PS1 Parable of Sower

Parable of the Sower

Seasons of Life for the Child of God

(Found in Mt 13:3-23; Mr 4:3-20, and Lu 8:4-15)

Introduction

There are many things that our Lord taught while He walked this earth, and the method most commonly utilized was speaking by way of parables.  A parable uses a natural example to teach a higher spiritual truth.  In studying parables and other Biblical stories, keep in mind not all the elements may have a spiritual significance.  Like a portrait, the red of the paint in the picture might be symbolic of something, but the paint itself constructs the portrait.  So, in parables, one must realize that certain things may be used to set the natural picture but not be part of the spiritual application.  If we try to carry types and shadows too far and make symbolism where none exists, many errors can result in trying to rightly divide the meaning of different passages. 

Many times, the parable confounds the wise of the world as it uses subject matter that is considered “beneathâ€their concern, but the parable can be a great source of understanding to the poor of this world as it uses a poor, working man’s knowledge.  Our Lord even told His disciples (which is relevant for us today), “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.â€(Mr 4:11-12)

To the disciple of Christ, God reveals the mystery of the kingdom of heaven through this manner of teaching, but to those that are without, it appears as just foolishness and vain jangling.  When the preaching of the gospel today is proclaimed in much demonstration of the Spirit and with power, it is the power of God unto salvation unto them that believe, but to them that perish, it is just foolishness. (1Co 1:18) Therefore, when looking at the parables that Christ spoke, they should show forth the power of God to us as the household of faith.

In addition to this, the parable of the sower is vitally important to our understanding of Christ’s teachings.  He declares this great importance to the disciples, “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?â€(Mr 4:13)  Our Lord Himself makes it plain that if we do not understand the true teaching of this parable, then we cannot understand any of the rest that follow.  This is the first parable He gave, and we must rightly divide what He teaches to the glory of God, edification of the saints, and in this case, the utilization of further understanding in other teachings.

We will attempt to journey through the four pieces of ground that our Lord talks about in this parable and show forth that all pieces of ground represent His children at different seasons in their lives.  The walk of a child of God has different appearances due to the current state of discipleship (or lack thereof), and these 4 plots of ground show forth the different seasons that we find ourselves in over the course of our natural lives.  Then, knowing the dangers and pitfalls from Christ’s explanation of the parable, we can then proceed with the proper course of action for rectifying problems and above all, bringing forth acceptable fruit to God. 

Before launching into this effort, we must first lay the foundation found in 2Ti 2:19, which states, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.  And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.â€ン  While this parable does talk about children of God at different seasons, this parable (or any other teaching of the Bible) should not be used to try to prove in our daily lives who is a child of God and who is not.  We see positive evidences in different respects, but the final chair of authority of this matter sits in heaven, and we should be content to leave it with Him.

Way Side

The first plot of ground mentioned is the way side or what we might think of as fallow ground.  In the three gospel accounts, the way side has seed sown by the sower that gets plucked up by the fowls of the air.  Since the ground is fallow (having no depth or furrow to lodge in), it becomes an easy target for birds to carry away.

When Christ begins the explanation of the parable, He declares that the seed is the word.  This word is preached (sown) by the sower in a “broadcastâ€fashion.  The expression “broadcastâ€is an old farming term that means scattered in every direction.  If a farmer sowed seed in his field in a “broadcastâ€manner, his scattering will find many different areas of ground.  Some of the seed will land in furrowed areas and others will land outside the furrows in thorny, fallow, or stony ground.  The sower proceeds in this manner, and the gospel minister today has little idea sometimes what kind of ground he sows to in the congregation.  There may be a little of all types in one congregation, but the preaching is done in this way.

Now, some declare that the word sown by the way side cannot be a child of God as Satan carries it away.  However, our Lord plainly declares that the word sown is sown in the heart. (Mr 4:15) The word that the minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ preaches and proclaims will find no lodging (even temporarily) in the heart of a goat.  When Stephen preached to some in an unregenerate state in Ac 7, it found no lodging but rather cut them right down TO the heart.  The preached word will NEVER go IN the heart of one that is not of the Lord.

So, why does Satan or the wicked one carry it away?  The reason Satan carries off the preached word is because the plot of ground lacks understanding. (Mt 13:19) When God regenerates one of His children by His Spirit, God does not immediately endow His child with profound knowledge of all or many spiritual things.  It takes much time, study, meditation, and pressing into the kingdom to learn of what has been done for us and what our behaviour should be (breaking up the fallow clods of this body). 

Now, we need to discern the difference between the heart and the mind for the application of certain concepts in this parable.  The word sown in the heart shows forth that the heart can receive this word.  The heart naturally is hard and stony, but spiritually (after regeneration) made a heart of flesh. (Eze 36:25-26) We use the mind for the service of the Lord.  Paul declared at the close of the discussion on the warfare of a child of God that his mind served the law of God.  (Ro 7:25) So, the difference between the heart and the mind is that the Lord makes one new, and we use the other in service to that new-found life.

The reason that this is so important is that our minds (what we serve with) can become clouded if the flesh (clods of ground) start crowding in.  The heart is alive and changed (with Christ as its image), but the mind can be overrun by the body if we do not serve the Lord in newness of life.  “For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.â€(Jer 4:3) Breaking up this fallow ground means that we clear the clods out so that the mind has its understanding and vision clear for the plow of service.  So, this account shows that the joy of the service (coming from the preached word) is taken from the heart.  The heart is still intact, alive, and holy, but the joy of the Lord has been stolen, making our minds cloudy and our service weak.

Sometimes in my life I am blessed to be in the Lord’s service carried away above this world in the mountain of our God.  Then, sometimes just moments after the service ends, I find myself again without understanding (in the mind) for not applying the instruction that I heard.  We are commanded to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2Pe 3:18) If we do not increase our understanding, we are ill-prepared to stand against the wiles of the devil and are subject to having the preached word stolen from us for not keeping it in memory (or in mind) as we should. (1Co 15:2)

We cannot lose our eternal home, beloved, but our joy of His salvation is subject to be removed based on our laziness.  So, the way side ground can be representative of a babe in Christ (in understanding), but fallow ground can also come about due to lack of cultivation.  As stewards of the mysteries of God, it is required that we be faithful in our duties.  If we “rest on our laurelsâ€so to speak, the ground can become hardened and unreceptive to the preached word.  Then, we will find ourselves in paths that are not pleasing to our heavenly Father.

Stony Ground

The stony ground is probably where I meet most of the Lord’s children outside the Lord’s church, and I am apt to find myself very quickly in the stony ground if I am not careful.  The stony ground comes about primarily from lack of cultivation.  When you find a farm that has rocks in the field and furrows, you will also find a lazy farmer.  Rocks and stones seem to continually find lodging in this low ground of sin and sorrow.

As with all the pieces of ground, this particular plot MUST be children of God.  When Christ explains the parable, He declares that they on the stony ground are they that hear the word and receive it with joy. (Mt 13:20) Now, the Holy Scriptures declare that joy is the fruit of the Spirit. (Ga 5:22-23) Fruit is a manifestation of the root or cause of the matter, so this plot must be born of the Spirit to be able to manifest joy.

As we differentiated the heart and mind above, we now will seek to do the same with joy and happiness.  Happiness is an emotion that all men have as a result of something going according to their desires.  When a natural man gets his way (whether it be more money, fame, or friends), he will be happy about his circumstance.  However, joy is not synonymous with this emotion.  Many times, joy accompanies happiness, but true joy comes from within and comes from an overflowing of a glad heart.  Consider a funeral service for a loved one.  Naturally, there is nothing to be happy about.  How could the flesh have anything to glory in on this occasion? 

However, joy can come if one sees that their loved one has been relieved of all suffering, affliction, and tribulation.  Indeed, sorrow results over the loss of the fellowship, but joy also results at the calling of another precious child of God to heaven and immortal glory.  The crucifixion of Christ similarly follows this situation:  much sorrow exists in thinking of that event because our sins put Him there; but, much joy also exists in thinking of what great things He has done for us and how much we have to look forward to.

Seeing then that the stony ground must be speaking of children of God, how is it applicable?  Our Lord says that these receive it with joy, and then the sun withers them; for, they have no depth of root or earth.  When looking at the natural realm, a plant that springs up from amongst the stones has no strength, and it can easily be dashed.  When viewing the spiritual realm, no depth of earth comes when we fill our minds with the stones of life.  By filling our minds with the notions of man, we do not put self aside for our Master.

Notice that our Lord says the reason these fell away from lack of depth was because they were offended when afflictions arose for the word’s sake. (Mr 4:17) The Lord’s children that reside in stony ground are easily offended, and they do not earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) It takes great discipline of mind to put self aside and shamelessly follow the Lamb.  It takes great humility and stripping of pride to not only love your friends but love your enemies as well.

Notice the multitude that followed Christ in Joh 6.  He fed them with natural loaves in the miracle of the feeding of 5,000|, and He fed them with spiritual loaves in the teaching of Himself as the bread of life.  During His sermon, He reproves their prideful attitude for holding on to Moses and the law as their strength and comfort.  Finally, many of them say, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?â€(Joh 6:60) Then, a few verses later we read, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.â€(Joh 6:66)

These disciples quit following after the Lamb of God, for they could not remove their own selfish pride.  It is a hard saying sometimes to forget the things of the flesh (rocks).  We have our own notions of the way things ought to be, and we demonstrate much pride if we continue holding on to them.  When someone thinks highly of himself, he will not enjoy hearing how worthless and wretched we were by nature, and we had absolutely nothing to do with our eternal redemption.  Sometimes, our minds have a rock in them that says, “You’re not so bad; there is a spark of good in everyone.â€

These rocks need “chunkingâ€into the ditch and out of the field.  When labouring in the vineyard of the Lord, sometimes our minds need cleaning before we can properly focus on the field of labour in the kingdom.  After we remove the stones, then we will not be offended when persecutions and afflictions arise.  Rather, we can rejoice as the Apostles did that they were counted worthy to suffer these reproaches for His name’s sake. (Ac 5:41)

Thorny Ground

Thorny ground in the natural world comes as a direct result of sin.  One of God’s first curses was upon the ground.  He cursed it so that it brought forth thorns and thistles, and man has to work the ground to earn the bread that he eats. (Ge 3:17-19) In a spiritual sense, we must work our ground to lay aside the sin that doth so easily beset us and run our race with patience looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. (Heb 12:2)

We have laboured to prove that the way side and thorny ground represent children of God in different seasons, and we contend the same for the thorny ground.  When looking at the accounts, both #Matt and Mark use the term that the cares of life choke the word so that it becometh “unfruitful.â€(Mt 13:22; Mr 4:19) In Luke’s account, the term used is that it brought “no fruit unto perfection.â€(Lu 8:14) These terms talk of the same thing, and some might use them to prove that this lack of perfect fruit and unfruitful state is descriptive of the non-elect.  However, let us consider another passage that has similar language.

“And beside all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.â€(2Pe 1:5-9)

Here, Peter instructs the disciple of Christ on what to do.  After God imparts the faith in regeneration, we need to be up and about the Master’s business to add some things for His glory and our benefit.  What is the end result of not doing these things?  The end result is that we are barren and UNFRUITFUL.  We have no knowledge, and while we may have once known about the work of Jesus Christ purging us from our old sins (different season of life), the current state is such that we are blind and without this wonderful knowledge.

Consider the plant that grows up among thorns.  It has some springing forth (under the preaching of the gospel or sowing of the seed), but the thorns choke out what shoots forth.  These things that choke out are referred to as the “cares of this worldâ€or the “deceitfulness of riches.â€ン  Certainly, we have examples of the Lord’s children that have fallen into this circumstance.  The thorns in the world kept them from following and attending to the preaching of the gospel in spirit and in truth.

Consider the case of the rich, young ruler in Mr 10.  We need not have to wonder whether he is a child of God or not, for the Scriptures boldly proclaim that Christ loved him.  Therefore, we do not question that state of the man.  However, even though he seems earnest in his venture to seek out the place of our Lord, what does he do in the end?  He runs to Jesus seeking something, but what he finds directly conflicts with the riches he has gained in this world.  The riches that he had blinded (deceived) him and turned him away from the plain teaching of Christ to leave the wealth of the world behind to follow the Lord.  He sorrowed because the world’s wealth was his prime motivation, whereas others, like Moses, left the riches of the world to suffer the reproach of Christ. (Heb 11:25-26)

Having addressed the phrase “deceitfulness of riches,â€let us look at the other phrase “cares of this world.â€ン  The thorns also describe the cares of life, and certainly many things pull our attention in many places.  We all have cares and trials, but the thorny ground refers to those that let those cares keep their attention.  If thorns and the plant grow together, the thorns are positioned in such a way to focus the attention downward instead of upward.  We are worried about getting pricked instead of looking to be fed.

When Peter was blessed to walk on water with his Master, it is obvious that there were waves and tempests when he was walking on the water. (Mt 14:22-33)  However, when did he sink?  He began to sink when he focused his eyes on those raging billows and waves.  The cares of life will never be non-existent for the child of God this side of heaven and immortal glory.  However, their existence is no excuse to take our eyes off Jesus.  One of the greatest pitfalls we can fall into is thinking that after baptism, confession, repentance, or any of these other acts of obedience that our life will become rosy, sweet, and blissful.  We will experience blissful seasons with whiffs of the world to come while pressing into the kingdom, but our lives are more difficult after these things as Satan tries to direct our eyes downward instead of homeward.

As the fallow ground needed breaking and the stones needed chunking, the thorns need uprooting.  When a thorn (weed) of riches or care springs up, we need to take it from our eyes.  We are all susceptible to idolatry of some form or fashion, and sometimes they come very quickly.  Weeds always grow faster than the plants we try to grow, and therefore, we need to be continually weeding the briars of life out and pressing toward the mark in our lives that Jesus Christ has set.

Good Ground

The good ground needs no explanation as to a gracious state by the Almighty as He bestows all good gifts and perfect gifts. (Jas 1:17) If we have anything in our lives that can be called good, then the root cause and source must be the source of all goodness.  However, this ground still has degrees of fruitfulness.  In all of the other plots of ground, we found that the fruit-bearing aspect was lacking, but even in the good ground, we find that some bring forth more than others (30, 60, and 100).

So, let us consider the parallel passages to discover how we can be more fruitful in our walk and service to our Master.  In the account of Lu 8, there is only mention of 100 fold fruit.  In Mr 4 and Mt 13) Notice this 100 fold fruit fulfilled three categories.  They heard the word, kept the word, and brought forth fruit with patience. 

When one hears the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in demonstration of the Spirit and with power, a tender heart from the Lord receives His word and desires to serve Him in gratitude for His goodness.  Notice that this good ground is ready for the preaching.  Good ground is ploughed, furrowed, and rowed up for the seed to take root in.  There is much preparation that needs to be done before even reaching the Lord’s house.  If we arrive in an unprepared state, we may be as one of the first three plots of ground.

However, if we receive the word with all readiness of mind, there is a blessing in knowing the things that the Lord reveals in His word through preaching.  Even those at Thessalonica believed under the sound of Paul and Silas’s preaching. (Ac 17:4) While they did not do much after that, there was still some evidence and fruit that Paul and Silas were seeing productivity in the work of the gospel at this place.  Therefore, those that hear the gospel and believe are those that bring forth fruit 30 fold.  Let us never be found minimizing the importance of believing in Jesus Christ under the sound of the gospel trumpet.  It has great importance to us as believers, and the glory of the Lord is magnified in this behaviour.

Still, the labour of love in discipleship does not end with receiving the word from the preaching of the gospel.  One of the predominant teachings of the Bible is that we should seek to serve Him at all times.  We should not serve Him one hour of one day every week.  So, after receiving the gospel with all readiness of mind, we need to keep it or apply it to our lives.  Shortly after Paul and Silas removed from Thessalonica, they encountered the folks at Berea.  These were more noble than those at Thessalonica for a very important reason.

Those at Thessalonica stopped at the point of believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Due to this shortened view, they did not keep the word by searching the Scriptures daily to see if Paul and Silas’s teachings were so.  After receiving the word, we need to keep it, and study to shew ourselves approved unto God. (2Ti 2:15) In so doing, we should not be ashamed of what others might say, for we seek acceptance from on High and not from beneath.  The preacher cannot fully delve into all the aspects of the Bible in one ministerial lifetime.  Even if he could, not everyone would hear all of his efforts.  There needs to be attendance given by the hearers to the word at times other than the services and days of feasting.

So we see that hearing the word needs to be followed closely with keeping the word and being diligent in our efforts.  These that keep the word, having received it, and continue to search it are the 60 fold fruit.  So, one might inquire, “After hearing and keeping, what more must be done?â€ン 

Hearing the word, knowing what to do, and keeping the word should make a difference in our walk.  When people see our mannerisms, behaviour, manner of conversation, and conduct with our brethren, they should see something different in us than what they see in the world.  One can sit under the sound of the gospel and keep the words of the gospel that are sown into the heart, but bringing forth fruit with patience manifests to others that the gospel has lodged in their heart.  Our Adamic nature that still resides in this body of death does not have patience, which makes fruit bearing inherently difficult.

Our world today could be aptly described as an “instant gratification society.â€ン  We desire everything yesterday, today is too late, and tomorrow is an eternity to wait.  Many of us experience trials far less in magnitude than our forefathers yet they seem to impact us as if they were great mountains to scale.  Even with furrowed ground that has the fallow clods broken up, the weeds, briars, and thorns removed, and all the rocks and stones chunked over the fencerow, things will still creep in.  Every farmer knows that one weeding is not enough.  The wind will continue to bring the rocks back into the field.  Without constant breaking and tilling, the clods will gather once more.

Therefore, after having been fruitful, we need to be patient and diligent to bring forth even more fruit.  To be the ground that brings forth fruit 100 fold takes patience and effort that I am afraid I have failed miserably at in my endeavours.  When a trouble arises shortly after the Lord’s service, our daily prayers, meditations, or studies, we should look past it toward our heavenly home that has righteousness dwelling there forevermore.

When looking at discipleship, no one (save Jesus) suffered more in the flesh than the Apostle Paul.  2Co 11 lays out the sufferings that he endured for the sake of preaching the gospel.  And yet, Paul willingly suffered shame, reproach, and affliction for his Lord, for there was nothing worth anything more to Paul than Jesus.  “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.â€(Ga 6:14)

When we know and understand that Jesus has suffered for us like no man has suffered, we can then glory in the fact that what we have to bear is light and but for a moment.  When by faith we can see that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, what could possibly be worthy of holding our affection away from Him?  He has prepared for us a home that far exceeds anything beyond our wildest imagination.

Therefore, knowing these things what manner of persons ought we to be?  Shortly after that question Peter tells us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.â€(2Pe 3:18) When we have heard the gospel proclaimed and have dedicated ourselves to keeping it, we need to constantly seek to bring forth more fruit.  This duty is never-ending (this side of glory), for growth should never cease.  When we diligently seek Him in all of our endeavours, He has promised to be with us in our efforts. (2Ch 7:14)

Finally, the glory for our growth in grace and knowledge should be focused on one singular Person as we bring forth more and more fruit.  We do it for His glory and not ours.  When one does these things and another gets the credit, a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ will not get bent out of shape for not receiving the credit.  To the gospel minister, the Lord gets the credit for good preaching.  To the obedient follower, the Master gets the praise for the acts and deeds of charity.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honour, and adulation.

Summary

So, we see from this parable that our Lord is not speaking to divide sheep from goats as He will do at the end of time.  Rather, He is showing the different periods that we endure and travel through in the course of our lives as His children.  We may become hardened by our own pride, or we may break it up in preparation for His cause.  We may idolize our weeds and thorns, or we may pluck them out of our lives to be fruitful for His name’s sake.  We may be beaten by the rocks of pride and stones of life, or we may tell them to be removed into yonder place to set our affection on the One who sits upon the throne.

The different seasons, phases, and levels of discipleship can be hard to see in accounts like this.  When considering regeneration, one is either regenerate or one is not.  There is no gradient or slope, but it is a binary situation.  However, discipleship resembles a graded curve that we should be seeking to go up and not slide down.  While our walk may be noble during one hour, it may be dishonorable the next.  We can never lose our relationship to God, but our fellowship with Him, in large part, comes from our obedience to His commandments and precepts.  “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.â€(Ho 10:12)

Therefore, knowing these things, may we seek the higher ground that comes from bringing forth manifold fruit in His service.  Sometimes, He will even purge us when we bring forth fruit.  We think of purging that comes from being unfruitful.  However, He also purges us when we are bringing forth fruit for the sole purpose of bringing forth more fruit. (Joh 15:2) Therefore, let us not be weary in well doing, but let us ever without any recourse or shame earnestly follow our Lord all the days of our lives to bring forth much fruit for His glory.  Only then can we be called His disciples. (Joh 15:8)

Philip N. Conley

QA.000 Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
About the Practices of
Primitive Baptists
(Revised 07/16/97)

Because the Primitive Baptists are relatively few in number when compared to the popular denominations, and because some ways of Primitive Baptists are considered peculiar by most of the world, there are a great number of questions asked about them. Unfortunately, a great number of inaccurate answers are given. We have supplied this FAQ to satisfy the curious, and to correct erroneous speculations. Though Primitive Baptist churches are independently governed, there is a high degree of homogeneity among them; therefore, this FAQ should represent most, but we do not claim to speak in behalf of all.

  1. Why the name Primitive Baptist?

  2. What is the difference between Primitive Baptists and other Baptists?

  3. What is the PB view of the scriptures?

  4. How do PBs use scriptural precedent to resolve questions of church practice?

  5. How does the typical PB view his or her role in society?

  6. Why do PBs refer to their ministers as elders?

  7. Why do PBs not have schools for training ministers?

  8. Why do PBs require elders be male?

  9. Why do PBs use real wine & real unleavened bread in communion?

  10. Why do PBs wash feet during communion?

  11. Why do PBs commune only with baptized believers of like faith and practice?

  12. Why do PBs require baptism by immersion?

  13. Why do PBs rebaptize persons joining them from other orders?

  14. Why do PBs not use musical instruments?

  15. Why do PBs not have Sunday schools?

  16. Why do PBs not have organized programs for the entertainment of youth?

  17. Why do PBs not have pictures of Jesus in their churches & homes?

  18. What is the attitude of PBs on tongues & other miraculous spiritual gifts?

Question: Why the name Primitive Baptist?

Primitive Baptist ancestors have been called by various names over the ages. The name Primitive Baptist became popular in the early 1800s when the term primitive conveyed the idea of originality rather than backwardness. Accordingly, Primitive Baptists claim to maintain the doctrines and practices of the original Baptists, who are claimed to be the New Testament church.

Primitive also conveys the idea of simplicity. This well describes the Primitive Baptists, whose church services consist of nothing more than preaching, praying, and singing.

Even though this name can convey a misimpression under modern connotation, it also has some benefits; one being that it provokes interest and questions, which is of course the reason that you are reading this FAQ.

 

 

Question: What is the difference between Primitive Baptists and other Baptists?

We include this question because it is likely the one question which is asked most frequently of Primitive Baptists. Unfortunately, the extreme diversity of modern Baptists makes the question almost impossible to answer without inaccurately representing at least some Baptists. Consequently, we assume that the reader has his or her own concept of what a Baptist is, and we leave it to the reader to make their own judgment as to how this question should be answered. The reader should examine the remainder of this FAQ to become acquainted with Primitive Baptist practices. The Articles of Faith and the Abstract to the Doctrine of Salvation will introduce the reader to Primitive Baptist views on doctrine. The Black Rock Address of 1832 will acquaint the reader with the circumstances which lead to the division between Primitive and other Baptists.

 

 

Question: What is the Primitive Baptist view of the scriptures?

Primitive Baptists view scriptures as the divinely inspired word of God and as the sole rule of faith and practice for the church. It is also believed that the scriptures have been divinely preserved over the ages, and that the 1611 King James version is the superior English translation of the scriptures.

Paul claimed that all scripture is given by inspiration of God (2Ti 3:16). Accordingly, Jesus said that scripture cannot be broken (Joh 10:35). Such infallibility could only occur in writings under the power of plenary (full) inspiration.

The apostle Peter said, ...no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophesy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2Pe 1:20-21). Hence, scriptural prophecy is void of any private opinions of the writers. They were actually moved by the Spirit of God when writing.

Peter elsewhere tells us (1Pe 1:10-12) that these prophets examined their own writings to gain additional information about Christ and His coming. Such behavior is reasonable only if they wrote under inspirational power.

The assertion of plenary inspiration does not necessarily imply that the Spirit masked or overrode the writing styles or personalities of the writers; however, it does imply that the informational content of the scriptures is of God.

It would be senseless for God to inspire His word but then allow it to be lost to misplacement or mistranslation. In  Ps 12:6-7 it is written: The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. If this text has been preserved, then one must conclude that all scriptures have been preserved. Accordingly, Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Mt 24:35).

Since the scriptures are the word of God, no man or ecclesiastical body has authority above them. Furthermore, the instructions of the scriptures are sufficiently broad in scope to serve as the sole rule of faith and practice. Paul said that in the scriptures the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2Ti 3:16-17).

All books of the King James Bible are regarded as scripture. No books apart from these are so considered. The books of the Old Testament are known to be scripture because Jesus and the apostles quoted them as such. The books of the New Testament are known to be scripture because of Jesus' promise that special inspirational guidance would be upon the apostles (Joh 14:26; 16:13). This pertains to Paul also, as is implied by Peter in  2Pe 3:15-16.

The inspiration of the Bible is further evidenced by its internal consistency and its historical, scientific, and prophetic accuracy.

Primitive Baptists strongly prefer in the 1611 King James version. This preference is based upon evidence indicating the superiority of its base manuscripts and upon evidence indicating the superior scholarship of its translators.

 

 

Question: How do Primitive Baptists use scriptural precedent to resolve questions of church practice?  

Primitive Baptists believe that issues of practice which are not explicitly addressed by scriptural commandment should be resolved, where possible, by scriptural precedent. Primitive Baptists are very disinclined to treat scriptural practices as mere cultural fashions of biblical times, and will do so only where this is obviously the case (1Co 9:19-23).

Scriptures themselves teach that adherence to scriptural example is not a matter of indifference. Paul told the Corinthians, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am a follower of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (traditions), as I delivered them to you (1Co 11:1-2). Accordingly, he told the Thessalonians, Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle (2Th 2:15). One chapter later he wrote, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (2Th 3:6).

Traditions which have no biblical authority are nonobligatory, and to make them otherwise can reduce worship to vanity (Mr 7:5-13). On the other hand, traditions which have biblical authority are clearly expected of us, and are sufficiently important to be criteria of fellowship.

Since the New Testament church was a highly multicultural institution, being found in many nations of the world, practices uniformly observed in them cannot be dismissed as cultural peculiarities. They clearly expected these practices of themselves as churches of Jesus Christ, and we should view these practices the same way.

 

 

Question: How does the typical Primitive Baptist view his or her role in society?  

Primitive Baptists cannot consent with those who compromise scriptural commandments in order to gain social acceptance. We deny the claim that terms of truth and morality are to be guided by the ever changing winds of social values (Eph 4:14). Instead, these are defined by our ever constant Lord, and are revealed in His inspired word (Mal 3:6; Lu 21:33; Heb 13:8; 1Pe 1:24-25).

Since it is our duty, both to God and man, to teach God's revealed truth, and since we represent ourselves as doing such,any compromise of this truth would deceive and betray our fellow man, even when such compromise would serve to appease him.

However, it is not our purpose to incite hatred or persecution against any man or sector of society. Since our Baptist ancestry was greatly persecuted, and since we are also falsely accused and ridiculed unto this day, conscience forbids that we should bring the same upon others. Instead, the scriptures command us that the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (2Ti 2:24-25).

Accordingly, we recognize that love and charity are the first test of all that claims to be Christian (Mt 22:36-40; Joh 13:35; 1Jo 2:9-11), and though we have all truth, we are but nothing without it (1Co 13:2).

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists refer to their ministers as elders?

The scriptures offer two alternate titles for preachers. These are bishop and elder (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9; 1Pe 5:1). The importance of using these scripturally authorized titles is emphasized by Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees for taking aggrandizing titles to themselves (Mt 23:5-12).

The term reverend is use only once in the scriptures where it has reference to God (Ps 111:9). We are therefore unworthy to wear this title.

Though a minister can be a father in certain respects (1Co 4:15), this term is never used as a title in the scriptures. In fact Jesus commanded to call no man your father upon the earth (Mt 23:9).

The term apostle is clearly used by the scriptures to mean a minister who is an eyewitness to the sufferings and resurrection of Christ (Ac 1:1-3,21-26; 1Co 9:1; 1Pe 5:1). Also, apostles were granted special powers not possessed by ordinary elders (Ac 8:18; 2Co 12:12; Heb 2:3-4). Any man claiming this title for himself today does so in error.

That elder refers to gospel preachers is evidenced by the fact that both Peter and John claimed this title for themselves (1Pe 5:1; 2Jo 1-13; 1Jo 1).

That bishop and elder refer to the same office is proven by the interchanged usage of these terms in  Tit 1:5-9. However, Primitive Baptists typically refrain from the usage of bishop because of the misimpressions that would be conveyed under modern connotation.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not have schools for training ministers?

Primitive Baptists elders are chosen by the individual congregations from among male members who have proven to be faithful to the church and its principles. These men are given the opportunity to speak over a trial period to determine if they have a gift to preach. This trial period typically lasts from one to five years. Those judged by the congregations to satisfy scriptural qualifications for the ministry are then ordained by a presbytery of elders.

All Primitive Baptist elders are expected to be self educated in the Word of God and are expected to seek the counsel of experienced ministers about questions of scriptural interpretation and other matters pertaining to the church. Both young and old elders are expected to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit in the furtherance of their wisdom and understanding.

This system of education is preferred above ministerial training schools because:

  1. Elders in the New Testament were primarily self-educated in the scriptures.

  2. Elders in the New Testament learned under the direction of the Holy Spirit and other elders rather than academicians.

  3. The system makes the scriptures themselves to be the curriculum.

  4. The elder learns in the same setting in which he is expected to teach. Congregations taught by these elders will be expected to have the discipline to educate themselves in the Word of God. The elder should therefore prove himself to have the same discipline.

  5. The system is less vulnerable to the widespread propagation of error so commonly found when numerous ministers are trained under the same teachings of heretical academicians. 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists require that elders be male?

This is a requirement which is very clearly stated in the scriptures (1Co 14:35-36; 1Ti 2:11-12; 3:2). Accordingly, there is no scriptural precedent for female elders. Churches placing women in ministerial offices appear to regard the authority of the scriptures to be subordinate to current social fashions.

The requirement that elders be men does not relieve women of their obligation and right to teach in other capacities (1Ti 5:14; Tit 2:3-5), nor does it disallow the possibility of women possessing special spiritual guidance and gifts (Jg 4:4; 2Ki 22:14; Lu 2:36; Ac 2:17; 21:9). However, we are persuaded that any woman assuming a teaching capacity in the church cannot do so under the influence of God's Spirit as this would place the Spirit at contradiction with Himself.

Though certain modern teachers offer alternate explanations to the scriptures cited above, an examination of their arguments reveals prejudiced views and a willingness to resort to unreasonable extremes to defend them. The same methods of reason would make anything mean nothing.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists use real wine and real unleavened bread in communion?

While scriptural descriptions of the original communion use the terms bread, the cup, and fruit of the vine, it may be conclusively inferred that the bread was unleavened and that the drink was fermented wine. This follows from:

  1. The communion took place immediately after the Passover. This was a time in which leavened bread was prohibited, both by scriptural law and by Jewish tradition (Ex 12:3-8; Nu 9:9-11; De 16:1-3; Mt 26:17; Mr 14:12).

  2. Leaven is used in the scriptures as an emblem of sin (Lu 12:1; 1Co 5:6-8; Ga 5:7-9) and is therefore an unsuitable representative of the Lord's body.

  3. Wine is symbolically consistent with unleavened bread in that neither contain leaven. On the other hand, unfermented grape juice would contradict all that is portended by the unleavened bread because grape juice typically does contain leaven. There are some who erroneously assert that the opposite is true - that wine contains leaven but grape juice does not. The reader is invited to consult any authority on wine chemistry to resolve the matter.

  4. Wine was a traditional part of the Jewish Passover.

  5. Without modern methods of refrigeration, grape juice could not be preserved for all times of the year. The Passover season was not conducive to grape juice since it was well between harvests.

  6. The Corinthians obviously used a fermented substance in their communion service since they perverted it into a drunken festival (1Co 11:20-30). Paul condemns them for their impiety and excesses, but not for the usage of wine in communion.

The importance of adhering to the scriptural example in this matter cannot be questioned since God punished the Corinthians with illness and death for departing from it (1Co 11:29-30). The usage of a leavened substance, such as grape juice, to represent the Lord is, in our opinion, a severe negligence, and is at risk of being chargeable as failure to discern the body of the Lord (1Co 11:29).

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists wash feet during communion?  

John explains that, at the end of the Last Supper, the Lord began to wash the feet of the disciples. After performing this great act of humility, the Lord said, If I then, your Lord and master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you (Joh 13:14-15). Primitive Baptists understand that this commandment is to be followed in literal detail as well as in spirit.

Many will dismiss these actions of Jesus as being no more than symbolic gestures; however, these same persons understand the last supper to be a literal example. We fail to see the consistency in this. If we are to take one as a symbolic gesture, we must take the other as being such also. Conversely, if the Lord intended literal observance of the last supper, then literal observance must have been intended for feet washing as well. The scriptures leave no doubt that the last supper is to be literally observed (1Co 10:16-21; 11:23-30).

  1Ti 5:9-10 indicates that feet washing was practiced by the New Testament church. Neither this text nor the example of Jesus can be dismissed as a cultural phenomenon since texts describing the cultural practice of feet washing have individuals washing their own feet (Ge 43:24; Jg 19:21; Song 5:3).

Unfortunately, such plain reasoning is easily obscured by human vanity, yet it was this very vanity that Jesus would have us destroy in the act of feet washing.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists commune only with baptized believers of like faith and practice?

The primary reason for requiring communion participants to be baptized believers is expressed by the words of Paul: Wherefore, whosoever shall eat of this bread, and drink of this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body (1Co 11:27-29). A person who has not yet submitted to the obedience of baptism has yet to examine himself in matters of Christian duty, and therefore, should not partake of communion. Nor should the church sanction such participation since this would make baptism appear inconsequential, thereby dulling the individual's sense of conviction over their negligence in this matter. Such churches also carelessly treat others in that they fail to alert them to the gravity of communion and the consequences of being an unqualified participant.

Jesus' final statement to his disciples clearly specified the proper order of gospel obedience: 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: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Mt 28:19-20). Hence, the proper order is: belief of the gospel, then baptism, then observance of all that Jesus commanded. This pattern is consistently followed elsewhere in the scriptures (Mr 16:16; Ac 2:41-42; 8:36-37; Ro 6:3-4).

Neither should baptized persons participate in the communion of churches espousing principles contrary their own. Paul's statement in  1Co 10:16-21 forcefully argues that communion denotes the highest degree of fellowship in matters of principle. Communion is in effect a common union with the implied principles. For this reason, Primitive Baptist communion services involve only baptized individuals of like faith and practice.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists require baptism by immersion?

The example set by Jesus is clearly one of baptism by immersion. Mark described Jesus' baptism with these words: And straitway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him (Mr 1:10). A baptism followed by one coming up out of the water cannot be by sprinkling or pouring. We must take Jesus' example as being the ultimate authority on the matter.

John baptized in AEnon because there was much water there (Joh 3:23). An abundance of water is not needful for sprinkling or pouring. Accordingly, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in a body of water (Ac 8:36).

Paul explains in  Ro 6:1-5 that baptism represents a death, burial, and resurrection. Nothing about pouring or sprinkling depicts these events. Immersion obviously does.

Finally, the Greek word for baptism (baptisma) means immersion.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists rebaptize persons joining them from other orders?

The scriptural precedent for rebaptism is taken from  Ac 19:1-7. These verses teach that persons formerly baptized under improper principles should be baptized again, and that failure to do so can prevent proper reception of the Holy Spirit.

Since baptism is an ordinance of the church, it is necessarily tied to the principles maintained by the church. When these principles are significantly changed, the baptism should be changed also. The claim that baptism is an ordinance of the church is proven by the fact it is the scriptural means of induction to the church (Ac 2:41). Further proof is provided in Paul's statement: Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel (1Co 1:17). This statement refers to Paul's evangelical duties, and implies that baptism is principally the responsibility of local churches and their pastors.

There are cases where former baptisms are obviously in gross error (e.g. infant baptisms, sprinklings, etc) and therefore necessitate rebaptism; however, the scriptures offer few guidelines as to the exact point at which rebaptism is required; consequently, the safest and most objective policy is to rebaptize as a general rule.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not use musical instruments?

We can find no biblical precedent for the usage of musical instruments in New Testament worship. The scriptures give repeated instructions to sing in the church, but never to play (Ro 15:9; 1Co 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Heb 2:12; Jas 5:13).

It will occasionally be objected that there are also many other things in all modern churches which are without scriptural precedent - things such as electric lights, air conditioners, etc; however, these items affect only the setting of worship and are not integral to it. The scriptures have clearly afforded much liberty in such matters (Lu 5:3; Joh 4:20-24; Ac 20:7-8; 21:5). A distinction must also be made between an addition to the New Testament pattern and an aid to this pattern. Electric lights, song books, reference Bibles, etc. are aids to worship, but musical instruments are additions to worship.

For a discussion about the importance of adhering to scriptural example, we refer the reader to the question regarding scriptural precedent.

It is commonly objected that  Ps 150 offers instruction to praise the Lord with various kinds of musical instruments. However, these instructions are not referring to New Testament worship. Procedure used in Old Testament worship obviously cannot be used to amend the New Testament pattern; otherwise, animal sacrifices, priests, etc. could be legitimately introduced to the church. It should be observed that Ps 150 also commands to praise the Lord with dance (Ps 150:4), yet those who use the Psalm to defend musical instruments would generally condemn dancing in the church.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not have Sunday schools?

Bible study is greatly to be commended, and there are definite benefits to studying and discussing scriptures with other Christians; however, scriptural example dictates that such activitiesshould be conducted in contexts other than formal church worship. There is nothing in scriptures to indicate that worshippers, either in the church or in the law, were ever segregated by knowledge, age, sex, marital status, or any other criterion. Instead, all worshipped in a common assembly.

The importance of adherence to scriptural example on this and other matters is considered in the question treating scriptural precedent.

Some will say that Sunday schools are necessary for the instruction of children; however, the Lord cautions against assuming a posture which views the understanding of children with slight or disdain. He tells us that their understanding can exceed that of the wise and prudent (Mt 11:25; 21:15), and that God has ordained praise in the utterances of babes (Mt 21:16). Accordingly, Jesus rebuked His disciples for denying admittance of children to His presence (Mt 19:13-15; Mr 9:36-37; 10:13-15). Hence, it should not be assumed that children are incapable of receiving proper instruction from the general assembly. The modern practice of denying children entrance to church sanctuaries is very much against the spirit of the scriptures.

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not have organized programs for the entertainment of youth?

Primitive Baptists do not condemn entertainment when it is moral and in moderation. We also recognize that men of God in the scriptures occasionally use humor and sarcasm (Isa 40:18-23; 44:12-20), so this too is acceptable provided that it is clean, purposeful, and moderate. However, the idea that it is the role of the church to entertain is absolutely alien to all that is scriptural.

The Lord condemned the priests of Israel, saying, ...they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean... (Eze 22:26). Again, the Lord said, And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and clean (Eze 44:23). When churches have taken sports, games, comedy, and other amusement, and have commingled them with songs of praise, prayer, and preaching, then no difference is being made between the holy and profane.

A church involved in such indiscretions should not expect the blessings of God in its efforts to preach the gospel. The Lord told Jeremiah, ...if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth... (Jer 15:19). We are therefore the mouth of God only when we make a difference between the precious and the vile. The Hebrew for vile can sometimes mean gluttonous, which condemns modern practices yet further. Modern Americans are essentially baptized in entertainment every day of the week, yet some are so worldly that they expect even more of it from the church.

The scriptures suggest that Paul had an interest in some sports (1Co 9:24; 2Ti 2:5; Heb 12:1), yet he condemned competitiveness in the church (1Co 4:7; 11:21-22). This further illustrates that things which are appropriate in everyday life are not necessarily appropriate in a church context.

Preoccupation with entertaining youth often leads to neglect in teaching youth. This is particularly true when such entertainment is purposed to be a diversion from sinful activities common to young people. The instruction of the scriptures are both necessary and sufficient to guide young people as well as old, and to strengthen them against the temptations of the world (De 6:6-7; Ps 119:9-11; 1Ti 5:14; 2Ti 3:15-17).

 

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not have crucifixes or pictures of Jesus in their churches and homes?

The scriptures unequivocally forbid images of God of any kind (Ex 20:4-5; 1Co 10:14; Ga 5:19-21; 1Jo 5:21). Since Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore equal with God (Joh 5:18; Php 2:5-8), pictures of Jesus must also be censured by these commandments.

Pictures of Jesus are in every sense idols. The popular portraits of Jesus are products of man's imagination, and misrepresent Jesus in dishonoring ways. If Jesus' hair had in fact been long, then Paul would have never condemned this practice (1Co 11:14).

 

Question: What is the attitude of Primitive Baptists towards tongues and other miraculous spiritual gifts?

Any true Christian should firmly believe in the possibility of miracles (Mt 17:19-20; Mr 9:23; 11:23), and most prayerful Christians can witness to the fact that miracles do occur. However, scriptures and experience lead us to expect such miracles to be elicited by the general prayers of God's people rather than the workings of someone possessing a miraculous spiritual gift.

New Testament occurrences of miraculous gifts are almost always observed either in apostles or in those upon whom apostles had laid hands. The apostles had special gifts, and had the ability to confer them upon others. However, it appears that those receiving miraculous gifts from the apostles were not able to transmit them to third parties. Hence, Philip received special gifts from the apostles (Ac 6:5-6; 8:5-8), but was unable to confer these same gifts upon the Samaritans (Ac 8:5-19). Since there are no apostles in the world today, any modern occurrences of extraordinary spiritual gifts would represent an exception to the scriptural pattern.

This is not to say that such exceptions are impossible, and it certainly is not intended to say that miracles can no longer happen. However, the scriptures lead us to expect such miracles to be elicited by the individual and collective prayers of God's people (|Mt 17:19-20; Mk 9:23; Mk 11:23; Philip 4:6; Ja 5:13-15;1Jn 5:14-15|).

Paul told the Corinthian church: Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds (2Co 12:12). This verse implies that extraordinary spiritual gifts were signs of apostleship. This raises the simple question: If ordinary gospel ministers also possess these gifts, then how could such abilities distinguish an apostle from other ministers? If it is true that modern charismatic ministers have the ability to heal, speak in tongues, etc, then Paul appealed to invalid grounds for confirmation of his apostleship.

The reasoning above is further substantiated by  Heb 2:3-4, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken to us by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? This text appeals to the signs and wonders of those that heard the Lord, but says nothing of miraculous gifts being observed in the current generation of Christians. Since miracles within the observation and memory of the reader would serve as greater confirmation than reports of miracles in the past, one should certainly expect the writer of Hebrews to have advanced these as proof if miraculous gifts were still occurring with equal degree and frequency.

There are other indications that the frequency of miraculous gifts tended to diminish toward the end of New Testament times. Paul told Timothy to take wine for a chronic stomach problem (1Ti 5:23), and spoke of leaving Trophimus sick at Miletum (2Ti 4:20). In earlier times, one would have expected these to have been healed by apostolic powers.

The decreased frequency of miracles was partly due to expiration of the apostolic era, and partly due to the gospel being carried to the Gentiles. Paul said that it was the nature of a Jew to require signs, but the nature of the Gentiles to demand wisdom (1Co 1:22). Accordingly, the experience of scriptures indicates that the Lord is most apt to give signs when dealing with the Jewish people.

The practice of counterfeiting miracles in the name of Christ is to be condemned (Mt 7:21-23), not only because it is deceptive, but because it tends to discredit the true miracles recorded in the Bible, and diminishes belief in the power of prayer (2Pe 2:1-2).  

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Ro 8:28

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Ro 8:28

 Introduction The Apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, wrote these words to comfort and encourage the Church at Rome. Although there is no doubt that God is able to take every event of our lives and work them into something good for us, the Apostle has a more sublime thought in mind. There are five questions that must be answered before one can successfully understand the meaning of this text.

1. What is the context in which this verse is found?

2. What is the meaning of the phrase "all things"?

3. What is the meaning of  “for good''?

4. What is the meaning of ``work together''?

5. Who is it that loves God?

1. The context of the eighth chapter of Romans

  The grand theme of Ro 8 is God's sovereign grace in the securing of the eternal salvation of His Elect. This theme is abundantly manifest in Ro 8, from its first verse to its last. The Apostle here is not discussing those of God's people who are obedient and those who aren't. Rather, he very deliberately places all of God's people on one side and those who aren't on the other. Notice from verse one to nine these comparisons by contrast:

1. You either are condemned or you aren't. (Ro 8:1)

2. You either walk after the Spirit or after the flesh. (Ro 8:1,4)

3. You either are after the Spirit or after the flesh. (Ro 8:5)

4. You either mind the things of the Spirit or of the flesh. (Ro 8:5)

5. You either are spiritually minded or carnally minded (Ro 8:6)

6. You are either in the Spirit or in the flesh. (Ro 8:9)

7. Either the Spirit dwells in you or doesn't. (Ro 8:9)

8. You either have the Spirit or you don't. (Ro 8:9)

These eight comparisons give stark contrast to what you are or aren't. And if you are a child of God, then (and only then) do the remaining verses apply to you. And how very beautiful they are! How comforting they become!

1. Your mortal body shall be quickened in the resurrection to come by the very ``Spirit that dwelleth in you!'' (Ro 8:11)

2. Though our bodies may die, we shall not die (eternally) but rather we shall live! (Ro 8:13)

3. The Spirit of God leads us in our inward man unfailingly and unerringly! (Ro 8:14)

4. We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father! (Ro 8:15)

5. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit (inner man), that we are the children of God. (Ro 8:16)

6. We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ! (Ro 8:17)

7. God's eternal glory shall be revealed in us at the resurrection! (Ro 8:18)

These are but some of the realities that are for the child of God. Some are now and some are yet to come, but every one of them are ours because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder why the Apostle would exclaim at the end of this chapter, ``We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.'' Ro 8:37 And it is certainly no wonder why this chapter has been beloved by so many for so long. With such a grand and glorious theme, how could it not be? A strong sub-theme of the eighth chapter is hope, and this hope is one of expectation of deliverance. In the eighth chapter of Romans, hope is seen to comprise two sides. On one side, we hope to be delivered from something and on the other we hope to be delivered to something. On the one side that deals with ``deliverance from'', the Apostle in eighth chapter speaks of deliverance from sin and its effects, and especially from death. Yes, we all want deliverance from temporal maladies but to limit the hope that is mentioned in Romans chapter eight to only (or even primarily) that of deliverance from the trials and tribulations of this life is far too restrictive and misses the true aim of the inspired writer. The larger issue is deliverance from death, from condemnation, from the ramifications of the ``law of sin and death.'' (Ro 8:2) Temporal suffering is but a by-product of the breaking of the law of sin and death. The real dilemma is the death that is attached to the law of sin and death. It is eternal death that the Apostle has in mind. The hope of Romans eight is deliverance from sin and corruption of ``the body of this death.'' Ro 7:24); from eternal condemnation; {Ro 8:1} and from eternal separation. {Ro 8:35,39} On the other side, hope is what we expect to be delivered to. The Apostle is clear and emphatic on this point. The child of God seeks for eternal glory (Ro 8:17-18), to be at liberty (Ro 8:21), to receive the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Ro 8:23), and to be conformed to the glorified image of Christ (Ro 8:29). When we put the one side (deliverance from) with the other (deliverance to) we have the complete picture of this hope. The hope of the child of God is that, regardless of what happens in this life, its destiny is secure in Christ. This hope saves us today (Ro 8:24) because its basis is not in this time world or whatsoever things happen to us in this world. Its basis is in the One who sits at the right hand of His Father in the throne room of Heaven (Ro 8:34). It rests eternally secure in the One who loves us unconditionally (Ro 8:35). This is the only true comfort there is for a sinner saved by grace.

2. The ``all things'' of Ro 8:28 The phrase ``all things'' is used well over one hundred and fifty times in the New Testament. In virtually every case, it is translated from the Greek word, Pas. ``Pas'' is used well over twelve hundred times in the New Testament and is usually translated into the English word, ``all.'' The word ``all'' is such an often used word that we hardly ever think about how we use it in our speech and writing. But if we will take the time to think about it, we will quickly come to the conclusion that we often do not mean ``everything without exception.'' In Scripture, we find the same principle applies with regards to the use of ``all'' or ``all things.'' Whenever we find the word ``all'' or especially the phrase ``all things,'' we oftentimes find that it means something other than ``all things without exception.'' Here is one example and many more could be given. In Heb 2:17 we find these words written by the Apostle Paul: ``Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.'' The Apostle is writing about Christ's qualifications to be the High Priest of His Elect. To ``be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God'', {Heb 2:18} Christ had the rather personal obligation to be made in the likeness of His brethren. Of course, Christ was not made exactly like us because we know by Scripture He had no sin, either by nature or by practice. Hearkening back to the eighth chapter of Romans, the inspired writer wrote that God sent ``his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.'' {Ro 8:2} And in Heb 4:15, the same writer wrote that Christ ``was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.'' So we must understand the ``all things'' in Heb 2:17 to be limited by the context. Christ was made like unto us in all things except for this one thing: He had no sin and He knew no sin. With this in mind, we turn again to Ro 8:28 and to the way the phrase ``all things'' is used there. The intent of the Apostle Paul in writing about the "all things" has to be taken in the overall context of the immediately preceding verses in Ro 8:28 starts with the word ``and'' which is used as a function word to indicate connection or addition. With very little effort, we will find that Ro 8:28 is a continuation of thought begun in Ro 8:26. When we do a little more study, we quickly find that Ro 8:26 is in the midst of a theme begun in Ro 8:19, and this theme is a subset of the overall theme of Ro 8, which is eternal security. The sub-theme of Ro 8:19-27 is very obviously about how God helps His children. This "help" is something we are given now because now we are in need of help. The reason why we need help is described in Ro 8:17-18. These verses speak of our present suffering. The description of this suffering is begun in Ro 7. One can see how the themes being addressed here have their beginnings even before we reach the eighth chapter! We suffer because of who we are and what we are. We have warfare because of our two natures. The inner man, ``which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,'' {Eph 4:24, also called here ``the new man''} is imprisoned in ``the body of this death.'' {Ro 7:24} Like a caged bird, it seeks to be set free from its cage. But, unlike the caged bird, the God that created it leaves it not with out an earnest expectation of release. {Ro 8:19} And until that release shall come, God Himself intercedes (literally, goes to meet with) within the inner man to give tongue to the inner man's plea for release. {Ro 8:27} And while we suffer in this body, we groan because the Spirit groans within us and God hears our plea and He answers our plea and gives us assurance that all will be well finally. {Ro 8:28} So with this knowledge - that all will be well, that God will not leave us as a caged bird, that He is a very present help in time of trouble, that we will be delivered from our sinful condition, and that we will see God in peace - we find that we can have peace now in knowing that God has safely secured our eternal destiny. No matter what may happen to us here in this time world, we have assurance that God has us safely in His hands. He will make sure that we are delivered. And the Apostle Paul in Ro 8:29-30 then gives what further strengthens this point. As if the intercessory work of the Spirit was not enough, and the timely salvation we have in the possession of our hope is not enough, he peels back the tapestry of His goodness and shows us the harmonious working of God's divine and eternal purpose in securing the destiny of all those whom He chose in Christ. So, in sum, we know that all these things, that God has done for us and especially is doing for us now to help us, work together for good to all the family of God.

3. For good I concur with the thought that the "all things" are those things purposed by God to secure our eternal destiny. As we have shown, "all things" does not often mean "every thing." Since this verse is in the midst of a chapter dealing with the eternal security of all the Elect, it must be referring to all things that work together to secure it for them. The occurrences of this life don't have anything at all to do with securing my eternal destiny, but God's eternal purpose as seen in Ro 8:29-30 certainly does. Ro 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" This verse concludes the thought of Ro 8:29-30. These things in verses 29-30 are the "all things" that "work together for good to them that love God." Another key to understanding what the ``all things'' are is to consider the use of the word ``know'' in Ro 8:28. The word "know" (Gk. Eido) in verse 28 means, "to see with the minds eye." It signifies "a clear and purely mental perception" and is distinguished from the knowledge (Gk. Ginosko) "that is grounded in personal experience" and from the knowledge (Gk. Epistamai) "that is obtained by proximity to the thing known." Paul is not in Ro 8:28 saying, "We know from personal experience that everything is going to work out all right because God will work it to our good even though we may not understand it now." It is wonderful to know that God has so arranged it that we will be with Him in glory someday, but whether we know it or not does not add to or take away from the certainty of it. The Apostle wrote so that others would know this, too. It is a joy to know it. It is a comfort to realize that God has secured our eternal destiny. It helps us to bear the trials and tribulations of this present time to know that no matter what we will be with God in Heaven some day. Ro 8:28 (as we mentioned earlier) is a continuation of the sub-theme of the help that God gives us now and this knowledge is also a help to us like hope and prayer is. It is a help to know that all things work together for our good. But whether we know they do or not, thankfully that does not stop them from always working to our good. The word "good" used here means "intrinsic good" as opposed to "an outward appearance of good." Intrinsic means ``belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing.'' So when we say that this good is an intrinsic good, we mean that it belongs to the essential nature of what the ``all things'' are working together to achieve. This tells us as much about the ``all things'' as it does about the ``good'' that the ``all things'' are working together for. Paul is not talking about how God works events or occurrences into an outward manifestation of good. Rather, we can by an "eye of faith" see the orderly purpose of God in securing the eternal salvation of all His Elect.

4. Work together Lastly in our discussion of the meaning of the ``all things,'' we now look at the phrase ``work together.'' It may on the surface seem right to think the Apostle meant, ``God works together all things.'' But upon a deeper look, we find he means exactly what the Translators translated. It is the "all things" that work together. No doubt that God is the Author of them but also no doubt that He put them into play and they work rather energetically together to accomplish a great purpose. The phrase "work together" is one word in the Greek (Gk. Sunergeo - to cooperate, to assist). It is a verb denoting the action of the ``all things.'' These ``all things'' are now working together. Pure and simple, the doer of the action (i.e., the noun) is the "all things."

The Greek word ``Sunergeo'' (from which the phrase ``work together'' is translated) is used at least five times in the New Testament and not always is it translated into the English as ``work together.'' Here are the four other places in Scripture where ``Sunergeo'' is used and I have placed the English word or phrase in quotation marks. Mr 16:20 - And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord ``working with'' them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. 1Co 16:16 - That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that ``helpeth with'' us, and laboureth. 2Co 6:1 - We then, as ``workers together'' with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. Jas 2:22 - Seest thou how faith ``wrought with'' his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

In each case, notice how that ``Sunergeo'' is used to show the harmonious working of whatever it is in context that is under consideration. In Mr 16:20, it is the Lord working with His apostles and with Christ's help, they were able to go forth and preach everywhere. See how the two things worked together in harmony? Certainly, they did not work at odds with one another. The same idea is prevalent in 1Co 16:16 and 2Co 6:1.

Notice especially Jas 2:22 and how that faith and works work together to accomplish a noble purpose. And we don't have to think very hard to realize that the works under consideration here must be righteous works. Certainly, faith cannot be wrought with evil works to accomplish the perfection/completion of faith!

The same principle applies to Ro 8:28. The evil acts of men do not work together harmoniously with God's purpose. Yes, sometimes God overrules the evil acts of men to accomplish His purpose but in those cases we can assuredly say that God's purpose (whatever it may have been) was accomplished in spite of those evil acts. The case of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers is a good case in point. It was certainly God's purpose for Joseph to go before his family into Egypt in order to prepare for the famine that was to come, but it would be a gross mistake to say that God intended for Joseph to be sold into slavery to accomplish this goal.

Another case in point is Pharaoh's heart being hardened. The scriptures do state that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but a full study of God's dealings with Pharaoh prove that Pharaoh was indeed responsible for his actions and suffered for them as a result. More examples could be given, namely of Jacob's deceitfulness in obtaining the birthright. Surely it was ultimately God's will that Jacob be given the birthright, and God would have made sure that Jacob got it. God did not need Jacob's help any more than He needed Abraham's help in getting the promised son. In the cases cited it should be abundantly seen that God had a purpose and the pitiful ``help'' He was given did not thwart that purpose. In all cases, His purpose became reality in spite of the so-called help. Our current existence on this earth is full of evil, suffering, and tribulations. The Apostle wrote in Ro 8:18: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." All the evil things, all the suffering, and all the tribulations we endure in this "present time" pale by comparison to "the glory" we shall experience with Christ in Heaven. This knowledge helps make this life bearable. The "sufferings of this present time" (Ro 8:18) makes the new creature want to fly home to Heaven and be with Jesus.

But these sufferings are to be seen as merely temporal events. They do not help us be more eternally secured than we now are. Under some conditions, they can help us to appreciate better the things of God as we live here in this present world. Earlier in Ro 5, the Apostle wrote that he gloried in tribulations {Ro 5:3} and then he tells why:

``Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.'' (Ro 5:3-5)

His point was that the tribulations he had experienced had resulted in a greater realization for him of his hope. Could we then say that he felt that these things worked together to secure his hope or to obtain his eternal good? Of course, we know that these things do not secure for us anything eternal. But he did say that he gloried in those tribulations and it is worth knowing just exactly what he meant. Perhaps, reviewing a companion text of scripture might help to answer this.

In 2Co 4, we find where the Apostle made almost the same points as we have found in Romans chapter five. In 2Co 4:7, the Apostle wrote of a ``treasure in earthen vessels.'' What is this treasure? In 2Co 4:6, we see that it is nothing more than that God shined His divine light into our hearts thereby giving us the knowledge of God's eternal glory. Where there was once darkness, there is now light. Where there was death, now there is life.

But the most important thing to take from this is that the Light that is shined in our heart is none other than the person of Jesus Christ. He is, after all, the Light and ``in him was life; and the life was the light of men.'' {Joh 1:4} And this is indeed the treasure that we have in ``earthen vessels'', a truly apt description of our mortal body.

With this wonderful knowledge, the Apostle was able to deal with adversity. Notice what he said in 2Co 4:8-10.

``We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.''

The ``earthen vessel'' (i.e., the Apostle's mortal body) suffered but his ``treasure'' endured. Those things that troubled him, that perplexed him, that persecuted him, and that cast him down could not and did not distress him, leave him in despair, cause him to be forsaken or destroyed. Why? Again it is because of the treasure in his earthen vessel and as we have seen, that treasure was none other than the very person of Jesus Christ.

Later in this fourth chapter, the Apostle used another phrase to describe this treasure. In 2Co 4:16, he called it ``the inward man.'' And notice here how he separated the inward man from the outward man. The inward man is ``renewed day by day'' while the outward man perishes. The outward man was then another way the Apostle described his earthen vessel.

Then he concluded his thought concerning the impact that tribulations have had on his outward man by writing, ``For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.'' 2Co 4:17-18 Interestingly, the Apostle wrote ``light affliction'' (singular) rather than ``light afflictions'' (plural). When he wrote, ``light affliction,'' he had in view not any particular trial or trials but rather he had the totality of his mortal life in view. Our life this side of Heaven is but a light affliction when compared to the glory we shall enjoy when in Heaven. Notice how this thought compares favorably to that found in Ro 8:18, ``For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.''

This light affliction is but for a moment. It is transitory, temporary, and so will soon have its end with the death of the body. But this light affliction does work for us something. The Apostle wrote that it worked (that is, performed) for us ``a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.'' It performs a useful function and results in a good effect, at least for the inward man. The effect of this light affliction on the outward man is to further cause it to perish, to decay and to hasten its eventual demise. But for the inward man, it is renewed in this light affliction, it is refreshed, it is further encouraged to go on, to persist, and finally in the death of the outward man it is forever set free from the outward man's corruption.

In essence, the mortality of the outward man and the immortality of the inward man is being compared and contrasted. The pains of life will drag the former down to death while the latter is instead brought to the fore and becomes more and more prominent. Then the Apostle concludes with this, ``While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.'' {2Co 4:18}

Here we find the Apostle's estimation of mortal life and the pains that resulted from it. He did not look at (i.e., focus on or be obsessed with) those things which were temporal for if he had, he would have only been drug down into distress, given into despair, felt forsaken, and finally believed he was doomed to nothing more than death and destruction. Rather, he raised his view from that of the earthly to that of the heavenly. He saw beyond the calamities, the adversities, and the maladies of his mortal life. He looked at the things that were not seen, because the unseen things were those things that would last beyond this time world.

The connection between 2Co 4 and Ro 5 is the impact that the tribulations of life had on him and, by extension, the impact they have on us. Tribulations have the singular effect on the child of God in that they make him long for deliverance from this mortal life. Trials and tribulations are useful to the child of God in that sense. They do work to enhance our desire for eternal deliverance but they do not secure that end.

This is where the difference lies between on the one hand tribulations working patience or (put another way) in our light affliction working for us a far more exceeding weight of eternal glory, and on the other what the ``all things'' of Ro 8:28 are working together to accomplish. The former works to draw out or elicit from us the ongoing desire to be delivered whereas the latter works to secure that deliverance, which is our eternal destiny.

One last thing about the part tribulations play in our lives as children of God. As we have now repeatedly stated, the overall theme of Ro 8 is the eternal security of the elect of God. We saw in 2Co 4 that there are seen things and unseen things. The seen things are temporal and the unseen are eternal. The seen things are specifically the trials and tribulations that comprise our light affliction in this present time. The unseen things are those things which we hope to have in the world to come. As the Apostle Paul stated, ``for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?'' {Ro 8:24}

The Apostle Paul in the latter portion of Ro 8 alludes to some of those things that would work to break that hope of eternal security. Starting with verse 31 to the end of this chapter in verse 39, (Ro 8:31-39) the Apostle asks a series of rhetorical questions in which the answers are so very self-evident. In sum, he was asking if there was anything that could separate the elect from the love of God. The answer was a resounding NO! In Ro 8:35, the Apostle listed seven things that could be perceived as defeating God's purpose:

1. Tribulation,

2. Distress, 

3. Persecution, 

4. Famine, 

5. Nakedness, 

6. Peril, 

7. Sword.

Then he listed 10 more things in Ro 8:38-39:

1. Death, 

2. Life, 

3. Angels, 

4. Principalities, 

5. Powers, 

6. Things present, 

7. Things to come, 

8. Height, 

9. Depth, 

10. Any other creature.

None of these things ``shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'' (Ro 8:39)

Why is this? It is because of the ``all things'' that continuously and always harmoniously ``work together'' for the eternal ``good'' of all those that ``love God.'' It is certainly NOT because of anything we can or will do. It is certainly NOT because of the things listed in Ro 8:35,38-39. No, rather it is in spite of them.

The sense of this is that the "all things" cooperate and assist to our eternal good. The "all things" are those things that comprise the divine eternal purpose of God in securing the destiny of His Elect. By an eye of faith, we can right now see that God's purpose is perfectly cooperating in the definite and sure security of every Elect of God. What comfort this brings to my soul!

5. To them that love God. The verse states "all things work together for good to them that love God." We see that those who love God are the ones for whom "all things work together for good." Paul qualified who these are that love God when he stated, "to them who are the called according to his purpose." Paul emphatically stated "the called" denoting those He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world. {Eph 1:4} Paul makes no distinction between those who love God and those who are "the called." They are one and the same; not one less and not one more.

The following verses (Ro 8:29-30) prove this is so. Continuing his description of those "that love God, to them who are the called," he further stated that they are also the foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified. Once again, they are one and the same; not one less and not one more. This can only mean that all "the called" love God without any view whatsoever as to who is or who isn't being obedient to God. This is what is meant by a relational love to God. We love God because we are related to Him by both adoption and birth. This means all the Elect and not some of them.

But if the ``phrase ``to them that love God'' refers to all of the Elect without exception, then why didn't the Apostle write, ``to them that God loves''? Surely, (as some might protest) in that it states that they love God, there must be something to say about the part our obedience plays into all of this.

If we search the New Testament for other texts that have something similar to the Phrase ``love God,'' we surprisingly find only a handful. If we broaden our search to include ``love him'', ``love me'', and ``love Christ'', we find maybe less than fifteen instances. A study of these occurrences shows that to love God is something that is in-born. Yes, our actions manifest that love. Our obedience ought to be motivated out of love to God, but this all begs the question, which is, ``who is it that loves God? And the answer is so very obvious especially when seen in the light of the following verses, Ro 8:29-30.

Furthermore, when interpreting this in light of the overall context of Ro 8, we find that it is no wonder why the Apostle wrote, ``love God,'' rather than ``God loves.'' It is consistent with other passages in the eighth chapter of Romans in which the child of God is identified. Remember how that he wrote in verses one and four about those who ``walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.'' It is tempting for some to interpret this to mean, ``so long as you obediently walk after the Spirit, you will not suffer under a cloud of condemnation.'' But as discussed earlier, the true meaning of this phrase is to show a characteristic trait of the child of God. It is in their nature to walk after the Spirit, not to get out from under condemnation, but in actuality because they are already now not condemned.

The same principle applies to those that ``love God.'' It is in their nature to love God. We love God for the sole reason that He loved us first. { 1Jo 4:19} It is a characteristic trait of the regenerate to love God. {1Jo 5:1} This does not mean (nor should it be inferred that it means) that we will always manifest this trait. It simply is used as a way to identify the child of God because only the child of God can love God. So in the final analysis, we reassert that when the Apostle said ``to them that love God,'' he is merely identifying the family of God just as he had consistently done earlier in this eighth chapter of Romans.

If I love God, I love Him because it is my nature to love Him. This nature is the new nature I was given in regeneration. There is something in me that always will love God without fail, without ceasing, and without diminishment. The more I try to serve Him, the more I may suffer the trials and tribulations of life. My loving service may result in my martyrdom as it has for so many of the Disciples of Christ throughout the history of the church. Many a child of God has died in infancy never having had the opportunity to serve Christ actively. What are we to make of such cases? Some will say that these are but exceptions. Exceptions are necessary here only when the scripture is not rightly divided. Those that love God comprise every single one of the Elect of God, without fail, from the little infant to the oldest adult so long as they are one of God's elect.

Conclusion

We are compelled to conclude that God has so arranged things that all His Elect will be saved without the loss of one. The ``all things'' are those things that God has done to secure the eternal destiny of all the Elect. What a blessed privilege to know this! But even if we should not know it, thankfully these ``all things'' will not fail to do what God intended for them to do. They ``work together'' faultlessly, unfailingly, cooperatively, and harmoniously to the perpetual and eternal ``good'' of all those that ``love God.'' Those that ``love God'' do so because it is their nature to love Him. Why? It is because they are ``the called'' and this calling is in perfect harmony to and in complete agreement with God's eternal purpose. When we can realize what is underneath the wonderfully woven tapestry of God's eternal and sure purpose, we are but left to ask what the beloved Apostle was compelled to ask, ``What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?'' (Ro 8:31) To those who have had this revelation, they are blessed to see by faith how that even now God's purpose is working together to their eternal good. To me, this is the heavenly beauty and sweet comfort of Ro 8:28. With this truth, I can face this present time with a renewed sense of my hope in a Savior who loves me eternally and unconditionally and will see to it that I safely arrive at my destination, which is Heaven and immortal glory.

Simon Says - The Voice of Self-Centered Religion

The Voice of Self-Centered Religion

 by

Elder Dan R. Hall

Fayetteville, Georgia

 

Most little children are familiar with the game “Simon says…â€in which one person tells the others what to do and they do it, but only if the leader says, “Simon says….â€ン  Anything done without Simon’s authority will get a child excluded from the game.  In the realm of religion there is also an area where Simon says….  In this realm, Simon is the voice of self-centered religion as opposed to Christ-centered religion where the words of God and the voice of the Holy Spirit are what is listened to.  Actually, behind Simon there is another whose identity is not unknown to us and of whose devices, as the apostle Paul says, we are not ignorant (2Co 2:11).

The New Testament is rich in various and sundry personalities, each a study in the work of God on the life as well as in the life of an individual.  Among this host of people are three Simons who are illustrations of the pitfalls of self-centered “Simon saysâ€religion.  Each speaks his mind as well as his heart, and each is confronted with what that mind and heart set forth.  We have known these men and may even recognize ourselves as we are now or, hopefully, were at some time in the past.

 

Simon, The Pharisee

In Lu 7:36-50, Luke records one of the occasions when the Lord Jesus Christ laid wide open the nature of pharisaical religion, which was and continues to be a self-centered religion.  He presents the background of a feast to which one Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus.  Simon called him ‘master’ (Lu 7:40), so we know he had outward regard for Jesus.  We also know that he entertained the possibility that Jesus might be a prophet (Lu 7:39).  We also know that he had the Pharisee’s keen eye which enabled him to identify the woman who came to the table uninvited, and out of “her place,â€as a sinner (Lu 7:39).  We also know from the traditions of that time that the host usually allowed a crowd to stand around the perimeter of the room to observe what great and impressive things were going on because of the host bringing his guests together.  It was certainly a time when Simon stood to gain in the eyes of his peers for having a guest like Jesus in his home.  On the other hand, what an embarrassing thing to have that woman creep in uninvited and then behave in such an outlandish way.

Simon says a whole lot more than he intends to without ever opening his mouth.  He diminishes the person and wisdom of Jesus, never knowing that all the while Jesus is discerning the thoughts and intents of his heart.  He elevates himself to the position of judge by judging Jesus and the woman.  He completely discounts her by decrying who and what manner of woman she was.  He never utters a word that indicates that he has any knowledge of his own bankrupt soul.  Not a word was said out loud; however, Simon said enough in his heart to show that he was at the center of all his religious zeal, devotion, and aspirations.

How quickly Jesus can strip bare the poverty of spirit and lack of compassion that characterizes “Simon saysâ€religion.  When a person is certain he has done all the right things, God in a stroke is able to show him that what he has not done is far more telling of his condition than that which he has done.  Simon’s feast was given in order to gain glory for himself.  But he could not discern that the Messiah was in his midst.  The woman had come knowing unto whom she came (Lu 7:37) and all that she did showed that she understood herself as well as the nature of Jesus.

It is interesting to note that Jesus clearly states twice that her sins were forgiven, once to Simon and once directly to her.  Jesus never says anything directly to Simon about his sins.  It is by implication that we gather that Simon has no such consolation:  “…to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth littleâ€(Lu 7:47).  We know that the woman went away in peace.  Nothing is known about the state that Simon was left to endure.  When the Lord confronts, it is either to save or to judge.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we, the Simons of the world included, are not consumed.  The next Simon shows that.

 

Simon, The Sorcerer

In Ac 8, Luke takes us to Samaria with Phillip where we see the gospel preached and the people with one accord giving heed unto those things that he spoke and unto the miracles that were done.  Always the one to want to control and be worshiped, Simon the sorcerer, a former bewitcher of the people of Samaria, also believed and was baptized.  He continued with Phillip (the man with the power) until Peter and John (men with greater power) came down from Jerusalem, by whose hands the Samaritans subsequently received the Holy Ghost.  This was simply too much for Simon, who since he did not have the power they had, believed that money would be able to buy it for him.  There are four things that Peter says unto him that show us both the judgment that rests upon “Simon saysâ€religion and the only hope there is for those who are in bondage to it.

  “Thou has thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money†(Ac 8:20).  “Simon saysâ€religion is always money-based religion which is conducted for the glory of those giving the money.  One’s need of grace is blotted out by the arrogant assumption that the cause of one’s ego is so important that it must be advanced by buying what it appears that God is too stingy to give freely.

  “Thou has neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God†(Ac 8:21).  The terrible condition of the heart abiding in “Simon saysâ€religion is united with the harsh reality that those with such hearts are not embraced in the works that God does.  See Mt 7:21-23 for more of the Lord’s commentary on this point.

  “I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity†(Ac 8:23).  “Simon saysâ€religionists are exposed to the wrath of God for the bitterness of their hearts.  They are also caught in the bonds of their own iniquity.  Those who think that they hold others in the bonds of their power, never see that they are in far worse bonds than those whom they dominate.

  However, even in the midst of confrontation and rebuke, Peter still holds out hope to this poor miserable creature.  “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if Perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee†(Ac 8:22).  No other cure for “Simon saysâ€religion and the bondage in which it holds its followers is given except thIs  In being brought to see the utter hopelessness of one’s position, calling out unto God for forgiveness is the only hope.  Peter knew it, and if Simon was to be delivered he, too, needed to know it.

            Unlike the case of Simon the Pharisee, this record does not leave us to doubt the outcome of this confrontation.  Simon says, “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon meâ€(Ac 8:24).  Rather than still believing himself to be “the great power of Godâ€(Ac 8:10), he, like the poor Publican, does not believe himself able even to approach God in prayer but calls on his rebuker to pray for him.  It does not sound like he is wanting anything but to be delivered from the awful judgment of God.  We are not told if Peter or John did pray for him, but can anyone think that they would have refused?  Beyond that, would God have refused to hear and answer when repentance and prayer is what the man was directed to do?  Amazing grace, and what blessed hope does God extend to such undeserving, proud, ignorant wretches as we by nature are.

 

Simon, The Disciple

            The case of those Simons already mentioned can be easily understood, since they were never actually near to the Lord Jesus Christ.  After all, anyone near to the Lord could not actually practice a self-centered religion, could they?  In Mt 16:16-19 Jesus declares Simon Peter to be blessed of the Father, gives him a new name - Peter, and promises to give him the authority, that is, the keys of the kingdom of heaven itself.  Some short time later, this same man is found rebuking the Lord for saying that he must go to Jerusalem to die:  “Be it far from thee [literally, pity thyself] Lord: this shall not be unto theeâ€(Mt 16:22).  For this the Lord lets him, as well as the others, know in no uncertain terms that a religion that is based on self-pity and self-interest is the devil’s own religion.

            Notice that Jesus said this directly to Peter, his disciple, and plainly called him Satan.  Does anyone not get the point?  Selfishness and self-interest is not simply undesirable.  It is not simply something we try to improve upon.  When we are in a “Simon saysâ€mode we are no different than if we were Satan himself.  We, not just our behavior, are an offense unto the Lord for we are not savoring the things of God but the things that be of man (Mt 16:23).

            In each of these three cases we can see some things that have plagued us or dominated us or threatened us either at some time in the past or maybe even now.  The same Jesus that rebuked Simon Peter also told him:  “I have prayed for you that your faith fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethrenâ€(#Lk 22:32|).  There are so many times in our walk and in our service that we need to be strengthened and it is not accomplished by the works of Simon’s religion.  It is accomplished through the faithful care of a loving Savior who intercedes for us, and converts us to what we ought to be, and directs our lives away from the self-serving tendencies of the flesh to the self-giving work of strengthening of our brethren.

 

HR.01 How Are The Dead Raised Up?

HOW ARE THE DEAD RAISED UP?

The word "gospel" simply means "good news" or "glad tidings". The central focus of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). The Bible teaches that he accomplished what he came to do (Heb 9:12; 10:14). Therefore, the gospel brings comfort to those who are troubled over their sins (Isa 40:1-2). It is not a proposition to the sinner but a declaration of the finished work of our Savior which secured our eternal salvation(1Co 5:13). Consequently, Christians believe that when the Lord returns, He will raise the dead and take His people to their eternal home in glory (Ac 1:9-11; 1Th 4:16-18; Col 3:4). The resurrection of Jesus necessitates the resurrection of those he saved (1Co 15:16-20).

The Bible also teaches, "that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."(2Pe 3:3-4). The question is sometimes asked, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" (1Co 15:35). The apostle Paul answers this question in such a way as to put the "scoffer" on the defensive. "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." (1Co 15:36-38). Paul is essentially saying that we witness a likeness of the resurrection in nature every Spring. A farmer doesn't get a harvest unless he first risks the loss of his seed ("that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die"). Furthermore what he plants (buries) is not in direct proportion to what he hopes to receive. He plants the "bare grain" (naked seed) and hopes to receive "wheat, or some other grain". A farmer plants a few kernels of corn seed in hopes of receiving ears with thousands of kernels. That which he reaps is far superior to that which he sowed. Some of the most beautiful flowers come forth as a result of burying an ugly bulb. How can anyone deny the resurrection in light of the abundant evidence to support it in nature? Concerning our natural bodies, Paul then says, "...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..." (1Co 15:42-44). Paul concludes the chapter by writing, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Co 15:55-57).

We're living in a day in which doctrinal compromise has reached epidemic proportions in many "churches". As Christians, we need to remember the words of Jude 25, "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3). The expression, "once delivered" indicates that what was taught by the apostles as recorded in the Bible is "perpetually valid". The doctrine of the resurrection cannot be compromised. The Apostle Paul was very emphatic concerning the importance of this doctrine when he wrote the church at Corinth, "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1Co 15:16-19).