Motives and Motivation Part I-VI

Motives and Motivation: Part I

Why People do What They Do



Motivation is a term used to explain behavior. As previously discussed, theories abound in the secular world to explain why people do what they do. The theories represent presumed reasons for people’s actions, desires, and thoughts. However, the predominant feature is subjectivity – feelings and to get. Motivation is not only a theoretical construct. The term can also be used to define one’s direction in life or to explain a person’s repetitive behavior. A motive is what prompts the person to act in a certain way or at least develop an inclination for a specific behavior. However, motivation involves thoughts and desires which have morphed into wants.

Everyone is a motivational-ist. By that word I mean man and mankind were created by God for a purpose. Man is purpose-driven in varying intensity. Man acts according to or in opposition to that purpose. In other words, motivation is theological. These facts make sense only because God is motivated by something – His glory and the good of His people. God is motivated by that which is inherent and innate in His Being and essence. It part of his God-ness. God is a motivated, the Motivator and the Influencer.

Moreover, God created man to be motivated and to be motivator. God’s ultimate goal and purpose for creation is to bring His people into His divine presence. He will dwell with them as their God and they will dwell with Him as His people. Fulfillment of these purposes appeared to be an impossibility for Adam and Eve after they were “exiled” from the Garden (Gen 3:21-24).

Man’s relationship with God was radically different after the Fall. Fallen man, still the image of God and a dependent creature, severed his right relationship with God. Post-fall, man’s motivation took on a godless, rebellious, and “me-first” mentality.

When we speak of and study motivation, where do we start? Do we begin with fallen man’s idea of why man does what he does? Do we center on the Word of God? God – Creator, Controller, and Redeemer – knows Himself and His creatures. He designed them as His image bearer. So it is only proper and logical to begin with God and His Word. Several facts are self-evident.

  • God relates to Himself in the Trinity and to His creation and creatures. He is morally and ethically responsible for Himself and His world.
  • God is a rational, revelational, relational, responsible, and religious Being. He thinks His own thoughts. He reveals Himself to His people in a variety of ways: through nature, through the law (or its requirements) written on every person’s heart, and through and in the Word – the living Word, Christ – and the written word, the Bible.
  • God is to be worshipped – He is a religious Being. He created man in His image, so that man is a rational, revelational, relational, responsible, and religious being. Man is reflector – he is to reflect the very nature of God.

As God’s image, what motivates God should motivate man: God’s glory and the good of God’s creatures. That is the reality of heaven and the state of existence in the Garden before the Fall. Since the Fall man’s motivation has changed to “me-first,” for my glory, and my benefit. That is the shocking reality of sin and life apart from God. Fallen man creates his own virtual reality. That reality is a make-believe world even though he is residing in God’s world. Man’s make-believe world is for him, by him, and to him. The scene of two toddlers and one toy depicts the reality of the Fall: “I-had-it-first” mentality so often rears its head. “Me is first” in fallen man’s world and that mentality is not limited to toddlers.

God has not left His people to fend for themselves. Man is still influenced – motivated – by something on the inside (the heart, the spiritual aspect of man) and that which is outside of him. That which is outside is not causative. Man is an inside-out being. His heart is the key to motivation. Over the next several blogs, I will discuss some ways God motivates Himself and how He motivates man. I will look at various levels (for lack of a better term) of motivation for man and mankind.



  1. What turns you on and off? Give reasons for each.
  2. Read Gen. 1:1-2 and John 1:1-5: what do you learn? Who is the subject of those verses?
  3. Reflect on God’s motivation: His own glory and the good of His people – see Ps. 115:3 and 135:6. What are your thoughts and why?


Motivation and Motives: Part II

Why People Do What They Do

Levels of Motivation


Motives and motivation are common terms that refer to the reason, incentive, and purpose a person has for doing or not doing something. Motivation results in an action (or perhaps inaction) and includes thoughts and desires. In fact, thoughts and desires are linked to action or inaction and all are linked to motivation. At its core motivation involves the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions. A person’s motive is linked to the importance he places on having or doing something or avoiding something.

Why talk about motivation? People want to know why people including themselves do things. There are many theories to explain why people do what they do. For instance, according to instinct theories, people are motivated to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily programmed to do so (William James). The incentive theory suggests that people are motivated to do things because of external rewards (Skinner). According to the drive theory of motivation, people are motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is caused by unmet needs (Charles Hull). Humanistic theories of motivation are based on the idea that people also have strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. This is famously illustrated in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory which presents different motivations at different levels. However, all theories pale in comparison to God’s truth because they are based on counterfeit wisdom. Isaiah, in Isaiah 8:20, encouraged the people – motivated them – to look into God’s word for direction using the phrase: to the law and to the testimony. Every person is a theologian since every person has a belief about God and a relationship to Him whether acknowledged or not. Therefore life is theological and it is lived in or out of relationship with God. Further, since every one is a theologian and life is theological, we must study what God has to say if we are to be accurate in our assessment of motivation.

The Bible teaches that man, an image bearer of God, was created to be motivated by God for God. Man was created a rational/thinking, morally responsible, purposeful being. As such, he thinks, desires, and acts. Man decides and chooses for a purpose. He has a “why” for doing and not doing. He hopes to accomplish something.

Daily, the ultimate choice for everyone, believer and unbeliever, is to please God or to please self. This choice is the result of Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment. Pre-fall Adam had the capacity and the desire to please God. After the fall, unless saved, man only has the capacity and motivation only to please self. He has no desire or ability to please God (Rom. 5:5-8). Man is a sinner from birth; therefore he sins. Even, and especially, the believer has an inner-man conflict: to serve and please God or self. That choice is pictured in Romans 13:12-14 and Galatians 5:16-18.

Several levels of motivation exist for all mankind. At a basic level there is the motive of getting: what a person can get from something or someone. Self takes center stage. “What is in it for me?” is the mantra, spoken or not. The I-had-it-first mindset is often demonstrated in the scenario of two youngsters and one toy. Another decision-making situation occurs when obedience is required or desired. The youngster who is told to clean up his room can be the obedient one primarily to avoid consequences. Getting for me by avoidance is the goal. Everyone recognizes that these approaches are selfish. This basic level of “getting” has a variety of expressions and carries potential unwanted consequences, most importantly dishonoring God.

At another level, motivation focuses on others – pleasing them. In fact, the goal is still pleasing self because pleasing others is intended “to get what I want” – generally a good feeling. At this level of motivation there may be a desire to do a good job (fulfill a personal responsibility, for instance) in order to obtain something. That something may simply be a happy parent. The child reasons: a happy mom and dad make life easier for me. Therefore he cleans his room. Another motive may be “getting” appreciation or favor in the eyes of the other person. In all of these examples self still takes center stage. These levels of motivation do look away to others but the goal is still self-pleasing. The resultant activity is often acceptable by others but the motivation is still self-focused.

A third level of motivation stems from a real concern for others. The youngster who cleans his room because he does not want to incur punishment from his parents maybe concerned about them as well: “I don’t want them to be mad. They are sad and nobody is happy then.” The person is moving from self but self is still paramount. I will continue the discussion in the next blog.



  1. Write out your view of God and why you hold to it.
  2. Write out reasons to please God and reasons to please self.
  3. What makes it easy for you to please self and hard to please God?
  4. Read Ps. 34:8: what is the psalmist’s message and how does it apply to motivation?

Motivation and Motives: Part III

Why People Do What they Do?

A Higher and The Highest level of Motivation


A higher level of motivation centers on the desire to please God. Only the believer can truly please God. He was re-created to please God, glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 1:4). So-called Christian hedonism enters the picture here. It teaches that man is must satisfied when he is satisfied with God. God is most glorified when man is completely satisfied with God. However, even the motive for pleasing God can be tricky. When knowledge, joy, contentment, trust, and obedience are linked the believer is moving to the ultimate motivation of pleasing God. These five elements were perfectly wedded together in Christ, the God-man. He lived to please the Father. Covenantal faithfulness motivated Him to the cross and beyond.

When pleasing God, some people attempt to use God – as a fix or analgesic – to get. People do any number of activities in order to get from God under the guise of pleasing God. They may seek God to perform for them. They, in fact, are the idol and the idol-maker. They use God to obtain or so they can look good in attaining it (such as the pastor who leaves his wife for his secretary in order to “strengthen” his ministry). They actually worship themselves and are using God in their own worship service. In another sense, God is functioning as their idol. For instance, in times of trouble they want relief or sleep and may seek it from God. Relief is paramount and if they do not get it they will seek other ways to please God in order to get for self. They may move to another tactic.

However, God is not simply a Giver to be used. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is their refuge and ever-present help in or out of trouble but he is not for sale or to be used (Ps. 46:1-3, 10). Rather, the believer runs to God for fellowship and intimacy simply because God deserves it and He has changed the believer from a self-worshipper to a God worshipper. True worship is giving of self to the honor and glory as the Son gave of Himself to honor and glorify the Father for the benefit of His people.

In summary, the highest level of motivation is pleasing God simply because God is God.

Pleasing God is one of the reasons God created man. Even in a sinless world, God is Creator, Controller, and Sustainer. As such He deserves to honored and glorified. This was true in heaven among the angelic beings and it was true in the Garden. In each environment, the angels and Adam and Eve knew God and themselves. They had the highest reason to please God: God is God and they were not. They failed.  They did not even try to please God. Self took center stage.

The ultimate reason for pleasing God is simply this: He is God and deserves to be pleased and praised (Eccl. 5:1-3; Ps. 146:5-9; 147:4-6; 148:1-6). Jesus knew this and He was motivated to please His Father (John 4:31-34). God motivates His people by teaching them about Himself (He reveals Himself) – Who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. Knowledge should lead to a desire to please God. Knowing the truth about God motivated Jesus all the way to the cross and beyond.

God by His word and Spirit teach mankind about itself. The Bible gives reasons why the believer can and will live as a God-pleaser. Lovingly, our God has taught us about Himself (He is Creator, Controller, and Redeemer of His people). He demonstrated His love and justice at the cross and reaffirmed that truth with Jesus’ bodily resurrection (John 3:16-21; Rom. 3:21-26; 4:25). God indwelt believers with His Holy Spirit and He gave the world His powerful, purposeful self-revelation. Jesus is the Living Word and the Bible is the written word (John 14:6; 17:17).

Ultimately, it is in the believer’s best interest to please God because God is God and the person is not. If that fact has not taken hold of you, ask yourself why. You may assume that God doesn’t exist or that He is not important. You may assume that He is not the God that He says He is. You may consider the cross an insignificant historical event without any importance for you. Or sin may be so common-place in your life that you are comfortable with it. You think you have no need to repent. No matter the reasons, stop and focus on who God is and who you are according to Scripture. It is a matter of life and death, now and eternally.



  1. Pleasing-God is antithetical to pleasing self, man’s orientation post-fall. Review the various levels of motivation discussed so far.
  2. What is the believer’s best interest and give reasons for your answer?
  3. How may a person “use” God?


Motivation and Motives: Part IV

Why People Do What they Do?

What Motivates God?


In the first blog in this series, I wrote that God is motivated by that which is inherent in His Being. What we know of God we know because God revealed it to us. He did and does so by His Son – the Living Word (John 14:6); by His written Word, Scripture – John 17:17, by nature; and by the moral law written on the heart of every man. Make no mistake: God reveals and motivates by and through His revelation. He reveals Himself – Who He is and what He does.

Scripture tells us that our God is in the heavens; he does whatever pleases him (Ps. 115:3) and The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth,  in the seas and all their depths (Ps. 135:6). These are clear statements of the power and control of God. The word in the original translated pleases indicates delight, pleasure with, and rejoice in. God rejoices in Himself. Rejoicing in Himself is something only God does inherently and perfectly. He rejoices in being God and conveying His God-ness to His creation. Man, as God’s image, is a rejoicer, initially in God. This activity was to consume man which was best for man individually an corporately. .

In the area of motivation, someone may ask if man has a free will. The short answer is yes. A next question follows: the questioner is to define the term free. Man is not a robot or automaton. He acts inside-out – according to his nature. His freedom is constrained by his nature. Consider: does God have a free will? Is He free to be other than God? God is free to be God. It is impossible for Him to be or do otherwise. God must be God – and He is. God can not lie. Moreover, He has no desire to go against His nature which in this case is truth (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2).

God is a jealous, zealous God: Exodus 20:5. The word jealous implies a strong, intense desire for something such as possessions. It is a relational word. In the second commandment, God professes His passion for Himself – His holy name and His character. In that zeal He declares rightful ownership of all mankind and creation. He is fully devoted to Himself. He has every right to expect and demand full allegiance from all mankind. The word’s central meaning relates to “jealousy” within the marriage relationship. As Israel’s husband (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:14; 31:32), He expected loyalty and He deserved single-minded devotion. The Church, the New Israel, and the individual believer owe the same loyalty to God. God will not tolerate spiritual and physical adultery/idolatry which represents unbelief and double-mindedness.

God is motivated from within. He covenanted in eternity past to bring a people to Himself, into His divine presence (Eph. 1:4). Redemptive history records the “how” of God’s story. In the Old Testament God was with His people – the pillar of fire and cloud, and the glory cloud at the tabernacle. Once a year, the privileged high priest entered into the Holy of Holies as God’s man (Lev.16). The high priest entered into God’s presence and he did not die. The ritual of coming into God’s presence without death was established by God at Sinai. The people relished the presence of God but understood holy and unholy don’t mix. When the high priest emerged from the Holy of Holiness alive and well, the people rejoiced knowing that a mediator brought them into God’s presence and the sacrifice was accepted.

The Day of Atonement pointed to the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who dwelt with and among His people (Matt. 1:23 – Immanuel, and John 1:1-14). He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church and His people (2 Cor. 6:14-71; 1 Cor. 3:10-17; 6:15-20; 1 Peter 2:4-10). God was in His people, individually and corporately. History and salvation is His story. Scripture inerrantly and infallibly records and interprets God’s story for us. As recorded in the Old and New Testaments, history is the story of God making good on His promises – first to Himself and then to His people.

Jesus was motivated by a desire to please His Father and complete the plan and design set out in eternity past (John 6:37-43). What motivated Christ is what motivates the Triune God. God is a Planner and the Implementer of that plan. God is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper par excellence. His glory and majesty is being played in the present as He brings a people to Himself and He judges His enemy. He keeps His promise!




  1. Read Psalms 115:3 and 135:6: how do they fit into your view of God?
  2. What does God’s motivation tell you about Him and you?
  3. List the differences it will make in your life.


Motivation and Motivation: Part V

Why Do People Do What they Do?

Your Response to God


In terms of motivation we are faced with God Who is real, purposeful, and powerful, and also good and merciful. He is all of those things at the same time. None of those terms describe Him totally and yet He is those perfectly and completely all the time. He is sui generis –in a class by Himself. Even that description does not do justice to God. There is no class to place God. He is God who is all that God should be – He is perfection and defines it!

Think about it. God protects His name and those to whom He has given His name – believers. Who is this God? He happens to be love (1 John 4:8), light (1 John 1:5), Spirit (John 4:23-24), and truth (John 14:6). He is long-suffering, slow to anger, and abounding with compassion (Exodus 34:6-7). Why wouldn’t you want to please Him and draw closer to Him? This God has made a point of presenting Himself to you as faithful and true. The cross proves this and the resurrection confirms this. He did not stop there: He poured out His Holy Spirit to His Church and His people.

The cross opens up the heart of God. It gives an insight into the inner life of God. When you examine the cross, you find God Who loves with an everlasting love. Try and grip what that term means. He has loved the believer eternally. He loved the believer into His kingdom and family.

But that is not all the story. We know that God is a consuming fire (Heb. 10:31); the just Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25), and Who does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). He rights every wrong and has set a day to reconcile all things and all people to Himself (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Pray tell, why would anyone attempt to sully God’s name by sinning? Why would something think about using God for His own purposes? What further motivation does a person need to please God non-redemptively as Christ did redemptively?

Sin is an attack on God and His goodness. It is not simply an ethical act. Rather it arises from the heart of man as a habituated lifestyle leftover from membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Sin, single or patterned, is best pictured as the sinner raising his fist at God and proclaiming that his way is best. The sinner whether he acknowledges it or not is following in the footsteps of Satan and the first Adam. He has chosen not walk in the footsteps of the second Adam – Jesus Christ.

The believer should be motivated to please God as he humbles accepts the blessing and a privilege of being known personally by a God. This God protects His name and those who bear it. He expects believers to do the same. Psalm 117 (the shortest psalm in the Bible) makes this point. In verse 2 we read: For great is his steadfast love toward us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. This verse encapsulates the thought of Exodus 34:6. God makes and keeps His promises and holds His people to and in Him.

History tells us that Martin Luther, steeped in his own personal lawkeeping, took careful notice of Romans 1:16-17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith.” The issue was one of righteousness – how he looked before God or how God looked at him. Luther became convinced that there was no salvation apart from righteousness. The issue was the definition and the source of that righteousness.  Luther became convinced that no one had a right legal standing before the Lawgiver when judge by His standard – the Law. Prior to that day, Luther, as did many people, had a high view of himself and his own law keeping. He had a low view of God and Christ’s lawkeeping – it was not needed.

On the day of his conversion, Luther accepted the following facts: he was not God; God was God; God had a right and obligation to make rules and to expect them to be obeyed; God’s saving of all those who believe in Him resides in the righteousness provided in Christ accepted by saving faith; Christ’s personal lawkeeping was perfect lawkeeping. What had been missing from Luther’s thinking, and perhaps yours, was the truth that God is love; He is long suffering; and He is the just Judge. Using false logic no matter its source, Luther was in a quandary.

Luther knew that God is Creator, Controller, and Father. God makes promises and keeps His promises. He began to acknowledge that God is also Redeemer and Deliverer. He rejoiced! Therefore, Luther was able to surmise that the cross brought together God’s love and mercy and God’s justice and wrath. He came to rejoice in the fact that Jesus kept the law perfectly and then Jesus went to the cross as the perfect Sacrifice. Jesus went to hell on the cross for His people as the true Lawkeeper and their substitute. Amazing! What motivated Jesus to go to the cross and stay on the cross? Simply and supernaturally, He desired to please his Father. Life was simplified for Jesus and for all believers.



  1. How did you answer the questions in paragraphs one and two?
  2. What is the basis for your answers?
  3. In what ways does your knowledge of God – His love and justice – motivate you to change your thoughts, desires, and actions daily?


Motivation and Motivation: Part VI

Why Do People Do What they Do?

Who is Your God?



Who is your God (or god)? This question is simple but it demands a thorough answer. There is a God (notice the capital G). Everyone has a god and is a god OR there is God. That is, everyone marches to some drumbeat, has allegiance to someone, and lives in devotion to him. The fact of the matter is revealed in nature and Scripture: there is one God. He is the Creator, Controller, and Sustainer of the universe. He is Father and Redeemer of His children.

Moreover, God created man, His image bearer, a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. Man is to apply that revelation – put it into practice. How do these non-negotiable facts motivate you and in which direction? They do motivate because, as we have mentioned, everyone is a motivator and motivatee. Every person will accept or reject these truths about God and himself. There is a link between knowledge of God and knowledge self and one’s response to God, self, and others. .

What are some of the ways that God motivates people? One way is teaching truth about Himself, man, and the world as revealed in His Word. God is truth and life (John 14:6) and light (John 8:12; 9:5; 1 John 1:5). Jesus Christ, the light, shines into the darkness but the darkness did not and cannot extinguish it or overcome it (John 1:4-5). Paul wrote that man attempts to resist and reject the truth and light (Rom. 1:18-20). Moreover, Jesus came to His own and they rejected him (John 1:11). Any teaching disconnected from God is untruth.

The person in darkness – unbelief and rebellion – will attempt to suppress and overcome truth and light (Rom. 1:18-23). He will exchange God’s truth for the lie. However, he will not overcome truth and light because he cannot. Darkness will never reign supreme in God’s world because it is God’s world and His Son is the Light and it shines forth.

John teaches another truth: freedom. The truth will set man free (John 8:31-32). The truth is a person and the word (John 14:6; 17:17). John indicates man’s bondage – a type of wilderness and an existence apart from God. The essence of this darkness is self-pleasing which is attempting to be God. The first Adam’s active covenantal unfaithfulness dwells within man. It manifests itself in some form in the unbeliever always and the believer periodically. The beauty of knowing the truth and its proper application and the promise of freedom is one of God’s primary motivations for believers.

A third means of motivation is via suprasensual living. This is more than simple sense perception (John 4:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:7, 9). Facts are everywhere; every fact is perceived – it is taken in by the senses. Every fact is interpreted. Truth is objective and real. It is a Person – Jesus Christ. His truth by His Word gives every person the correct interpretative grid. The Holy Spirit enables the believer, and only the believer, to correctly use the Bible and live suprasensually (Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-13). God’s truth – it is truth by definition – is something around and in every person.

The person interprets the facts. The person must be careful. Every person has an interpretive grid. He thinks and interprets in his outer man (his brain) and in his inner man (the heart) – as a whole person. He draws conclusions and thinks, desires, and acts accordingly. However, only the believer has a suprasensual interpretive grid – saving faith that is conditioned by biblical truth motivated by the Holy Spirit. Man perceives both sensually and suprasensually. I am not speaking of emotions or feelings. By suprasensual I mean a Holy Spirit-directed and -principled life. Life is simplified and clarity enters into the believer’s life. Knowing truth sets a person free to please the Father vs. self.

The life of the believer is a life that includes an experiential or existential encounter with God. In several places, Scripture calls man into intimate fellowship with God (Ps. 34:8: Oh, taste and see that God is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him). What does it mean to taste and see God and His goodness? The simple fact is that God is good, always. Your experience, your feelings, and your own logic divorced from biblical truth won’t change that fact. Boldly, God tells you to seek intimacy with Him. He knows Himself and you. He invites you to come and He has given you so many reasons to come. Why would you not? He has entrusted every believer with the Holy Spirit, saving faith and sanctifying faith and grace, and a forever relationship with God by union with Christ, and His Word. Wow!

A fourth means of motivation is God’s Fatherly concern for His children. God reminds us that He is the believer’s Father. As such, He moves the believer toward Christlikeness (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Peter 1:5-10). Like Father, like Son. The Triune God pushes His people toward a full-family resemblance. As a family member, the believer should expect and appreciate the Father’s discipline and the pruning of his faith (Heb. 12:5-11; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). God intends to return His people to the true family resemblance and to think His thoughts and desire His ways. God makes good on His promise of developing Christlikeness in His children. The cross and the resurrection affirm and confirm that fact.

Lastly, God, the righteous Judge, brings all facts to light, rights all wrongs, and does not leave the guilty unpunished. A patterned failure to apply biblical truth has consequences including misery in this life (Prov. 13:15b). God protects Himself, His name, and His people. We may not see God’s retributive justice immediately but it is coming (2 Thess. 1:5-10; Matt. 25:31-46). It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). God’s children will never have that experience because Christ suffered the entirety of God’s unmitigated wrath on the cross (Rom. 8:32-34).



  1. Define motivation and review some of the means by which God motivates people.
    2. Coming to God in intimate fellowship is a duty but more: it is a blessing and privilege. Give evidence of that fact in your life as expressed in Ps. 34:8.
  2. Compare Phil 3:3-6 and 3:7-11: what did Paul learn and how are you like and unlike Paul?








Matthew 16:13-20, Part I-III

Matthew 16:13-20, Part I: Who Is Jesus?

Question One: The People’s Answers


This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Often man’s Duplexity is characterized as a dichotomy. In reality, man is a unit. He has a body but he is more than body. He has a spirt but he is more than spiritual. Man is a whole person. As such, he thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s and their manner of life and leadership (16:12; 11:28-30). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed for them and those under their teaching (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. The Pharisees and their followers had endorsed the adequacy of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves as their own messiah. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one. They needed freedom from Rome and her domination. They denied their spiritual bondage.

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach and instruct the disciples about Himself. His motif was question-asking. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. He waited for an answer and then moved to instruction. This is an excellent tool for one-on-one ministry.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. Jesus was challenging them as He ministered appropriate biblical truth to them in their situation given their level of spiritual maturity and their level of willingness to understand and apply the truth. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah to remove the burden of Rome. The tile Son of Man is used some 80 times in the gospels and all but one by Jesus (John 12:34). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The use of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people gave varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God.



  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

Matthew 16:13-20, Part II: Who is Jesus?

Second Question: The Disciples’ Answer


Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal as He honed in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be. The importance of that fact rested on Jesus and His purpose. He asked an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would provide the disciples with a proper view of Jesus, His message, His mission; and a proper view of their message and ministry as God’s agents. All of these aspects were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. What they saw with their physical eyes exceeded their comprehension. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He was exhorting them to consider people and events from the vantage point of spiritual eyes, the eyes of saving faith. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they in the faith? The question is a good one for every believer. Jesus’ question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching as logical and even commendable. They were tempted to be tossed back and forth by accepting human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected and deserved fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly informed in regard to their own salvation and in order to grow as a child of God. Moreover, they needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belts in order to carry the gospel message forward. If the gospel message had no impact on them individually in terms of changed thinking, wanting, and doing, it would have impact on others. The Word of God filets the heart and confronts the person with God’s truth (Heb. 4:12). Change is of the essence for the believer. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.



  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. Jesus’ second question (who do you say I am?) was intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.


Matthew 16:13-20, Part III: Who is Jesus?

The Source of the Disciples’ Answer


In this portion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6 (Acts 7:32) and Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 22:32 and John 8:56-58. In contrast to the crowd, Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).

As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of that person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). Do you agree with Jesus and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation regarding Jesus in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on three facets: you, the knower; the object of your knowledge which should be Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit; and the standard and source for your answer. There is only one true source – God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects and deserves a return on His gift and investment. Salvation and growth in Christlikeness are keys to returning to God what is rightfully His. He deserves all of a person given His way for His glory. Returning to God what is His begins at salvation and continues all the way into heaven. Eternally, the believer will continue to grow in Christlikeness.



  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?


Surrender or Submit

Surrender or Submit: Part I

The Biblical Concept


What do you think when you hear the word submission? If you are a history major with an interest in wars, you may think of General Lee turning himself, his troops and his arms over to General Grant. If you are police officer you may think of a “bad guy” turning himself over to the authorities. The English Thesaurus includes such terms for surrender as give in, give up, lay down your arms, capitulate, and admit defeat. What is striking about those terms? They tend to be or are decidedly passive. Yet the person does something – he gives in and gives up to some higher authority or at least someone who holds the upper hand. The person gives into something outside of himself.  Other terms that may substitute for the term surrender or capture the idea of surrender include submit and yield. Submission moves us closer to the biblical concept of dying to self and living to God or what theologians would call progressive sanctification.

I often hear the word surrender used by Christians. They tell me that their pastor calls them to surrender to Jesus. I ask them to define the term and how they intend to accomplish the command. Too often, it is to stop what they are doing and do something positive. Often it is let go and let God. A proper definition of what the believer does and does not do at and after salvation, is fundamental to a proper understanding of salvation.

Salvation includes humbling oneself before God based on the proper knowledge of God and self which results in the proper motivation for coming to Christ.  For a full-orbed understanding of what it means to bow one’s knee we must consider what is involved in surrendering, and how a person will know whether he has or not. A logical question that follows is: by what power is anyone able to surrender? Further, should the Christian use the term surrender?

The English word surrender is used very infrequently in the Old or New Testaments. In the Old Testaments the term refers to laying down one’s weapons or handing over a wicked person (Judges 20:13; 1 Samuel 11:3, 11; Jer. 38:17-18). The word is rare in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the word surrender translates the word meaning to entrust or to deposit: If I give all I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  The term surrender indicates resolution and even passivity.  In this case, the fire does a work on the body.

In terms of how to surrender, most people tell me that they have to turn it over Jesus, let go and let God, and to stop fighting Him. They believe that they have made a decision for Christ based on their feelings or the decision itself. Most often the decision is made in one’s own strength. These are very interesting concepts that are presented in the answers. Painted in the best and biblical light, I think the term surrender is intended to  have the person acknowledge his rebellion against God and have him cease in that action. The believer may be aware that change must come. This desire to change characterizes the believer given his changed heart. This blog presents truths that help to decide if the term surrender captures the believer’s move from self to God.

The magnitude, intensity, pervasiveness, and frequency of the pull and inclination to please self are something to behold individually (self) and in others. It seems amazing that even a short duration as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom should have such profound influence on a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. At the moment of conception, man is anti-God and pro-self (Ps. 51:1-5). No one today gives much credence to what some would consider a heartless statement. However, the Bible teaches that man was conceived and born as a sinner. Yes, sin is the problem, but we must remember that sinners are the problem. God saves sinners not sin.

Man does not learn to sin. It is part of his nature. What man won’t acknowledge is the fact that sin, any and every sin, is an attack on God and His goodness and God-ness. That is the bad news. There is good news! Jesus came to and for His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:4-5). That rejection did not deter Christ. He saved a people in order to please the Father. The unbeliever is a member in Satan’s family and kingdom but the believer has been removed from that family and kingdom. He will function at various times and in various ways as if he was still a member of Satan’s family. Previous membership in Satan’s kingdom exerts a tremendous influence. It is a sad but true reality of living in the continuing present evil age as a believer (Gal. 1:4).

As above, the call to surrender is not found in the Bible unless you equate, and perhaps confuse the call to submit as surrender. The Bible locates the believer’s moral drama within , in his own heart, regenerated though it is. The Triune God knows that saved sinners are still sinners. Sinning is patterned in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions. Unfortunately, believers, in varying degrees, continue to do what they have done for so long and are too comfortable with their patterned approach to God, self, and others. Surrendering tends to look at the consequences of doing or not doing. Submission focuses on the God of this universe and the war that the sinner has been arrogantly, ignorantly, and miserably carrying on against Him. The call is for the person to submit.



  1. Catch the difference in meaning between surrender and submit. What is the difference?
  2. How is submission and surrender similar and contrasted?
  3. What does God’s call to submit entail? See Ephesians 5:21-22, 24; Hebrews 12:9; James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13.







Surrender or Submit: Part II

The Biblical Concept


Once saved the believer is called to grow in Christ-like character (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18). Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process. The believer is called and equipped to walk (conduct himself) in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever (Rom. 3:12-14; Eph. 2:1-3, 4-7; Col. 3:8-10).  He is called to a radically changed lifestyle that involves the whole person: thoughts, desires/affections, and actions. The believer is called and equipped to step down and move over because he has lived the lie as an unbeliever. He has competed with God. No man, pre-fall or post-fall, has been in charge or on the throne.  God will not share His glory with any man (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

The New Testament is replete with the call for every believer to become more like Christ. Said another way, the believer is to put on the character of Christ. The call has many different facets, but underlying the call is its priority and aggressiveness. Growth in Christlikeness is certainly not passive.  It means coming to one’s senses as did the prodigal (Luke 15:17-18).  It means taking off the mantle of self-pleasing, self-righteousness, and self dependence; it means acknowledging being clothed in Christ’s righteousness; and as a result, it means conducting oneself as a child of the King energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will not let the believer, who is prone to wander, do his own thing and thereby live the lie. The Holy Spirit, through the double grip of the Father and the Son , will not let the believer leave the God Who loved the believer in spite of himself (John 10:28-30; Rom. 5:6-10; 8:32-37). God is not interested in a simple surrender, a putting down of one’s rebellious spirit. God has changed people and He expects a return on His work through the Holy Spirit. Putting on Christ as one puts off self is key (Rom. 13:12-14).

One problem for every believer is the continued practice of me-ism. Every believer, again in varying degrees and in various ways, thinks and acts as if he is in control and thereby he lives the lie. In reality, this is God’s world and man was created and placed in it by God’s design. God’s design for man included privilege and blessing because the believer has been rescued from Satan’s kingdom and placed in God’s kingdom and family (Col. 1:13-14). Whenever a believer sins he is saying, among other things, that this is his world and he can run it his way. He goes back to Garden and follows Adam’s choice to side with Satan against God. The believer is telling God to move over. In a real sense, sin and sinning is illogical. It is involvement in a deadly exchange – the glory of God for the pleasure and glory of the creature. The Creator-creature relationship is disrupted. The worker wants to be and functions as the boss.

Every sin is a legacy from the Garden. Moreover, sin is agreeing to Satan’s logic which was embedded in his challenge given to Adam and Eve. He encouraged lawbreaking and sinning as the way to be like God. What a sad day it was! But Adam’s and Eve’s response was the real issue. More correctly, Adam’s response was the deciding factor for God’s response. God judged Adam and the whole human race in him. But God was not and is not finished with His people and His world. God promised salvation through the seed of Eve and His promise was partially fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. Christ’s first coming pointed to and assured His second coming which ushered in the new creation and the fulfillment of bringing a people to Himself.  Surrender is not part of the new creation unless surrender means denying self and putting on Christ and biblical truth. Clarity in understanding is a major key for proper growth in Christ.



  1. Rethink your use of the word surrender. Define it and prove it from the Bible.
  2. Make a spiritual inventory according to Hebrews 4:12 and James 1:22: determine your “beef” with God and answer the question: whose world is this? (See Psalms 24:1-2.).
  3. How have you lived the lie and what have been the results?
  4. Study Psalm 46:10: what do you learn about God and yourself?





Surrender or Submit: Part III

The Biblical Concept


Several aspects of the surrendering mentality are worth highlighting. The term as defined in the dictionary does indicate warfare and the benefit of stopping it. The term highlights the major combatant – the person. Too often we mention Satan as one of the combatants. However, Scripture focuses on the believer. Growth through submission, trust, obedience, and love are essential to growth in Christ.

The call is for every believer to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Believers still carry too much of satanic resemblance from previous membership in his kingdom and family. One of the wonders of regeneration is its radical and supernatural character. A new heart has been given to the believer (John 3:3-8; Ezek. 36:24-26). Grace, both saving and enabling, are part of God’s gift to the believer so growth in Christ is viewed as a privilege, blessing, and duty.

Here is a smattering of passages from the New Testament that call for growth rather than surrender. The believer is to:

  • Pursue holiness: Hebrews 12:14; 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Be diligent in his Christian growth: 2 Peter 1:10
  • Be zealous for good works: Titus 2:14
  • Purify and circumcise himself: Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6
  • Practice radical amputation: Matthew 5:27-30; Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Submit to God and others: Ephesian 5:21-24; James 4:7

Someone may say that one must surrender before he can submit. When one surrenders often conditions and terms are presented and person makes an effort to obtain preservation of some dignity and even rights. The surrendering party often negotiates for better conditions. The believer is to submit and not simply to surrender. He is not in any position to negotiate terms.

The term submission carries the idea of standing up under. It means to place oneself under something or someone in an orderly fashion for proper function.  It is a dynamic word. It stems from an active inner man who desires to please God. Functionally, it is stepping down from a position that was never the person’s.

Biblical submission requires humility. Biblically, humility is not humiliation. Jesus was placed, and He placed Himself, in humiliating circumstances. Those circumstances did not humble Him. Rather He responded by humbling Himself because He had a proper understanding of who He was, who His Father was, and what the Father desired. Jesus was focused on one thing: pleasing the Father (John 4:31-34). His humiliating circumstances were the stage on which He displayed His God-ness as the faithful Son of God, fully God and fully man. His commitment to the Triune God took shape as He fulfilled God’s eternal design of salvation.

His commitment is simply amazing given the fact that He was God. Yet He hid His God-ness and glory in order for God to be glorified. He was after achieving the greater good. It is miraculous that God could hide His glory. Picture the sun and its heat (10,000 degrees on the surface) coming to earth and all is well. Such an example tends to illustrate in a small way the greatness of the miracle of Jesus’ Messiahship that was birthed in eternity past and first began evident on the earth at the Incarnation.

By saving a people for Himself God would be most glorified. Jesus was focused on honoring the Father and the Father’s glory such that He left heaven, lived under the law even though He is the lawmaker, went to the cross, went to hell on the cross, and received the full measure of God’s wrath. Jesus did not surrender to the Father. Rather He aggressively functioned as less than He was. Again He hid His glory. He did not consider holding on to His glory for His time on earth was necessary (Phil 2:5-8, 9-11). Rather it was of much greater significance for Him to please the Father. And please Him He did!!

Submission is looking at the big picture and actively placing oneself in the position of serving God for His glory and the good of all believers. Submission requires a changed, and even new, view of self and of God. Biblical submission requires removing or changing demands about self and for self in order to get. It means replacing demands with thoughts, desires, and actions that please God. Submission for the believer must imitate Christ’s submission to the Father (Heb. 2:10; 5:8).



  1. Distinguish submit and surrender.
  2. Did Christ surrender or submit?
  3. What is required to submit? See James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-7.




Surrender or Submit: Part IV

The Biblical Concept


Biblical submission is a grace-filled and Holy Spirit-energized activity. Only the believer can submit. Salvation and life after salvation does not require surrendering. The believer actively gets busy doing things God’s way for His sake and glory. God’s way means to put off or exchange one’s patterned lifestyle for a new way of thinking, desiring, and acting. Paul uses the expression of put off and put on (see Rom, 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-10). The put off and put on dynamic is shorthand for progressive sanctification. It is simultaneously a dual activity. The believer replaces – puts off, takes off, and undresses himself. He puts off anti-God, pro-self thoughts, desires and actions. At the same time, he dresses himself as he puts on Christlikeness. The believer dies to self because he is alive and motivated by the desire to please God.  Simply he is alive to God as God and dead to self as a God-wanna-be.

What does the believer put off and put on? The believer actively and aggressively puts off himself – his thoughts, desires, and actions of self-pleasing. There is only one God and the believer is not Him. Each person has his own style of self-pleasing activity. Styles of self-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions to be put off are identified through a spiritual inventory (2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 4:12; James 1:22). The person and perhaps a trusted brother or sister in Christ helps define specific patterns of self-pleasing  and any situations, triggers, and excuses for that lead and or facilitate self-pleasing activity. It is best that the person is to be specific. The believer will identify thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate trust-in-self and wise in his own eyes and replace them (Prov. 3:5-8).

The goal is to put off a me-first, good-feeling approach to life and replace it with a God-pleasing lifestyle. For the believer, change occurs in the concrete and in specifics usually one thought, desire, and action at a time.

Submission does not involve morbid self-introspection. A person can’t plumb the depths to find out how bad he is. He would have to go to hell and experience complete separation from God. Christ has already done that on the cross. Rather, submission is active. It means putting God and others first (Phil. 2:3-5; James 3:13-18). It means counting the cost of becoming more like Christ through the eyes of the cost to the Triune God who sent the Son to earth. God wants and deserves every bit of every believer. Jesus gave all of Himself to the Father for His children. The believer will imitate Christ for the sheer joy of it by developing full allegiance to the Triune God. .

The cross, rightly understood, demonstrates how bad any person is. The miseries of this life and the reality of hell in the next bring any person face-to-face with the reality of how bad he is. It is only the believer’s union with Christ or, better Christ’s union with him that there is hope and help. The believer does not need to go to hell. Christ did on the cross! The fact that the believer is a new creature in Christ with a new heart makes all the difference.

Duty (trust and obedience) including growth in Christlikeness will not be a burden but a blessing and privilege. The privilege of bowing the knee to King Christ was accomplished by Christ at the cross. However, God won’t let His children stay on their knees. Christ didn’t. Believers have work to do. It is becoming more like Christ.

Yet, change does not occur automatically or easily. It requires denying self (put off) and renewal – putting on that which pleases God one thought, desire, and action at a time.  Pleasing God is to become a patterned way of life – a lifestyle from the inside out and not simply an activity.  Submission is two-sided. The believer bows his knees as he puts off self and self-pleasing in its many forms. At the same time he is putting on Christ – biblical thoughts and desires which lead to godly actions. Pleasing God has its own fruit. It is the only way that the believer will live a satisfied and contented life this side of heaven (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4).



  1. Develop a self-pleasing list. You will be surprised. Ask your spouse or a mature Christian friend to critique it.
  2. Then take Galatians 5:22-23 – the fruit of the Spirit – and develop a plan to replace one self-pleasing thought, desire, and action daily with one or two fruits of the Spirit.
  3. Keep track of your progress.
  4. Rejoice in God’s grace as you demonstrate your gratitude and love for God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.


The Biblical View of Illness and Physical Problems

The Biblical View of Illness and Physical Problems


  1. Introduction: The Bible is not a medical textbook or a textbook on the treatment of physical problems. However, it does deal with the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions/behavior. Therefore, it supplies everything that a believer needs for life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). It is all a believer needs to properly address and respond to physical problems.


  1. How is that possible – how is that so? It provides a proper anthropology and world view.


  1. Man is God’s image, a duplex being, and a whole person.
  2. Man was created a real, historical being (a real Adam); a relational being; a rational being, a revelational being; religious being; and a responsible being.
  3. Man is a feeling being.
  4. Man is a faith-based being.
  5. Man was initially in perfect sync with God – desires, thoughts, and commands.
  6. Therefore:


  1. Every person is a rational, responsible being in or out of proper relationship to God

1) He functions either as a believer – God’s child and a wise man fundamentally functioning as a God pleaser/worshiper

2) Or he functions as God’s enemy as a self pleaser/worshipper – he is a fool.

  1. All of life is theological and everyone is a theologian.
  2. No area of life is neutral or lived in a vacuum.
  3. Every person will live as a good or bad theologian – to please God or please self.


  1. The Bible is our owner’s manual provided and preserved for every believer.


  1. When the Bible speaks about taking care of the body, it is authoritative.
  2. Among other truths, the Bible teaches that:


  1. God designed your body, saved it, and entrusted it to you (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
  2. Therefore, you are not your own. You have a new Master – the Lord Jesus Christ is your Boss (Romans 10:9).
  3. As a result of God’s ownership, you are obligated (duty) and privileged (joyful devotion) to care for your body as a good steward: Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:9.
  4. Stewardship is a universal principle – provisional ownership carries God’s expectations, your responsibility, and God’s accounting.
  5. A steward is a person who has been entrusted with something that belongs to another in order to take care of it and is expected to give an account of his efforts: 1 Cor. 4:2.
  6. The stewardship issue for every believer is this: does he function as a good or bad theologian-steward?
  7. Applying biblical principles to the whole person is the best thing a believer can do for his health (Proverbs 3:5-8). Unbelievers benefit as well (explain).


  1. Summary points:


  1. Life is relational
  2. It is lived in or out proper relationship to God.
  3. Every person is functionally either a God pleaser/worshipper or self pleaser/worshiper
  4. The Bible is the believer’s owner’s manual for life; it is God’s gift.
  5. While it is not a medical textbook, what it says about health/disease is authoritative.
  6. God designed your, saved you as a whole person, and entrusted your body to you.
  7. You are not your own – Jesus is Master/Boss and the HS indwells you and the church.
  8. You are a steward-theologian – good or bad.



Section One: The Origin of Misery, Pain, and Physical Problems: Medicine’s Perspective


  1. Definition: definitions make all the difference. You may hear these terms: disease, illness, and sickness. Each one carries a different connation although physicians tend to be “lumpers.”


  1. Remember the noetic effect of sin: the effects of sin on thoughts and thinking .


  1. Sinful thinking is rebellion.
  2. It is contrary to God and His Word – your thoughts and ways are not my thoughts and ways: Isaiah 55:8-9.


  1. As a consequence, there are observational distortions of facts: nature and the universe, human physiology and anatomy, human behavior and motivation:


  1. Man’s being (origin), destiny, and purpose in/for life.
  2. Man as man and his problems in the context of the meaning of life.
  3. Solutions to and for all the above.


  1. Distortions will be descriptional, definitional, and directional.
  2. These distortion are evident in the hard sciences (such as physics, biology, chemistry) – evolution as science – and even more so in the soft/social sciences (such as psychology, sociology) – is mental illness a reality?


  1. Disease:


  1. Definitions:


1.Webster: disease is “any departure from health; it is illness in general, an impairment of the normal.” It is also defined “as a particular destructive process in an organism with a specific cause and characteristic symptoms and signs.”

  1. Dorland (medical dictionary): disease is “any deviation from or interruption of the internal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.”
  2. Both of the above imply, if not indicate, that disease is a primary disorder of various pathophysiological mechanisms of the body.


  1. History: after the discovery of disease in animals and humans was attributed to specific organisms (R Koch and L Pasteur – anthrax and tuberculosis), the medical model and germ theory of disease was born (late 1800s and early 1900s).


  1. The medical model took center stage in contrast to the supernaturalism (prevalent in the Roman church) and Greek thinking.
  2. Rationalism, empiricism, and so-called “evidence-based medicine” under the guise of science characterized “modern scientific” medicine.


  1. Disease was defined as a physical problem with measurable abnormality by physical examination, laboratory studies including blood tests and biopsy reports, and/or radiographic studies.


1.Today, that is not the case especially in the soft science area.

  1. Today, what is considered disease is much more flexible .


III. Illness, a relatively new term medically, is defined more loosely as an “unhealthy condition.” You may hear the terms “symptom expression” or “symptom complex.”


  1. Therefore, when the word ‘illness’ is used, there has been a move into the realm of “not normal” based on “symptom expression.”
  2. This means that the diagnosis is based on the patient’s self report – subjectivity – and not necessarily pathological changes.
  3. What is “normal” and “healthy” has been blurred: examples: blood tests, criteria for a disease, and MRI results: what is the role of various tests and procedures?
  4. A standard for normal/abnormal and healthy/unhealthy is required .
  5. When subjectivity is that standard, science is blurred, and symptoms and their “control” take center stage.


  1. Mental illness: the field of soft sciences (including psychiatry and the psychologies) deals with the subjective: thoughts, feelings, and behavior (behavior is observed but flows from feelings). “Mental illness” is categorized as a “disease” based on subjectivity.


  1. The medical model is assumed to apply to those behaviors termed mental illness.
  2. There is no consideration of the noetic effect of sin in interpreting the person’s behavior, feelings, and thinking and there is an improper biblical anthropology.
  3. The noetic effect leads to an inherent distortion of the description/observation, definition/conclusion, and diagnosis in man’s thinking
  4. Is psychiatry a pseudo-science? Does its practice compete with God’s truth?
  5. The conclusion and solution to and for mental illness is not to be challenged and reinterpreted.


  1. When subjectivity rules for any diagnosis:


  1. “Improvement” of the condition will be couched in subjective terms: “I feel better.”
  2. Subjectivity as the standard for diagnosis and therapeutic success or failure is taking place in traditional medicine as well.


  1. It is important and helpful, even mandatory, to distinguish between signs and symptoms


  1. Signs (objective) and symptoms (subjective): they are not the same.
  2. Potential explanations for both: genes, biology, molecule, biochemistry, neurotransmitters, etc are responsible for disease.
  3. Ultimately, the Creator God and the indwelling HS have to be encountered but these facts are too often denied or considered in an improper way by both patient and physician.


  1. Sign: objective: can be measured and quantified by other than self report: feverishness (symptom) vs. fever (sign).
  2. Symptom: subjective: the amount and degree of a symptom rests solely on the person’s report.
  3. The concept of something wrong with the body and in the body


  1. In the body: a rapid heart rate is a sign of either a normally working body, perhaps influenced by fear, anger, or hard work, or disease within the body such as anemia – in that case, the increased heart indicates a normally-working heart responding to a pathological condition.
  2. With the body: the person’s rapid heat rate or chest pain, if due to heart disease indicates that the sign (and symptom – if the person complains of shortness of breath) is due to something wrong with the body such as coronary artery disease.


VII. Theories of disease:


  1. Medical Model (MM): It is presumed that the body is sick and that symptoms, signs, and behavior are caused by an abnormality in some organ or tissue causing malfunction of the body (molecular model of disease). This would include mental illness.


  1. Under the MM, disease is diagnosed when discoverable abnormalities are present by some objective testing; symptoms and signs are explained on the basis of these abnormalities.
  2. A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires are not considered in the diagnosis and are thought to be independent of the diagnosis and management of the patient (“mind-body” dualism).
  3. As a result, a therapeutic rationale is developed.
  4. The MM has been quite successful in the diagnosis and management of certain diseases especially those that are acute. In those cases the focus is usually on a single, acute medical problem: e.g.: streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), appendicitis, pneumonia, or lung cancer.
  5. There is no room for God in this model. In fact, the model developed as a reaction against the mysticism and superstition prevalent in the medieval age.


  1. Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): Since the early 1990’s, medicine has moved toward the more inclusive BPS model of disease and patient care, emphasizing the role and importance of biology, “psychological” factors, and “environmental” factors on health and bodily function.


  1. These factors are considered determinants of the condition and include genes, biology, and outside pressure.
  2. These factors “do” it to a (? pre-programmed) person so that he feels and acts a certain way.


  1. Biological” refers to a person’s genetic make up (genes) and biochemistry: nature
  2. Psychological” has to do with one’s “psyche”: nature and/or nurture


1) It is considered as pertaining to one’s “mind,” how he feels, and his deep (Freudian term) inner self which are his “inside” environment.

2) “Psychological disease” and “mental illness” are claimed to indicate that something is wrong in or with the brain – brain and mind are considered synonymous.

3) “Social” (or environmental): nurture – the term is used in relation to pressure outside the person “causing” something within a person.


  1. The person’s response is observable and is attributed to that which is outside the person.


  1. The individual is not considered to be a responsible responder but as a victim and reactor.
  2. Examples: “situational depression,” post-traumatic stress, bipolar, and social anxiety


  1. There is a compartmentalization of the person leading to the development of “experts” in the fields of social science and physical science who believe that their “area” of the person has a determining influence on the production of physical problems that is called disease and illness. This sets in motion a compartmentalized/holistic treatment program.


  1. Biopsychosocial spiritual Model (BPSS): The model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms, conditions, and disease. Proponents of this model:


  1. Suggest that at the very least, spiritual variables (however defined) are fundamental determinants of “psychological” variables which in turn are determinants of physical and social factors which lead to “disease” (symptoms).
  2. All factors listed in #1 play some role in producing or aggravating disease.
  3. Cite the failure to address a patient’s “spiritual needs” as being linked to patient dissatisfaction and “poor” clinical outcomes (however defined) despite advances in technology and treatment modalities.
  4. Spiritual” needs are defined as a need to make sense of, give purpose to, and ascribe meaning to illness/life; as a desire to acknowledge and cope with the notion of death/dying; and as a desire to feel in control (or give up control), be connected, and cared for.
  5. In this model, the standard for spirituality is never Scripture.
  6. The term “spirituality” is used relationally in the context of a person’s “connectedness” with self, others, a higher being, or the universe. It is a user-friendly word that includes all religions.


  1. Summary:


  1. Even though only the MM seeks to demonstrate a physical abnormality as the cause of disease, all three models claim that symptoms originate from some alleged physical defect.


  1. A pathological abnormality often can not be found, or if present, it can’t readily explain the person’s symptoms.
  2. Still diagnosis and therapy are based on the presence of symptoms, behavior, and the desire for relief rather than correcting a proven, objective malfunction of the body.

3.. In the BPS and BPSS models, as part of an overall treatment plan, attention is given to each alleged “compartment” of the person and by a different expert (the physician for the biological, the psychiatrist/psychologist for the “psychological,” the pastor for the spiritual, and social worker/psychologist for the “social”).

  1. The reasoning: because man is the sum of all these parts and no one person can adequately have all the answers, attention must be given to each part by a different “expert.”


  1. Critique: Each of the models excludes God, His judgment, His grace, and His providence. They are theologically incorrect.


  1. The MM originally attempted to give an accurate description of an observed phenomenon. It did, and does so, in many instances.
  2. Today, it is used to explain any and all behavior even though no pathological findings are demonstrated.


  1. It paints man as physical only, thereby rejecting the duplex nature of man.
  2. It ignores man as a whole person – he is feelings and actions.
  3. It opens the “door” for the use of medications – drugs.


  1. The MM champions science as if the God of science and science are opposed and as if “the natural” and “the supernatural” have no connection.
  2. The BPS and the BPSS are attempts to fill “in the gap” left by the MM. They emphasize a person’s inner-man activity (not their term!), and they move further down the path of wrong theology and its application.
  3. The practice of medicine is a product of a world view, mindset, and a system of presuppositions.


Section Two. The Origin of Pain, Misery, and Physical Problems: God’s Perspective


  1. The basic reason for all disease/illness/symptoms is the fall: God’s judgment/curse on sin due to Adam’s first sin.


  1. Specific passages: Rom. 5:12-14; 8:20-22; Ezek. 18:4, 20; Gen. 5: lived…then he died – except Enoch – v.21-24


  1. Biblically-speaking, physical problems include misery, illness, old age, and death.
  2. In the Bible, the first mention of pain is in Gen 3:15-17 – after sin.


  1. God’s curse on sin affects every person due to man’s representative relationship to Adam.


  1. When Adam first sinned (he failed the probation test of covenantal faithfulness) in the Garden each individual sinned because he was in Adam.
  2. Each died physically and spiritually: guilty and condemned.
  3. Death and misery are the direct result of God’s curse.
  4. These truths must be personalized – unbelievers often have little physical problems and believers may have a tremendous number of them.
  5. General principles of that are frequently encountered in this area


  1. Universality: everyone has sinned in Adam and personally wit the consequence of misery and deteriorating bodies: Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 4:16-18
  2. Separation (death) and union (salvation): Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22
  3. Responsibility: the soul that sins bears the responsibility: Ezek 18.
  4. Sowing/reaping: consequences for choices: Gen. 2:17; 3:15; Gal. 6:7-9.
  5. Judgment and fear of death: Heb. 2:14,15; 9:27
  6. The use of prayer and issues of wisdom: 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Job


  1. There may or may not be a direct causal relationship between a person’s particular physical problem and his particular sin.


  1. No one will outrun the effect of God’s curse on sin in his lifetime. Illness/trouble is to be expected (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Peter 2:19-29; 4:13-14; 5:10).
  2. God has given the blessing of health to a greater degree and of longer duration to some whether believer or not.


  1. Often good stewardship results in “better” health: Prov. 3:5-8.
  2. Biblically-motivated and active stewardship always pleases God.
  3. Victory in (via correct thinking/wanting), through (God’s good purpose), and from (many including relief, greater eternal focus, sting of death removal) the illness.
  4. Consider the “tarry” principle including prayer and fasting: Ps. 34:8; 46:10.


  1. Ultimately all things occurring in this world come from the sovereign hand of God – God’s providence. Is there truly God’s frowning providence?


  1. God uses secondary causes to achieve His purpose.
  2. This is true for physical problems (Isaiah 45:7-8; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Job; 1 Chr. 29:12; 1 Cor. 10:13). What is God’s purpose in general and specifically?


  1. Yet God is not the author of sin: God is Big, Good, and Purposeful:


  1. He is faithful: 1 Cor. 10:13: He won’t exceed the believer’s ability to respond
  2. He is the Giver of every perfect gift (James 1:13,17). The ultimate, perfect gift is:


1) Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior (resurrection life): redemption accomplished

2) HS Who applies Christ’s work: redemption applied.

3) The inscripturated, infallible, and authoritative Word which rightly interprets every fact, all of human experience, and all of history.

4) A saving, active relationship with God in Christ.

5) Saving and sanctifying grace: 2 Cor. 8:9; 9:8.


  1. God’s providence is the context (including physical problems) for growth in Christlikeness. Avoid the use of the term life as if life as a life of its own
  2. Progressive sanctification:


  1. The Christian is to function as a Christian oyster. He uses irritations and unpleasantness to make the pearl of Christlikeness: gain through and in pain – one of the lessons of the cross and a bigger motif: exile and exodus.
  2. The HS’ presence enables the believer to use hard times (easy ones as well) to become more like Christ which is every believer’s goal/purpose in/for life.
  3. As a result, the believer will not be controlled by the desire for relief and its pursuit. He will be controlled by what God intends for the believer: growth in Christlikeness: 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10.


  1. Here are theological questions/issues that deserve good theological answers:


  1. How can something so bad (my condition, physical or otherwise vs. cross) be good?
  2. How can God be both good and powerful when bad things happen – to me?
  3. Why me and now?
  4. Why so much pain and misery?
  5. Should man try to eradicate disease if God is sovereign?
  6. Where does my stewardship fit in?


  1. Response to one’s physical problem is a response to God and His providence. Since:


  1. God is present, He is in the problem. He has made promises and keeps them.
  2. He is in control/power, He is at work in the problem via His plan.
  3. He is purposeful so that what happens in His world is intentional.
  4. He provides every believer has all he needs to please God.
  5. God’s intent: His glory and the good of the believer: Gen. 50:19-21; Rom. 8:28-29 is accomplished by and through His provisions, one of which is the believer using the unpleasantness to develop more of the character of Christ. In that way, God brings good out of evil.


  1. Specific passages in re: to a person’s physical problems and sin:


  1. Jesus, Job, John 9, Luke 13:1-5, 2 Cor. 12:7-10: no direct sin-condition correlation
  2. James 5:14-16 leaves the question open that there may be sin-engendered illness.
  3. 1 Cor. 11:28-32; Psalm 32/38; Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:26,60-62; 7:15; 2 Sam. 12:13-15: these passages show a direct causal relationship to body problems and personal sin.
  4. 1 Kings 18-19: these passages show an indirect casual relationship: Elijah was a poor steward that led to physical problems.




Section Three. Specific Expressions of God’s Curse on Sin re: Illness and Physical Problems


  1. Providentially, God brings about physical problems for any number of reasons in a particular person or group of people with or without a direct parallel between individual, personal sin and the condition.


  1. Fallen man’s body is included in God’s curse on sin. The sinner’s body is:


  1. Deteriorating – “aging” is an euphemism for the effect of the curse
  2. Affected with a specific disease (RA, cancer, diabetes, etc)
  3. Affected by personal sin/sinning and/or another’s: being sinned against.
  4. Affected by the person’s sinful response to God’s providence including trouble


  1. Scripture and God’s purposes:


  1. Chasten or educative discipline: Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:58-60; 2 Sam. 12:13-15; 1 Cor. 11:30. There is a physical price to pay for covenant breaking.
  2. Teach: Isaiah 38:15-20; Ps. 119:65-73; Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Cor. 11:23-30: there is always a blessing from responding to illness/physical problems in a God-honoring manner.
  3. Produce repentance: Num. 21:5-7; 1 Cor. 5:4-5:


  1. Physical problems should encourage the believer to make a personal spiritual inventory, not necessarily as a means for healing but as means of sanctification.
  2. Physical problems should encourage the believer to tarry/taste and see that God is good.


  1. Prevent sin: 2 Cor. 12:6-10: sin is a horrible offense against God. If only one sinner existed (it was you) with only one sin, the cross is still necessary – Adam’s one sin (Rom. 3:21-26).
  2. Transform: Deut 8:1-4; 1 Peter 1:6-8/Rom. 5:1-5/Jam. 1:2-4; Rom. 8:28-29; Gen. 50:19-21; Phil. 4:13: to enable the believer to function as a Christian oyster.
  3. Testify re: God and His glory: John 9; Rom. 9:22-23; Job, cross


  1. Some physical problems are directly related to sin – personal or in general


  1. In general, symptoms develop because:


  1. The human body is not flawless – it is sin-cursed. It will never be symptom-free this side of heaven.
  2. There will always be more symptoms than causes discovered.
  3. Medical technology is limited – it always will be.
  4. There is the reality of unbiblical wanting and thinking present in the believer: the secular community may call this “stress.”
  5. There is actual tissue damage (disease) which produces abnormal organ function, symptoms, and signs.
  6. Examples of the inner -outer man unity: phone call from IRS; bear; “butterflies;” secretary home/work.
  7. Psalms and Proverbs that emphasizes the duplexity of man:


Psalm 32/38

Proverbs 3:5-8

Proverbs 12:18, 25

Proverbs 14:30

Proverbs 15:4, 13, 15, 30

Proverbs 16:24

Proverbs 17:22.


  1. Specifically, sin may cause or contribute to the physical problem. The illness may be the:


  1. Result of a particular sin in the individual’s life: Jam. 5:14-16.
  2. The “natural” consequence of sin: Prov. 10:24-25, 26-27; 13:15; Ps 16:4; 32:10; Gal. 6:7-9


  1. The “sowing and reaping” principle: e.g.: smoking and COPD/lung cancer
  2. What people think/.want yield choices which yield consequences and sometimes physical symptoms – wanting/thinking, doing, and feelings are interrelated.


  1. Sinned against


  1. Biblically speaking, the condition may be spiritual-physiological in contrast to psychosomatic – a term that the culture’s uses to define and explain symptoms (the symptoms are “real” but there is nothing wrong with the body – the DSM definition of the condition)


  1. Physiological changes occur in the body


  1. Known disease such as RA, cancer, heart trouble, or diabetes
  2. It is reported that “chronic pain” can produce physiological changes in the body specifically the nervous system: is that true?
  3. Medically unresolved:


1) Do physical changes occur in the body due to wrong responses to life (God’s providence) generated by unbiblical wanting and thinking?

2) Do biblical responses to life and problems produce physical changes in the body?


  1. Inner-man activity of wanting and thinking has outer-man effects of feeling and doing.


  1. A person’s evaluation of and response to circumstances produces/may produce physiological changes in the body which results in symptoms (and perhaps signs)


1) Situation – thinking/wanting – behavior – physiological changes – signs and symptoms

2) Situation – unbiblical thinking and wanting – unbiblical response – bad feelings – decreased function


  1. These observations are true because of the creational fact that man is a duplex (unity of inner man/outer man) and is a whole person.
  2. There is a relationship between the whole person activities of wanting, thinking, doing, and feelings.
  3. The secularist, and maybe Christians, does not acknowledge God’s design of man.
  4. Therefore, he uses such modalities as CBT, positive thinking, and yoga.


III. The principle of gain through loss: physical problems, as are problems in general, are intended to be beneficial for the believer


  1. In any situation including physical problems:


  1. God’s role: His providence and His design – when there is pain, disease, and death, the believer is always to be vertically oriented.


  1. It is so easy to be MORE temporally and “now” oriented – self-focused.
  2. Practice daily to remember and mediate on non-negotiable facts:


1) God’s curse at the cross was reversed, incompletely in this life and completely in heaven

2) The believer is to use the situation as God’s instrument and the believer’s tool to grow.

3) The believer has a new identity, great resources, and responsibility in the situation.

4) Therefore the focus is on the God of the problem rather than the problem.


  1. Man’s role (Philippians 2:12-13 ) is to follow God’s design by using grace and the situation.


  1. The principle of gain through loss: what is considered bad by the culture is intended for good by God and is to be used for good by the believer (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Romans 8:28-29).


  1. Pain did not occur until after the fall. It was not essential/necessary for living in the Garden.
  2. Points to ponder:


  1. Was the body capable of “experiencing”/feeling pain pre-fall?
  2. Is the body capable of pain in heaven and in hell? If not why not?
  3. Was pain designed by God and if so for good? What was that design?
  4. Was the cross designed by God for good?
  5. Pain, and the cross, in and of themselves, are bad – both are a result of sin/God’s curse. Sin is bad.
  6. Pain and disease remind the believer of God’s wrath/curse on sin but also redemption: John 11. The physical always has a spiritual reference.


  1. One of the lessons of the cross: gain through loss when rightly responded to.
  2. Physical problems are one of God’s instruments/classrooms to teach this truth.


  1. God’s purpose in all of life: Ps 115:3; 135:6. His goal is to bring glory and honor to Himself: He does this by saving a people for Himself and growing each one in Christlikeness.


  1. Consider this basic template for all of life:


  1. God’s design in eternity past (Eph 1:4): to be holy and blameless – in Christ
  2. The believer does this by pleasing God (2 C 5:9),
  3. Which he does by becoming more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29; 2 C 3:18),
  4. Which he does as a whole-person by putting of certain thoughts/affections/ desires and actions and putting on Christlikeness (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:8-10),
  5. Growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 P 3:18).


  1. All of history, including every event in an individual’s life, is working toward the end of glorifying God: John 9:1-3; 11:4; Philippians 1:20; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9-10.


  1. The individual is not to be passive in God’s plan.
  2. Rather he functions as a Christian oyster.
  3. Physical problems are the result of sin – but not necessarily personal sin.
  4. Physical problems and suffering don’t bring God glory.
  5. But God has a purpose in bringing the problem: He uses it and the individual’s response to it to advance His plan including growing the believer.
  6. It is the believer’s response to God’s providential ordering of His world and what God does with that response that glorifies Him.
  7. The believer is responsible for his response: 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  8. Bottom line: what is most important: getting well/relief or glorifying God by pleasing Him?


D A major question that must be answered God’s way: how does that which is “bad” – physical problems – produce benefit?


  1. Illness itself doesn’t. It is said: in the illness, God is glorified when the illness “makes” a person more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29,35-37; 2 Corinthians 3:18.
  2. How does it do that?


  1. It doesn’t!
  2. Physical problems are the result of God’s curse on sin but are “neutral.” They have no power in themselves.
  3. The problems are the context for the believer to evidence what is in his heart and the significance of his relationship with Christ – at a given moment.
  4. The believer’s focus/perspective on what God is doing in and with the situation directly affects his response.
  5. God uses the believer’s response to accomplish His purpose.


  1. The illness doesn’t make a person more like Christ anymore than the cross alone brought salvation.
  2. Salvation came to believers because of the Crucified One Who used the cross as an instrument of death to please His Father and save unlovable people for Himself.
  3. Physical problems are the stage on which a person’s inner person is exposed. “How?”


  1. The person complains/grumbles at his “lot in life” (God’s control) or he embraces and uses what he doesn’t like to grow – he considers it:


1) A tool to use – not to get rid of

2) A blessing, not a burden

3) A gift, something to be grateful for

4) An adventure, not something to dread

  1. As a grumbler, he reacts as if God made a mistake. In his grumbling, he attacks God demanding that God should treat him better than He treated His Son.


  1. Here are a few ways in which the person uses what he doesn’t like to grow:


  1. Instead of sensual living and feeling-directed reaction, he practices suprasensual living: he filters/interprets/assesses life through the cross/biblical principles which springs from and brings a proper vertical reference to his condition.
  2. As a result:


1) He changes from a “now” view of life (sensual living: lives for and by feelings: the physical, personal, visible, created, external, and temporal) to an eternal perspective via suprasensual living: he views life via saving faith with a purpose/goal to please God: John 4:31-34; 2 C 5:7-15; Col. 3:1-3; Ps 73

2) He learns to trust a sovereign God and views God’s control as good and wise especially when his body hurts and when the culture’s wisdom says serve yourself and get relief.

3) He functions as a responsible person to the degree that he can when feeling bad – all of grace: Phil. 4:13.

4) He thanks God’s for His goodness in and out of trouble (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20).


  1. The mindset of the believer is in stark contrast to the culture’s mantras of health, relief, better “quality of life,” feeling better, and even using God to get what he wants – relief and even a new body this side of heaven: 1 Cor. 1:18-30.


  1. Other ways that illness is beneficial:


  1. It is a reminder of the frailty and shortness of life, man’s finitude, the effects of sin and God’s righteous judgment, and the cross: James 4:13-17; Job 7:9; Ps. 31:15; 39:5; 102:11; 1 Peter 2:24 (Isaiah 40:6-8); 4:19.
  2. It demonstrates a person’s character: hard times (pressures) often reveals a person’s character and his view of God more than good/easy times.


  1. Illness shows personal goals and the impact of his relationship to God in Christ. 1 Peter 2:19-23; 4:19.
  2. Proves the genuineness of faith


1) The words used for testing/approving in the NT and OT indicate that God requires every believer’s faith to be refined and the dross removed.

2) He does that in and by hard times but also by good times (Proverbs 30:8-9).

3) The OT word nasah (Gen. 22:1; Deut 8:2; Exodus 16:4;17:2,7; Judges 2:22;3:1,4; 2 Chr. 32:31)

4) The NT word dokimazo (Rom. 5:4; 1 Peter 1: 7; James 1:3,12)


  1. It demonstrates a person heart and his singleness of purpose:


1) Everyone lives out of his heart: Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:33-36; 15:8,16-20; Mark 7:17-23; Luke 6:43-45.

2) Matthew 5:3,8

3) Consider the metaphors of a sponge and a pitcher.

4) Consider these “Job” passages: 1:8-11, 12-22; 2:3-6,9-10; 40:2-5; 42:1-6.


  1. It is to increase one’s ministry and may change its direction – never a decrease


  1. Job 2:10
  2. Jesus on the cross: Luke 23:34; 23:39-43; John 19:25-26; 19:27; and to believers.
  3. Paul: Philippians 1:12-18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 4:1; 12:7-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16


  1. It motivates a person to develop a different mindset regarding what is valuable.


  1. Too often the believer measures value with the same measuring stick that the culture does (“now” theology) and “happiness” theology (based on happenings) via sensual living.
  2. The Bible teaches that a relationship with God through Christ guaranteed by His resurrection and His session at the right hand of the Father, and the indwelling HS is the best thing this side of heaven. Illness should bring home the reality of this fact – faces turn to God and to heaven.
  3. Physical problems can be “I don’t like” situations and the biblical principles for responding to them are no different than any other pressure, trouble, and “heat” of life.
  4. An illness rightly viewed helps the believer develop and apply God’s definition of valuable:


Matthew 13:44

John 16:20-22

Romans 8:15-18

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 5:1-5.


Section four: Counseling Those with Physical Illnesses: Basic Counseling Methodology


  1. You don’t need to have a physician’s knowledge of the condition or personal experience with the condition to help the person:


  1. Why? It is the Comforter that is the key: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Hebrews 4:15 – His comfort – His strength
  2. It may be better for you no to have the same experience.
  3. The experience vs. the God of the experience and a corr4ect interpretation of both.
  4. Gather data from the counselee/patient/person including:


  1. How the patient views his condition (his identity) and how he is responding to it
  2. Everybody lives out of an identity as a whole person:


  1. His wanting (I call this his “functional motivation” system – his wanter: FMS)
  2. His thinking (I call this his “function belief” system: FBS)
  3. His doing (that behavior which flows from his wanting/thinking and he hopes will procure for him his goal.


  1. Behavior reflects the person’s heart and his view of his relationship with Christ; its cost/its blessing.


  1. Every person labels/identifies himself (or accepts the label given to him), has an agenda, and pursues it based on his FMS and FBS.
  2. After determining that he is a believer, discern:


  1. What the problem is, not simply the context of the problem
  2. How it is a problem
  3. His response to it and the results
  4. His understanding of God’s solutions


  1. The counselor’s response to the patient and his illness


  1. The counselor is to bring (provide) biblical truth to the situation with the goal of helping the counselee address and respond to the condition from a biblical perspective resulting in a God-honoring response.
  2. Biblical truth/principles don’t change no matter the trouble. The Comforter doesn’t change even though experiences/problems are many and varied.
  3. Application of biblical truth will require change on the counselee’s part (his FMS and FBS) and on the counselor’s part who must be convinced of victory – not relief – for the counselee.
  4. Massage the person with God Himself and biblical truth.


  1. Victory includes a change in the person’s thinking and desires about self, God, His Word, others, and life including physical problems.
  2. A change in action/behavior follows. .
  3. Victory’s foundation is the sufficiency, superiority, and supremacy of God’s Word (John 8:31-36 – truth sets you free) – His promises.
  4. Focus: is it to get relief or please God?


  1. Accept” the diagnosis as is: you are not his physician even if you are a physician.
  2. On the other hand, if there is “legitimate” concern regarding what the counselee is telling you, then clarification from an MD may be needed.


  1. Clarify: is the condition being diagnosed on the basis of subjectivity or objective and physical abnormalities.
  2. Clarify: has the counselee heard the MD correctly: many don’t hear or understand what was said – remember that MDs maybe short on information
  3. There are many ways for the counselee to obtain clarification.
  4. The counselor’s is NOT to prove or disprove the diagnosis.
  5. The counselor is not to recommend alternative treatment.


  1. Your goal is to turn his attention from the pain, discomfort, and poor function to what God intends to do through it: beauty out of ashes: Isaiah 61:1-3/Luke 4:18-22. You do that by:


  1. Focusing on truth: God in His word doesn’t promise relief or cure but victory.
  2. Bring God’s intentionality and goodness into the counselee’s thinking by focusing on Gen 50:19-21 and Romans 8:28-29 and asking:


  1. Where is God in your thinking?
  2. Why would God “allow”/ordain that you have this?
  3. Has God made a mistake?
  4. How have you responded to God’s providence including His “no” re: relief or cure?


  1. God intends for the counselee to use this for God’s glory and the believer’s benefit/growth in Christlikeness


  1. Explain the “why” (to become more like Christ) and the “how” (being a good theologian-steward).
  2. The counselee is to have a more effective ministry through it.


  1. Encourage including doing a spiritual inventory and demonstrate how the counselee is to be a good theologian-steward:


  1. Use examples: couch potato, road runner, pain and gain
  2. Help him determine if there is un-confessed sin, bitterness, resentment, and/or grudge holding against God or others.
  3. Help him get busy using the condition rather than simply praying for God to “use” it or remove it.
  4. Help him change his focus from “why” to “how” to use what he doesn’t like to grow/change
  5. Help him minister (2 C 1:3-4): as one comforted, he is to be a comforter. His ministry has not been stopped. It has been moved in another direction.
  6. Help him act upon the fact that God’s grace is available and sufficient: 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9. Job did and so can the person: Job 1:1-2:10;40:2-5;42:1-6.
  7. Help him understand that living this side of heaven guarantees that no one will be free of symptoms.
  8. Help him believe and act on the truth that God intends for him to have victory – this is what is valuable about hard times – victory, not relief, is what glorifies God.
  9. A new body is coming – Rev 21:1-6
  10. If the illness is terminal, help him anticipate the glories of heaven: Rev 21:1-4; 22:1-5.


  1. The sting of death which is the law, sin, judgment, and slavery has been removed: Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 4:17-18; 1 C 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-18.
  2. Jesus is the believer’s brother: Hebrews 2:17-18.
  3. Death is God’s vehicle to bring the person to Him.


III. Remember the basic facts about any condition, and help the counselee/patient to function as a learner.


  1. Help him distinguish between subjective and objective and the use of terms such as: “I can’t” vs. “I won’t” because of bad feelings.
  2. Help him understand


  1. The function and results of tests:


  1. “Tests” are done in many cases to rule out specific conditions.
  2. Often many “tests” are done but the person is unaware of the results.


  1. The function of terms such as disease, illness, and syndrome.


  1. Their use may have benefits (e.g.: clearing the air diagnostically)
  2. This may have disadvantages


1) It gives an air of certainty.

2) It allows for treatment which is based on the diagnosis/terms and what the medical culture believes is producing the symptoms.

3) Relief is a demand with a “I don’t deserve this but that” mindset.


  1. Patients may do better on medications.


  1. Prescribing drugs is something that a physician can do easily and quickly.
  2. It often gives immediate results, and seemingly is based on science.


  1. Knowing the cause or “tell me what I have doctor” (what caused me to hurt vs. what caused me to have cancer or RA):


  1. These are not synonymous.
  2. Many patients want “to know” hoping for relief or to “have certainty.”
  3. Help determine the basis for the diagnosis – how was the condition diagnosed?
  4. Knowing the cause may be satisfying for the patient:


  1. It can bring “closure” to the issue in terms of treatment, in what he will tell his family and others, in what he may gain, and/or in how he “feels” about himself.
  2. It may relieve uncertainty, doubt, fear, and worry. But you must ask him how?
  3. A diagnosis can be used as eliminating personal responsibility.
  4. Knowing “how” may not make any difference to the physician: e.g.: active RA is RA requires treatment.


  1. Basic principles for the counselor or friend: remember IMAP: everyone has an identity, motive for doing and not doing, an agenda, and pursues the agenda.


  1. Don’t maximize or minimize a person’s symptoms.
  2. Help him focus on his responsibility: as a new creature in Christ, having whatever physical problem he has, it is to respond in a God-honoring manner growing in Christlikeness.
  3. Gather much data in order to understand his thinking and motivation.
  4. Gain involvement and give much hope: How? Trust in a big, good, wise, purposeful God through:


  1. Reading, understanding, believing, submitting to, and applying (RUBSA) God’s word,
  2. Basing expectations on His promises as recorded in Scripture (Romans 15:4,13).


  1. Review biblical reasons for illness:


  1. Physical problems are a result of God’s curse on sin
  2. It may be solely God-engendered (His providence) for any number of reasons
  3. It may be sin-engendered: (personal sin)
  4. illness has a benefit: rightly responded to, it is the glory/honor God; it reminds of the fragility of life; rightly understood, it is for character building – Christlikeness; it can change and or enhance your ministry; and what helps you discern and focus on what is valuable: relief vs. pleasing God thereby becoming more like Christ. .
  5. Always there is a spiritual-physiological connection: inner-outer man duplexity links inner-man activity wit h outer-man effects.


  1. Gather data re: the person’s lifestyle:


  1. What, if any, restrictions has the physician or the condition placed on the person?
  2. Does the counselee agree or disagree with those restrictions – his response to them and why?
  3. How has he responded to the illness and the restrictions?
  4. How has his thinking and response added to or helped the problem?
  5. Does the medical profession have any genuine help and if so what is it?
  6. Determine his functional capacity given his condition/the physician’s restrictions. Have him complete his assigned responsibilities no matter his feelings.
  7. Determine what aggravates the condition and what makes it better.


  1. Gather data re: the person’s thinking and attitude:


  1. What is the person’s mindset/view regarding his condition, himself, others, God?
  2. Help him acknowledge the difficulty/unpleasantness – in contrast to God’s purpose.
  3. Is he looking at the gain or the pain and if so for what reasons?
  4. Does he view his situation as a blessing or burden, a curse or adventure? What are the reasons?
  5. How is he responding to the unpleasantness? Does he expect better treatment than Jesus?
  6. How is he responding to his family and friends?
  7. What type of responder is he: a “road runner” (learned drivenness: goes until he drops) or a “couch potato” (learned helplessness: pity parties)?


  1. Gather data re: the counsel and the response of relatives/friends: helpful or not?


  1. What counsel is he receiving from them?
  2. How do they respond to him, the condition, and the restrictions?
  3. Is the response of the family a blessing or a hindrance?


  1. Homework: based on biblical principles that the person needs in order to grow/change.


  1. Answer certain questions:


  1. The why of God’s providence question God’s way: Romans 8:28-29 and Deut 29:29
  2. God’s “no” and the person’s response to it
  3. His response to God’s providence in general and his case in particular


  1. Review biblical stewardship principles: the what and why (motivation).
  2. Review his understanding and application of the physician’s instructions.
  3. Help him sort out responsibilities: his, the doctor’s, and God’s.
  4. Eliminate confusion on the counselee’s part.
  5. Think in whole-person terms: stewardship of thinking, wanting, and doing, and general principles for good health.
  6. Daily, record in what ways he has applied biblical principles in re: to his response to his condition (God’s providence) and the results:


  1. Mind renewal: 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:23; Philippians 4:8 and Matthew 7:21-27.
  2. An instrument (him and the situation) in God’s hands: 2 C 5:17-20; Romans 8:28-29


  1. Service: how is he using his problem to serve others?


  1. Comfort (2 C 1:3-4): how has he been comforted and how is he functioning as a comfortee?
  2. Rejoice (2 C 12:7-10): not in the pain but the gain – does he fervently desire the gain?
  3. Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20/1 Thessalonians 5:18): for the results


  1. Biblical principles to help sick people have victory in their illness.


  1. Define victory:


  1. It is being controlled by biblical principles rather than wants/relief and the agony of the condition.
  2. It means pleasing God rather than seeking relief.
  3. It is using the condition to put self to death and become more like Christ. Rom. 8:35-39; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Phil. 4:11-13.


  1. Biblical-controlled thought processing: think biblically about all aspects of the condition: 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8. Consider the ‘pizza pie’ of life: physical, social, home, church, spiritual, and work.


  1. The frailty and finiteness of this life and him/me: Ps 39:4-6; 90:11-12
  2. The relationship of the physical to other aspects of life: the inner man – outer man connection
  3. The relationship of the person to other people: functioning as a taker or a giver.


  1. Remember and act on the 6 P’s of God:


  1. Presence: God is in the problem: Hebrews 13:5-6
  2. Power: He is up to something: Everything is under the control of a sovereign God: Proverbs 21:1; Dan 2:21;4:35; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Matthew 10:29
  3. Promises: God is up to something for you now and eternally: Deut 4:31.

There are 4 promises of hope in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and one in Philippians 4:13.

  1. Plan: God was in the problem in eternity past and remains so: Ephesians 1:4
  2. Purpose: God is up to something good – now: Genesis 50:19-21; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Peter 2:19-23;4:19.
  3. Provision: God provides a relationship with His Son, the indwelling HS, the Bible, and His saving and enabling grace in order for the person to respond in a godly fashion thereby functioning as a Christian oyster.


1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9-10;

Philippians 2:12-13; 4:13;

Galatians 2:20.


Section five. Why should a Believer go to the Physician?


  1. The believer seeks medical care to please God by functioning as a good theologian-steward.
  2. Because all of life is theological and everyone is a theologian, every man is a steward.

III. Since theology matters, the issue is: which kind of theologian-steward are you?


  1. What is the basis for the statement: “life is theological and theology matters”? It is that all men live in relation to God, properly or improperly, whether acknowledged or not.


  1. God is man’s environment. This is an inescapable fact. God is not limited by space – He is present everywhere. Therefore, there is no escaping God (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48-49;17:27-28; Ps 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24): burden or blessing?
  2. As the image of God, man is:


  1. A real, historical being, created in relationship to God as dependent being with a covenant keeping capacity.
  2. In the Garden, Adam was a revelation receiver, interpreter (understand), and implementer (apply). Man continues to be a revelational being

c Man continues to be a relational being: to God (vertical) and others (horizontal). In the Garden, God gave man information (verbal revelation and created reality) on how best to live in that relationship. Today it is no different because God provides His truth in the Bible.

  1. Man is a religious being – he is a worshipper by nature.
  2. Man is an ethically responsible being.
  3. Man is a rational, thinking being.


  1. Man is a sensual being: he takes facts in via the senses.
  2. Man is a faith-based being: saving or non-saving faith. Man filters facts and their interpretation through faith, reason, experience, and or feelings or via the Bible.
  3. In the Garden, God entered into covenant with man; he had covenant keeping responsibilities and was entirely dependent on God.
  4. Man is a morally and ethically responsible being because God the Creator so designed him – God Himself is a morally responsible Being.
  5. God’s creation and His creatures are His and are obligated to Him (Psalm 24:1-2; 29; 33:6-11; 50:7-11; 89:5-18; 93; 95:3-5; 104). Man is a debtor even before sin – he owed God.


  1. In the Garden and before the Fall, Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship to God and knew Him as Creator, Judge, and as their Friend: Genesis 2:15-17.


  1. Unconverted man continues to know God both as Creator, Almighty, and Judge.
  2. Converted man, however, also knows God as Father, Redeemer, and Friend.
  3. God saves in the context of relationships.


  1. His people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
  2. His people grow in that relationship as they become more like Christ – this is the process of sanctification (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:3-5).


  1. Therefore, all of life, from beginning (creation) to end (man’s destiny which is heaven or hell) and all in between (either growing in the likeness of Christ or the likeness of Satan) is theological.


  1. Reasons for going to the MD


  1. The goal of every believer is to be/function as a good theologian.
  2. One of the keys for doing so is acknowledging and acting upon the truth that every believer is to be a good steward.


  1. Everyone must give an account of all entrusted to him including his body.
  2. Every believer is to function as a good theologian-steward – this honors God and is beneficial for him
  3. Stewardship means taking care of that which God has entrusted to you (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; 19:11-27). It is God-given blessing with responsibility and accountability.
  4. Every one is a steward. The question is which kind: good or bad?
  5. Stewardship is a theological issue because every one is a theologian and lives in or out of relationship to God. One’s body is not his own: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
  6. Seeking medical care is to be for the purpose of pleasing God (2 Corinthians 5:9) as a good steward of His temple rather than relief or getting well.


  1. There are at least six characteristics of biblical stewardship: ORUEAR
  2. God owns everything; you own nothing – your “ownership” is relative to God’s absolute ownership. This is an ownership issue (1 Chronicles 29:10-20; Haggai 2:7-8; 1 Cor 6:19-20).
  3. You do possess. God entrusts to you everything you have, including your body. You are an “trustee.” This is a responsibility issue for you (1 Corinthians 4:2-5; Psalm 139:13-16).
  4. God enables you to use, and even increase, what He entrusts to you. This is a user issue (Deuteronomy 8:16-18)
  5. God expects a return on what He has given. This is an expectation issue (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).
  6. You must give an account of your care of your body and it may be today. This is an accounting issue (Luke 12:16-21; 2 Cor 5:10).
  7. The issue is good or bad stewardship: there are consequences for either. This is a result issue (Matthew 25:24-27; Luke 19:24).


  1. Man is a duplex (a unit: inner and outer man).


  1. One’s thoughts/attitudes, desires, and actions (inner-man activities) affect the body (outer man) and outer-man functioning influences the inner man.
  2. Man lives out of his heart (FBS/FMS) – Proverbs 4::23; Matthew 15/Mark 7; Luke 6:43-45.
  3. This truth is expressed as: You feel what you feel because you do what you do; you do what you do because you think what you think and you think what you think because you want what you want (FDTW).
  4. Biblical stewardship involves taking care of both the inner man and outer man.


  1. The inner man will influence outer man function: Genesis 4; Ps 32/38.
  2. The outer man influences inner man function: Christ, Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Job (1:13-22; 2:9-10), Elijah (1 Kings 18-19).


  1. Man is a not a person with a body problem: he is a whole person and duplex being.


  1. That person consists of the material and immaterial.
  2. Man is body/material but he isn’t only body.
  3. He is spirit/immaterial but man isn’t only immaterial.
  4. He is a duplex – inner and outer man.


  1. Summary: a believer can always be a good steward of his body whether his desired results occur.


  1. Good stewardship of the body is the best thing one can do while on this earth and most often results in improved health.
  2. However, improved health is to be a byproduct of good stewardship and it should not be the believer’s primary focus (Matthew 6:33).
  3. Pleasing God is the primary reason for being a good theologian-steward. Proverbs 3:5-8.


  1. Corollary truths:


  1. Death is separation:


  1. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit.
  2. Spiritual death is the separation of the inner person from God.
  3. Eternal death is the whole person (body and spirit) separated from God.


  1. Life is union:


  1. Physical life is the union of the body and spirit.
  2. Spiritual life is the inner person united to God.
  3. Eternal life is the whole person united with God.


Section six: Putting It All Together


  1. Prevailing theories of disease and the cause of symptoms


  1. Medical Model (MM): There is a physical, anatomic reason for symptoms and behavior. The assumption is that the body is “sick” even if no anatomical abnormality is found. Francis Crick’s discovery of DNA: man is molecules in motion added to this concept.
  2. Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): This model assumes that man’s physical complaints are the result of “psychological” factors (“handling life issues”) which have been influenced by his genes and environmental factors.
  3. Biopsychosocialspiritual Model (BPSS): This model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms but defines spirituality using non-biblical standards.


  1. Summary and critique:


  1. All three models posit that symptoms and behavior originate from some physical defect even if it can’t be proved.
  2. Therefore, therapy is directed at removing symptoms and changing behavior by changing feelings.
  3. The latter two models compartmentalize man; treatment is directed at each of these compartments: physician, social worker/ psychologist/psychiatrist, and minister.


III. The culture’s view of man’s “anatomy” contrasts God’s Word:


  1. Thinking is both an inner person and outer person (brain) activity
  2. The brain is part of the body (soma); there is no biblical term for brain.
  3. Man’s moral compass is not located in the material – brain – but in the inner man.
  4. The inner man is the purview of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Therefore, God and His grace, not medications, “change” the person.


  1. Spiritual-physiological:


  1. There are all types of heat of life (other terms: pressures, problems in life, “stress”)
  2. These include:


  1. One’s own sin and its consequence: Gal 6:7-9; Proverbs 13:15
  2. Being sinned against
  3. Physical problems
  4. Poverty; riches: Deut 8; Proverbs 30:7-9
  5. Conflicting voices of counsel
  6. General life hardships
  7. Pleasant times


  1. Rom. 8:35-37: the questions of being and determinism are always at the forefront and are captured in the questions:


  1. What is man (his being/ontos) – nature, nurture, or a combination or neither?
  2. Origin and purpose of man?
  3. Things happen: why?
  4. Is there room for God and His providence and if so how?


  1. Victory can best be gained by asking how things outside of a person “produce/cause” certain feelings and behaviors. Is it possible that your response is part or all of the body problems?


  1. Being controlled and being influenced are entirely different concepts.
  2. Pressure/problem à evaluation/interpretation according to one’s senses leading to a perspective/mindset à reaction à bodily and physiological changes that can be measured: e.g.: fear: “panic attack”/stage fright and butterflies; the bear and IRS examples.
  3. Secular therapeutic options, such as “stress management,” cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications, are egocentric and focus on the person’s feelings and behavior.
  4. Personal responsibility: one can’t completely change what is outside of him but he is responsible for his thinking and motivation and therefore his response.
  5. Pressure/problem à unbiblical response à bad feelings à decreased function.


  1. If the goal is to get rid of bad feelings and/or to function better (often termed a better “quality of life”), where will the physician and patient focus?


  1. Rather than focusing on the wanting and thinking, the focus will be on relieving feelings and behavior.
  2. Medications don’t change thinking or wanting directly.


  1. They can change feelings
  2. The brain is not man’s moral compass


  1. Everyone functions out of/responds to pressure (hard or good times),


  1. Out of a Functional Motivational System (FMS) – wanting, and a Functional Belief System (FBS) – thinking
  2. Which can be boiled down to: what I want vs. what pleases God, and what I think is right vs. what God in His word says is right.


  1. Thinking God’s thoughts (biblically-controlled thinking; saving faith based reasoning) leads to honoring God and it is best for your health.


James T Halla, MD

This material may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People


Introduction: the primary goal of this material is to help church leaders shepherd the flock in the giving and receiving medical care. Secondary goals are helping sheep be God’s kind of sheep/counselee/patient, helping physicians be God’s kind of physicians, and helping church leaders help both groups achieve those goals.


  1. Personal note: I am a rheumatologist through God’s providence who ordained my choice. The fact of that I am rheumatologist is important for a number of reasons. Not all fields of medicine are the same. General principles override all disciplines but there are significant differences. The field of rheumatology differs in many respects from other fields of medicine. Complaints of misery, often long-standing, are a constant menu for most rheumatologists. The whole person is affected (thoughts, desires, actions or inactions). Patients tend to be long standing as their problems are chronic. Therefore I urge physicians and patients or would-be patients to take note of the general principles of good stewardships as derived from the Bible and apply them to the giving and receiving of medical care in their own area.


  1. Our standard is the Bible which:
  2. Is clear, authoritative, necessary, and sufficient for life and godliness including giving and receiving medical care: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
  3. Focuses on relationships, vertically and horizontally, and the whole person: Matt. 22:37-40; Duet 6:4-6.
  4. Addresses stewardship which includes the giving and the receiving of medical care: Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
  5. Presents a worldview that has been interpreted as anti-science and “non-medical”:
  6. The hard sciences such as biology, physics, astronomy, etc.
  7. The soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
  8. Medicine which utilizes the hard and soft sciences.


III. The Bible’s orientation is radical, antithetical, counterintuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-self. It presents the doctrine of two ways.

  1. The doctrine of two ways includes such contrasts as natural-supernatural, truth-falsehood, sight and senses–faith, unsaved-saved, lost-found, trust in self-trust in Lord, unclean-clean, and the wide-narrow road.
  2. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to live and function in God’s world.
  3. Man is to grieve God’s way (1 Thessalonians 4:13), be angry God’s way, (Eph. 4:26; James 1:19-20), seek God’s way (Mat. 6:33), and to fear God’s way (Ps 56:3-4; Proverbs 1:7).
  4. There is no Scriptural mandate to worry God’s way, be depressed God’s way, or to be overwhelmed God’s way.
  5. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to practice medicine and to receive medical care. These are extensions of how a person lives (thinks, desires, acts) outside the doctor’s office.


  1. Basic anthropology in the giving and receiving of medical care: ma n is the image of God.
  2. Everyone is a religious being, a theologian and a worshipper.
  3. The object of the worship is self, through people and or things or it is God.
  4. Everyone looks outside of self or within for direction and strength.
  5. Everyone is a relational being.
  6. Everyone, believer and unbeliever, has, whether acknowledged or not:
  7. A vertical relationship – to God – in His world.
  8. A horizontal relationship – to others – in God’s world.
  9. A vertical reference to circumstances and to God – God’s providential ordering of life events.
  10. The personal significance of those relationships influence and determine thoughts, desires, and actions in any situation.
  11. Everyone is a revelational being. He receives, interprets, and implements what he has received in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions.
  12. Everyone is a rational being. He is a thinker, initially designed to think God’s thoughts for God’s glory and to partake of the blessing to and for him and others.
  13. Everyone is a moral, ethically responsible being.
  14. Man is faced with the issues of lawmaking and law-keeping.
  15. He makes choices that are cognitive and willful,
  16. Everyone is a representative. Man is not his own but he was designed to follow God’s design in the Garden.
  17. Everyone is a reflector. Man was designed to reflect God’s glory to the world and back to God.
  18. Everyone is faith-based either saving faith or non-saving faith.
  19. Everyone is an affective, emotive being.
  20. He has feelings but he is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  21. Subjectivity is the rule.
  22. The term “feelings” is too often culturized and psychologized.
  23. Everyone is a seeker. The issues are who does he seek, how does he seek, and what is the motive for seeking.


  1. More anthropology
  2. Everyone lives out of an identity, is motivated to set an agenda and pursue it.
  3. Man was created the image of God – a whole person – wanting, thinking, and doing.
  4. As a whole person, he is duplex, a complex unity.
  5. He is body as well as having a body (outer man: he is a physical, material being); but he is not only body.
  6. He has a soul (inner man: he is a spiritual being); but he is not only inner man (other terms the Bible uses for the inner man are heart and mind).
  7. He thinks and desires/wants in both his inner and outer man.
  8. He acts in as well as out of/from the inner and outer man.
  9. In every situation (God’s providence), the doctor and patient are theologians.
  10. The issue for both is which kind?
  11. The Bible is our source for the answer.
  12. Everyone is a sensual and faith-based being.
  13. He gathers or takes in information via the senses.
  14. He interprets/evaluates information in both the inner man (heart/mind) and the outer man (brain).
  15. He draws a conclusion.
  16. He acts according to his evaluation.
  17. He has an interpretive grid which is one of two kinds captured in Proverbs 3:5-8:
  18. He trusts God (fear of Lord).

1) He lives according to saving faith, biblical truth, and the application of biblical principles to all of life.

2) He has biblically-controlled thinking and wanting

  1. He trusts self.

1) He is guided by the trio, in part or the whole, of feelings, reason unaided by biblical truth, and/or experience.

2)  He is controlled by his own thoughts and desires


  1. Cautions for the helper (pastor, counselor, and doctor) in regard to the sheep
  2. No helper is to be exclusively a spiritual mechanic (focused solely on inner-man activities) or a body mechanic (focused only on the physical) because:
  3. Man is duplex, a whole person, image bearer of God and a theologian.
  4. His situation in life is God’s providential ordering. Life is not just is.
  5. The situation is:
  6. The context for the person to demonstrate the functional significance of his relationship to God in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  7. A tool for him to further develop a God-honoring relationship in Christ.
  8. All helpers are to be listeners and learners:
  9. Listen to learn to love to lead.
  10. Don’t assume.
  11. Understand what the person is saying: clarify clichés and terms.
  12. Understanding the person in his situation is the key to discipleship.
  13. Next the person is to give appropriate truth to the person in his situation given his level of willingness, his knowledge, and his spiritual maturity.
  14. The importance of methodology
  15. Be alert to the fact that the person invariably begins with how he feels, his experience, and his own logic and most often in terms of his trouble often called suffering.
  16. The person is BOTH a suffering sinner AND sinful sufferer.
  17. Labels matter.
  18. Maintain the proper balance between sinner AND suffering.
  19. Ask questions with an inside-out focus.
  20. Inquire about the person’s thinking, wanting, motivation, and resultant actions.
  21. Your goal and your method
  22. The key is to function as a God pleaser.
  23. Minister biblical truth so that it functions vertically – the person’s relationship to God – and horizontally – the person’s relationship to others.
  24. Most sheep/counselee’s/patient’s focus is primarily horizontal (change him or her or the situation).
  25. Any vertical reference is often distorted: view of God, self, and others:
  26. Determine what biblical truth is needed that best fits the person in his situation.
  27. Learn and teach God’s way of change: “put off” and “put on.” by determining:

1) Help determine the genesis of wrong thoughts, desires, and actions

2) Develop the need and even urgency of putting off by putting on.

3) Give hope because of the resources that every believer has in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

4) Help determine the proper biblical replacement and the how if it. Be specific.

5) People change and get victory in the concrete.


VII. Helps for the helpers: pastor, counselor, doctor, and patient/counselee

  1. Think “whole-person” and man as “duplex.”
  2. The inner man affects the function of the outer man: inner-man activity of thinking and wanting affects a person’s feelings and activity.
  3. The outer man affects the function of the inner man.
  4. The outer man-inner man connection depends on how and which part of the body is affected.
  5. The physical/material is the area of medicine that is most familiar to people.
  6. Person: what is wrong with my body? Fix me. Give me relief.
  7. Doctor: attempts to find an anatomic and or physiological defect and treat it – accepts the Medical Model of disease.
  8. If no defect found, he still applies the Medical Model and treats – often with psychotropic drugs.
  9. Mental illness and emotional breakdown are loaded terms.
  10. The mind/heart and the brain are not synonymous.
  11. Feelings (they are anatomic rightly understood) and emotions (non-anatomic) are not synonymous.
  12. The mind/heart is immaterial and non-physical.

1) Broken heart: bad feelings

2)  Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has been referred to as acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and “broken-heart syndrome.”

  1. The mind/emotions are not broken.
  2. Often they work overtime in the realm of thinking and wanting.

1) Wrong thinking and wanting leads to symptoms that are called physical.

2) Wrong and thinking is exposed at the time of the event/situation.

  1. Man thinks in his heart (IM) and brain (OM). There is a connection between the outer and inner man that does not appear to be a defined anatomic neural circuit.
  2. Man’s duplexity and its relationship to behavior require serious biblical thinking.
  3. What is needed? There is no science-Bible/biblical truth dichotomy.
  4. The answer is biblically-directed, whole person considerations.
  5. The result will be appropriate application of biblical truth by all involved.
  6. Thinking “whole-person” duplexity means that the outer and inner man is linked.
  7. Wanting, thinking, and doing are both IM and OM activities
  8. Feelings are linked to thinking and wanting so get to the person’s thoughts and desires.
  9. Man is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  10. The trio of feelings, experience, and unaided human reasoning competes with the Word of God especially in the areas of progressive sanctification, problem solving, and decision making.


VIII. By divine plan, the goal of every believer to please God. He does that by becoming more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:9 (metaphor of Christian oyster).

  1. This includes the pastor, counselor, doctor, and the patient.
  2. The believer is the most changed person.
  3. He is to be the most changing person.
  4. In part, he does that by bringing biblical principles to bear as he considers his physical problems.
  5. The goal is honoring God by getting victory in the problem not necessarily out of the problem.
  6. Victory is defined as:
  7. Being controlled and directed by biblical principles rather than the desire for relief.
  8. Pleasing God rather than self in the situation
  9. Using the situation/condition to develop Christlikeness
  10. Victory may not include “cure.”


  1. The pastor, counselor, and doctor are the teacher and modeler of the above principles as good theologians-stewards:
  2. Stewardship defined: the God-given responsibility of taking care of that which has been entrusted to you with accountability.
  3. Stewardship involves the inner and outer man and every aspect of man as God’s image: thinking, wanting, and doing.
  4. Teach and model biblical stewardship and expect its practice.
  5. It is much more than tithing and giving.
  6. It is a whole-person activity.
  7. The pastor helps the sheep/patient regarding:
  8. The patient’s physician and his relationship to him:
  9. Is the doctor a Christian?
  10. If he is, what does that mean practically for both patient and doctor?
  11. Does the doctor bring biblical principles to bear on the patient in his problem?
  12. In determining:
  13. The doctor’s goal in caring for him.
  14. How the doctor’s practice of medicine differs from that of an unbeliever.
  15. In evaluating the medical diagnosis and treatment.
  16. What is the diagnosis and its basis?
  17. What is the solution, if any, and its basis?
  18. The pastor helps the counselor and doctor regarding:
  19. Understanding that the discipline of medicine at its core is pagan.
  20. Understanding that the problem is not science but the scientist (including the physician) as he evaluates “facts” (no fact is neutral – it is interpreted according to truth or falsehood).
  21. Developing biblical skepticism regarding medicine and its practice:
  22. He takes doctors under his wing.
  23. He finds a doctor and counselor who is a learner and you be a learner.
  24. He teaches them from the Bible and partners with them.
  25. He finds one that is theologically sound or is willing to be.
  26. He helps him see the better way which is pleasing God in the midst of God’s hard Providence. The situation is from God and the patient’s tool for growth.
  27. He helps him see that the consistent, humble application of biblical principles re: the whole person is the best care he can give his patients.
  28. It will be slow.
  29. Doctors may be a valuable ally or an effective enemy.
  30. Find out.
  31. Pray for them.
  32. Doctors are vulnerable and may unknowingly help undermine the gospel message.
  33. Be aware of prayer meetings.
  34. Gear prayer requests toward wisdom issues: growth in Christ and not simply relief/cure.
  35. Teach that God’s answer of no for relief is never no to growth in Christ.
  36. Help the people to be excited about growth in Christlikeness.


  1. Thoughts about going to the doctor and receiving medical care
  2. The patient should go to the doctor, not to get, but to please God as a good steward.
  3. Poor stewardship can be manifested via too few or too many visits to the doctor.
  4. Good stewardship can be few or many visits to the doctor.
  5. The same balance applies to exercise, sleep, food, and medications.


  1. Thoughts about giving medical care
  2. Does the MD administer or minister? What is it that he does and how?
  3. The goal is to please God and help the patient do the same.
  4. Teach the MD to bring appropriate biblical truth to bear on himself and the patient.
  5. The physical condition of the patient does not alter the essence of biblical truth but it may change how/in what way biblical truth is ministered.
  6. He needs to know theology and medicine well.
  7. He must apply proper theology including man’s duplexity/whole person.
  8. He must have confidence in the Word AND confidence in his use of that Word.
  9. He uses his Bible as his guide.
  10. It won’t tell him the specifics of diagnosis and treatment.
  11. It will direct the physician and the patient in the Truth/truth which is real freedom.
  12. Christian physicians and pastor should develop a biblical skepticism for medicine: its approach to people, its goals, its agenda, its philosophy and its practice.


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The Science of Division and Separation Part I-IV

The Science of Division and Separation: Part I

One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

One-ism and Two-ism


The title is intended to attract your attention. The American culture is in the throes of change of gigantic proportions. However, the change is not new. In fact, it has its roots in the angelic world prior to the creation of man and in the Garden after the fall. Yes, there is a real Adam and Eve! For whatever reason, Adam chose to decide for himself, his wife, and his posterity, how he, and they should live. The fundamental choice of human existence is and always been worshipping and pleasing the Creator or the creature (self and others). Mankind can’t have it both ways. Throughout the ages man continues with those two mutually exclusive choices.

The American culture looks very much like Ephesus and Rome of biblical times. Those cultures were dominated by the mantra: for me, to me, and by me. Feelings, logic divorced from biblical truth, experience/tradition, and subjectivity ruled. Self-realization and self-actualization – me first, second, and third was at the expense of others. There was no appeal to the God of the universe. The me-first mindset will continue until Christ’s return.

The Christian Church and individual Christians have bought into the movement and the influence of Eastern mysticism and spirituality, psychology, and Greek philosophy. As a result, the culture and the people are naturalized, materialized, Eastern-ized, psychologized, and spiritualized as opposed to being supernatural-ized and Holy Spirit-energized. The inward work of the Holy Spirit was and seems to be non-existent. Sadly, churches have bought the lie. There has been a return to the New Age thinking of Gnosticism – which is really old age! There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

Dr. Peter Jones uses the terms One-ism and Two-ism when he speaks of the attack on the Creator-creature distinction. Fundamentally, the issue is truth vs. falsehood and light vs. darkness (Rom. 1:18-23). Some speak of this phenomenon as culture wars. Psalm 2 labels it rebellion against Yahweh and His Anointed. So-called marriage problems are actually people problems. Marriage and culture are not the problem. They are the milieu in which hearts are exposed and choice id expressed – me or God.

Cultural One-ism is in contrast to biblical One-ism – God is God, Creator and Controller God, and the creature is not. Cultural One-ism is in conflict with a biblical worldview and is at odds with true spirituality as defined by the Bible. Cultural One-ism focuses on a self-created reality which divinized nature; mankind worships himself as he worships the creation. This One-ism is based on the impersonal and sameness of everything and everybody. It disallows distinctions and separation. Consequently, it denies the transcendent and the holy as defined in the Bible as self-apartness, otherness and distinctiveness which are words used to describe the Triune God.

Cultural One-ism denies and works aggressively against biblical One-ism and biblical Two-ism. It works against the biblical notion that everything and everyone has its rightful and distinctive place. It denies biblical One-ism because it denies the essence of God as the holy, other God. It denies the twin pillars of the Trinity which are unity and diversity. Consequently, it denies all Intratrinitarian activity such as creation, re-creation and redemption, and heard and answered prayer.

Dr. Jones equates Two-ism and biblical spirituality. He defines this biblical worldview as the biblical insistence on the truth of distinctions – good and evil, true and false, male and female, God and creation. In essence, Two-ism refers, in part, to the doctrine of two ways: clean and unclean, holy and unholy (Lev. 10:10-11).

Man, the creature, is not the Creator and God is distinct from His creation. In Two-ism, holiness is normative for God. Remember, holiness refers to otherness, separateness, distinctiveness, and worth of all honor and glory. God is Lord of lords and King of kings whether acknowledged or not. God is worthy to be worshipped for who He is. Worship of any other object or being is idolatry.

According to Scripture, Two-ism is God’s revelation of Himself and is one key to the cosmos. This latter point is of extreme importance today as culture is caught up with its self and pushes and demands oneness and consequently, human autonomy as was demonstrated in the Garden. Each individual becomes their own supreme being.

It is interesting how culture has linked oneness and autonomy. Autonomy refers to self-expression and rule. The concept and actions that flow from it compete with the Triune God.  By popular demand the one consumes mankind and has decided for me, by me, and to me. The one is me. The one has thrown a web around the many so that the one and the many are one. Sameness is key but to what? Without distinctions there will be no progress in any area of society. The program of all chiefs and no Indians sounds communistic and socialistic. It is anti-God. Someone has to be different but this fact is denied. Yet the one who is setting the rules is different as he functions as number one. There should be no number two’s unless you are number one!  In non-biblical two-ism, all are number one.  Others follow. The definition of cultural one-ism is used to justify all that is non-biblical. It calls right wrong and wrong right which is an abomination to the Lord. (Isa. 5:20).



  1. What does the phrase: “All is one” signify to you?
  2. If all is one then all is God or part of him. If true, there is no hierarchy. Yet the one espousing this oneness is number one! What significance would that have for creation and control of the universe? How could Adam be wrong using that definition of oneness?
  3. If all is one, where does authority, ethics, morality, and worship fit and why?


The Science of Division: Part II

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction


Our discussion must begin with the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation, the only standard of truth. Otherwise a person starts with self and ends with self. God Himself is three-in one and therein is unity and diversity. There is order within diversity. At creation, God demonstrated His way of operating in His world. From the beginning God is the God of order. He has been and will continue to be the Separator and Orderer. The book of Genesis opens by recording God’s eternal existence and His creative activity: In the beginning God was…. The Bible presupposes an eternal, active God.

The Triune God created chaos and from chaos came the cosmos (Gen. 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the water.). God brings order to His world His way for His glory. Later in Genesis 1, Moses uses the refrain that God commanded separation: 1:4 (light from darkness); 1:6-7 (the waters); and 1:14, 18 (the lights). Genesis 1 closes with the concise statement: God saw all that he had made and it was very good ... (Gen 1:31).

Genesis 2 teaches that God created the animals and He created Adam and Eve, the crown of His creative activity (se Psalm 8). The Triune God created mankind specifically male and female. Gender was not neutral or an afterthought. It was ordained by God. In the creation account of Genesis 1-2 we learn the non-negotiable truth that God is Creator and Controller and He is a God of separation and distinctions for His purpose and glory. The good of His creation and mankind follow God’s zeal for His name and character.

Turning to the rest of the Pentateuch, we learn more about the science of division. As Moses taught in the book of Leviticus it was a matter of life and death – it still is. The overarching theme of the Pentateuch is God opening a way for sinful humanity to dwell in His Presence. One of the themes of the book of Exodus is intimate knowledge of God which highlights the separation-distinction motif. True knowledge of God leads to true knowledge of self which leads to fear of the Lord and life in His Presence. Hope, comfort, and joy follow.

God used a variety of means to reveal Himself so that both Pharaoh and Israel would know that I am the Lord your God.. (Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4, 18; 16:6, 12). God’s revelation of Himself had a purpose: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is living, trustworthy, and makes and keeps His promises (Exodus 3:14-15; 6:6-7). Therefore He saved His people at the expense of the Egyptians who were enemies of Israel and His enemies.

The so-called plagues (actually miracles) were signs and wonders used by God to reveal Himself as Controller and Deliverer. They fit the separation-distinction motif described in Genesis. God separated Israel from the Egyptians and vice versa (see Exodus 7-12 and 8:23; 9:4-6, 26; 10:23; 11:7; 12:13, 25, 27). God’s power was evident as the Egyptians received the wrath of God and Israel was saved. The ultimate sign and revelation of God and His separating activity was the Passover (Exodus 12-13). The blood on the doorpost was God’s sign to spare the Israelites and kill the firstborn of Egypt. Distinction was the key – it was a matter of life and death.


  1. Define One-ism and Two-ism using culture and the Bible as reference points.
  2. The Trinity is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  3. Marriage is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  4. Discuss the separation-distinction motif.

The Science of Division: Part III

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction


The book of Leviticus further delineates the science of division. The book focuses on how God opened a way into His presence. Mankind’s descent began when God judged Adam and Eve and exiled them from the Garden and His presence. Prior to their expulsion, God promised hope through salvation (Gen. 3:15). Adam was faced with an ultimate question: how could man, unholy and sinful, be allowed into the presence of a holy God? We know the question was a prominent concern of Adam (Gen. 3:20-21; 4:1). In fact the question is captured by the psalmist in Psalms 15 and 24. He asked the question: who can ascend the holy hill? The immediate context was worship in God’s presence but it rings the note: how can unholy man enter into a holy God’s presence and live and enjoy fellowship (15:1; 24:3)?

Israel experienced God’s holiness and dwelling in His presence as a purified and consecrated people through the sacrificial system. When you read the Pentateuch, especially the book of Leviticus, you can’t fail to miss the constant refrain: be holy as I am (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8, 15; 22:9, 16, 32). The sacrificial system was put in place so that the Israelites could enter God’s presence symbolically and enjoy fellowship with Him. Proper separation, distinguishing clean and unclean, was God’s way to enter into His presence and glory. For the Israelites it was a matter of life and death (Lev. 9:6, 22-24; 10:1-3; 16:1ff). The book of Hebrews shows us that the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the true Passover Lamb (Heb. 6:13-20; 10:19-22; John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Another message of the book of Leviticus is atonement. In the ritual, sacrificial system, the principle of separation and distinction was manifested with the daily choice of a male animal without defect. Gender mattered. Entering into a holy God’s presence, which was signified as a consuming fire, could be deadly unless it was done God’s way, at God’s time, and in God’s house. Ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Several passages later God tells Aaron, the high priest, that he (and the people) must distinguish clean from unclean (Lev.10:10-11). The clean/unclean system (found in Leviticus 11-15, 17-27) was a means of alerting the Israelites, singularly and corporately, to the fact that all day, every day, in whatever they thought and did, they must consciously choose God and His way. Separation and distinction was a daily, constant refrain of the Israelite. In the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46 affirms the divine right and privilege of separation and distinction: at the last judgment God will separate the sheep and the goats.

When the creature assumes the position of Creator, he advocates gender neutrality and non-biblical One-ism. As a consequence, he separates himself from God which is a deadly activity because the creature dishonors God. Such it is today. There is nothing new under the sun. Our culture has returned to chaos: darkness and deadness. Culture today has returned to the pre-creation, anti-creational state of chaos described in Genesis 1:1-2 and typified by Pharaoh’s anti-life measures against Israel.

God’s eternal design is to use sinful man and his activity to rectify the situation. Throughout the ages, arrogant and ignorant man attempts to blur all distinctions (Cultural One-ism). In contrast, God separates for order, for structure, and for purpose (Two-ism) – fellowship and intimacy with Him. As the priests in Leviticus were commanded, all believers must learn the science of division as a matter of life and death. The priests were to distinguish between sacred and common, clean and unclean, and Creator-creature. If you attempt to destroy division eventually you will fail. God won’t allow His world to remain in pre-creation darkness and death. Ask Pharaoh.



  1. Where are you on the issue of separation-distinction?
  2. Are you a One-ist so that the god you know is in everything and has nothing to say about your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. If are a Two-ist, what is your science of division? Are you wise and in the light – God’s light and truth – as you apply Prov. 3:5-8; 5:21-22, and 26:11 regularly? It is a matter of life and death.


Part IV: The Science of Division and Separation: One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever


This question about existence/being is age-old, inherently complex, and the philosopher’s delight. It is easy, a no-brainer, to conclude that man exists. I am because I am. My senses and my reason give me facts. I must interpret them. A logical question follows. The fact that man can ask questions, get data, and interpret data is proof of existence/being and a rational reality.  Another question surfaces: what reality? The fact that man exists does not answer the question of his origin (where did man come from?) or a corollary question: what is man?  These are simple questions but have invoked a plethora of thought, consternation, and answers through the ages.

Human beings can only answer the question if man is a rational, faith-based, question-asking, and answering being. And he is! Every answer that man gives is to some degree based on an informed faith. The combination of faith and rationality brings to the forefront trust and belief in something or someone.

Enter the concept of One-ism and Two-ism which moves us into the realm of the Creator-creature. Is the Creator and the creature the same and how would you know? All people agree that there is reality, truth, and faith. Even that agreement confirms the existence of a rational, faith-based being. One-ism and Two-ism are terms that describe a faith-based interpretation of reality as a person thinks he knows it; the interpretation is based on truth from some source, within or without. The truth may be his and or as defined by someone else. Faith has a subject, an object, a standard, and content. Faith is based on truth by whatever standard a person declares.

One-ism is based on “natural” faith and focuses on nature – the natural, physical, and material. Man’s origin and the origin of matter can be summarized by the illogical belief that nothing plus time plus chance equals order and complexity (a phrase coined by RC Sproul). A seemingly, self-described, self-professed logical person concludes that the supernatural is non-existent especially in terms of origin and being. God has no place in the person’s existence. All is considered one such that distinctions are non-existent. Causeless effect is the key to reality, man, and the material universe. Chance, a powerless abstraction, has been raised to the status of a thing and a force that has power in its self.

One-ism teaches that nature is the origin of all things and divine; that human beings are part of nature and therefore divine; that all people are pure and innocent; that there are no distinctions within mankind; and therefore the creature is exalted and worshipped. Thus there is no Creator especially a divine One. I call this creature equality. There is no maleness or femaleness. This is called gender equality. Truth is considered subjective, relative, amoral, and personal. I call this pseudo-truth equality. Feelings rule. People with this mindset follow Adam’s example in the Garden. Attempting to push God aside, they do their own thing. Choice becomes for me, by me, and to me. Selfishness reigns. You would think that since distinctions are not allowed and non-existent, there would be no graded selfishness and there would be peace and harmony – one for all. On the contrary, when the cultural one-ist’s virtual reality is invaded by someone who is more selfish, there is hell to pay. The old adage, “don’t rain on my parade,” describes the hypocrisy of one-ist and cultural one-ism.

Biblical Two-ism is biblically defined. It too is faith based. It is Holy Spirit directed and energized. Scripture is its standard and its source of truth. Scripture declares that God is; that He is Creator and Controller; and that mankind (without distinction!) suppresses the truth of God and consequently themselves (Rom. 1:18-20). Truth suppression implies truth, a Truth-teller and Revealer, and a suppresser. The Bible leaves no doubt regarding distinction. The Creator-creature distinction is the greatest, the most magnificent, the most wonderful, and the most profitable distinction that mankind (without distinction!) can have. It is a gift.




  1. God’s essence is one of unity and diversity rightly understood. He is the Triune, three-in-one God. What significance does that fact have for you and the culture you live in?
  2. God’s unity is unity of being/essence. He is one. Examples of that unity are given in Scripture and include the Church (Eph. 2:11-15), believers (Gal.3:27-29), and marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:24). What significance does God’s unity have for you?
  3. God’s diversity is one of function. Within the Godhead, there is order and function so that the one God is the Creator, Controller, and Redeemer. Each member of the Godhead has different functions which are summarized by: saved from God, by God, for God, and to God. How do you respond?




Life Before and After Salvation Part I-VIII

Life Before and After Salvation: Part A

Saved: So What?

Introduction By Way of a Brief Summary


We hear much talk regarding salvation. You might have been asked: are you saved? How would answer that question? Being saved means different things to different people. Some have no interest in “being saved.” They would answer by asking: “saved from what and by whom? I am able to take care of myself. I am just fine.”

Others might say they belong to a church, go to church, or have been baptized. Others might say they have made a decision for Christ or that they have accepted him. When pushed they might say that they have taken Jesus into their hearts and surrendered to Him. All of these are interesting phrases but are they correct and what do they mean?

The words translated in the Bible as salvation and saved are pregnant terms and carry the intent of rescue and deliverance. To be saved means that a rescue operation has occurred, deliverance has happened. Notice, each meaning indicates something was done to the person. That something indicates that the person – his whole person including thoughts, desires, and actions – underwent a change. What kind of change? In the surgery suite, on the operating table, a patient may have his bad appendix or gallbladder removed. He was a passive bystander to something done to him. .He was operated upon; he was rescued and delivered from a physical illness.

In a similar way, being saved means an operation occurred in the person. However, it was a divine operation done within the person’s heart by the holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). There are many results of this heart operation one of which is the person is now a believer – a child of God (Galatians 4:4-5) and a new creature in Christ in a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Radical changes have occurred.

Yet the Bible also teaches that a response to the question, “what must I do to be saved” is necessary. Paul and Silas answered the Philippian jailer’s question by encouraging him “to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved” Acts 16:31).  He did and he was saved.

Salvation is a gift received by saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Saving faith does not initiate the gift of salvation. Rather, it is the response to the offer of salvation. The response to the offer is testimony that the person has been given the gift of saving faith. Scripture uses various terms for saving faith such as believe on, believe in, or believe upon Jesus Christ. By this terminology, Scripture teaches that saving faith is more than mere assent or acknowledgment of a person. Saving faith involves knowledge of and trust in, reliance upon, and dependence on Jesus Christ in contrast to trusting self. The object of faith has changed radically.

Life after salvation is a major corollary of the “so what” of salvation. Once saved, what is the big deal? The big deal includes saved from something to something. The believer is saved from the misery of this life and hell eternally. He is saved to a life of God-pleasing as opposed to self-pleasing. As a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The believer is equipped to put off the habituation of self-pleasing developed while a member of Satan’s kingdom and family (Romans 13:12-14; Eph. 4:22-24). He does this by putting on God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions.

Being saved means approaching self, others, and daily life in a completely different way. Pleasing-God becomes a modus operandi. Passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:9 (making it your ambition to please God) helps you reevaluate your life situations from God’s perspective and respond in a God-honoring manner.



  1. As one saved, how has your thinking about God and self changed? To help you, write out your thoughts about God and self prior to your salvation and since your salvation.
  2. Do the same for desires.
  3. As one saved, how does changed thinking and wanting affect your daily actions?
  4. Put thoughts, desires, and actions together. Repent when any or al of them are self-pleasing and rejoice in the Lord when there is evidence of God-pleasing daily.

Blessings as you do.


Life Before and After Salvation: Part B

The Gospel: Defined


In Christian ministry there is emphasis on preaching the gospel and rightly so. The audiences are varied. From the pulpit the gospel message is preached in the context of the passage. Some groups have emphasized preaching or speaking the gospel to themselves. In that scenario, the individual functions as the preacher and the audience. There is value in knowing and telling the gospel truth because the truth sets you free. Jesus Christ and the Scripture are truth (John 14:6; 17:17).

In a different vein, the term gospel is often mentioned in evangelistic terms. That is, the gospel is used in “getting people saved.” One other area in which the term gospel is used is in the area of life after salvation. However, this life is often described in terms of using the means of grace such as attending worship services, receiving the sacraments, praying, reading the Bible, and evangelizing. A gospel emphasis is a wonderful thing. However, in order to help people individually and corporately to get victory daily, it is important to define the gospel. It is also important to define how to use the gospel and biblical truth to fulfill God’s original design for mankind. I order to do that we must go back into the eternal counsel of the Godhead. From eternity past, God determined that His people would be in His presence forever in worship and fellowship. Creation and redemption are linked and are the means by which the Triune God accomplishes His original design.

The term gospel means the good news or good tidings. Later the term meant God-story – the story about God. Today the word refers to the message that Christ and the prophets before Him and His disciples after Him announced and lived out. In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus proclaimed the gospel as the fulfillment of the times and the coming of the kingdom of God and the call to repent and believe (see Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist preached the same message (Matt. 3:2). The message of the coming of the kingdom is linked with the salvation of God’s people (Luke 4:18-22; Isa. 61:1-3). Throughout the Bible the coming of the kingdom and the salvation of God’s people are linked to the salvation which includes judgment.

The fulfilment of the times was a reference to Israel’s expectations. Israel was wrong. Paul further defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 1:1-4. Paul and Peter preached the fulfillment by Jesus of all Old Testament expectations (Acts 2:16-36; 13:16-41). The gospel message and its proclamation is linked with the Old Testament. The gospel of the kingdom comes through the acts of God in the history of His people (see Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4). The gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8).  The gospel message is truly the old, old story.

The good news is always linked to bad news. In explaining the gospel it is helpful to define both the good news and the bad news. The bad news refers to man and mankind’s lost condition. He is blind yet sees only the things of unsaved man and the unsaved world think relevant to their own interests. He is deaf to the things of God but is attuned to things of self. He is dead and in darkness because his heart is far away from God. He has no desire to or will to move toward God (Rom. 8:5-8; Eph. 2:1-3). To deny the presence and severity of the bad news is to deny the beauty and awesomeness of the good news. The good news is the continued apostolic message that the Godman Jesus is the Savior of the world who has come to do His Father’s will and save a people for the Triune God.

The gospel then is God’s full-orbed message of the what, the why, and the how of salvation. It has been given by His messengers throughout the ages and reached its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes, first the Jews then the Gentile. For a righteousness from God is being revealed, a righteousness that comes by faith, from first to last just as it is written: “the righteous will live by faith.” This was not a new message. Elsewhere he wrote: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15). Five times in the Pastoral Epistles Paul used the phrase, here is a trustworthy saying, to emphasize a key truth (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8).



  1. God has preserved His message of salvation for many reasons. Name some.
  2. The gospel message is twofold: what are the two sides?
  3. What are the key ingredients of the gospel?





Life Before and After Salvation: Part C

The Gospel: Trinity


Succinctly, the gospel is the good news of salvation for hell-deserving sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news to be believed; not good deeds to be done. But good deeds will follow once a person is saved. News has to do with something that has already happened; not with something yet to be done. The good news of the gospel is that Christ humbled himself as the Godman, lived perfectly, and died on the cross for guilty and condemned sinners. Christ is not only a crucified Savior. He is a resurrected and seated Savior as the Author and Perfector of saving faith and the Pioneer of entrance into God’s presence (Eph.1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; Heb. 4:14-16; 6:18-20; 9:11-14). Christ’s sacrificial work as both the Sacrifice and the high Priest is finished but he continues His priestly work of intercession in two venues. First, He returned to heaven as the exalted Son of God (Heb. 12:1-3). He is seated at the place of prominence and He is always interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Catch the truths: Jesus descended and He ascended. He is enthroned and He is glorified. He is sitting down indicating that His work was complete as Savior. Yet He is, and always will, remember the Triune God’s plan to save a people and His finished work. The Triune God will not renege on His promise to save a people for Himself. Second, Jesus continues His priestly work through the Holy Spirit, who among other activities presents the prayers of believers to the throne of God. He energizes and motivates the saints for growth in Christ (Rom. 8:26-27).

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul described the gospel in terms of a message preached, a message received, and a message acted upon. Paul was making the same gospel message known to them and others. Nothing was new under the sun. In contrast, Paul emphasized that everything was new under the SON.  In verse three Paul gives the gospel message according to Scripture. The gospel message is a Savior who died for believers’ in their sins and for their sins according to the Scripture. Further, the message speaks of Savior who was buried and rose from the dead. Paul emphasized as did the Scriptures that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and rose. Salvation and resurrection are linked. In Romans 6:9-11, Paul carried this thought into the individual’s growth in Christ. In those passages Paul taught that resurrection life begins on this earth at regeneration. Therefore the believer is the think forgiven and act forgiven (v.11).

For Paul and all the apostles, the gospel is a message about a Person, Jesus Christ under the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ the Savior lived perfectly and He died perfectly. He is a buried and risen Savior, all according to Scripture. Paul gives the good news but the bad news assumed: mankind was in a horrible condition helpless and hopeless but blind to his condition and God’s answer.  Biblically speaking there is no good news without bad news. The two are linked in God’s redemptive plan.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 ff, Paul described the gospel as the message of the cross: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. You must remember the context of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul addressed the congregation in order to resolve a number of serious problems were evident in the Church. The situation ridiculed God and the gospel. These problems resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, self-exalting individualism. The people were convinced of their spiritual vitality but factionalism, division, and strife abounded (1 Cor. 1:11-17). It was in this context that Paul brought biblical, gospel truth. Throughout the letter Paul used the motif of contrast: a true theology of the cross in contrast to wisdom of the world. The letter can be considered as an application of truth given in the context of a contrast: the counterfeit wisdom of the world or the wisdom of the cross which is considered foolishness to unbelievers.

The gospel preached and heard is the presentation of God Himself as He gives Himself in His Son by the Holy Spirit. It always demands and gets a response. Gospel truth heard and applied was necessary if the Corinthian people were to honor God individually and corporately.



  1. What is the value for hearing and knowing the gospel?
  2. What does one need to hear it correctly and apply it in his or her life?
  3. Paul contrasted gospel truth with what? Biblical truth influences a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. How would knowing and applying gospel truth resolve the problems in the Corinthian church (see 1:11-17)?




Life Before and After Salvation: Part D

The Gospel: Saved From God the Judge


In order to correctly understand the gospel message, we must determine what sinners are saved from and what they are saved to. The answers link the bad news and the good news. The foregoing sentences assume the presence of sin, sinners, and a Savior who is willing and able to accomplish the redemptive goal of salvation. They also assume a present journey and an eternal destiny for every person.

Every person is conceived and born into a state of condemnation, guilt, misery, and trouble. The sinner remains in that condition unless something happens. Sometimes the sinner continues in his rebellion against God. As a result there is misery in this life and hell eternally (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). The sinner may recognize that he is “not right” and seek to save himself or he seeks some help, a nudge, from someone or something. In either case, he is his own savior. That person may or may be saved. The person who preaches personal lawkeeping to earn the favor or acceptance of God is preaching a false gospel. Paul cursed these preachers (Gal. 1:6-9). Those who live by this creed have accepted the false gospel.

Salvation involves many aspects. Biblically the doctrine of salvation incorporates such terms as redemption, reconciliation, deliverance, rescue, and escape. All of the words are predicated on the condition of the person: misery, trouble, condemnation, and guilt. From these and more the individual is delivered. The sinner has been acted upon by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The Holy Spirit is the prime mover. The saved sinner recognizes his true condition as he exercises the gift of saving faith. He recalls, remembers, and mediates on the gospel message of Jesus and John the Baptist and repents and believes (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Fruits of repentance and growth in Christ are continuations of the initial heart change through enabling or sanctifying grace (Matt.3:8-10; Luke 3:10-14; Acts 2:36-39; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:1-3; Heb.12:14).

Salvation is comprehensive in a number of ways. There is the initial heart change and the truths surrounding it and thee is a life lived as a believer. The individual as a whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions – is saved. As a result of the heart change he will begin to think God’s thoughts, desire what God desires, and obey not simply out of duty but out of privilege and blessing. In another sense the comprehensiveness of salvation is pictured by the answers to these questions: who is saved, from what is he saved AND what is he saved to. The sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. He is saved to God for God by God.

First, the sinner is saved from God by God because God is the just Judge of His creation (Gen 18:25; Ps. 62:12; Matt. 3:10; 8:12; 24:51). His very nature of holiness, purity, and justice demands that He right all wrongs and punish sinners (2 Thess. 1:5-10). He acts this way in part to protect and honor His name – He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; 34:7-8, 14; Deut. 4:24).  It is important to remember that God saves sinners as Judge for Him. He saves sinners as Redeemer by Him. He saves sinners as Father to Him. In eternity past, the Triune God determined that the Father gifted a people to Jesus (John 6:37-43; 17:1-5). Jesus would live a perfect life and take the death penalty in place of the sinner – as his substitute (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:21). All mankind deserves the full wrath of God and hell. All mankind deserves the cross but NOT as payment but as penalty. Perfection, active and passive is the key in redemption. No mere man is perfection. Prior to the cross, Jesus kept the law perfectly and completely. He ALWAYS pleased His Father. Jesus went to the cross and stayed on the cross as the Perfect Sacrifice in place of the sinner (1 Peter 1:18-19). He completed His Messianic work and declared it complete-done (John 19:38). Jesus went to hell on the cross. He fulfilled the good Law’s righteous requirement of death to sinners. He satisfied the justice of God (Rom. 3:21-26). As a result, God removed His wrath. The enmity and hostility of God toward the sinner was removed as far as the east from the west – totally and completely never to return again (Ps. 103:8-12; Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

The redemptive story is an amazing story of divine origin. Human logic could not and did not conceive of the Triune’s God redemptive plan. Fallen man who suppresses and resists the truth of God’s Being and power, rejects God (Rom. 1:18-20). Synonymously man rejects the truth about himself. Therefore unsaved men reject God’s plan of redemption.

As a corollary, the sinner is saved from something to something. The sinner is saved to God for God by God. The Bible pictures the concept of saving-to in several ways. The now-believer has been rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom and transferred to God’s family and kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). He has a firm foundation and an inseparable relationship with Christ so that He is God’s forever. God is his Father and Jesus is his Brother as his Redeemer. The believer’s one purpose in the kingdom is to grow in Christlikeness as he helps advance the kingdom and grow the Church. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity as given by Paul Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12. Believers are saved to God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.



  1. Summarize the gospel message.
  2. What do you learn about Christ and about mankind?
  3. What is your understanding of God, you, and the gospel message? What difference does it?



Life Before and After Salvation: Part E

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power


To reiterate every sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. The subject of the previous blog was saved from God, to God, by God, and for God. Saved from sin has a number of facets. It includes being saved from the power of sin and sin itself.

By way of reminder, the Bible emphasizes a marked concern with sin and sinners. In fact, the Bible radically proclaims the fact of sin, denounces it, and announces consequences of unrepentant sin and God’s judgment. One of the primary purposes of Christ’s mission was to deal with sin and sinners. Sin is what creates the problem between God and mankind (Isa. 59:1-2). It is impossible to separate sin and the sinner.

Man was born a sinner as a result of God’s judgment upon Adam because of his first sin. As a result all sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). As a result, every person of ordinary generation is conceived and born in sin, and as a result he sins (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Gen. 8:21). These are a universal truths that if missed have dire consequences for this life and the next.

Scripture teaches that the sinner is saved from sin. Christ died for sins/our sins (Matt.1:21; John 1:29; Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Rev. 1:5). Yet we know that sin is not hell – sinners are. Scripture also teaches that Christ died for sinners (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10; Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). What does it mean that the sinner is saved from sin? Consider these several nuances. Saved from sin and saved from sinning are different. Sinners do sin even saved ones. But saved sinners don’t continue in sin as a patterned lifestyle (1 John 3:6, 9; 4:10). Moreover, the believer is steeped in several truths. If the believer does sin, he knows that there is no condemnation from God as Judge (Rom. 8:1). He also knows that there has been, is, and will be Fatherly forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9).  If he sins, and he will, he knows attempting to that forgive himself is competing with God. It is saying that God’s redemptive plan did not deliver and the person must do the job that God failed to do.

We need to be careful. The word sin can be used as a noun or verb. Sinner is always a noun. Man sins because he is a sinner as described above. Sin as a verb indicates that the sinner has missed the mark, crossed over the boundary, or is out of step with God’s standard. Ethically, sin is an act of omission or commission in relationship to God’s law and to God. Thus sin is always relational and vertical. It is Coram Deo; every sin is against God and may or may be against another person. Sin is always legal and judicial.

In addition, saved from sin and saved from sinfulness are not synonymous. By sinfulness I mean the continued bent, inclination, and orientation that every saved sinner has due to his prior membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. Every person is born with the nature – capacity, bent, inclination, and or orientation – to serve self and oppose God.

When sin is a noun, it is more than an ethical act. It is revolt against God. That is what Adam did in the Garden and that is what every person does when he sins. From an eschatological perspective (the last days), sin is Satan’s hated of God played in the life of an individual. Such is the influence of membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Sin as a verb is the display of the satanic influence in the world and within the person including the believer. Sin as a noun is much worse than any human logic can perceive. The cross affirms this fact.

Sin as a noun is interesting. At its core, sin is anti-god and self-pleasing: for me, to me, by me. As a noun sin can mean a governing principle such as in Romans 6:14: For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law but grace. Here Paul perceives sin as an enslaving power or influence. Sin is thus personified. Certainly sin is more than a principle or an abstraction. Sin is real. The sinner is real. Paul’s point here is that sin functions as an operating principle for the whole person. In verses 16-19 of Romans 6, Paul speaks of two kinds of slavery: that to unrighteousness – sin – and that to righteousness. Paul presents the unbeliever as a sinner and one who is under the influence – either satanic influence that leads is self-pleasing and antigod thoughts, desires, and actions in some form vs. Holy-Spirit wrought and directed activity in the believer of Christlike growth and God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions. Paul captures this contrast in such passages as Galatians 2:20 and 5:16-18.



  1. In the Bible sin is both a noun and a verb. What is the significance?
  2. Give some characteristics of sin.
  3. How do you know sin is a big deal?



Life Before and After Salvation: Part F

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power and Penalty


The believer is saved from the power of sin but not from sinning. What is sin’s power? It is the patterned desire to please self and thereby compete with God as His enemy and as a rebel. Sin holds a person in bondage. Sin and its resultant lifestyle offers much but delivers little (Ps. 36:1-2; Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15b). However unless there is a supernatural change from the inside-out, the sinner persists always and eventually returning to the vomit of self-pleasing (Prov. 26:11). Self remains on the throne to the degree it can as if it deserves to be there. When the Bible teaches that the believer has been saved from the power of sin, it refers to the bondage of sin as an operating principle, a driving force, a lifestyle patterned after Satan as a legacy from membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Yes sin is more than that as discussed in the previous blog but it at least that which drives a person to please self in lieu of God and others. Sin is anti-Matthew 22:37-40.

What gives sin its power? It is the law and death (1 Cor. 15:56; Heb. 2:14-15; 9:27). Man ignorantly and arrogantly seeks to be his own lawmaker and lawkeeper. This is inherent in all men post-fall. The law calls for more lawkeeping. God’s law is good and for a good purpose (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:7-12, 13; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Try as a person might perfect obedience to God’s law is impossible. In response a person will generate more efforts to obey, establish a new law that can be kept by him, or depend on Christ’s personal lawkeeping. God’s purpose for the law is also given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19. The law has a condemning function to drive people to Christ and His lawkeeping. Moreover the law has a knowledge function, a constraining function, and a humbling function. It points out who God is, who man is, and what sin is. It shows sin’s deception and the sinner’s sinful view of self and God.

Sin as a verb and as a noun was an ever-present reality. There was physical death prior to Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Thus the sting of death and the power of sin have also been a present realty post-fall. Personal lawkeeping by sinners has never been God’s design for salvation. God require perfect obedience from Adam prior to the fall. As given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19, the purpose of the law was never for salvation. It functioned as “pointer.” It pointed to the way of salvation through a perfect Lawkeeper who kept the law to its fullest. The law pointed to Christ.

A person will either establish laws other than God’s such as the Pharisees did. Their laws were not God’s law but they were keep-able in their own strength. Who needs a personal Savior when we have ourselves? The sting of death is sin. If no law and no required lawkeeping, then there would be no sin. If no sin, then there would be no death. The power of sin is the law. Man by nature is a covenant being, a worshipper, and a lawkeeper. The issue for every person is which law, by whose lawkeeping, and for what reason?

The power of sin is the law and its call for lawkeeping. Moreover what lies behind lawkeeping is crucial.  Every person is aware that there is a God who they will meet at the Judgement seat. An atheist can deny this fact verbally but the Bible teaches that everyone must and will give an account (Matt. 12:33-36).

At salvation the power of sin or sin as an operating principle or an influence has been broken. The believer has been saved from his bad heart. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer does have the capacity to please God in all areas of life. The believer has the capacity not to sin. There has been a radical transformation! What the believer has is the capacity and orientation to please God.

The believer has been saved from the penalty of sin. He has been saved from the condemning function of the law (Rom. 7:1-6; 8:1-3). At salvation the now-believer renounced his allegiance to self and his own lawkeeping. Simultaneously he professed trust and rest upon Christ and His lawkeeping. Therefore, even though miseries in this life continue the believer trusts, hopes, and obeys and enjoys salvation life because he enjoys God (Genesis 3:8-10; Proverbs 13:15; Rom. 5:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; 1 John 5:3-4; Ps. 34:8). Life is simplified so that pleasing God becomes an ever-increasing present reality (Rom. 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3).

The believer is set free from the condemnation, guilt, and shame that came from God’s judgment of Adam’s first and the sinner’s present sins. The law has a convicting function. Aware of his sinfulness and even sinning thoughts, desires, and actions, the believer knows that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The believer knows and trusts that he has been saved from his bad record (Romans 3:21-26; 8:1). This was possible because Jesus took upon himself the now-believer’s record of enmity and rebellion against God. Jesus was considered guilty and paid the price of hell on the cross. Jesus paid it all. Yet the true believer never uses his freedom as an excuse to sin (verb) or to have sin be his guiding light (sin as noun) – see Romans 6:1, 15.

Sin as a noun and sin as a verb are both associated with separation from God. However, the Bible teaches that God is no longer separated from the now-believer. God took the initiative to place on Christ the bad record of every now-believer. He reconciled himself to the believer as only He can as a true Promise-maker and Promise-keeper (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21).



  1. The believer is saved from the power and penalty of sin. What is the significance of these facts?
  2. What is the power of sin?
  3. What is the penalty of sin?
  4. Where does Christ fit?







Life Before and After Salvation: Part G

The Gospel: Saved From Himself and from Satan


Let me complete the thought that the sinner is saved from sin. Yes he is saved from its power and its penalty. But the believer is not saved from its practice. The saved sinner is able not to sin in principle but in practice he still does. The believer is saved from sin but not sinfulness which is summarized as the tendency and acts of self-pleasing that continue throughout his earthly life.

A question arises: is the sinner saved from the presence of sin? Again terms needs clarification. Is the question referring to sin as a verb? In other words, is the believer saved from sinning? The answer is no. The believer will continue to please himself. Is the question referring to continued corruption in the believer’s heart? The usual answer is yes, there is remaining corruption in the whole person.  Even though the believer is a new creation living in the new creation ushered in by Christ’s first coming, the believer still sins (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 1:8-10 – 2:1).

The coming of Christ and the new kingdom is much bigger than an individual believer. That fact should be a blessing, comfort, and encouragement to every believer. Jesus’ coming ushered in a new world order – the new creation (John 1:4-5). Jesus’ coming was fulfillment of the promised and long-awaited Messiah, who would lead His people out of bondage and oppression into a new existence. Jesus’ coming changed the whole world order. The new order includes salvation and life after salvation.

The believer has been regenerated – given a hew heart and a new nature. He is a believer because he has been regenerated (John 3:3-8). Also he has positional holiness – he has been set apart by God for God (1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 20:32; 26:18). According to Romans 6:9-10 and Romans 8:30, resurrection life and glorification begin now for the believer. There is a future fulfillment but eternal life begins on this earth. Yet we all know that the believer – you and me – still sins. In that case, sin is a verb and an ethical act. Sin as a noun, an operating principle of self-pleasing, continues until the believer goes home. On earth, the believer dies more and more to self and sinfulness as he lives as the new creature he is in the new creation.

To repeat: first, the sinner is saved from God; second, the sinner is saved from sin’s power and penalty, Third the sinner is saved from himself. Left to himself and his own resources the unbeliever thinks, desires, and acts as if he is his own god and this is his world. He lives the lie. He exchanged truth – the reality that God is Creator and Controller – for the lie that man is number one and God does not exist or is not the Being that the Bible teaches that He is (Rom. 1:18-23).  Proverbs 4:18-19 provides a contrast: The path of the righteous is like the first glean of dawn, shining brighter till the full light of day; but the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. Unfortunately, for a time believers functioned in the same manner as an unbeliever. The habituation of self-pleasing is a result of membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. The unbeliever is destined to a life of darkness and deadness thinking all the while that he is top dog and making headway to somewhere. Left to himself he has no use for God and does not seek him. His life is one of discontent, dissatisfaction, and misery all the while denying the reality of his condition.

One of the beauties of salvation is the reality that the truth sets you free. The believer does not live a patterned lifestyle of denying and exchanging the truth for a lie. Rather he denies himself by denying self-pleasing. He is busy being enamored with and enjoying God. His desire is to honor God by pleasing Him thereby imitating Christ.

Fourth, the sinner is saved from Satan. 1 John 5:18 expresses this fact: We know that anyone born of God does not continue in sin. The one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him. Although satanic influence remains in the believer, the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not Satan. The believer’s heart is exclusive the Holy Spirit’s dominion. Satan and the Holy Spirit don’t co-exist. Man believer and unbeliever, have only one nature. The saved sinner was a member in Satan’s family and kingdom. Membership in that kingdom had devastating results. It consumed and motivated the unbeliever in some form daily. Within every believer, a legacy of self pleasing remains which is manifested by the mantras of I wants and I deserves. Satan is the master of this lifestyle. The believer has been removed and transferred into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). Even this removal leaves its mark: habituation in thoughts, desires, and action that are anti-God and pro-self. At salvation the believer has a new heart (John 3) and is a new creation (2 Cor.5:17) but satanic influence remains but doesn’t control him. Again, this is a radical supernatural change. There is a war within (Gal. 5:16-18).



  1. Write out your view of the bad and the good news.
  2. Personalize the bad news: how does it fit you as an unbeliever and now as a believer? Write out how the bad news is really bad.
  3. Do the same with the good news and write out how the good news is really good.
  4. Consider how you functioned as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom with all your self-pleasing tendencies and activities.
  5. Consider how you are to function as a believer and member of God’s kingdom and household.
  6. Consider the fact that unless God saves you, what awaits you in this life and the next life is the bad news. If God has saved you, what awaits you in this life and the next is summarized in the good news. Write out your response.



Life Before and After Salvation: Part H

Progressive Sanctification: Saved to God, for God


Not only is the sinner saved from God as Judge; from sin’s penalty and power; from himself; and from Satan, the sinner is saved to something. He is saved to God, for God, by God. Accordingly, he properly praises God as Paul did in Romans 11:33-36. Paul had completed expounding God’s redemptive plan in terms of: a. Persons – the Father who planned, the Son who purchased, and the Spirit who applied the benefits of Christ’s meditorial work; b. persons – salvation came to both Jews and Gentiles; c. means:  salvation and life after salvation came by grace both  saving and sanctifying, alone through faith alone.  In chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans, Paul had set forth mankind’s (both Jew and Gentile) depravity, deadness, defiance, and darkness – the bad news, really horrible news. Beginning in the later part of chapter 3 though chapter 8 or some say chapter 11, Paul expounded the good news about a great God. The Triune God had saved a people for Himself, both Jew and Gentile!

In response, Paul burst out with a doxology – a type of Gloria Excelsis Deo: glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14). Verse 36 of Romans 11 reads: For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever amen. Paul reflected back on mankind’s condition and God’s wisdom, knowledge, power, love, and justice. He was in awe personally, corporately, and cosmically. His logical response was to glorify his God.

The believer has been supernaturally removed from Satan’s kingdom and family and placed into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). This is a remarkable and majestic transfer to say the least (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The believer is God’s. He has been saved by God to God – he is a member of God’s family and kingdom; and he has saved for God – as His child he is grow in Christlikeness and pleasing the Father.

The believer is now a God-pleaser in principle and develops more and more as a God-pleaser. The believer is called into God’s service and is equipped for that work. The believer is to “work out” his salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12-13). The working out of one’s salvation is called progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification is another term for life after salvation.

Believers are saved as a testimony to God’s love, mercy, and trustworthiness. The believer’s salvation – both regeneration and growth in grace – are truths to be known, enjoyed, and lived out to the praise and glory of God. Moreover, God saves/saved individuals and corporately. God’s Church, as well as individual believers, is to be growing in Christlikeness (Eph. 2:11-16; 4:11-14).

Paul knew himself (1 Tim. 1:12-16 – chief of sinners; Eph. 3:8 – least of the saints; 1 Cor. 15:9 – least of the apostles). For Paul, his salvation was “out-of-this-world.” It was unbelievable. His view of salvation linked the bad news – man’s total depravity and enmity for God – and the good news – the wisdom, power, love, mercy, and justice. God saved not simply sinners but His enemies. Paul took his salvation seriously, in part, because God took it seriously. God gave Himself and of Himself. He did what no Being can or desired to do (Rom. 5:6-10). Paul knew that his God was an awesome God which is truly an understatement.

Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3:3-6). He was steeped in the sacrificial ritual system detailed in the book of Leviticus. Daily the head of the family would bring a choice male animal without defect. The offering cost the person and his family. From the heart, the offering was the best the family had to offer. The man would slit the throat, blood would be spilled, and the high priest would complete the offering as atonement. Clean and unclean would not mix. The offering was the Lord’s, for the Lord, and to the Lord who deserved the best. Once a year, the privileged high priest took the blood of the animal – bull and ram – and presented it as a sin offering. Paul understood the holy/clean-unholy/unclean motif. He understood the cost to enter into the presence of God.

Today, on this side of the cross, believers have received the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They have been bought and are no longer their own. The ransom has been paid in full. The believer is God’s. Now the believer offers himself, not a dead animal to God (Rom. 12:1-2). This offering is to be daily or better – 24/7. God sets the rules, gives insight and encouragement through the Holy Spirit by the Word, and gives sustaining grace so that the believer develops as Christ did – pleasing the Father. Following in Christ’s steps is logical because the believer is not his own and Jesus is the only person the Father was well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

Saved for God is summarized as becoming more like Christ in thought, desire, and action for God’s sake and glory. God is most glorified when His people are becoming more like Christ simply because Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings and the believer’s Brother. It is putting on Christlikeness thought by thought, desire by desire, and action by action daily. It means growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18). As Jesus learned, it means to trust and obey in the problem for God’s glory and the good of His people (Heb. 5:8).



  1. What does the phrase, saved to God for God mean to you? What is its significance?
  2. The trilogy: saved by God, to God, for God – focuses on salvation and life salvation. Explain.
  3. Saved for God involves growth in Christlikeness and producing the fruit of the Spirt. How are you doing in these areas?

Marriage and Family: Part I – III

Marriage and Family: Part I



This is an interesting topic especially nowadays. Just what is a parent and what does he/she do? To some, a parent simply keeps the “home fires burning.” The home is to function as a way station in which various members come and go. To others, the term has replaced the term home; it is house a domain and a castle for individual use. House rules and headship are synonymous. For others, the home or house is more like a boot camp. In contrast, others consider the home as a prison and something to be avoided. In terms of parenting, some take an “anything-goes” approach to parenting.

These various ideas originate from some source. They are motivated by something. That source may experience, their own or that of others. It may be based on feelings. And or it may be based on their thinking but divorced from biblical truth. Our culture is rapidly debunking and redefining sexuality, decision making, family, and parenting. Where do we go to define the significance of home and family life, parenting, and being a child or young person?  God who created the first parents and the first home is the only authority worthy of our time. He speaks in His word such as in Isaiah 8:20 that are to go to the law and to the testimony. In other words, we seek answers from the only source that can truly be trusted – God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word.

What is a parent? Surprisingly in the original language, the term is rarely in the singular. In the Old Testament I could find only six instances of the translation parents. In the original language the word ab is usually translated as father (Deut. 22:17; Jud. 14:4, 9; Prov. 17:6; 19:14; Zech 13:3).  In the New Testament the word in the original is goneus from the verb meaning to become or beget. It occurs some 1200 times. So a parent is a begetter – a generator. By God’s providence and radically awesome work in a woman’s body, a little person is produced. That little person is a child, a living being in the image of God from conception, who usually develops into an older person.

But biblically-speaking, a parent is much more than a physical begetter. Animals beget. Please catch those last two sentences. God has designed the woman’s body for generation. When she delivers a baby she is a parent. That is a physical and legal phenomenon. However, the Bible’s concept of a parent and parenting hinges not on the physical but the spiritual. Notice that the original language carries the plural form of the words translated as parent. When the Bible uses father alone in the context of a human father, the emphasis is on the father-mother unit. Yet, in God’s design, the believer-father is responsible for providing love and direction to his wife and to his children most often in his home. In that way, he, his wife, and children honor God. It is important to remember that the family began in the Garden of Eden – before children. The husband and wife are a family.

Parents are to parent and they are to parent God’s way. They are to be godly parents. What is a godly parent or what is God’s way to parent? The questions may generate numerous answers. The Bible answers these questions and it begins with the parents. First, each parent, singularly and as a one-flesh unit, are to be growing in Christlikeness. In other words, they have taken the supernatural, miraculous work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit seriously. Rejoicing in their salvation, they honor God and out of gratitude and awe put off old, self-pleasing habits of thinking, wanting, and doing. They put on God-pleasing habits of thinking, wanting, and doing. This activity will be evident to others especially to each other and to their children.

Second, each spouse functions as a godly husband or wife.  That in itself is a monumental responsibility and privilege. Each person as believers, have been equipped to be what God called them to be. Each is a believer in God’s family and kingdom and as a result is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. They have duty and responsibility BUT. The BUT is important. For the believer, duty is never simply duty. Growing in Christlikeness is always a grace-filled privilege and blessing. Christ went about His Messianic mission with a proper heavenly and eternal perspective which controlled His time on earth and the completion of His mission. His desire was to please His Father which He did all the way to and on the cross. Third, each parent understands in varying degrees that the home is full of sinners starting with self. Fourth, the husband and wife have the Bible and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit as their constant companion. Since the Bible speaks loudly and clearly on the subject of parenting, the dad and mom are ready to use biblical truth to function as a Godly parent.



  1. As a Christian parent, how does Christ’s relationship with you and yours to Him influence your daily life including being a spouse and parent?
  2. Give specifics and reasons for them as you answer question #1.
  3. Consider your salvation: what do you know about regeneration (see John 3:3-8; Ezek 36:25-27)? What does God in His word teach you about your changed state?



Marriage and Family: Part II

Wandering Parents and Wandering Kids


This is a second blog addressing the home. In the last blog I set out answers to the questions: What is a parent and what is a parent to do? Basically, the parent is to be a godly, growing Christian and spouse according to 2 Corinthians 5:9 especially in the areas of husband-wife and parenting. The primary purpose for every Christian parent is to honor God. A secondary goal is to have godly children. Godly parenting does not guarantee godly children and ungodly parenting does not guarantee ungodly children. However, God does promise covenant benefits and blessings for those that please Him, both parents and children (Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:1-13). He also promises consequences for self-pleasing (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:14-46). The Bible also teaches that the soul (person) who sins will die. They are consequences for sin especially if the person is unrepentant. Ezekiel teaches that the sinner cannot blame his parents or the parents their children for their own sins (Ezekiel 18). The righteous one, parent, child, or both, will live (18:9). Ezekiel taught Israel that they could not blame God or others for their rebellion. Consequences followed. While good (biblically-based) parenting generally results in godly children that is not always the case. God was the Father par excellence. His child and first born son Israel was a self-pleasing rebel and idolater. God did not fail as a parent. He disciplined Israel severely.

From the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the Holy Spirit through Moses taught and is teaching His people throughout all ages that God motivates His people – both parents and children – in different ways. He motivates with the promise of blessings and of warnings. Please notice that only 25-35% of Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 contain promises of blessings; the bulk of each chapter focuses on God’s warnings.

Turning to the present day, figures abound as to the percentage of children that leave a local church and perhaps the Church (these are churches that considered themselves Christian). One statement I read said that 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduated from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church. The question asked of the church is why. Various reasons were given and I give mine in the last paragraph.

Let’s take a minute and consider: wandering parents and wandering children are defined as those moving away from God and biblical truth. I think more often than not the two are linked. Does the Church have a role in the home? Certainly but it is not the Church’s role to parent the children. It is the Church’s function to teach and to help parents and children function as godly, growing Christians with the proper motivation of pleasing God not to get but to give Him what is His due.

I chose wandering in the title because it is a pregnant term. In one sense every person is a wanderer. This earth is not the final destiny of the believer or unbeliever. Citizenship is elsewhere – heaven for the believer and hell for the unbeliever (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 18-24; Matt. 3:12; 2 Thess.1:8-9). For the believer, the misery in this life is seen through the lens of such passages as Romans 8:28-29. For the unbeliever, there is misery in this life as well although so often that fact is denied (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 1:18-23).

For the believer, the exhortations such as given Colossians 3:1-3 and 1 John 3:1-3 are very important for this life and the next. Both Paul and John understood the truth that resurrection life begins now (after regeneration), The believer looks forward to heaven but that forward, heavenly-minded gaze enables him to be of earthly good. Growth in holiness and Christlikeness is demonstrated as he is God’s kind of spouse and God’s kind of parent.

In another sense people wander looking for something. After the fall that something was always motivated by a pro-self and anti-God mindset. Pleasing self in its various forms took center stage. People were also looking for something but not God. Upon salvation (regeneration – a new heart) the now-believer has a new worldview and presupposition. He can now think and desire God’s thoughts and desires and please Him simply because he was recreated and placed in God’s kingdom and family. If someone is saved, God won’t let him back into the cesspool of folly and self-pleasing permanently (Prov.5:21-22; 13:15; 26:11). But the pull to please self is still present in a believer.

Parents and children wander from God (they move away from God and biblical truth before they wander from the Church). They do so for any number of reasons but basically it boils down to a low view of God and high view of self. As a result, parents and children live for self as if this universe and home is their world and they run it their way for their benefit. You will hear so many other reasons and subsequent programs to “stop-the-bleeding.” Most people would balk at the simple statements above. Before you do, parent, ask if you are more interested in being a godly parent even if your children are ungodly? Also ask: is pleasing God more important than the product – godly children? Parenting is a ministry. God blesses godly parenting (we need to define the phrase) often with godly children but we dare not equate the two (see Ezekiel 18). Parenting is one aspect of discipleship. It is God’s way to grow the covenant kingdom.



  1. How would apply the term “wandering” to yourself, your spouse, and your children?
  2. Where are you in terms of your relationship with God in Christ?
  3. Does your spouse and children “see” God’s sweetness, goodness, power, and majesty of God in you – your actions, thoughts, and desires? Why and why not?



Marriage and Family: Part III

Wandering Parents and Wandering Children


Parents will live out their relationship with God as they relate to each other and their children (Matt. 22:37-40). Children leave out their relationship with God as they relate to God, their parents, and others in the family. The potential to wander – to move away from a Holy-Spirit directed lifestyle – is always there. Parents and children must be on guard for the wandering heart – prone to leave the God Who loves them and as a professed believer whom they love. Parents and children wander – move away – from God because they interpret Him as small and themselves as large. Self takes center stage manifested by I want and I deserve. How would that approach look in daily living?

Fights, quarrels, strife, and disunity are common consequences when self takes center stage (James 4:1-3). James used different words in the original for fights and quarrels. The terms cover the waterfront from skirmishes and guerilla warfare to big time world wars. Peace and contentment if it was present is replaced by high or low-grade hostility. Each person fends for themselves. Self motivates blame-shifting and defensive and offensive tactics for protection and attacking which become habit patterns. The home becomes a house that does not engender trust in God and His ways. The idea, let alone the truth of good, purpose, all-controlling God seems so remote. An increasingly wrong view of God, self, sin, and trust-obey dominates the whole family’s thinking.

Selfishness breeds more selfishness. James 4:2-3 mark out the dynamic: expectations become wants which become demands. These are unmet according to the wanter. In response, he or she believes she has rights that have been violated. Constant friction and sometimes full blown warfare are the order of the day. The situation and stimulus for the exposition of warfare may be as simple as who cleans the dishes or who drives the carpool. Or it may be seemingly more complex: I don’t love him or her anymore. Why should I? Life is the pits. Nothing will change. One or both persons may leave pointing the finger at the other and ultimately at God who brought the two together.       Or both may stay hopelessly self-focused and saturate self in their work, their local church, or their children. Extracurricular activities take center stage as they move further from God. When the children leave or work dries up the wall is so high and the hole so deep that hopelessly self-focused divorce follows. God is dishonored and the family moves further away from a good God.

Another scenario may go like this even if dad and mom are on board with each other or close to it. For whatever reason, the home is a child-centered home rather than a God-centered one. The child believes and functions as if others in the home and perhaps outside of it exist to please him. James 4:1-3 and Philippians 2:3-5, 14-17 describe such a situation. This approach to life by the child is not selective to him. The parents, one or both, have convinced themselves that it is entirely permissible and even preferable to have a self-centered home or child-centered home in contrast to a Christ-centered home.

Two Scriptures from the Old Testament come to mind that help set a straight course for parents who may be tempted to wander. These passages give direction that help create a milieu inside and outside the home. They center on two non-negotiable truths: God is and He rules for His glory and the benefit of His people.

In Job 1:5 we are told that as head of the family, Job was a priest with God. He interceded for his children. In that sense he was a type of Christ (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). The sin he feared was that his children might curse God in their hearts. This was the same sin that Satan predicted Job would commit and the sin that Job’s wife suggested he commit (1:11; 2:5, 9). We learn that Job’s religion was inward and outward. It was not self-concerned but other-concerned. It was first and foremost God centered. He was not against rituals and worship services. The very act of offering burnt sacrifices testifies to his belief in a mediator and his own need of that mediator (Job 19:25-27).

The second passage is from Deuteronomy 6 which emphasizes the importance of the word of God to promote, establish, and apply a Holy-Spirit initiated whole-person approach (thoughts, desires, and actions) to being God’s kind of spouse and parent. Moses speaks to the parents (v.4-6): the commandments/words are to be upon the parents hearts – inside out. They are to be modeled and taught to the children. In that way, the word of God would be impressed on the hearts of the children (v.7). Moses’ emphasis is on a heart that was overflowing with biblical truth (Ps. 119:9-11). Parenting and being a child was more than on duty. He understood God’s covenant making – promise making and keeping. He understood what a blessing it was to a covenant member. Moses emphasized both the blessing and privilege for parents and for children as members by God’s grace in the covenantal community. They were under God’s wing. It was the most logical activity for the Israelites to be involved (Rom. 12:1-2).

As a consequence of their inclusion as God’s covenant people, the Israelites, singularly and corporately, were to teach their children to please God. The goal was not to have godly children or to stay in the covenant community.  Godly children would come as a byproduct of godly parenting. This is true for the Church, God’s covenant community in the present age.

Christianity is an inside-out religion. God-centered parenting does not guarantee that children won’t move away from their moorings. But it does please God which is the best thing this side of heaven and is often blessed by God with children who love God and their parents.



  1. Where are you and your spouse in terms of your relationship with God?
  2. What Christ-like qualities (fruits of the Holy Spirit) are visible to your children, both young and older, and what is their response?
  3. Consider teaching in the milieu which means taking the time and opportunity to model and teach God’s truth in the midst of a time of unpleasantness.
  4. How are you taking and using the events of God’s providence – often called “life” – as teaching times for you and the family?

Law What is the Big Deal? Part I-III

Law: Part I: What is the Big Deal?

Eternal Origin: Love and Law


There is much in the news regarding the law. A person may be thinking of civil law, moral law, church law, and or God’s law.  Some people raise the issue of whose law, for what reason. Others asked about how much law keeping is necessary and required and for what reason. In the political scene of today (2018), some may wonder if they consequences for lawbreaking and if so what?  Public schools face these questions regularly. Where will we go to answer those types of questions? Since there are laws, it makes sense to find the lawgiver and learn about him and his ways. Is there an ultimate lawgiver and if so where do we go to meet him?

The dictionary defines law as a set of rules that are advisable and or obligatory to observe. Law carries with it the idea of a rule maker, the product of his thinking and action, who gives and enforces laws for a purpose. Where should we begin in our search regarding law? Let’s begin with God. The reasons will become apparent. Others refuse to begin or even consult God in the matter of law. Let’s focus on eternity. Only the Triune God was present. There was unity and diversity in the three-in-one God. Within the Trinity there was perfect order and harmony. Lawmaking and lawkeeping was present eternity past.

Next consider heaven before the creation of the world. There is order in heaven. Read Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 21-22. There was much activity that is directed and controlled, by rules and the Rulemaker. Moreover, fallen angels broke the law (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:13).  Rules have been around eternally.

Now let’s focus on the Garden of Eden before the fall. God added man to His creation, wrote the moral law on his heart (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-15). He gave him law – three positive commands (fruitful, subdue, and rule) and one negative command – don’t eat (Gen. 1:28; 2:16-17). Rules have been present eternally even before sin entered into the world. There is a Lawmaker and a Lawgiver – the eternal God. Therefore, rules and laws are good because God is good.

Since God is relational (within the Trinity and God to man), man, as His image bearer, is relational. Every relationship requires some set of rules by some standard. Moreover, since God is ethical and religious, so, too, is man as His image bearer. Religion, morality, and ethics did not evolve. They are God’s design for man and His world. Since God is the Lawgiver, the law is good. Many today disagree with these conclusions.

Adam in the Garden was not excluded from lawkeeping (obedience). However, he set himself as lawmaker and he followed the examples of the fallen angels. He became a law unto himself. He was the lawgiver. The issue was not the presence of law and lawkeeping but whose law.

As a result of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, sin and misery entered into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). As a consequence, man took a completely different view of the God, himself, and the law (God’s or his?). Such is the problem today. Acknowledged or not man does not correctly understand God or himself (Rom. 1:18-23). He substitutes himself as the lawgiver and lawkeeper for his glory. Man is on a collision course with God daily unless there is a supernatural change in man.  An eternal  non-negotiable truth exclaims that there is only one Lawgiver and He is God. Man does set rules but they are to be in accordance with a proper biblical understanding of the Lawgiver and lawkeeping.

Return your focus to heaven which is every believer’s destiny. There is much activity. The saints in heaven are the recipients of Christ’s perfect lawkeeping. They are enjoying fellowship with God because of it. In Romans 13:8-10, Paul wrote that the debt of love – to love others – is forever. He summed up the fulfillment of the law in the same way that John did (1 John 4:7-12). Love is the fulfillment of the law. The Bible has terms for Jesus: Light, Life, and Truth. Christ is Lover par excellence which he demonstrated by pleasing His Father and completing His work (John 4:31-34). Moreover, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote that love is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. It will continue eternally. Love points to the law, the one Lawkeeper, and the One Lawgiver. Law without love is not law God’s way and love without love is not love. The two are linked (John 14:15, 21, 23).  The fulfillment of the law is via love and the fulfillment of love comes only because of law. Lawkeeping began in eternity past, begins here on the earth as believers’ apply Matthew 22:37-40 daily: love of God and love of neighbor summarizes the law. The law facilitates love and love accentuates the law. The law gives insight and wisdom into Who God is, the essence of the cross, and man as a lawbreaker.



  1. What is your view of law/rules, the Lawgiver, and Christ the Lawkeeper?
  2. What effect does the fact that law has existed with God since eternity past have on you?
  3. Biblically, think of some purposes of the law (for starters, you may want to look at Romans 3:19; 4:15; 5:20-21; 7:7-12).



Law: Part 2: The Law is a Big Deal

The Purpose of the Law


Law and order are eternal because God is a God of order and peace (1 Cor. 14:33). Although the passage is normally associated with worship and church life, it does describe God’s nature. God orders His world according to non-negotiable truths. God can’t lie – He is truth and a truth teller (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). These facts alone indicate that God is trustworthy – He makes promises and keeps them. He can’t deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:11-13). God does not change. Therefore His promises do not change. He gives Law – the Ten Commandments and the moral law which is written in the heart of all people – for several reasons.  Lawmaking and lawgiving is His nature; man is His image bearer; and it best for mankind.

In terms of law these truths about God are significant. God gave Israel the Law (the Ten Words or Commandments) and prefaced the giving of the Law with the words recorded in Exodus 20:1-2: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery. God’s statement about Himself and His relationship with Israel can be summarized in seven “P’s”: He is personal, present, powerful, a promise-maker, a planner, purposeful, and provides for His people. He had delivered His people in a mighty way from Egypt and their bondage, hardness, and misery. This delivery pointed to the great delivery in Christ.

After the giving of the Ten Words, Moses spoke to the fearful, hesitant, confused people: …Do not be afraid. God has come to test you that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning (Exodus 20:20). The passage gives a summary statement about God and the giving of the Law. The Law was given as an antidote for competing with God. Moses proscribed fear. He was not referring to fear of God; otherwise Moses would not have added the motivation for the giving of the Law as God’s tool to keep Israel from sinning. Fear of the Lord is designed to do that. Moses is speaking of fear of man which is actually a self-focus on control. Moses taught the people, and us, that the purpose of the Law is a good one. Rather than sinfully fearing God and His providence hoping to control the situation and outcome, the people were to put on wisdom – that is, fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7: fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). Here wisdom and trust are synonymous. Mankind has two basic choices that every person faces daily: trust in God or self. The Law was intended to help people to choose to trust God.

God was in the business of growing wise people. His people were to be true reflectors of Him. Rightly understood, Moses taught the people one of the purposes of the Law: the development of wisdom. Wise people understand sin for what it is. They use the Law to examine themselves and to grow in wisdom and Christlikeness.

Properly understood, lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer. His relationship to the Law has changed. God and Law have not changed. The believer has changed. He views lawgiving and lawkeeping from God’s perspective and not his own. God in His word teaches that the Law shows the way of life for the believer (Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11, 13, 21; John 14:15, 21, 23). In those last passages found in John’s gospel, Jesus told the apostles: if you love me keep my commands. Obedience is linked to wisdom and love. Lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer because lawkeeping is not to be mere duty to earn. Rather, it is duty out of love and respect for the Lawgiver and Christ’s lawkeeping. Therefore lawkeeping is privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3). Being a child of God and pleasing the Father were two great truths that John relished as expressed in 1 John 3:1-3. John knew his theology, his God, and Christ’s lawkeeping.

The motivation for lawkeeping is critical. Ask yourself your motivation for obedience. Lawkeeping done out of gratitude for salvation carries with it sweetness and contentment.

Lawkeeping is not a way of salvation or a way of life for the unbeliever (Rom. 10:5; Gal 3:10-13). The Law is an external summation of the mind of God. It captures the attention of every person: the fool rejects it and the Lawgiver at his peril now and eternally. The fool becomes a law unto himself and thereby competes with God. God will not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). The wise man embraces the Law and Christ’s lawkeeping and rejoices. He imitates Christ and His lawkeeping, imperfectly and non-redemptively. The more he does the more he grows in the sweet understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ, his Substitute. The believer trusts and obeys because of who God is and out of gratitude for what the Law is and for Christ and His lawkeeping.



  1. What is your view of the Law and lawkeeping?
  2. Your view of the law is linked to your view of God and to your view of yourself. Is the Law your friend? Why or why not?
  3. Your view of the law is tied with your understanding of such passages as Ps 119:9-11, 99, and 105. How do you interpret these passages and how do you apply them daily?



Law: The Law is a Big Deal: Part III

The Purpose and Uses of the Law


In this series of blogs I have looked at Law as a reflection of the nature of God. I expanded the concept of Law to rules and took us back into eternity. Rules and laws govern Intratrinitarian activity toward each member of the Trinity and to mankind. It is God’s nature to be a law to Himself because He is the Lawmaker. What is proper and even natural (His nature) for God is good for mankind because man is God’s image bearer.

We have to limit our definition to God’s Law as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. Although some may disagree, all the Ten Commandments have continued relevance into the New Testament. In fact, the Law of God is central to the Bible’s message. The giving of the Law teaches us about Christ the great Lawkeeper. The giving of the Law helps establish the fact of a Lawgiver and the expectation of lawkeeping.

Christianity is a lawkeeping religion. But the lawkeeping demanded is perfect lawkeeping with a purpose. Unsaved sinners are unwilling and unable to bow the knee to God and His Law. They create their own law. They are imperfect lawmakers and lawkeepers. In marked distinction, a perfect Law from the perfect Lawgiver demands perfect lawkeeping.  The Jews prided themselves on their relationship with Moses as their great lawgiver. The law came through Moses but Jesus addressed their hard hearts when He told them that Moses wrote about Him (John 1:17; 5:45-47). They had the wrong view of God, Jesus, the Law, themselves and lawkeeping.

Jesus Christ is the perfect Lawkeeper. The Ten Commandments give full expression to the very nature of Christ as the perfect Lawkeeper. They are an external summation of the mind of God in terms of Who He is and what He deserves and demands. The first four commandments summarize man’s duty toward God. These first four commandments are summarized in Matthew 22:37-38: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  The last six commandments summarize man’s duty to man and they are summarized in Matthew 22:37:39-40:  And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  Christ fulfilled the whole Law perfectly, completely, and redemptively (Luke 24:25-27).

Not only is the Law central to the Bible’s message but so too is lawkeeping. Therefore theologians have tried to summarize the uses of the Law. Scripture teaches that the law is good (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). What is the law good for? Theologians speak of several uses of the Law. They include:

  1. Its mirror function: on the one hand, the Law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the Law illumines human sinfulness, inability, and lack of desire to be God’s kind of lawkeeper. After failing to keep the law, the law drives mankind to grace because it points to the true Lawkeeper. The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ (Romans. 5:20-21; Gal 3:19). Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.
  2. It restraining function, the so-called civil function of the Law: the Law restrains evil. It, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. The law allows for a limited measure of peace and justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2). This function of the law demonstrates God’s common grace and kindness.
  3. Its revealing function: the Law reveals what is pleasing to God and increases our knowledge of sin and sinfulness. The Law for believers is a lamp and a light. (Ps. 119:99, 105). The Law in its summary from enlightens believers as to what is pleasing to God as believers seek to please the Triune God.  The Law stimulates believers to study the Word which elaborates the fullness of the Law (Rom. 7:7-12). The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory by growing in Christlikeness.

Christianity is a law-friendly religion. How can it not be? God had revealed Himself as the Lawgiver and Lawkeeper. The gospel message can be summarized as lawgiving and lawkeeping.  Sadly these simple truths are so misinterpreted. Post-fall, the beauty of lawgiving and lawkeeping is summarized in two words: Jesus Christ. If you understand Jesus you understand the Law and yourself. If you rightly understand the Law, you understand Jesus and yourself.



  1. Most people miss the value of the Law. Review the uses as given by theologian and write down your understanding and use of them.
  2. Explain the statement: lawkeeping is alive and well. How is it true?
  3. What is your understanding of Jesus’ role as Lawgiver and Lawkeeper and how are those truths a blessing to you?

Grieving the Holy Spirit: Part I-III

Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part I



In Ephesians 4:30 (And don’t grieve the Holy Spirit with/in Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption), Paul gave a command. In the original language, we read: you, you stop grieving or offending the Holy Spirit. Or, cease what you are doing. Paul made the point: stop the habit of grieving the HS. Of what is he speaking?

The context of Ephesians 4 is critical for gaining a proper understanding of the passage. Paul spoke of relationships especially within the church. He was speaking of relationships and Church body life. He emphasized a fundamental choice: living for self vs. living for God (see Eph 4:1-2, 17-19). This choice is part of the great divide. After Adam’s sin, self took center stage. The person would always choose self unless there was an inner-man change. The believer was changed to please God but he is tempted to remain loyal to self.

  • In verse 1 of chapter 4, Paul, as a prisoner of Christ, urged the people to live a life worthy of their calling (see Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12).
  • In verses 2-3, he gave a general sketch of what that lifestyle and patterned way of living would look like for the believer: be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • In verses 17-19, he gave an exhortation: that you must no longer live as Gentiles (unbelievers) do. Paul says DON’T.
  • In verses 18-19, he offered a general description of how unbelievers conduct themselves: wrong thinking (futility of their minds), wrong desires (given over to sensuality, that is senses-driven and controlled wanting), and wrong actions (self pleasing at the expense of or in lieu of pleasing God and others).

Paul taught that unbelievers live as patterned self-pleasers in varying degrees. Self-pleasing comes in various forms and in various degrees. Self-motivated, self-directed self-grasping, and self-exaltation mark the patterned lifestyle of all unbelievers. However, Paul is speaking to believers – the congregation. A self-pleasing lifestyle carries over into the believer’s life because life after salvation is not a perfected life. That awaits heaven.

Paul’s call to live a life worthy of the Triune God had a dual exhortation. Paul centered his command on a put offput on motif. It is a continuous and dynamic process of progressive sanctification. Notice verses 22-24. In the original language these verses are infinitives, not imperatives. The implication is not that believers should put off the old man and put on the new man. Rather, believers are in Christ. They have a relationship with Him (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, since they are in Christ, believers have had the old man put off – what they were as unbelievers. Moreover believers have put on the new man again because they are in Christ. This initial putting off and putting on is purely the work of the Holy Spirit. For believers, this dynamic which has occurred to and for him is true in principle but not in practice (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:9-11). Paul’s call is for believers to be what they are in Christ. They must and can because they are in Christ! Moreover, being in Christ means that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Paul goes on to describe the believer’s new lifestyle in terms of communication (4:25-32). Here are four summary rules regarding communication: be honest (v.25), keep current (v.26), attack the problem not the person (v.29), and act not react (v.31-32).   Since the Church is the bride of Christ and God communicates with His Church via the Spirit and the Word, communication between believers is actually communication with God. Communication is God’s gift to mankind. Misuse of it is an attack on the Giver and grieves the Triune God. Moreover, God is a self-Revealer and self-Communicator in His Son and in His word by His Holy Spirit. He expects and deserves God-centered communication between believers and God and between fellow believers. This way of communication is part of the put off and put on process.

With that background, we turn our attention to Ephesians 4:30. I think it is best to translate the original term for grieve as to offend (see Romans 14:15 for a similar use). Scripture makes clear that believers are sinning saints and saved sinners. This side of heaven every believer sins. In the context of self-pleasing, the believer offends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. When you offend him, you offend the Triune God. The Holy Spirit takes any offense against the Trinity personally.



  1. When is the last time you grieved/offended the Holy Spirit?
  2. What were the circumstances?
  3. In the area of interpersonal relationships and communication, how have you used your words to glorify God and bless the other person?



Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part II

The New Testament


The negative command not to grieve the Holy Spirit given in Ephesians 4:30 is one of a kind. There is no other command like it in New Testament. As we learned in the first blog, the exhortation was given to the Church in the area of relationships and communication (see the rules of communication – Ephesians 4:25-32). Paul taught then and now that relationships matter and communication is a gift and tool to grow relationships vertically (Godward) and horizontally (man-ward). The life of the Church body depended and depends on godly communication. This makes perfect sense when you remember that the church and the individual believer are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Rom. 8:9,11; 2 Tim. 1:14; Jam. 4:5).

When a believer sins against another believer, he is sinning against the Holy Spirit who indwells both. Grieving the Holy Spirit carries a definite personal touch to it. The Holy Spirit did not humble Himself as Christ did. Jesus took on human flesh and became what He was not – the God-man. The Bible does not speak of the Holy Spirit’s humiliation. But consider what is at stake by Paul’s exhortation. Functionally, the Holy Spirit applies the merits and blessings of Christ’s redemptive work. He personally indwelt Christ and He indwells the Church and individual believers. In the new heaven and the new earth, the Trinity will be reunited so to speak. Salvation is a glorious Intratrinitarian activity Eph. 2:18; 3:12). What the Triune God did in saving a people for Himself is simply stupefying and magnificent. An attack on one member of the Trinity is an attack on the whole.

The Holy Spirit has personal distinctions. He is a person and not an abstraction or a force. Man is the image of the Triune God and not the other way. The Holy Spirit is God, is called God, does the works of God, and receives honor as God. There is an affective aspect to the Godhead including the Holy Spirit. Our God is a jealous God and protective of His name (Exodus 20:5, 7). He is offended (Gen. 6:6). The jealousy of God mandates exclusive and singular devotion to God by His creatures. As a holy God, He is the just Judge of the world (Gen. 18:25; Heb. 12:18-24).  He will right all wrongs. He is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.

God sent his Holy Spirit to Christ (Isa. 11:1-5), to the Church, and to the individual believer. Christ, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, will return as the just Judge of all the earth. Further, the Holy Spirit came to earth to regenerate, to enlighten, and to illumine believers. The Light, Jesus Christ, came into the world and the Holy Spirit turned on the light in the world and in the heart of every believer (John 1: 5, 7, 11; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21).

The Spirit is called Holy because He is set apart. Yet He indwells His church and His people. The term holy carries the idea of otherness and separateness. The word relates to purity. The holiness and purity is the basis for the first exile – Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. The words and concept means that God is untouchable and far removed from his creation in His very essence and nature. Yet, He approached His creation and especially His Church and believers in his Son. Therefore, believers approach God and enjoy fellowship with Him because of the indwelling Holy Spirit as He applies the work of Christ.

The Church and the believer are to be ever mindful of the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence (Eph. 5:15-18).  In these latter passages, Paul gave the Church direction as how not to grieve the Spirit. Paul began with a warning: be careful regarding your patterned manner of life (v.15). Paul wanted the people to catch the big picture. All believers had a patterned way of lifestyle as unbelievers. It was characterized as “I want,” “me-first,” “my rights,” and “please me.” Paul taught that the lingering influence of membership in Satan’s kingdom was still formidable – in the Church and in the believer. Note well: the problem was and is within, as well as outside. By virtue of their union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, they were to redeem the time on this earth as wise people rather than as fools (v. 16-17). The word translated as redeem is related to the Greek marketplace and indicates a buying back or out of. It is the picture of what Christ did at the cross – He paid the ransom price. Similarly the believer is to use his time as a down payment on pleasing the Triune God.

In verse 18, Paul gave an antidote for grieving the Holy Spirit. Be drunk with the Holy Spirit and not with wine. Paul drew attention to wine’s comprehensive and all-pervasive influence. In like manner, the effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit are to be in evidence. The Church and the believer are to be so motivated, influenced, and governed by the presence of the Holy Spirit that the Church as a body and individual believers are becoming more like Christ in thoughts, desires, and actions (Eph. 4:1-2). The Holy Spirit is burdened and grieved when there is anything less than growth in Christlikeness. His indwelling would be for naught.

In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul described a general way what pleasing God will look like in body life. Believers are to speak to one another, rejoicing in their hearts, and giving thanks. Discontent and ingratitude grieve and burden the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:14-17). Please notice that all the passages mentioned emphasize communication, both vertically and horizontally.



  1. Please write your view of the Holy Spirit.
  2. How do His presence in you and the Church influence you at home and in congregation? What changes do you need to make in terms of relationships?
  3. Please read Isaiah 63:10 and Psalm 78:40-41, 56-58 in preparation to study the Old Testament’s view of grieving the Holy Spirit.












Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part III

The Old Testament


The book of Isaiah unveils in large degree the fullness of God’s justice and judgment, and God’s salvation – mercy and love. Yahweh is the Holy One of Israel; the phrase is used some 26 times throughout the book (only six times elsewhere in the Old Testament). As the holy One of Israel He must judge and punish rebellious people. The book of Isaiah catalogues Israel’s rebellion. They were an idolatrous group who chose self over Yahweh. They trusted in self and called good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20). The first 35 chapters address Yahweh’s judgment on Israel.

Yet the Holy One of Israel is a compassionate God. His compassion is a major subject of chapters 40-66. God redeems His people (35:9; 41:14). The redemption points back to the “old” exodus and points ahead to the “new” exodus which ultimately points to Christ (Isa. 43:2, 16-19; 52:10-12; Luke 9:51; John 14:1-3). The New Testament picks up Isaiah’s theme of the proper way for the exiles to return (Isaiah 11:16; 40:3; 57:14; 62:10 and Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). Repentance is the key. Repentance by definition is a change in thinking which leads to a change in desire and action.

It is in the context of the continued call to repent that Isaiah pled for Yahweh to remember and keep His covenant promise of redemption. Isaiah holds out Yahweh’s kindness and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s patterned rebellion: Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them (Isa. 63:10). In rebellion and in contradistinction to Yahweh’s goodness and long-suffering, the people rebelled. In the place of gratitude, joy, and obedience, there was self-pleasing. The people were at enmity with their Creator, Benefactor, and Deliverer. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Yahweh warned the people: don’t rebel (Exodus 23:21). But they did and repeatedly! (17:1ff; 32:1ff).

In the Old Testament, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is alive and well. He is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. He is one with the Father and the Son so that the Trinity is at work in both the Old and New Testaments.

By virtue of the people’s rebellion and on the basis that Yahweh is the just Judge of all the earth, God became what He was not before – an enemy who fought against His firstborn son, Israel (Exodus 4:22-24). His righteous judgment ushered forth from His holiness and righteousness. Yahweh is King who is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace initially through the lesser David who pointed to the greater David, Jesus Christ, the true King and the true Israel. .

The book of Isaiah carried a twofold message: judgment and deliverance. When John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene, they proclaimed that the kingdom of God was here and the only logical response for God’s people was repentance and faith (Mark 1:5; Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  Salvation and judgment are linked. There are consequences for rejecting the Triune God, whether it is the Holy Spirit or the Son.

Grieving the Holy Spirit was a patterned way of life for the people of Israel. Acting contrary to the very nature of God is grieving the Holy Spirit. Acting contrary to what the believer is in Christ is grieving the Holy Spirit. All that is opposed to holiness and goodness opposes the Holy Spirit. In essence, pleasing-self is rebellion against God. It is highlighted by self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-trust, and self-exaltation. When self is king, there is no room for God and no fear of the Lord. We should not assume that rebellion against God is reserved only for the Israelites. No, grieving the Holy Spirit can be evidenced in the daily life of any believer. Being vigilant and aware of who God is and who you are is one antidote against grieving the Holy Spirit.



  1. Isaiah opened and closed his book (1:2 and 66:24) with an announcement of condemnation for those who rebelled. Write out your thoughts regarding Isaiah’s opening and closing.
  2. Examine yourself according to Hebrews 4:12 and record thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate rebellion against the Triune God.
  3. What is the answer for rebellion? Please base your answers on the first, second, and tenth commandments as given in Exodus 20:3-7, 17.