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John the Baptist, was he Elijah?

John the Baptist, was he Elijah?                                                                       By Jack Kettler

Who was John the Baptist? Was he a prophet? A messenger? Why did he not say whom he was when asked by the Pharisees?

In this study, we will look at these questions and see what the Scriptures say.

First, clearing up the confusion that sometimes exists between Elijah and Elisha:

  1. Elisha was the successor to Elijah.
  2. Elijah tutored Elisha for approximately eight years.
  3. Elias in the New Testament is not referring to Elisha.

Introduction to the Old Testament prophet Elijah:

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, how long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1Kings 18:21)

The Old Testament predictions of a coming prophet:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Isaiah 40:3:

“(3) The voice of him that crieth . . .—The laws of Hebrew parallelism require a different punctuation: A voice of one crying, In the wilderness, prepare ye . . . The passage is memorable as having been deliberately taken by the Baptist as defining his own mission (John 1:23). As here the herald is not named, so he was content to efface himself—to be a voice or nothing. The image is drawn from the march of Eastern kings, who often boast, as in the Assyrian inscriptions of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal (Records of the Past, i. 95, vii. 64), of the roads they have made in trackless deserts. The wilderness is that which lay between the Euphrates and Judah, the journey of the exiles through it reminding the prophet of the older wanderings in the wilderness of Sin (Psalm 68:7; Judges 5:4). The words are an echo of the earlier thought of Isaiah 35:8. We are left to conjecture to whom the command is addressed: tribes of the desert, angelic ministers, kings and rulers—the very vagueness giving a grand universality. So, again, we are not told whether the “way of Jehovah” is that on which He comes to meet His people, or on which He goes before and guides them. The analogy of the marches of the Exodus makes the latter view the more probable.” (1)

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Malachi 3:1:

“Verse 1. – Behold, I will send (I send) my messenger. God answers that he is coming to show himself the God of judgment and justice. Are they ready to meet him and to bear his sentence? Who this “messenger” is disputed. That no angel or heavenly visitant is meant is clear from historical considerations, as no such event took place immediately before the Lord came to his temple. Nor can Malachi himself be intended, as his message was delivered nearly four, hundred years before Messiah came. The announcement is doubtless founded upon Isaiah 40:3, and refers to the same person as the older prophet mentions, who is generally allowed to be John the Baptist, the herald of Christ’s advent (Matthew 11:10; John 1:6). Prepare the way before me. The expression is borrowed from Isaiah, loc. cit. (comp. also Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). He prepares the way by preaching repentance, and thus removing the obstacle of sin, which stood between God and his people. Whom ye seek. When ye ask, “Where is the God of judgment?” Shall suddenly come to his temple. The Lord (ha-Adon) is Jehovah, as in Exodus 23:17; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 3:1, etc. There is a change of persons here, as frequently. Jehovah shall unexpectedly come to his temple (τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ) as King and God of Israel (comp. Ezekiel 43:7). There was a literal fulfilment of this prophecy when Christ was presented in the temple as an infant (Luke 2:22, etc.). Even the messenger of the covenant. He is identified with the Lord; and he is the covenant angel who guided the Israelites to the Promised Land, and who is seen in the various theophanies of the Old Testament. The Divinity of Messiah is thus unequivocally asserted. In him are fulfilled all the promises made under the old covenant, and he is called (Hebrews 9:15) “the Mediator of the new covenant.” Some render,” and the Messenger,” etc., thus distinguishing the Angel of the covenant from the forerunner who prepares the way. But this is already done by the expressions, “My Messenger,” and “the Lord.” Whom ye delight in. Whose advent ye expect with eager desire.” (2)

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

The following entry from the renowned International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) on Elijah will provide a helpful additional detailed look at the Prophet.

Elijah in the New Testament from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“Malachi (4:5) names Elijah as the forerunner of “the great and terrible day of Yahweh,” and the expectation founded upon this passage is alluded to in Mark 6:15 parallel Luke 9:8; Matthew 16:14 parallel Mark 8:28 parallel Luke 9:19; Matthew 27:47-49 parallel Mark 15:35, 36. The interpretation of Malachi’s prophecy foreshadowed in the angelic annunciation to Zacharias (Luke 1:17), that John the Baptist should do the work of another Elijah, is given on the authority of Jesus Himself (Matthew 11:14). The appearance of Elijah, with Moses, on the Mount of Transfiguration, is recorded in Matthew 17:1-13 parallel Mark 9:2-13 parallel Luke 9:28-36, and in Matthew 11:14 parallel Mark 9:13 Jesus again identifies the Elijah of Malachi with John the Baptist. The fate of the soldiers of Ahaziah (2Kings 1) is in the mind of James and John on one occasion (Luke 9:54). Jesus Himself alludes to Elijah and his sojourn in the land of Sidon (Luke 4:25, 26). Paul makes use of the prophet’s experience at Horeb (Romans 11:2-4). In James 5:17, 18 the work of Elijah affords an instance of the powerful supplication of a righteous man.” (3)

The New Testament Scriptures on John the Baptist:

“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:7-11)

“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, [Elias, (Ἠλίας, Greek) (Elijah English) Strong’s 2243] which was for to come.” (Matthew 11:13-14)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Matthew 11:14:

“(14) This is Elias. — The words of Malachi (Malachi 4:5) had led men to expect the reappearance of the great Tishbite in person as the immediate precursor of the Christ. It was the teaching of the scribes then (Matthew 17:10; John 1:21), it has lingered as a tradition of Judaism down to our own time. A vacant chair is placed for Elijah at all great solemnities. Even Christian interpreters have cherished the belief that Elijah will appear in person before the Second Advent of the Lord. The true meaning of the words of Malachi had, however, been suggested in the words of the angel in Luke 1:17, “He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias,” and is here distinctly confirmed. The words “if ye will (i.e., are willing to) receive it” imply the consciousness that our Lord was setting aside a popular and strongly-fixed belief: “If you are willing and able to receive the truth that John was in very deed doing the work of Elijah, you need look for no other in the future.” (4)

“And his disciples asked him, saying, why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise, shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” (Matthew 17:10-13)

At this point, the disciples did not fully comprehend who Jesus was. That is why they asked Jesus the question about Elias/Elijah.

“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 1:2-8)

In these passages, Mark describes the work of John and his message to the people of Israel.

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17)

“He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” (John 1:23)

Why did John deny the following when questioned by the priests and Levites? 

“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.” (John 1:19-21)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on John 1:21:

“John was at Bethabara when these messengers came to him, John 1:28. They asked him if he were Elias. The Jews had not only an expectation of the Messias, but of Elias to come as a messenger before him, according to the prophecy, Malachi 4:5; as appeareth, Matthew 17:10 Mark 9:11; of which they had a gross conception here, that Elias should come out of heaven personally, or at least that his soul should come into another body, according to the Pythagorean opinion. Now the meaning of the prophecy was, that one should come like Elias; and this was fulfilled in John, Luke 1:17, as our Saviour tells us, Matthew 17:12 Mark 9:13; but they asked the question according to that notion they had of Elias. To which John answereth, that he was not; neither that Elias that ascended in a fiery chariot to heaven; nor any body informed with Elias’s soul: and thus the words of our Saviour, Matthew 17:12 Mark 9:12, are easily reconciled to this text. They go on, and ask him if he were

that prophet, or a prophet. Some think that they meant the Prophet promised, Deuteronomy 18:18; but that was no other than Christ himself, which he had before denied himself to be; nor doth it appear from any text of Scripture that the Jews had any expectation of any other particular prophet; but it is plain from Luke 9:8, that they had a notion that it was possible one of the old prophets might rise again from the dead, for so they guessed there concerning Christ. But others think that the article in the Greek here is not emphatical, and they only asked him if he were a prophet; for the Jews had a general notion, that the spirit of prophecy had left them ever since the times of Zechariah and Malachi; which they hoped was returned in John the Baptist, and about this they question him if he were a prophet. To which he answereth, No; neither that Prophet promised, Deuteronomy 18:18, nor yet any of the old prophets risen from the dead; nor yet one like the prophets of the Old Testament, who only prophesied of a Christ to come; but, as Christ calls him, Matthew 11:9, more than a prophet, one who showed and declared to them a Christ already come; for the law and the prophets prophesied but until John; the law in its types foreshowing, the prophets in their sermons foretelling, a Messiah to come; John did more. His father indeed, Luke 1:76, called him the prophet of the Highest; but there prophet is to be understood not in a strict, but in a large sense, as the term prophecy is taken, Romans 12:6. And the term prophet often signifieth one that revealeth the will of God to men; in which large sense John was a prophet, and yet more than a prophet in the stricter notion of the term; and in that sense no prophet, that is, no mere prophet: so, Numbers 11:19, Moses tells the people they should not eat flesh one, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, because they should eat it a whole month together.” (5)

John the Baptist was not the Prophet Elijah reincarnated. Nevertheless, he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah.

Jesus identifies and explains who John is:

“And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17 ESV)

It is essential that the reader can see the distinction that John was a prophet, but not “that prophet.” As Poole notes, “That Prophet promised,” Deuteronomy 18:18; was none other than Christ himself. That is why John emphatically denied it that he was “that prophet.”

Another reason why Jesus and John were seemingly cryptic in dealing with the Jewish leaders:

“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” (Matthew 13:10-17)

God in His Sovereignty had not opened the hearing and eyes of all of the people of Israel.

“And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.” (John 10:41)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on John, 10:14 provides an edifying closing commentary of John and his witness to the Christ:

“And many resorted to him, … From all the parts adjacent, having heard of his being there, and of the fame of him; and many of them doubtless personally knew him; these came to him, some very likely to be healed by him, others to see his person and miracles, and others to hear him preach:

and said, John did no miracle; though it was now three years ago, yet the name, ministry, and baptism of John, were fresh in the memory of men in those parts; and what they say one to another, was not to lessen the character of John, but to exalt Jesus Christ, and to give a reason why they should receive and embrace him; for if John, who did no miracle, who only taught and baptized, and directed men to the Messiah, was justly reckoned a very great person, and his doctrine was received, and his baptism was submitted to, then much more should this illustrious person be attended to; who, besides his divine doctrine, did such great and amazing miracles; to which they add, though John did no miracle to confirm his mission, ministry, and baptism,

but all things that John spake of this man, were true; as that he was greater than he, was the Lamb of God, yea, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, and true Messiah, who should baptize men with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (6)

In Closing:

To answer the question at the beginning of this study, John was a prophet and a messenger. John fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesy (Isaiah 40:3) by coming in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

Parallels between Elijah, John, Elisha, and Christ:

  1. Elijah prepared the way for Elisha, (1Kings 19:16; 2Kings 2:6-8).
  2. Elisha had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, (2 Kings 2:9).
  3. Elisha did more miracles than Elijah did.
  4. Elijah was a type of John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3, John 1:23).
  5. Elisha was a type of Christ (Luke 4:27).*

*Shortlist of parallels between Elisha and Jesus to reach this conclusion:

  • Both received the Holy Spirit at the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:7-15; John 1:28)
  • Both cleansed lepers (2Kings 5; Mark 1:40-45)
  • Both healed the sick (2Kings 4:34-35; Mark 8:22-25)
  • Both raised the dead (2Kings 4:1-7; Luke 7:11-17)
  • Both had treacherous disciples, (Gehazi 2 Kings 5:20 and Judas Matthew 26:14-16)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)




  1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 521.
  2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Malachi, Vol.14., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 39.
  3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘ELIJAH,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 933.
  4. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Matthew, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 66.
  5. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, John, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 281.
  6. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 355.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

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What does turn to him the other cheek mean?

What does turn to him the other cheek mean?                                                By Jack Kettler

This study will look at turning the other cheek. Is Jesus literal in this passage? If not, how do we understand it?

Years ago in Portland, Oregon, in a Christian ministry that worked with street people, an unusual event occurred. An individual came into the outreach center and asked who believed this passage about being smitten on the cheek. He asked people to stand up and then proceeded to punch everyone in the face to see if they would turn the other cheek. These Christians did this and were punched in the face.

Were these Christians correct in their course of action?

“And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other, and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” (Luke 6:29 KJV)

A parallel passage to this in Matthew:

“But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:39-40 ESV)

Old Testament parallel passages:

“They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.” (Job 16:10 KJV)

“Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.” (Lamentations 3:30 ESV)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Lamentations 3:30:

“(30) He giveth his cheek . . . —  The submission enjoined reaches its highest point—a patience like that of Job 16:10; we may add, like that of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:39.) It was harder to accept the Divine chastisement when it came through human agents. Not so had Jeremiah once taught and acted (Jeremiah 20:1-6; Jeremiah 28:15). (Comp. Isaiah 1:6.)” (1)

In Jewish culture, striking a person’s cheek was a way to shame an individual into submission.

Old Testament background and context. Why a backhanded slap?

The only way you can hit a person on the right cheek is with the back of the hand. Striking a person on the right cheek with the right hand would require using a backhanded motion.

In Hebrew idiom, being slapped on the right cheek was an insult. It does not mean a physically fighting blow. A slap like this was not an aggressive action to start a fight; it was a rebuke or slap of discipline. The right cheek being slapped with a backhand is a message reminding the person that they are inferior, in the case of a slave or servant.

Offering someone your left cheek means that you are submissive to the action of the superior.

Jesus and the disciples were Jews, so they were familiar with Hebrew idioms.

Other considerations, the Judaic background:

Written in Talmudic Israel (c.190 – c.230 CE). Bava Kamma (First Gate) belongs to the fourth order, Nezikin (The Order of Damages) and discusses the civil matters, largely damages and compensation.

Two different renditions of Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6:

  1. “If someone slaps another person, he must pay two hundred zuzim. If it was backhanded, he must pay four hundred zuzim. If someone flicks a person’s ear, pulls his hair, spits so that it lands on him, strips his cloak off, or pulls off a woman’s headscarf in public, [the perpetrator] must pay four hundred zuzim.”
  2. “If a man cuffed or [punched] his fellow he must pay him a sela [4 zuz]. Rabbi Judah says in the name of Rabbi Jose the Galilean, One hundred zuz. If he slapped him, he must pay 200 zuz. If [he struck him] with the back of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz.”

(Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6)

This Talmudic Jewish law took openly humiliating another person very serious. The backhanded slap resulted in twice the penalty imposed on the striker. The double penalty was imposed even without personal injury. It was the public humiliation, which caused the double penalty. The event described in the Bava Kamma seems to be different from a master using a backhanded slap to discipline a servant.

With this Old Testament and Judaic background, we will now examine the text from Luke on being slapped:

In expositing these passages from Luke and Matthew, we will seek to understand how to apply this Scripture.

From the older Pulpit Commentary on Luke 6:29:

“Verse 29. – And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other. This and the following direction is clothed in language of Eastern picturesqueness, to drive home to the listening crowds the great and novel truths he was urging upon them. No reasonable, thoughtful man would feel himself bound to the letter of these commandments. Our Lord, for instance, himself did not offer himself to be stricken again (John 18:22, 23), but firmly, though with exquisite courtesy, rebuked the one who struck him. St. Paul, too (Acts 23:3), never dreamed of obeying the letter of this charge. It is but an assertion of a great principle, and so, with the exception of a very few mistaken fanatics, all the great teachers of Christianity have understood it.” (2)

According to this commentary, the smiting on the cheek was not to be taken literally.

Next, we will consider two entries from a contemporary commentary.

From William Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary on Matthew 5:38-42:

“38–42. You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist the evil-doer; but to him that slaps you on the right cheek turn the other also. And if anyone wishes to go to law with you and take your shirt, let him take your robe also. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. To him that asks (anything) of you give, and from him that wants to borrow of you do not turn away. In Exod. 21:24, 25 we read, “… eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Lev. 24:20 adds “fracture for fracture”; Deut. 19:21, “life for life.” This was a law for the civil courts, laid down in order that the practice of seeking private revenge might be discouraged. The Old Testament passages do not mean, “Take personal revenge whenever you are wronged.” They mean the exact opposite, “Do not avenge yourself but let justice be administered publicly.” This is clear from Lev. 24:14, “Take the blasphemer out of the camp; and let all who heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.” Cf. Deut. 19:15–21.

The Pharisees, however, appealed to this law to justify personal retribution and revenge. They quoted this commandment in order to defeat its very purpose. Cf. Matt. 15:3, 6. The Old Testament repeatedly forbids personal vengeance: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am Jehovah” (Lev. 19:18). “Do not say, I will repay evil. Wait for Jehovah, and he will save you” (Prov. 20:22). “Do not say, as he has done to me so will I do to him; I will pay the man back according to what he has done” (Prov. 24:29).

What then did Jesus mean when he said, “Do not resist the evil-doer; but to him that slaps you,” etc.? When Christ’s words (verses 39–42) are read in the light of what immediately follows in verses 43–48, and when the parallel in Luke 6:29, 30 is explained on the basis of what immediately precedes in verses 27, 28, it becomes clear that the key passage, identical in both Gospels, is “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). In other words, Jesus is condemning the spirit of lovelessness, hatred, yearning for revenge. He is saying, “Do not resist the evil-doer with measures that arise from an unloving, unforgiving, unrelenting, vindictive disposition.”

Once this is understood it becomes evident that “to turn the other cheek” means to show in attitude, word, and deed that one is filled with the spirit not of rancor but of love. Rom. 12:19–21 presents an excellent commentary.

Something similar holds with respect to the person who threatens by means of a lawsuit to take away someone’s “shirt,” the tunic worn next to the body, as payment for an alleged debt. Note that not the person whom Jesus is addressing is suing but his opponent is (cf. 1 Cor. 6:1). Rather than resentfully to contest this lawsuit, says Jesus, allow the plaintiff to have the outer robe also. This robe was considered so indispensable that when taken as a pledge it had to be returned before sunset, since it also served as a cover—often the poor man’s only one—during sleep (Exod. 22:26, 27; Deut. 24:12, 13; Ezek. 18:7; and Amos 2:8). In summary: we have no right to hate the person who tries to deprive us of our possessions. Love even toward him should fill our hearts and reveal itself in our actions.

The first verb in “Whoever forces you to go one mile.…” refers to the authority to requisition, to press into service. It is a loanword from the Persian language, which in all probability borrowed it from the Babylonian. The famous Persian Royal Post authorized its couriers whenever necessary to press into service anyone available and/or the latter’s animal. There must be no delay in the dispatch and delivery of the king’s decrees, etc. Cf. Esther 3:13, 15; 8:10. As happens frequently, so also here, the verb gradually acquired the more general meaning of compelling someone to render any kind of service. It is used in connection with Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry Christ’s cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21). Now what Jesus is saying is that rather than to reveal a spirit of bitterness or annoyance toward the one who forces a burden upon a person, the latter should take this position with a smile. Did someone ask you to go with him, carrying his load for the distance of one mile? Then go with him two miles!

Similarly, when someone in distress asks for assistance, one must not turn a deaf ear to him. On the contrary, says Jesus, give, not grudgingly or gingerly but generously; lend, not selfishly, looking forward to usury (Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:36, 37), but liberally, magnanimously. Not only show kindness but love kindness (Mic. 6:8; cf. Deut. 15:7, 8; Ps. 37:26; 112:5; Prov. 19:17; Acts 4:36, 37; 2 Cor. 8:8, 9).

Biblical illustrations of the spirit, which Jesus here commends:

  1. Abraham, rushing to rescue his “brother” Lot (Gen. 14:14 ff.), though the latter had earlier revealed himself to be a rather avaricious nephew (Gen. 13:1–13).
  2. Joseph, generously forgiving his brothers (Gen. 50:19–21), who had not treated him very kindly (37:18–28).
  3. David, twice sparing the life of his pursuer King Saul (1 Sam. 24 and 26).
  4. Elisha, setting bread and water before the invading Syrians (2 Kings 6).
  5. Stephen, interceding for those who were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60).
  6. Paul, after his conversion, writing Rom. 12:21; 1 Cor. 4:12; and 1 Cor. 13; and putting it into practice!
  7. Above all, Jesus himself, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; cf. Isa. 53:12, last clause; Matt. 11:29; 12:19; and 1 Peter 2:23).” (3)

From William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Luke 6:29, we read:

“Even more strikingly Jesus adds 29a. To the one who strikes you on the cheek offer also the other (cheek). What did he mean? That his words were not intended to be taken literally follows from his own reaction when he was struck in the face (John 18:22, 23). In fact, those who insist on interpreting every saying of Jesus literally get into difficulty again and again (Matt. 16:6–12; John 2:18–21; 3:3–5; 4:10–14; 6:51–58; 11:11–14).

What, then, did Jesus mean? When his words are read in the light of what immediately precedes in verses 27, 28, and when Matthew’s parallel (5:39 f.) is read in the light of what follows in verses 43–48, it becomes clear that the key passage, identical in both Gospels, is, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). In other words, Jesus condemns the spirit of lovelessness, hatred, yearning for revenge. He is saying, “Do not resist the evildoer with measures that arise from an unloving, unforgiving, unrelenting, vindictive disposition.” Once this is understood it becomes clear that “turning the other cheek” means to show in attitude, word, and deed that one is not filled with the spirit of rancor but with the spirit of love. Rom. 12:19–21 presents an excellent commentary.

Jesus continues: 29b… and from the one who takes away your outer garment do not withhold your undergarment. Instead of being filled with bitterness and the lust for retaliation, show the very opposite attitude. Let him who deprives you of your robe take your tunic (worn next to the skin) also; and conversely (with Matt. 5:40), if anyone wishes to go to law with you and take your tunic (or shirt), let him take your robe also. Here again Rom. 12:19–21 shows what is meant.” (3)

Hendriksen demonstrates the passage in Matthew and Luke must be understood spiritually.

Additional thoughts on how to understand the Matthew and Luke texts: 

  1. What may have been in mind here was a slap with the backside of the right hand. Such a hit would not be used to inflict harm but instead, shame. A slap like this is what a superior would do to disgrace a disobedient servant. The backhanded slap would put the servant in his place. Turning the cheek would be an acknowledgment of submission to the superior.
  2. Another possibility is that by turning the other cheek, the person struck would put the striker in an indefensible place. He cannot repeat the backhand, because the one slapped face is now turned. The master does not want the slave to solicit sympathy, so he would not hit the servant who turned the cheek again with the other hand.
  3. Jesus is prohibiting the human predisposition to seek personal vengeance. Accordingly, based upon this understanding, we see that in Matthew and Luke, Jesus taught His disciples not to retaliate against personal insult by turning the cheek.

In closing, from the New Testament commentary entries in this study, we can conclude:

“Whoever forces you to go one mile …” Matthew 5:41 refers to the authority to press someone into a task or service. If an authority figure asks you to carry his load for one mile, then go with him for two miles. Going the extra mile has the same effect as turning the cheek. It diffuses the situation.

If need be, we are to respond to injury without revenge by tolerating the act without accelerating the situation, leading to more harm. As Hendriksen notes, turning the cheek is not literal but spiritual. We do not give in to hatred and revenge. Turning the other cheek means to accept mistreatment and insults without retaliating or seeking revenge. This interpretation is consistent with many teachings in Scripture.

For example:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 ESV)

As an aside, it does not mean that Christians have no recourse in the courts of law. As noted in the Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6, penalties or fines could be levied against an aggressor.

We can conclude that the Christians in the Portland, Oregon street ministry were naïve in their understanding of Scripture. It would be of interest to see how these individuals and their understanding of those prior events today; including the aggressive person who propagated the violence.

A more prudent course of action would have been two or three males on staff reframing the attacker while others called the police in order to stop the disturbance. I would surmise that this course of action has been implemented in many mission centers around the country that work with homeless and street people.


  1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Lamentations, Vol.5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 191.
  2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Luke, Vol.16., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 147.
  3. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 309-311.
  4. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Luke, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), p. 349.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

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The use of titles by ministers

The use of titles by ministers                                                                            by Jack Kettler

This study will look at titles and the Christian ministry. Are they appropriate? Matthew 23:9-10 will be the primary texts considered. Of primary interest will be the use of “father” in verse 23:9,   and instructor. Other translations instead of “instructor” have leader, teacher, guide, and master in verse 23:10.

Are these titles appropriate? At first, glance, when consulting Scripture, it appears not.

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:9-10 ESV)

What does “father” mean in Matthew 23:9? Consider the following commentary entry:

From the Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 23:9:


“Verse 9. – Your father. This was the title given to eminent teachers and founders of schools, to whom the people were taught to look up rather than to God. It was also addressed to prophets (2Kings 2:12; 2Kings 6:21). In ver. 8 Christ said, “be not called;” here he uses the active, “call not,” as if he would intimate that his followers must not give this honoured title to any doctor out of complaisance, or flattery, or affectation. Upon the earth. In contradistinction to heaven, where our true Father dwells. They were to follow no earthly school. They had natural fathers and spiritual fathers, but the authority of all comes from God; it is delegated, not essential; and good teachers would make men look to God, and not to themselves, as the source of power and truth.” (1)

Can a title be used in a different way to not bring undue attention to oneself?

If the use of father is forbidden, then it appears we have the Scriptures pitted against each other.

For example:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9 ESV)

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1Corinthians 4:15 ESV)

How do we explain this?

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on 1Corinthians 4:15:


“5. Yet have ye not many fathers] we have here an interesting example of the fact that the spirit rather than the letter of Christ’s commands is to be observed, and that one passage of Scripture is not to be strained so as to contradict another. ‘Call no man your father on earth,’ says Christ (St Matthew 23:9): that is, as explained by the present passage, [1Corinthians 4:15] in such a spirit as to forget Him from whom all being proceeds.

In Christ Jesus I have begotten you] i.e. because Jesus Christ dwells in His ministers, and their work is His. Cf. Ch. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.” (2)

Was Jesus speaking literally in Matthew 23:9?

Christians call their earthly dads “father.” The nation’s founders are called the “founding fathers.” In these two cases, are we violating Matthew 23:9, which says to “call no man your father on earth?”

Consider two other cases in Scripture where individuals are called “father” with no apparent rebuke.

In the Old Testament, there is the case of Elisha:

“And Elisha saw it, and he cried my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” (2Kings 2:12 KJV)

In the New Testament, there is the case of Abraham:

“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:24-25 KJV)

Thus far, it appears that if we follow the spirit of what Christ teaches, there are exceptions to a total prohibition on the use of the title “father.” There is a condemned way and an accepted way to use this title of “father.”

Moving on to Matthew 23:10, where the warning against titles is expanded:

“Neither be ye called masters: (καθηγηταί) for one is your Master, even Christ.” (Matthew 23:10 KJV)

As in Matthew 23:9, you have the using of titles condemned as in “Neither be ye called masters: (καθηγηταί) for one is your Master, even Christ.” (Matthew 23:10 KJV)

In Matthew 23:10, the forbidding of titles is expanded. As can be seen from the various translations, καθηγηταί also means leader, teacher, instructors, and guide, master.

From the Strong’s Concordance:

kathégétés: a teacher

Original Word: καθηγητής, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: kathégétés

Phonetic Spelling: (kath-ayg-ay-tace’)

Definition: a teacher

Usage: a leader, teacher, guide, master.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Matthew 23:10 explains this text quite well:

“Ver. 8-10. It is most certain that our Saviour doth not here forbid the giving of the titles of masters and fathers to his ministers, for then Paul would not have given himself the title of father, 1 Corinthians 4:15; nor called the Galatians his little children, Galatians 4:19: nor called Timothy his son, and himself his father, Philippians 2:22; nor called himself a doctor of the Gentiles, 1Timothy 2:7 2Timothy 1:11. That which he forbids is,


  1. An affectation of such titles, and hunting after them.


  1. Rem tituli, the exercise of an absolute mastership, or a paternal, absolute power; so as to require any to believe things because they said them, or to do things because they bid them, without seeing the things asserted, or first commanded, in the word of God.


For in that sense God alone is men’s Father, Christ alone their Master. Pastors and teachers in the church are all but ministers, ministers of Christ to publish his will and to enjoin his laws; nor must any be owned as masters and fathers, to impose their laws and doctrines. This is twice repeated, because such is the corruption of human nature, that it is very prone, not only to affect these swelling titles, but also to exercise these exorbitant authorities.” (3)

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on Matthew 23:10:

“Neither be ye called masters – That is, leaders, guides, for this is the literal meaning of the word. It refers to those who go before others, who claim, therefore, the right to direct and control others. This was also a title conferred on Jewish teachers.


Neither of these commands forbids us to give proper titles of civil office to men, or to render them the honor belonging to their station, Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17. They prohibit the disciples of Jesus from seeking or receiving mere empty titles, producing distinctions among themselves, implying authority to control the opinions and conduct of others, and claiming that others should acknowledge them to be superior to them.” (4)

As we see from Poole and Barnes, Matthew 23:10 does not forbid the use of titles to Christ’s ministers. What do the warnings about titles mean?

From William Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary on Matthew 23:9-10:


“Over against this vice of pomposity, so characteristic of many a Pharisee or scribe, Jesus commends the virtue of humility: 8–10. But as for yourselves, do not let the people call you rabbi, for One is your Teacher, and all of you are brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, the One in heaven. And do not let the people call you leaders; for One is your Leader, namely, Christ. Those who think that Jesus is here condemning the idea of an apostolic office are clearly mistaken. Was it not the Master himself who instituted the office? See 10:1, 5, 40; 18:18; John 20:21–23. Cf. Acts 1:15–26; 6:1–6; 13:1–3; 14:23; 20:28; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1, 2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 12:12; Gal. 1:1; Philem. 8, 9. In the light of both the preceding and the following context the statement is justified that what Jesus is here condemning is the yearning for rank, for special recognition above one’s fellow members. He is declaring that he alone is their Teacher. “The Father in heaven” alone is their Father; Christ alone, their Leader. It is not wrong, of course, to address one’s immediate male ancestor as “father.” However, here in 23:9 Jesus is not speaking about physical or earthly fatherhood, but about fatherhood in the spiritual sphere.

The warning was necessary. Many a Jew must have envied the man who was called “rabbi” (loosely translated, “teacher”); or, if a member of the Sanhedrin was addressed as “father” (Acts 7:2); or, if already departed from this earthly scene, having left behind him an illustrious memory, was referred to by the same title (Rom. 4:12; 1 Cor. 10:1; James 2:21). The epithet “leader” or “guide,” ascribed perhaps—this is not certain—to a beloved and highly honored teacher, sounded alluring. So Jesus is saying that the attention of his followers must not be fixed on human titles and distinctions but on God in Christ, worthy of all reverence, praise, and honor.

The objection may be raised, however, that Paul, by implication, calls himself the “father” of the Corinthians and of Timothy, and even the “mother” of the Galatians (respectively in 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Tim. 1:2, and Gal. 4:19). However, to state a fact is one thing; to yearn for distinctions and honors above one’s fellowmen, and unrelated to the glory that is due to Christ, is something different. It is the latter that Jesus condemns. It is clear from the Corinthian context that it was only “in Christ Jesus” that Paul had begotten the Corinthians through the gospel. So also it was only in a secondary sense that Paul could call himself Timothy’s father. He calls Timothy “(my) genuine child in faith,” and, according to Paul’s teaching, faith is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8). As the context makes very plain (see 1Tim. 1:12), Paul thanks Christ Jesus for having enabled him to be of service. Finally, also in the Galatian passage the emphasis is not on Paul but on Christ: “My dear children, for whom I am again suffering birth-pangs until Christ be formed in you.” There is therefore nothing in any of these passages that can be considered to be in conflict with Matt. 23:8–10.” (5)


John Calvin on Matthew 23:9-10:


“9. And call no man on earth your Father. He claims for God alone the honor of Father, in nearly the same sense as he lately asserted that he himself is the only Master; for this name was not assumed by men for themselves, but was given to them by God. And therefore it is not only lawful to call men on earth fathers, but it would be wicked to deprive them of that honor. Nor is there any importance in the distinction, which some have brought forward, that men, by whom children have been begotten, are fathers according to the flesh, but that God alone is the Father of spirits. I readily acknowledge that in this manner God is sometimes distinguished from men, as in Hebrews 12:5, but as Paul more than once calls himself a spiritual father, (1 Corinthians 4:15; Philippians 2:22,) we must see how this agrees with the words of Christ. The true meaning therefore is that the honor of a father is falsely ascribed to men, when it obscures the glory of God. Now this is done, whenever a mortal man, viewed apart from God, is accounted a father, since all the degrees of relationship depend on God alone through Christ, and are held together in such a manner that, strictly speaking, God alone is the Father of all.


  1. For one is your Master, even Christ. He repeats a second time the former statement about Christ’s office as Master, in order to inform us that the lawful order is, that God alone rules over us, and possess the power and authority of a Father, and that Christ subject all to his doctrine, and have them as disciples; as it is elsewhere said, that Christ is the only head of the whole Church, (Ephesians 1:22).” (6)

In closing:

From the commentary and Scriptural evidence, it does not appear that the mere use of the word “father” or other titles is a problem. It is the misuse of the title when used to exalt oneself or used to manipulate, and control other men.

This warning against titles must be understood as those using a title like the Pharisees. To be seen of men. Using a title as a means of control over others. Binding men’s conscience to them rather than the Word of God.

Another consideration:

The Greek form of the word “clergy” is “kleros. “Kleros” refers to a group of people in 1Peter 5:2-3. In 1Peter, we learn where the elders are exhorted to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care.

From Strong’s Concordance:

kléros: a lot

Original Word: κλῆρος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: kléros

Phonetic Spelling: (klay’-ros)

Definition: a lot

Usage: (a) a lot, (b) a portion assigned; hence, a portion of the people of God assigned to one’s care, a congregation.

The Greek form of the word “laity” is “Laos,” which Strong gives the number 2992 and defines it as “people.”

Laity/Clergy, the Laos/Kleros are both the people of God.

Rather than an outright ban on the use of titles, Matthew 23:9-10 is a warning to the overseers of Christ’s Church not to exalt themselves or to Lord it over the people of God. It is the misuse of titles, not the use of titles themselves, which are the problem.


“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)


  1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Matthew, Vol.15., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 397.
  2. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Text Courtesy of
  3. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 108-109.
  4. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Matthew, Vol.1, p. 385-385.
  5. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 824-825.
  6. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Matthew, Volume Vol.3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 80.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

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The Canards of Unbelief

The Canards of Unbelief by Jack Kettler

This study will look at a few examples of usual canards that non-believers try to pass off as reasons they do not go to church or for not believing in the truth claims of the Christian Faith. The approach in this study will be one that utilizes the Socratic technique of questioning as a response to the non-believers when they pull these canards out of the grab bag of excuses.

The three questions of the Socratic technique:

1. What do you mean?

This question forces a person to define their terminology and gets beyond surface language similarity.

2. How do you know that?

This question forces the person to give reasons for their definitions. Are they parroting things that they heard out of the grab bag of excuses?

3. What are the implications of this viewpoint?

This question makes a person look to the conclusion of where their position leads. Are they logically consistent or contradictory? Are their conclusions biblical?

In canards 1-5, the reader will get to see how to apply these questions to real-life situations.

The example of Jesus asking questions:

As in the case of Christ, sometimes it is better to ask counter questions. In other words, question the questioner.

Jesus asked questions as a response, which get right to the heart of an issue.

In Matthew, we read how the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a series of questions. Instead, Jesus caught them with His counter questions.

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? They say unto him, the son of David. He saith unto them, how then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41-46)

Synonyms of canard; exaggeration, fabrication, falsehood, untruth, rumor

Canard 1:

“The church is full of hypocrites.”

What do you mean by hypocrite? How do you know that the church is full of hypocrites? Does a personal observation support this contention? If so, explain. Are other organizations full of hypocrites? If so, how does this affect how you live?

Canard 2:

“Christians are always judging other people.”

What do you mean by judging or judgment? How do you know that this is true? Can you provide a personal example of Christians judging? Do you never make judgments? Are all judgments wrong? Were the Nazi’s wrong to kill the Jew? Is that a judgment? Do you ever say that things are right or wrong? Why, since this is judging? How can you live without making judgments?

Canard 3:

“I do not like organized religion. I have a personal relationship with God that can take place in the mountains.”

What do you mean by organized? How do you know your assertion is true regarding personal as opposed to organized? Have you ever been a member of organized religion? If so, when and where?

So you do like something that is organized. Why is disorganized better? Do you like organized sports or disorganized sports?

What do you mean by a personal relationship with God? How do you define God? How do you know that God approves of your approach? How often do you go into the mountains to worship God?

Canard 4:

“The church is a business.”

How do you define business? How do you define religion or church? Can a church and business have similarities and yet be different? Is your assertion that the church is a business a personal observation? Are you saying that all businesses are wrong or just churches?

Canard 5:

“The church is backward, and it is not relevant for today.”

What do you mean by backwards or relevant? How do you know that the church is not relevant? In what way is the church not relevant? Is this assertion from personal experience?

Are all ideas and practices from the past discredited? How so? What about Plato’s Republic, and Aristotelian ethics?

The goal of questioning the questioner is to cut to the chase so to speak and get to the important aspect of the canard, and exposing the canard for what it is, namely, an excuse for unbelief.

The Socratic questioning process must be done with sensitivity. You are not trying to win an argument and make someone look bad. Sometimes it is helpful to ask the questions in the third person. For example, “what if someone asked you, ‘How do you know the church is full of hypocrites?’” The first person can be viewed as a more direct and personal challenge. Depending on the person, this could be threatening to cause the person to become defensive. If this happens, remind the individual it was they who made the accusation about the church.

The gospel in a nutshell:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

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Romans 13 and the Limits of submission to the Church or State

Romans 13 and the Limits of submission to the Church or State                   by Jack Kettler

The following essay will touch on the issue of submission to the State or Church. It will be argued that there are limits to submission to both entities in the created order. Are the Church co-equal in God’s created order? Is the State above the Church or visa versa?

In Scripture, there are commands to submit to the State, (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14), and Church (Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 13:17).

Are these commands absolute?

Starting with the Church:

In Hebrews, 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them…” Church membership vows show the seriousness of this.

For example, in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) membership vow number five says:

“Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?”

The Marks of a True Church:

  • The gospel is preached
  • The sacraments are administered biblically
  • Church discipline practiced

If the Church fails in these three, Church members must follow the process outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 to resolve disputes. If the Church’s is unfaithful to the above bullet points, members are freed from their vows and can conclude that the said Church is no longer the Church, and may depart.

On a much larger scale, this is what happened in the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, it must be admitted that there are limits to submission to a Church. The Church may cease to be the Church because of apostasy. For example, there is the Church of Thyatira that tolerated apostasy in Revelation 2:18-29.

Now to consider the State:

Principally, Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14 are the key texts that require submission to State authority.

Considering the Romans 13 text:

“1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” (Romans 13:1-7)

God ordains the State like the Church, and submission is required. Does this section in Romans 13 require Christians to submit to totalitarian Nazi-like governments? If so, does this mean Christians must turn their Jewish neighbors over to the authorities? If the passage teaches this, it seems to end up in contradiction to other passages like “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” (Mark 12:31). Turning a neighbor over to psychotic Nazi Gestapo killers is not loving them. If a representative of the State rapes or murders someone, are these same representatives immune from prosecution?

In Romans 13:7 of the text, it says “all their dues…” Is the word “due” a subtle qualifier? Were Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot “due” honor? These named leaders came into power via revolution and political subterfuge. It is true that no one rules without God’s providential control. It is also true that even a corrupt government is better than complete anarchy.

Is this section of Romans a complete treatise on civil government? Does this passage allow for the development of democratic forms of government influenced by the whole orb of biblical teaching and mechanisms that hold representatives of the State accountable and liable to prosecution for crimes committed by them? Does the development of theology stop at this point in redemptive history? This question is not about an open canon. It is about the application of Scripture-based upon a more excellent knowledge of the whole of Scripture.

In verse 4 of Romans 13, the duties of the State are seen, namely “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Verse 6 says, “…for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”

Marks of the God-ordained State:

  • God’s ministers are ordained and not a terror to good works.
  • Continual executing wrath against evildoers.
  • Because of fear of God’s ministers, evil is deterred.

Evil must be defined biblically, or the word evil is arbitrary has no meaning. In the present-day, are representatives of a State a terror to good works or not? Is the State continually attending to executing wrath against evildoers? Is evil dissuaded or encouraged by these rulers. Have State representatives become a terror to good works? If Romans 13:1-7 teach unlimited submission to the State, this is a perfect proof text for the divine right of Kings.

What if the State stops executing wrath against evildoers and turns its guns on the Church becoming a terror to Christ’s Church, verse 3? Verses four and six spell out specific duties of government ministers. It must be concluded that Roman 13:1-7 does not require unlimited to the State any more than to the Church. The bullet points of the State’s responsibility are qualifiers like those that the Church has.

State power is not unlimited any more than Church power is:

Can the State fail like a Church?  If so, does this free a citizen from a pledge of unlimited submission? If the State can fail like an apostate Church, a citizen, and more importantly, a true Church of Christ must have recourse to address or ignore a Statist decree when the State is no longer fulfilling its duty as a punisher of evildoers. If a Statist decree is based upon a provable lie, must a Christian submit? If living under a monarchy, waiting for the next election will not work.

There are tensions and potential conflicts between Romans 13:1-7 and Acts 5:29. As asked previously, is Romans 13:1-7 absolute and a treatise on Church, State, and the individual’s relations with the State? In chapter three, Daniel and his friends chose God over the Babylonian tyrants. Do these texts from Daniel and Acts contradict Roman 13? If not, then there is biblical precedent for rejecting the unlimited submission view to the State.

In the Old Testament, there was the prophet, priest, and king. These offices were combined and fulfilled in the person of Lord Jesus Christ. God’s governing power was separated in the Old Testament. In the New Testament revelation, the Church of Christ is given far more prominence than the State. Nevertheless, based upon one section of Scripture in Romans 13, the State is elevated above the Church, and the Church is to submit without question. This could be described as the superiority of the State over the Church doctrine. If this is true, what happened to the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Examples from history:

In Scotland, John Knox challenged the civil authorities’ who were influenced by the corrupt Church of his day by holding services on weekdays to counter what the Romanist priests spoke about on Sundays. His rebuke to England in (1554) led to the development in theology known as resistance to tyrants. He defended the right and duty of the common people to resist if State officials ruled contrary to Scripture. Knox even said, “Resistance to tyranny is a duty to God.” It seems that Knox is in conflict with Romans 13 if an unlimited view of submission to the government is taken. If there are limits on the application to Romans 13, then Knox was justified. If not, then Knox is wrong and must be judged as misinterpreting Scripture.

The Calvinist Connection by David Kopel,” from the Independence Institute:

“In the American colonies, the hotbed of revolution was New England, where the people were mainly Congregationalists–descendants of the Calvinist English Puritans. The Presbyterians, a Calvinist sect, which originated in Scotland, were spread all of the colonies, and the network of Presbyterian ministers provided links among them. The Congregationalist and Presbyterian ministers played an indispensible role in inciting the American Revolution.

To understand why they were so comfortable with revolution, it helps to look at the origins of Calvinist resistance theory, from its tentative beginnings with Calvin himself, to its full development a few decades later.

Born in 1509, John Calvin was a small child in France when the Reformation began. By 1541, he had been invited to take permanent refuge in Geneva, which provided a safe haven for the rest of his life. Geneva was a walled city, and constantly threatened by the Catholic Duke of Savoy and others. Pacifism was never a realistic option for Calvin, or any of the Swiss Protestants.

Calvin always believed that governments should be chosen by the people. He described the Hebrews as extremely foolish for jettisoning their free government and replacing it with a hereditary monarchy. He also came to believe that kings and princes were bound to their people by covenant, such as those that one sees in the Old Testament.

In Calvin’s view, which was based on Romans 13, the governmental duties of “inferior magistrates” (government officials, such as mayor or governors, in an intermediate level between the king and the people) required them to protect the people against oppression from above. Calvinism readily adopted the Lutheran theory of resistance by such magistrates.

In a commentary on the Book of Daniel, Calvin observed that contemporary monarchs pretend to reign “by the grace of God,” but the pretense was “a mere cheat” so that they could “reign without control.” He believed that “Earthly princes depose themselves while they rise up against God,” so ‘it behooves us to spit upon their heads than to obey them.’”

See the link below for Kopel’s complete essay.

Is Calvin, when saying, “…it behooves us to spit upon their heads than to obey them” in violation of Romans 13? Calvin must be understood in the context of this saying his doctrine of the civil magistrates and separation of powers of the magistrates. Calvin’s view of the separation of powers is also seen in his view of the Church government, which likewise separates Church power.

The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, theologically, are historical examples of God-given rights that the individual possesses recognized by the State.

From the Library of Congress:

“[The] Magna Carta exercised a strong influence both on the United States Constitution and on the constitutions of the various states. However, its influence was shaped by what eighteenth-century Americans believed Magna Carta to signify. Magna Carta was widely held to be the people’s reassertion of rights against an oppressive ruler, a legacy that captured American distrust of concentrated political power. In part because of this tradition, most of the state constitutions included declarations of rights intended to guarantee individual citizens a list of protections and immunities from the state government. The United States also adopted the Bill of Rights, in part, due to this political conviction.”

Despite this development in the area of civil rights, according to some and their interpretation of Romans 13, the Magna Carta, American War for Independence, and the Bill of Rights never should have happened or only did so in violation of Romans 13.

“Sphere Sovereignty” a solution:

Sphere sovereignty (Dutch: souvereiniteit in eigen kring), also known as differentiated responsibility, is the concept that each sphere (or sector) of life has its own distinct responsibilities and authority or competence, and stands equal to other spheres of life. – Wikipedia

Is Abraham Kuyper’s “Sphere Sovereignty,” which involves a separate sphere for the Church, State, Family, and Work Biblical? If so, can “sphere sovereignty,” resolve the conflict between present-day God-ordained institutions?

Present-day Church/State relations:    

Currently, there is a purported virus pandemic. In the United States, some individual states have locked down Churches from holding worship services and placed stringent rules to be followed subject to threats of fines and imprisonment.

Under the guise of the pandemic, the State has moved against the Church in an unprecedented way in some of these United States to restrict the Church from its activities, including weddings, funerals, communion services, and baptisms. In some States, congregants are urged to wear masks and not get to close to each other. Unknown unelected faceless health experts limit the number of congregants permitted to attend Church.

If John Calvin’s view of differing levels and separation of powers in the magistrates is right, Christians can dispute a lower magistrate by appealing to a higher power. In States that have overreached into Church affairs, legal action should be taken against the State. The application of these alleged pandemic rules vary from State to State, are inconsistent and discriminatory. In Colorado, for example, Pot shops were deemed essential, and Church services were not. Pot shops remained open, and Church services were canceled.

Are there limits on the local State and Federal State?

Can a State tax the Church? Does Romans 13:1-7 sanction a tax by the State upon the Church? Can a State ban particular food like pork from a Church dinner under the guise of good health or not offending Muslims? Can a State prohibit congregants from carrying concealed firearms to Church? Can a State forbid the Church to teach that homosexuality is a sin? Can a State require congregants to dress in clown costumes at Church because people wearing clown costumes have not contracted a yearly virus or flue at the same rate as others in society?

Romans 13:1-7 is not an end-all debate treatise on the power of the State. The passage allows for doctrinal impute from other Scriptures. This means that the doctrine of accountability or liability applies to the State as well as the Church. Both the State and the Church can fail.

There is not unlimited immunity for either sphere. A priest who molests a child can be prosecuted, as well as a civil magistrate who commits the same crime, can also be. The examples of John Knox and John Calvin cannot be ignored. If Knox was justified in his description of Queen Mary as a monstrous woman tyrant, it could be concluded that a civil magistrate may also be.

Romans 13:1-7 cannot be interpreted in isolation; it must be qualified in some sense. The Exegesis of Romans 13:1-7 must not be apart from the totality of Scripture. As will be seen, there are other Scriptural considerations that limit the divine right of Kings’ interpretation of Romans 13. In light of the totality of Scripture, the believer is not required such absolute submission to the State, and neither is the Church.

Francis Schaeffer: A Christian Manifesto; Chapter 7: The Limits of Civil Obedience

Thinking to the bottom line:

  1. What is the final relationship to the state on the part of anyone whose base is the existence of God? Those in our present material-energy, chance oriented generation have no reason to obey the state except that the state has the guns and has the patronage.
  2. Has God set up an authority in the state that is autonomous from Himself?

God has ordained the state as a delegated authority; it is not autonomous. Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17 [Comment: Sovereignty (ultimate authority) is an inescapable concept. Autonomy is the view that man is either above the law or lives apart from it.]

Historical examples of civil disobedience by Christians:

  1. William Tyndale, the English translator of the Bible, was condemned as a heretic, tried and executed in 1536.
  2. John Bunyan, a Nonconformist clergyman who was arrested for preaching without a license and failing to attend the Church of England, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in his jail cell.

In almost every place where the Reformation had success, there was some form of civil disobedience or armed rebellion:

  1. Spanish Netherlands: Battle of Leyden, 1574 [The Dutch led by William the Silent won their independence as the United States of the Netherlands].
  2. Sweden: Gustavus Vasa broke Sweden off from Denmark and established the Lutheran church in 1527.
  3. Denmark: The Protestant party of the nobility overthrew the Catholic dynasty in 1536.
  4. Germany: Martin Luther was protected by the Duke of Saxony against the political and military power of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. The Peace of Augsburg of 1555 established the ruler’s religion in the German states. The Counter-Reformation led to the Thirty Years War. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ratified the Peace of Augsburg.
  5. Switzerland: Cantons established Protestantism by vote of the community.
  6. Scotland: John Knox openly defied the authorities by holding services on weekdays to refute what the priests preached on Sundays. His Admonition to England (1554) developed a theology of resistance to tyranny. He upheld the right and duty of the common people to resist if state officials ruled contrary to the Bible. [“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God”] (1)


The notes in the 1559 Geneva Bible said Kings were not to be obeyed if they violated God’s law.

For example, the margin notes for Daniel 6:22 imply that the King’s commands are to be disobeyed if they conflict with the law of God:

“For he [Daniel] disobeyed the king’s wicked commandment in order to obey God, and so he did no injury to the king, who ought to command nothing by which God would be dishonored.” (2)

If the State, by its actions, declares itself God, is submission (Romans 13:1-7) still required? If so, would not submission be breaking the commandment against worshiping false gods?

“If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

The Ninth Commandment:

How is law broken? Those who conceal the truth or openly lie, who formulate a conspiracy, or who spin the truth violate this commandment.

The Westminster larger catechism:

  1. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
  2. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own,[864]especially in public judicature;[865]giving false evidence,[866]suborning false witnesses,[867] wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth;[868] passing unjust sentence,[869] calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked;[870]forgery,[871] concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause,[872] and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves,[873] or complaint to others;[874] speaking the truth unseasonably,[875] or maliciously to a wrong end,[876] or perverting it to a wrong meaning,[877] or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;[878] speaking untruth,[879] lying,[880] slandering,[881] backbiting,[882] detracting, tale bearing,[883] whispering,[884] scoffing,[885] reviling,[886]rash,[887] harsh,[888] and partial censuring;[889] misconstructing intentions, words, and actions;[890] flattering,[891] vain-glorious boasting;[892] thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others;[893] denying the gifts and graces of God;[894] aggravating smaller faults;[895] hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;[896] unnecessary discovering of infirmities;[897] raising false rumors,[898] receiving and countenancing evil reports,[899] and stopping our ears against just defense;[900] evil suspicion;[901] envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any,[902] endeavoring or desiring to impair it,[903] rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy;[904]scornful contempt,[905] fond admiration;[906] breach of lawful promises;[907] neglecting such things as are of good report,[908] and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.[909]

Believing a lie is a sin. God says, “I hate and detest falsehood.” (Psalm 119:163) The catechism speaks of “receiving and countenancing evil reports.” Receiving or believing a lie is a violation of the commandment and applies to both theological and political lies.

Theological and Political lies:

Teaching the Arian or Polytheism doctrines, which are lies, is sin. Believing these lies is sinful also. Politicians routinely speak lies when advocating the redistributing income from one group of citizens to another or promoting sexual deviancy in government indoctrination centers, i.e., public schools.

Not only is it a sin to teach and speak political lies, but it is also a sin to believe political heresies under the ninth commandment. Lies are lies. Teaching and believing lies are breaking the commandment. The ninth commandment has both a positive and a negative aspect to it.

“Thou shall not lie,” the ninth commandment and “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

This means when wicked rulers commanded believers to violate God’s law, believers must follow God and are free from unlimited submission. In addition, with the Bible in their hand, believers can call political leaders to repentance.

In conclusion:

Theological lies and political lies are both lies. The elders of the Church must protect the flock from lies from arising within the Church, and State. Exposing theological lies can be technical. The same is true with political lies like stealing from your neighbors or the advocacy of baby killing, i.e., abortion. The standard for exposing lies are the Scriptures.

Therefore, Church leaders, just as well as Political leaders, are not due unlimited submission.

If this is not true, then be the first on your block to turn in your Jewish or other politically incorrect neighbors. Stop homeschooling your children. Turn them over to the State for indoctrination into abominable sexual practices. Be sure to line up your children to get the latest vaccines derived from aborted fetal stem cell lines along with a good combination of toxic metals. If absolute submission were what must be followed, many of our fellow citizens would still be slaves according to race.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


  1. Francis Schaeffer: Vol. 5, A Christian Manifesto; Chapter 7: The Limits of Civil Obedience, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Books), pp. 467-474.
  2. Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson), 156.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

Romans 13: Reading an Abused Text of Scripture Rightly

The Biblical Doctrine of Government by R. J. Rushdoony

The Calvinist Connection by Dave Kopel

The Calvinist Connection by Dave Kopel

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Church Membership, a Scriptural Primer

Church Membership, a Scriptural Primer by Jack Kettler

This study will cover the issue of church membership. Is it biblical? What texts of Scripture are used to support church membership? Can arguments be deduced from Scripture in support of registered church membership? These questions will be considered in this study primer.

In the Westminster Confession of Faith (1:6) [1] we read:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”


The biblical basis for enrolled church membership in the New Testament can be deduced scripturally by the existence of church government, the exercise of church discipline, and sharing exhortations for edification, the giving of tithes and offerings, and submission to those that rule over you, i.e., elders.

First, what is the church?

KJV Dictionary Definition: church:


1. A house consecrated to the worship of God, among Christians; the Lord’s house. This seems to be the original meaning of the word. The Greek, to call out or call together, denotes an assembly or collection. But, Lord, a term applied by the early Christians to Jesus Christ; and the house in which they worshipped was named from the title. So church goods, bona ecclesiastica; the Lords day, dies Dominica.

2. The collective body of Christians, or of those who profess to believe in Christ, and acknowledge him to be the Savior of mankind. In this sense, the church is sometimes called the Catholic or Universal Church.

3. A particular number of christens, united under one form of ecclesiastical government, in one creed, and using the same ritual and ceremonies; as the English church; the Gallican church; the Presbyterian church; the Romish church; the Greek church.

4. The followers of Christ in a particular city or province; as the church of Ephesus, or of Antioch.

5. The Disciples of Christ assembled for worship in a particular place, as in a private house. Col. 4.

6. The worshipers of Jehovah or the true God, before the advent of Christ; as the Jewish church.

7. The body of clergy, or ecclesiastics, in distinction from the laity. Hence, ecclesiastical authority.

8. An assembly of sacred rulers convened in Christ’s name to execute his laws.

9. The collective body of Christians, who have made a public profession of the Christian religion, and who are united under the same pastor; in distinction from those who belong to the same parish, or ecclesiastical society, but have made no profession of their faith.

A description of church membership:

Membership in a local church consists of a believer making a public covenant with a particular group of believers. This covenant involves a commitment to worship the Lord corporately, edifying fellow believer by exhortations, praying for the fellow saints, the giving of tithes and offerings to support God’s Church and the expansion of His kingdom.

Church membership is based upon, and its roots found in the Old Testament:

Israel kept detailed genealogies, which are seen in several Old Testament books. These genealogies were written rolls used to establish membership in Israel.

The Levitical priesthood:

Priests could only be from the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron. If a man could not prove his genealogical record, he was incapable to serve as a priest.

For example:

“These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.” (Ezra 2:62)

Registration records were crucial to making this determination.

Additional textual records kept in the Old Testament:

“The LORD records as he registers the peoples, ‘this one was born there.’ Selah” (Psalm 87:6 ESV)

In Psalm 86:6, it says the LORD registers, the peoples. This does not mean that human scribes were not used.

“My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 13:9)

As seen in Ezekiel 13:9, it was a fearful thing not be enrolled in the register of Israel.

“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16)

The “Book of Remembrance” in Malachi the records or registers of those that fear the Lord are written.

This tradition of registering or enrolling continues in the New Testament:

Both Matthew and Luke record the genealogies of Christ.

“To be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (Luke 2:5 ESV)

Strong’s Lexicon on Luke 2:5 and registering:

[He went there] to register

ἀπογράψασθαι (apograpsasthai)

Verb – Aorist Infinitive Middle

Strong’s Greek 583: From apo and grapho, to write off, i.e., enroll.

Unless the New Testament sets aside an Old Testament practice, we are to presume it is still required. Registering and being enrolled in Israel was the norm as it is for the New Testament Church.

The church assembles:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

If there were no membership records, how could it be known who was forsaking the church fellowship? Facial recognition and mental remembering are fraught with errors.

How to we recognize those who have this authority? Can this recognition happen apart from being registered in a local church?

“And to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:23 ESV)

Strong’s Concordance Hebrews 12:23 and enrolled:

apographó: to copy, enroll

Original Word: ἀπογράφω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: apographó

Phonetic Spelling: (ap-og-raf’-o)

Definition: to copy, enroll

Usage: I enroll, inscribe in a register; mid: I give my name for registration (or census-taking).

Hebrews speaks of those enrolled in the heavenly roll. Should not there be a corresponding earthly roll? The earthly roll would not be completely accurate because the “tares and wheat dwelling together” see Matthew 13:24-30. This imperfection of the earthly roll is no reason not to do it. The advantages of an earthly roll are seen in church elections of officers, approval of church operating budgets, participation in the sacraments, and church discipline, etc.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

How could it be known whom the people to submit to are? Is submission due to anyone who calls himself an elder? How would the elders know who oversight is due? A membership roll eliminates problems like these.

How does someone become an elder in the church?

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1Timothy 5:17)

Eldership indicates that there is a localized community of believers. It also means that there is a way for the gifts and talents of members to be recognized and ordination of deacons and elders to take place.

The process in Presbyterian polity happens like this:

1. The session (a body of elected elders) identifies a need for a church office to be filled.

2. The session (a body of elected elders) calls on the congregation to identify and choose competent candidates. It is the church’s solemn approval of and public attestation to a man’s inward call, his gifts, and his calling by the church.

3. The session (a body of elected elders) prays and lays hands on the elected nominees ordaining them into office. Ordination shall be performed by the body, which examines the candidate. In the case of elders and deacons, this would be the ordained elders of the local church, i.e., the session.

Records were kept in the early church:

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)

The early church was numbered (Acts 1:15; 4:4; 16:5) someone did the counting, and it can be seen right in Scripture that the numbers were written down.

An example of a selection process that happened in a church gathering:

“And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.” (Acts 6:5)

Strong’s Concordance on Acts 6:5 and chose:

eklegó: to select

Original Word: ἐκλέγομαι

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: eklegó

Phonetic Spelling: (ek-leg’-om-ahee)

Definition: to select

Usage: choose, elect, select.

As the Strong entry notes, electing was not a foreign concept. Choosing or selecting involves an election process.

Criteria set by the church to support widows:

“Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man…” (1Timothy 5:9)

Someone had to evaluate the cases appealed to the church. A church large enough to have such concerns is a church that is developed beyond an evangelistic outreach meaning there had to be elected church officers.

How are the church sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be carried out without a defined membership?

In Reformed churches, only pastors and elders administrate the sacraments. They attempt to safeguard the Lord’s table that only those who are biblically eligible are included. Eldership requires oversight responsibilities.

How would church discipline take place as outlined by Matthew without a defined membership?

“Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

It is logically impossible to reconcile the doctrine of discipline and its application, where there is no defined membership. The rights of an accused should be protected, meaning that some things must be done in confidence, similar to a closed executive session. It is not fair to the accused to have visitors from off the street come in participate hearing of charges and joining with the congregants to determine the validity of accusations.

How can an excommunicated person be “taken away from among you” in 1Corinthians 5:2?

Church discipline implies there is some recognizable way to remove an unrepentant sinner from the church. The discipline process must be recorded for future review. In some cases, the excommunicated party repents and is re-admitted to the church. If many years go by before this happens, there may be new elders who are unfamiliar with the church’s previous actions. Therefore, written records are imperative.

The removing of the person from the roll and then announcing it to the church is for members only. Without formal membership, credible discipline that preserves confidentiality is impossible. Without formal membership and confidentiality during the discipline process, the process may be nothing more than hearsay or slander. False accusations are real.

Slander is evil, which is Paul says:

“Slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents.” (Romans 1:30 ESV)

What does to “those inside the church mean”?

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1Corinthians 5:12 ESV)

How can it be determined who is inside the church unless there is a membership roll? To be enrolled in the membership, some type of minimally credible confession of faith is necessary.

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)

The Book of Life in John’s Revelation records all people considered righteous before God.

As Revelation notes, God keeps a roll.

In closing:

The people of Israel were numbered and enrolled. Why it is even questioned that this same practice would not be carried over into the New Covenant people of God is disconcerting. Arguments deduced from Scripture in this primer have been numerous.

Paul directs the church:

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” (Acts 6:3)

The apostolic “appointing” is the conclusion of a process that includes the congregation. Moreover, the Bible says that the “whole congregation” selected the “Seven” and brought them to the apostles (Acts 6:5-6).

A one-person rule type figure usually leads churches that do not have an enrolled membership with requirements that translate into membership privileges such as voting rights for officers and finances. Sometimes this phenomenon is called the Moses model of church government. The Moses model of church government is unknown in the New Testament. Elders, not one-person rule churches in the New Testament.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:


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Herman Bavinck b. 1854 – d. 1921

Herman Bavinck b. 1854 – d. 1921

Herman Bavinck (13 December 1854, Hoogeveen, Drenthe – 29 July 1921, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield. Notable work four volume Reformed Dogmatics. Vol. 1 Prolegomena; Vol. 2 God and Creation; Vol. 3 Sin and Salvation; Vol. 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. From Wikipedia

Herman Bavinck quotes:

“The resurrection is the fundamental restoration of all culture.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“And these two things, the love of God and Christ’s satisfaction, had to and could go hand in hand because we were simultaneously the object of his love as his creatures and the object of his wrath as sinners.” – Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ

“Without revelation religion sinks back into a pernicious superstition.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“The cross is the divine settlement with the divine condemnation of sin.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“The task of dogmatics is precisely to rationally reproduce the content of revelation that relates to the knowledge of God.” – Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics : Volume 1: Prolegomena

“The more deeply we live, the more we feel in sympathy with Augustine, and the less with Pelagius.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“Thus the true, the good and the beautiful which ethical culture seeks can only come to perfection when the absolute good is at the same time the almighty, divine will, which not only prescribes the good in the moral law, but also works it effectually in man himself. The heteronomy of law and the autonomy of man are reconciled only by this theonomy.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“Revelation in nature and revelation in Scripture form, in alliance with each other, a harmonious unity which satisfies the requirements of the intellect and the needs of the heart alike.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“We have no historical testimony to the development of polytheism into pure monotheism;” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“If the moral law or the ideal good indeed exists outside of us, then it must be grounded in and be one with the Godhead.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

“By banishing metaphysics, materialism has no longer an ethical system, knows no longer the distinction between good and evil, possesses no moral law, no duty, no virtue, and no highest good.” – Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation

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Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way… By Jack Kettler

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

What does Kiss mean in the passage? In addition, who is the Son? In Psalm 2:7 we learn who the Son is:

“I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7 ESV)

From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Psalm 2:7 we learn who the Son is:

“2:7-9 – The kingdom of the Messiah is founded upon an eternal decree of God the Father. This our Lord Jesus often referred to, as what he governed himself by. God hath said unto him, Thou art my Son, and it becomes each of us to say to him, Thou art my Lord, my Sovereign’. The Son, in asking the heathen for his inheritance, desires their happiness in him; so that he pleads for them, ever lives to do so, and is able to save to the uttermost, and he shall have multitudes of willing, loyal subjects, among them. Christians are the possession of the Lord Jesus; they are to him for a name and a praise. God the Father gives them to him, when, by his Spirit and grace, he works upon them to submit to the Lord Jesus.” (1)

Various translations of Psalms 2:12:

Submit to God’s royal son… (New Living Translation)

Do homage to the Son… (New American Standard Bible)

Show respect to his son… (Contemporary English Version)

Pay homage to the Son… (Christian Standard Bible)

Kiss the Chosen One… (Young’s Literal Translation)

From Strong’s Lexicon:


נַשְּׁקוּ־ (naš·šə·qū-)

Verb – Piel – Imperative – masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 5401: 1) to put together, kiss 1a) (Qal) to kiss 1b) (Piel) to kiss 1c) (Hiphil) to touch gently 2) to handle, be equipped with 2a) (Qal) to be equipped

From KJV today:

The KJV translates “נשׁקו־בר (nashku bar)” as “kiss the son.” The meaning of the verb “נשׁקו (nashku)” is not so much in dispute. “Kiss” is the literal translation (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions) and “do homage” is a paraphrase of “kiss.” The idea is that kissing demonstrates the subject’s reverence towards the master. The KJV keeps the literal rendering.

Kiss from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

armed men, rule, kiss, that touched

A primitive root (identical with nasaq, through the idea of fastening up; compare chazaq, chashaq); to kiss, literally or figuratively (touch); also (as a mode of attachment), to equip with weapons — armed (men), rule, kiss, that touched.

Synonyms for the various translations of nashaq:

Submit – yield, give way, back down, bow, defer, agree, consent, accede, conform, acquiesce, comply, and accept

Homage – respect, honor, tribute, allegiance, devotion, loyalty, praise

Respect – esteem, regard, and acclaim, admiration, appreciation, estimation, favor, popularity, recognition, veneration, awe, reverence, deference, honor, praise, homage

Kiss – endearment, salutation, salute, homage

Son in Psalm 2:7 from Strong’s Concordance:

ben: son

Original Word: בֵּן

Part of Speech: Noun Masculine

Transliteration: ben

Phonetic Spelling: (bane)

Definition: son

The Son in Psalm 2:12 from Strong’s Lexicon:

the Son,

בַ֡ר (ḇar)

Noun – masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 1248: 1) son, heir

What is the difference between ben and bar in verse 7 and 12?

Both do indeed mean “son” or “son of.” But “ben” בן is Hebrew and “bar” בר is Aramaic. … Bar is Aramaic, and Ben is Hebrew. Bar-Mitzvah comes from the Aramaic. The Bar-Mitzvah is the religious ceremony of initiation for a Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13 and is ready to observe religious principles and worthy to take part in community worship.

Two significant Cross References for Psalms 2:12:

“And they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Revelation 6:16 Berean Study Bible)

“Be merciful to me, O God; be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” (Psalm 57:1 ESV)

If you refuse to do “Homage” or to “Kiss” the Son of God, you will experience the warning spelled out in the passage, “…lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” (ESV)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Psalm 2:12:

“Kiss, in token of your subjection and adoration; whereof this was a sign among the Eastern nations, as is manifest both from Scripture, as 1 Samuel 10:1 1 Kings 19:18 Hosea 13:2, and from heathen authors. Submit to his person and government.

The Son, to wit, the Son of God, as appears from Psalm 2:7, called here the Son, by way of eminency, and in a singular manner; which agrees much better to Christ than to David, who is never particularly called by this name.

And ye perish from the way, i.e. be taken out of the way by death or destruction; or, perish out of the way, i.e. by losing the right way, by taking wrong and evil courses, the end of which will be your certain and utter ruin; or, for the way, i.e. for your evil way or manner of living, for your perverse and foolish course of opposing my Son instead of submitting to him. Or, in (which particle is oft. understood) the way, i.e. in your wicked way or course, in the midst of your plots and rebellions against him; and so you will die in your sins, as it is expressed, John 8:24, which is a sad aggravation of their death, and therefore here fitly proposed as a powerful argument to dissuade them from such dangerous and destructive courses.

But a little, i.e. the least degree, of his anger is very terrible, much more the heat and height of it, caused by such a desperate provocation as this is. Or, for his wrath will be kindled shortly, or suddenly, or within a very little time, as this word is used, Psalm 81:14 Song of Solomon 3:4 Isaiah 26:20. His patience will not last always, but will shortly be turned into fury; and therefore take heed that you neither deny nor delay subjection to him, but speedily comply with his offers and commands before it be too late.

They that put their trust in him; who put themselves under his power and protection, believing in him, and expecting safety and happiness from him; which cannot with any colour be applied to David, who always dissuades all men from putting their trust in princes, or in any men or thing besides or below God, Psalm 20:7 44:6 62:6-8 118:8 146:3, and every where; and therefore it would very ill have become him to invite others to put their trust in him. And he is pronounced cursed that trusteth in man, Jeremiah 17:5. But Christ is every where propounded as an object of trust, not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old, as Isaiah 28:16; and therefore they are most truly and fitly said to be

blessed that put their trust in him. Under which sentence the contrary is implied, that they are most cursed and miserable creatures that provoke and oppose him; and so cursed and miserable that David dreaded the very thoughts and mention of it, and therefore expresseth it by the contrary and blessed condition of his friends and subjects. And such-like significations of the miseries of sinners by the blessedness of others opposed to them we have Matthew 23:39 Revelation 14:13.” (2)

Why the translation of nashaq, Kiss?

“In favor of the traditional translation are the context of the psalm (submission to the Lord and to the anointed), the proposal by Delitzsch that the sequence bar pen (“Son, lest”) avoids the dissonance of ben pen (KD, 1:98), and the suggestion by Craigie that the usage of the Aramaism may be intentionally directed to the foreign nations (Psalms 1-50, p. 64).” (3)

In closing, consider John Calvin on Psalm chapter 2:12:

“Psalm 2:12

12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when [29] his wrath is kindled in a moment. O blessed are all who put their trust in him.

David expresses yet more distinctly what kind of fear and service God requires. Since it is the will of God to reign by the hand of his Son, and since he has engraved on his person the marks and insignia of his own glory, the proper proof of our obedience and piety towards him is reverently to embrace his Son, whom he has appointed king over us, according to the declaration,

“He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath sent him,” (John 5:23)

The term kiss refers to the solemn token or sign of honor which subjects were wont to yield to their sovereigns. The sum is that God is defrauded of his honor if he is slot served in Christ. The Hebrew word vr Bar, signifies both a son and an elect person; but in whatever way you take it, the meaning will remain the same. Christ was truly chosen of the Father, who has given him all power, that he alone should stand pre-eminent above both men and angels. On which account also he is said to be “sealed” by God, (John 6:27) because a peculiar dignity was, conferred upon him, which removes him to a distance from all creatures. Some interpreters expound it, kiss or embrace what is pure, [30], which is a strange and rather forced interpretation. For my part, I willingly retain the name of son, which answers well to a former sentence, where it was said, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”

What follows immediately after is a warning to those who despise Christ, that their pride shall not go unpunished, as if he had said, As Christ is not despised without indignity being done to the Father, who hath adorned him with his own glory, so the Father himself will not allow such an invasion of his sacred rights to pass unpunished. And to teach them to beware of vainly deceiving themselves with the hope of a lengthened delay, and from their present ease indulging themselves in vain pleasures, they are plainly told that his wrath will be kindled in a moment. For we see, when God for a time connives at the wicked, and bears with them, how they abuse this forbearance, by growing more presumptuous, because they do not think of his judgments otherwise, than according to sight and feeling. Some interpreters, I know, explain the Hebrew word kmt, Camoat, which we have rendered, in a moment, in a different way, namely, that as soon as God’s wrath is kindled in even a small degree, it will be all over with the reprobate. But it is more suitable to apply it to time, and to view it as a warning to the proud not to harden themselves in their stupidity and indifference, nor flatter themselves from the patience of God, with the hope of escaping unpunished. Moreover, although this word appears to be put for the purpose of giving a reason of what goes before, [31] namely, why those who refuse to kiss the Son shall perish, and although the Hebrew word ky, ki, signifies more frequently for than when, yet I am unwilling to depart from the commonly received translation, and have thought it proper to render the original word by the adverb when, which denotes both the reason and time of what is predicated. Some explain the phrases, to perish from the way, as meaning, a perverse way, or wicked manner of listing. Others resolve it thus, lest your way perish, according to that saying of the first psalm, the way of the ungodly shall perish. But I am rather inclined to attach to the words a different meaning, and to view them as a denunciation against the ungodly, by which they are warned that the wrath of God will cut them off when they think themselves to be only in the middle of their race. We know how the despisers of God are accustomed to flatter themselves in prosperity, and run to great excess in riot. The prophet, therefore, with great propriety, threatens that when they shall say, Peace and safety, reckoning themselves at a great distance from their end, they shall be cut off by a sudden destruction, (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

The concluding sentence of the psalm qualifies what was formerly said concerning the severity of Christ; for his iron rod and the fiery wrath of God would strike terror into all men without distinction, unless this comfort had been added. Having, therefore discoursed concerning the terrible judgment which hangs over the unbelieving, he now encourages God’s faithful and devout servants to entertain good hope, by setting forth the sweetness of his grace. Paul likewise observes the same order, (2 Corinthians 10:6) for having declared that vengeance was in readiness against the disobedient, he immediately adds addressing himself to believers “When your obedience is fulfilled.” Now, we understand the meaning of the Psalmist. As believers might have applied to themselves the severity of which he makes mention, he opens to them a sanctuary of hope, whither they may flee, in order not to be overwhelmed by the terror of God’s wrath; [32] just as Joel (Joel 2:32) also after having summoned the ungodly to the awful judgment-seat of God, which of itself is terrible to men, [33] immediately subjoins the comfort, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For it appears to me that this exclamation, Blessed are all they that put their trust in him, [34] should be read as a distinct sentence by itself. The pronoun him may be referred as well to God as to Christ, but, in my judgment, it agrees better with the whole scope of the psalm to understand it of Christ, whom the Psalmist before enjoined kings and judges of the earth to kiss.”

Calvin’s Footnotes:

[29] Ou, car son, or, for his. — Fr. Marg.

[30] The word vr, Bar, which here signifies son, is also sometimes used to denote pure, as it is in Job 11:4, Psalm 24:4 and Psalm 73:1. In this former sense it is a Chaldee word, in the latter it is a Hebrew one. This rendering, of which Calvin disapproves, is substantially that of the Septuagint, which reads, draxasthe paideias, literally, lay hold upon instruction. But as the Arabic version of the Psalms, which generally follows the Septuagint, has used here (and in many other places, where the Septuangint has paideias) a word which signifies not only instruction, but good morals, virtue, Street thinks that the authors of the Septuangint, by paideias, meant good morals, or virtue in general, and that they understand vr, Bar, as a general expression for the same thing. The Chaldee, Vulgate, and Ethiopic version, also render vr, Bar, by a word meaning doctrine or discipline. “This is a remarkable case,” says Dr. Adam Clark, “and especially that in so pure a piece of Hebrew as this poem is, a Chaldee word should have been found, vr, Bar, instead of vn, Ben, which adds nothing to the strength of the expression, or the elegance of the poetry. I know that vr, Bar, is also pure Hebrew as well as Chaldee; but it is taken in the former language in the sense of purifying, the versions probably understood it so here. Embrace that which is pure, namely, the doctrine of God.”

[31] Pour rendre raison du precedent ascavoir pour quoy c’est qu’ila periront. — Fr.

[32] Pour n’estre point accablez de la frayeur d’ire de Dieu. — Fr.

[33] Qui de soy est espouvantable aux hommes — Fr.

[34] The word ‘sry, ashre, which occurs in the beginning of the psalm, is also used here; and therefore, the word may be rendered, O the blessednesses of all those who put their trust in him.” (4)


1. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Psalms, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 798.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 4.

3. Willem A. VanGemeren, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1991), p. 72.

4. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Psalms, Volume 1V, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 24-25.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:


Interlinear Greek • Interlinear Hebrew • Strong’s Numbers • Englishman’s Greek Concordance • Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance • Parallel Texts

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Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuijper (/ˈkaɪpər/; Dutch: [ˈaːbraːɦɑm ˈkœypər]; 29 October 1837 – 8 November 1920), publicly known as Abraham Kuyper, was Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and also a journalist. He established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which upon its foundation became the second largest Reformed denomination in the country behind the state-supported Dutch Reformed Church.

In addition, he founded a newspaper, the Free University of Amsterdam and the Anti-Revolutionary Party. In religious affairs, he sought to adapt the Dutch Reformed Church to challenges posed by the loss of state financial aid and by increasing religious pluralism in the wake of splits that the church had undergone in the 19th century, rising Dutch nationalism, and the Arminian religious revivals of his day which denied predestination.[1] He vigorously denounced modernism in theology as a fad that would pass away. In politics, he dominated the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) from its founding in 1879 to his death in 1920. He promoted pillarisation, the social expression of the anti-thesis in public life, whereby Protestant, Catholic and secular elements each had their own independent schools, universities and social organizations. From Wikipedia

Abraham Kuyper quotes:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” – Abraham Kuyper

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” – Abraham Kuyper

“Whatever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand – in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science – he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of God. He is employed in the service of his God. He has strictly to obey his God. And above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.” – Abraham Kuyper

“The question is not if the candidate’s heart is favorable to Christianity, but if he has Christ as his starting point even for politics, and will speak out His name!” – Abraham Kuyper

“The Holy Scripture is like a diamond: in the dark it is like a piece of glass, but as soon as the light strikes it the water begins to sparkle, and the scintillation of life greets us.” – Abraham Kuyper

“Every State-formation, every assertion of the power of the magistrate, every mechanical means of compelling order and of guaranteeing a safe course of life is therefore always something unnatural;” – Abraham Kuyper

“All authority of governments on earth originates from the Sovereignty of God alone.” – Abraham Kuyper

“Calvinism has a sharply-defined starting-point of its own for the three fundamental relations of all human existence: viz., our relation to God, to man, and to the world. For our relation to God: an immediate fellowship of man with Eternal, independently of priest or church. For the relation of man to man: the recognition in each person of human worth, which is his by virtue of his creation after the Divine likeness, and therefore of the equality of all men before God and his magistrate. And for our relation to the world: the recognition that in the whole world the curse is restrained by grace, that the life of the world is to be honored in its independence, and that we must, in every domain, discover the treasure and develop the potencies hidden by God in nature and in human life.” – Abraham Kuyper

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

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Jesus, “It is written” and Paul, “Do not go beyond what is written”

Jesus, “It is written” and Paul, “Do not go beyond what is written” By Jack Kettler*

When Jesus and the apostle Paul declared the above, they are referring to Scripture. Our Lord, followed by the apostle Paul, is setting forth the written Scriptures as the highest authority.

As in previous studies, definitions will be looked at along with scriptures, commentary evidence, and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how to live.



Also called: Holy Scripture, Holy Writ or the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments


The Scriptures as God speaking:

The apostle Paul in the book of Romans, says, “For the Scripture saith.” It is significant to note when one consults Isaiah 28:16 whom the apostle is quoting, one finds that it is God speaking. Scripture references itself to reinforce its authority.

Looking at the text in Isaiah that Paul is quoting:

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)
(Underlining emphasis is mine throughout this study)

Another example of this is in Romans:

“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)

Was God speaking or the Scriptures? If there is any doubt, we know for sure after reading Exodus 9:16 that it is God speaking, whereas, Romans says, “the Scripture saith.”

Again, looking at the text, Paul is quoting from Exodus. Notice the personal pronouns:

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

Therefore, God and the Scriptures are so closely identified as to be synonymous. In essence, we learn from these examples, “thus saith the Lord God” and the phrase “the Scriptures saith” can be and are used interchangeably.

Part 1, Jesus “it is written:”

The importance of the written Scriptures:

Christ’s view of Scripture:

“If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)

The Scriptures to be written down:

God’s Word was to be written down and set forth as truth that is superior to the oral traditions and the utterances of men. The inscription of God’s Word is the prima facie blueprint that is outlined in the Scriptures.

The inscription of God’s Word gives us an objective divine standard to determine the truth.

Observe the clear commands that are outlined in God’s Word about this:

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…” (Romans 15:4)

“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord… And he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people…” (Exodus 24:4, 7)

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever and ever.” (Isaiah 30:8)

“Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.” (Jeremiah 36:2)

“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersover thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou have good success.” (Joshua 1:7-8)

“And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)

“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book and send it unto the seven churches…” (Revelation 1:11)

God’s Word was to be written down so that His people could know how to live in a way pleasing to Him and be able to know right from wrong. Apart from the objective written standard of Scripture, man is left with his own subjective opinions or the subjective opinions of others.

Because of Scriptural authority, the biblical writers, appeal to what had been written:

A few examples are:

“Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerrubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2)

“But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

“And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4)

“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (1Corinthians 1:19)

“Because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1Peter 1:16)

When Jesus says, “it is written,” or “have ye not read” it was the end of the debate for Him. In Matthew 4:10, Christ used this very phrase when He rebuffed Satan during the wilderness temptation. Indeed, Jesus used “it is written” to preface His teaching or to end an argument numerous times.

Moreover, there is not one example in Scripture where Christ’s human opponents questioned the authority of Scripture after Jesus used this argument. Jesus used the Scriptures as the final court of appeal. Christ and the apostle Paul viewed the written Scripture as authoritative and cited them frequently.

Our Lord’s appeal to “it is written” is repeated in Matthew 4:4; 21:13; Mark 9:12; John 8:17. The phrase “it is written” is a reference to the Word of God. In addition, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament or says, “it is written,” this should inspire confidence in the Scriptures because Furthermore, Jesus is establishing the Scriptures as God’s highest authority.

In fact, doing a word search on “It is written” you find:

“it” AND “is” AND “written” occurs 311 times in 93 verses in the KJV.

In addition, there are numerous places where Christ and the apostles quote the Old Testament directly. For example, in Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24. In Hebrews 1:5, the writer is mentioning Psalms 2:7.

The irrefutable apologetic, the Scriptures:

Additionally, in Acts 18:24, 28, we learn of Apollos who was “mighty in the Scriptures” and convinced the Jews publicly that Jesus was Christ from the Scriptures. Apollos’s method sheds important light on how important the Scriptures are. Apollos did not use testimonials or new revelations to convince the Jews; he used the Scriptures as his apologetic.

Seeing this apologetic pattern in Scripture:

“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they, which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

“Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.” (Acts 26:22)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, [Paul most certainly is including the New Testament writings here] and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3:16)

The word “inspired” comes from a Greek word meaning “God-breathed.” Peter uses the same Greek word for “Scripture” (γραφὴ) to describe the writings of the apostle Paul (γραφὰς plural form of the same word) in 2Peter 3:16.

Part 2, Paul “Do not go beyond what is written:”

In light of the above on the Scriptures, consider Paul’s unequivocal declaration:

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (1Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

In the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on First Corinthians, Leon Morris makes the following comment about the 1Corinthians 4:6 passage:

“‘not go beyond what is written’ was a catch-cry familiar to Paul and his readers, directing attention to the need for conformity to Scripture.” (1)

We can learn more about what Paul means by the phrase “not to beyond what is written” from Simon J. Kistemaker:

“b. Learning. “That from us you might learn not to go beyond what is written.” Scholars have spilled much ink in an effort to explain this part of the text. A few examples show various ways to translate this phrase:

“That you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (NKJV)

“May you learn from us not to go beyond what is set down” (NAB)

“So that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written’ ” (NIV)

“You may be taught the truth of the words, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’ ” (Cassirer)

These examples reveal not so much different translations of the Greek text as differences in understanding the text itself. Some scholars are of the opinion that the words “not to go beyond what is written” are an unintelligible gloss that should be deleted. But there is no textual evidence to substantiate the claim that these words are a gloss. Furthermore, omission of these words makes the verse itself incoherent. Most scholars think that these words “are evidently a proverb or a principle in proverbial form.” It may have been a saying that was current in the political arena of Paul’s day and served to promote unity. Paul, say these scholars, uses a maxim familiar in Corinthian circles to urge an end to the divisions in the church and to foster unity.

Nonetheless, when Paul borrows the phrase what is written, is he referring to the Old Testament Scriptures? Presumably, yes! The proverb itself must convey a message, which in the context of the two epistles to the Corinthians signifies the Scriptures. And in these letters, the Greek word gegraptai (it is written) frequently introduces quotations from the Scriptures. Paul quotes repeatedly from the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. In total, there are seventeen Old Testament quotations in I Corinthians and ten in II Corinthians.

Paul’s stern warning to the Corinthians not to go beyond what is written appropriates additional meaning in chapter 10. After citing a few incidents from the history of the people of Israel, he asserts: “Now these things happened to them as a warning and were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (10:11). It would indeed be too restrictive to limit Paul’s warning “not to go beyond what is written” to the six Scripture passages, he has quoted in the first three chapters of I Corinthians (1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19, 20). Conclusively, Paul refers to the entire Old Testament revelation.” (2)

Simon J. Kistemaker most certainly makes a convincing case that phrase from the apostle Paul is referring to is the written Scriptures.

Concluding Comments:

When Jesus said, “it is written,” He established beyond all doubt that the Scriptures are the Word of God. In addition, in this study, a pattern is seen that when we read “the Scriptures saith” it is identical to God speaking. When Jesus rebuked Satan said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10).

In Matthew 4:11 we read “Then the devil left him…” Jesus vanquished the Devil by His appeal to the authoritative Word of God.

As seen, there is a clear pattern in Scripture of appealing to what had been previously written. This pattern establishes a normative rule for using the Scriptures to determine the truth. Therefore, using the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures and allowing them to be the highest or final court of appeal is biblical and it is the duty of God’s people to submit to their authority. This is so because when the Scriptures speak, it is God speaking!

Therefore, when Jesus said, “It is written,” this confines the debate to the Scripture. Likewise, as Paul has said, we are “Do not to go beyond what is written” establishes the parameters of the debate.

In closing, Chapter I. – Of the Holy Scripture – Westminster Confession of Faith:

“I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

II. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these:

Of the Old Testament

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, 2 Samuel, I Kings, 2 Kings, I Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Of the New Testament

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, I Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I Peter, 2 Peter, First, Second, and Third Epistles of John, Jude, Revelation

All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.

III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

IV. The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

VI. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the language of every people unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

X. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12)


1. Leon Morris, The Tyndale New Testament Commentary 1Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Inter-Varsity Press, and Eerdmans, 1983), p. 78.

2. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, 1Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), p. 134-135.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

* The above article has been adapted from the book The Religion That Started in a Hat By Jack Kettler

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