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Does Romans 13:1, 3-5 contradict Isaiah 5:20?  

Does Romans 13:1, 3-5 contradict Isaiah 5:20?                                 By Jack Kettler

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1, 3-4)

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Romans 13:1, 3-4, teaches that believers submit to rulers who punish evil. Many times, rulers are promoters of evil deeds and often persecute the righteous. Did Hitler, for example, punish evil? Are believers unwittingly calling evil rulers who promote evil, good? If so, how can this contradiction be resolved? Is an individual who says the Hitler punished evil, when in reality, he punished good, fall under Isaiah’s woe?

A survey into the thoughts of various leaders in hopes to shed light on this dilemma: 

An example of how one tyrant exploited what can be called the quiet submission view Romans 13:

“The Protestants haven’t the faintest conception of a church. You can do anything you like with them – they will submit. These pastors are used to cares and worries…

They learnt them from their squires….

They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither a religion that they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.” (1)

During the time of this tyrant, there was a small confessing Church, but for the most part, the vast majority of Christians remained in a quiet posture of submission, hoping things would eventually get better. In this historical case, things went rapidly from bad to worse as the Church of that day withdrew from culture and hunkered down, hoping they would not be noticed.

Historical quotations that are relevant to the submission of ungodly magistrates:  

Martin Luther:

“Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments… I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience. Here I stand. God help me! Amen.” (2)

Martin Luther was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. -Wikipedia

John Calvin:

“The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When He opens His sacred mouth, He alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him, let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity, which they possess as magistrates – a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God.” (3)

“… [the Apostle] speaks here of the true, and, as it were, of the native duty of the magistrate, from which however they who hold power often degenerate.” (4)

John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. – Wikipedia

In Calvin, there is seen a distinction of the magistracy in general and individual magistrates. Calvin makes this distinction when he speaks of the “native duty of the magistrate.” Calvin makes it clear that “We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him, let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity they possess as magistrates.”

John Knox on Romans 13:

“First, the Apostle affirms that the powers are ordained of God [for the preservation of quiet and peaceable men, and for the punishment of malefactors; whereof it is plain that the ordinance of God] and the power given unto man is one thing, and the person clad with the power or with the authority is another; for God’s ordinance is the conservation of mankind, the punishment of vice, the maintaining of virtue, which is in itself holy, just, constant, stable, and perpetual. But men clad with the authority are commonly profane and unjust; yea, they are mutable and transitory, and subject to corruption, as God threateneth them by His Prophet David, saying: ‘I have said ye are gods, and every one of you the sons of the Most Highest; but ye shall die as men, and the princes shall fall like others.’ Here I am assured that persons, the soul and body of wicked princes, are threatened with death. I think that so ye will not affirm is the authority, the ordinance and the power, wherewith God endued such persons; for as I have said, as it is holy, so it is the permanent will of God. And now, my Lord, that the prince may be resisted and yet the ordinance of God not violated, it is evident; for the people resisted Saul when he had sworn by the living God that Jonathan should die….

“And now, my Lord, to answer to the place of the Apostle who affirms ‘that such as resists the power, resists the ordinance of God,’ I say that the power in that place is not to be understood of the unjust commandment of men, but of the just power wherewith God has armed His magistrates and lieutenants to punish sin and maintain virtue. As if any man should enterprise to take fromt he hands of a lawful judge a murderer, an adulterer or any malefactor that by God’s law deserved death, this same man resisted God’s ordinance, and procured to himself vengeance and damnation because that he stayed God’s sword to strike. But so it is not if that men in the fear of God oppone themselves to the fury and blind rage of princes; for so they resist not God, but the devil, who abuses the sword and authority of God.” (5)

John Knox was a Scottish minister, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the country’s Reformation. He was the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. – Wikipedia

Knox is likewise clear that an ungodly “prince may be resisted and yet the ordinance of God not violated.”

George Buchanan on Romans 13:

“Paul, then, is not concerned here with those who act as magistrates but with magistracy itself, that is, with the function and duty of those who are set over others; and he is not concerned with any particular type of magistracy, but with the form of every lawful magistracy. His argument is not with those who think that bad magistrates ought to be restrained, but with those who reject the authority of all magistrates….In order to refute their error Paul showed that magistracy is not only good but also sacred, the ordinance of God, indeed, expressly established to hold groups and communities of men together in such a way that the would recognise the blessings of God towards them and refrain from injuring one another.”

Buchanan goes on and says concerning the magistrate of Romans 13:

“But of a true and lawful magistrate, who is the earthly representative of the true God.” (6)

More from Buchanan on Romans 13:

“Paul wrote this in the very infancy of the church, when it was necessary not only to be above reproach, but also to avoid giving any opportunity for criticism to those looking even for unjust grounds for making accusations.  Next, he wrote to men brought together into a single community from different races and indeed from the whole body of the Roman Empire.” (7)

George Buchanan was a Scottish historian and humanist scholar. According to historian Keith Brown, Buchanan was “the most profound intellectual sixteenth century Scotland produced.” His ideology of resistance to royal usurpation gained widespread acceptance during the Scottish Reformation. – Wikipedia

Buchanan also says regarding Romans 13 “Paul, then, is not concerned here with those who act as magistrates but with magistracy itself.” The idea that Paul is speaking of is how the magistracy should be, not how a magistrate may be.

The Westminster Confession of Faith on submission to the state:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to His Word… So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

Because the powers, which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. (8)

The confession is clear; the believer “shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical…”

As the progressive reign of Christ unfolds in history, believers must call magistrates to repentance. 

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25)

How does 1 Corinthians 15:25 and Roman 13:1-7 work together?

That question can be answered by considering the book Messiah the Prince: Or, The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ by William Symington. Consider this description of Symington’s work:

“Often Christians focus on Jesus’ role as Prophet or Priest but leave unaddressed his role as King over all men and nations. William Symington, a 19th century Reformed Presbyterian, and Scottish pastor, wrote Messiah the Prince to examine the particular significance of Jesus Christ as King.

Revelation 1:5 says that Christ is the “prince of the kings of the earth.” What obligations does this place upon the civil magistrate? What obligations might this place upon the people who are governed, including those people who vote for their civil magistrate? Of what significance is the truth that the One who was the atoning sacrifice for His people (the Priest) and the one who spoke and taught the Word in its fullness (the Prophet) is also the Ruler of all (the King)? What might it mean when Jesus said, “Make all nations My disciples”?

Symington answers these questions is a way that will push some modern Christians past their comfort zone. He makes that case that Christ is reigning now and that all nations must answer to Him, and it is the Church’s responsibility to make that call on the nations, their governors and their governed.” – Description by Goodreads


According to Symington, it is the “Church’s responsibility to make that call on the nations, their governors and their governed.” How does this work out with the prevailing view of quiet submission to authorities’ view of Romans 13? In contrast to the quiet view, William Symington argues in his “Messiah the Prince…” that Christ is Head of the Church, and Lord of all creation, including civil governments. Symington makes the case that Christ’s authority encompasses all men and nations. Therefore, civil magistrates can be challenged, resisted, and called to repentance.

If Symington is correct, Christ is the King of the nations; all magistrates must bow before Him!

Paul essentially says in Romans 13, because the magistrate does good to you, and is a terror towards evil-doers, you owe them obedience. The obedience is conditioned upon three things that are inescapable in the text:

  1. For [because] rulers are not a terror to good works, but the evil. (verse 1)
  2. For [because] he is the minister of God to thee for good. (verse 3)
  3. For [because] he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (verse 4)

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

And, as, because, for

A primary particle; properly, assigning a reason (used in argument, explanation or intensification; often with other particles) — and, as, because (that), but, even, for, indeed, no doubt, seeing, then, therefore, verily, what, why, yet.

The participle “because” is a legitimate substitution in lieu of “for.”

If Paul did not condition his argument on the state’s prosecution of evil, why did he bring this subject into the argument?

If the Church is to make that call on the nations, the quiet submission view of Romans 13 must be false. The standard quiet submission view of Romans 13 cannot possibly be true because this would mean, according to that view, the government situation in pagan nations says they are fulfilling Paul’s description of a government that prosecutes evil. Therefore, Romans 13 must be telling us how civil government optimally should be, not how it is. If this is true, then there are limits upon the believer’s submission to wicked rulers. Obedience in Romans 13 is conditioned. John Knox made this clear in his tirade against tyrants. See The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Therefore, Romans 13:1, 3-4 tells us how a God-fearing government should work, not how many pro-homosexual, pro-child killing governments operate. Romans 13 sets forth the standard. It does not endorse governments that do evil or argue that a government doing evil is doing good. To believe that a government that promotes abortion on demand, sexual deviancy, theft and redistribution, and idol promotion (statism) does good is to believe in contradictions and fall under the condemnation of Isaiah’s woe.

Did Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot execute wrath against evil-doers, were they a terror against evil? To maintain so is to believe Scripture is contradictory. All that can be said is that even an evil government is better than complete anarchy or no government. However, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, complete anarchy may have been better and is very different from contradictorily saying that an evil government is doing good and opposing evil when it is not.

Can the state be a false god?

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3, 5-6)

To answer the above question, of course, the state can. Trust the government from the cradle to the grave is statist idolatry. Submitting children to forced indoctrination in government schools and forced vaccinations have always been exempt on the ground of a conscience submitted to Scripture. This exemption did not appear out thin air, battles had to be fought, and ungodly magistrates had to be opposed. The quiet submission view does not win battles.

In conclusion, consider William Symington’s thoughts on the limits of Romans 13:

“Without confounding all moral distinctions it is impossible to suppose that the lawfulness of a power depends solely on the fact of its existence. People say, if a government exists them it must be of God. The Bible says no such thing, and if the Bible did say such a thing, it would be contradicting its own principles of purity, equity and judgment?” – William Symington (9)

Symington is in agreement with the conclusion of this study, namely, that, wicked, unjust laws and statues can be resisted without doing violence to Romans 13.

John Knox’s position on Romans 13 was in agreement with Symington. Would Knox be kicked out of the Presbyterian Church today for his theology of resistance to tyrants?

To repeat Luther:

“Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments… I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience. Here I stand. God help me! Amen.”

Thankfully, Luther and Calvin were not quiet submission men! If they were, the Protestant Reformation and the American War for Independence would never have happened.

To back this up about the American War for Independence:

It is no wonder that King James I once said: “Presbyterianism agreeth with a monarchy like God with the Devil.” In England, the War for Independence was referred to as the “Presbyterian Rebellion.”

A Hessian captain (one of the 30,000 German mercenaries used by England) wrote in 1778, “Call this war by whatever name you may only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scots-Irish Presbyterian rebellion.”

In contrast, today, it appears that many evangelical leaders “are insignificant little people… and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.”

We need more men like John Knox!

Are Romans 13:1, 3-4, and Isaiah 5:20 contradictory? If Paul’s argument in Romans 13 is qualified, then no. However, if it were maintained that the magistrate who does evil and does not execute wrath against evil-doers is still supposedly doing good, this would fall under Isaiah’s woe.

As seen from the quotes, like those of our forefathers in the faith of old, Christians today can resist unbiblical laws that violate Scripture.

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


  1. Adolf Hitler as quoted in Herman Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction, (London, 1940); cited in Joseph Carr, The Twisted Cross, (Huntington House Inc., 1985), p. 202.
  2. Martin Luther, quoted by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), Volume VII, pp. 304-305.
  3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), Book IV, Chapter XX: 32.
  4. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, (Baker Book House, reprinted 1993), pp. 478-479.
  5. John Knox as quoted In Roger Mason, ed., On Rebellion, pp. 191-92.
  6. Buchanan, A Dialogue on the Law of Kingship Among the Scots, ed. Roger Mason, p. 113.
  7. Buchanan, A Dialogue on the Law of Kingship Among the Scots, ed. Roger Mason, p. 121.
  8. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XX: 2, 4.
  9. William Symington, as quoted in Unconditional Obedience to Government? By Ronald Hanko, Protestant Reformed Church

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

For more study:

William Symington, D.D., Messiah the Prince or The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ, (Edmonton, Canada, Still Waters Revival Books, Reprint Edition January 1990 from the 1884 edition) online addition


The Christian and Civil Government By Pastor John Weaver

The Christian and Civil Government, by Pastor John Weaver, is a theological treatise on Romans 13. It explains the Christian’s responsibility and relationship to civil government. It sets forth civil government as it has been ordained by God. Likewise it exposes corrupt, unbiblical and ungodly civil government. The book emphasizes obedience to God in the realm of civil government. The chapters include:

  1. The Institution of Government
  2. The Covenantal Nature of Government
  3. The Purpose of Government
  4. Are We Bound to Obey Government When Contrary to the Word of God?
  5. Is Usurped Authority Legitimate?
  6. The Degrees of Resistance to Tyranny
  7. The Pastor as Magistrate
  8. Statism is Idolatry
  9. A Friend of Christ or Caesar?

Although primarily a Biblical textbook on government, there are many historical facts and perspectives interwoven throughout The Christian and Civil Government. $11.00 Post Paid: Pastor John Weaver P. O. Box 394, Fitzgerald, Ga. 31750 This book is also available at Amazon.

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Introduction to the Marriage Covenant

Introduction to the Marriage Covenant                                                           by Jack Kettler

This study will look at the biblical basis of marriage and the divine plan for marriage. As will be seen, there is significant development of the marriage institution in redemptive history. This study is merely an introduction to the subject of marriage.

Old Testament Scriptures:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

“And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-24)

The first thing to note is that God is the creator of male and female. Secondly, it is God’s plan for them to multiply or reproduce. Third, God creates the woman out of the man.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers perfectly explain verse 24 of Genesis 2:

“(24) Therefore shall a man leave . . . These are evidently the words of the narrator. Adam names this new product of creative power, as he had named others, but he knew nothing about young men leaving their father’s house for the wife’s sake. Moreover, in Matthew 19:5, our Lord quotes these words as spoken by God, and the simplest interpretation of this declaration is that the inspired narrator was moved by the Spirit of God to give this solemn sanction to marriage, founded upon Adam’s words. The great and primary object of this part of the narrative is to set forth marriage as a Divine ordinance. The narrator describes Adam’s want, pictures him as examining all animal life, and studying the habits of all creatures so carefully as to be able to give them names, but as returning from his search unsatisfied. At last, one is solemnly brought to him who is his counterpart, and he calls her Ishah, his feminine self, and pronounces her to be his very bone and flesh. Upon this, “He who at the beginning made them male and female “pronounced the Divine marriage law that man and wife are one flesh.” (1)

New Testament Scriptures:

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)

From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Matthew 19:6:

“5. And said, for this cause—to follow out this divine appointment.

shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?—Jesus here sends them back to the original constitution of man as one pair, a male and a female; to their marriage, as such, by divine appointment; and to the purpose of God, expressed by the sacred historian, that in all time one man and one woman should by marriage become one flesh—so to continue as long as both are in the flesh. This being God’s constitution, let not man break it up by causeless divorces.” (2)

“Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” (Ephesians 5:25; 28)

The Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians 5:25:

“Verse 25. – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for her. The husband’s duty to the wife is enforced by another parallel – it ought to correspond to Christ’s love for the Church. This parallel restores the balance; if it should seem hard for the wife to be in subjection, the spirit of love, Christ-like love, on the part of the husband makes the duty easy. Christ did not merely pity the Church, or merely desire her good, but loved her; her image was stamped on his heart and her name graven on his hands; he desired to have her for his companion, longing for a return of her affection, for the establishment of sympathy between her and him. And he gave himself for her (comp. ver. 2), showing that her happiness and welfare were dearer to him than his own – the true test of deep, real love.” (3)

There is a clear parallel between husbands and wives and Christ and His Church. This parallel alone makes the marriage covenant more than a mere social contract.

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1Timothy 3:2 ESV)

One notable development in the New Covenant is the abandonment of polygamy that was seen in the Older Covenant. In some instance in church, history polygamy has been tolerated depending on unique situations.

Comments on contracts and covenants:

A deal or contract is between two humans and agreed upon with legal measures to enforce such agreements.

In contrast, marriage is far more than a human social contract; it is a divinely instituted covenant.

What is a covenant? It is a contract between two parties with God as a witness.

In light of this, Christian marriage does not make two people mere associates like business partners; they are joined together and recognized as one with God and His Church are the witnesses.

Since marriage is a covenantal agreement, in many ways, it mirrors a church membership or baptismal covenant.

The following entry on marriage provides much-needed material on marriage and development in redemptive history.

Marriage from Fausset’s Bible Dictionary:

“The charter of marriage is Genesis 2:24, reproduced by our Lord with greater distinctness in Matthew 19:4-5; “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain, shall be one flesh.” The Septuagint, and Samaritan Pentateuch reads “twain” or “two” in Genesis 2:24; compare as to this joining in one flesh of husband and wife, the archetype of which is the eternally designed union of Christ and the church, Ephesians 5:31; Mark 10:5-9; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 1Corinthians 7:2. In marriage, husband and wife combine to form one perfect human being; the one is the complement of the other. Christ makes the church a necessary adjunct to Himself. He is the Archetype from whom, as the pattern, the church is formed (Romans 6:5). He is her Head, as the husband is of the wife (1Corinthians 11:3; 1Corinthians 15:45). Death severs bridegroom and bride, but cannot separate Christ and His bride (Matthew 19:6; John 10:28-29; John 13:1; Romans 8:35-39).

In Ephesians 5:32 translated “this mystery is great,” i.e. this truth, hidden once but now revealed, namely, Christ’s spiritual union with the church, mystically represented by marriage, is of deep import. Vulgate wrongly translated “this is a great sacrament,” Rome’s plea for making marriage a sacrament. Not marriage in general, but the marriage of Christ and the church, is the great mystery, as the following words prove, “I say it in regard to (eis) Christ and in regard to (eis) the church,” whereas Genesis 2:24 refers to literal marriage. Transl. Ephesians 5:30, “we are members of His (glorified) body, being (formed) out of (ek) His flesh and of His bones.” Adam’s deep sleep wherein Eve was formed out of His opened side, symbolizes Christ’s death, which was the birth of the spouse, the church (John 12:24; John 19:34-35). As Adam gave Eve a new name, ‘ishah, “woman” or “wife” the counterpart of iysh, “man” or “husband,” so Christ gives the church His new name; He, Solomon, she, the Shulamite (Song of Solomon 6:13; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12).

The propagation of the church from Christ, as that of Eve from Adam, is the foundation of the spiritual marriage. Natural marriage rests on the spiritual marriage, whereby Christ left the Father’s bosom to woo to Himself the church out of a lost world. His earthly mother as such He holds secondary to His spiritual bride (Luke 2:48-49; Luke 8:19-21; Luke 11:27-28). He shall again leave His Father’s abode to consummate the union (Matthew 25:1-10; Revelation 19:7). Marriage is the general rule laid down for most men, as not having continency (1Corinthians 7:2; 1Corinthians 7:5, etc.). The existing “distress” (1Corinthians 7:26) was Paul’s reason then for recommending celibacy where there was the gift of continency. In all cases his counsel is true, “that they that have wives be as though they had none,” namely, in permanent possession, not making idols of them.

Scripture teaches the unity of husband and wife; the indissolubleness of marriage save by death or fornication (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:3); monogamy; the equality of both (iysh) and (ishah) being correlative, and she a “help-meet for him,” i.e. a helping one in whom as soon as he sees her he may recognize himself), along with the subordination of the wife, consequent on her formation subsequently and out of him, and her having been first to fall. (1Corinthians 11:8-9; 1Timothy 2:13-15.) Love, honor, and cherishing are his duty; helpful, reverent subjection, a meek and quiet spirit, her part; both together being heirs of the grace of life (1Peter 3:1-7; 1Corinthians 14:34-35). Polygamy began with the Cainites. (See LAMECH; DIVORCE; CONCUBINE.) The jealousies of Abraham’s (Genesis 16:6) and Elkanah’s wives illustrate the evils of polygamy. Scripture commends monogamy (Psalm 128:3; Proverbs 5:18; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9).

Monogamy superseded polygamy subsequently to the return from Babylon. Public opinion was unfavorable to presbyters and women who exercise holy functions marrying again; for conciliation and expediency sake, therefore, Paul recommended that a candidate should be married only once, not having remarried after a wife’s death or divorce (1Timothy 3:2; 1Timothy 3:12; 1Timothy 5:9; Luke 2:36-37; 1Corinthians 7:40); the reverse in the case of young widows (1Timothy 5:14). Marriage is honorable; but fornication, which among the Gentiles was considered indifferent, is stigmatized (Hebrews 13:4; Acts 15:20). Marriage of Israelites with Canaanites was forbidden, lest it should lead God’s people into idolatry (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4). In Leviticus 18:18 the prohibition is only against taking a wife’s sister “beside the other (namely, the wife) in her lifetime.”

Our Christian reason for prohibiting such marriage after the wife’s death is because man and wife are one, and the sister-in-law is to be regarded in the same light as the sister by blood. Marriage with a deceased brother’s wife (the Levirate law) was favored in Old Testament times, in order to raise up seed to a brother (Genesis 38:8; Matthew 22:25). The high priest must marry only an Israelite virgin (Leviticus 21:13-14); heiresses must marry in their own tribe, that their property might not pass out of the tribe. The parents, or confidential friend, of the bridegroom chose the bride (Genesis 24; Genesis 21:21; Genesis 38:6). The parents’ consent was asked first, then that of the bride (Genesis 24:58). The presents to the bride are called mohar, those to the relatives’ mattan. Between betrothal and marriage all communication between the betrothed ones was carried on through “the friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). She was regarded as his wife, so that faithlessness was punished with death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24); the bridegroom having the option of putting her away by a bill of divorcement (Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 1:19).

No formal religious ceremony attended the wedding; but a blessing was pronounced, and a “covenant of God” entered into (Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:17; Genesis 24:60; Ruth 4:11-12). The essential part of the ceremony was the removal of the bride from her father’s house to that of the bridegroom or his father. The bridegroom wore an ornamental turban; Isaiah 61:10, “ornaments,” rather (peer) “a magnificent headdress” like that of the high priest, appropriate to the “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6); the bride wore “jewels” or “ornaments” in general, trousseau. He had a nuptial garland or crown (Song of Solomon 3:11, “the crown wherewith His mother (the human race; for He is the Son of man, not merely Son of Mary) crowned Him in the day of His espousals”); and was richly perfumed (Song of Solomon 3:6). The bride took a preparatory bath (Ezekiel 23:40). This is the allusion in Ephesians 5:26-27; “Christ loved … gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot.”

The veil (tsaip) was her distinctive dress, covering the whole person, so that the trick played on Jacob was very possible (Genesis 24:65; Genesis 29:23); the symbol of her subjection to her husband’s power, therefore called “power on her head” (1Corinthians 11:10). (See DRESS.) Our “nuptials” is derived from nubo, “to veil one’s self.” She also wore girdles for the breasts (“attire,” kishurim) which she would not readily forget (Jeremiah 2:32). Also a gilded or gold “crown” or chaplet (kullah), a white robe sometimes embroidered with gold thread (Revelation 19:8; Psalm 45:13-14) and jewels (Isaiah 61:10). Late in the evening the bridegroom came with his groomsmen (“companions,” Judges 14:11; “children of the bride chamber,” Matthew 9:15), singers and torch or lamp bearers leading the way (Jeremiah 25:10), the bride meantime with her maidens eagerly awaited his coming.

Then he led the bride and her party in procession home with gladness to the marriage supper (Matthew 25:6; Matthew 22:1-11; John 2:2; Psalm 45:15). The women of the place flocked out to gaze. The nuptial song was sung; hence in Psalm 78:63 their maidens were not praised in nuptial song (Hebrew) is used for “were not given in marriage,” margin. The bridegroom having now received the bride, his “friend’s joy (namely, in bringing them together) was fulfilled” in hearing the bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29). Song of Solomon 3:11, the feast lasted for 7 or even 14 days, and was enlivened by riddles, etc. (Judges 14:12.) The host, not to wear was an insult to him that provided wedding garments. Large water pots for washing the hands and for “purifying” ablutions were provided (Mark 7:3).

These had to be “filled” before Jesus changed the water into wine; a nice propriety in the narrative, the minor circumstances being in keeping with one another; the feast being advanced, the water was previously all emptied out of the water pots for the guests’ ablutions (John 2:7). Light is thrown upon Egyptian marriages by a translation of an Egyptian contract of marriage, by Eugene Revillout. It is written in the demotic character upon a small sheet of papyrus, No. 2482, Cat. Egyptien, Musee du Louvre. It is dated in the month of Choiach, year 33 of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and the contracting parties are Patina, son of Pchelkhous, and the lady, Ta-outem, the daughter of Rehu. The terms of the deed are singular as to the dowry required on both sides, together with the clauses providing for repudiation.

After the actual dowry is recited, the sum being specified in shekels, the rights of the children which may hereafter come from the marriage, as well as the payment of the mother’s pin-money, are secured by the following clause: “thy pocket money for one year is besides thy toilet money which I give thee each year, and it is your right to exact the payment of thy toilet money and thy pocket money, which are to be placed to my account, which I give thee. Thy oldest son, my oldest son, shall be the heir of all my property, present and future. I will establish thee as wife.” Practicing in marriage law in Egypt was one of the priestly functions; for at the conclusion the contract states that, “the writer of this act is … the priest of Ammon Horpneter, son of Smin.” The bridegroom was exempted from military service for a year (Deuteronomy 20:7; Deuteronomy 24:5).

Women in Scripture times were not secluded as now, but went about married and single with faces unveiled (Genesis 12:14; Genesis 24:16; Genesis 24:65). Some were prophetesses, as Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, and took part in public concerns (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6-7; Abigail, 1Samuel 25:14-25). The duties of husband and wife are laid down (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; Titus 2:4-5; 1Peter 3:1-7). Brawling wives stand in contrast to the model wife, God’s gift (Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 21:19; Proverbs 27:15; Proverbs 31:10-31). (On the spiritual harlot, see BEAST and ANTICHRIST.) Woman, harlot, bride, and ultimately wife, i.e. Christ’s church in probation, the apostate church, and the glorified church, form the grand theme of the Bible from first to last. Israel had God for her “husband,” she became a harlot when she left Him for idols (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 3:14).

Again, Jehovah is to reunite Israel to Him as His earthly bride, as the elect church is His heavenly bride (Isaiah 54:5, etc.; Isaiah 62:4-5; Hosea 2:19; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17). The Father prepares for His Son the marriage feast (Matthew 22:1-14). The apostate church, resting on and conformed to the godless world is the harlot riding on the beast and attired in scarlet as the beast. God’s eternal principle in her case as in Israel’s and Judah’s shall hold good, and even already is being illustrated in Rome’s being stripped by the world power; when the church sins with the world, the world the instrument of her sin shall be the instrument of her punishment (Ezekiel 23; Revelation 17:1-5; Revelation 17:16-18).” (4)

KJV Dictionary Definition: marriage:

“MAR’RIAGE, The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.

Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb.13.

  1. A feast made on the occasion of a marriage.

The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage for his son. Matt.22.

  1. In a scriptural sense, the union between Christ and his Church by the covenant of grace. Rev.19.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXIV:


Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time. [1]

Scripture Proof Texts 1. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 7:3; Prov. 2:17.”

This section of the confession represents New Covenant redemptive history development and is the doctrinal position of conservative Reformed Churches.

In closing:

In light of recent ungodly trends in the society and the courts, churches should twice before performing marriages for those who are not members of the church. Doing this may put a church in an untenable position if refusing to perform same-sex marriage contracts.

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


  1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Genesis, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 22.
  2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 935.
  3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ephesians, Vol.20., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 212.
  4. Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., Marriage, Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, 1878

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

For more study:

Something Greater Than Marriage; A Response to the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision:

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The usage of the term last days in Scripture

The usage of the term last days in Scripture                                                     By Jack Kettler

In Scripture, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the phrase “last days,” and its similar expressions, “latter days,” “afterwards,” and “time of the end,” “last time” appears in several places. Does this expression all refer to the same event in history? The study on this topic will be a brief introductory look at the phrase “last days” and its variants. The list of Scriptures surveyed in this study is abbreviated.

Old Testament Scriptures:

“And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days.” (Genesis 49:1)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible from Genesis 49:1:

“And Jacob called upon his sons … Who either were near at hand, and within call at the time Joseph came to visit him, or if at a distance, and at another time, he sent a messenger or messengers to them to come unto him:

and said, gather yourselves together; his will was, that they should attend him all together at the same time, that he might deliver what he had to say to them in the hearing of them all; for what he after declares was not said to them singly and alone, but when they were all before him:

that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days; not their persons merely, but their posterity chiefly, from that time forward to the coming of the Messiah, who is spoken of in this prophecy, and the time of his coming; some things are said relating to temporals, others to spirituals; some are blessings or prophecies of good things to them, others curses, or foretell evil, but all are predictions delivered out by Jacob under a spirit of prophecy; some things had their accomplishment when the tribes of Israel were placed in the land of Canaan, others in the times of the judges, and in later times; and some in the times of the Messiah, to which this prophecy reaches, whose coming was in the last days, Hebrews 1:1 and Nachmanides says, according to the sense of all their writers, the last days here are the days of the Messiah; and in an ancient writing of the Jews it is said (x), that Jacob called his sons, because he had a mind to reveal the end of the Messiah, i.e. the time of his coming; and Abraham Seba (y) observes, that this section is the seal and key of the whole law, and of all the prophets prophesied of, unto the days of the Messiah.” (1)

As Gill notes, this promise finds its fulfillment in the time of the Messiah.

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills;

And all nations shall flow to it.” (Isaiah 2:2)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Isaiah 2:2:

“(2) It shall come to pass in the last days.—The three verses that follow are found in almost identical form in Micah 4:1-3, with the addition of a verse (Micah 4:4) which describes the prosperity of Judah—every man sitting “under his vine and his fig-tree,” as in the days of Solomon. Whether (1) Isaiah borrowed from Micah, or (2) Micah from Isaiah, or (3) both from some earlier prophet, or (4) whether each received an independent yet identical revelation, is a problem which we have no adequate data for solving. Micah prophesied, like Isaiah, under Ahaz, Jotham, and Hezekiah, and so either may have heard it from the other. On the other hand, the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, on which these verses follow, in Micah 3:12 appears from Jeremiah 26:18 to have been spoken in the days of Hezekiah. On the whole, (3) seems to have most to commend it.

For “in the last days” read latter or after days; the idea of the Hebrew words, as in Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14, being that of remoteness rather than finality. For the most part (Deuteronomy 4:30; Deuteronomy 31:29) they point to the distant future of the true King, to the time of the Messiah.” (2)

As Ellicott notes, this passage also finds fulfillment in the time of the Messiah.

“The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this.” (Jeremiah 30:24)

From Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament on Jeremiah 30:24:

“Further explanation of the deliverance promised to Zion. – Jeremiah 30:18. “Thus saith Jahveh: Behold, I will turn the captivity of the tents of Jacob, and will take pity on his dwellings; and the city shall be built again upon its own hill, and the palace shall be inhabited after its own fashion. Jeremiah 30:19. And there shall come forth from them praise and the voice of those who laugh; and I will multiply them, so that they shall not be few, and I will honour them, so that they shall not be mean. Jeremiah 30:20. And his sons shall be as in former times, and his congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress him. Jeremiah 30:21. And his leader shall spring from himself, and his ruler shall proceed from his midst; and I will bring him near, so that he shall approach to me; for who is he that became surety for his life in drawing near to me? Saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 30:22. And ye shall become my people, and I will be your God.”

The dwellings of Israel that have been laid waste, and the cities that have been destroyed, shall be restored and inhabited as formerly, so that songs of praise and tones of joy shall resound from them (Jeremiah 30:18.). “The captivity of the tents of Jacob” means the miserable condition of the dwellings of Jacob, i.e., of all Israel; for “to turn the captivity” has everywhere a figurative sense, and signifies the turning of adversity and misery into prosperity and comfort; see on Jeremiah 29:14. Hitzig is quite wrong in his rendering: “I bring back the captives of the tents of Jacob, i.e., those who have been carried away out of the tents.” That “tents” does not stand for those who dwell in tents, but is a poetic expression for “habitations,” is perfectly clear from the parallel “his dwellings.” To “take pity on the dwellings” means to “restore the dwellings that have been destroyed” (cf. Jeremiah 9:18). The anarthrous עיר must not be restricted to the capital, but means every city that has been destroyed; here, the capital naturally claims the first consideration. “Upon its hills” is equivalent to saying on its former site, cf. Joshua 11:13; it does not mean “on the mound made by its ruins,” in support of which Ngelsbach erroneously adduces Deuteronomy 13:17. ארמון in like manner stands, in the most general way, for every palace. על־משׁפּטו does not mean “on the proper place,” i.e., on an open, elevated spot on the hill (Hitzig), neither does it mean “on its right position” (Ewald); both of these renderings are against the usage of the words: but it signifies “according to its right” (cf. Deuteronomy 17:11), i.e., in accordance with what a palace requires, after its own fashion. ישׁב, to be inhabited, as in Jeremiah 17:6, etc. “Out of them” refers to the cities and palaces. Thence proceeds, resounds praise or thanksgiving for the divine grace shown them (cf. Jeremiah 33:11), and the voice, i.e., the tones or sounds, of those who laugh (cf. Jeremiah 15:17), i.e., of the people living in the cities and palaces, rejoicing over their good fortune. “I will increase them, so that they shall not become fewer,” cf. Jeremiah 29:6; “I will bring them to honour (cf. Isaiah 8:22), so that they shall not be lightly esteemed.” – In Jeremiah 30:20. The singular suffixes refer to Jacob as a nation (Jeremiah 30:18). “His sons” are the members of the nation; they become as they were previously, in former times – sicut olim sub Davide et Salmonoe, florentissimo rerum statu. “The congregation will be established before me,” i.e., under my survey (תּכּון as in Psalm 102:29), i.e., they shall no more be shaken or moved from their position.” (3)

According to the commentators, this passage finds immediate fulfillment when the events occur, and secondly, the passage looks forward to the time of the Messiah.

“But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these.” (Daniel 2:28)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Daniel 2:28:

“Here the prophet gives God entirely all the glory, proving all the powers on earth to come short in it, it being one of God’s peculiar prerogatives to reveal secrets. Yea, in great humility he denies himself to have any share in it, as also Daniel 2:29.

What shall be in the latter days: observe here the prophet’s wisdom in this discovery, he doth not fall abruptly upon the dream, but first prepares this lofty king for it in general, and by degrees he doth labour to win him to the knowledge of the true God.

  1. By this his power; and,
  1. By his gracious favour to the king, in revealing to him the greatest secret in the world about the change of kingdoms and governments, and touching the power of Christ’s kingdom over all in the latter days. See Daniel 2:44.” (4)

Poole sees the fulfillment of this passage too in the time of the Messiah.

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.” (Micah 4:1)

“Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:5)

From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Hosea 3:5:

“5. Afterward—after the long period (“many days,” Ho 3:4) has elapsed.

return—from their idols to “their God,” from whom they had wandered.

David their king—Israel had forsaken the worship of Jehovah at the same time that they forsook their allegiance to David’s line. Their repentance towards God is therefore to be accompanied by their return to the latter. So Judah and Israel shall be one, and under “one head,” as is also foretold (Ho 1:11). That representative and antitype of David is Messiah. “David” means “the beloved.” Compare as to Messiah, Mt 3:17; Eph 1:6. Messiah is called David (Isa 55:3, 4; Jer 30:9; Eze 34:23, 24; 37:24, 25).

fear the Lord and his goodness—that is, tremblingly flee to the Lord, to escape from the wrath to come; and to His goodness,” as manifested in Messiah, which attracts them to Him (Jer 31:12). The “fear” is not that which “hath torment” (1Jo 4:18), but reverence inspired by His goodness realized in the soul (Ps 130:4).

the latter days—those of Messiah [Kimchi].” (5)

The commentators conclude this phrase “the latter days” finds fulfillment in the times of the Messiah.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Joel 2:28:

“(28) I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.—Holy Scripture is itself the interpreter of this most weighty promise. St. Peter’s quotation and application of it in the Acts is its commentary. “Afterward “—LXX., after these things becomes in the apostle’s mouth—“in the last days”—i.e., in the Christian dispensation, when, after the punishment of the Jews by the heathen, their king came—“my Spirit”—St. Peter renders “of my spirit,” after the LXX., indicating the gifts and influences of the Holy Ghost—“upon all flesh”—i.e., without distinction of race or person—“they of the circumcision were astonished because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The outward manifestation of these gifts, as shown on the Day of Pentecost, in accordance with this prediction, was gradually withdrawn from the Church; the reality remains.” (6)

Ellicott explains how this verse looks forward to the inauguration of the New Covenant.

In the Old Testament passages, the “last days,” and the similar phrases find their fulfillment in the ending of the Old Jewish covenant order and the institution of the New Covenant by the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase “last days” does not necessarily mean the end of history.

New Testament Scriptures:

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

This two-part question is asking about the near term (great tribulation of 70AD coming in judgment) and long-term events (the second coming at the end of history).

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3:1)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 2Timothy 3:1 is brilliant:

“(1) This know also.—Better rendered, But know this. The Apostle had warned Timothy (2Timothy 2:3-13) not to allow fear of oncoming peril and trouble to paralyse his efforts in the Master’s cause, for the Lord’s true servant should never lose heart, and then had proceeded (2Timothy 2:14-26) to detail how these efforts of his were to be directed, showing him how his teaching should stand in contrast with that of the false teachers. St. Paul now (2Timothy 3:1), having told him that although there was no reason to fear, yet warns him that grave dangers to the Church would surely arise, and that God’s servants, like Timothy, must be prepared to combat.

In the last days.—The majority of commentators have referred “the last days” here spoken of to the period immediately preceding the second coming of the Lord—a day and an hour somewhere in the future but hidden, not merely from all men, but from the angels, and even from the Son (Mark 13:32).

It seems, however, more in accordance with such passages as 1John 2:18 : “Little children, it is the last time”—where the present, and not an uncertain future is alluded to—to understand “the last days “as that period, probably of very long duration, extending from the days of the first coming of Messiah—in which time St. Paul lived—to the second coming of Christ in judgment. The Jewish Rabbis of the days of St. Paul were in the habit of speaking of two great periods of the world’s history—“this age,” and “the age to come.” The former of these, “this age,” including all periods up to Messiah’s advent; the latter, “the age to come,” including all periods subsequent to the appearance of Messiah. We find the same idea embodied later in the Talmud (treatise “Sanhedrim”) 6,000 years are mentioned as the duration of the world, 2,000 years, waste or chaos, 2,000 years under the law, 2,000 years the days of Messiah.” This last period, “the days of Messiah,” are often alluded to by the Hebrew prophets under the expression, “in the last days”—literally, in the end of days. (See Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1.) The words of 2Timothy 3:5, “from such turn away,” would require certainly a strained interpretation if we are to suppose that the “last days” referred to a time immediately preceding the end, or, in other words, the last period of the Christian era. The sad catalogue of vices is, alas, one with which all ages of the Church of Christ has been too well acquainted. The Christian teacher has no need to look forward to a future time of deeper iniquity, when in the Church of the living God will be found those who will deserve the dreary titles of this passage. The Church of his own age will supply him with examples of many such, for “In a great house . . . are there not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood, and earth, and some to honour and some to dishonour.” (7)

Ellicott argues convincingly “The words of 2Timothy 3:5, “from such turn away,” would require certainly a strained interpretation if we are to suppose that the “last days” referred to a time immediately preceding the end, or, in other words, the last period of the Christian era.” So “last days” in Timothy must be interpreted as the whole Christian era and not a short period.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” (2Peter 3:3)

“Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2)

Again from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Hebrews 1:2:

“(2) Hath in these last days . . .—Better, at the end of these days spake unto us in a Son. The thought common to the two verses is “God hath spoken to man”; in all other respects the past and the present stand contrasted. The manifold successive partial disclosures of God’s will have given place to one revelation, complete and final; for He who spake in the prophets hath now spoken “in a Son.” The whole stress lies on these last words. The rendering “a Son” may at first cause surprise, but it is absolutely needed; not, “Who is the Revealer?” but, “What is He?” is the question answered in these words. The writer does not speak of a Son in the sense of one out of many; the very contrast with the prophets (who in the lower sense were amongst God’s sons) would be sufficient to prove this, but the words which follow, and the whole contents of this chapter, are designed to show the supreme dignity of Him who is God’s latest Representative on earth. The prophet’s commission extended no farther than the special message of his words and life; “a Son” spoke with His Father’s authority, with complete knowledge of His will and purpose. It is impossible to read these first lines (in which the whole argument of the Epistle is enfolded) without recalling the prologue of the fourth Gospel. The name “Word” is not mentioned here, and the highest level of St. John’s teaching is not reached; but the idea which “the Word” expresses, and the thought of the Only Begotten as declaring and interpreting the Father (John 1:18; also John 14:10; John 14:24) are present throughout. There is something unusual in the words, “at the end of these days.” St. Peter speaks of the manifestation of Christ “at the end of the times” (1Peter 1:20); and both in the Old Testament and in the New we not unfrequently read “at the end (or, in the last) of the days.” (See 2Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18; Numbers 24:14; Daniel 10:14, &c.) The peculiarity of the expression here lies in “these days.” The ages preceding and following the appearance of Messiah are in Jewish writers known as “this world” (or, age) and the “coming world” (or, age); the “days of Messiah” seem to have been classed sometimes with the former, sometimes with the latter period; but “the end of these days” would be understood by every Jewish reader to denote the time of His appearing.” (8)

Ellicott again is brilliant in his analysis of “last days” being the age of the Messiah.

“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” (Jude 1:18)

“Last time” as we see in Jude, likewise must be understood as an age. What Jude is saying has relevance for the whole Christian era, not for only a few years preceding the Second coming of Christ.

The phrase the “last days” and its variations can be understood as beginning in the first century. In most cases, these “last days” are inaugurated by Christ’s first coming and continue until His second coming.

Last Days from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words:

“A — 1: ἔσχατος

(Strong’s #2078 — Adjective — eschatoses’-khat-os)

“last, utmost, extreme,” is used (a) of place, e.g., Luke 14:9,10 , “lowest;” Acts 1:8 ; 13:47 , “uttermost part;” (b) of rank, e.g., Mark 9:35 ; (c) of time, relating either to persons or things, e.g., Matthew 5:26 , “the last (farthing),” RV (AV, “uttermost”); Matthew 20:8,12,14 ; Mark 12:6,22 ; 1 Corinthians 4:9 , of Apostles as “last” in the program of a spectacular display; 1 Corinthians 15:45 , “the last Adam;” Revelation 2:19 ; of the “last” state of persons, Matthew 12:45 , neuter plural, lit., “the last (things);” so Luke 11:26 ; 2 Peter 2:20 , RV, “the last state” (AV, “the latter end”); of Christ as the Eternal One, Revelation 1:17 (in some mss. ver. 11); 2:8; 22:13; in eschatological phrases as follows: (a) “the last day,” a comprehensive term including both the time of the resurrection of the redeemed, John 6:39,40,44,54 ; 11:24 , and the ulterior time of the judgment of the unregenerate, at the Great White Throne, John 12:48 ; (b) “the last days,” Acts 2:17 , a period relative to the supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the resumption of the Divine interpositions in the affairs of the world at the end of the present age, before “the great and notable Day of the Lord,” which will usher in the messianic kingdom; (c) in 2 Timothy 3:1 , “the last days” refers to the close of the present age of world conditions; (d) in James 5:3 , the phrase “in the last days” (RV) refers both to the period preceding the Roman overthrow of the city and the land in A.D. 70, and to the closing part of the age in consummating acts of gentile persecution including “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (cp. verses James 5:7,8 ); (e) in 1 Peter 1:5 , “the last time” refers to the time of the Lord’s second advent; (f) in 1 John 2:18 , “the last hour” (RV) and, in Jude 1:18 , “the last time” signify the present age previous to the Second Advent.

Notes: (1) In Hebrews 1:2 , RV, “at the end of these days” (AV, “in these last days”), the reference is to the close of the period of the testimony of the prophets under the Law, terminating with the presence of Christ and His redemptive sacrifice and its effects, the perfect tense “hath spoken” indicating the continued effects of the message embodied in the risen Christ; so in 1 Peter 1:20 , RV, “at the end of the times” (AV, “in these last times”).

B — 1: ὕστερον

(Strong’s #5305 — Noun Neuter — husteronhoos’-ter-on)

the neuter of the adjective husteros, is used as an adverb signifying “afterwards, later,” see AFTER , No. 5. Cp. the adjective, under LATER.

Note: In Philippians 4:10 the particle pote, “sometime,” used after ede, “now, already,” to signify “now at length,” is so rendered in the RV, AV, “(now) at the last.” (9)

In closing:

In interpreting, the meaning of “the last days” and similar phrases have not been the easiest task for commentators. Sometimes the meaning is looking to end of the Old Testament period, the New Testament age, and the end of history. At other times, the immediate fulfillment when the events occur provides the best understanding. In eschatology, everyone wants to have a nice and tidy system. Unfortunately, as history has shown, this is not the case. History is littered with the failed predictions of men.

What we do know that the Lord Jesus Christ shall come again. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

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


  1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Genesis, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 811.
  2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 421.
  3. Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament Jeremiah, Vol. 4, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 10-11.
  4. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Daniel, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 815-816.
  5. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 769.
  6. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Joel, Vol.5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 443.
  7. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 2Timothy, Vol.8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 232.
  8. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Hebrews, Vol.8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 283.
  9. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 640-641.

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

For more study:

The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul

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John the Baptist, was he Elijah?

John the Baptist, was he Elijah?                                                                       By Jack Kettler

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

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

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

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

Introduction to the Old Testament prophet Elijah:

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

The Old Testament predictions of a coming prophet:

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

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

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

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

From the Pulpit Commentary on Malachi 3:1:

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

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

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

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

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

The New Testament Scriptures on John the Baptist:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus identifies and explains who John is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Closing:

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

Parallels between Elijah, John, Elisha, and Christ:

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

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

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

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




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


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

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What does turn to him the other cheek mean?

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

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

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

Were these Christians correct in their course of action?

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

A parallel passage to this in Matthew:

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

Old Testament parallel passages:

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

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

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

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

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

Old Testament background and context. Why a backhanded slap?

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

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

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

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

Other considerations, the Judaic background:

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

Two different renditions of Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6:

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

(Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6)

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

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

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

From the older Pulpit Commentary on Luke 6:29:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical illustrations of the spirit, which Jesus here commends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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The use of titles by ministers

The use of titles by ministers                                                                            by Jack Kettler

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

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

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

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

From the Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 23:9:


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

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

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

For example:

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

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

How do we explain this?

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


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

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

Was Jesus speaking literally in Matthew 23:9?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Strong’s Concordance:

kathégétés: a teacher

Original Word: καθηγητής, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: kathégétés

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

Definition: a teacher

Usage: a leader, teacher, guide, master.

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


John Calvin on Matthew 23:9-10:


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


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

In closing:

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

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

Another consideration:

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

From Strong’s Concordance:

kléros: a lot

Original Word: κλῆρος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: kléros

Phonetic Spelling: (klay’-ros)

Definition: a lot

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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The Canards of Unbelief

The Canards of Unbelief by Jack Kettler

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

The three questions of the Socratic technique:

1. What do you mean?

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

2. How do you know that?

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

3. What are the implications of this viewpoint?

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

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

The example of Jesus asking questions:

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

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

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

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

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

Canard 1:

“The church is full of hypocrites.”

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

Canard 2:

“Christians are always judging other people.”

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

Canard 3:

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

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

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

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

Canard 4:

“The church is a business.”

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

Canard 5:

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

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

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

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

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

The gospel in a nutshell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are these commands absolute?

Starting with the Church:

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

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

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

The Marks of a True Church:

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

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

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

Now to consider the State:

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

Considering the Romans 13 text:

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

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

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

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

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

Marks of the God-ordained State:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples from history:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the link below for Kopel’s complete essay.

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

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

From the Library of Congress:

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

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

“Sphere Sovereignty” a solution:

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

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

Present-day Church/State relations:    

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

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

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

Are there limits on the local State and Federal State?

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking to the bottom line:

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

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

Historical examples of civil disobedience by Christians:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Ninth Commandment:

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

The Westminster larger catechism:

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

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

Theological and Political lies:

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

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

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

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

In conclusion:

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

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

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

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


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

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

For more study:

Romans 13: Reading an Abused Text of Scripture Rightly

The Biblical Doctrine of Government by R. J. Rushdoony

The Calvinist Connection by Dave Kopel

The Calvinist Connection by Dave Kopel

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Church Membership, a Scriptural Primer

Church Membership, a Scriptural Primer by Jack Kettler

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

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

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


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

First, what is the church?

KJV Dictionary Definition: church:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A description of church membership:

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

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

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

The Levitical priesthood:

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

For example:

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

Registration records were crucial to making this determination.

Additional textual records kept in the Old Testament:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Matthew and Luke record the genealogies of Christ.

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

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

[He went there] to register

ἀπογράψασθαι (apograpsasthai)

Verb – Aorist Infinitive Middle

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

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

The church assembles:

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

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

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

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

Strong’s Concordance Hebrews 12:23 and enrolled:

apographó: to copy, enroll

Original Word: ἀπογράφω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: apographó

Phonetic Spelling: (ap-og-raf’-o)

Definition: to copy, enroll

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

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

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

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

How does someone become an elder in the church?

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

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

The process in Presbyterian polity happens like this:

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

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

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

Records were kept in the early church:

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

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

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

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

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

eklegó: to select

Original Word: ἐκλέγομαι

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: eklegó

Phonetic Spelling: (ek-leg’-om-ahee)

Definition: to select

Usage: choose, elect, select.

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

Criteria set by the church to support widows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slander is evil, which is Paul says:

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

What does to “those inside the church mean”?

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

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

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

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

As Revelation notes, God keeps a roll.

In closing:

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

Paul directs the church:

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

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

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

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

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


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Herman Bavinck b. 1854 – d. 1921

Herman Bavinck b. 1854 – d. 1921

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

Herman Bavinck quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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