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In Matthew 16:18, is Peter the rock that Christ will build His Church?

In Matthew 16:18, is Peter the rock that Christ will build His Church?        By Jack Kettler

In this study, in Matthew 16:18, was Jesus saying that Peter was the rock that He would build His Church?

“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

From Strong’s Lexicon:


Πέτρος (Petros)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4074: Peter, a Greek name meaning rock. Apparently, a primary word; a rock; as a name, Petrus, an apostle.”


πέτρᾳ (petra)

Noun – Dative Feminine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4073: A rock, ledge, cliff, cave, stony ground. Feminine of the same as Petros; a rock.”

Commentary evidence:

Starting with the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

“18. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church] Cp. Isaiah 28:16, from which passage probably the expression is drawn. There is a play on the words “Peter” and “rock” which is lost in the E. V. It may be seen in a French rendering, “Tu es Pierre et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Eglise.” (underlining emphasis mine)”

“On these words mainly rest the enormous pretensions of the Roman pontiff. It is therefore important (1) To remember that it is to Peter with the great confession on his lips that the words are spoken. The Godhead of Christ is the keystone of the Church, and Peter is for the moment the representative of the belief in that truth among men. (2) To take the words in reference: (a) to other passages of Scripture. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Ephesians 2:20, on Christ Himself, 2 Corinthians 3:11. (b) To history; Peter is not an infallible repository of truth. He is rebuked by Paul for Judaizing. Nor does he hold a chief place among the Apostles afterwards. It is James, not Peter, who presides at the Council at Jerusalem. (c) To reason: for even if Peter had precedence over the other Apostles, and if he was Bishop of Rome, which is not historically certain, there is no proof that he had a right of conferring such precedence on his successors.”

“my Church] The word ecclesia (Church) occurs twice in Matthew and not elsewhere in the Gospels. See note ch. Matthew 18:17 where the Jewish ecclesia is meant. From the analogy of the corresponding Hebrew word, ecclesia in a Christian sense may be defined as the congregation of the faithful throughout the world, united under Christ as their Head. The use of the word by Christ implied at least two things: (1) that He was founding an organized society, not merely preaching a doctrine: (2) That the Jewish ecclesia was the point of departure for the Christian ecclesia and in part its prototype. It is one among many links in this gospel between Jewish and Christian thought. The Greek word (ἐκκλησία) has passed into the language of the Latin nations; église (French), chiesa (Italian), iglesia (Spanish). The derivation of the Teutonic Church is very doubtful. That usually given—Kuriakon (the Lord’s house)—is abandoned by many scholars. The word is probably from a Teutonic root and may have been connected with heathen usages. See Bib. Dict. Art. Church.”

“the gates of hell] Lit. “the gates of Hades.” The Greek Hades is the same as the Hebrew Sheol, the abode of departed spirits, in which were two divisions Gehenna and Paradise. “The gates of Hades” are generally interpreted to mean the power of the unseen world, especially the power of death: cp. Revelation 1:18, “the keys of hell (Hades) and of death.”

“shall not prevail against it] The gates of Hades prevail over all things human, but the Church shall never die.” (1)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

“18. And I say also unto thee—that is, “As thou hast borne such testimony to Me, even so in return do I to thee.”

“That thou art Peter—At his first calling, this new name was announced to him as an honor afterwards to be conferred on him (Joh 1:43). Now he gets it, with an explanation of what it was meant to convey.”

“and upon this rock—As “Peter” and “Rock” are one word in the dialect familiarly spoken by our Lord—the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic, which was the mother tongue of the country—this exalted play upon the word can be fully seen only in languages which have one word for both. Even in the Greek it is imperfectly represented. In French, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, it is perfect, Pierre—pierre.”

“I will build my Church—not on the man Simon Bar-jona; but on him as the heavenly-taught confessor of a faith. “My Church,” says our Lord, calling the Church His Own; a magnificent expression regarding Himself, remarks Bengel—nowhere else occurring in the Gospels.”

“and the gates of hell — “of Hades,” or, the unseen world; meaning, the gates of Death: in other words, “It shall never perish.” Some explain it of “the assaults of the powers of darkness”; but though that expresses a glorious truth, probably the former is the sense here.” (2)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary adds:

“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter: Christ gave him this name, John 1:42, when his brother Andrew first brought him to Christ. I did not give thee the name of Cephas, or Peter, for nothing, (for what Cephas signifieth in the Syriac Peter signifieth in the Greek), I called thee Cephas and thou art Peter, a rock. Thou shalt be a rock. This our Lord made good afterward, when he told him, that Satan had desired to winnow him like wheat, but he had prayed that his faith might not fail, Luke 22:32. Thou hast made a confession of faith which is a rock, even such a rock as was mentioned Matthew 7:25. And thou thyself art a rock, a steady, firm believer.”

“And upon this rock I will build my church. Here is a question amongst interpreters, what, or whom, our Saviour here meaneth by this rock.”

“1. Some think that he meaneth himself, as he saith, John 2:19, Destroy this temple (meaning his own body). God is often called a Rock, Deu 32:18 Psalm 18:2 Psalm 31:3, and it is certain Christ is the foundation of the church, Isaiah 28:16 1 Corinthians 3:11 1 Peter 2:6. But this sense seemeth a little hard, that our Saviour, speaking to Peter, and telling him he was a stone, or a rock, should with the same breath pass to himself, and not say, Upon myself, but upon this rock I will build my church.”

“2. The generality of protestant writers, not without the suffrage of divers of the ancients, say Peter’s confession, which he had made, is the rock here spoken of. And indeed, the doctrine contained in his confession is the foundation of the gospel; the whole Christian church is built upon it.”

“3. Others think, in regard that our Saviour directeth his speech not to all the apostles, but to Peter, and doth not say, Blessed are you, but, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, that here is something promised to Peter in special; but they do not think this is any priority, much less any jurisdiction, more than the rest had, but that Christ would make a more eminent and special use of him, in the building of his church, than of the rest; and they observe, that God did make a more eminent use of Peter in raising his gospel church, both amongst the Jews, Acts 2:1-47, and the Gentiles, Acts 10:1-48. But yet this soundeth a little harshly, to interpret upon this rock, by this rock. I do therefore rather incline to interpret it in the second sense:”

“Upon this rock, upon this solid and unmovable foundation of truth, which thou hast publicly made, I will build my church. It is true, Christ is the foundation of the church, and other foundation can no man lay. But though Christ be the foundation in one sense, the apostles are so called in another sense, Ephesians 2:20 Revelation 21:14 not the apostles’ persons, but the doctrine which they preached. They, by their doctrine which they preached, (the sum or great point of which was what Peter here professed), laid the foundation of the Christian church, as they were the first preachers of it to the Gentiles. In which sense soever it be taken, it makes nothing for the papists’ superiority or jurisdiction of St. Peter, or his successors. It follows, I will build my church. By church is here plainly meant the whole body of believers, who all agree in this one faith. It is observable, that Christ calls it his church, not Peter’s, and saith, I will build, not, thou shalt build. The working of faith in souls is God’s work. Men are but ministers, by whom others believe. They have but a ministry towards, not a lordship over the church of God.” (3)

In closing:

Matthew 16:18: The Petros-petra Wordplay—Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew? By David N. Bivin:

“The pinnacle of the gospel drama may be Jesus’ dramatic statement, “You are Petros and on this petra I will build my church.” The saying seems to contain an obvious Greek wordplay, perhaps indicating that Jesus spoke in Greek. However, it is possible that “Petros…petra” is a Hebrew wordplay.” (4)

John Piper’s comments are helpful:

“Jesus does not say, “You are Petros, and on this petros I will build my church.” He says, “You are Petros, and on this petra I will build my church.” Petra has a different connotation than petros — it’s not a loose stone; it’s bedrock stone. Here’s what I mean: In Matthew 27:60, where it says that Jesus’s tomb was cut out of the petra, the bedrock, that doesn’t mean it was cut out of a loose stone — like, here’s a stone, it maybe weighs ten pounds, it’s found on the side of the road, and he cut a grave in that stone. Well, that doesn’t work.”

“What he means is the side of this mountain is stone. This is a massive bedrock where you’d build something, and so you carve into this bedrock. That’s the connotation of petra. It’s not a loose stone like petros. Petra is bedrock. The same word is used in Matthew 7:24: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock [petra]” — not a pile of stones, not gravel, but the bedrock ground in the side of the mountain that you dig down into till you’ve got a good foundation. The bedrock is solid and permanent; it’s the teachings of Jesus, which he says can never pass away.” (5)

Why did Jesus respond to Peter the way that He did? 

It is Biblical and logical to conclude that Jesus responded to Peter’s confession of faith. 

So, when Jesus said, “I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My Church,” He distinguished between Peter and the “rock” using two different Greek words. The name Peter is petros, but the word for “rock” is petra. It is significant to note who is going to build the Church. Jesus said, “I will build My Church. Why would Jesus build His Church on a mortal man?

To rephrase Jesus’ words, Peter was told, “I say to you that you are a stone, and upon this rock I will build My church.” Jesus used a word play with petra, “on this rock,” to make a point. Jesus does not say, “you are petra, and on this petra I will build.” Instead, Jesus says, “you are petros (a stone), and on this petra (bedrock) that Jesus will build His Church.”

According to Walter Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature:

πέτρα (petra) is “bedrock or massive rock formations.” (6)

The rock spoken of is the foundation or bedrock that Christ will build His Church, not a moral man.

“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)

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1 Peter 2:6)

Strong’s Lexicon:

“a stone,

λίθον (lithon)

Noun – Accusative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 3037: A stone; met: of Jesus as the chief stone in a building. Apparently, a primary word; a stone.”

Peter is petros,not λίθον.

Therefore, as Isaiah says and Peter quotes, the rock is not Peter; but is none other than Jesus Christ the Lord.

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, by A. & J. J. S. Perowne Carr, Matthew, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), e-Sword version.

2.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 931.

3.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 75-76.

4.      David N. Bivin, “Hebraisms in the New Testament,” Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (4 vols.; ed. Geoffrey Khan; Leiden: Brill, 2013), 198-201, and the JP version, “Hebraisms in the New Testament.”

5.      Interview with John Piper, on Matthew16:15–19 https://www.

6.      Walter Bauer, William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press), p. 654.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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit after being born again?

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit after being born again?               By Jack Kettler

In this study, the second work of grace doctrine will be considered. Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit the same as being born again? If not, what is it? What could be lacking if Christ lived in believers’ hearts via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?  

The second blessing doctrine is generally understood in two ways. One refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and another is Wesleyan in origin, having to do with sanctification unto sinless perfection. The present study will focus on the so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit after being born again by the regenerating power of Christ living in the believer’s heart via the Holy Spirit.

“Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in evangelicalism, that refers to a “spiritual rebirth,” or a regeneration of the human spirit. In contrast to one’s physical birth, being “born again” is distinctly and separately caused by baptism in the Holy Spirit, it is not caused by baptism in water.” – Wikipedia

The above definition is at odds with the advocates of the supposed secondary baptism of the Holy Spirit event recorded at the Day of Pentecost event in the book of Acts 2:1-4, which is allegedly seen as an additional work of the Spirit empowering believers in a new way to the adherents of the second work of grace doctrine.  

The originating promise of the coming of the Spirit:

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)

This future prediction by John the Baptist speaking of conversion or an alleged secondary work of the Holy Spirit? 

Matthew Poole’s Commentary explains the Matthew 3:11 text:

“I am not the Christ, Mark 1:8 Luke 3:15,16 Joh 1:15,26, I am but the messenger and forerunner of Christ, sent before him to baptize men with the baptism of water, in testimony of their repentance; but there is one immediately coming after me, who is infinitely to be preferred before me, so much, that I am not worthy to carry his shoes, or unloose his shoe latchet. He shall baptize men with another kind of baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.

With the Holy Ghost, inwardly washing away their sins with his blood, and sanctifying their hearts: The Holy Ghost working in their hearts like fire, purging out their lusts and corruptions, warming and inflaming their hearts with the sense of his love, and kindling in them all spiritual habits. Or, with the Holy Ghost, as in the days of Pentecost, there appearing to them cloven tongues like as of fire, as Acts 2:3: thus, the term fire is made exegetical of the term the Holy Ghost. Or, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; changing and renewing the hearts of those that believe in him, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and consuming and destroying others, that will not believe, as with fire.” (1) (underlining emphasis mine)

Poole understands Matthew regarding the baptism of the Spirit as the act of regeneration in the hearts of believers.

“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:5)

What is this coming baptism referring to?

Again, from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Acts 1:5

“For John truly baptized with water, Matthew 3:11; water being of a purifying nature, plentiful, and easy to come by.

But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; his gifts and graces, which were (as water on baptized persons) largely bestowed upon them on the day of Pentecost:

1. That the apostles and all others might be assured of the doctrine of the Gospel.

2. That they might be enabled to fulfil their ministry, and obey our Saviour’s commands left with them. Not many days hence; it was but ten days after his ascension; but our Saviour would not prefix a certain day, that they might watch every day.” (2)

Moreover, as Poole notes in the above two citations, there is no indication that the baptism of the Spirit being anything other than conversion.

Now consider the historical narrative in Acts 2:1-4:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

The book of Acts is a historical, descriptive narrative. However, it is a hermeneutical mistake to conclude that a descriptive narrative is normative or prescriptive. Just because God did certain things at the beginning of the Christian Church in no way necessitates that these special events are normative or prescriptive.

For example:

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32)    

The above passage indicates that the disciples in Jerusalem were practicing some communal or shared living arrangement. The shared arrangement was in preparation for the saints to flee as the Roman armies approached Jerusalem to destroy it in 70AD, and surely not to be practiced throughout Church history as a normative or prescriptive model.

With that said, consider the following points of interest:

·         The Spirit baptism happened to a group

·         There was the sound of a mighty rushing wind

·         Tongues like fire appeared on each of them

·         They were all filled with the Holy Spirit

·         They began to speak in tongues (glossa) foreign languages

The above pattern is unique to the 1st Century Church. Today, advocates of the secondary Spirit baptism movement cannot point to this baptism happening in modern times to groups, along with the accompanying sound of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire appearing on each of them, and all speaking in foreign languages that are recognizable, not non-understandable gibberish that is usually passed off as the language of angels.

As an aside, when angels spoke to individuals in Scripture, they spoke in human language, Hebrew or Greek. Furthermore, the point of 1 Corinthians 13:1 is that to speak in a tongue (glossa human language) of men or angels, which no one can understand, is not an act of love. To say that angelic language is not understandable language is not Paul’s point and is a case of special pleading to advance a doctrine read into Scripture rather exegeted from it.       

The disciples were moved by God’s common grace until this point in Acts. Then, with the baptism of the Spirit, i.e., conversion, the disciples had Christ in their hearts thru the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  

The example of the Gentiles:

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,” (Acts 10:44-46)

Noteworthy is the fact that this baptism conversion event happened to a group. Because of this, it can be concluded that Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10:46 are unique to the 1st Century and foundational at the beginning of the Church. Said another way, these examples of Spirit baptism, i.e., conversion in the book of Acts, are not normative or prescriptive.

As Peter records, this is a salvation event and is proved by:

“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” (Acts 10:47-48)

After conversion, in the case of adults, water baptism is to follow.

In closing:

In looking at the two selections above from the book of Acts in chapters two and ten, it can be concluded that Spirit baptism is a conversion or regeneration event, not a second work of grace. If it were, then conversion is not sufficient and is lacking in giving the believer power to live for Christ. The second work of grace doctrine in whatever form it takes, sinless perfectionism as in Wesleyan sanctification or a secondary Holy Spirit event as in charismatic circles, diminishes Christ living in the hearts of believers by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

If we are in Christ, the believer is complete in Him and not in need of some extraordinary secondary work. The tongues of fire at Pentecost and the Gentiles baptized in the Spirit before water baptism is best explained by the fact that they were inaugural events at the beginning of the New Covenant.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p.15.

2.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Acts, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p.385.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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How is John 15:2 to be understood?

How is John 15:2 to be understood?                                          By Jack Kettler

In this study, what does “He takes away” mean? Is John speaking of a believer or someone who claims to be a Christian?

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; [airei] and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

An introduction to two differing interpretations:

At a recent service, this writer heard a view of John 15:2, never encountered before. Upon some research, others were found that had similar views as the pastor listed below.

Joe Smith Ordination Service Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church in Colorado

8/12/2022 (FRIDAY) Bible: John 15:1-8

ID 81322311345427

Pastor David Hanson

Hanson notes that airei “takes way” can be translated “to raise, lift up.” If so, the meaning of John 15:2 would change dramatically.

Consider Strong’s Lexicon:

He cuts off

αἴρει (airei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 142: To raise, lift up, take away, remove.

Others who support this interpretation:

In the following citation, Joseph C. Dillow translates or interprets airei as “lifts up” in John 15:2. The apostle John uses this translation on more than one occasion. The same term is used with the sense of lifting, and not in a judgmental way. Dillow argues that the text in John deals with fellowship, which can be broken, and not salvation, which cannot. Similarly, Pastor J. O. Hosler argues for the same interpretation.

Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6 by Joseph C. Dillow:


“The beautiful and profound analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15:1–6 has encouraged believers throughout the centuries. It has also become, unfortunately, a controversial passage regarding the eternal security of the saints.

Three approaches have been taken to the passage. Some say the person who “does not bear fruit” (John 15:2a) cannot be a Christian because all true Christians bear fruit. Others say the branches “in Me” that are taken away refer to Christians who lose their salvation. In this view when a believer stops producing fruit, he forfeits justification. Others say John 15:2a and 6 refer to Christians who do not produce fruit and who will therefore experience divine judgment in time and loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Meaning of “Every Branch in Me”

Most evangelicals agree that the branches that “bear fruit” and are pruned to bear more fruit (15:2b) are true believers. But what about the branches “in Me” (i.e., in Christ) that do not bear fruit? Some say that those who do not bear fruit are not true Christians. They claim they are saved but are not. Smith argued that “in Me” refers to people being in the kingdom in only a general sense. He notes that the future millennium and the present form of the kingdom include a mixture of true and false believers.1 As Ryle put it, “It

3. Airei Means “Lift up,” not “Remove”

Dillow identifies R. K. Harrison’s interpretation of airei as “lifts up”

in v 2 and notes that in at least 8 out of its 24 occurrences in John it is

used in that sense. 40 He then responds to Laney by noting that Harrison

reported how fallen vines in Palestine “were lifted ‘with meticulous care’

and allowed to heal.” 41 Further, in a footnote Dillow remarks that                                                  Harrison states that airei has airo„ (“to lift”) as its root rather than aireo„ (“to

catch, take away”). 42 Dillow then points to his own personal observation

of vinicultural care, 43 concluding that if “lift up” is the meaning, “then a

fruitless branch is lifted up to put it into a position of fruit-bearing.” He

adds that this interpretation does not contradict v 6, but that it rather Viticulture

and John 15:1-6 suggests “that the heavenly Vinedresser first encourages the branches

and lifts them in the sense of providing loving care to enable them to

bear fruit. If after this encouragement, they do not remain in fellowship

with Him and bear fruit, they are then cast out.”44 This casting out is

from fellowship, not salvation.” (1)

Do Fruitless Branches Go to Hell? The Vine and The Branches: What It Means to Abide In Christ by Pastor J. O. Hosler:


“a. They are lifted up and encouraged: R.K. Harrison points out that the

word translated “takes away” (airo) is best rendered “lifts up.”

i. It is used this way in at least 8 of its 24 occurrences in the

Gospel of John (5:8-12; 8:59; 10:18, 24).

ii. R. K. Harrison says that fallen vines were lifted “with

meticulous care” and allowed to heal. If that is the meaning,

then a fruitless branch is lifted up to put it into a position of


iii. This does not contradict verse 6, which states that the branch

that does not abide is “thrown away,” literally “cast out”.

iv. This would suggest that the heavenly Vinedresser first

encourages the branches and lifts them in the sense of

providing loving care to enable them to bear fruit.” (2)

The advantage of translating John 15:2 this way is that it would agree with the following:

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he finds it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18: 10–14)

The above translation of the Greek word and new interpretation fits nicely with God’s benevolence and care for His people.

If this interpretation is correct, why have people not heard of it?

A contrary or traditional approach to John 15:2 is from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“Every branch in me – Everyone that is a true follower of me, that is united to me by faith, and that truly derives grace and strength from me, as the branch does from the vine. The word “branch” includes all the boughs, and the smallest tendrils that shoot out from the parent stalk. Jesus here says that he sustains the same relation to his disciples that a parent stalk does to the branches; but this does not denote any physical or incomprehensible union. It is a union formed by believing on him; resulting from our feeling our dependence on him and our need of him; from embracing him as our Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend. We become united to him in all our interests, and have common feelings, common desires, and a common destiny with him. We seek the same objects, are willing to encounter the same trials, contempt, persecution, and want, and are desirous that his God shall be ours, and his eternal abode ours. It is a union of friendship, of love, and of dependence; a union of weakness with strength; of imperfection with perfection; of a dying nature with a living Saviour; of a lost sinner with an unchanging Friend and Redeemer. It is the most tender and interesting of all relations, but not more mysterious or more physical than the union of parent and child, of husband and wife Ephesians 5:23, or friend and friend.”

“That beareth not fruit – As the vinedresser will remove all branches that are dead or that bear no fruit, so will God take from his church all professed Christians who give no evidence by their lives that they are truly united to the Lord Jesus. He here refers to such cases as that of Judas, the apostatizing disciples, and all false and merely nominal Christians (Dr. Adam Clarke).”

“He taketh away – The vine-dresser cuts it off. God removes such in various ways:

1. by the discipline of the church.

2. by suffering them to fall into temptation.

3. by persecution and tribulation, by the deceitfulness of riches, and by the cares of the world Matthew 13:21-22; by suffering the man to be placed in such circumstances as Judas, Achan, and Ananias were such as to show what they were, to bring their characters fairly out, and to let it be seen that they had no true love to God.”

4. by death, for God has power thus at any moment to remove unprofitable branches from the church.

“Every branch that beareth fruit – That is, all true Christians, for all such bear fruit. To bear fruit is to show by our lives that we are under the influence of the religion of Christ, and that that religion produces in us its appropriate effects, Galatians 5:22-23. Notes, Matthew 7:16-20. It is also to live so as to be useful to others, as a vineyard is worthless unless it bears fruit that may promote the happiness or subsistence of man, so the Christian principle would be worthless unless Christians should live so that others may be made holy and happy by their example and labors, and so that the world may be brought to the cross of the Saviour.”

“He purgeth it – Or rather he prunes it, or cleanses it by pruning. There is a use of words here – a paronomasia – in the original which cannot be retained in the translation. It may be imperfectly seen by retaining the Greek words “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away αἴρει airei; every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it καθαίρει kathairei; now ye are clean καθαροί katharoi,” etc. The same Greek word in different forms is still retained. God purifies all true Christians so that they may be more useful. He takes away that which hindered their usefulness; teaches them; quickens them; revives them; makes them purer in motive and in life. This he does by the regular influences of his Spirit in sanctifying them, purifying their motives, teaching them the beauty of holiness, and inducing them to devote themselves more to him. He does it by taking away what opposes their usefulness, however much they may be attached to it, or however painful to part with it; as a vine-dresser will often feel himself compelled to lop off a branch that is large, apparently thrifty, and handsome, but which bears no fruit, and which shades or injures those which do. So, God often takes away the property of his people, their children, or other idols. He removes the objects which bind their affections, and which render them inactive. He takes away the things around man, as he did the valued gourds of Jonah Jon 4:5-11, so that he may feel his dependence, and live more to the honor of God, and bring forth more proof of humble and active piety.” (3)

John 15:6 provides important context that cannot be ignored that supports the traditional interpretation:

“If a man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

John 15:6 seems to support the idea that verse two is not talking about fellowship but the salvation of someone who claims to be a Christian but is not.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      “Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6,” Joseph C. Dillow, Bibliotheca Sacra 147 (Jan-Mar 1990): 44-53.

2.      Napier Parkview Baptist Church Bible Studies Page Pastor J. O. Hosler, Th.D.


4.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, John, Vol. 1 p. 1303.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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What does take a balm in Gilead mean?

What does take a balm in Gilead mean?                                          By Jack Kettler

In this study, taking the “balm” of Gilead will be considered.  

“Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.” (Jeremiah 46:11)

Many have heard the old Negro spiritual, “There Is A Balm in Gilead.” So, it is noteworthy that a seemingly obscure passage in Jeremiah became the basis for a song.

It is recorded in Genesis about “balm” and Gilead:

“And as they sat down to eat a meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying spices, balm, and myrrh on their way down to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:25)

As seen in Genesis, balm was an item of trade. Arabia was the source of balm.

From the Strong’s Lexicon, it is learned:


צֳרִ֔י (ṣo·rî)

Noun – masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 6875: 1) a kind of balsam, balm, salve 1a) as merchandise 1b) as medicine”

From Strong’s, it appears that “balm” is a salve used as medicine. Balm, or balsam, was a topical mixture for wounds, as seen in Jeremiah 8:22.

From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, it is learned:

“11. balm] See Jeremiah 8:22, and Jeremiah 30:13.

Egyptian knowledge of medicine is celebrated by Homer (Od. 4:229). Cyrus and Darius were both sent to Egypt as medical men (Herod. III. 1, 132); cp. Pliny XIX. 5.” (1)

Who is the “Virgin daughter of Egypt?”

Regarding this question, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

“11. Gilead … balm — (See on [972] Jer 8:22); namely, for curing the wounds; but no medicine will avail, so desperate shall be the slaughter.

virgin—Egypt is so called on account of her effeminate luxury, and as having never yet been brought under foreign yoke.

thou shalt not be cured—literally, “there shall be no cure for thee” (Jer 30:13; Eze 30:21). Not that the kingdom of Egypt should cease to exist, but it should not recover its former strength; the blow should be irretrievable.” (2)

Jeremiah is giving a prophecy against Egypt in verse 11. So also, “balm” would not be a comfort in the coming judgment.

The reader can see this from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

“(11) Go up into Gilead, and take balm . . .—The words have the tone of a triumphant irony. The “balm of Gilead” was looked on as a cure for all wounds (Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 51:8), but the wounds which Egypt received at Carchemish would be found incurable. It proved, in fact, to be a blow from which the old Egyptian monarchy never recovered. In the “virgin, the daughter of Egypt”—virgin, as being till then, as it boasted, unconquered (Isaiah 23:12)—we have a like touch of sarcasm. The report of the defeat and the utter rout and confused flight that followed (Jeremiah 46:12) would spread far and wide among the nations.” (3)

Now, a summary of “balm” from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


bam (tseritsori; Septuagint rhetine):

The name of an odoriferous resin said to be brought from Gilead by Ishmaelite Arabs on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37:25). It is translated “balm” in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), but is called “mastic,” the Revised Version, margin. In Genesis 43:11 it is one of the gifts sent by Jacob to Joseph, and in Ezekiel 27:17 it is named as one of the exports from Judea to Tyre. The prophet Jeremiah refers figuratively to its medicinal properties as an application to wounds and as a sedative (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). The name is derived from a root signifying “to leak,” and is applied to it as being an exudation. There is a sticky, honeylike gum resin prepared at the present day at Jericho, extracted from the Balanites Aegyptiaca grown in the Ghor, and sold to travelers in small tin boxes as “Balm of Gilead,” but it is improbable that this is the real tscori and it has no medicinal value. The material to which the classic authors applied the name is that known as Mecca balsam, which is still imported into Egypt from Arabia, as it was in early times. This is the exudation from the Balsamodendron opobalsamum, a native of southern Arabia and Abyssinia. The tree is small, ragged-looking and with a yellowish bark like that of a plane tree, and the exudation is said to be gathered from its smaller branches. At the present day it grows nowhere in Palestine. Dr. Post and other botanists have sought for it on the Ghor and in Gilead, and have not found it, and there is no trace of it in the neighborhood of Jericho, which Pliny says is its only habitat. Strabo describes it as growing by the Sea of Galilee, as well as at Jericho, but both these and other ancient writers give inconsistent and incorrect descriptions of the tree evidently at second hand. We learn from Theophrastus that many of the spices of the farther East reached the Mediterranean shore through Palestine, being brought by Arab caravans which would traverse the indefinitely bounded tract East of Jordan to which the name Gilead is given, and it was probably thus that the balm received its local name. Mecca balsam is an orange-yellow, treacly fluid, mildly irritating to the skin, possibly a weak local stimulant and antiseptic, but of very little remedial value.” – Alex. Macalister (4)

In closing:

Jesus is the “balm of Gilead” for sinners. When J. C. Philpot preached on Jeremiah, he explained that God’s grace is always greater than our sin:

 “There is more in the balm to heal than there is in guilt to wound; for there is more in grace to save than there is in sin to destroy.” – J.C. Philpot (5)

Thus, it can be said that the Balm of Gilead is a symbol of Christ’s healing power in the life of a believer.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, by A. W. Streane, Jeremiah, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), e-Sword version.

2.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 649.

3.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Jeremiah, Vol. 5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 147.

4.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘BALM,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 381.

5.      J. C. Philpot, Preached on “Balm of Gilead” Tuesday Evening, 27th July 1852, at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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How did a Pharisee baptize a couch or table in Mark 7:4?

How did a Pharisee baptize a couch or table in Mark 7:4?               By Jack Kettler

In this study, the application of washings or baptisms will be considered.  

“And, coming from the market-place, if they [Pharisees] do not baptize themselves, they do not eat; and many other things there are that they received to hold, baptisms of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, and couches.” (Mark 7:4 Young’s Literal Translation)

In a previous study, the readers learned that the Greek βαπτίζω‎ could be translated as “dip, plunge, dyed, bathed, wetted or immersed” in Scripture. Regarding the Mark 7:4 text, is it even reasonable to believe the Pharisees baptized themselves or an eating couch by immersion?  

James W. Dale and others write: 

“37. James W. Dale argues in his monumental four-volume work on baptism (Classic Baptism Judaic Baptism, Johannic Baptism, and Christic and Patristic Baptism) that baptizo, does not mean “to dip” (that is, “to put into [and to remove from]”) but rather “to put together so as to remain together,” with its import “in nowise governed by, or dependent upon, any form of act” (Classic Baptism [1867; reprint, Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1989], 126). He shows that the word in classical Greek means a variety of things, including to plunge, to drown, to steep, to bewilder, to dip, to tinge, to pour, to sprinkle, and to dye! He concludes by saying:

Baptism is a myriad-sided word, adjusting itself to the most diverse cases. Agamemnon was baptized; Bacchus was baptized; Cupid was baptized; Cleinias was baptized; Alexander was baptized; Panthia was baptized; Otho was baptized; Charicles was baptized; and a host of others were baptized, each differing from the other in the nature or the mode of their baptism, or both.

A blind man could more readily select any demanded color from the spectrum, or a child could more readily thread the Cretan labyrinth, than could “the seven wise men of Greece” declare the nature, or mode, of any given baptism by the naked help of baptizo. (353–54)

Therefore, Jay Adams in his foreword to Dale’s Classic Baptism rightly declares that “water baptism is an appropriate ‘uniting ordinance’ that permanently introduces Christians to the visible Church, just as Spirit baptism permanently unites Christians with the invisible Church.

While it may sometimes mean “to dip,” there are several New Testament contexts where it must mean simply “to wash,” with no specific mode of washing indicated. For example, ebaptisthe, hardly means “was immersed” in Luke 11:38, where we are informed that a certain Pharisee, “noticing that Jesus did not first wash [literally “was not baptized”] before the meal, was surprised.” Surely this Pharisee did not expect Jesus (note that Jesus the person is the subject of the verbal action and not simply Jesus’ hands) to be immersed in water before every meal! Surely his surprise was provoked by Jesus not ritually washing his hands before eating, in keeping with the ceremony referred to in Matthew 15:2 and Mark 7:3-4, most probably by having water poured over them (see the practice alluded to in 2 Kgs. 3:11 and Luke 7:44).

Speaking of Mark 7:3-4, in verse 4 we read: ‘And [when they come] from the marketplace, except they ceremonially wash [baptisontai, literally ‘baptize themselves’] they do not eat.” Surely again, baptisontai, cannot mean that “the Pharisees and all the Jews” immersed themselves every time they returned home from the market.” (1)

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“Market – This word means either the place where provisions were sold, or the place where men were convened for any purpose. Here it probably means the former.

Except they wash – In the original, “Except they baptize.” In this place it does not mean to immerse the whole body, but only the hands. There is no evidence that the Jews washed their “whole bodies” every time they came from market. It is probable that they often washed with the use of a very small quantity of water.

The washing of cups – In the Greek, “the baptism of cups.”

Cups – drinking vessels. Those used at their meals.

Pots – Measures of “liquids.” Vessels made of wood, used to hold wine, vinegar, etc.

brazen vessels – Vessels made of brass, used in cooking or otherwise. These, if much polluted, were commonly passed through the fire: if slightly polluted they were washed. Earthen vessels, if defiled, were usually broken.

Tables – This word means, in the original, “beds or couches.” It refers not to the “tables” on which they ate, but to the “couches” on which they reclined at their meals. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. These were supposed to be defiled when any unclean or polluted person had reclined on them, and they deemed it necessary to purify them with water. The word “baptism” is here used – in the original, “the baptism of tables;” but, since it cannot be supposed that “couches” were entirely “immersed” in water, the word “baptism” here must denote some other application of water, by sprinkling or otherwise, and shows that the term is used in the sense of washing in any way. If the word is used here, as is clear it is, to denote anything except entire immersion, it may be elsewhere, and baptism is lawfully performed, therefore, without immersing the whole body in water.” (2) (Underlining and bolding emphasis mine)

Barnes notes that baptism cannot possibly mean immersion in the above examples.

From Vincent’s Word Studies:

“Wash themselves (βαπτίσωνται)

Two of the most important manuscripts, however, read ῥαντίσωνται, sprinkled themselves. See Rev., in margin. This reading is adopted by Westcott and Herr. The American Revisers insist on bathe, instead of wash, already used as a translation of νίψωνται (Mark 7:3). The scope of this work does not admit of our going into the endless controversy to which this word has given rise. It will be sufficient to give the principal facts concerning its meaning and usage.

In classical Greek the primary meaning is to merse. Thus Polybius (i., 51, 6), describing a naval battle of the Romans and Carthaginians, says, “They sank (ἐβάπτιζον) many of the ships.” Josephus (“Jewish War,” 4., 3, 3), says of the crowds which flocked into Jerusalem at the time of the siege, “They overwhelmed (ἐβάπτισαν) the city.” In a metaphorical sense Plato uses it of drunkenness: drowned in drink (βεβαπτισμένοι, “Symposium,” 176); of a youth overwhelmed (βαπτιζόμενον) with the argument of his adversary (“Euthydemus,” 277).

“In the Septuagint the verb occurs four times: Isaiah 21:4, Terror hath frighted me. Septuagint, Iniquity baptizes me (βπτίζε); 2 Kings 5:15, of Naaman’s dipping himself in Jordan (ἐβαπτίσατο); Judith 12:7, Judith washing herself (ἐβαπτίζετο) at the fountain; Sirach 31:25, being baptized (βαπτιζόμενος) from a dead body.”

The New Testament use of the word to denote submersion for a religious purpose, may be traced back to the Levitical washings. See Leviticus 11:32 (of vessels); Leviticus 11:40 (of clothes); Numbers 8:6, Numbers 8:7 (sprinkling with purifying water); Exodus 30:19, Exodus 30:21 (of washing hands and feet). The word appears to have been at that time the technical term for such washings (compare Luke 11:38; Hebrews 9:10; Mark 7:4), and could not therefore have been limited to the meaning immerse. Thus, the washing of pots and vessels for ceremonial purification could not have been by plunging them in water, which would have rendered impure the whole body of purifying water. The word may be taken in the sense of washing or sprinkling.

The Teaching of the Apostles” (see on Matthew 10:10) throws light on the elastic interpretation of the term, in its directions for baptism. “Baptize – in living (i.e., running) water. But if thou hast not living water, baptize in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water upon the head thrice into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Chap. VII.).

Pots (ξεστῶν)

Another of Mark’s Latin words, adapted from the Latin sextarius, a pint measure. Wyc., cruets. Tynd., cruses.

Brazen vessels (χαλκίων)

More literally, copper.

Tables (κλινῶν)

Omitted in some of the best manuscripts and texts, and by Rev. The A. V. is a mistranslation, the word meaning couches. If this belongs in the text, we certainly cannot explain βαπτισμοὺς as immersion.” (3)

As seen from Vincent’s argument above, the ceremonial purification rite could not have been immersion because of the contamination of the water source used for the ritual.

In addition, “And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6). The waterpots may have held approximately ten gallons each. Even so, the passage from John clarifies that the Jews did not have enough water in the waterpots to immerse numerous individuals and couches.


“But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)

Was Jesus talking about baptism with water in this passage? No, Jesus is talking about His crucifixion on the cross, not water baptism.

Hebrew roots of baptism; the consecration of the high priest:

“And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.” (Exodus 29:4) 

Does the translation of רָחַץ rawchats wash necessitate immersion? For example, a sponge bath can be understood as being washed.  

In closing:

In early church history, the Didache meaning “Teaching,” is a Christian manual compiled before 300AD, which dealt with baptism (Chapter 7, verses 1-3) addresses baptism.

The manuscript says:

    “(1) Concerning baptism, baptize in this way. After you have spoken all these things, “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” in running water.”

    “(2) If you do not have running water, baptize [baptizon] in other water. If you are not able in cold, then in warm.”

    “(3) If you do not have either, pour out [ekcheo] water three times on the head “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Didache proves that alternate forms of baptism existed in the early Church and this, for one thing, means that the Roman Catholic Church did not invent sprinkling or pouring. The Didache predates Leo the Great: AD 440-461, debatably the first fully functional Pope in the Roman Church.

The optimal way, according to Didache, was to baptize in “running water,” which may indicate a river, stream, or spring; the running water has the baptismal benefit of metaphorically speaking, purifying and washing away impurities as the water flows.

As an aside, Eastern Orthodox Christianity baptizes by immersion. However, pouring or sprinkling is allowed in life-or-death emergencies, such as in hospitals.  

Something for other immersionists to consider. Possible solutions:

For the strict immersionist, there is a dilemma. What about emergencies, where immersion is not possible if the aspirant cannot be immersed because of being bedridden or connected to electrical monitoring probes in the ICU?

Pour or sprinkle water on the aspirant’s head three times or Splotch the candidate’s forehead with water three times.

These instructions are based upon the first-century document called the Didache, which allows special applications in emergencies.

A dilemma for strict immersionists:

“And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (1 Corinthians 10:2)

Who would argue that those baptized in the Corinthian passage are to be understood as immersion? The only ones that were immersed were Pharaoh and his army. The children of Israel were either wetted like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:33 or, more likely, sprinkled with drops of water from the cloud.

    “The New is in the Old contained; The Old is by the New explained” – St. Augustine. 

Utilizing this interpretive principle, one can ascertain: 

Pouring magnifies the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:

Baptism by pouring symbolizes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13).

Baptism by sprinkling magnifies the cleansing blood of Christ:

Similarly, baptism by sprinkling symbolizes the cleansing of the blood of Christ that was sprinkled, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22); “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and a sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1 Peter !;2).  and “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you (Ezekiel 36:25).

As seen from the above citations, “baptism,” and its variations do not always mean “to dip” or “to immerse.” Examples from the Greek Scriptures of the Old Testament show this. Isaiah 21:4, for example, in the Septuagint, reads, “lawlessness overwhelms me.” In Daniel 4:33, “dew from heaven,” is translated as “drenched” or “wet.”

Moreover, just because βαπτίζω does not in translation mean sprinkling does not invalidate the intended parallel of sprinkling and baptism seen in the Scriptures. The Scriptures in Hebrews 9:19, 12:24, Leviticus 14:7, and Numbers 19:18 make the connection between sprinkling and baptism as functional parallels. Thus, baptism parallels and symbolizes the sprinkling of water and blood seen in the Old Testament. Therefore, the literal translation of the various forms of baptisms is superseded by the types and shadows of the Old Testament that are joined together by the New Testament, which becomes the governing hermeneutic of interpretation. Thus, the Scriptures are the best interpreter of Scripture.

And finally:

Westminster Confession of 1646: Of Baptism Chapter XXVIII. Of Baptism

“I. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, (Mat 28:19); not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, (1Co 12:13); but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, (Rom 4:11; Col 2:11-12); of his ingrafting into Christ, (Gal 3:27; Rom 6:5); of regeneration, (Tts 3:5); of remission of sins, (Mar 1:4); and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life, (Rom 6:3-4). Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world, (Mat 28:19-20).

II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto, (Mat 3:11; Jhn 1:33; Mat 28:19-20).

III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person, (Hbr 9:10, 19-22; Act 2:41; Act 16:33; Mar 7:4).

IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, (Mar 16:15-16; Act 8:37-38); but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized, (Gen 17:7, 9; Gal 3:9, 14; Col 2:11-12; Act 2:38-39; Rom 4:11-12; 1Co 7:14; Mat 28:19; Mar 10:13-16; Luk 18:15).

V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, (Luk 7:30; Exd 4:24-26); yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it, (Rom 4:11; Act 10:2, 4, 22, 31, 45, 47); or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated, (Act 8:13, 23).

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered, (Jhn 3:5, 8); yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time, (Gal 3:27; Tts 3:5; Eph 5:25-26; Act 2:38, 41).

VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person, (Tts 3:5).”

For more study:

In the 19th century, Dr. James W. Dale, a Presbyterian minister, embarked on a scholarly project that proved to be the most exhaustive study ever undertaken on the word “baptism.” Aiming at a contextual understanding of the work, Dr. Dale meticulously examined its use in a wide range of historical documents, and his analysis is a masterpiece of lexicographical scholarship. Dr. Dale published his findings in four volumes. Available via Amazon or resellers

1.      Classic Baptism: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of the Word Baptizo as Determined by the Usage of Classical Greek Writers

2.      Judaic Baptism: Baptizo: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word As Determined by the Usage of Jewish and Patristic Writers  

3.      Johannic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of The Holy Scriptures

4.      Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word As Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Writings

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      James W. Dale, and others as cited by Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology Of The Christian Faith, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1998), Pages 923-935.

2.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Mark, Vol. 1 p. 577.

3.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, Mark, Vol. 1, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 199.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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How does a sprinkling of water cleanse someone in Ezekiel 36:25? 

How does a sprinkling of water cleanse someone in Ezekiel 36:25?               By Jack Kettler

In this study, the meaning of the Ezekiel text regarding sprinkling will be considered. Are the sprinkling and cleansing symbolic or literal? The following citation includes, for a fuller context, verses 26-27.

“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

Delving into the original Hebrew will be helpful in the understanding of sprinkling.

Strong’s Concordance:

zaraq: scatter

Original word: זָרַק

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: zaraq

Phonetic Spelling: (zaw-rak’)

Definition: be here and there, scatter, sprinkle, strew.”

The Hebrew word in the above passage mentioning sprinkling is zaraq. The word is a verb and denotes action.

Ezekiel 36:24-25 is looking forward into history by way of a prophecy. The three following commentators use the reality of the New Covenant in Christ to understand Ezekiel’s prophecy.

Regarding verse 24 from Ezekiel, it is learned from the Pulpit Commentary:

“Verse 24. – I will take you from among the heathen; or, nations. The first step in the sanctification of Jehovah’s Name. A promise already given (Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 20:41, 42), and afterwards repeated (Ezekiel 37:21). The mention of “all countries” shows the prophet’s gaze to have been directed beyond the present or immediate future. The Israel of Ezekiel’s time had not been scattered among and could not be gathered from all, countries; yet in the years that have passed since then Ezekiel’s language as to Israel’s dispersion has been literally fulfilled. Wherefore the inference is reasonable that the reassembling to which Ezekiel refers is an event that has not yet occurred, at least in its fullest measure and degree, but will only then be realized completely and finally when the scattered members of the house of Israel shall have been received into the Christian Church (Romans 11:25, 26). Ezekiel 36:24” (1)

Continuing to verse 25 from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

“(25) Sprinkle clean water. — Comp. Hebrews 9:13; Hebrews 10:22. Ezekiel, the priest, here refers to those manifold purifications of the Law (e.g., Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9; Numbers 19:17; Leviticus 14:5-7; Leviticus 14:9, &c.) which were performed by means of water; yet he refers to these as a whole, in their symbolical signification, rather than to any one of them in particular. He speaks primarily of the cleansing from idolatry and such gross outward sins, and he treats of the people collectively; yet this purification, as the following verses show, must necessarily extend much farther, and be applied to them individually. It was the same symbolism which led in later ages to the use of baptism in the admission of proselytes to the Jewish Church, a practice adopted by the forerunner of our Lord in the preparation of the people for His coming. Baptism is also alluded to by our Lord Himself in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:5.) and afterwards established by Him as the initiatory sacrament of the Christian Church. (Comp. Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22.)” (2)

In addition, verse 25 is learned from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

He alludes to the sprinklings under the law, perhaps to that Numbers 19:9, which was for purification of sin; and Ezekiel 36:19-20. So God will purify them from their guilt. Clean water: some think it may refer to baptismal water; if so, it is to the blood of Christ, signified by it, and this, say the best expositors, is here intended, and this is.”

the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24.”

Ye shall be clean; when sin is remitted, the person is indeed clean, both in the account of God and Christ.”

From all your filthiness; though they have been many of all sorts, and among all ranks of men, yet multitude of sins shall not hinder me from pardoning.”

From all your idols; that notorious great abomination, your multiplied idolatry, I will pardon that also, that ye may be clean. Thus, remission of sin is promised.” (3)

Two New Testament passages involving sprinkling:

“For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people.” (Hebrews 9:19)

Strong’s Concordance:

rhantizó: to sprinkle

Original word: ῥαντίζω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: rhantizó

Phonetic Spelling: (hran-tid’-zo)

Definition: to sprinkle

Usage: I sprinkle, cleanse ceremonially by sprinkling.”

“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)

Strong’s Concordance:

rhantismos: sprinkling

Original Word: ῥαντισμός, οῦ, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: rhantismos

Phonetic Spelling: (hran-tis-mos’)

Definition: sprinkling

Usage: sprinkling, purification.”

The two New Testament passages above use a verb and noun form of the same word, which means ceremonial or purification by sprinkling. Whereas the Old Testament word for sprinkle denoted action, the New Testament sheds further understanding involving ceremonial purification. In this respect, sprinkling and baptism are symbolic of cleansing sin.

In regards to Hebrews 12:24, Vincent’s Word Studies says:

“The mediator of the new covenant (διαθήκης νέας μεσίτῃ)”

“See Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 8:9, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 9:15. For covenant, see on Hebrews 9:6 ff. For the new covenant, rend. a new covenant. Νέα new, only here applied to the covenant in N.T. The word elsewhere is καινή. For the distinction, see on Matthew 26:29. It is better not to press the distinction, since νεός, in certain cases, clearly has the sense of quality rather than of time, as 1 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 3:10, and probably here, where to confine the sense to recent would seem to limit it unduly. In the light of all that the writer has said respecting the better quality of the Christian covenant, superseding the old, outworn, insufficient covenant, he may naturally be supposed to have had in mind something besides its mere recentness. Moreover, all through the contrast from Hebrews 12:18, the thought of earlier and later is not once touched, but only that of inferior and better; repellency and invitation; terrors and delights; fear and confidence. Note that the privilege of approaching the Mediator in person is emphasized.”

“Blood of sprinkling (αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ)”

Ῥαντισμός sprinkling only here and 1 Peter 1:2, see note. The phrase blood of sprinkling N.T.o. olxx, where we find ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ water of sprinkling, Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:13, Numbers 19:20, Numbers 19:21. For the verb ῥαντίζειν to sprinkle, see on Hebrews 9:13. The mention of blood naturally follows that of a covenant, since no covenant is ratified without blood (Hebrews 9:16). The phrase is sufficiently explained by Hebrews 9:16-22.”

“Speaketh better things (κρεῖττον λαλοῦντι)”

“For “better things” rend. “better.” The blood is personified, and its voice is contrasted with that of Abel, whose blood cried from the ground for vengeance upon his murderer (Genesis 4:10). The voice of Christ’s blood calls for mercy and forgiveness.”

“Than that of Abel (παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ).”

“Rend. “than Abel.” Comp. Hebrews 11:4, where Abel himself speaks.” (4)

In closing:

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “a new heart, also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Verse 27 says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

Therefore, sprinkling in verse 25 prophetically pictures a New Testament conversion which is proved by verse 26 when it says, “a new heart,” taking away the heart of stone and “I will give you a heart of flesh.” In addition, verse 27 says, “put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.” The Strong’s Concordance says, regarding the word “cause” to “do, make.” Moreover, this caused by God pictures a regenerated changed heart which is not fully released until the “born again” conversion of the New Testament times.

Regarding baptism and its relationship to Ezekiel:

Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the visible church. Baptism also signifies regeneration and remission of sin. Sprinkling, as seen in Ezekiel’s pictures or symbolizes regeneration that literally would happen in the New Covenant.    

In the Ezekiel passage, sprinkling is symbolic. However, in Numbers 19:9, 18-19, the sprinkling is literal. The cleansing or purification as a result of sprinkling was symbolic, looking forward to New Covenant in Christ where the cleansing by the blood Christ cleanses. Said another way, the sprinkling in the Old Testament did not cleanse sin any more than baptism in the New Testament cleanses sin. However, both actions symbolize the blood of Christ that cleanses sin.    

Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture:

The Greek βαπτίζω‎ is rendered “dip, plunge, dyed, bathed or immersed” in the Septuagint. Therefore, the parallel between sprinkling and baptism (βαπτίζω) does not depend either upon the Old Testament Septuagint or the New Testament translation of the word. Furthermore, just because βαπτίζω does not in translation mean sprinkling does not invalidate the intended parallel of sprinkling and baptism. The Scriptures in Hebrews 9:19, 12:24, Leviticus 14:7, and Numbers 19:18 make the connection between sprinkling and baptism as functional parallels.

Likewise, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” Colossians 2:11–12. The Colossians passage is analogous or the functional equivalent between circumcision in the Older Covenant and water baptism in the New Covenant.

For more study:

See BAPTISM by Rev. John Scott Johnson, Ph.D. at,


by Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ezekiel, Vol. 12., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 245.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Ezekiel, Vol. 5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 305.

3.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 772.

4.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, Hebrews, Vol. 4, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 555-556.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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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Is Matthew 10:37 too difficult to obey?


  Is Matthew 10:37 too difficult to obey?                         By Jack Kettler

In this study, the meaning of “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worth of me” will be considered. Alternatively, as Luke puts it, “and hate not his father and mother….”

 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

In Matthew and Luke, Christ is talking about his disciples.

What is a disciple?

The simplest definition of a “disciple” is someone who adheres to or follows the teachings of another. In the Christian case, the disciples follow Christ.

Since Luke appears to be the stronger warning, consider:

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible commenting on Luke:

“If any man come to me…. Not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual way; nor barely to hear him preach; but so, come, as that he believes in him, applies to him for grace, pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation; professes to be his, submits to his ordinances, and desires to be a disciple of his;

and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple: not that proper hatred of any, or all of these, is enjoined by Christ; for this would be contrary to the laws of God, to the first principles of nature, to all humanity, to the light of nature, to reason and divine revelation: but that these are not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than he, as it is explained in Matthew 10:37 yea, these are to be neglected and forsaken, and turned from with indignation and resentment, when they stand in the way of the honour and interest of Christ, and dissuade from his service: such who would be accounted the disciples of Christ, should be ready to part with their dearest relations and friends, with the greatest enjoyment of life, and with life itself, when Christ calls for it; or otherwise they are not worthy to be called his disciples. The Ethiopic version inserts, ‘his house’, into the account.” (1) (underlining and bolding emphasis mine)

In Deuteronomy, there is a similar passage:

“Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.” (Deuteronomy 33:9)

Deuteronomy refers to the Levites.

Consider Keil and Delitzsch’s Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament regarding the Deuteronomy passage:

“In these temptations Levi had proved itself “a holy one,” although in the latter Moses and Aaron stumbled, since the Levites had risen up in defence of the honour of the Lord and had kept His covenant, even with the denial of father, mother, brethren, and children (Matthew 10:37; Matthew 19:29). The words, “who says to his father,” etc., relate to the event narrated in Exodus 32:26-29, where the Levites draw their swords against the Israelites their brethren, at the command of Moses, after the worship of the golden calf, and execute judgment upon the nation without respect of person. To this we may add Numbers 25:8, where Phinehas interposes with his sword in defence of the honour of the Lord against the shameless prostitution with the daughters of Moab. On these occasions the Levites manifested the spirit which Moses predicates here of all the tribe. By the interposition at Sinai especially, they devoted themselves with such self-denial to the service of the Lord, that the dignity of the priesthood was conferred upon their tribe in consequence. – In Deuteronomy 33:10 and Deuteronomy 33:11, Moses celebrates this vocation: “They will teach Jacob Thy rights, and Israel Thy law; bring incense to Thy nose, and whole-offering upon Thine altar. Bless, Lord, his strength, and let the work of his hands be well-pleasing to Thee: smite his adversaries and his haters upon the hips, that they may not rise!” The tribe of Levi had received the high and glorious calling to instruct Israel in the rights and commandments of God (Leviticus 10:11), and to present the sacrifices of the people to the Lord, viz., incense in the holy place, whole-offering in the court. “Whole-offering,” a term applied to the burnt-offering, which is mentioned instar omnium as being the leading sacrifice. The priests alone were actually entrusted with the instruction of the people in the law and the sacrificial worship; but as the rest of the Levites were given them as assistants in their service, this service might very properly be ascribed to the whole tribe; and no greater blessing could be desired for it than that the Lord should give them power to discharge the duties of their office, should accept their service with favour, and make their opponents powerless. The enemies and haters of Levi were not only envious persons, like Korah and his company (Numbers 16:1), but all opponents of the priests and Levites. The loins are the seat of strength (Psalm 69:24; Job 40:16; Job 31:1; 17). This is the only place in which מן is used before a finite verb, whereas it often stands before the infinitive (e.g., Genesis 27:1; Genesis 31:29).” (2)

The Levites were set apart and consecrated by God in service to administer the types and shadows of the sacrificial worship system that pointed forward in history to the redemption of the New Covenant found in Christ. Like the Levites of old, Christ’s disciples are called and sanctified in service to Christ.

It is possible to some extent to see discipleship and sanctification as overlapping or synonymous. Furthermore, discipleship is impossible without sanctifying grace.  

Being set apart in sanctification can be described as a calling and takes many forms. For example:

“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.” (Romans 12:4)   

In addition:

12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also, is Christ.

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (1 Corinthians 12:12; 27-29)

It can be ascertained from the above passages that there are many calling in the body of Christ. These callings can be diverse, encompassing spheres such as callings within the church, business, the arts, civil service, family, etc.

Not surprisingly, the majority of Christ’s disciples are not working in full-time church work. There are a limited number of pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists, and missionaries.   

What does it mean for Christians today to be disciples in their calling? Most believers are employed or self-employed. Nevertheless, regardless of one’s station or vocation in life, all Christians are to be disciples. All Christians follow Christ and His teachings. At work, Christians follow Christ and bear witness to His truth verbally or by applying His teachings in events throughout the day. Discipleship is not monasticism.

We are to be in the world, advancing the cause of Christ.


“Luther’s return from the cloister to the world was the worst blow the world had suffered since the days of early Christianity.” (3)

What is the relationship between discipleship and sanctification?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his “The Cost of Discipleship,” has something to say about discipleship and sanctification:

“The otherworldliness of the Christian life ought, Luther concluded, to be manifested in the very midst of the world, in the Christian community and in its daily life. Hence the Christian’s task is to live out that life in terms of his secular calling. That is the way to die unto the world. The value of the secular calling for the Christian is that it provides an opportunity of living the Christian life with the support of God’s grace, and of engaging more vigorously in the assault on the world and everything that it stands for. Luther did not return to the world because he had arrived at a more positive attitude towards it. Nor had he abandoned the eschatological expectation of early Christianity. He intended his action to express a radical criticism and protest against the secularization of Christianity which had taken place within monasticism. By recalling the Christians into the world, he called them paradoxically out of it all the more. That was what Luther experienced in his own person. His call to men to return to the world was essentially a call to enter the visible Church of the incarnate Lord.” (4)

Believers are in the world but not of it. As Abraham Kuyper noted:

“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!” (5)

“Sanctification means that the Christians have been judged already, and that they are being preserved until the coming of Christ and are ever advancing towards it.” (6)

For Bonhoeffer, discipleship is a lifelong how-to question, a question that must be asked daily by believers. Bonhoeffer’s belief regarding discipleship was that Jesus calls believers to follow Him in life’s mundane and intricate realities. In other words, in the world but not of it, always seeking to be faithful adherents of Scripture.

The means of grace is inescapably intertwined with the Reformed idea of discipleship. Christ disciples us through the ministries of the church, i.e., pastoral ministry, elder visitations, Christian education classes, and exhortations through the fellowship of the brethren.

Chapter XIII. Of Sanctification

I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, (1Co 6:11; Act 20:32; Phl 3:10; Rom 6:5-6); by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, (Jhn 17:17; Eph 5:26; 1Th 2:13): the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (Rom 6:6, 14); and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, (Gal 5:24; Rom 8:13); and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, (Col 1:11; Eph 3: 16-19); to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, (2Co 7:1; Hbr 12:14).

II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man, (1Th 5:23); yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part, (1Jo 1:10 Rom 7:18, 23; Phl 3:12); whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, (Gal 5:17; 1Pe 2:11).

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail, (Rom 7:23); yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome, (Rom 6:14; 1Jo 5:4; Eph 4:15-16); and so, the saints grow in grace, (2Pe 3:18; 2Co 3:18); perfecting holiness in the fear of God, (2Co 7:1).

In closing:

As seen from the Scripturally-based Westminster Confession on sanctification, the beginning question regarding Christ’ Words, are these words too hard to obey; it can be said absolutely no. Sanctification is a work of grace in the life of believers. With the sinful nature being changed, Christ is their first love for believers.


“Discipleship is commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

Therefore, “Be ye therefore followers [imitators] of God, as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Luke, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 387.

2.      Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 502.

3.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 48). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

4.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 265). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

5.      Kuyper’s famous “square inch” slogan accurately reflects his vision of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It comes from his inaugural address, “Sphere Sovereignty,” at the opening of the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880.

6.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 279). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com

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In Isaiah 44:3, what does “pour out floods” on a dry land mean? 

In Isaiah 44:3, what does “pour out floods” on a dry land mean?                By Jack Kettler

In this study, the meaning of “pour out floods on a dry land” will be considered.  

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3)

From the Strong’s Lexicon:


מַ֙יִם֙ (ma·yim)

Noun – masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 4325: 1) water, waters 1a) water 1b) water of the feet, urine 1c) of danger, violence, transitory things, refreshment (fig.)”

While one can see from the Strong’s why the KJV translators chose floods to translate ma·yim, there is room in the Hebrew for other words to be used.

For example, consider the following translations:

New International Version

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”

New Living Translation

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.”

English Standard Version

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”

Berean Standard Bible

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and currents on the dry ground. I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”

New American Standard Bible

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants.” (Underlining emphasis mine)

The reader will notice the range of meaning the Hebrew allows, such as floods, currents, streams, and irrigating.

In his commentary, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible has this to say:

“For I will pour water – Floods, rivers, streams, and waters, are often used in the Scriptures, and especially in Isaiah, to denote plenteous divine blessings, particularly the abundant influences of the Holy Spirit (see the note at Isaiah 35:6-7). That it here refers to the Holy Spirit and his influences, is proved by the parallel expressions in the subsequent part of the verse.”

“Upon him that is thirsty – Or rather, ‘on the thirsty land.’ The word צמא tsâmē’ refers here rather to land, and the figure is taken from a burning sandy desert, where waters would be made to burst out in copious streams (see Isaiah 35:6-7). The sense is, that God would bestow blessings upon them as signal and marvelous, as if floods of waters were made to descend on the dry, parched, and desolated earth.”

“And floods – The word נוזלים nôzelı̂ym, from נזל nâzal, “to flow,” to run as liquids, means properly flowings, and is used for streams and rivers Exodus 15:8; Psalm 78:16; Proverbs 5:15; Jeremiah 18 It means here that the spiritual influences which would descend on the afflicted, desolate, comfortless, and exiled people, would be like torrents of rain poured on the thirsty earth. This beautiful figure is common in the Scriptures:”

“He shall come down like rain upon the grass,”

“And as showers that water the earth.”  

From J. C. Philpot’s Daily Portions:

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3

In pouring out his Spirit upon Zion’s offspring, God pours out there with every spiritual blessing that there is in his heart or hands to bestow. Whatever earthly good you may enjoy, without the blessing of God it will but prove a curse; whatever afflictions fall to your earthly lot, if God blesses them, they must all eventually be made a blessing. Nor is this blessing niggardly given, for the Lord has here promised that he will POUR it out! It shall be given as profusely and as abundantly as the Spirit himself. Nor shall Zion doubt either the blessing itself or the source whence it comes, for it carries its own evidence, shines in the light of its own testimony, and manifests itself by its own effects.”

“And does not the contrast between the dry ground and the promised showers of blessing enhance it all the more? Your very barrenness and sterility make the promise all the more suitable, and therefore all the more sweet. If you look into yourself, a barren wilderness meets your view. If you look up, you see the clouds of blessing floating in the pure sky. You see that the Lord has promised to “pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” You beg of him to fulfill that promise to your soul. You have no other plea but his own word of promise, no other recommendation but your own miserable barrenness. He enables you to cry to him. He listens to that cry, and in his own time pours water upon your thirsty soul, and floods upon your dry and parched heart. O may a sense of our poverty and destitution be ever a means, in his sacred hand, of leading us to seek that blessing which he alone can bestow!”

Philpot captures the New Testament Messianic implications of Isaiah 44:3 perfectly. 

In closing, a summary of the Isaiah passage from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

I will pour water; my Spirit and blessing, which is frequently compared to water; and so, it is expounded in the latter part of the verse.”

“Upon him that is thirsty: either,”

1. “Upon him that desires it. Or rather,”

2. “Upon him that is destitute of it; for what is here thirsty, in the next clause it is called dry ground.”

“My Spirit; the gifts and graces of my Spirit; which expression he seems designedly to use, to lift up the minds and hearts of the Jews from carnal and worldly things, to which they were too much addicted, unto spiritual and heavenly blessings, and thereby to prepare them for the better entertainment of the gospel.”

“My blessing; all the blessings of my covenant, both spiritual and temporal.”

The passage from Isaiah 44:3 is one of encouragement for God’s people. Using the word picture of floods or streams being poured upon the dry or thirsty land, one can see two-fold blessings, one literal for dry land in need of moisture, and another, a spiritual or heavenly blessing.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 7, p.1044.

2.      Philpot’s Daily Portions: Daily Readings for Christians.

3.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 424.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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Romans 8:28, an Exposition 

Romans 8:28, an Exposition                                                                           by Jack Kettler

In this study, the meaning of and encouragement found in Romans 8:28 will be considered.  

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Breaking down the phrase “we know” from Strong’s Lexicon:

“we know

Οἴδαμεν (Oidamen)

Verb – Perfect Indicative Active – 1st Person Plural

Strong’s Greek 1492: To know, remember, appreciate.”

Strong’s Concordance:

“eidó: be aware, behold, consider, perceive

Original Word: οἶδα

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: eidó

Phonetic Spelling: (i’-do)

Definition: be aware, behold, consider, perceive

Usage: I know, remember, appreciate.”

Note: “We know” is in the perfect active tense means that it is already completed, thus, inspiring confidence. Consider a few other passages from Romans and how the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word Οἴδαμεν:

“Romans 7:14

GRK: οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι

KJV: For we know that the law”

“Romans 7:18

GRK: οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι

KJV: For I know that in”

“Romans 8:22

GRK: οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι

KJV: For we know that the whole” (underlining emphasis mine)

Now consider God’s action in the Romans 8:28 passage, “are called:”

Strong’s Lexicon:


οὖσιν (ousin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 1510: I am, exist. The first person singular present indicative; a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb; I exist.”


κλητοῖς (klētois)

Adjective – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 2822: From the same as klesis; invited, i.e. Appointed, or, a saint.”

Together, both οὖσιν (present indicative)and κλητοῖς (appointed, or a saint) indicate present realities.

Is there a condition found in the text? Consider, “called according to his purpose.” It is apparent that the condition is found in God’s purpose and not anything depending on a man’s action. Thus, the condition is found in God’s purpose, which further strengthens the certainty of this promise.

The Strong’s Concordance confirms this:

“prothesis: a setting forth, i.e. fig. proposal, spec. the showbread, sacred (bread)

Original Word: πρόθεσις, εως, ἡ

Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine

Transliteration: prothesis

Phonetic Spelling: (proth’-es-is)

Definition: a setting forth, proposal, the showbread, sacred (bread)

Usage: a setting forth, the show-bread; predetermination, purpose.”

The certainty is seen in other passages from Paul using similar grammatical structure:

“Romans 9:11

GRK: κατ’ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ θεοῦ

NAS: that God’s purpose according

KJV: that the purpose of God

INT: according to election purpose of God”

“Ephesians 1:11

GRK: προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ

NAS: according to His purpose who works

KJV: according to the purpose of him who worketh

INT: having been predestined according to [the] purpose of him who the”

“Ephesians 3:11

GRK: κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων

NAS: with the eternal purpose which

KJV: the eternal purpose which

INT: according to [the] purpose of the ages”

Parallel Translations:

New International Version

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

New Living Translation

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

English Standard Version

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

New American Standard Bible

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

American Standard Version

“And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.”

English Revised Version

“And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.”

“Young’s Literal Translation

And we have known that to those loving God all things do work together for good, to those who are called according to purpose.”

Helpful Cross References:

Acts 13:48

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Romans 8:30

“Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

Romans 11:29

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”

1 Corinthians 1:9

“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:24

“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

Galatians 1:15

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,”

Interestingly, in the above passages, the verb tenses are present or past tense, meaning the grounds for hope is a present reality.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

“28. And we knew, &c.] Here appears a fresh assurance of safety. We have seen (1) the certainty of the son-ship of the believer; (2) the fact that his sorrows are only the prelude of glory; (3) the Divine assistance afforded him by the Holy Spirit, especially in prayer. Now, before the final appeal, we have an express statement of the truth that the children of God are the objects on His part of an Eternal Purpose, which must issue in their final blessedness, and must thus turn “all things” at last to good for them. This is stated as a confessed certainty, well known in the Church.

all things] In the amplest sense. See Romans 8:38-39 for illustration. No doubt St Paul has especially in view the sufferings of the saints, which would often tempt them to say “these things are against me.” But peace and rest, on earth, are perils also; and even such trials therefore need a similar assurance. —St Chrysostom’s dying words were, “Glory be to God for all things.”

work together] As means in the great Worker’s hand. It is instructive to note this expression in a passage where also the Divine Decrees are in view. The eternal Will takes place not arbitrarily, but through means; and those means are immensely various, and mutually adjusted by supreme Wisdom only.

for good] Chiefly, no doubt, the final Good is meant, the fruition of God in eternal Glory. But all true good by the way is included, as part of the path thither.

that love God] As His children; in whose hearts His love has been “outpoured by the Holy Ghost” (Ch. Romans 5:5). Observe that this note of saintship stands first in this memorable passage; not eternal election, but that conscious love to God in Christ which is its sure fruit, and without which no speculation of mysteries brings the soul near to Him. —It is the True God alone who makes this His unalterable demand; “Thou shalt love me.”

to them who are the called] Identical with “them that love Him.” See on Romans 1:6, for the profound meaning of “the call.” 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 is a clear illustration, in contrast with Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14. In the Gospels the word “call” refers to outward hearing; in the Epistles to inward reception, due to a special and sovereign influence from above. —See too Revelation 17:14.

according to his purpose] Same word as Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9. See especially the last passage and Ephesians 1:11, for the sense in which St Paul uses the word here. It is the intention of “Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will;” and it is absolute and sovereign, in the sense not of arbitrary caprice, (God forbid,) but in that of its being uncaused by anything external to Himself. The gift of life is “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose.” His “good pleasure” was, “before the world began,” “purposed in Himself.” (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11.) In the next verses, St Paul explains his meaning further. — (The word “His” is not in the Gr., but is certainly right in translation.)” (1)

In closing:

Romans 8:28 inspired this writer while working 60 hours each week to build a six-figure income in a yearly 400 hundred million dollars per year sales company. When this writer won a top twenty business builders of the year award, Romans 8:28 was announced as this writer’s favorite inspirational passage. However, and more importantly, spiritually, this passage is not necessarily about material success but rather a confidence in God’s promises for the task of those active in missions, in personal spiritual assurance, and in general sustaining one’s life. 

To further buttress this closing’s spiritual observation:

Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

“Another argument to comfort us under the cross, from the benefits of it;

We know that all things, &c. It is not matter of guess only and conjecture, but of certainty and assurance. How is this known?

1. By the testimony of God; the Scripture tells us as much, Psalm 128:1,2 Isa 3:10.

2. By our own experience; we are assured of it by the event and effects of all things, both upon ourselves and others.

All things, even sin itself; because from their falls, God’s children arise humbler and more careful. Afflictions are chiefly intended; the worst and crossest providences, those things that are evil in themselves, they work for good to the children of God.

Work together; here is their operation, and their co-operation: First, they work together with God. What the apostle says of himself and others in the ministry, 2 Corinthians 6:1, that may be said of other things, especially of afflictions; they are workers together with God. Some read the words thus, God co-operates all too good. Again, they work together with us; we ourselves must concur, and be active herein; we must labour and endeavour to get good out of every providence. Once more, they work together amongst themselves, or one with another. Take this or that providence singly, or by itself, and you shall not see the good it doth; but take it in its conjunction and connexion with others, and then you may perceive it. One exemplifies it thus: As in matter of physic, if you take such and such simples alone, they may poison rather than cure; but then take them in their composition, as they are made up by the direction of a skillful physician, and so they prove an excellent medicine.

For good; sometimes for temporal good, Genesis 1:20; always for spiritual and eternal good, which is best of all. All occurrences of providence shall serve to bring them nearer to God here, and to heaven hereafter.

According to his purpose: these words are added to show the ground and reason of God’s calling us; which is nothing else but his own purpose and good pleasure; it is not according to our worthiness, but his purpose: see 2 Timothy 1:9.” (2

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, H. C. G. Moule, Romans, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), e-Sword version.

2.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Romans, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 506.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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What does Isaiah mean by “these things” in Isaiah 38:16?

What does Isaiah mean by these things in Isaiah 38:16?

What does Isaiah mean by these things in Isaiah 38:16?                                 by Jack Kettler

In this study, the meaning of “these things men shall live” will be considered.  

“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so, wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.” (Isaiah 38:16)

The reader will notice that the words things and men are italicized, meaning that the two are not in the Hebrew text.

Consulting the Strong’s Lexicon:

“by [such things]

עֲלֵיהֶ֣ם (‘ă·lê·hem)

Preposition | third person masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 5921: prep 1) upon, on the ground of, according to, on account of, on behalf of, concerning, beside, in addition to, together with, beyond, above, over, by, on to, towards, to, against 1a) upon, on the ground of, on the basis of, on account of, because of, therefore, on behalf of, for the sake of, for, with, in spite of, notwithstanding, concerning, in the matter of, as regards 1b) above, beyond, over (of excess) 1c) above, over (of elevation or pre-eminence) 1d) upon, to, over to, unto, in addition to, together with, with (of addition) 1e) over (of suspension or extension) 1f) by, adjoining, next, at, over, around (of contiguity or proximity) 1g) down upon, upon, on, from, up upon, up to, towards, over towards, to, against (with verbs of motion) 1h) to (as a dative) conj 2) because that, because, notwithstanding, although”

The Strong’s Concordance:


chayah: live

Original Word: חָיָה

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: chayah

Phonetic Spelling: (khaw-yaw’)

Definition: to live”

While not in the original, things and men are certainly implied in the Hebrew text.

Since these two words are implied, consider how the English Standard Version (ESV) renders the text in Isaiah 38:16:

“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh, restore me to health and make me live!” (ESV)

How does one understand the context of Isaiah 38:16?

The context is addressed in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

“38:9-22 We have here Hezekiah’s thanksgiving. It is well for us to remember the mercies we receive in sickness. Hezekiah records the condition he was in. He dwells upon this; I shall no more see the Lord. A good man wishes not to live for any other end than that he may serve God, and have communion with him. Our present residence is like that of a shepherd in his hut, a poor, mean, and cold lodging, and with a trust committed to our charge, as the shepherd has. Our days are compared to the weaver’s shuttle, Job 7:6, passing and repassing very swiftly, every throw leaving a thread behind it; and when finished, the piece is cut off, taken out of the loom, and showed to our Master to be judged of. A good man, when his life is cut off, his cares and fatigues are cut off with it, and he rests from his labours. But our times are in God’s hand; he has appointed what shall be the length of the piece. When sick, we are very apt to calculate our time, but are still at uncertainty. It should be more our care how we shall get safe to another world. And the more we taste of the loving-kindness of God, the more will our hearts love him, and live to him. It was in love to our poor perishing souls that Christ delivered them. The pardon does not make the sin not to have been sin, but not to be punished as it deserves. It is pleasant to think of our recoveries from sickness, when we see them flowing from the pardon of sin. Hezekiah’s opportunity to glorify God in this world, he made the business, and pleasure, and end of life. Being recovered, he resolves to abound in praising and serving God. God’s promises are not to do away, but to quicken and encourage the use of means. Life and health are given that we may glorify God and do good.” (1)

From Matthew Henry, one learns about King Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery and his praise to God. 

The following commentary entry provides a short synopsis of the passage from Isaiah.  

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Isaiah 38:16:

“16. by these—namely, by God’s benefits, which are implied in the context (Isa 38:15, “He hath Himself done it” “unto me”). All “men live by these” benefits (Ps 104:27-30), “and in all these is the life of my spirit,” that is, I also live by them (De 8:3).

and (wilt) make me to live—The Hebrew is imperative, “make me to live.” In this view, he adds a prayer to the confident hope founded on his comparative convalescence, which he expressed, “Thou wilt recover me” [Maurer].” (2)

In closing:

Answering the starting question, Isaiah, when saying by these things, was referring to God’s gracious benefits. So, like Hezekiah, the believer prays that God is praised for His daily benefits that are the result of divine providential care.   

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1.      Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Psalms, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 1164.

2.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 556.

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 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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