as well as jokes, buffooneries, dishonest things, and useless works. You see, brothers, when we talk or do something we labor in a certain measure because our body does something, however we must take heed to our conduct because on that day we will have to give account for it to God; and remember that we will be rewarded for the right things we have said and done and not for the bad things we have said or done. It can’t be otherwise. Do you think that God will reward a Christian for the false teachings he has taught or for the wrongs he has done or for the jokes he has told to His people or for the pleasures of life to which he has given over? I don’t think so, for God is just. Furthermore, if God rewarded Christians even for the useless things they say or do, we would not be encouraged to serve the Lord with a pure conscience or to take heed to ourselves.

On the earth some people are rewarded by other people for many useless and perverse things they have done or said; haughty people, perverse people, prostitutes, and unjust people get trophies, money, and riches as a reward for their evil works, as if they had done good works. However, we should not be surprised by that because Solomon said long ago: “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: …. wicked men who get what the righteous deserve” (Ecclesiastes 8:14NIV). Now that’s what happens on earth, but on that day no one will be rewarded by God for his useless, wicked and lying works; all those who have done these things will receive what is due them for these things; God will by no means praise any of His sons for the useless and wicked things he has done while in the body.

Let me explain to you now what gold, silver and precious stones represent. They represent all the things which are of value in the sight of God.

Every sound doctrine as well as every sound word are things of value, for they are helpful for building others up according to their needs, therefore believers will be rewarded for these things on that day. In the Psalms it is written: “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6 – NKJV); therefore, since the Word of God is like pure silver, he who uses it to edify the Church of God (teaching it, or speaking it to uphold the weak, to comfort the fainthearted, and to warn the unruly) will be rewarded. God has given us the right material which is to be built on the foundation, so let us build it on the foundation for our own good and for the good of the Church of God.

Good works (that is, alms, visits paid to the widows and to the orphans and to those who are in prison for the Gospel, and any other kind of good works) are precious things which are built on the foundation and God will reward us for them, for it is written that “he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18 – NKJV). Yes, brothers, on that day we will be rewarded for our labor of love; this thought comforts us and fills us with joy in the midst of this world full of unrighteousness and hypocrisy.

Paul said: “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 – NIV). Brothers, one day all of us will appear before the judgement seat of Christ because each one of us must receive what is due him for all the things said or done while in the body. So let us abound in the work of God honestly and sincerely, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, for on that day the Lord will reveal even the counsels of our hearts, thus He will reveal even the reasons why we have spoken and acted in a way rather than in another way. What will happen on that day then? It will happen that many classifications made by men will be upset because many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first and everybody will see what each one has built on the foundation. God will show no partiality, the fire will test the quality of our work; vanity will be burnt, truth will be rewarded; those who humble themselves will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be humbled; I am convinced that on that day we will see things which we have never imagined because on the earth we tend to look at things according to the outward appearance and to judge according to appearance or by the hearing of our ears; while in heaven God will judge no one according to the outward appearance.

Even if a person lives with another person and sees him very often, he can know him only in part, while God knows all the things done and said by that person during all his life. That’s why we will do well to wait for the classifications made by God and we should not trust the classifications that men make according to their understanding or to the outward appearance. Only on that day will we know many bad works, many hypocrisies, many falsehood, many lies which are told by many believers and covered skilfully for fear of being discovered or put to shame; only on that day will we know many good things said and done by many believers in secret in order not to be seen by men nor to have glory from men.

Beloved, all the things we are doing will be brought to light, for Paul says that the Lord will “bring to light what is hidden in darkness” (1 Corinthians 4:5 – NIV), whether precious things or useless things; we will not be able to keep anything secret any longer because God will bring to light all our works, words and thoughts before all. This must lead us to perfect our holiness not in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth every day. On the one hand this discourages us from speaking and doing all kinds of evil things, but on the other hand it encourages us to do and speak as many good things as possible while we are in this tent.

I conclude by saying this: the day is coming on which we will have to depart from the body, and thus we will not be able to do or say any good thing on the earth any longer; God commands us to do good works and to speak the truth, let us obey Him. Let us do what He commands, and let us abound more and more in the work of the Lord. Let us be zealous for good works, for if we stand fast in the faith and keep the works of Christ until the end, we will surely be rewarded for our good works. We will not lose what we have worked for, but we will be rewarded fully. To the One who will reward us in justice (His justice is very high) be the glory now and forevermore. Amen. Read more…

Sanctification: Euthanasia

11 April 2019

Sanctification: Euthanasia

sanctification

Here is how euthanasia is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘The painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in an irreversible coma’. In other words, it is a death hastened by doctors with the permission of the sufferer’s relatives (or the sufferer himself) to keep him from continuing to suffer.

I exhort you in the Lord to reject and expose euthanasia because it is a murder in the sight of God. He who has the power to kill and to make alive is God alone (1 Samuel 2:6). Therefore, if the country where you live permits euthanasia and one of your relatives is in a hopeless condition from a medical point of view, because according to the doctors he is condemned to die after unspeakable sufferings without any chance of recovering, you must not give the permission to let him die in advance (before time) in order to put an end to his sufferings or to make him suffer less, because if you give such a permission you will share in a murder. And then who said that that man will surely die? The doctors, thus human beings who can’t lengthen the life of men and who have a limited knowledge like all the other human beings. Therefore they do not have the last word, for it is God (the Omnipotent, the Omniscient and the Omnipresent) who has the last word in the life of men. It is God who decides when a man is going to die and what kind of death he will die. Thus what counts is His decision, is what God says.

So, let us suppose that one of our relatives is dying of an incurable disease and is suffering terribly. How should we cope with such situation? Well, first of all, we should ask: ‘What did God determine to do? Did He determine to let him live or die?’ Nobody knows (unless God reveals His will by a word of wisdom). Therefore we must plead with God to heal that person who is dying of an incurable disease. For we must never give up hoping in God, for our God is able to raise up a man the doctors say he’s done for or a man who thinks he is done for. Job is a clear example of how God can change the most desperate situation. Job was suffering terrible pains, his flesh was wasting away from sight and his bones clung to his skin and to his flesh, he thought that he would soon depart from this world, and his wife was waiting for his death; but God healed him and made him prosperous again. Another eloquent example of what God can do when there is no more hope from a human point of view is that of king Hezekiah, who was taken ill and in the midst of his illness thought that he was a dead man, but God heard his prayer and saw his tears and added to his days fifteen years. “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me” (Isaiah 38:10-12) said Hezekiah in his song after he was healed by the Lord, and he added: “What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isaiah 38:15-17). As you can see, the above mentioned examples show us clearly that God can change the most desperate circumstances in the life of men, for both Job and Hezekiah were ‘terminally ill,’ but God healed them. Knowing this, therefore, let us pray for our relative who is terminally hill so that God may heal him, and God will surely heal him if it is His will to heal him. Do not lose heart, with God nothing is impossible.

But not only can God heal incurable diseases, which lead to death, if it is His will; but He can also raise the dead. Therefore He can act on behalf of a man even after his death. So he can allow a man to die of an incurable disease in order to raise him from the dead before or during of even after his funeral. The resurrections which are recorded in the Scripture confirm this concept. So it is lawful for us to plead with God to raise a dead person, and obviously if it is God’s will to raise him from the dead, it will come to pass that that man will rise again in answer to our prayers.

But what shall we say if God has determined to let him die of that incurable disease but not to bring him back to life? We will say: ‘The will of God be done.’ If the dying person is a believer, when he dies he will go to heaven to be with the Lord; if he is a sinner, he will go to Hades (hell), where he will be tormented with fire, and thus he will continue to suffer in another world, and we know that the sufferings in Hades are greater than any suffering on the earth.

I would like to point out that many of those who die in severe pain are people who have been struck by the rod of God for their wickedness. For God makes them reap the evil they have sowed. The Scripture says that God struck king Jehoram with an incurable disease because of his wickedness, as it is written: “After all this the Lord struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease. Then it happened in the course of time, after the end of two years, that his intestines came out because of his sickness: so he died in severe pain” (2 Chronicles 21:18-19). You may ask me now: ‘Does God strike with incurable diseases even Christians, for certain sins which they have committed?’ Yes, He does, for God is no respecter of persons. Know this, that some Christians have been struck by the rod of God because they take pleasure in committing adultery and fornication, in murdering, in getting drunk, in keeping back by fraud the wages of their labourers, and in other serious sins. They walk after the flesh, God gave them time to repent of their wickedness, but they did not repent, and thus they were struck by God. I realize that it is painful to see these people suffer on their bed of illness, yet we have to admit that it is right that God should make them suffer in that way for their iniquities. Nevertheless, we, who are not glad to see people suffer, must have compassion on them and pray for them, so that God may grant them repentance that leads to salvation and thus after death they may go to heaven.

Read more…

The practice of female genital mutilation

8 April 2019

The practice of female genital mutilation

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone

8 April 2019

I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone

THENEWLIFEINCHRIST

We must pray for those who are perishing and for those who persecute us

Paul wrote to Timothy: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Brothers, we who have known God through Jesus Christ are bound to pray for those who don’t know the truth, so that God might save them by His grace. The apostle Paul, speaking of those who were Jews by birth, said to the saints who were in Rome: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1 – NKJV). From these words we learn clearly that Paul’s desire for the Jews was a good desire, for he wanted the Jews to be saved. The Scripture says that “the desire of the righteous is only good” (Proverbs 11:23NKJV), and in fact all those who have been justified by the grace of God want sinners to be saved; they have in their heart the same desire Paul had for the Jews. However, Paul said also that he prayed to God for the Jews, so that they might be saved. Now, the Jews for whom Paul prayed were those Jews who had “the form of knowledge and truth in the law” (Romans 2:20 – NKJV), yet they had a veil on their heart that prevented them from recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth was the one of whom Moses and the prophets spoke, that is, the Christ. For those Jews who were perishing, the Gospel was veiled because the god of this age had blinded their minds; Paul knew very well all this, and since he knew also that when they would turn to the Lord that veil would be taken away, he earnestly prayed for them that God might reveal His Son to them as well. Paul left us an example so that we also should pray for unbelievers, that is, for those who are perishing, so that they might be delivered from the power of Satan. Let us lift up this prayer on behalf of those who are perishing: ‘Lord, save them!’.

Jesus Christ said: “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44NIV). Who are those who persecute us? They are all those who don’t know God and in ignorance revile us and do harm to us because of the noble name of the One to whom we belong, that is, Jesus Christ. Now, first of all I want to tell you that it is impossible for those who believe not to be persecuted by those who are perishing because Jesus said: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20 – NKJV) and Paul said to Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 – NKJV). I said before that our persecutors persecute us in ignorance for this reason: because Jesus said: “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:2-3 – NKJV). Is it not true that Saul of Tarsus, before his conversion, persecuted the saints who lived in Jerusalem and in foreign cities because at that time he did not know the Father nor His Son? Is it not true that he shut up in prison many of the saints and when they were put to death he cast his vote against them for he thought that he was offering God service? Listen to what He himself said to Timothy: “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13NKJV). This means that before the Lord appeared to him on the way to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was an unbelieving person and thus he did not know God. Even though he was a Pharisee, who was blameless concerning the righteousness which is in the law and exceedingly zealous for the cause of God, he was blind and without life because he did not believe in the name of the Son of God; but one day it came to pass that He who had separated him from his mother’s womb called him through His grace and justified him. I am convinced that while Saul of Tarsus was still a persecutor of the Church and an insolent man, there were believers who prayed for him so that the Lord might save him. Here is the reason why I say this. Before Jesus was taken up into heaven, He said to the apostles: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20); therefore, the apostles had to teach the believers to pray for those who persecuted them, and since they did it, I have come to the conclusion that the believers who continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship obeyed also that order of the Lord. Now, here is what happened after Saul turned to the Lord: “They [the Churches of Judea] only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy’. And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24 – NIV). As you can see, the conversion of Saul overflowed in many expressions of thanks to God on the part of many believers. Likewise, today when believers pray for someone who persecutes the Church and God answers their prayer, the name of God is glorified by them; therefore let us pray for our persecutors so that the name of God may be glorified when they are converted. Jesus Christ prayed for those who persecuted Him to the death (thus He left us an example), for while He was hanging on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34NKJV). Jesus asked God to forgive those who persecuted Him and put Him to death in ignorance (that is, without knowing what they were doing). Sometimes, some of us are tempted to think that the Jews knew what they were doing against Jesus, however we know that’s not true because Peter confirmed the words of Jesus when he said to the Jews: “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead …. Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:14-15,17 – NKJV). As you can see, both the words of Jesus and those of Peter confirm that our enemies persecute us because of the ignorance which is in them.

We, as sons of God, must pray to God for our enemies who persecute us so that God might give them life and not that God might put them to death. Someone may say: ‘Why then under the law were there some men (such as David) who prayed to God that He might destroy their enemies?’ Because under the law was in force the commandment which said: ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. Jesus confirmed that when He said: ‘You have heard that it was said: You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43NKJV; Leviticus 19:18). Therefore no wonder that David, even though he was a man after God’s heart, asked God to destroy his enemies, as he said to God: “May ruin overtake them by surprise …. Pour out your wrath on them ….. Let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave” (Psalms 35:8; 69:24; 31:17 – NIV).

But now, under grace, is in force the commandment which says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44NIV), therefore a son of God can’t ask God to put to death his enemies.

However, even under the law there were some men who prayed for their enemies; one of them was Moses. The Scripture says that after the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan returned to the camp, when the Israelites heard ten of the spies say: “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight ….We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:32-33,31 – NKJV), they complained against Moses and Aaron and wanted to stone them with stones. When God heard their grumblings, He said to Moses: “I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them ….” (Numbers 14:12 – NKJV), but Moses prayed for them, who wanted to stone him, (as it is written: “Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them” – Psalm 106:23 – NKJV); Moses prayed for the Israelites in this way: “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (Numbers 14:19 – NKJV), and God answered the prayer of Moses for He said to Moses: “I have pardoned, according to your word” (Numbers 14:20 – NKJV). The answer of God shows the effectiveness of the prayer on behalf of those who persecute us. Those who don’t know God say: ‘What would we gain by praying to Him’, but we who know God know that it is useful to pray for those who persecute us, for it is written: “He who respects a command (in this case the command which says: “Pray for those who persecute you”) is rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13NIV).

We must pray for the governing authorities, who are appointed by God

Among those for whom we must pray are even the governing authorities, that are appointed by God. God said to the Israelites who had been carried away captive to Babylon: “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 – NKJV). From these words we learn that we must seek the peace of the nation in which we live by the will of God. Someone may ask: ‘How can we seek its peace?’ By submitting ourselves to the governing authorities (God has appointed in the nation where we live) and by praying to God for them. We want to live a peaceful and quite life in this nation, and we want the governing authorities to introduce good and righteous reforms in this country (from which we, even though we are strangers and pilgrims, may benefit), but in order to see this desire fulfilled we must pray for the governing authorities.

In the book of Ezra we read that king Darius commanded the governor of the region beyond the River and his companions certain things concerning their way of acting toward the elders of the Jews who were building the temple in Jerusalem. Among other things He commanded them the following things: “And whatever they need – young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem – let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:9-10 – NKJV). As you can see, that king wanted the priests to pray for his life and the life of his sons, and I am persuaded that today the kings and all the governing authorities still need our prayers. Through our prayers we can help the governing authorities to rule righteously; therefore let us pray for them that God might save them and that He might keep them and give them wisdom to rule.

Let us pray for one another

Besides praying for those who are still slaves of sin, and for those who persecute us, and for the kings and the governing authorities, we must also pray to God for our brothers because this is the will of God for us. Someone will ask: ‘What should I ask God to do for my brothers?’ Let’s turn to the Holy Scripture, which is God-breathed, because it teaches us how to pray also for our brothers.

On the night our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, He prayed to God for His disciples (that is, His brothers, as it is written: “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” Hebrews 2:11). Among the words of that prayer we find the following requests: “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are ….. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one …. Sanctify them by Your truth” (John 17:11,15,17 – NKJV). Jesus pleaded with God to do certain things, which were according to the will of God for His brethren. Now, the above mentioned things which Jesus pleaded with God to do are still according to the will of God for His brethren, for God still wants to keep us from the evil one, He still wants to sanctify us by His truth, and He still wants to keep us through His name so that we may be one, speaking the same thing and being perfectly joined together in the same judgement. Therefore we should ask God to do these things for our brothers. The Scripture says that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14 – NKJV) and the prayer for the unity of the brethren is according to the will of God and thus it is answered, and in order to confirm this I remind you that the prayer Jesus made for those who would believe in Him through the word of the apostles, so that they all might be one (as it is written: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us” John 17:20-21 – NKJV) was answered, because in the book of the Acts of the apostles we read that “the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32 – NKJV).

The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, said to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). The Lord knew what would happen within a short time, He knew that when the Shepherd would be struck the sheep of the flock would be scattered, He knew that His disciples would be tested, so He prayed for Simon Peter that his faith might not fail. Was that prayer answered? Of course, it was, for even though Peter denied the Lord three times, his faith did not fail because he was converted and he was able to strengthen his brethren. We also must pray for our brothers who are tested in the furnace of affliction so that their faith should not fail.

Now, let’s see how the apostles prayed for the Churches, because they left us an example in this also. Paul wrote to the saints who were in Ephesus: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:15-19 – NIV). As you can see, Paul prayed that God might give the saints of that city a spirit of wisdom and revelation through which they could grow in the knowledge of God, that He might enlighten the eyes of their heart (our heart has spiritual eyes and when they are enlightened by God, our knowledge of His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in the fullness of the time, and our knowledge of the things which God has prepared for those who love Him increase) in order that they might know these three things: the hope to which God had called them, the riches of His glorious inheritance which He had prepared for them and which was kept in heaven for them also, and His incomparably great power for them who believed.

Paul wrote in the same epistle: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). As you can see, Paul prayed God that He might strengthen those saints in their inner man (besides having an outward man, each of us has an inner man), and that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. Why did Paul pray to God in that way? That those saints, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend with all saints how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. Brothers, we’d better pay attention to all these sentences beginning with ‘that,’ which are present in the prayers of Paul, because they show us the things Paul wanted the brethren to know and to do.

The desire of Paul was to present every man perfect in Christ, and that earnest desire led him to say those prayers to God on behalf of the believers. Nowadays it is a very rare thing to hear believers pray for one another in the way Paul did; the reason is that many believers prefer to read and study these prayers rather than say them; I believe that if Paul considered those prayers useful, we also must consider them useful and thus we also should pray in that way.

Paul wrote to the saints in Colosse: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12). Brothers, know this, that we also need to be filled with the knowledge of the will of God so that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord; therefore let us pray for one another in this way. Now, with regard to the knowledge of the will of God, I tell you this; Jesus Christ said: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40 – NKJV), and we, having believed in the Son of God, have done the will of God, but the will of God for us consists of many other things which we have to do in order to please God. However, in order to do them we must know them first, and to know them we need to pray to God; that’s why we must ask God to fill us and our brothers with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Someone may ask: ‘Is it really necessary?’ Yes, brother, it is; if it were not necessary, Paul and his fellow workers would not have prayed for those brothers in that way. Someone else may ask: ‘Why should I be filled with the knowledge of the Will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding?’ Well, the reason is that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and thus please Him in everything. The Scripture states that we must please God rather than men, therefore we must see that we walk as wise, that is, in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, causing no offenses, so that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified and His doctrine may be adorned. Instead, if we walk as fools – that is, if we live in a manner unworthy of the Gospel, being devoid of the knowledge of the will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, the children of this age will say to us, ‘After all, you are not different from us’ or ‘You claim to be Christians, yet you are worse than us!’ and thus the name of the Lord and His doctrine will be blasphemed because of us. Therefore, in order to please God, we need to understand what His will for us is; but if we don’t understand what His will is and we are not able to distinguish between good and evil, and we have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, how shall we be able to please God? Brothers, know this, that if you walk according to the flesh you will not be able to please God for it is written: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8 – NKJV). If we become friends of the world and lovers of the world, we can’t please God. On the contrary, if we are ready to do every good work, if we grow in the knowledge of God, if we are strong in the grace of God, if we show the meekness of Christ to all men, if we are patient in tribulation, giving always thanks to God for He has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, then we will please God and His name will be glorified in us.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians these words also: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:1-3 – NIV). Therefore, according to these words, when we pray for our brothers we struggle for them, and we must pray also for those brothers who have not met us personally. Why did Paul struggle for the saints in his prayers? He struggled for them so that their heart might be encouraged and comforted, in order that they might know the mystery of God (notice that in this prayer also Paul asked God to do something for the saints that they might know a certain thing).

Epaphras also, who was one of the fellow workers of Paul, prayed for the Colossians, as Paul said to the Colossians: “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12 – NIV). These words confirm that when we pray for our brothers we wrestle for them. For Epaphras wrestled in his prayers that the saints in Colosse might stand firm in all the will of God. He left us an example; therefore, let us follow it wrestling in our prayers for the saints.

Paul said to the Corinthians: “Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong” (2 Corinthians 13:7 – NIV). What we learn from this prayer is this, that the apostle Paul and his fellow workers wanted the saints to perfect holiness and to abstain from every form (or appearance) of evil.

Here is how Paul prayed for the saints in Philippi: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 – NKJV). Brothers, our love must abound in knowledge and all discernment in order to be able to discern what is best and to be pure and blameless at the coming of the Lord. Now, if we consider carefully this prayer of Paul we will come to the conclusion that we also need to pray for our brothers in this way. Why do I say this? Because, today, the love of many believers lacks knowledge and discernment. For when we speak of love with these believers, we perceive that their love doesn’t abound in knowledge nor in discernment, and consequently it is necessary for us to pray for them so that it may abound in knowledge and discernment. They think that to rebuke a brother when he sins means not to love him as one should do, or that tolerating the evil workers and their evil deeds is a manifestation of love toward them and the Church. However, the Scripture does not teach such things, for it teaches that “love …. does not rejoice in iniquity” (1 Corinthians 13:6 – NKJV) and that God, who is love, rebukes and chastens those who sin, and does not tolerate evil workers. So true love rebukes the brethren who sin against us, and does not tolerate evil workers.

Paul wrote to the saints in Thessalonica: “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Brothers, let us pray for our brothers so that God may fulfill every good purpose of theirs and the work of faith with power.

Paul wrote to the saints in Galatia, who were troubled by some who wanted them to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses, the following things: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. ….. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (Galatians 4:9-11,19-20). The believers in Galatia had been begotten in Jesus Christ by the apostle Paul, but while Paul was absent they began to observe the days and the months and the seasons and the years of which the law of Moses speaks, which are all “a shadow of the things that were to come” (Colossians 2:17 – NIV), for some imposed these things on them saying that in order to be saved they had to be circumcised and to keep the law. When Paul heard that the Galatians had been troubled, he began to pray for them that they might come to their senses and obey the truth of the Gospel. The apostle Paul told them that he labored in birth for them again until Christ was formed in them; that is to say, he was wrestling in prayer for them that they might come to their senses and know the truth, from which they had strayed. Just as a woman is in labour before giving birth to a child, so Paul also, when he heard that the Galatians had been bewitched, was again in the pains of childbirth, and he began to pray for them with groanings which cannot be uttered (in other words, he prayed in the Holy Spirit), and his pains would end when Christ was formed in them. Brothers, Paul showed us what we must do if some of our brothers are bewitched like the Galatians.

What the apostles exhorted the saints to ask of God

Let us now look at some exhortations of the apostles concerning prayer, which show us what we must ask of God.

Paul, in speaking about the whole armor of God which we must put on in order to fight against our enemies, said: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20). The apostle exhorted the saints to pray always in the Holy Spirit (I remind you that to pray in the Spirit means to pray in other tongues), and to be watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for him as well, that God might enable him to preach the Gospel with boldness. Paul knew how the Gospel must be preached and thus he exhorted the saints to pray for him, for he was persuaded that the saints, through their prayers, could help him to preach the Gospel as he ought to preach it. Someone will ask: ‘How should the Gospel be preached?’ The Gospel should be preached with power, with the Holy Spirit and with much assurance, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. You may say: ‘Can the cross of Christ be made of no effect then?’ Yes, it is made of no effect (because it is emptied of its power) when it is preached with words of human wisdom. Know this, that all those who have been called by God to preach need our prayers, therefore let us pray for the servants of the Lord who proclaim the way of salvation, so that God may enable them to proclaim the Word of the grace of God with all boldness.

Paul wrote to the saints in Colosse: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Colossians 4:2-3 – NKJV). Now, when the apostle wrote these words he was in prison and exhorted the saints to ask God to open a door to him and to his fellow workers for the Word; this teaches us that God can open a door for the Word even in prison, because the Word cannot be chained; the ministers of the Word can be chained, but the Word cannot be chained. As you know, the Word of God bears fruit when those who hear it understand it, but it is necessary for God to open their hearts that they may understand the Word. Remember Lydia, who was a seller of purple; Luke says that “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14NKJV); that’s why Lydia understood the Word of God and thus she bore fruit. We still need the Lord to open the hearts of those who hear the Gospel, so that they may understand the Word of grace and be saved by it. Now let me explain to you what ‘a door open for the Word’ means according to the Scripture. While Paul was at Ephesus he wrote to the Corinthians: “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9 – NKJV). To understand what that ‘great and effective open door’ was, it is necessary to tell what Luke wrote about the work of Paul in the city of Ephesus. When the apostle Paul came to Ephesus to preach the Gospel, it came to pass that he met some disciples whom he baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and on whom he laid his hands so that they might receive the Holy Spirit and “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6 – NKJV). Then “he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them …. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts [who had practiced sorcery] brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:8-12, 18-20). So all those who dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, but not all of them turned to the Lord; however, many accepted the word preached by Paul; even one of those who rejected the Word, whose name was Demetrius (a silversmith who made silver shrines of Diana), recognized this when he said to the craftsmen: “Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands” (Acts 19:26 – NKJV). Therefore, at Ephesus, by the ministry of Paul, many people accepted the Gospel of the grace of God, and many of them came and openly confessed their evil deeds; there were believers who received the Holy Spirit and also the gift of prophecy, there were many who were healed and delivered from demons in the name of the Lord Jesus; that’s the reason why Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus: “A great and effective door has opened to me” (1 Corinthians 16:9 – NKJV). Obviously, not always the door which is opened for the Word is so great, however we can say that whenever in a country or in a town some people turn to the Lord, even if they are not many, the Lord has opened a door to his servants for the Word. At this point it must be said that every time the Lord opens to His servants a door for His Word, there are people who oppose the Word of God and thus believers are persecuted by their adversaries (persecution can be just a verbal persecution but also a physical persecution with imprisonments, beatings, etc). In this regard I remind you that Paul said that at Ephesus there were many adversaries, which means that the Gospel met with strong opposition in that city, and this is confirmed by the following words of Luke: “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way” (Acts 19:23 – NKJV), and also by the following words which Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 – NKJV). At this point, I would like to dwell upon the following words of Paul “you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Corinthians 1:11), so that you may understand how much our prayers for those who preach the Gospel can avail and what they produce. First of all, you must understand that the ministers of the Gospel have many enemies, among whom there are wicked and unreasonable men who don’t have faith, therefore we must pray for the ministers of the Word that God may deliver them from these evil men. Paul exhorted the saints to pray for him and his fellow workers that the Word of God might run swiftly and be glorified (as it was at Antioch in Pisidia, as it is written: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord” Acts 13:48 – NKJV), but also that they might be delivered from the wicked, as he wrote to the saints in Thessalonica: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 – NKJV). In this regard, I remind you of these words of exhortations Paul wrote to the saints in Rome, while he was going to Jerusalem to bring a relief offering for the poor among the saints who were in Jerusalem: “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe ….” (Romans 15:30-31 – NKJV). These exhortations of Paul show us that Paul thought that the prayers of the saints to God for him and his fellow workers were useful. Paul, too, believed that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16NKJV), and not only did he believe that but also saw it with his eyes on many occasions. One of the occasions in which he saw God deliver him from wicked men, in answer to the prayers of the saints, was after he returned to Jerusalem (after he wrote the above mentioned exhortation to the saints in Rome), for in Jerusalem Paul was seized by some unbelieving Jews who tried to kill him but God delivered him from their hands.

Here are some other passages of the Scripture which confirm that the apostles believed that the saints could help them through their prayers (keep in mind that the following words were written from prison):

● “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ ….. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly” (Philippians 1:19; 2:24NKJV). Paul, while he was in prison, wrote to the Philippians that through their prayers and the supplication of the Spirit of Jesus (who helps the saints in that He makes intercession for them according to the will of God) he would be delivered from prison, and he expressed his confidence with the following words: “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Philippians 1:25 – NKJV).

● “But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you” (Philemon 22 – NKJV). Paul, while in prison, told Philemon to prepare a guest room for him, because he was confident in the Lord that he would be granted to him in answer to his prayers (that is, the prayers of Philemon).

● “Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner” (Hebrews 13:18NKJV). As you can see, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews told them that through their prayers they would hasten his deliverance from prison.

In addition to this, brothers, I want you to know that because of the answer of God to the prayers you make for the ministers of the Gospel, many believers will give thanks to God. Therefore your prayers on their behalf produce many expressions of thanks to the glory of God. Is it not amazing to know that we, through our prayers, cooperate in spreading the Word of God because we help the ministers of the Word to preach the Gospel with all boldness and we cause them to be delivered from wicked and unreasonable men?

It is written: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15NKJV). Brothers, that the Word of God may be spread all over the world, it is necessary for God to send some men to preach the Gospel in those places where the name of Christ has not yet been preached. Therefore we must ask God to send out labourers into His harvest. Jesus Christ commanded us to do this, for He said: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38NKJV).

The apostle John wrote: “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that” (1 John 5:16 – NIV). After a believer has sinned, he is troubled and unhappy, and it cannot be otherwise because James says that sin “when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15NKJV). Notwithstanding this, if he confesses his sin to the Lord he will be forgiven and made alive. Now, if we see a brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, we must pray to God that He may give him life, and God, in His faithfulness, will give him life (granting him repentance that leads to life). However, you must understand that if a brother commits the sin that leads to death (that is, the sin which leads the person who has committed it to the second death), we must not pray for that brother, because he has committed a sin which cannot be forgiven him.

The apostle James, the Lord’s brother, wrote: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (James 5:13NKJV). Now, when we suffer because of righteousness we must pray, because that’s what we are commanded to do. Peter says: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19 – NKJV), and these words of Peter agree with those of James because when one prays to God in the midst of his tribulations he commits his soul to God. In the Scripture we have several examples of men who in the midst of their tribulations prayed to God: I will cite the example of Jeremiah, and that of our Lord Jesus. On one occasion Jeremiah prayed: “O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:15-18). Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, before He was arrested, “began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matthew 26:37 – NKJV) and said to His disciples: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38 – NKJV), and while in that mood He fell on His face and prayed “that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him” (Mark 14:35 – NKJV). Here is how Jesus prayed in the Gethsemane: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36NKJV). Brothers, indeed, the best thing to do when we suffer is to pray, because through prayer we pour out our heart before the Lord confessing to Him our anguishes and perplexities, having confidence that He hears us and helps us with His powerful consolations.

James commanded the elders of the Church to pray over the sick, for he wrote: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). Note that it is the sick person who has to call for the elders, and not the contrary, and furthermore that the elders of the Church must pray over him anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15), says James. Therefore, the elders of the Church must pray over the sick in faith, with no doubting, in order to see the sick raised up by the Lord.

The Lord’s brother says also: “Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16NKJV). Therefore, we must pray for those brothers who are sick, that God may heal them. When Mary, Moses’ sister, together with Aaron spoke against Moses, it came to pass that God struck her with leprosy, but Moses prayed to God for her, as it is written: “So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying: Please heal her, O God, I pray!” (Numbers 12:13 – NKJV), and God heard that prayer for after seven days, during which Mary was shut out of the camp, she was brought back because leprosy had left her. We can see how much the prayer of a righteous man for the sick avails in the story of Abraham also, for the Scripture says: “So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife” (Genesis 20:17-18 – NKJV). There is another example in the Scripture which shows us how much the prayer of a righteous man for a sick person avails, it’s the example of the son of Abraham, as it is written: “Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21 – NKJV).

Some of the circumstances on which the apostles prayed

Let us see now some of the circumstances on which the apostles prayed in order to understand how much important was prayer to them.

The apostles, together with other brothers, prayed to God when they chose a successor to Judas Iscariot. With regard to this, Luke says that (after Peter said to the brothers that of those men who had accompanied them all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from them, one of them had to become a witness with them of His resurrection) they “proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said: ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place’. And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:23-26 – NKJV).

In Jerusalem, after the whole multitude of the disciples chose the seven (that is, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas) “they presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6 – NIV). In this case, the apostles prayed for those seven men who had been chosen to wait on tables.

Paul and Barnabas founded some churches during their missionary journey, and “having appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly, having prayed with fastings, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:23 -YLT). The apostles attached much importance to the election of the elders, for before having elders elected they prayed and fasted. (Remember that Jesus, before choosing the twelve apostles, prayed, as it is written: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” Luke 6:12-13 – NKJV).

Peter and John prayed for the Samaritan believers “that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15NKJV). Therefore, it is scriptural to pray for believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

Peter prayed before raising Tabitha from the dead, as it is written: “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said: ‘Tabitha, arise’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40NKJV).

Paul prayed before healing the father of Publius, as it is written: “Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him” (Acts 28:8 – NKJV).

At Philippi, after Paul and Silas were beaten with rods they were thrown into prison, and there they prayed as it is written: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25 – NKJV. What they did is the fulfilment of what James says in his epistle: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” James 5:13 – NKJV).

At Miletus, Paul prayed with the elders of the Church of Ephesus before he left them, as it is written: “He knelt down and prayed with them all …. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:36,38 – NKJV). The apostles prayed with the believers before departing from Tyre, as it is written: “And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again” (Acts 21:5-6). We also do a good thing when we pray before going on a journey. Know this, that to ask God for a safe journey is scriptural for Ezra wrote: “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21 – NIV).

How the early Church prayed on two particular occasions

Let’s turn again to the Holy Scripture to see how the early Church prayed on two particular occasions.

Luke wrote: “And being let go, they [Peter and John] went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child [servant] Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child [servant] Jesus” (Acts 4:23-30; Psalm 2:1-2).

In this prayer we can notice that those believers first of all reminded God who He was (it is a right thing to remind God who He is, for God says: “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together” Isaiah 43:26 – so let’s follow the example of those believers), then they reminded God of what He had said through David about His Anointed One and how what He had said was fulfilled (therefore, it is correct, when we pray, to quote some passages of the Scripture). After that, they asked God to enable His servants to speak His Word with great boldness and to stretch out His hand to heal and to confirm His Word by signs and wonders. Someone will ask: ‘Was that prayer answered by God?’ Yes, it was, for it is written: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31), and also: “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12) and again: “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:16). Brothers, today we must ask God for the same things, for His Word still needs to be spoken with great boldness and the testimony of Christ needs to be confirmed by healings, signs and wonders. In order to see people converted to the Lord, the Word of God needs to be preached with boldness and there must be the manifestation of the Holy Spirit; therefore, let us raise our voice and pray to God that He might bear witness to His Word both with signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our desire is to see the Gospel preached with boldness as in the days of old, and also to see our great God confirm the Good News of the peace of God. Today, in this country, as well as in many others, the faith of many people is based on human wisdom and not on the power of God, for the Gospel is not preached with that power which marked the preaching of the apostles, but with words of human wisdom. This, beloved, should lead us to ask God to enable His servants to preach His Word with boldness.

I want to say another thing, which is this: the reason why many don’t fear God and don’t tremble before His Word is that they have never seen the true manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Someone may say: ‘Why do you call it the true manifestation of the Spirit?’ Because among the people of God certain things which are nothing but a counterfeit manifestation of the Spirit are passed off as the true manifestation of the Spirit in the eyes of the simple and of those who are unstable in all their ways; many mistake suggestion for the manifestation of the Spirit, and the manifestation of physical strength (displayed by some who preach the Gospel) for the power of God. Many preachers of the Gospel say to the crowds: ‘Concentrate, imagine now that you are healed and no more sick!’ as if a sick person can be healed by an intense mental concentration or the power of suggestion that they are able to exert on the simple. And many other preachers push the sick down on the floor and then they claim that it was the power of God who caused them to fall to the ground!!! And the time would fail me to speak of all those evangelistic meetings where the Gospel is preached with words only, without power and deep conviction, and where the deafening amplification gives the impression that the preacher is preaching with power. And I want to say also that there are many preachers who proclaim that God has healed many sick people (after they prayed for them), but afterwards, when one goes to talk with those who claimed that they were healed by God he finds out that most of them, or even all of them, are still sick. We are tired of hearing about healings which have never occurred, which are told by many unscrupulous preachers to attract people to their meetings and to become famous and rich. We long to see the sick healed, the blind see, the dumb speak, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead raised, the demon possessed delivered from the power of demons, the lepers cured, so that, seeing the mighty works of our God, sinners might believe and the faithful might fear God.

Luke speaks of another circumstance on which the church prayed to God and that prayer was answered; I refer to the imprisonment of Peter. He says: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:1-5 – NKJV). As you can see, when Peter was put in prison the Church did not forget him, rather the Church began to pray for Peter. Now, even though Luke does not say what the Church asked God to do on behalf of Peter, we can deduce it from some words Paul wrote to the saints while he was in prison, which are these: “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supplication of the Spirit of Jesus Christ …..” (Philippians 1:19NKJV); “…. I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you” (Philemon 22 – NKJV). Therefore, we think that the Church of Jerusalem prayed to God that He might deliver Peter from prison. Those constant prayers were heard because God sent an angel to deliver Peter from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people. I would like to underline something we read in this story, which is this: when Luke says that constant prayer was offered to God for Peter by the Church, he means that the saints prayed for Peter. This is confirmed by the Scripture which says that in the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, “many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12NKJV), therefore we can say that the Church which was gathered in the house of Mary was praying for Peter. Thus, the building where we gather together to worship God cannot be called ‘church’ because this is not confirmed by the Word of God. We are the house of God, as it is written: “We are his house” (Hebrews 3:6 – NIV); the place of worship or the house where we gather to pray is not the house of God.

Brothers, we are the Church of the Living God and we must pray for our brothers who are in prison (and treated as criminals) so that God may comfort them, establish them in Christ, and deliver them from prison. Of course, it is true that some of those who are put in prison because of the Gospel die in prison, however this happens because God wants them to die in prison and not because God cannot deliver them from prison. One day we will know why God did not deliver them from prison, but in the meantime (while we are waiting for the hidden things to be revealed to us) let us continue to remember the prisoners, offering constant prayers to God for them because God wants us to pray for them, as it is written: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them ….” (Hebrews 13:3 – NKJV).

On what conditions our prayers will be answered

Our God has promised to answer our prayers on the following conditions:

If we pray in faith. Jesus said: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22NIV. The NKJV reads: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive”). Now, “faith is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1 – NIV), therefore when we pray believing (or in faith) we are sure we will receive what we have asked of God. Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24NIV); as you can see, these words also confirm that in order to be heard we must believe. What must we believe? We must believe that we have received what we asked for in prayer, for it is written first “Believe that you have received it” (Mark 11:24 – NIV) and then: “It will be yours” (Mark 11:24 – NIV) or “You will have it” (NKJV). Read more…

The decrees which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem

28 March 2019

The decrees which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem

THENEWLIFEINCHRIST

In the book of the Acts of the apostles it is written: “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved [we are saved], even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them” (Acts 15:1-32)

Therefore, since we also are Gentiles who have believed in Jesus Christ, we also must abstain from fornication, that is, from any sexual intercourse outside marriage; from blood (that is, from any blood-based food, such as the blood sausage and the blood pudding, and from flesh with its blood); from things strangled (that is, the flesh of those animals which have been choked to death or strangled; and from things offered to idols or polluted by idols, such as meats, focaccias, sweets, and anything else which is offered to idols, thus we ought to abstain also from all those foods which are prepared by the Roman Catholics to celebrate this or that ‘saint’ of theirs. Read more…

Sanctification: Abortion

25 March 2019

Sanctification: Abortion

sanctificationAbortion is ‘the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy’. Therefore, abortion is sin because is the deliberate killing of an unborn baby.

So, brothers and sisters who are married, I exhort you to flee this sin, lest you move God to anger. Surely, if you decide to have an abortion, God will punish you for your sin. Obviously, I am not speaking of miscarriage because miscarriage is ‘the spontaneous or unplanned expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently’, that is, something which is not caused or planned by the woman or the couple.

To show you from the Scriptures that abortion is sin in the sight of God, I want to quote some passages from the Law of Moses, which is made for anything which is contrary to the sound doctrine. Here is what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai: “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:22-25 – NKJV). Now, as you can see, the law envisaged a situation in which two brawling men accidentally injure a pregnant woman. The injury causes the woman to go into early labor, resulting in a premature birth of her child. If neither the woman nor the child is harmed, then the Law of Moses commanded that the one who caused the premature birth should pay a fine. But if injury or even death resulted from the brawl, then the law imposed a parallel punishment: if the premature baby died, the one who caused the premature birth was to be put to death – “you shall give life for life.” So to cause a pre-born infant’s death was homicide under the Old Testament – homicide punishable by death. Now, if according to God the one who caused a pre-born infant’s death accidentally was deserving of death, it is evident that since abortion is the deliberate killing of the unborn by an abortion doctor in collusion with the mother, those who deliberately put to death an unborn child are deserving of death too, in the sight of God. It cannot be otherwise. Therefore, brothers and sisters, I say it again, flee abortion.

Now let us examine in the light of the Scriptures the reasons why women have an abortion, in order to show that they do not justify at all abortion.

Many women have an abortion because they don’t want to give birth to many children, so in their opinion there are ‘wanted and unwanted children.’ However, this doesn’t justify abortion because the creature which is in the woman’s womb is a human being formed by the hands of God. Women in Christ, do not be afraid of giving birth to many children; God will not forsake them, but will meet all their needs. Have faith in Him. Know this, that the Scripture states that those who have many children are happy (Psalm 127:5). There can be no unwanted children in the life of a Christian couple, for every child is a gift of God, and every Christian must be willing to receive any gift from God.

Many other women have an abortion because they have been raped or because tests reveal that the unborn child has severe abnormalities. These arguments given in favour of abortion do not justify abortion either, for the creature which is in the woman’s womb is still a human being formed by the hands of God, and thus he has the right to be safely brought into the world regardless of how he was conceived. Therefore, I exhort all those Christian women who are with child because of a rape or know that their unborn child has severe abnormalities to give birth to their child. For sure, since all things work together for good to those who love God, God will turn evil into good: He will take that evil and its horrible effects on your life and bring good out of it; have faith in God.

Today, abortion is lawful in this country (as well as in many other countries), yet it is sin in the sight of God. That abortion is sin is confirmed by the sense of guilt a woman feels after she has had an abortion. On the contrary, those women who, even though they had been advised to have an abortion, refused to have an abortion are now happy and don’t regret taking that decision.

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Sanctification: Murder

23 March 2019

Sanctification: Murder

sanctification

It is written in the law: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 – NKJV). Therefore we must not take our neighbour’s life. Let us not act as Cain, who was of the wicked one – says the apostle John – and murdered his brother; and why did he murder him? “Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12NKJV).

Brethren, the way of the murderer leads to death, for it is written: “A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit; let no one help him” (Proverbs 28:17 – NKJV; the NIV reads: “A man tormented by the guilt of murder will be a fugitive till death; let no one support him”). God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17NKJV), and many times He causes murderers to be killed, for it is written: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6 – NKJV). Everybody can see the fulfilment of these words, for in criminal circles it happens very often that murderers are themselves murdered in turn. “As you have done, it shall be done to you” (Obadiah 15), the Lord still says to the wicked. Therefore, those who murder run the risk of being killed, for Wisdom warns us saying: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretely for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse’ – My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretely for their own lives” (Proverbs 1:10-18 – NKJV).

The biblical account of the punishment which God executed on those who murdered the sons of Gideon shows very clearly that God hates those who shed innocent blood and does not leave them unpunished. Here is what we read in the book of the Judges: “And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying, Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh. And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother. And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem. And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian: And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother. When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel, Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren. And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech. And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech. And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him? And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out. And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee. Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field: And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion. And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men. And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them. And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate. And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them. And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt. And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith. And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done. And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women. Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place. Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren: And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal” (Judges 9:1-57).

Under grace, however, even he who hates his brother is a murderer, for John says: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15 – NKJV). The reason is because the law of Christ is stricter than the law of Moses, for Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell [geenna] fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). Therefore, brothers, let us see to it that we keep hatred (against a brother or an unbelieving person) from entering our heart. Let us love one another fervently with a pure heart, for love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). If a brother sins against us, let us rebuke him (with love), in the hope that he will repent, but let us not hate him, for the law says: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17 – NKJV). If he who wronged us is a sinner, let us bear with him patiently continuing to love him, for it is written that we must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).

Among the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad and to which James wrote, there were some believers who were murderers and James called them sinners and exhorted them to cleanse their hands and to humble themselves in the sight of God (James 4:2,8-10). Peter says to us: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer” (1 Peter 4:15 – NKJV).

Murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21), for they will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (Revelation 21:8).

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The resurrection of the dead

20 February 2019

The resurrection of the dead

ESCHATOLOGYGod predicted through the prophets of old that the dead will rise again, for in the book of the prophet Isaiah it is written: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19), and in the book of Daniel it is written: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt ….But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:2,13 – NKJV).

Several centuries later He confirmed that prediction through His Son and the apostles. For Jesus said: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29 – NKJV); Paul said that he had the same hope in God as the people of Israel, “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 – NKJV); and John wrote that he saw both the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and the rest of the dead come to life; those who had been killed because of their testimony for Jesus came to life just before the millennial reign, for John says that they reigned with Christ a thousand years, while the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended (Revelation 20:4, 11-15).

Therefore, the resurrection of the dead was predicted by the prophets first, and then by Jesus and the apostles. So the resurrection of the dead is certainly one of the events which is to take place in the latter times. God foretold the resurrection of the dead and we believe that the dead will rise again at His appointed time. I would like to point out that all the dead will rise again, no one of them will be excluded because all men must appear before God with their body to give account to Him for the things they did in the body. I say this because some people affirm that according to the following words of Daniel “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” the resurrection of the dead will be partial; however the words of Daniel were made clear by Jesus who said that “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth”. Therefore, let no one deceive you with empty words.

The resurrection of the just

Paul says to the Corinthians: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming ….” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 – NKJV). Now, Jesus Christ is called the firstborn from among the dead (or the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep) because He rose from the dead with a glorious and incorruptible body, that is to say, because He is the first man who has risen again with an immortal body. Those who were raised from the dead before Jesus, such as the son of the widow of Sareptha, Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain, were not raised from the dead with an immortal body but with the same mortal body they had before their death, for the Scripture says that after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead “the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:10-11 – NKJV). As you can see, Lazarus could still be killed and thus could still die, and we are sure that at God’s appointed time he died again. But the One whom God raised from the dead on the third day “dies no more” (Romans 6:9 – NKJV) because death no longer has dominion over Him. Therefore, when we say that Christ is the firstborn from among the dead we mean that He is the first man who has been raised from the dead with a glorious, immortal and incorruptible body. And since Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep that means that all those who died in Christ will be raised from the dead too; they will be raised from the dead at the return of the Lord.

Both Jesus and the apostles stated that the saints who have fallen asleep will be raised from the dead; let us look therefore at some of their statements about the resurrection of the just which is to take place at God’s appointed time.

Jesus mentioned the resurrection of the just when he said to a Pharisee who had invited Him: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). And on another occasion He said to the Jews: “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life ….” (John 5:28-29 – NKJV).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14NKJV), and to the Thessalonians: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 – NKJV).

In the light of the above mentioned verses of the Scripture, therefore, when the dead in Christ hear the mighty shout of the Lord Jesus they will come out of the graves with an immortal body and they will meet the Lord in the air. Therefore, the resurrection of the just will take place at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of the unjust

As for the resurrection of the unjust, Jesus said that “those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29NIV). That means that they will be raised from the dead in order to be judged according to their works and to be condemned to an everlasting contempt in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. The apostle John speaks of their resurrection in the book of Revelation, when he says: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15). The resurrection of the unjust will take place at the end of the millennial reign (during which Christ will reign on earth with the saints, who will be resurrected and changed at His return).

As I said before, the unjust will rise to be condemned to an everlasting contempt, for after their resurrection they will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, where they will be tormented forever and ever. There are several verses of the Scripture which confirm that the torment which the unjust will suffer in the lake of fire is eternal.

Jesus said about those who will be put on His left: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment ….” (Matthew 25:46 – NKJV).

Paul said to the Thessalonians: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

John wrote in the book of Revelation: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11). The following expressions, “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever”, “they have no rest day nor night” show that those people will be tormented forever, and, unlike those who will live forever with the Lord and will rest from their labor, they will never have rest.

John says in the book of Revelation that when Jesus comes back, both the beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20); and that when the millennial reign is over the devil also will be cast into the lake of fire “and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 – NKJV). Obviously since the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will be cast into the lake of fire, we must conclude that they also will be tormented forever and ever (Revelation 21:8).

Jesus said: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire [geenna]: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47-48). Notice that it is written that the worm of the wicked does not die and the fire is not quenched, which shows that the torment which the wicked will suffer in the lake of fire will be endless.

Jude said: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7 – NKJV). That means that when the inhabitants of those wicked cities rise again on that day, they will be condemned to a state of endless torment in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. However, keep in mind that even at present the inhabitants of those cities are tormented, for they are in Hades.

As you can see, the above mentioned verses in one way or another speak of eternal torment. However, as you know, some people say that these verses must not be interpreted literally, but they are greatly mistaken because if it were so as they say we shouldn’t interpret literally the following words of Jesus “but the righteous [will go away] into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46 – NKJV) and the following words of John concerning the righteous “and they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5 – NKJV) either.

How the dead are raised up

Let us see now how the dead are raised up. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven [some manuscripts don’t have ‘the Lord,’ thus they read ‘the second man is from heaven’]. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

In order to explain how the dead are raised up, Paul used some similes. First of all he said that what one sows does not come to life unless it dies, and in fact every seed which is sown must decompose first in order to bear fruit; then Paul said that when one sows he does not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, but God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body. All these things happen in nature at God’s command because the Scripture says that all things continue this day according to His ordinances, and they are useful to us to understand how the dead in Christ are raised.

Man’s body is subject to sickness and to all kinds of pains, and it gets tired when it makes some physical efforts; these are signs which show that man’s body is weak. However, at the resurrection the resurrected saints will receive from God a powerful body, which will not be subject to these things any longer for the former things will pass away and He will make all things new. In other words, the resurrected body will be more powerful than the earthly body. The body of the saints is sown in weakness, for when it is buried is lifeless, but at the resurrection it will be raised in power because it will be full of strength.

We who are in this tent see our body perishing for it is a corruptible body, but when we are clothed with our habitation which is from heaven then we will no longer see it perishing because it will be an incorruptible body. Our body is sown in corruption and it will be raised incorruptible, for the body which is buried decomposes and it returns to the dust as it is written: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 – NKJV), however when it is raised, since it will be immortal, it will never see corruption again.

Paul says also that all flesh is not the same, for men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. He says this so that we may understand that the flesh of which will be made the resurrected bodies of the saints is different from the flesh of their earthly bodies. Yes, because even the resurrected bodies of the saints will be made of flesh, but of a kind of flesh which will be different from the one we have now on earth. This is confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, for Jesus rose again with a powerful and incorruptible body, but at the same time with a body made of flesh and bones, in that when He appeared to His disciples (who thought they were seeing a spirit) He said to them: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:38-39 – NKJV). As you can see, the body of Jesus could be touched because He was not a spirit. However, even though Jesus was not a spirit, He was able to pass through the walls, for the Scripture says that “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them. Peace be with you” (John 20:19NKJV). He could appear to His disciples and could also vanish from their sight and at the same time He could eat and drink with them. Therefore, since Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, when the dead in Christ rise again they will receive a resurrected body which will be like His glorious body.

Furthermore, the apostle says that there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies, but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour. We can see this with our own eyes, can’t we?

Let us consider the angels who are in heaven, which are heavenly beings created by God and thus they have a heavenly body. The splendour of their body differs very much from the splendour of our body. To understand this concept it suffices to consider the appearances of angels to men. For instance, let us consider the angelic vision that the women had at the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. It is written that an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it; “his appearance was like lightning” (Matthew 28:3 – NIV). Besides this vision, we can consider also some visions of angels that some brothers in our generation have seen; there is no doubt, according to their words the splendour of the bodies of these heavenly beings differs from the splendour of our bodies. Therefore, at the resurrection the body which has been sown in dishonor will be raised in glory, in a glory that is much greater than the glory our body has on the earth. Paul confirmed this when he said to the Philippians that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21NKJV).

The apostle Paul says also that just as there is a natural body so there is a spiritual body. However the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The natural body is the body we have now, while the spiritual body is the body which both the dead in Christ (who will rise again) and the saints who are alive at the coming of the Lord (who will be changed) will receive from the Lord on that day. It is called spiritual because it will be made alive by the Spirit of God, as it is written: “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 – NKJV).

Therefore, what we clearly learn from the Scripture is this: “As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:49NKJV).

At this point someone may ask: ‘With what body do the unjust come?’ The Scripture does not say anything about the body with which the unjust will rise again. However, their body will surely be a physical body since their resurrection also will be a physical resurrection. Furthermore, it will be an immortal body because with that body they will be tormented in the lake of fire for ever and ever. When Jesus told His disciples to fear “Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [geenna]” (Matthew 10:28 – NKJV), the body he referred to is the resurrected body of the wicked, since geenna is the everlasting fire into which the wicked will be cast after their resurrection.

On that day death will be destroyed and the saints will receive the redemption of their bodies

Paul says: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

The reason why Paul says that we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, is that at the return of the Lord there will be some believers who will be found alive and since they have not tasted death they will be changed. However, they will obtain a body like the body of the resurrected saints. That’s what we learn also from the following words that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Then, that is, when the dead in Christ rise and we are changed, will death be destroyed; yes, because death has not yet been destroyed. It is true that Paul says to Timothy that Christ “has destroyed death” (2 Timothy 1:10 – NIV), however this destruction applies to the death of Jesus, for it is written that Christ, “having been raised from the dead, dies no more” (Romans 6:9 – NKJV), and not to the death of all the saints who died because they are asleep and they haven’t yet waked up. Believers still die, therefore we must say that death has not yet been swallowed up in victory. Actually death still has a sting, which is sin, that dwells in us, as it is written: “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:20 – NKJV), and again: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 – NKJV). However, at the resurrection this sting will be taken away because in the glorious body we will obtain there will be no more evil or sin. Now as you know it is written: “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Matthew 22:44 – NKJV), therefore Christ is at the right hand of God and He is reigning, waiting for His enemies to be put under His feet, for “now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8 – NKJV). Now according to what Paul says, “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26NKJV). When will it be destroyed? At the resurrection. Then will be brought to pass the word spoken by Isaiah: “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8 – NKJV), and there will be no more death.

On that day the redemption of our body will be fulfilled, for when the Scripture speaks of the resurrection of the just, which will take place on the day of Christ, it refers to the redemption of our body, for Paul says to the Romans: “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23 – NKJV). This, because only on that day the mortal bodies of the righteous will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and will become immortal, glorious and incorruptible. So we can say that when the righteous die, they save their soul but ‘lose’ their body, but they lose it only for a time because they will take it back again in the resurrection, that is, when God raises their bodies. This is an important thing concerning the resurrection of the just, which must be stressed and kept in mind, because it confirms that the resurrection will be a physical resurrection, that is, it confirms that at the resurrection the just will take their own bodies back again, (and this is something which many sects deny). Obviously, since not all the just will die, not all the just will rise again because those who are alive at the coming of the Lord will be only changed; notwithstanding this, the redemption of the body will be experienced also by those who are alive because their bodies will be changed into glorious, incorruptible and immortal bodies, thus they also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Our hope

Dear brothers in the Lord, the resurrection of our body is the hope we have in God, and how distressed we are till it is fulfilled! Paul expressed this distress in these terms: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4 – NKJV). Read more…

The sin that leads to death

16 February 2019

The sin that leads to death

REDEMPTION

What the sin unto death is and the impossibility of repenting of it

The apostle John wrote: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16-17).

Brethren, all wrongdoing is sin and we know that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), as John says. Now, the Scripture says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), therefore, if a son of God commits a sin the transgression of the law will repay him with death, that’s why if a believer sins, after he has sinned, he feels disturbed and unhappy and feels a pain that pierces him like an arrow inside him, because the wages of sin is death. But the apostle wrote: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16), which means that if we see a brother commit a sin which does not lead to death, we must pray God so that he might be made alive; yes, because God gives life to those who commit a sin that does not lead to death and repent of it, confessing and forsaking it. However, there is a sin of which a believer cannot repent, because it is impossible for those who commit this sin to be brought back to repentance and thus it is useless to pray for them, as it is written: “I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:17). In other words, for those brothers who have committed this sin leading to death there is no possibility that they may repent and receive life from God. What is the destiny awaiting these people? They will be condemned to the second death (that is, the lake which burns with fire and brimstone), because this kind of sin leads those who commit it to the second death.

Now, since all wrongdoing is sin and there are many kinds of sins, we have to ascertain through the Scriptures what the sin leading to death is, in order to prevent someone among us from saying that a certain brother has committed the sin leading to death for he has seen that brother commit a sin; that is to say, in order to prevent believers from accusing falsely other believers of having committed the sin to death. When we speak of the sin unto death (and not only when we speak of this biblical subject but also when we speak of any other biblical subject) we have to divide rightly the word of truth lest we unsettle the souls of believers and drive them to despair through words that don’t apply to them, because they have not committed the sin unto death. Now, let us see what the epistle to the Hebrews says about this sin in order to understand what it is.

It is written: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8). First of all, let’s look closely at the qualities of those of whom the Scripture says “if they shall fall away it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance” because these qualities can be and are possessed only by true children of God washed from their sins in the blood of the Lamb. I say this because some believers pass this sin off as a sin committed by people who had not yet accepted the Word of God completely or people who were approaching the Lord, but that’s not true at all because those persons of whom the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews speak are true believers and not false believers.

Brethren, those who, after they hear the Gospel of grace, approach God recognizing that they are sinners and need to be saved have been enlightened by God who is light; and when they believe with their heart in our Lord Jesus Christ obtaining the remission of their sins and eternal life they taste the heavenly gift, which is Jesus Christ, for Paul says: “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and John says about the Son of God: “This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).Afterwards, when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit they become partakers of the Holy Spirit because they are filled with the Holy Spirit (however, this does not mean that they did not have the Holy Spirit before, for every man receives a measure of the Spirit when he believes in the Lord). The words “they have tasted the good word of God” mean that they have fed on “the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2 – NKJV) as well as solid food, which “belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 – NKJV). The words “they have tasted the powers of the world to come” means that they have received some gifts of the Holy Spirit through which believers taste the powers of the world to come. Now, if these persons, who have experienced all these things, reject the Lord and draw back (they are again entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome), deciding not to follow the Lord any longer and to renounce the Christ (they even don’t want to hear people speaking about Christ any longer), they commit the sin unto death, and we don’t have to pray for them because it is impossible to renew them again to repentance because they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says that the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God, but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and cursed and its end is to be burned; in the same way, if a believer abides in the Lord, the Lord abides in him, he bears much fruit to the glory of God and God blesses him; but if he ceases to abide in the Lord, the Lord will cease to abide in him and he will bear only thorns and briers, and thus he will become a man disapproved concerning the faith, an accursed child, who will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone where he will burn and be tormented forever.

The reason why the writer of this epistle wrote these things to the Jews who had believed in our Lord Jesus Christ was that those believers were enduring a great persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ and they were tempted, in the midst of that persecution, to draw back; and so the writer of the epistle, knowing the sufferings they had to endure for the Gospel’s sake, exhorted them to hold their confidence in Christ steadfast to the end and warned them against drawing back and renouncing the grace to offer again those sin offerings whose blood could not take away sins, because if they drew back they would condemn themselves to the everlasting perdition, they would deserve such a punishment because in so doing they would trample the Son of God underfoot and count the blood of the covenant by which they had been sanctified a common thing and they would insult the Spirit of grace. Here is what the writer of that epistle wrote about the end awaiting those who draw back and about the punishment they deserve to receive from the living God: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31). These words are addressed to all of us who have believed as well, because the writer himself, who was a believer, included himself among those who could draw back to perdition saying: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth … ” (Hebrews 10:26) – we who are children of God have received the knowledge of the truth -, and because we are those people who were sanctified by the blood of the covenant (that is, the blood of Jesus Christ). Therefore, brethren, if those who have known the truth which is in Christ Jesus sin wilfully, that is, sin unto death, they commit a sin that will never be forgiven them (because it is a sin that will pay the transgressors back with the everlasting death) and they will go to perdition because they will lose the good hope (the hope of salvation) they have; only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God is left. They will deserve to be punished much more severely than those who broke the law of Moses and were put to death, because they have trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of Christ with which they were sprinkled a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace, that is, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts and by whom we cry out: “Abba, Father!” (with regard to this last thing, remember that Jesus said: “But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” [Mark 3:29 – NKJV]).

The possibility of repenting for those who commit a sin which does not lead to death

Brethren, I want you to know that both this expression “if they shall fall away” (Hebrews 6:6 – or “if they fall away” NKJV) and this other one “if we sin wilfully” (Hebrews 10:26), apply only to the sin which leads to death and not to all sins, because according to the Holy Scriptures a believer who commits a sin which is not unto death can repent of it and be forgiven by the Lord. Now I will show you from the Scriptures that it is possible for those believers who commit a sin which is not unto death to be brought back to repentance and that we can receive the remission of all sins except the sin unto death.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Therefore, a believer who commits a sin which does not lead to death can be restored, that is, he can be exhorted to repent of his sin and be forgiven by the Lord if he repents. When the apostle says ‘in a fault’ or “in a sin” (NIV), he does not include the sin unto death among the sins in which a believer may be caught, because those who commit the sin unto death cannot be restored since it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance. It is true that “a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Proverbs 24:16); however, it is also true that if the just falls, committing the sin which leads to death, he will never be able to rise again.

Jesus said: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Therefore, a brother who commits a sin which is not unto death can repent and be forgiven. Please note that the Scripture does not say: ‘If your brother sins unto death, rebuke him,’ because – as we saw before – for those who have committed the sin unto death it is impossible to repent and thus it is useless to rebuke them and to pray for them.

John said: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10). Therefore, we can confess our sins to the Lord and we know for certain that they will be forgiven us. If all sins were unto death, we would be hopeless, brethren, and the Scripture would be nullified because we could not even confess our sins to God to obtain the remission of them; we could not say to God: “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12 – NKJV), which would mean that God has deceived us. Those who commit the sin unto death will never be forgiven, that’s why the sin unto death cannot be included among the sins that can be confessed to God and washed by the blood of Jesus Christ; bear in mind this always.

James says: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). From the words of James, therefore, we learn that if a brother wanders from the truth he can be converted, thus he still can repent. Therefore, we cannot say that if a brother wanders from the truth, giving heed to some strange doctrines, he has committed the sin unto death and so he cannot repent any longer, for James says that he can be turned from the error of his way and his sins can be forgiven. The point I would like to underline is this: it is possible to renew again to repentance a brother who has wandered from the truth, but it is not possible to do the same thing towards a brother who has committed the sin unto death. Paul also says that a brother who has wandered from the truth can be renewed again to repentance, for after saying to Timothy that Hymenaeus and Philetus were among those who had wandered away from the truth because they said that the resurrection had already taken place, he said to him: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 – NKJV). As you can see, Paul says that the servant of the Lord must gently correct those who oppose the truth (they oppose the truth because they have wandered from the truth) because God may grant them repentance and allow them to escape from the trap of the devil into which they have fallen. The same thing cannot happen if a believer commits the sin unto death because – as we saw before – it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance. Read more…

By standing firm you will save yourselves

13 February 2019

By standing firm you will save yourselves

Introduction

Dear brothers in the Lord, we are bound to thank God for you, because you also believed in our Lord Jesus Christ, having been chosen by God, from the beginning, for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. However, we are also bound to remind you that “we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14NKJV. In the second part of this passage the NIV reads: “If we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first”), which means that we have become one spirit with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17) through faith in Him, but if we want to remain one spirit with Him and to inherit the Kingdom of God we have to keep our faith till the end of our life. What will happen to us if we cease to believe in the Lord, who saved us? We will lose our salvation and go to perdition. Through this writing of mine, therefore, I want to exhort you to continue in the faith till the end, so that on that day you also might obtain “the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

The people of Israel: an example of disobedience

I am going to speak to you about the people of Israel and their example of disobedience in order to make you realize that the Israelites believed in God at first, but afterwards they drew back, and because of their unbelief their bodies were scattered in the wilderness and they could not enter the rest of God; I believe that we all must remember the obstinate and rebellious conduct of this nation during his journey in the wilderness and the consequences of that conduct lest we follow their example.

According to the Scripture, the children of Israel went down to Egypt with Jacob, while Joseph was ruling over Egypt. The reason why they went down to Egypt was that Joseph, after he made himself known to his brothers, sent for his father and his whole family. They came to Egypt and dwelt in the land of Goshen, where they lived peacefully as long as Joseph was alive and they survived the great famine which came upon all the nations at that time (which had been predicted by Joseph). But after the death of Joseph “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), who, seeing that the Israelites had become more numerous than the Egyptians, lest they should become even more numerous and, if war broke out, they should join their enemies, fight against them and leave the country, decided to oppress the Israelites with forced labor and enslaved them to prevent them from multiplying. That oppression and slavery lasted a long time. However, all this happened by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God because a long time before God had told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land that was not theirs, and would serve them, and they would afflict them four hundred years. But just as God had predicted the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, so He predicted also their deliverance, for He had said to Abraham: “Afterward they shall come out with great possessions. …. But in the fourth generation they shall return here” (Genesis 15:14,16 – NKJV), that is, in the land of Canaan. And that is what happened, for God sent Moses to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh, and after He had worked through Moses great and terrible signs and wonders against Pharaoh and the Egyptians (which were the judgements He executed on them), He brought His people out of the iron furnace, where they had been four centuries. After God divided the Red Sea before the Israelites and made them walk on dry ground through the midst of the sea, the Scripture says that “Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31). In the Book of Psalms also it is written that after the Israelites saw that wonder they believed in the Lord, for it is written: “Then believed they his words; they sang his praise” (Psalm 106:12). Keep these words before your eyes because they clearly show that the Israelites, after they had gone out of the land of Egypt with joy and gladness, believed in God and in His servant Moses.

But what happened afterwards, during their journey in the wilderness? Here is what happened according to the Scripture: “They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness: To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands” (Psalm 106:13-27). As you can see, it is written that they did not believe the Word of God and they did not heed the voice of the Lord. The same Israelites whom God had brought out of the land of Egypt with joy and gladness, and who had believed the words of God at the Read Sea, cast the law of God behind their backs and refused to believe in God when God said to them: “Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21). This is the sin committed by the people of Israel in the wilderness of which I am going to speak: unbelief.

Now, according to the Word of God, the Israelites, when God divided the Red Sea before them, believed the words which God had revealed to His servant Moses and feared God. Therefore, the fact that afterwards they rebelled against the commandments of God and did not believe the commandment of God, who told them to possess the land of Canaan, shows that they did not continue in the faith and in the fear of God. And consider also that those people who did not continue in the faith and in the fear of God were not people who had not seen God working miracles but were men and women who had seen with their eyes God working terrible things, both in Egypt and in the wilderness, who, after they had been delivered from the four centuries old bondage in Egypt, rejoiced greatly because after so long time they could relish their freedom.

God was disgusted with that stubborn and rebellious generation, which did not set its heart aright and whose spirit was not faithful to God, and He said: “Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:10-11). That was the witness which God witnessed of those Israelites and the judgement He pronounced on them. As you can see, God swore that He would not make those Israelites enter His rest because of their unbelief. Indeed, when they arrived near the land of Canaan, the good news was preached to them as well, but that word did not profit them because they refused to believe it, as it is written: “But the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (Hebrews 4:2 – NIV). Therefore, the behaviour of those Israelites must not be imitated. However, it must be remembered because what they did occurred as example and was written for our admonition. For it shows us what destiny is awaiting those who cease to believe the word of God.

Now, let’s talk about us because our story, in certain things, looks like the story of the Israelites. For a certain period of time we lived under the power of Satan, who oppressed us and enslaved us with his strength and his craftiness; we don’t recall that period of our life with joy (because we are now ashamed of all those things which we did while we were under his power); however, we must recall it because it helps us to understand how great and glorious is the deliverance God worked for us. Yes, because we also have been delivered from a slavery, yet not from the slavery of some earthly tyrants, but from the slavery of sin and of the devil. However, we all recall with much pleasure the day on which, by the grace of God, we were delivered from that slavery, because on that day our sins were blotted out and the joke which oppressed us was broken. We thank God for He did this through Christ Jesus, namely, the One whom God sent into this world to deliver us from our sins and from the power of Satan. On that day, our heart overflowed with joy, with a joy that we had never felt while we were under the power of Satan and slaves of sin; personally I have to say that the day I repented of my sins and called upon the name of the Lord, asking Him to have mercy on me, at first I wept because God caused me to feel sad (as it is written: “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” – 2 Corinthians 7:10 – NKJV), but then I rejoiced because He turned my sadness to joy setting me free from my sins and forgiving them. On that day I tasted the true freedom which is in Christ Jesus, I tasted the true peace which is given by the Lord, I tasted the joy of salvation; at last, after many years of hard slavery, I was able to proclaim that the Lord Jesus had set me free, that I was a son of God; thanks be to God for saving me, as well as you, from the power of the devil. For us on that day a new life began, we began to live in the Lord Jesus Christ; we began by faith because it was by faith that we obtained the deliverance from our sins and from the power of the devil. And by faith we must continue to live this life till the end, in order to enter the Rest of God. Otherwise, that is, if we cease to believe in Him who saved us, we will go to perdition. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews exhorts the saints to continue in the faith and tells them what will happen to a believer if he draws back. Here are his words: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Hebrews 3:12-15). Brothers in the Lord, I want you to know that just as a heart that believes in God is a good heart, so an unbelieving heart is an evil heart; and that you must see to it that you prevent your good heart from becoming an evil heart of unbelief. That kind of heart is called evil because induces a person not to believe the Word of God and thus it prevents him from inheriting eternal life. We know that God says: “My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Hebrews 10:38 – NIV); therefore, since an evil heart of unbelief induces a believer to draw back and to become an enemy of God (Because “without faith it is impossible to please Him” Hebrews 11:6 – NKJV), we must watch lest unbelief enter us and make us draw back to perdition.

The Scripture teaches that “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20) and that we inherit them through faith and patience. Now, this is the promise that God has promised us – eternal life, for He said through His Son: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). However, it is clear that we will inherit eternal life if we continue in the faith till the end; which means that we have need of endurance so that we may receive eternal life, which God promised us. When I say that we have need of endurance, I mean that we need to believe in the promise of eternal life daily, or rather continually, because we know that we will inherit eternal life through faith and patience, but we will lose it if we cease to believe in God.

The story of the people of Israel teaches us that they could not inherit the promised land because of their unbelief; God had promised them through Moses (while they were still in Egypt) that He would give them a wonderful land flowing with milk and honey, and at first they believed in God, but when they were on the point of possessing the land God had promised them, they hardened their heart and refused to believe in God, because they thought that God was not able to give them the land he had promised them because that land was inhabited by the giants. The fear of the giants induced them to doubt the promise of God and they could not obtain its fulfilment. Let us see to it that we don’t doubt the promises of God, because anyone who doubts them makes God a liar, as it is written: “He who does not believe God has made Him a liar” (1 John 5:10 – NKJV).

Let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4 – NKJV), therefore, since He who has promised us eternal life cannot lie, let us continue to believe His promise till the end, without wavering at the promise of God through unbelief. Only those who believe till the end will enter the rest of God, while all those who draw back like the Israelites in the wilderness, will not enter it; therefore, as the Scripture says, “let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11 – NKJV).

Examples of men who inherited the promises of God through faith and patience

Brethren, you know that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4) till the end. Let us now look at some biblical examples of men who inherited God’s promises through faith and patience, because they encourage us to hold fast the confession of our hope to the end and they comfort us in the midst of the afflictions we endure for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Noah was a just and upright man and walked with God. However, he lived in the midst of a wicked generation, so wicked that God, seeing that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, was sorry that He had made man on the earth and decided to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which was the breath of life. So God brought flood-waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh, but before bringing the flood He warned Noah and commanded him to make an ark of gopherwood for the saving of his household. The Scripture says: “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:13-21). Now, we learn from the Scripture that after Noah was five hundred years old he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth, and that Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth. However, we do not known the exact time when God warned Noah commanding him to make the ark, because the Scripture is silent on this point. However, we know that many years elapsed from the day on which God warned Noah to the day on which the flood-waters came on the earth. And it was during those years that Noah, by faith, moved by godly fear, prepared the ark: therefore, Noah did see the fulfilment of the promise of God not after a few days but after many years and during those years he had to wait with patience and to continue to believe in what God had said to him. Noah was warned of things not yet seen, but after God spoke to him he believed that God would do exactly what He had said to him, that is, that God would bring a flood of waters on the earth to destroy all flesh. He did not doubt the words of the Lord thinking that such a thing could not occur because it was too hard for the Lord, rather, he feared the Lord and began to build the ark. The work was hard and lasted a long time because Noah had to make an ark of the above mentioned dimensions. Considering all things on the whole, bearing in mind also that Noah lived among people who did not fear God at all, we have to say that both Noah’s faith and patience were tested by God; but he was approved by God because he did not draw back, in spite of the strong opposition he met with, but with faith and patience he went on until the day on which God brought the flood on the world of the ungodly, as He had promised. Of course, Noah was tested by God, but he was not put to shame by God because it is written that by his faith “he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).

The prophet Jeremiah spoke from God to the people of the kingdom of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for many years; we can say that he spoke for dozens of years, because according to the Scripture about forty years elapsed from the time God began to speak to Jeremiah (in the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah) to the time Jerusalem fell by the hand of the Chaldean army (in the eleventh year of Zedekiah king of Judah). Jeremiah was persecuted and insulted by all those who did not want to obey the word of God which Jeremiah delivered to them. One day Jeremiah himself said: “ I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me” (Jeremiah 15:10). However, in the midst of his afflictions God promised him: “Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction” (Jeremiah 15:11 – the NIV reads: “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose: surely I will make your enemies plead with you in times of disaster and times of distress”. In other words, God promised Jeremiah that He would cause his enemies, who said all kinds of lies against him, to come to him and to plead with him. However, in this case also, Jeremiah had to wait for the fulfilment of that promise with patience for many years because God fulfilled that promise after Jerusalem was broken up and many of his inhabitants were carried into exile, as it is written: “Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do” (Jeremiah 42:1-3).

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. So he came to a certain place (which afterwards was called by him Bethel) where he stayed all night because the sun had set. During that night he had a dream in which God spoke to him and promised him: “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). Now, according to what the Scripture teaches, Jacob saw the fulfilment of that promise after twenty years, for he dwelt twenty years in the land of the people of the East (Paddan Aram). After twenty years God appeared to Jacob while he was in Paddan Aram and told him: “Now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” (Genesis 31:13). We know that Jacob endured many afflictions during his stay in Paddan Aram, but God eventually caused him to return to the land of Canaan with several wives, some children and many goods. So we affirm that Jacob also continued to believe in the promise of God during those years, thus he also waited patiently in order to obtain from God what God had promised him.

Just before Jesus was taken up into heaven, He commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem “but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, he said, you have heard from Me, for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5 – NKJV). In this case, the disciples obtained the fulfilment of that specific promise of the Lord after a few days, for it was on the day of Pentecost that the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit; they waited with faith and patience for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and at God’s appointed time the Spirit came upon them all. Read more…

The purpose of God according to election

9 February 2019

The purpose of God according to election

REDEMPTION

God has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens

The apostle Paul says to the Romans: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Now, according to the apostle Paul, those whom God foreknew were predestinated to be justified. But what does this expression ‘God foreknew some and predestinated them to be justified’ mean? Does it mean, perhaps, merely that God knew that these people would repent and believe in Christ, and thus they would be justified? No, otherwise what would be the point of talking of predestination with regard to them? Is it not true that the verb ‘to predestinate’ means ‘to appoint beforehand’? Let me give you an example to explain this concept. If I decide to buy a certain field in order to appoint a certain part of it, let us suppose a tenth of it, to the building of a house; and another part, the rest of the field, to the citrus fruits growing; don’t I determine the destiny of that field beforehand? And when I have bought it and accomplished my purpose, cannot we say that that field was predestinated by me to be used in that way? Of course, we can. Therefore, if God predestinated us to be justified that means that even before we knew Him (that is, before we believed in Him) He purposed to cause us to believe in His Son Jesus Christ. In other words, He purposed to call us from all men He created. And therefore, at His appointed time, He overpowered us and prevailed, He persuaded us and we were persuaded, without us knowing absolutely anything about His divine plan for us. Perhaps you will say: ‘It was I who wanted to repent and believe in Jesus, it was I who made this choice?’ Then I would like to ask you some questions: ‘Who gave you repentance?’ Was it not God who gave you repentance, as it is written: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18NKJV). And who gave you faith? Was it not God who gave you faith, for Paul calls faith “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) and says that it is not of ourselves? What do you have that you did not receive from God then? Nothing. Therefore, if you repented and believed it was because God gave you repentance and faith. He had ordained you to eternal life, that’s why you believed; just as the believers at Antioch in Pisidia believed in the Lord because they had been ordained to eternal life, as it is written: “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48 – NKJV). But at this point you may say: ‘But it was I who decided to come to Jesus!’ Well, you came to Jesus because you wanted to come to Jesus, that’s true; but it is also true that you came to Jesus because God wanted to draw you to Christ without you knowing anything about His will. Have you not read these words of Jesus: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …. no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:44,65)? Please, note that Jesus said ‘except’ twice. Therefore, I tell you that you would not have come to Christ UNLESS it had been granted to you by the Father. So you came to Jesus because God drew you to Christ, that is to say, because It was granted to you by God to come to Christ.

At this point you may say: ‘Then, do those who don’t repent and believe in Jesus go to perdition because of a decree of God toward them? Yes, that’s the reason why they go to perdition. You may say then: ‘This is an injustice, thus you make people believe that God is an unrighteous God, a merciless God, who makes fun of His creatures!’ Hear what the Scripture teaches and you will see that what you say is wrong. The apostle Paul, in order to explain why only a remnant of the Israelites has accepted God’s salvation while most of the Jews have rejected it, speaks of the birth of Esau and Jacob. He says that “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her [Rebecca], The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:11-13). The words of Paul show that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau even before they were born or had done anything good or bad. Their destiny had already been determined by God before they were born. Obviously, after their birth what God had foretold came to pass, for the older served the younger. But why did those things happen? Simply because Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Jacob deceitfully took away the blessing of Esau? In other words, did the older serve the younger simply because Esau and Jacob decided to act in that way (both Jacob and Esau acted wrongly)? Yes, of course, the fact that the older served the younger was the outcome of the behaviour of both brothers; however, behind all things there was the hand of God who directed all things, so that the word He had spoken to Rebecca might be fulfilled. Was God unjust by acting in that way toward Esau and Jacob? Certainly not. Is it not written that God does whatever pleases him in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths (Psalm 135:6)? Is it not written that God is proved right when He speaks and blameless when He judges (Psalm 51:4)? The apostle Paul, foreseeing that somebody would say that God is unjust, defended what God does, saying: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid [Certainly not!]. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:14-18). The words of Paul are clear, very clear, and certainly this clearness disturbs many people. Please, note that Paul takes the example of Pharaoh in order to state that God hardens whom He wants to harden. You will ask me then, ‘Do you believe then that God hardens some people? Yes, I do believe this, God hardens whom He wants to harden, just as the Scripture declares. However, in the Scriptures there is another example of hardening caused by God. For in the days of Jesus most of the Jews were hardened by God so that they might not believe in Jesus. Here is what John says: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37-40). Why didn’t those Jews believe in Jesus? Because they could not believe. The reason is clear, for God had hardened their heart and had blinded their eyes. In other words, because it was not granted to them to believe in Jesus or to come to Him. It was necessary that the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled, therefore those Jews could not believe. Whose are the words spoken by Isaiah? They are God’s. Therefore, God had purposed not to allow most of the Jews to believe. Jesus knew this, that’s why He spoke to the crowds in parables. One day His disciples asked Him why He spoke to the people in parables and He answered and said to them: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:11-13). Nevertheless, Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it had rejected Him and He said that they did not want to turn to the Lord. Here are His words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). “Ye would not”, said Jesus. Yet He knew that they were not willing to accept Him because God had hardened their heart and blinded their eyes. That shows that those who reject the Gospel are held responsible for refusing the Gospel, even though they reject the Gospel because they were appointed by God to be disobedient to the Word of God.

It was necessary for the Jews to reject Christ, so that Christ might die for our sins; that is to say, God had purposed to cause the Jews to persecute Jesus and to put Him to death, through the Gentiles, by nailing Him to the cross for our sake. For Peter said to the Jews: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24 – NIV). Please note carefully the words “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge”. Evidently the Jews did not know that by their conduct they would fulfil the words of the prophets according to which Jesus had to die for the unjust, yet God used their wickedness and unbelief so that Christ might die for our sins. Therefore, should we not recognize that God is wise and use those who have been hardened by Him to accomplish what He has purposed to do? And should we not also recognize that God gains glory for Himself by hardening the hearts of people? For both in the case of Pharaoh (I mentioned before) and of the Jews, who crucified Jesus, God gained very much glory for Himself. As to Pharaoh, he was deeply humbled by God through all kinds of signs and wonders first, and then he and his army were thrown into the Red Sea, and when the Israelites saw what God had done to the Egyptians they praised God for His greatness (Exodus 15:1-19). As to the Jews who killed Jesus, they were put to shame by God for He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and when His disciples saw Him alive in their midst they rejoiced in the Lord, and from that time on all those who have believed in the Lord have rejoiced in the Lord for God raised His Son from the dead. At that time God gained very much glory for Himself through the resurrection of His Son (Luke 24:53) and He is still gaining very much glory for Himself through it.

First Paul said that God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy and He hardens whom He wants to harden, then he said: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24). Once again the words of Paul are clear. God reigns and He prepared in advance some men for destruction and some others for glory. Who are we to reply against God?

The will of man and the possibility of falling from grace

What shall we say then about the will of man, if all his ways depend on God and his destiny was determined beforehand by God? We shall say the following things: the will of those who still live under the power of darkness is moulded by God and turned in the direction He has appointed, without them knowing it; so those who were predestinated to be justified will be allowed or enabled by God (at God’s appointed time), through endless circumstances, to believe in Jesus Christ, while those who were prepared for destruction will not be allowed or enabled to believe.

And what shall we say then about the conduct of those who have believed in the Lord? We shall say this: those who have believed must see to it that they make their call and election sure by continuing in the faith and being zealous for good works, for this is the will of God. But can a believer lose justification? The answer is ‘Yes,’ because this is what the Scripture teaches us. For if a believer draws back, by committing the sin unto death (in other words, if he forsakes and denies the Lord who has rescued him), he will lose the justification he has obtained by faith and his name will be blotted out from the Book of Life. For God said to Moses: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33), and the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8) and again: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29)

How then can we ‘reconcile’ these doctrines (that is, the doctrine of predestination and the doctrine that says that a believer may lose his salvation and go to perdition)? Of course, we can, even though it seems the opposite. Actually, it seems that these doctrines nullify one another, that they contradict one another, however we know that both of them are true, both of them are part of the counsel of God. Therefore, do not deceive yourselves.

Some words in defence of predestination

We are really surprised to see that this doctrine, which is so much confirmed by the Holy Scriptures, is so much neglected among many Churches. Many pastors don’t speak about the purpose of God according to election, they never teach it. You may hear them speaking about certain things which were not revealed to us, but you will never hear them speaking about the purpose of God according to election, which was revealed to us. Why? The reasons are various.

Certainly, one of the reasons is their ignorance; in other words, they don’t know the Scriptures. Unfortunately we see that they are ignorant of many other biblical doctrines as well. Read more…

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