Cessationism of 1st Century χαρίσματα (charismata) revelatory sign gifts

Cessationism of 1st Century χαρίσματα (charismata) revelatory sign gifts by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the teaching known as cessationism and along with some related relevant topics. What does cessationism mean? Does God still give revelation via interpretation of tongues, prophecy and revelatory words of knowledge? If so, are these gifts normative for the entire church age? Are revelations conveyed from these gifts on the same level as the Bible? What exactly are tongues mentioned in the Bible? Is there an angelic language to be used in prayer? These are a few of the questions we will seek biblical answers for in this study.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“The view that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (healing, tongues, prophetic revelations) ended with the apostolic age, and that while God still does do miracles, he does not gift individuals with the miraculous spiritual gifts.” *


“The position within Christianity that the Charismatic Spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues, etc.) ceased with the closing of the Canon of scripture and/or the death of the last apostle.” **

From Scripture regarding the cessation of the revelatory gifts:

“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

The passage says that something that is “in part” shall be done away with when “that which is perfect is come.” What is the apostle referring to when he says that something perfect is coming?

Theologian Gordon H. Clark comments on this:

There is one phase, not so far mentioned: “When the completion comes,” or “when that which is perfect comes.” This raises the question: completion of what? It could be the completion of the canon. Miracles and tongues were for the purpose of guaranteeing the divine origin of apostolic doctrine. They cease when the revelation was completed. Even the word knowledge is better understood this way. Instead of comparing present-day extensive study of the New Testament with Justin’s [Martyr] painfully inadequate understanding of the Atonement, it would be better to take knowledge as the apostolic process of revealing new knowledge. This was completed when revelation ceased. (1)

Clark is right on track when connecting the coming perfection with the completion of the Scriptures. The tongues and prophecy of the apostolic era confirmed and bore witness to the truthfulness of the apostolic message. Nevertheless, tongues, prophecy, and revelatory knowledge were lacking when compared with the completed written Scripture. The written Scriptures are far superior to spoken words. The written Scripture stands strong and cannot be overthrown.

Dr. Leonard Coppes also has relevant comments regarding this passage of Scripture:

This is a clear statement that when the knowledge given through the apostles and prophets is complete, tongues and prophecy shall cease. Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge (gnosis) constitute partial, incomplete stages. Some may stumble over the idea that “knowledge” represents a partial and incomplete (revelational) stage. But is rightly remarked that Paul distinguishes between sophia and gnosis in I Cor. 12:8 All three terms (tongues, prophecy, knowledge) involve divine disclosure of verbal revelation and all three on that basis alone ceased when the foundation (i.e., the perfect) came (10). Verse 11 speaks of the partial as childlike (cf., 14:20) and the perfect as manly (the apostolic is “manly,” too, cf., 14:20). Paul reflecting on those who are limited to these childlike things describes this limitation as seeing in a mirror darkly (12). When the perfect (the apostolic depositum) is come, full knowledge is present. (2)

Coppes, like Clark, connects the coming perfection with the completion of the Scriptural canon. Both scholars make compelling exegetical arguments for their interpretation of the Corinthian passage. More will be seen in this study about the closing of the Scriptural canon and its implications.

The next passage of Scripture cited refers to warning of coming judgment upon the people of Israel from the book of Isaiah cited by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians and has relevance to the issue at hand regarding revelatory gifts and their cessation. There are two reasons for tongues and the other revelatory gifts.

Consider the first reason for tongues:

“In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:22)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:22:

22. Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul, that “tongues” (unknown and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly intended for believers (though at the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles with him, tongues were vouchsafed to him and them to confirm their faith), but mainly to be a condemnation to those, the majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah’s day, reject the sign and the accompanying message. Compare “yet … will they not hear Me” (1Co 14:21). “Sign” is often used for a condemnatory sign (Eze 4:3, 4; Mt 12:39-42). Since they will not understand, they shall not understand.

prophesying … not for them that believe not, but … believe—that is, prophesying has no effect on them that are radically and obstinately like Israel (Isa 28:11, 12), unbelievers, but on them that are either in receptivity or in fact believers; it makes believers of those not willfully unbelievers (1Co 14:24, 25; Ro 10:17), and spiritually nourishes those that already believe.

The commentators are correct to note that tongues were for non-believers, in this case, national Israel. It is noteworthy that the commentators make the connection with Isaiah 28:11-12.

The purpose of tongues in Isaiah 28:11-12 that the apostle Paul quotes in Corinthians:

“For with stammering lips and another tongue [the Assyrian language], He will speak to this people, to whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest,’ and, ‘this is the refreshing,’ yet they would not hear.” (Isaiah 28:11-12)

Digging Deeper:

Strong’s Concordance 3956

lashon: tongue

Original Word: לָשׁוֹן

Part of Speech: Noun Masculine

Transliteration: lashon

Phonetic Spelling: (law-shone’)

Short Definition: tongue


These words were spoken by the prophet to the people of Judah as a declaration that they were about to be judged by God for their rebellion by the Assyrian army. Moses also mentioned the presence of “unknown tongues” in his prophecy concerning the destruction of the nation of Israel. The passage also has real significance for national Israel’s rejection of Christ and subsequent judgment by the Romans in 70AD. God raised up a foreign army, which spoke an unintelligible or foreign tongue to bring judgment upon His rebellious people.

Consider this earlier prophetic warning:

“The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose [language] tongue you will not understand.” (Deuteronomy 28:49)

Many of the modern translations use language instead of tongue. For example:

“The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language


you do not understand.” (Deuteronomy 28:49 ESV)


This prophecy from Deuteronomy has fulfillment in regards to the Roman invasion of Israel and destruction of the temple. The Deuteronomy passage mentions “eagle.” This almost certainly refers to the emblem or standard of the Roman army, the eagle. The passage probably has significance to the earlier Assyrian and Babylonian judgments as well.

Tongues in the book of Acts did not just appear out of nowhere. The understanding of tongues is rooted in Old Testament prophecy, namely, Deuteronomy and Isaiah. The Greek word glossa has interpreted either tongue or language.

The First purpose of tongues:

Tongues were a sign of judgment on the nation of Israel. The confusion of tongues, at Babel and forward, has been a sign of judgment. When Israel heard the tongues of the Assyrian invaders in the 8th Century before Christ, it was a sign that judgment had come (Isaiah 28:11-12). Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 14:22 in which he explains how the New Testament gift of unintelligible languages (tongues) was a sign to unbelieving Israel of impending judgment. It was the end of the Old Covenant Age for Israel. When the judgment on Israel came in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the armies of Roman, the nation was scattered, and the purpose of tongues foretold by Deuteronomy and Isaiah was fulfilled.

The Second purpose of tongues:

The second purpose of tongues and their interpretation along with prophecy and words of knowledge functioned to confirm the work of the apostle’s words with power. These gifts were all revelatory or revelations of God’s power and confirmation of His Will and Word.

The scriptural proof of this is seen in:

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

“God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:4)

After the death of the apostles and the closing of the canon of Scripture, the work of confirming the apostolic message was no longer needed. The destruction of the temple and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant people of God are also tied up in the events of the end.

The Greek language helps in our understanding of tongues in the first century:

Digging deeper, Tongues from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

Tongue (-s)

[A-1, Noun, G1100, glossa] is used of

(1) The tongues … like as of fire, which appeared at Pentecost;

(2) “The tongue,” as an organ of speech, e.g., Mark 7:33; Romans 3:13; Romans 14:11; 1 Corinthians 14:9; Philippians 2:11; James 1:26; James 3:5-James 3:6, James 3:8; 1 Peter 3:10; 1 John 3:18; Revelation 16:10;

(a) “a language,” coupled with phule, “a tribe,” laos, “a people,” ethnos, “a nation,” seven times in the Apocalypse, Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 10:11; Revelation 11:9; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 14:6; Revelation 17:15;

(b) “The supernatural gift of speaking in another language without its having been learnt;” in Acts 2:4-Acts 2:13 the circumstances are recorded from the viewpoint of the hearers; to those in whose language the utterances were made it appeared as a supernatural phenomenon; to others, the stammering of drunkards; what was uttered was not addressed primarily to the audience but consisted in recounting “the mighty works of God;” cp. Acts 2:46; in 1 Cor., chapters 12 and 14, the use of the gift of “tongues” is mentioned as exercised in the gatherings of local churches; 1 Corinthians 12:10 speaks of the gift in general terms, and couples with it that of “the interpretation of tongues;” chap. 14 gives instruction concerning the use of the gift, the paramount object being the edification of the church; unless the “tongue” was interpreted the speaker would speak “not unto men, but unto God,” 1 Corinthians 14:2; he would edify himself alone, 1 Corinthians 14:4, unless he interpreted, 1 Corinthians 14:5, in which case his interpretation would be of the same value as the superior gift of prophesying, as he would edify the church, 1 Corinthians 14:4-6; he must pray that he may interpret, 1 Corinthians 14:13; if there were no interpreter, he must keep silence, 1 Corinthians 14:28, for all things were to be done “unto edifying,” 1 Corinthians 14:26. “If I come … speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you,” says the Apostle (expressing the great object in all oral ministry), “unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching?” (1 Corinthians 14:6). “Tongues” were for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers, 1 Corinthians 14:22, and especially to unbelieving Jews (See 1 Corinthians 14:21): cp. the passages in the Acts.

There is no evidence of the continuance of this gift after apostolic times nor indeed in the later times of the Apostles themselves; this provides confirmation of the fulfillment in this way of 1 Corinthians 13:8, that this gift would cease in the churches, just as would “prophecies” and “knowledge” in the sense of knowledge received by immediate supernatural power (cp. 1 Corinthians 14:6). The completion of the Holy Scriptures has provided the churches with all that is necessary for individual and collective guidance, instruction, and edification.

[A-2, Noun, G1258, dialektos]

“Language” (Eng., ‘dialect”), is rendered “tongue” in the AV of Acts 1:19; Acts 2:6, Acts 2:8; Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2; Acts 26:14. See LANGUAGE.

[B-1, Adjective, G2804, heteroglossos]

Is rendered “strange tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14:21, RV (heteros, “another of a different sort,” See ANOTHER, and A, No. 1), AV, “other tongues.”

[C-1, Adverb, G1447, hebraisti]

(Or ebraisti, Westcott and Hort) denotes

(a) “In Hebrew,” Revelation 9:11, RV (AV, “in the Hebrew tongue”); so Revelation 16:16;

(b) In the Aramaic vernacular of Palestine, John 5:2, AV, “in the Hebrew tongue” (RV, “in Hebrew”); in John 19:13, John 19:17, AV, “in the Hebrew” (RV, “in Hebrew”); in John 19:20, AV and RV, “in Hebrew;” in John 20:16, RV only, “in Hebrew (Rabboni).”

Note: Cp. Hellenisti, “in Greek,” John 19:20, RV; Acts 21:37, “Greek.” See also Rhomaisti, under LATIN. (4)


As seen from Vine’s, the tongues as seen in Acts 2:6–8 were actual languages. In denial of this, the modern day Charismatic and Pentecostal movements assert that the understanding of tongues may be something other than an understandable human language. They would say an angelic language used for prayer.

People in this theological camp believe that men can use angelic languages for private prayers and public exhibitions and interpretations conveying unique revelatory words from God. They cannot have it both ways. That would be equivocation – using the same word to mean different things – a logical fallacy!

Charismatic proof texts passages for praying in non-human language tongues:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

Consider Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Romans 8:26:

(26, 27) A second reason for the patience of the Christian under suffering. The Spirit helps his weakness and joins in his prayers.

(26) Likewise.—While on the one hand the prospect of salvation sustains him, so on the other hand the Divine Spirit interposes to aid him. The one source of encouragement is human (his own human consciousness of the certainty of salvation), the other is divine.

Infirmities.—The correct reading is the singular, “infirmity.” Without this assistance, we might be too weak to endure, but the Spirit helps and strengthens our weakness by inspiring our prayers.

With groanings which cannot be uttered.—When the Christian’s prayers are too deep and too intense for words, when they are rather a sigh heaved from the heart than any formal utterance, then we may know that they are prompted by the Spirit Himself. It is He who is praying to God for us. (5)

Do Ellicott’s comments do justice to the text?


Ellicott makes no mention of a man praying in an unknown angelic language. First, it should be noted that the text says the Spirit prays, not a man. Proponents of modern day tongue speakers read this into the text something that is not there. Second, the text says the Spirit prays for us with groanings, (stenagmos) not a man. Therefore, groanings cannot be a man praying in an angelic language.

Digger deeper:

Strong’s Concordance 4726

stenagmos: a groaning

Original Word: στεναγμός, οῦ, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: stenagmos

Phonetic Spelling: (sten-ag-mos’)

Short Definition: a groaning

Definition: a groaning, sighing.


As seen, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” cannot possibly be a man praying in an angelic language. These “groanings” are not audible whereas tongue speaking is.

Does this next passage validate an angelic prayer language?

“For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:14)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on 1 Corinthians 14:14:

“For if I pray in an unknown tongue. In the Hebrew tongue, which the greatest part of the Jewish doctors insisted (a) upon should be only used in prayer; which notion might be borrowed from them, and now greatly prevailed in the church at Corinth; and the custom was used by such as had the gift of speaking that language, even though the body and bulk of the people understood it not: my spirit prayeth; I pray with my breath vocally; or else with affection and devotion, understanding what I say myself, and so am edified; or rather with the gift of the Spirit bestowed on me: but my understanding is unfruitful; that is, what I say with understanding to myself is unprofitable to others, not being understood by them.” Vid. Trigland. de Sect. Kar. c. 10. p. 172, 173. (6)


Gill makes no mention of an angelic prayer language, but rather an unknown tongue. In this passage, Paul does not say he prays in an unknown tongue instead; he says, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue…but my understanding is unfruitful.” “For if” is a hypothetical, not something the apostle says he does in personal prayers. Besides, the apostle says if he did this, his understanding is unfruitful. The apostle is not encouraging praying in an unfruitful manner devoid of understanding.

A general command in Scripture is in the next three passages:

“What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

We are to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, not suspend our understanding. This is true even in prayer. We should pray with understanding.

Consider another tongue speaking proof text:

“Though I speak with the tongues (glōssais plural) of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthian 13:1)

The following scholar’s comments regarding the language of angels are pertinent:

“With respect to the words of angels which are recorded in the Scriptures, nothing can be plainer, more direct, and, we may say, more unimpassioned. They seem to say with the utmost conceivable plainness what they have been commissioned to say, and nothing more. No words are less the words of ecstasy than theirs.” (7)


Where does the Bible speak of angels having their own language that doubles as a prayer language for men? Is the mention of tongues in the book Acts and the book of Corinthians an example of different tongues for men and angels? There is no reason to believe that the tongues mentioned are anything other than language, characterized by the rules of grammar and syntax. Tongue speaking in Acts (glōssais the tongue, a language) refers to known languages (maybe not to all the hearers). One can argue that the languages that are spoken in the Corinthians (glōssais) passage are as well. If not, you are equivocating on the use of language without necessary contextual justification.

There is no biblical basis in 1 Corinthians 13:1 for the idea that there is a heavenly, prayer language. This assumption is read into the text. Even if you grant that angels speak in a pure form of Hebrew not understood by man, this hardly supports the idea of a non-human heavenly prayer language. Assumptions like this are pure conjecture. Furthermore, when Paul makes the contrast and speaks of the “tongues of men and of angels,” he is using hyperbole. Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claims not meant to be taken literally. The apostle is saying that, notwithstanding however brilliant one could be, using his own language, or a foreign language, or perhaps within the speculative speech of angels, it is worthless without love.

Angels always spoke in human language in the Bible when speaking to men:

Scripture provides many examples of angels speaking to men. They communicated in languages that were understandable by those spoken to in the Bible. The burden of proof is on those who claim who claim angels spoke in non-human languages. The phrase “the tongues of angels” offers no proof that angelic language is different from human language or that there is any justification for some form of non-human language for prayer. All you can ascertain is that the angelic language was unknown. Said another way, trying to determine what the language may have been used is sheer guesswork. The speaking of tongues in modern day churches has no connection to actual language. It is gibberish with no connection to the rules of grammar and syntax.

Linguists can study languages and discern syntax and grammar structure. Messages from tongue-speaking churches show no relationship to anything resembling language. If they do, it would have to be ascertained if the person speaking was bi-lingual or multi-lingual. Trying to track down dates and locations of real foreign languages being spoken is more than problematic. Most stories of real languages seem to be nothing more than the parroting of unverified stories.
Examples of linguist scrutiny*

Biblical Scholar D. A. Carson correctly observes:

“Modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia [speaking foreign languages] are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them” (8)

University of Toronto linguistics professor William Samarin concurs:

“Glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly. The speaker controls the rhythm, volume, speed and inflection of his speech so that the sounds emerge as pseudolanguage—in the form of words and sentences. Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language.” (9)

What we do know is that the study of history shows that tongues ceased after the death of the apostles. The leading Church fathers such as Chrysostom (Eastern Church), and Augustine (Western Church) believed that tongues was a revelatory confirmatory sign gift only for the apostolic era.

It was not until the Azusa Street Revival, 1906-1915, founded and led by William J. Seymour in Los Angeles, California, which resulted in the spread of what was allegedly a new manifestation of the apostolic sign gifts of the first century. Seymour immersed himself in radical Holiness theology, which taught a post-conversion second blessing or the entire sanctification experience that resulted in complete holiness or sinless perfection this side of heaven, which is heretical. If tongues confirmed the apostolic message, Seymour’s tongues movement did nothing of the sort. God did speak through ordinary people in biblical times, these were prophets, but they had good theology.

Extra questions:

If the revelatory apostolic gifts such as tongues and prophecy were normative for all time in the Church, how can the absence of these gifts be explained after the first century? Was the Church apostate or spiritually dull-hearted two thousand years? Was the true Church lost as the Mormons claim? Those who would advance something like this cannot prove it biblically. An alleged apostasy cannot be because Jesus said, “the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church” in Matthew 16:18.

The nations of Christendom, while not perfect, transformed nations and civilizations for the better over the centuries in fulfillment of Christ’s words.

What about the prophecy for the book of Joel? Does this predict a last day’s reappearance of the apostolic revelatory sign gifts of the first century?

“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)

Is this a prophecy for the first century or a futuristic prophecy?

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary Joel 2:28:

It shall come to pass, most certainly this shall be done, afterward; in the latter days, after the return out of Babylonish captivity, after the various troubles and salvations by which they may know that I am the Lord, their God in the midst of them, when those wondrous works shall be seconded by the most wonderful of all, the sending the Messiah, in his day and under his kingdom.

I will pour out my Spirit; in large abundant measures will I give my Holy Spirit, which the Messiah exalted shall send, John 16:7; in extraordinary power and gifts in the apostles and first preachers of the gospel, and in ordinary measure and graces to all believers, Ephesians 4:8-11.

Upon all flesh; before these gifts were confined to a few people, to one particular nation, to a very small people; but now they shall be enlarged to all nations, Acts 2:33 10:45, to all that believe, all that are regenerate.

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: this was in part fulfilled according to the letter in the first days of the gospel; but this promise is rather of a comparative meaning, thus, By pouring out of the Holy Spirit on your sons and your daughters, they shall have as clear and full knowledge of the deep mysteries of God’s law as prophets beforetime had. The law and prophets were till John, and during this time the gifts of the Spirit were given in lesser measures, and of all men the prophets had greatest measures of the Spirit; but in these days, the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.

Your old men shall dream dreams; no difference of age, to old men who had been long blind in the things of God the mysteries of grace shall be revealed, and these shall know as certainly and clearly as if God had extraordinarily revealed himself to them by dreams sent of God upon them.

Your young men shall see visions; many young men shall be as eminent in knowledge as if the things known were communicated by vision. In a word, all knowledge of God and his will shall abound among all ranks, sexes, and ages in the Messiah’s days, and not only equal, but surpass, all that formerly was by prophecy dreams, or visions. (10)


Poole establishes that the prophecy in Joel found its fulfillment in the book of Acts.

What are the implications for ongoing apostolic revelatory gifts?

If these revelatory apostolic gifts are still in operation, the canon of Scripture is still open. If so, does this mean that the expanding oral tradition of the Roman Church and the printed minutes from the Mormon General Conference meetings and the Mormon Ensign Magazine where the Mormon prophet speaks should be added to the book of Acts or an ongoing addendum to the Bible? An addendum would be like the old encyclopedias that had a yearly update edition. How exactly would this work out for the Bible? Should there be Roman Catholic, Charismatic and Mormon addendums?

Additional Problems for modern day tongues speakers:

Some have argued that tongues and words of knowledge and prophecy are personal or private revelations and therefore not the same as a biblical revelation in the Bible, a sort of two-tier system of revelation. Experience in tongue speaking churches shows this is not the case. If tongues are expressed publically, the congregants normally and hopefully wait for an interpretation. Sometimes someone will speak what is supposed to be the interpretation. At other times in the church service, someone will speak prophecies or words of knowledge. This very practice is not private but public.

How are these alleged spoken words to be evaluated? Does the congregation vote on it? On the other hand, should the hearers accept message or words at face value? Most of the time the expressions of interpretation and prophecies are general scripture like-sounding words. Also, how is it determined if the individuals giving this supposed spirit inspired messages are not just showboating or letting their feelings and emotions get the better of them? Can spiritual pride lead to certain individuals to grandstand? Most people want to be seen as spiritual, and some want to be seen as more spiritual than others.

As said, from experience, most of what is said in these alleged words are general exhortations or general words of encouragement that sound like a simplified version of Elizabethan English. No doubt, some of the readers of this article have heard of examples of alleged tongue-speaking where someone would say for example that tongue-speaking was in the Hungarian language. As previously noted, trying to track down when and where this happened is always problematic. When pressed, no one seems to know where and when. Why listen to unverifiable words when we can read the Bible?

Consider this next passage:

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)

Peter says we have “a more sure word of prophecy.” The Word of God is surer than anything else is especially unsubstantiated prophecies. Read Psalm 119.

A Conclusion:

The only time in a church service you can be sure you are hearing the Word of God, is when you hear the Scriptures read. Pastors with concerns to be biblically faithful always pray that God will give a blessing to their preaching and guard the words that come from their mouth. A Sermon from the pastor is not the infallible word of God. Many times a pastor will pray, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.” (Psalm 19:14)

If the first-century revelations of God via, prophecy, interpretation of tongues and words of knowledge were still in practice today, the conclusion would be that the canon of Scripture is still open. This would mean that we need more than just the Bible. In other words, the Bible is not yet complete, because revelation is still ongoing. Some may want to dance around this conclusion. It, however, is inescapable.

Furthermore, those arguing for on-going first century revelatory gifts are inadvertently giving support for Roman Catholicism’s argument for the concept of on-going oral traditions that are purported to be on equal footing with Scripture. The Roman Catholics are more consistent in their argument of a secondary source of revelation than the advocates of the on-going first century revelatory gifts are. If the first-century revelatory gifts are still in operation, how are they fundamentally different from the oral traditions of the Roman Church?

A Time-tested principle of Scripture:

“These were nobler than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

“But test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV)

Why be satisfied with vague or general biblical sounding words; we need the pure Word of God.

General biblical sounding words or phrases that are interpretation of tongues, congregational prophecies, words of knowledge cannot be used for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. Why? Because if they can, then these new words are admitted to be on par with Scripture. This conclusion is inescapable and proves the problematic nature of these new words that are supposedly from God. Also, if these so-called revelations are on par with the Bible, the sufficiency of Scripture cannot be maintained.

Sufficiency of scripture:

“The principle that the words of scripture contain everything we need to know from God in order for us to be saved and to be perfectly obedient to him.” *

Sufficiency of scripture:

“The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. To say the Scriptures are sufficient means that the Bible is all we need to equip us for a life of faith and service. It provides a clear demonstration of God’s intention to restore the broken relationship between Himself and humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior through the gift of faith. No other writings are necessary for this good news to be understood, nor are any other writings required to equip us for a life of faith.” ***

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Concluding Argument:

The most potent argument for cessationism of first-century revelatory gifts is the closing of the canon of Scripture:

The Scriptures are complete; divine revelation has ceased. In fact, the ceasing of divine revelation can be seen right in the texts of Scripture. The ending of divine revelation is the closing of the Scriptural canon. Today, there are only two forms of revelation, general (creation) and special (biblical). See this writer’s The Importance and Necessity of Special Revelation.

The Closing of the Canon:

Consider Daniel 9:24 and its importance for the subject of the closing of the canon:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)


The terminus or completion of this prophecy is in the first century. Verses in Daniel 9:25-27 make it clear that when the seventy-week period begins, this week will continue uninterrupted until the seventy-week period is over or complete. Christ’s death and resurrection made an end of the sins of His people. He accomplished reconciliation for His people. Christ’s people have experienced everlasting righteousness because we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, which is everlasting. The phrase “and to seal up the vision and prophecy” sets forth the closing of the canon of Scripture.

E. J. Young in The Geneva Daniel Commentary makes the following observations concerning “vision” and prophecy” in the Old Testament:

Vision was a technical name for revelation given to the OT prophets (cf. Isa, 1:1, Amos 1:1, etc.) The prophet was the one through whom this vision was revealed to the people. The two words, vision and prophet, therefore, serve to designate the prophetic revelation of the OT period…. When Christ came, there was no further need of prophetic revelation in the OT sense. (11)

Why, because Christ is the final revelation:

God “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)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers is in agreement with E. J. Young on Daniel 9:24:

To Seal Up.—σϕραγίσαι, Theod.; συντελεσθῆναι, LXX.; impleatur, Jer.; the impression of the translators being that all visions and prophecies were to receive their complete fulfilment in the course of these seventy weeks. It appears, however, to be more agreeable to the context to suppose that the prophet is speaking of the absolute cessation of all prophecy. (Comp. 1Corinthians 13:8.) (12)

All seventy weeks were fulfilled in the first century contrary to Dispensationalism that is still waiting for the seventieth week to be fulfilled at some time in the future. If Young and Ellicott are correct about the seventieth week, the implications for what the dispensationalists are arguing for is enormous and wrong. This would mean the canon of Scripture is still open for the last two thousand years a position that is indefensible.

A Conclusion:

Since there is no fundamental difference between Old and New Testament revelation, and the source of the revelation is identical, there is no reason to doubt that all giving of new revelation ceased in the first century. The canon of Scripture is closed. Whatever the claims are for the alleged ongoing interpretation of tongues, modern-day prophecies, words of knowledge, they are not genuine new revelations from God.

At best as some argue there are second or third, tier revelations. If the canon is open, no argument can be made not to add these lesser revelations to an addendum of the Bible. The Mormons have already gone there; others are hesitant to get on board with something like this. Nevertheless, this proves to be a glaring inconsistency for those arguing for a continuation of the first century revelatory gifts.

What does the Scripture say about adding an addendum or extra books to the Bible?

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

The very practice of listening to revelations that are admittedly to be of a secondary nature when compared to the written Scripture is diminishing and giving preeminence to unverifiable words in a church gathering over the written Word of God.

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18)

Are charismatic revelations on the same level as the Bible? If pinned down, the modern day tongue-speaker would probably say no. If the charismatic revelatory gifts are imparting new revelation, then this is a dangerous move away from the authority of Scripture. In many cases, the charismatic is unwittingly accepting an authority other than the Bible, namely the new revelation. We are not talking about the personal conviction of the Word by the Holy Spirit. The operation of the Spirit in a believer’s life is inseparable from the written Word of God.

Prone to Errors:

Many followers of the tongue-speaking movement pay lip service to the principle of Sola Scriptura, (the Bible alone). This biblical principle of Sola Scriptura is undermined when so-called spiritual experiences influence the interpretation of the Scriptures. In light of this flawed hermeneutic, namely, letting the alleged spiritual experience (tongues speaking, words of knowledge, and prophecy) influence an understanding of the Scripture, it is not surprising that sound doctrine gives way to interpretations of Scripture that are influenced by these self-same experiences. The judicious reader sees the circular reasoning that plagues this approach.

Since the tongue-speaker has either allegedly witnessed or spoken in tongues, the Bible is interpreted in such a fashion as to support the charismatic interpretations of the Bible. Thus, the charismatic assumes this must be what the Bible teaches since they have witnessed or experienced it. This is nothing more than a dangerous subjectivist circle of interpretation. The role of Scripture and experience are reversed, experience gaining the upper hand in this system. The fruit of this, has led to practices contrary to the Bible.

Tongues, interpretation of tongues, personal prophecies, and personal words of knowledge are subjective. Why should we seek after subjective individual words when we have the clear Word of God?

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

A Question:

A Mormon can be asked if the Book of Mormon has added anything to the Bible or took anything away from the Bible. The answer was always no, to which the reply would be, why do we need the book? The same question can be asked of those promoting new revelations whether second or third tier or not.

“Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)

What does prophecy mean from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2 Peter 1:20:

Knowing this first; either, principally and above other things, as being most worthy to be known; or, knowing this as the first principle of faith, or the first thing to be believed.

That no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation: the Greek word here used may be rendered, either:

1. As our translators do, interpretation, or explication; and then the meaning is, not that private men are not to interpret the Scripture, only refer all to the church; but that no man nor company of men, no church nor public officers, are to interpret the Scripture of their own heads, according to their own minds, so as to make their private sense be the sense of the Scripture, but to seek the understanding of it from God, who shows them the meaning of the word in the word itself, (the more obscure places being expounded by the more clear), and by his Spirit leads believers, in their searching the Scripture, into the understanding of his mind in it: God himself being the author of the word, as 2 Peter 1:21, is the best interpreter of it. Or:

2. Mission or dismission; a metaphor taken from races, where they that ran were let loose from the stage where the race began, that they might run their course. The prophets in the Old Testament are said to run, as being God’s messengers, Jeremiah 23:21, and God is said to send them, Ezekiel 13:6, 7. And then this doth not immediately concern the interpretation of the Scripture, but the first revelation of it, spoken of in the next verse; and the question is not: Who hath authority to interpret the Scripture now written? But: What authority the penmen had to write it? And consequently, what respect is due to it? And why believers are so carefully to take heed to it? And then the meaning is, that it is the first principle of our faith, that the Scripture is not of human invention, but Divine inspiration; that the prophets wrote not their own private sense in it, but the mind of God; and at his command, not their own pleasure. (13)


If Poole is correct that Peter has Scripture in mind when mentions no private interpretation, then private revelations are also ruled out. In the Puritan writings, it was common for them to place revelation (scripture) under the heading of prophecy. See “A Quest for Godliness” by J. I. Packer.

Additionally, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is an essential belief of the Christian faith. The self-evident testimony of the Scriptures is that they are sufficient. The Scriptures are completely adequate to meet the needs of the believer. This teaching is all over the face of the Scriptures. The believer can have confidence in the Scriptures. God’s Words are described as “pure,” “perfect,” “a light,” and “eternal.” This conclusion is one that can be drawn from or deduced from the Scriptures by good and necessary consequence.

Anyone promoting the idea of ongoing revelation is dangerously close to if not an outright denial of the sufficiency of Scripture along with giving aid and comfort to the Roman Catholic attacks upon Sola Scriptura. If the revelatory gifts in the first century bore witness to the word of the apostles, what do these supposed gifts bear witness to today? Do the modern day tongue speaking practices have any effect on doctrinal purity? Roman Catholic tongue-speakers stay within the Roman Church and continue to love the Mass and charismatic tongue-speakers, many who hold doctrinal heresies such as Pelagianism, continue in soteriological errors. Whatever these purported gifts do, it does not appear to lead to doctrinal clarity!

John Owen’s inescapable dilemma:

“Once the Scriptures were written, and the prophetic and apostolic witness to Christ was complete, no need remained for private revelations of new truths, and Owen did not believe that any were given. He opposed the ‘enthusiasm’ of those who, like the Quakers, put their trust in supposed revelations given apart from, and going beyond, the word. In a Latin work Owen calls the Quakers fanatici, ‘fanatics’, for their attitude. He is quick to deploy against them the old dilemma that if their ‘private revelations’ agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false.” (14)

This dilemma is logistically inescapable and should be used today. Scripture is Paramount!

One of the greatest American theologians, Benjamin B. Warfield on the Cessation of the Charismata:

There is, of course, a deeper principle recognizable here, of which the actual attachment of the charismata of the Apostolic Church to the mission of the Apostles is but an illustration. This deeper principle may be reached by us through the perception, more broadly, of the inseparable connection of miracles with revelation, as its mark and credential; or, more narrowly, of the summing up of all revelation, finally, in Jesus Christ. Miracles do not appear on the page of Scripture vagrantly, here, there, and elsewhere indifferently, without assignable reason. They belong to revelation periods, and appear only when God is speaking to His people through accredited messengers, declaring His gracious purposes. Their abundant display in the Apostolic Church is the mark of the richness of the Apostolic age in revelation; and when this revelation period closed, the period of miracle-working had passed by also, as a mere matter of course. It might, indeed, be a priori conceivable that God should deal with men atomistically, and reveal Himself and His will to each individual, throughout the whole course of history, in the penetralium of his own consciousness. This is the mystic’s dream. It has not, however, been God’s way. He has chosen rather to deal with the race in its entirety, and to give to this race His complete revelation of Himself in an organic whole. And when this historic process of organic revelation had reached its completeness, and when the whole knowledge of God designed for the saving health of the world had been incorporated into the living body of the world’s thought—there remained, of course, no further revelation to be made, and there has been accordingly no further revelation made. God the Holy Spirit has made it His subsequent work, not to introduce new and unneeded revelations into the world, but to diffuse this one complete revelation through the world and to bring mankind into the saving knowledge of it. (15)

In closing, consider how the Word of God Instructs Us:

“Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:169)

Who would argue that “according to thy word” should be interpreted to include personal revelations or unverifiable utterances in a church meeting?

The Westminster Confession of Faith and cessationism 1.1:

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

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


1. Gordon H. Clark, First Corinthians, (Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1991), pp. 212-213.

2. Leonard J. Coppes, Whatever Happened to Biblical Tongues? (Chattanooga, Tennessee: Pilgrim Publishing Company, 1977), pp. 59-60.

3. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1219.

4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 1154-1155.

5. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Romans, vol. 2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 238.

6. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 1 Corinthians, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 323.

7. M. F. Sadler, The First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, (London, England, George Bell and Sons 1906), p. 217.

8. D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14,

9. (Grand Rapids, Michiagn Baker Academic), p. 84.

10. (Cited from Joe Nickell, Looking for a Miracle, (New York, Prometheus Books), p. 108.)

11. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Joel, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), pp. 893-894.

12. E. J. Young, Daniel, (Oxford: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1988), p. 200.

13. Charles John Ellicot, A Bible Commentary for English Readers, Daniel, vol. 5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 387.

14. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, 2 Peter, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 921.

15. J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Books 1990), p. 86.

16. Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles, (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), pp. 25-26.

“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. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary

*** https://www.gotquestions.org/

“John Owen on “Communication from God” by J. I. Packer p. 5. A selection from “A Quest for Godliness” by J. I. Packer, 1990, Crossway Books.

COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES BY BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD https://www.monergism.com/…/warf…/warfield_counterfeit.html…

*Linguistic scrutiny quotes borrowed from Are Tongues Real Languages? By Nathan Busenitz

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The Bankruptcy of Atheism

The Bankruptcy of Atheism by Jack Kettler

Does the Christian have a coherent theory of knowledge? Asked another way, can Christians make sense out of the world? Do the Christian worldview have a basis to determine right and wrong? This article is a challenge to the atheistic worldview. Can the atheistic worldview explain its starting point and defend it? Where does the Christian worldview start? The Christian worldview starts with an axiom.

Gordon H. Clark: The Axiom of Scripture:

“Every philosophic or theological system must begin somewhere, for if it did not begin it could not continue. But a beginning cannot be preceded by anything else, or it would not be the beginning. Therefore every system must be based on presuppositions (Require as a precondition of possibility or coherence. Tacitly assume to be the case) or axioms (An accepted statement or proposition regarded as being self-evidently true). They may be Spinoza’s axioms; they may be Locke’s sensory starting point, or whatever. Every system must therefore be presuppositional.

The first principle cannot be demonstrated because there is nothing prior from which to deduce it. Call it presuppositionalism, call it fideism, names do not matter. But I know no better presupposition than “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.

If the axioms of other secularists are not nonsense, they are nonetheless axioms. Every system must start somewhere, and it cannot have started before it starts. A naturalist might amend the Logical Positivists’ principle and make it say that all knowledge is derived from sensation. This is not nonsense, but it is still an empirically unverifiable axiom. If it is not self-contradictory, it is at least without empirical justification. Other arguments against empiricism need not be given here: The point is that no system can deduce its axioms.

The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity being based on an indemonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so may Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be that God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.” (1)

“Logically the infallibility of the Bible is not a theorem to be deduced from some prior axiom. The infallibility of the Bible is the axiom from which several doctrines are themselves deduced as theorems. Every religion and every philosophy must be based on some first principle. And since a first principle is first, it cannot be “proved” or “demonstrated” on the basis of anything prior. As the catechism question, quoted above, says, “The Word of God is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify Him.”

The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity being based on an indemonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so may Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be that God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.” (2)

Scripturalism, the following is a paraphrase or summation of the Christian’s starting principle by Gordon H. Clark:

Scripturalism (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible).

From this principle, the presuppositional argument for God’s existence and its implications stated, and atheism challenged:

“The Bible contains the Christian’s starting principles or presuppositions. God speaks to us in the Scriptures (special revelation) with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. The Christian worldview has the necessary preconditions to talk intelligently and give justification for the use of logic, science, and morality. Consequently, the strength of the Christian worldview is seen by the impossibility of the contrary. The impossibility of the contrary can be asserted because as of this day, no non-Christian anywhere has shown how their worldview can account for the use of science, logic, and intelligently talk about ethics. Begging the question is the typical response by the atheist to their worldview’s failure and this begging the question is a logical fallacy. We are not saying the atheist does not use logic or talk about right and wrong. We are saying the atheist cannot account for these things within his system.

Note: Begging the question is a fallacy of assumption because it directly presumes the conclusion, which is the question in the first place. For example, “Killing people is wrong, (premise) so the death penalty is wrong.” Begging the question is known as circular reasoning because the conclusion is seen at the beginning and the end of the argument, it creates an unending circle, never achieving anything of substance. The atheist system assumes it can account for logic and ethics without ever providing substantiation. One must accept the premise to be true for the claim to be true.

Why the atheist cannot find God:

The Christian says if an individual starts with a non-Christian syllogism or presupposition, the individual will never arrive at a Christian conclusion. As Clark noted above, every system or belief has a starting point. Starting with a non-Christian premise reminds us of “…of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18-19). The atheist in his suppression of the truth refuses to start with the testimony of Scripture or natural revelation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1). All non-believing presuppositions ultimately lead to complete skepticism or the philosophy of no-nothing-ism.

Furthermore, because of this ultimate skepticism, the atheist cannot live consistently with the result of where his worldview takes him. That is why many atheists still talk about morality, science, and logic. They are inconsistent. From their starting premise, nothing can be proven. As stated, a materialistic worldview or atheism cannot justify or account for science, logic, or morality, since matter is silent! A rock cannot tell the atheist the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, the moon, which is a big rock, cannot tell the difference between what is right, and what is wrong. Atheistic materialism has nothing to say about science, logic, and ethics reliably. The matter making up the universe is silent. God is not silent. Closing this paragraph with a quote by William Provine, Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University, “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” “No ultimate foundation for ethics, no meaning to life,” says Provine. With assertions like this, the intellectual bankruptcy of atheism is exposed.

Atheists refuse to acknowledge how their system works:

Atheists generally refuse to acknowledge that they have presuppositions and that presuppositions govern interpretations of the world. In short, the Christian’s presupposition is God’s revelation in the Bible is our authority and standard of interpretation. The atheist’s presupposition is the man himself is the authority and standard of interpretation. This clash or antithesis of worldviews happened in the beginning, Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The consequence of Adam’s disobedience is that Adam’s descendants in their rebellion will seek to be the interpreters of reality and reject God’s interpretation. Now that the fallen race of man is acting like God, he appeals to his authority in his attempt to answer the demands of speaking intelligently about science, morality, and logic. It is the authority of the infinite versus the authority of the finite. The atheist may not like this conclusion; until he comes up with epistemological solutions, he should remain silent like a rock.

Pressing the antithesis:

In addition to numerous philosophical problems regarding atheists and other non-Christian interpretations of the world, it should be clear that matter or material has nothing to say within the framework of non-believing philosophy. What could it say? Within this framework, material or matter is ultimately an accident and therefore meaningless. In addition to this problem, all men have a priori commitments, which are at work and from which truth or falsity is deduced. The question is not do men have a priori commitments, but what are they? The non-believer has suppressed and substituted God’s revealed truth for his interpretation of the world. When dealing with ethics in particular atheism cannot speak intelligently. The atheist has to borrow from and assume Christian definitions when talking about evil and good. To quote Nietzshe: “When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self-evident… Christianity is a system.” When rejecting the Christian system, “Everything is permitted” – Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Nietzsche, if “everything is permitted,” good and evil are meaningless terms. Nietzsche was a consistent atheist.

In essence, the atheist has erected a closed system. His system is closed to God. He does not allow God to speak. Since the atheist rejects the Creator, he has nothing within his closed system that he allows to speak with moral certainty. As long as fallen man excludes God from his system, he cannot know anything with certainty. The atheist thought has no basis for absolutes. An atheist has plenty of arbitrary social conventions. If there are no absolutes, there can be no meaning attached to anything since everything could be said to be true and not true at the same time, which is unacceptable irrational nonsense. As noted earlier by Aldous Huxley: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” An example of a failed atheistic attempt at determining morality for society is pragmatic majoritarianism, i.e., the majority makes right. This system does not work out so well for the minorities, like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Unanswerable questions for the atheist:

John Locke is known as the originator of the epistemological theory known as empiricism, which postulates the mind at birth is a blank tablet (tabula rasa) and then assimilates knowledge through sensations. This theory could be called the “blank mind theory” of knowledge. The details of how this theory works out with the mind receiving, interpreting, and retaining these sensations are lacking, to say the least.

For example, can atheistic empiricism provide a basis for certainty? It cannot. For example, empiricism historically argues that knowledge comes through sensations in the following order: (a) sensations, (b) perceptions, (c) memory images, (d) and the development of abstract ideas. In this system of interpretation, perceptions are inferences from sensations. How does the atheistic empiricist know valid from invalid inferences?

Can atheistic rationalism (reason alone) provide answers to big questions of life? Does the atheist have the necessary preconditions to interpret reality? The Christian says God is a necessary precondition for interpretation. The atheist says no. From a Christian worldview, it can be explained why life has a purpose. Can the atheist explain why life is purposeful? To remember an earlier quote: “There is no splendor, no vastness, anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing” – Bertrand Russell. This assertion by Russell is an example of a bankrupt worldview. Dostoevsky countered this idea of Russell by saying: “I don’t understand how, up to now, an atheist could know there is no God and not kill himself at once” – Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Pressing the antithesis further:

We can ask the atheist, what is the origin of laws of logic? Are the laws of logic interpreted in the same way universally? If not, why not? The laws of logic within the framework of non-belief are nothing more than a philosophical construct, which ends up collapsing into irrationality and inconsistency. Thus, the atheistic rational man has no rationale for his rationalism. The assertion that God is not silent is the solution to obtaining knowledge. God has spoken through the Scriptures to all of mankind. As Christians, we have a foundation for knowledge; it is revelational. God-given revelation is objective. Atheists reject this revelation; they suppress the truth that God has revealed to them through creation (Romans 1:18). God has spoken in the Scriptures, God’s special revelation to all men concerning what is required of him, and thus, we have a rationale for ethics. To repeat two quotes from David Silverman, “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” In addition, “The hard answer is it is a matter of opinion.” David Silverman is an American secular advocate who served as president of American Atheists. According to Silverman, we are left with opinions. Different opinions are not solutions.

Again, we can ask the atheist and all non-Christians, what standard for interpretation is being used; identify your worldview and its basis for predication. Predication is attaching a predicate to a subject; hence, making an assertion. Van Til says, “Only the Christian worldview makes predication possible.” The atheist needs to demonstrate how his worldview can accomplish this.

For the atheist, there is ultimately only irrationalism:

Thus, the atheistic man has only matter, unintelligible or debatable explanations for sensations (sense perception), or his finite, fallible reason. An unclear debatable sensation is one reason for the bankruptcy of atheistic, materialistic humanism. The Christian has a rational basis for knowledge; it is the Biblical revelation. The Christian allows God to speak through creation and Scripture. The non-Christian will not allow room for the God of the Bible to speak in their system. As said, their system is closed to God’s revelation. The atheist insists on being the ultimate interpreter of reality, God is excluded. The Christian system is not closed like the atheist’s system. The Bible tells us about general and special revelation and man’s requirement to submit to a God-given interpretation of all things. It is because we have God’s revelation that an intelligent conversation on these matters can be carried on. How can a finite man who does not even know how many atoms are in an orange speak intelligently when asserting, absolutely and omnisciently, there is no God? These same people talk about the universe coming into existence from a big bang out of nothing. Was there a spark before the explosion of nothing? How did this spark happen? How does nothing explode? A big explosion sounds like the primitive view of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation is illogical nonsense. In contrast to the atheist’s hypothetical speculation, the Christian has a God-given rational case for knowledge.

Philosophically, atheism vacillates between two positions of knowing and not knowing. These two opposite poles of allegiance constitute a never-ending dilemma, thus revealing the futility of non-Christian epistemology. Despite this, the atheist presses on irrationally. To illustrate, for example, some atheists claim absolutely that there are no absolutes, a self-refuting contradiction. The philosophy of non-belief contradicts itself when it claims not to know (uncertainty, agnosticism) and to know (certainty, atheism). Both atheism and agnosticism are two sides of the same coin. Thus, the non-believer is left with contradictory uncertainty and certainty, which are manifestations of his epistemological inability to derive meaningful intelligibility from an ultimate irrational meaningless universe.

The Christian Solution to knowledge:

As Christians, we have a coherent theory of knowledge. God has spoken. God speaking through revelation is certain: God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. Language has the same meaning for God and man. Because of this, presuppositionalists argue that Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. The atheist position of the contrary has never been articulated successfully. See the great debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein at Davis University in California in 1985.* Atheistic epistemology has different theories, but no universal certainty and cannot escape skepticism better explained as no-nothing-ism. The non-Christian philosophers will argue on and on, never reaching an agreement. The following picture illustrates the atheist and other non-believers dilemma. The following picture illustrates the atheist’s impossible escape to nowhere.

Water man climbing to nowhere

In light of the Christian axiom, Scripturalism, (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible) we can put forth the Transcendental Argument:

1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).

2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities, which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.

3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn’t, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.

“The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality.” – Greg Bahnsen

“…in the present day not a few are found, who deny the being of a God, yet, whether they will or not, they occasionally feel the truth which they are desirous not to know. We do not read of any man who broke out into more unbridled and audacious contempt of the Deity than C. Caligula, and yet none showed greater dread when any indication of divine wrath was manifested. Thus, however unwilling, he shook with terror before the God whom he professedly studied to condemn. You may every day see the same thing happening to his modern imitators. The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf. How so, unless in vindication of the divine majesty, which smites their consciences the more strongly the more they endeavor to flee from it. They all, indeed, look out for hiding-places where they may conceal themselves from the presence of the Lord, and again efface it from their mind; but after all their efforts, they remain caught within the net. Though the conviction may occasionally seem to vanish for a moment, it immediately returns, and rushes in with new impetuosity, so that any interval of relief from the gnawing of conscience is not unlike the slumber of the intoxicated or the insane, who have no quiet rest in sleep, but are continually haunted with dire horrific dreams. Even the wicked themselves, therefore, are an example of the fact that some idea of God always exists in every human mind.” – John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion

“The statement that ‘God is dead’ comes from Nietzsche and has recently been trumpeted abroad by some German and American theologians. But the good Lord has not died of this; He who dwells in the heaven laughs at them.” – Karl Barth

“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)


1. Gordon H. Clark, In Defense of Theology, (Fenton, Michigan, Mott Media, Inc. Publishers, 1984), pp. 31-33.

2. Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed 1985), pg. 18.

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: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

* Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein at Davis University in California in 1985. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLZdOGCE5KQ







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The History of Jihad

The History of Jihad

By Robert Spencer
Bombardier Books

Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Robert Spencer’s bio:

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, and the author of nineteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The History of Jihad.

Mr. Spencer has directed seminars on Islam and jihad for the FBI, the United States Central Command, United States Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the Justice Department’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council and the U.S. intelligence community. He has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry. He is a consultant with the Center for Security Policy and vice president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

What others are saying about Robert Spencer:

“Robert Spencer is one of my heroes. He has once again produced an invaluable and much-needed book. Want to read the truth about Islam? Read this book. It depicts the terrible fate of the hundreds of millions of men, women, and children who, from the 7th century until today, were massacred or enslaved by Islam. It is a fate that awaits us all if we are not vigilant.” – Geert Wilders, member of Parliament in the Netherlands and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV)

“Spencer argues, in brief, ‘There has always been, with virtually no interruption, jihad.’ Painstakingly, he documents in this important study how aggressive war on behalf of Islam has, for fourteen centuries and still now, befouled Muslim life. He hopes his study will awaken potential victims of jihad, but will they–will we–listen to his warning? Much hangs in the balance.” – Daniel Pipes, president, Middle East Forum and author of Slave Soldiers and Islam: The Genesis of a Military System

“Jihad is not mere terrorism. Ironic as it may seem, that is Western wishful thinking. From its inception, as Robert Spencer incontestably illustrates, jihad has been the outward, aggressive expression of a conquest ideology. The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS is as relentless in relating unvarnished truth as is the phenomenon it tracks in seeking domination–and never being satisfied with less, however long it takes. Those who care to preserve Western rationalism, civil liberties, and free societies must confront this history, and its implications, with eyes opened.” – Andrew C. McCarthy, bestselling author, former federal prosecutor, and National Review contributing editor

Important definitions:

Allah: One God (Allah in Arabic).

Caliph: (khalif,) the Caliph is a political-religious leader of the Muslim community.

Dhimmitude: The state of subjection and oppression of non-Muslims under Islamic rule. Enslavement or servitude of the non-Muslims then becomes a whole outlook on life and way of dealing with things.

Jihad: Commonly translated as Holy War, the defense of Islam against its enemies.

Kafir One who does not believe in Allah, or in the content of the Qur’an, or in the prophetic status of Muhammad.

Qur’an: The sacred text of Islam.

Taqiyya: not showing their faith openly by means of pretense, dissimulation, or concealment, is a special type of lying.

My thoughts on Spencer and this new book:

Mr. Spencer continues to distinguish himself as a champion of religious and civil liberties. This latest book, The History of Jihad is the first of its kind. The fake media and feckless politicians and ecumenical leaders who continue to promote the “religion of peace” canard are shown “To have no clothes,” paraphrasing “The emperor has no clothes.”

Never before has the wealth of information in this book been placed into one volume. Historically, Islam has been relentless in ongoing military campaigns. Spencer accounts how modern-day slavery and dhimmitude are dark realities of Islamic conquest. Spencer chronicles the1400 years of bloodshed, murder, rape, pillaging, and slavery done in the name of Islam since its inception. It cannot be disputed after reading Spencer’s book, that the history of Islam is the history of jihad. This is true if Islam in operating under an empire like that of the Ottoman Turks or an individual jihadist.

When a Muslim jihadist screaming “Allahu Akbar” runs over people on the streets or stabs them to death like Theo Van Gogh, in Holland, they are doing what Islam has always done. The acts of terrorism are what Muhammad taught. For example, Muhammad commanded in Quran 8:12 – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” References from the Quran and quotes from historical documents in Spencer’s book prove this beyond doubt.

In conclusion after reading Spencer’s book my thoughts are:

“Islam is a religious, political, genocidal ideology characterized by centuries of Jihadist warfare and brutal oppressive totalitarianism of those enslaved. This 7th Century malevolent ideology provides cover for unfathomable discrimination against non-Muslims, sadistic torture and unthinkable misogyny, even encouraging the rape of non-Muslim women and slavery that is practiced and sanctioned to this present day as witnessed by ISIS.”

“The religion of the New World Order is Islam. The selection of Islam as the religion of the New World Order explains the West’s forced suicidal surrender to Islam and the relentless attacks upon anyone who dares to speak the truth about Islam, its history of violence and subjugation and supremacy over non-Muslims. The violent Mohammedans will be used to intimidate and suppress free speech, lectures, media interviews, and assemblies and terrorize people into submission.”

Islamophobia is a recently made up term, which can be defined as someone who has an irrational hatred and fear of Islam. This charge when made against Mr. Spencer is slanderous.

“…tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“People that tell you Islam is a religion of peace are only announcing their ignorance.” – Brigitte Gabriel

In ending this review, those who have given in to political correctness and are willing to surrender Western freedoms brought to you by the Judeo/Christian world view, I will end with Mr. Spencer’s words: “And so, in closing, I have to say: Shame on you.”

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 The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

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Regeneration, how does it happen?

Regeneration, how does it happen? By Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what the Bible calls regeneration. What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“An act of God whereby a soul, previously dead to him, experiences a spiritual resurrection into a new sphere of life, in which he is alive to God….”; an inner work of the Spirit in which new spiritual life is implanted so that a person’s whole nature is changed and he or she can respond to God in faith. Also called new birth, rebirth, spiritual birth, being born again or quickening.” *


“The act of God whereby He renews the spiritual condition of a sinner. It is a spiritual change brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit so that the person then possesses new life, eternal life. Regeneration is a change in our moral and spiritual nature where justification is a change in our relationship with God. Also, sanctification is the work of God in us to make us more like Jesus. Regeneration is the beginning of that change. It means to be born again.” **

From Scripture:

“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.’ (Deuteronomy 30:6)

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you and heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

“And I will give them and heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2Corinthians 3:3)

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” (Hebrews 10:16)

In regeneration, a spiritual new birth takes place. In the Scriptural words and phrases below are various descriptions of the new birth seen in the passages above:

“Born again” or (born from above) John 3:3;

“And you hath he quickened” (made alive) Ephesians 2:1;

“The washing of regeneration” Titus 3:5;

“I will put into their hearts; written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” 2 Corinthians;

“I will give them a heart to know me” Jeremiah 24:7;

“God will circumcise thine heart, a new spirit will I put within you” Deuteronomy 30:6;

God is the One who regenerates the sinner. John 3:3 informs us that a man must be born again. The other passages listed above describe how a man is born again by the action of God. The Holy Spirit gives life. The verb tenses in the above passages that have been underlined are action verbs on God’s part. For example, “I will,” “And you hath he quickened,” “God will.”

Some descriptions of what happens in regeneration:

1. Spiritually reborn

2. New birth resulting in a new nature

3. Heart of stone changed to heart of flesh

4. Circumcision of the heart

5. Rebirth of the old nature, to a new spiritual nature

6. The reborn are restored to a relationship with God

7. Renewed to life, characterized by faith in Christ

8. The act of God causing an inward resurrection from sin to a new life in Christ

Regeneration from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:


[1, G3824, palingenesia]

“new birth” (palin, “again,” genesis, “birth”), is used of “spiritual regeneration,” Titus 3:5, involving the communication of a new life, the two operating powers to produce which are “the word of truth,” James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23, and the Holy Spirit, John 3:5-John 3:6; the loutron, “the laver, the washing,” is explained in Ephesians 5:26,”having cleansed it by the washing (loutron) of water with the word.”

The new birth and “regeneration” do not represent successive stages in spiritual experience; they refer to the same event but view it in different aspects. The new birth stresses the communication of spiritual life in contrast to antecedent spiritual death; “regeneration” stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old; hence the connection of the use of the word with its application to Israel, in Matthew 19:28. Some regard the kai in Titus 3:5 as epexegetic, “even;” but, as Scripture marks two distinct yet associated operating powers, there is not sufficient ground for this interpretation. See under EVEN.

In Matthew 19:28 the word is used, in the Lord’s discourse, in the wider sense, of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21, RV), when, as a result of the second advent of Christ, Jehovah “sets His King upon His holy hill of Zion” (Psalms 2:6), and Israel, now in apostasy, is restored to its destined status, in the recognition and under the benign sovereignty of its Messiah. Thereby will be accomplished the deliverance of the world from the power and deception of Satan and from the despotic and anti-Christian rulers of the nations. This restitution will not in the coming millennial age be universally a return to the pristine condition of Edenic innocence previous to the Fall, but it will fulfill the establishment of God’s covenant with Abraham concerning his descendants, a veritable rebirth of the nation, involving the peace and prosperity of the Gentiles. That the worldwide subjection to the authority of Christ will not mean the entire banishment of evil is clear from Revelation 20:7-Revelation 20:8. Only in the new heavens and earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness,” will sin and evil be entirely absent. (1)

An excellent informative article on Regeneration by J.I.Packer:

Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.

Regeneration, or new birth, is an inner re-creating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8). The Bible conceives salvation as the redemptive renewal of man on the basis of a restored relationship with God in Christ, and presents it as involving “a radical and complete transformation wrought in the soul (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) by God the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Eph. 4:24), by virtue of which we become ‘new men’ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), no longer conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9), but in knowledge and holiness of the truth created after the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; Rom. 12:2)” (B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, 351). Regeneration is the “birth” by which this work of new creation is begun, as sanctification is the “growth” whereby it continues (I Pet. 2:2; II Pet. 3:18). Regeneration in Christ changes the disposition from lawless, Godless self-seeking (Rom. 3:9-18; 8:7) which dominates man in Adam into one of trust and love, of repentance for past rebelliousness and unbelief, and loving compliance with God’s law henceforth. It enlightens the blinded mind to discern spiritual realities (I Cor. 2:14-15; II Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10), and liberates and energizes the enslaved will for free obedience to God (Rom. 6:14, 17-22; Phil. 2:13).

The use of the figure of new birth to describe this change emphasizes two facts about it. The first is its decisiveness. The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and a new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with him into a new life of righteousness (see Rom. 6:3-11; II Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:9-11). The second fact emphasized is the monergism of regeneration. Infants do not induce, or cooperate in, their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” prompt the quickening operation of God’s Spirit within them (see Eph. 2:1-10). Spiritual vivification is a free, and to man mysterious, exercise of divine power (John 3:8), not explicable in terms of the combination or cultivation of existing human resources (John 3:6), not caused or induced by any human efforts (John 1:12-13) or merits (Titus 3:3-7), and not, therefore, to be equated with, or attributed to, any of the experiences, decisions, and acts to which it gives rise and by which it may be known to have taken place.

Biblical Presentation

The noun “regeneration” (palingenesia) occurs only twice. In Matt. 19:28 it denotes the eschatological “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) under the Messiah for which Israel was waiting. This echo of Jewish usage points to the larger scheme of cosmic renewal within which that of individuals finds its place. In Titus 3:5, the word refers to the renewing of the individual. Elsewhere, the thought of regeneration is differently expressed.

In OT prophecies regeneration is depicted as the work of God renovating, circumcising, and softening Israelite hearts, writing his laws upon them, and thereby causing their owners to know, love, and obey him as never before (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:31-34; 32:39-40; Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:25-27). It is a sovereign work of purification from sin’s defilement (Ezek. 36:25; cf. Ps. 51:10), wrought by the personal energy of God’s creative out breathing the personal energy of God’s creative out breathing (“spirit”: Ezek. 36:27; 39:29). Jeremiah declares that such renovation on a national scale will introduce and signal God’s new messianic administration of his covenant with his people (Jer. 31:31; 32:40).

In the NT the thought of regeneration is more fully individualized, and in John’s Gospel and First Epistle the figure of new birth, “from above” (anothen: John 3:3, 7, Moffatt), “of water and the Spirit” (i.e., through a purificatory operation of God’s Spirit: see Ezek. 36:25-27; John 3:5; cf. 3:8), or simply “of God” (John 1:13, nine times in I John), is integral to the presentation of personal salvation. The verb gennao (which means both “beget” and “bear”) is used in these passages in the aorist or perfect tense to denote the once-for-all divine work whereby the sinner, who before was only “flesh,” and as such, whether he knew it or not, utterly incompetent in spiritual matters (John 3:3-7), is made “spirit” (John 3:6), i.e., is enabled and caused to receive and respond to the saving revelation of God in Christ. In the Gospel, Christ assures Nicodemus that there are no spiritual activities, no seeing or entering God’s kingdom, because no faith in himself, without regeneration (John 3:1ff.); and John declares in the prologue that only the regenerate receive Christ and enter into the privileges of God’s children (John 1:12-13). Conversely, in the Epistle John insists that there is no regeneration that does not issue in spiritual activities. The regenerate do righteousness (I John 2:29) and do not live a life of sin (3:9; 5:18: the present tense indicates habitual law-keeping, not absolute sinlessness, cf. 1:8-10); they love Christians (4:7), believe rightly in Christ, and experience faith’s victory over the world (5:4). Any, who do otherwise, whatever they claim, are still unregenerate children of the devil (3:6-10).

Paul specifies the Christological dimensions of regeneration by presenting it as (1) a life giving co-resurrection with Christ (Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13; cf. I Pet. 1:3); (2) a work of new creation in Christ (II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 6:15). Peter and James make the further point that God “begets anew” (anagennao: I Pet. 1:23) and “brings to birth” (apokyeo: James 1:18) by means of the gospel. It is under the impact of the word that God renews the heart, so evoking faith (Acts 16:14-15).

Historical Discussion

The fathers did not formulate the concept of regeneration precisely. They equated it, broadly speaking, with baptismal grace, which to them meant primarily (to Pelagius, exclusively) remission of sins. Augustine realized, and vindicated against Pelagianism, the necessity for prevenient grace to make a man trust and love God, but he did not precisely equate this grace with regeneration. The Reformers reaffirmed the substance of Augustine’s doctrine of prevenient grace, and Reformed theology still maintains it. Calvin used the term “regeneration” to cover man’s whole subjective renewal, including conversion and sanctification. Many seventeenth century Reformed theologians equated regeneration with effectual calling and conversion with regeneration (hence the systematic mistranslation of epistrepho, “turn,” as a passive, “be converted,” in the AV); later Reformed theology has defined regeneration more narrowly, as the implanting of the “seed” from which faith and repentance spring (I John 3:9) in the course of effectual calling. Arminianism constructed the doctrine of regeneration synergistically, making man’s renewal dependent on his prior cooperation with grace; liberalism constructed it naturalistically, identifying regeneration with a moral change or a religious experience.

The fathers lost the biblical understanding of the sacraments as signs to stir up faith and seals to confirm believers in possession of the blessings signified, and so came to regard baptism as conveying the regeneration which it signified (Titus 3:5) ex opere operato to those who did not obstruct it’s working. Since infants could not do this, all baptized infants were accordingly held to be regenerated. This view has persisted in all the non-Reformed churches of Christendom, and among sacramentalists within Protestantism.

Regeneration Advanced Information

Scripture terms by which this work of God is designated:

Creating – Eph. 4:24

Begetting – 1Jo 4:7

Quickening – Joh 5:21 Eph. 2:5

Calling out of darkness into marvellous light – 1Pe 2:9

The subjects of it are to be alive from the dead – Ro 6:13

To be new creatures – 2Co 5:17

To be born again, or anew – Joh 3:3, 7

To be God’s workmanship – Eph. 2:10

Proof that there is such a thing as is commonly called regeneration.

The Scriptures declare that such a change is necessary – 2Co 5:17 Ga 6:15

The change is described – Eph. 2:5 4:23 Jas 1:18 1Pe 1:23

It is necessary for the most moral as well as the most profligate – 1Co 15:10 Ga 1:13-16

That this change is not a mere reformation is proved by its being referred to the Holy Spirit. – Tit 3:5

In the comparison of man’s state in grace with his state by nature. – Ro 6:13 8:6-10 Eph. 5:8

In the experience of all Christians and the testimony of their lives.

Proofs that believers are subjects of supernatural or spiritual illumination.

This is necessary. – Joh 16:3 1Co 2:14 2Co 3:14 4:3

The Scriptures expressly affirm it. – Ps 19:7, 8 43:3, 4 Joh 17:3 1Co 2:12, 13 2Co 4:6 Eph. 1:18 Philippians 1:19 Col 3:10 1Jo 4:7 5:20

The first effect of regeneration is to open the eyes of our understanding to the excellency of divine truth. The second effect the going forth of the renewed affections toward that excellency perceived.

Proof of the absolute necessity of regeneration

The Scriptures assert it. – Joh 3:3 Ro 8:6, 7 Eph. 2:10 4:21-24

It is proved from the nature of man as a sinner – Ro 7:18 8:7-9 1Co 2:14 Eph. 2:1

Also from the nature of heaven – Isa 35:8 52:1 Mt 5:8 13:41 Heb. 12:14 Re 21:27

The restoration of holiness is the grand end of the whole plan of salvation. – Ro 8:28, 29 Eph. 1:4 5:5, 26, 27


J. Orr, “Regeneration,” HDB; J. Denney, HDCG; B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies; systematic theologies of C. Hodge, III, 1-40, and L. Berkhof, IV, 465-79; A. Ringwald et al., NIDNTT, I, 176ff.; F. Buchsel et al., TDNT, I, 665ff.; B. Citron, The New Birth. (2)

Regeneration an Act of God by systematic theologian, Charles Hodge:

1. Regeneration is an act of God. It is not simply referred to Him as its giver, and, in that sense, its author, as He is the giver of faith and of repentance. It is not an act which, by argument and persuasion, or by moral power, He induces the sinner to perform. But it is an act of which He is the agent. It is God who regenerates. The soul is regenerated. In this sense the soul is passive in regeneration, which (subjectively considered) is a change wrought in us, and not an act performed by us.

Regeneration an Act of God’s Power

2. Regeneration is not only an act of God, but also an act of his almighty power. Agreeably to the express declarations of the Scriptures, it is so presented in the Symbols of the Protestant churches. If an act of omnipotence, it is certainly efficacious, for nothing can resist almighty power. The Lutherans indeed deny this. But the more orthodox of them mean simply that the sinner can keep himself aloof from the means through which, or, rather, in connection with which it pleases God to exercise his power. He can absent himself from the preaching of the Word, and the use of the sacraments. Or he may voluntarily place himself in such an inward posture of resistance as determines God not to exert his power in his regeneration. The assertion that regeneration is an act of God’s omnipotence, is, and is intended to be, a denial that it is an act of moral suasion. It is an affirmation that it is “physical” in the old sense of that word, as opposed to moral; and that it is immediate, as opposed to mediate, or through or by the truth. When either in Scripture or in theological writings, the word regeneration is taken in a wide sense as including conversion or the voluntary turning of the soul to God, then indeed it is said to be by the Word. The restoration of sight to the blind by the command of Christ was an act of omnipotence. It was immediate. Nothing in the way of instrumentary or secondary coöperating influence intervened between the divine volition and the effect. But all exercises of the restored faculty were through and by the light. And without light sight is impossible. Raising Lazarus from the dead was an act of omnipotence. Nothing intervened between the volition and the effect. The act of quickening was the act of God. In that matter, Lazarus was passive. But in all the acts of the restored vitality, he was active and free. According to the evangelical system it is in this sense that regeneration is the act of God’s almighty power. Nothing intervenes between his volition that the soul, spiritually dead, should live, and the desired effect. But in all that belongs to the consciousness; all that precedes or follows the imparting of this new life, the soul is active and is influenced by the truth acting according to the laws of our mental constitution. (3)

In closing:

The Westminster Catechism, under the headings of redemption and effectual calling covers, regeneration.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 29 on redemption/regeneration:

Q: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit. (1.)

(1.) John 1:12-13. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 3:5-6. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Titus 3:5-6. Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Westminster Larger Catechism on effectual calling/regeneration:

Q. 67: What is effectual calling?

A. 67: Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

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


1. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 939.

2. J. I. Packer, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary, “Regeneration,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), pp. 924-926.

3. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), pp. 31-32).

“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. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary

*** Reformed answers http://reformedanswers.org/

**** https://www.gotquestions.org/

Regeneration by A.A. Hodge; revised by B.B. Warfield https://www.monergism.com/regeneration-5

Regeneration by C. H. Spurgeon https://www.monergism.com/regeneration-0

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Filioque, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son

Filioque, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son

By Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what theologians call the “filioque.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“Latin for “and from the Son, ” a term referring to a clause inserted into the Nicene Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father only but also from the Son. The controversy that arose over this doctrinal point contributed to the split between the Eastern and Western churches in A. D. 1054.” *


“The doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds equally from both the Father and the Son.” **

From Scripture:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1)

In Isaiah, we see the continuing possession of the Spirit in this Messianic prophecy. Also, consider how the Spirit is without measure upon Christ as seen in John 3:34. Moreover, God anointed Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit and with power as seen in (Acts 10:38). Also, ponder, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:28).

Jesus’ exercising the power of healing and casting out demons is proof that the Spirit does things at Christ’s command. Because of this possession and anointing of the Spirit “without measure,” it follows that Christ can send the Spirit to His disciples. In the next passage of Scripture, this conclusion is unequivocal.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)

Christ says that He will send the “Comforter,” (“whom I will send unto you”) therefore, the latter part of the passage, which says the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, does not preclude the procession or sending of the Spirit from the Son. This is because of what Christ has said in the first part of the passage about His sending of the Spirit. The first and last part of the passage does not contradict but in fact, supplement our understanding of the sending of the Spirit.

In the next passage of Scripture, the conclusion regarding Christ sending the Spirit is undisputable.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7)

This passage likewise does not preclude the Father sending the Spirit. The Father and Son are in unity.

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9 ESV)

Charles Hodge’s Commentary on Romans 8:9:

Romans 8:9 — that he does to the first person of the Trinity. This was one of the points of controversy between the Greek and Latin Churches; the latter insisting on inserting in that clause of the Creed which speaks of the procession of the Holy Ghost, the words “filioque,” (and from the Son.) For this, the gratitude of all Christians is due to the Latin Church, as it vindicates the full equality of the Son with the Father. No clearer assertion and no higher exhibition of the Godhead of the Son can be conceived. (1)

What Hodge says is correct about “the full equality of the Son with the Father.” If this were not so, there would be subordinationism within the Triune God. Implicit within subordinationism is the idea that the Son is inferior to the Father.

The next two passages also speak of the Spirit of Christ. What does this mean?

“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:19)

These two passages do not preclude the phrase the Spirit of the Father. “The Spirit of Jesus Christ” as Hodge has said earlier does “vindicates the full equality of the Son with the Father.”

“Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Peter 1:11)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on 1 Peter 1:11:

11. what—Greek, “In reference to what, or what manner of time.” What expresses the time absolutely: what was to be the era of Messiah’s coming; what manner of time; what events and features should characterize the time of His coming. The “or” implies that some of the prophets, if they could not as individuals discover the exact time, searched into its characteristic features and events. The Greek for “time” is the season, the epoch, the fit time in God’s purposes.

Spirit of Christ … in them—(Ac 16:7, in oldest manuscripts, “the Spirit of Jesus”; Re 19:10). So Justin Martyr says, “Jesus was He who appeared and communed with Moses, Abraham, and the other patriarchs.” “Clement of Alexandria calls Him “the Prophet of prophets, and Lord of all the prophetical spirit.”

did signify—“did give intimation.”

of—Greek, “the sufferers (appointed) unto Christ,” or foretold in regard to Christ. “Christ,” the anointed Mediator, whose sufferings are the price of our “salvation” (1Pe 1:9, 10), and who is the channel of “the grace that should come unto you.”

the glory—Greek, “glories,” namely, of His resurrection, of His ascension, of His judgment and coming kingdom, the necessary consequence of the sufferings.

that should follow—Greek, “after these (sufferings),” 1Pe 3:18-22; 5:1. Since “the Spirit of Christ” is the Spirit of God, Christ is God. It is only because the Son of God was to become our Christ that He manifested Himself and the Father through Him in the Old Testament, and by the Holy Spirit, eternally proceeding from the Father and Himself, spake in the prophets. (2)

In these two passages, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown demonstrates the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father and Himself (Jesus).

Revelation 22:1 provides more evidence of the procession of the Spirit from the Father and Son:

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1)

There is a double procession out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. This conclusion is inescapable. The following comments by Henry make this clear.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Revelation 22:1:

22:1-5 All streams of earthly comfort are muddy; but these are clear, and refreshing. They give life, and preserve life, to those who drink of them, and thus they will flow for evermore. These point to the quickening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, as given to sinners through Christ. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, applies this salvation to our souls by his new-creating love and power. The trees of life are fed by the pure waters of the river that comes from the throne of God. The presence of God in heaven is the health and happiness of the saints. This tree was an emblem of Christ and of all the blessings of his salvation; and the leaves for the healing of the nations, mean that his favor and presence supply all good to the inhabitants of that blessed world. The devil has no power there; he cannot draw the saints from serving God, nor can he disturb them in the service of God. God and the Lamb are here spoken of as one. Service there shall be not only freedom, but also honour and dominion. There will be no night; no affliction or dejection, no pause in service or enjoyment: no diversions or pleasures or man’s inventing will there be wanted. How different all this from gross and merely human views of heavenly happiness, even those which refer to pleasures of the mind! (3)

The next article is one of the finest examinations of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son!

Christianity 101 The Theology of the Ancient Creeds Part 6: The Procession of the Spirit:

By Greg Uttinger

April 01, 2003


The Western form of the Nicene Creed differs from the Eastern in what it says about the Holy Spirit. The Eastern form, following that adopted at Constantinople, says that the Holy Ghost “proceedeth from the Father.” The Western form of the Creed adds the words, “and the Son” — in Latin, the single word Filioque. The Western Church confesses a double procession of the Holy Spirit, a procession from the Father and the Son. (1) The Eastern Church regards this as heresy.

The Filioque clause originated in Spain in the 6th Century. The Council of Toledo (589), in denouncing Arianism, issued twenty-three anathemas and, at the same time, inserted the Filioque into the Latin text of the Nicene Creed. (2) From Spain, use of the Filioque passed into Gaul. Charlemagne asked Pope Leo III to sanction the Filioque. Leo judged the doctrine orthodox, but objected to altering the ecumenical Creed. Nonetheless, use of the Filioque continued to spread in the West and eventually won approval in Rome.

In the middle of the 11th Century, the Filioque became a major point of contention between the East and West. The Eastern Church complained that the West had added the Filioque illegally — that is, without an ecumenical council (30 — and that the doctrine itself was fundamentally wrong and dangerous. This remains the position of the Eastern Church to this day.

The Testimony of the Fathers

The doctrine of the double procession was no novelty when the Council of Toledo used it in its attack on Arianism. Consider the testimony of these ancient writers, two of whom actually hailed from the East (4)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) wrote in his Ankyrotos:

The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son; and neither is the Son created nor is the Spirit created.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, the enemy of Nestorianism, wrote in his Thesaurus (c. 424):

Since the Holy Spirit when He is in us effects our being conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that He is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it.

St. Hilary of Potiers (356-359) in his De Trinitate said the Holy Spirit “is of the Father and the Son, His Sources.” Pope St. Damasus I in the Acts of the Council of Rome (382) declared:

The Holy Spirit is not of the Father only, or the Spirit of the Son only, but He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. For it is written, “If anyone loves the world, the Spirit of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); and again it is written: “If anyone, however, does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9).

And Pope St. Leo I (d. 461) said (Sermon 75:30):

The Son is the Only-begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, not as any creature, which also is of the Father and of the Son, but as living and having power with both, and eternally subsisting of that which is the Father and the Son.

But it was St. Augustine of Hippo who did the most to develop the doctrine of the double procession. “St. Augustine taught that the Holy Spirit is the bond of love that exists between the Father and the Son.” (5) In On the Trinity (400-416) he wrote:

[ With the Father and the Son] the Holy Spirit, too, exists in this same unit of substance and equality. For whether He be the unity of the Father and the Son, or Their holiness, or Their love, or Their unity because He is Their love, or Their love because He is Their holiness, it is clear that He is not one of the Two, since it is by Him that the Two are joined, by Him that the Begotten is loved by the Begetter, and in turn loves Him who begot Him (XI, 5:7).

And yet it is not without reason that in this Trinity only the Word of God is called Son, only the Gift of God the Holy Spirit, and only He of whom the Word is begotten and from Whom principally the Holy Spirit proceeds is called God the Father. I have added the term “principally” because the Holy Spirit is found to proceed also from the Son. But this too the Father gave the Son, not as if the Son did not already exist and have it, but because whatever the Father gives the Son, He gives by begetting. He so begot Him, then, that the Gift might proceed jointly from Him, and so that the Holy Spirit would be the Spirit of both (XV, 17:29).

According to Scripture

The central verse in this whole debate is John 15:26:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.

The Council of Constantinople lifted the phrase “proceedeth from the Father” directly from Scripture and placed it in the Creed. The Spirit’s precise relationship to the Son was not a pressing question at the time, and the Council did not speak to it one way or the other. Yet the Eastern Church argues from the silence of the text and of the Creed: since both say “from the Father” and no more, it is wrong, the East insists, to add more. This is not necessarily true, however. “From the Father” need not exclude “and from the Son” if there is other Scriptural evidence to support the clause.

We read in Matthew of one angel at the tomb on Easter Day, and this does not contradict Luke’s statement that there were two angels. We read in Mark 10 and Luke 18 of a blind beggar healed by Jesus on the outskirts of Jericho, and this does not contradict the statement in Matthew that there were two blind beggars healed. Similarly, it is clear that the saying of Jesus, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, does not contradict the statement that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son. (6)

Though Scripture does not say explicitly that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, it does say what amounts to the same thing.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 17:7).

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost (John 20:22).

Jesus promised that He Himself would send the Spirit. After His resurrection, He bestowed the Spirit upon His disciples with a breath, His own breath. The Eastern Church argues that this was merely a sign or sacrament; yet God reveals Himself in His works as He is in truth. The sending or breathing or procession in time presupposes and reveals the procession from eternity. (7)

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6).

If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit (or Breath) of the Son, then He must be breathed (spirated) by the Son. And the word is Son, not Christ or Jesus: the reference is to the ontological Trinity, to something within the Godhead, and not to the Mediator’s sending the Spirit at Pentecost. The Son breathes the Spirit from eternity, and therefore He has breathed or sent Him in time.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shew it unto you (John 16:13-15).

That which the Spirit has, He has “from the Son no less than from the Father.”

…and as the Son is said to be from the Father because he does not speak of himself, but of the Father (from whom he receives all things), so the Spirit ought to be said to be and to proceed from the Son because he hears and speaks from him. (8)

There is more. If the Spirit does not proceed from the Son, we have some serious theological problems. First, we lose intimate fellowship that is the Trinity. For the Holy Spirit has no immediate relationship to the Son. The Father’s Breath has no destination, nor is that Breath ever returned to Him. “It is only if the Spirit proceeds from both that the inter-communion of the persons of the Trinity is eternally complete.” (9)

Second, we have no way to distinguish the Son and the Spirit within the Godhead. We cannot even say that the Son is the second Person of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit is the third. After all, isn’t it true that a man’s spirit is closer to that man than is his son? And yet the normal language of Scripture and the order of historical revelation give us Father, then Son, and then Spirit.

If We Abandon the Filioque…

Ideas have consequences. Ideas about God have profound consequences, especially given enough time. The Filioque is not a minor matter, and whether the Church accepts or rejects it will have extensive and long-term cultural effects. The Dutch theologians and those influenced by their writings seem to have clearer understanding of this than, say, those in the Presbyterian tradition. For example, Herman Bavinck writes:

The three persons [in the Eastern perspective] are not viewed as three relations within the one essence, the self-unfoldment of the Godhead, but the Father is viewed as the One who imparts his being to the Son and to the Spirit. As a result, the Son and the Spirit are so coördinated that both in the same manner have their “originating cause” in the Father. In both the Father reveals himself. The Son causes us to know God: the Spirit causes us to delight in him. The Son does not reveal the Father in and through the Spirit, neither does the Spirit lead us to the Father through the Son. The two are more or less independent of each other; each leads to the Father in his own peculiar way. Thus, orthodoxy and mysticism, mind and will, are placed in antithetic relation to one another. And this peculiar relation between orthodoxy and mysticism characterizes the religious attitude prevailing in the Eastern Church. Doctrine and life are separated: doctrine is for the mind only: it is a fit object of theological speculation. Next to it and apart from it there is another fountain of life, namely the mysticism of the Spirit. This fountain does not have knowledge as its source but has its own distinct origin and nourishes the heart. Thus, a false relation is established between mind and heart: ideas and emotions are separated, and the link that should bind the two in ethical union is lacking. (10)

Edwin Palmer summarizes Kuyper’s analysis:

Moreover, as Abraham Kuyper has incisively pointed out, a denial of the filioque leads to an unhealthy mysticism. It tends to isolate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives from the work of Jesus. Redemption by Christ is put in the background, while the sanctifying work of the Spirit is brought to the fore. The emphasis is more and more on the work of the Spirit in our lives, which tends to lead to an independence from Christ, the church, and the Bible. Sanctification can loom larger than justification, the subjective communion with the Spirit larger than the objective church life, and illumination by the Spirit larger than the Word. Kuyper believes that this has actually been the case to some extent in the Eastern Church, as a result of the denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father. (11)

The Spirit comes to glorify the Son (John 16:14). If we detach the work of the Spirit from the blood of Christ and the word of God, we distort Christianity in a most frightful manner, and any mysticism we create will be more akin to Eastern pantheism than to anything in the Bible — excepting, perhaps, the idolatry of ancient Israel. (12)

Jim Jordan, writing on the Second Commandment, has connected Eastern Orthodoxy’s rejection of the Filioque with its use of icons.

God meets man in language, in personal discourse. Music may glorify that conversation — and it should do so in worship — but God does not meet man in music. Nor does He meet man in visual art of any sort. He meets man in the Word of God, in language; and because God in incorporeal, He meets man in language alone.

Another way to put this is that God meets man only through the Son of God, the Word. The Spirit is the glory, the music, the visual display of God; but God does not meet man through the Spirit. By insisting that icons are a separate channel of non-verbal communication with God and the saints, the Orthodox separate the Spirit from the Son. Understandably, they deny that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Biblical religion, however, insists that the work of the Spirit is to enable us to understand the Word of the Son, not to be a separate way of approaching God. God’s “No!” [in the 2nd Commandment] is a rejection of any attempt on the part of man to approach God apart from His Son. (13)

There are other implications we need to consider. For if the Spirit comes to do the work of the Father, we must expect to find Him most clearly revealed, not in the Church, but in creation. “If the Spirit is understood as proceeding from the Father alone, it is then natural to think that Spirit reflects the spiritual energy of the created world.” Grace then takes a back seat to Nature.

Subordinationism gave primacy to nature, and hence to the natural ability of man. As a result, man becomes in effect his own savior, and grace is cooperating grace, not prevenient. If the Holy Ghost proceeds only from the Father, then the Holy Ghost, in a system, which accords primacy to nature, becomes absorbed into nature. (15)

Theologically, rejection of the Filioque opens the door to Pelagianism, man’s ability to save himself; politically, it leads directly to statism. “The sure voice of God was therefore the natural voice, the state.” (16) Eastern Orthodox nations are no strangers to totalitarianism and imperialism.

The filioque is vitally connected with the advance of the Western church towards a strong anthropology (in connection with the doctrine of sin and grace), while the Eastern stopped in a weak Pelagian and synergistic view, crude and undeveloped. The procession only de Patre per Filium would put the church at arm’s length, so to speak, from God; that is, beyond Christ, off at an extreme, or at one side of the kingdom of divine life, rather than in the center and bosom of that kingdom, where all things are hers. The filioque put the church, which is the temple and organ of the Holy Ghost in the work of redemption, rather between the Father and the Son, partaking of their own fellowship, according to the great intercessory prayer of Christ Himself. It places the church in the meeting point, or the living circuit of the interplay, of grace and nature, of the divine and the human; thus giving scope for s strong doctrine of both nature and grace, and to a strong doctrine also of the church itself. (17)

The Filioque means that the work of the Father and the work of the Son coincide in the operation of the Holy Spirit. Grace is not deification, but the redemption and restoration of God’s creation. The Church, as the temple of the Holy Ghost, lies at the very heart of this process and in the center of the covenant love that exists within the Triune God.

Summary and Conclusion

In 1984 ABC correspondent George Bailey, writing for a secular audience, traced the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, the modern incarnations of East and West, to the Filioque. He pointed to “the mystagogical, or spiritual, turning inward of the Greek Orthodox faith,” which he connected with “the withdrawn spirituality of the Russian orthodox tradition.” This he contrasted with “the dynamic involvement in worldly affairs characteristic of Catholicism and, to an even greater extent, of Protestantism (the lay minister in a business suit).”(18) Bailey may have exaggerated cause and effect, but at least he saw something of the theological and creedal roots of the greatest political conflict of the 20th Century. Not many Western theologians were as astute.

The mysticism, cultural stagnation, and imperialism typical of Eastern Orthodox nations are logical consequences of rejecting the Filioque. Sovereign grace and political liberty are logical consequences of embracing it. And yet few Western writers have devoted more than a page or two to the Filioque. This is sad. Eastern Orthodox theologians at least understand that the issue is important, and they are quick to contend for the sanctity of their position. (19) It is time for Western theologians to show a like zeal in defending their own theological inheritance.


1. William G. T. Shedd, one of the few American theologians to write at length on this issue, summarizes the doctrine with these words:

Again, the Spirit, though spirated by the Father and the Son, yet proceeds not from the Father and Son as persons but from the Divine essence. His procession is from one, namely, the essence; while his spiration is by two, namely, two persons. The Father and the Son are not two essences, and therefore do not spirate the Spirit from two essences. Yet they are two persons, and as two persons having one numerical essence spirate from it the third form or mode of the essence — the Holy Spirit: their two personal acts of spiration concurring in one single procession of the Spirit. There are two spirations, because the Father and the Son are two persons; but there is only one resulting procession.—Dogmatic Theology, 2nd ed., vol. I (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 290.

2. An earlier council at Toledo (447) had already declared: “If anyone does not believe that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and is coeternal with and like unto the Father and the Son, let him be anathema.” The 3rd Anathema, in Rousas J. Rushdoony, Foundations of Social Order (N. p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1972), 120.

3. Protestants have not worried much about this point, and I will leave the argument to others. Whether the Filioque is biblical or not is logically a distinct issue.

4. The quotations that follow have been collected by James Kiefer in Creeds, “The Filioque,” 5-7, available at ( http://www.thefathershouse.org/creed/filioque.html). This is a remarkable web site, the more so since it is sponsored by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.

5. Ibid., 8. Keifer writes: “From all eternity, independently of any created being, God is the Lover, the Loved, and the Love itself. And the bond of unity and love that exists between the Father and the Son proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

6. Ibid., 2.

7. Turretin, III, xxxi, v, 309. Cf. Palmer, The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit, The Traditional Calvinistic Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 16.

8. Turretin, 309.

9. Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (N. p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974), 226.

10. Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 317.

11. Palmer, 18.

12. The golden calves, both Aaron’s and Jeroboam’s, were supposed to represent and serve as means of contact to Jehovah (cf. Ex. 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28).

13. James Jordan, Rite Reasons, Studies in Worship, No. 59, September 1998.

14. Robert J. Sanders, “Violence and the Filioque” (http://st-pauls.manhatttanks.org/essays/apr95.htm), April 1995.

15. Rushdoony, 125.

16. Ibid., 123.

17. Yeoman, quoted by Rushdoony, 123. Unfortunately, Rushdoony mistakenly traces this quote through Schaff. If anyone knows where the quote actually comes from, please e-mail me the reference.

18. George Bailey, Armageddon in Prime Time (New York: Avon Books, 1984), 37-38.

19. Most web articles on the Filioque are Eastern Orthodox. (4)

Greg Uttinger teaches theology, history, and literature at Cornerstone Christian School in Roseville, California. He lives nearby in Sacramento County with his wife, Kate, and their three children. For one of the best theological websites, go to https://chalcedon.edu/

The Athanasian Creed and the filioque, see number 22:

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

3. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance

4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.

5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.

7. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.

8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

10. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.

11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;

13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

17. And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.

18. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;

19. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.

20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

21. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

23. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

24. And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.

25. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.

26. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

27. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

28. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

29. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

30. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.

31. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

32. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

33. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

34. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.

35. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

36. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

37. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

38. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;

39. From thence, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

40. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

41. And shall give account of their own works.

42. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

43. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the defender of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Protestant Reformed Churches in America Official Website on the Ecumenical Creeds:

A creed expresses what the church believes to be the truth of Sacred Scripture. An ecumenical creed expresses certain fundamental truths of Scripture which are held by most Christian churches throughout the world. Three of these ecumenical creeds—the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed—are cited in Article 9 of the Belgic Confession as statements of truth which “we do willingly receive.” These ancient creeds express basic truths regarding the doctrine of the Holy Trinity over against various errors, which surfaced in the early history of the New Testament church. To these three the Protestant Reformed Churches have added the Creed of Chalcedon (AD. 451), which sums the truth of the Person and Natures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though this creed is not mentioned by name in the Reformed confessions, it is included because the doctrine set forth in it is clearly embodied in Article 19 of the Belgic Confession.

“The Symbolum Quicunque [Athanasian Creed] is a remarkably clear and precise summary of the doctrinal decisions of the first four ecumenical Councils (from A.D. 325 to A.D. 451), and the Augustinian speculations on the Trinity and the Incarnation. Its brief sentences are artistically arranged and rhythmically expressed. It is a musical creed or dogmatic psalm. The first part (ver. 3–28) sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity, not in the less definite Athanasian or Niceno-Constantinopolitan, but in its strictest Augustinian form, to the exclusion of every kind of subordination of essence…The second part (ver. 29–44) contains a succinct statement of the orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Christ, as settled by the general Councils of Ephesus 431 and Chalcedon 451, and in this respect it is a valuable supplement to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. It asserts that Christ had a rational soul (νοῦς, πνεῦμα), in opposition to the Apollinarian heresy, which limited the extent of his humanity to a mere body with an animal soul inhabited by the divine Logos. It also teaches the proper relation between the divine and human nature of Christ, and excludes the Nestorian and Eutychian or Monophysite heresies, in essential agreement with the Chalcedonian Symbol. (5)

In Closing:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7) Who can dispute that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit?

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

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


1. Charles Hodge, Commentary on Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 258.

2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1467.

3. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Revelation, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.2126.

4. Greg Uttinger, Chalcedon Foundation, The Theology of the Ancient Creeds Part 6: The Procession of the Spirit, (Vallecito, CA, Chalcedon Foundation), Online article https://chalcedon.edu/…/christianity-101-the-theology-of-th…

5. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878), 1.37, 39.

“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. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

*** Reformed answers http://reformedanswers.org/

**** https://www.gotquestions.org/

THE FILIOQUE © John S. Romanides http://romanity.org/…/rom.03.en.franks_romans_feudalism_and…


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Baptism for the Dead, what does it mean?

Baptism for the Dead, what does it mean? by Jack Kettler

Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1Corinthians 15:29)

It has been a common interpretation of this passage to believe Paul is referring to a heretical group practicing baptism for dead people by proxy.

This passage is a favorite Mormon proof-text for one of their unique doctrines. Mormons are generally proud to point out that they still practice baptism for the dead, where Christendom has abandoned this Old Testament practice. In Mormonism, baptism by water is a necessary ordinance for salvation. Baptisms for the dead can only be performed in Mormon temples. Baptism for the dead in Mormon temples supposedly gives those who have died without embracing Christ the opportunity to do so after death.

How do we understand 1Corinthians 15:29? In addition, to whom is Paul referring in this passage of Scripture?

The Bible teaches that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. Using this scriptural approach, there is an Old Testament text to which Paul is referencing in 1Corinthians 15:29. When Paul talks about “they,” he is referring to the Old Testament practice in Numbers 19:11-22. This part of the law taught that an Israelite who touched a dead body became unclean and consequently unable to approach the Lord resulting in being cut off from covenant community. Contact with a dead body by an Israelite polluted him. In redemptive history, such contact served to demonstrate that the individual was under the biblical condemnation of death, the result of sin. No one but Jesus because of His sinless perfection, could come into contact with death and not be contaminated. Only Christ is able to vanquish the power of uncleanness and death.

How do we understand this baptism and its mode? An accurate understanding of baptism is crucial for a proper understanding of the passage.

As a necessary excursus, in Hebrews 9:10 we read:

[ceremonies and offerings]

“which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” The writer of Hebrews is discussing how the ceremonies of the Old Testament pointed to the finished work of Christ. In Hebrews 9:10, the writer says that those Old Testament ordinances applied until the time of the New Covenant. Among those extraneous regulations of the Old Covenant, note how the writer refers to “divers washings.” In the Greek, this passage mentioning “divers washings” is accurately translated “various baptisms.” In addition to these First-Century Jewish “washings,” i.e. baptisms, there were Old Covenant baptisms.

Were these ceremonial baptisms done by immersion? The “washings” referenced in Hebrews cannot be understood as immersions because of availability of water considerations. The Jews would not immerse furniture; “and, coming from the market-place, if they do not baptize themselves, they do not eat; and many other things there are that they received to hold, baptisms of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, and couches” (Mark 7:4). If we understand that baptism can be done by sprinkling or pouring, then we find a satisfactory interpretation of Hebrews 9:10; Mark 7:4 and the Old Testament text to which Paul is referring to in Numbers 19 This sprinkling in Numbers 19:13 is equivalent to the washings, or “baptismois” (baptisms) in Hebrews 9:10 and is, therefore, a baptism..

Paul is revealing to us that the Israelite who had been contaminated by contact with the dead was not only unable to approach the Lord’s tabernacle in Numbers 19:13, he in fact, would also be cut off from Israel because of his defilement. What was the Old Testament solution for this contamination resulting from defilement in touching a dead body? The remedy found in the law was that the unclean individual must be sprinkled or baptized with the water of purification on the third day, as is seen in verses 13 and 17.

The unclean person would not be cleansed until the seventh day, as is seen in verse 19.

A Holy God could never have sin in His presence. The certainty of death exhibits that we are all spiritual rebels, debased and unclean in the sight of the Lord. Paul’s assertion in 1Corinthians 15:29 affirms that the water of purification in Numbers 19 is a ceremonially cleansing, which in reality is accomplished by Christ’s resurrection.

By following the prescription of the law (the water of purification in Numbers 19), the power of death was broken. The unclean person could be made clean and able to approach the Lord and be restored to the covenant people. The water of purification in Numbers 19 was a shadow or type, like the blood of bulls and goats that in reality could never uproot or take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). The water of purification in Numbers 19 also could never truly cleanse the pollution caused by sin. It was a type or shadow, which finds fulfillment in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.

The teaching of Paul in 1Corinthians 15:29 now becomes clear; “they,” or the Jewish practice based upon the law of God in Numbers 19, foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ. Today it would be wrong for Christians to practice the law of Numbers 19, and that is why Paul says “they” in Corinthians rather than “we.” This Old Testament Jewish practice foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection. To continue this Old Testament practice today would be to reproach the finished work of Christ by going back to a type or shadow of weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9).

Paul, in 1Corinthians 15:29 sets forth a splendid picture of the resurrection foreshadowed in Numbers 19. Paul was not referring to the practice of some unknown heretical group for proof of the resurrection; he was referring the Old Testament Jewish practice in Numbers 19, an incredible foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. When the apostle in 1Corinthians 15:29 says, “Else what shall they do” he is referring to the Jews, the Old Testament covenant people of God.

The interpretation argued for in this article is not only consistent with types and shadows finding fulfillment in Christ, but it also does not depend on the purely speculative and unsatisfactory explanation of Paul referring to some unknown heretical practice in defending a vital doctrine of the Christian Faith; namely, the resurrection of Christ. It refers to the Old Covenant Jewish practice now fulfilled in Christ.

An additional line of argumentation for this understanding of 1Corinthians 15:29 comes from contextual evidence within the book of 1Corinthians where Paul quotes the Old Testament in the book. In fact, Paul quotes the Old Testament in 1Corinthians 33 times.

To give a few examples:

1Corinthians 1:19 Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14
1Corinthians 1:31 Paul quotes Jeremiah 9:23- 24
1Corinthians 2:9 Paul quotes Isaiah 64:3
1Corinthians 5:13 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 13:5
1Corinthians 6:16, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24
1Corinthians 10:7 Paul quotes Exodus 32:6
1Corinthians 10:1-11 Paul is mentioning what happened to Israel in the wilderness
1Corinthians 14:21 Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11-12
1Corinthians 14:21 – Isaiah 28:11-12
1Corinthians 15:3 – Isaiah 53:8-10
1Corinthians 15:4 – Psalms 16:10
1Corinthians 15:25 – Psalms 110:1
1Corinthians 15:27 Paul quotes Psalm 8:6
1Corinthians 15:32 Paul quotes Isaiah 22:13
1Corinthians 15:45 Paul quotes Genesis 2:7
1Corinthians 15:55 Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14

Are we really to believe after Paul’s quotes from the Old Testament in 1Corinthians to prove his points that in 15:29 he inconsistently breaks his background context and refers to a practice by an unknown group of people engaged in a heretical practice? Especially after verse 27, in which Paul is quoting Psalm 8:6. Then in verse 32, Paul is quoting Isaiah 22:13. Paul quotes the Old Testament eight times in chapter 15. Contextually, it makes no sense for Paul right in between verse 27 and 32 to refer to a heretical practice by an unidentified group to defend the resurrection, a cardinal doctrine of the faith.

Contextually, we can add to the list:

1Corinthians 15:29 where Paul is referring to the Jewish practice in Numbers 19:13; 17; 19 regarding ceremonial baptisms.

I first heard of the connection between Corinthians and Numbers years ago from Rev. Steven M. Schlei from Loveland, CO.

What about the preposition “huper” in the translation of 1Corinthians 15:29?

In 1Corinthians 15:29, we find Greek preposition huper, which is translated in English as “for.” What will those do who are baptized for the dead and if the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Normally, huper means “for the benefit of,” or “on behalf of.”

This is why translators and commentators have always believed the passage in 1Corinthians 15:29 must be some vicarious baptism that some unknown esoteric aberrational group was practicing.

Can huper be translated differently?

In the New Testament, huper appears 160 times. Of these, huper is used a majority of times with words in the genitive case. Of particular interest for us is the text in question where it is translated “for” in 1 Corinthians 15:29, but it is also translated as “concerning” in Romans 9:27 and “because” in Philippians 1:7.

Consider what Joel R. White has written in his article titled: Baptized On Account Of The Dead:

“As for the preposition υπέρ, it is to be understood in its causal sense and is best translated “because of” or, more precisely, “on account of.” Standard grammars and lexicons give ample evidence for this usage in the NT usage in usage in the NT 63

63 See, in addition to BAGD, H. Riesenfeld, “υπέρ,” TDNT, 8.514; J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh: Clark, 1963) 270-71; H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927) 111. Υπέρ has an unambiguously causal sense when it describes the grounds for giving thanks or offering praise (Rom 15:9; 1Cor 10:30; Eph. 1:16; 5:20). It also seems to have a causal sense in many of the instances in which it is linked to suffering (Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26; 21:13; 2Cor 12:10; Eph. 3:13; 2Thess. 1:5). In Phil 1:29 this is undoubtedly so, for there we have two instances of υπέρ, the first, υπέρ Χριστού, giving the cause or ground of the Philippians’ suffering; the second, υπέρ αυτού, stating its purpose. Additionally, a causal sense is possible, if not likely, in Rom 1:5; 15:8; 2Cor 12:8;” (1)

James R. Rogers, in his article on Baptism for the Dead writes:

“Nevertheless, this is not the only way to take huper. Indeed, the Scriptures also use the word to mean “on account of” or “because of.” For example, huper appears in Romans 15:9, “the Gentiles…glorify God for His mercy.” Quite obviously Gentiles do not give glory to God for the benefit of mercy—mercy does not benefit from the glory we give God. Rather, we glorify God on account of or because of His mercy. So, too, in 1Corinthians 15:3, Paul writes that “Christ died for our sins.” Now, Christ did not die for the benefit of our sins. Rather, he died on account of or because of our sins. This use of huper occurs often (see, e.g., 2Cor. 12:8, Eph. 5:20, Heb. 5:1, 7:27, Acts 5:41, 15:26, and 21:13). I also consulted several of the best Greek lexicons, and pestered a couple of Greek scholars. All held that this is a permissible reading of the word. If so, then 1Corinthians 15:29 can be properly translated or read as the following:

Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized because of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized because of the dead?” (2)

If White and Rogers are correct in their examples of the alternative translation and usage of huper, then the above interpretation holds up.

Significantly, A.T. Robertson M.A. D.D., L.I.D., regarding υπέρ notes:

“A more general idea is that of ‘about’ or ‘concerning.’ Here υπέρ encroaches on the province of περί. Cf. 2Cor. 8:23, υπέρ Τίτου, 2Th. 2:1 ὑπὲρ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου. Perhaps 1Cor. 15:29 comes in here also. Moulton1 finds commercial accounts in the papyri, scores of them with ὑπὲρ in the sense of ‘to.'” (3)

In the Greek English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, we see other uses of ὑπὲρ under the heading:

“d. because of to denote moving cause or the reason because of, for the sake of… and under f. about, concerning (about equivalent to περί).” (4)

In conclusion, as noted, the Greek preposition translated “for” in 1Corinthians 15:29 is huper. It is possible to say that Paul is not writing about being baptized “in the place of,” or “on behalf of,” or “for” a dead person at all, as has been seen by the contrary evidence in how huper may be translated.

Since this is possible, then according to the context of 1Corinthians 15:29, huper could be translated “because of” or “on account of.” If huper can mean this, then the 1Corinthians 15:29 text can be properly translated: “Else what shall they do which are baptized because of the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized because of the dead?” or, “Else what shall they do which are baptized on account of the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized on account of the dead?”

In light of the above and considerations that follow, based on exceptions to a general grammatical rule involving the Greek preposition huper, we could translate Paul in 1Corinthians 15:29 to be saying: “else what do they, the Jews, mean by ceremonially washing or baptizing because of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why do the Jews ceremonially wash or baptize on account of the dead?”

In light of the different usage and the adaptability of the preposition “huper”, its use in 1Corinthians, 15:29 is by no means restricted to the translation conveying the idea of only proxy baptisms. In the matter of 1Corinthians 15:29 we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. The connection between 1Corinthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-22 is the most convincing interpretation.

To quote Joel R. White again in regards to 1Corinthians 15:29:

“Students of this passage have struggled to make sense of this curious reference, offering an astonishing number of diverse interpretations. In the past thirty years, however, interest in the subject has fallen off as scholars reached an impasse concerning its meaning. There has been only a trickle of new ideas, and curtailing close to a consensus on the proper interpretation has emerged. This has led to an exegetical agnosticism on the part of many scholars.” (5)

This conclusion of “exegetical agnosticism” is certainly unsatisfying for the Christian apologist. The solution argued for in the above article has the benefit of using Scripture as the best interpreter of Scripture. Moreover, it does not rip verse 29 out of context from verses 27, and 32 where Paul is quoting the Old Testament. The hesitancy of some to agree with this interpretation may be because of a prior commitment to a particular mode of baptism.

Have any theologians in church history seen the connection of 1Coringthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-13?

Consider the leading 19th Century Southern Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, and the connection between 1Corinthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-13:

Baptism for the Dead by Robert L. Dabney:

“The instructive and almost exhaustive treatise of Dr. Beattie upon 1 Cor. 15:29 suggests still another explanation which readers may compare with those recited by him. I first heard this from that devout, learned and judicious exegete, Rev. J. B. Ramsey, D. D., of Lynchburg, Va. He advocated it, not claiming originality for it. This explanation supposes that the holy apostle refers here to the Mosaic law of Num. 19:11-13, which required the Hebrew who had shared in the shrouding and burial of a human corpse to undergo a ceremonial uncleanness of seven days, and to deliver himself from it by two sprinklings with the water of purification containing the ashes of the burned heifer. This view is sustained by the following reasons:

I. We know from Mark 7:4, and Heb. 9:10 (“As the washing [baptisms] of cups and pots, brazen vessels and of tables.” “And divers washings [baptisms] and carnal ordinances”), that both the evangelist and the Apostle Paul called the water purifications of the Mosaic law by the name of baptisms. Thus it is made perfectly clear that if the apostle designed in 1Cor. 15:29 to refer to this purification of people recently engaged in a burial, he would use the word baptize.

II. This purification must have been well known, not only to all Jews and Jewish Christians, but to most gentile Christians in Corinth; because the converts from the Gentiles made in the apostles’ days in a place like Corinth were chiefly from such pagans as were somewhat acquainted with the resident Jews and their synagogue worship. This explanation then has this great advantage, that it supposes the apostle to cite for argument (as is his wont everywhere) a familiar and biblical instance, rather than any usage rare, or partial or heretical, and so unknown to his readers and lacking in authority with them.

III. This view follows faithfully the exact syntax of the sentence. The apostle puts the verb in the present tense: “Which are baptized for the dead.” For we suppose this law for purifying persons recently engaged in a burial was actually observed not only by Jews, but by Jewish Christians, and properly, at the time this epistle was written. We must remember that while the apostle firmly prohibited the imposition of the Mosaic ritual law upon gentile Christians according to the apostolic decree in Acts 15, he continued to observe it himself. He caused Timothy to be circumcised, while he sternly refused to impose circumcision upon gentile converts. He was at Jerusalem going through a Nazarite purification and preparing to keep the Jewish Passover, when he was captured by the Romans. His view of the substitution of the New Testament cultus in place of the Mosaic ritual seems to have been this: That, on the one hand, this ritual was no longer to be exacted of any Christian, Jew or Gentile, as necessary to righteousness, and that such exaction was a forfeiture of justification by grace; but on the other hand, it was proper and allowable for Jewish Christians to continue the observance of their fathers, such as the seventh day Sabbath, and the scriptural Mosaic ritual (not the mere rabbinical traditions) so long as the Temple was standing, provided their pious affections and associations inclined them to these observances.

IV. Dr. Ramsey’s explanation is faithful to the idiomatic usage of the Greek words in the text. He correctly supposes that the apostle’s term, “baptized,” describes a religious water purification by sprinkling, founded on biblical authority; and here, perhaps, is the reason why expositors with immersionist tendencies have been blind to this very natural explanation; their minds refused to see a true baptism in a sprinkling, where the Apostle Paul saw it so plainly. Then, Dr. Ramsey uses the word “the dead” (nekron) in its most common, strict meaning of dead men; and that in the plural; not in the singular, as of the one corpse of Jesus. He also employs the preposition “for” (huper) in a fairly grammatical sense for its regimen of the genitive case; “on account of the dead.”

V. Lastly, the meaning thus obtained for the apostle’s instance coheres well with the line of his logic. If there be no resurrection what shall they do who receive this purification by water and the ashes of the heifer from the ceremonial uncleanness incurred on account of the corpses of their dead brethren and neighbors which they have aided to shroud and bury? If there be no resurrection, would there be any sense or reason in this scriptural requirement of a baptism? Wherein would these human corpses differ from the bodies of goats, sheep, and bullocks, dressed for food, without ceremonial uncleanness? Had Moses, inspired of God, not believed in the resurrection, he would not have ordained such a baptism as necessarily following the funeral of a human being. His doctrine is, that the guilt of sin is what pollutes a human being, the soul spiritually, and even the material body ceremonially; that bodily death is the beginning of the divine penalty for that guilt: that hence where that penalty strikes it makes its victim a polluted thing {herein). Hence even the man who touches it is vicariously polluted, as he would not be by the handling of any other material clod, and so needs purification. For all this points directly to man’s immortality, with its future rewards and punishments; and these affecting not only the spirit but the body which is for a time laid away in the tomb, to be again reanimated and either to share the continued penalty of sin, or, through faith to be cleansed from it by the blood of Christ, and thus made to re-enter the New Jerusalem.” (6)

Robert Lewis Dabney (1829–1898) was one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 19th century. A Southern Presbyterian, he was a teacher, statesman, writer, and social critic, as well as theologian, and taught at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. In the American Civil War, he once served as Chief of Staff to the Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson. His work, especially his Systematic Theology, has been highly regarded by scholars from Benjamin Warfield to Karl Barth.


1.Joel R. White Baptized On Account Of The Dead: The Meaning Of 1 Corinthians 15:29 In Its Context. Biblische Ausbildung am Ort, Vienna, Austria Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL) 116/3 (1997) 487- 499.

2. Biblical Horizons Newsletter
No. 76: Baptism for the Dead
by James R. Rogers
http: //www.biblicalhorizons. com/biblical-horizons/no-76-baptism-for-the-dead/

3. A.T. Robertson M.A. D.D., L.I.D., A Grammar Of The Greek New Testament In The Light Of Historical Research, (Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee), p. 632.

4. Walter Bauer, Greek English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (The University of Chicago Press, Printed in the United States of American) p. 839.

5. Joel R. White Baptized On Account Of The Dead: The Meaning Of 1 Corinthians 15:29 In Its Context. Biblische Ausbildung am Ort, Vienna, Austria Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL) 116/3 (1997) 487- 499.

6. Robert L. Dabney Baptism for the Dead by (Appeared in the Christian Observer, February 3, 1897; vol. 84:5), pg. 10.

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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more research see:

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson Editors Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1 Corinthians by Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 695-752

Paul’s Use of The Old Testament in 1Corinthians by Davide Verlingieri online PDF

James W. Dale Vol. 1-4; Classic Baptism; Judaic baptism; Johannic Baptism; Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey

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Adiaphora, a Study in Liberty and its Boundaries

Adiaphora, a Study in Liberty and its Boundaries by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what is called “adiaphora.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“Actions or beliefs which are neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture, and thus left to the liberty of the conscience; issues of theology or morals to which scripture does not speak definitively.”*


“Teachings and practices that are neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture. An example might be whether or not to use a sound-board in a church, to meet in a tent or a building, to have two or more services or simply one on the day of worship.” **

From Wikipedia:

In Pyrrhonism, “adiaphora” indicates things, which cannot be logically differentiated. Unlike in Stoicism, the term has no specific connection to morality. In Stoicism, “adiaphora” indicates actions that morality neither mandates nor forbids. In the context of Stoicism, “adiaphora” is usually translated as “indifferents.”

When considering the above definitions, one might ask, how could there be disagreements on such seemingly trivial matters. Simply said, adiaphora it could be said is not majoring in minors. Unfortunately, what is obvious to some is not oblivious to others. When considering that a man has fallen sinful nature, majoring in minors can quickly become the norm when approaching seemingly matters of indifference.

From Scripture:

“But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” (1 Corinthians 8:8-13)

When looking at Scriptural evidence on the topic of adiaphora, you find 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 frequently referenced. The following commentary evidence will look at the issues involved. Paramount, to this to this issue will be the very real danger of causing a weaker believer to stumble, and at the same time in preserving real Christian liberty. This side of heaven, majoring in minors can become the cause of disagreements among brothers, and even leading to church conflicts. What is considered adiaphora to one may not be to another. This is why there are conflicts and offenses. The following commentary evidence is not a digression or going off topic; it is directly related to differences among brothers to seeming indifferent matters.

With that said, the commentators will set explain how the apostle Paul instructs believers on how to not offend their brethren in matters of dispute.

The New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:9-13:

4. Sin

8: 9–13

9. But beware that this right of yours not become a hindrance to those who are weak.

With an adversative, Paul indicates that although he agrees with the general sentiment of the quotation (v. 8), he rejects the context in which it is used. In preceding verses (vv. 1–2), he had told the Corinthians that knowledge and love must go hand in hand. Knowledge by itself results in arrogance, but when it is accompanied by love, it edifies. And Paul, discovering an absence of love in the conduct of some Corinthians (compare Rom. 14:15), now registers a pastoral objection.

Paul detects a dangerous attitude that will undermine the unity of the church. He commands the readers to beware of their own conduct. He drafts the phrase this right of yours, in which the pronoun this reflects a trace of his dislike for the apparent haughtiness of some Corinthians (see Luke 15:30). Moreover, this is the second time the word weak occurs in this chapter (see v. 7). If this expression comes not from Paul but from these spiritually strong Corinthians, a measure of arrogance seems obvious. They aggressively claim for themselves the right to Christian liberty.

However, just as knowledge without love produces pride, so freedom without love generates arrogance. The Corinthians have the right to assert their freedom to eat food, for Paul himself teaches that “no food is unclean in itself” (Rom. 14:14). Yet Christian liberty must always be observed in the context of love for one’s neighbor in general and the spiritually weak brother or sister in particular.

The right that a Christian legitimately exercises should never become a hindrance to a fellow believer. Paul uses the word stumbling block to describe a specific obstacle a Christian can place on someone’s pathway. And the hindrance here is eating sacrificial meat, which was an offense to others in the church.

The freedom which a Christian enjoys must always be asserted in the context of serving one another in love (Gal. 5:13). His attitude should not be a hindrance to the weaker members of the church. Paul is not saying that those who are weak take offense but rather that those who are strong give offense. The members who promote their right to be free are exerting undue pressure on those whose conscience restricts them from eating certain kinds of meat. Paul, therefore, alerts the freedom-loving Corinthians to demonstrate love by not offending their fellow church members.

10. For if someone sees you who have knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of someone who is weak be emboldened so that he will eat food offered to idols?

We make these observations:

a. Dining. Taking a situation from daily life, Paul envisions the possibility of a spiritually strong Corinthian who sits and eats in the temple of an idol. This believer might be asked to come to a celebration held in one of the many dining rooms of the temple. There the meat of an animal sacrificed to an idol would be consumed. He could reason that the idol was nothing more than a piece of hewn stone and the meat was ordinary food. His faith in God remained strong. Further, he would refuse to break bonds of family or friendship. He would feel obligated to attend a feast to which he was invited and would consider the meal an occasion for fellowship with relatives and friends. Because of his firm knowledge of the Christian faith, he would not see any harm in his presence at a festive meal in a temple dining room.

Although Paul provides an illustration by using the singular you, his intention is to portray the reality of a common occurrence. The possibility is not unreal that Erastus, for example, who was the city’s director of public works in Corinth (Rom. 16:23) and a member of the local church, might attend such functions.

Maintaining Christian liberty, Paul does not reprove a person who eats in a temple dining room. He correctly observes that a spiritually strong believer is not worshiping an idol but only enjoying the company of family and friends. By contrast, in a later passage (10:19–20) Paul comments on idolatry and there delineates the sin of worshiping an idol. Now he calls attention not to the eating in a dining room but to the effect this action may have on a weaker brother. This action has the potential of leading a weaker brother into idolatry.

b. Conscience. The weak brother is probably not a Jew, for a Jew would not think of entering a temple to eat meat that was sacrificed to an idol. Instead, the weak brother is likely a Gentile who recently converted to Christianity, whose spiritual knowledge is limited, and whose conscience is weak. Paul now asks the strong Christian a question that probably conveys a touch of irony: “Does the act of eating in a temple embolden the conscience of the weaker brother?”

By his conduct, the one who is strong is leading the weak one; but the fact is that he leads his brother astray. If a spiritually weak person enters the dining room and eats, his conscience is defiled instead of strengthened (see v. 7). Hence, not the weak brother but his weak conscience is emboldened. The inner voice of his conscience no longer keeps him in check. At the beginning of his discussion of this subject, Paul noted that knowledge leads to pride and love leads to edification (v. 1). Paul now reiterates the same thought in different words. Conduct without love and consideration can be disastrous, especially for the spiritually weak who follow the example of the strong person to lead the way. The full responsibility for the spiritual health of the brother rests on the shoulders of the person who has knowledge. His inconsiderate conduct constitutes a sin against Christ.

11. For the weak brother for whom Christ died is destroyed by your knowledge.

When the weak brother eats sacrificial meat in a pagan temple, he associates his act with idol worship. His confidence is destroyed because of his qualms of conscience. Instead of being built up he is torn down. Paul looks at the consequences of the conduct of the knowledgeable brother who intentionally overrides the objections that the weak brother raises. Paul knows that the insensitive conduct of the brother with knowledge destroys “the weak brother for whom Christ died.”

What the apostle is saying in this verse concerns the spiritual life of the weak Christians. Here is a threefold explanation of Paul’s point of view:

First, with the word order, Paul makes every word count in this text; he stresses especially the verbs to destroy and to die. These two verbs are key words. In this sentence, the verb to destroy is in the present tense to indicate that the action already is occurring. The weaker brother “is being destroyed.” With the present tense, he conveys progressive action but not the thought that the weak brother “has been lost.”

Next, the immediate context (v. 12) features the verb to injure, wound in the present tense. This verb is a synonym Paul uses to explain the meaning of “to destroy.”

And last, the parallel passage in Romans 14:15 and its context shed light on the present verse. “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” If Christ paid the supreme sacrifice by dying for this weak brother, then the least a strong brother can do is to demonstrate neighborly love to fellow Christians by not eating certain foods. The intent of this verse is to depict the contrast between the death of Christ and the callousness of the strong Corinthians.

Two additional observations on this passage. First, Paul is not teaching that a strong Christian can cause a spiritually weak brother to perish, for he writes “brother” instead of “sinner” or “man.” He implies that Christ continues to protect this person from harm and will enable him to stand (Rom. 14:4). In brief, loving this brother so much that he died for him, Christ will also make him withstand temptation. Second, some translators introduce the helping verb could () or would () to convey the probability of experiencing ruin but not the actuality of being lost eternally. The weak brother is stunted in his spiritual growth by the lack of love from fellow Christians. Nonetheless, Christ has redeemed and sanctified him (1:2) and regards him as his brother (compare Heb. 2:10–11).

Paul no longer speaks in generalities but addresses the strong Corinthians personally. He writes, “your knowledge,” and calls attention to the loveless attitude of these Corinthians who are puffed up by knowledge (v. 1). Also, the use of the personal pronoun you seems to reveal that the current problem involved a number of people. By contrasting Christ’s death—as an illustration of the greatest love imaginable—with the loveless knowledge of some Corinthians, Paul encourages his readers to express their love to the weaker members of the church.

12. Thus you sin against Christ by sinning against your brothers and by wounding their weak conscience.

Conclusively, the apostle comes to the heart of the matter. He writes the verb to sin twice in the same sentence. In the Greek, he accentuates this word by having the form sinning near the beginning of the sentence and the form sin at the very end.

13. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble into sin, I will never eat meat again that I may not cause my brother to stumble.

The conclusion to this part of the discussion is that Paul himself will provide leadership in the Corinthian church even while he is physically absent. If the spiritually strong Christians fail in their responsibility to strengthen the weak, Paul will set the example. This verse is a conditional sentence that expresses reality and certainty. The readers can be assured that Paul indeed will do that which he is telling them.

Paul writes the general word food instead of the term sacrificial meat, which was at the center of the discussion (see vv. 1, 4, 7, 10). The matter of eating food should not become a stumbling block to anyone in the church. Paul himself scolded both Peter and Barnabas for their refusal to eat with Gentile Christians in Antioch (Gal. 2:11–14). He and his associates delivered the letter of the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile Christians (Acts 15:29). Jewish Christians even refused to buy meat in a local Gentile market for fear of eating food that had been offered to an idol. They fully kept the law of Moses (compare Acts 21:20). Gentile Christians, too, were careful in dining with Gentile friends.

For the sake of his Christian brother, Paul says, “I will never eat meat again that I may not cause my brother to stumble.” In the next chapter of this epistle, he states unequivocally that “to those who are weak I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that at least I might save some” (9:22). Paul was willing to forego eating certain foods so that he might advance the cause of Christ, the spread of the gospel, and the growth of the church.

Did Paul suggest that every Christian should become a vegetarian? No, not at all. But Paul is willing to go to any extreme to avoid hurting the conscience of anyone for whom Christ died. And if that extreme means not to eat meat for some time, Paul readily adapts. He submits even his Christian liberty to the principle of love. What he is asking every believer to do is to show genuine Christian love to fulfill the summary of the Decalogue: to love God with heart, mind and soul, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:37–39). Indeed, Augustine expresses a comment to this effect: “As long as you love God and your neighbor, you may do whatever you wish and you will not fall into sin.”

Additional Note on 8:10

The Jerusalem Council stipulated that Gentile Christians were to abstain from food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29). But in Corinth, Paul allowed Christians to enter a temple and participate in feasts held in one of its dining rooms. Paul’s consent in this chapter appears to be contradictory, especially because he forbade the eating of sacrificial meat in 10:14–22.

Is Paul lax in the one chapter (8:10) and strict in the other (10:18–22)? Hardly. What Paul is trying to do is walk the thin line between allowing Christian liberty and strengthening the consciences of the weak. To put it differently, in chapter 8 Paul addresses the strong but in chapter 10 the weak.

Sacrificial meat in itself is not harmful. If Christians should attend a feast where this meat was served, they were free to partake provided they did not hurt the conscience of weaker Christians. But whenever the eating of meat was directly associated with idolatry, Paul condemned this practice (10:7, 14). When a Christian became a participant in idolatry (10:18, 20), he would forge a spiritual association with an idol and thus become an idolater. Whenever Gentiles were worshiping an idol, a Christian should have nothing to do with them. He ought to know that God is a jealous God (Exod. 20:4; Deut. 5:8). In the words of James, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Practical Considerations in 8:12

In today’s world, sin is taken lightly. Often it is considered something amusing, especially when it relates to sexual immorality. When the news media mention sexual escapades of prominent people, the expression used is not “sin” but rather “character weakness.” Indeed, the thinking seems to be that the term sin should not be applied to anyone because it might damage a person’s reputation. Although the consequence of sin is evident, people like to pretend that there is nothing wrong.

In many parts of the world, sin is an embarrassment for the offender when his deed becomes common knowledge. Disgrace can be removed by a restorative action of presenting the offended party an appropriate gift. If the offense remains undetected, the guilty person continues to act as though nothing has happened.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, sin was a matter of frustration. Sin was compared to an archer who misses the mark and thus experiences failure. Sin, therefore, was a lack of skill that continual training could overcome. It was not something that was taken seriously.

The Scriptures, however, teach that sin is a personal affront to God and a transgression of the laws he has established. Sin is stepping over the legal boundaries within which we should live and work. Sin is an insult to God because we choose no longer to serve him but an idol. And idolatry is nothing but spiritual adultery. God loves his people like a bridegroom loves his bride. Instead of loving him as our spouse, we turn to idols and commit adultery.

Sin can be forgiven only through the shedding of blood—in the Old Testament era the blood of animals foreshadowed that of Christ. In the New Testament era, the sinner is cleansed through Christ’s blood shed at Golgotha. As the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews aptly puts it: “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). (1)

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)

From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 14:1:

“14:1-6 Differences of opinion prevailed even among the immediate followers of Christ and their disciples. Nor did St. Paul attempt to end them. Compelled assent to any doctrine, or conformity to outward observances without being convinced, would be hypocritical and of no avail. Attempts for producing absolute oneness of mind among Christians would be useless. Let not Christian fellowship be disturbed with strifes of words. It will be good for us to ask ourselves, when tempted to disdain and blame our brethren; has not God owned them? And if he has, dare I disown them? Let not the Christian who uses his liberty, despise his weak brother as ignorant and superstitious. Let not the scrupulous believer find fault with his brother, for God accepted him, without regarding the distinctions of meats. We usurp the place of God, when we take upon us thus to judge the thoughts and intentions of others, which are out of our view. The case as to the observance of days was much the same. Those who knew that all these things were done away by Christ’s coming, took no notice of the festivals of the Jews. But it is not enough that our consciences consent to what we do; it is necessary that it be certified from the word of God. Take heed of acting against a doubting conscience. We are all apt to make our own views the standard of truth, to deem things certain which to others appear doubtful. Thus Christians often despise or condemn each other, about doubtful matters of no moment. A thankful regard to God, the Author and Giver of all our mercies, sanctifies and sweetens them.” (2)

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroys not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:17-21)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Romans 14:19-21:

Verses 19-21. – Let us therefore follow after the things that make for (literally, the things of) peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another (literally, the things of the edification of one another). For meat’s sake destroy not the work of God. “Destroy,” or rather, overthrow – the word is κατάλυε, not ἀππόλλυε as in ver. 15 – is connected in thought with the edification, or building up (οἰκοδομήν) before spoken cf. “The work of God” is that of his grace in the weak Christian’s soul, growing, it may be, to full assurance of faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9,” ye are God’s building”). Upset not the rising structure, which is God’s own, as ye may do by putting a stumbling-block in the weak brother’s way. All things indeed are pure (i.e. in themselves all God’s gifts given for man’s service are so); but it is evil to that man who eateth with offence (i.e. if the eating be to himself a stumbling-block. The idea is the same as in ver. 14). It is good (καλὸν, not of indispensable obligation, but a right and noble thing to do) neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. The concluding words in italics are of doubtful authority: they are not required for the sense. For St. Paul’s expression of his own readiness to deny himself lawful things, if he might so avoid offence to weak brethren, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13. (3)

From the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20:

II. 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, or beside it in matters of faith on worship.

Comments in closing:

To summarize, adiaphora, is understood as an unsettled or disputable topic or subjects that deal with non-essentials. To illustrate, these type of issues would fall under secular categories of going to movies, music performances, sporting events, amusement parks, reading adventure stories, vacation traveling or not going. Many have experienced arguments about not going to movies for example because there are bad movies.

A weaker brother may see my liberty and then go to a bad movie. Implicit in this reasoning would be not to cause a weaker brother to stumble as a result of my liberty. The issue is, are all movies bad? How is it the stronger brother’s fault if the weaker brother goes to a bad movie, he could have gone to a good movie too? Banning the going to movies is not a solution to the weaker brother’s sin. This type of argument has been applied to the other examples above. There are bad sports, bad music, and bad literature. By using a fallacious non-sequitur argument, it could be said since there are bad things; we should abstain from all manner of things. This type of thinking leads to a monkish life.

However, it is very real that exercising your liberty may cause your brother to stumble. This is a real concern. We should never pressure a weaker brother to conform to our standards of Christian liberty. However, there is also the phenomena known as the tyranny of the weaker brother. I get together with a group of brothers for a cigar night. Also, various beverages are brought to the event. Some brothers who do not smoke or drink. They enjoy the spiritual fellowship and no one is pressured to participate in any liberty other brothers enjoy. The spiritual fellowship and bonding among men of the church are remarkable.

How do we sort all of these issues out, not offending the weaker brother, and yet maintain Christian liberty of conscience? The best statement on how to proceed with disputable matters can be found in the following quotation from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Scripture is where we go for answers and what may be deduced by good and necessary consequence.

In theology, adiaphora would involve the time the Sunday service starts, how many times communion is celebrated, should there be a mid-week service. Can a church service be held in a storefront or a park? Beside, in the area of theology, there are areas of seemingly irresolvable disputes that are not essential for salvation, such as eschatology.

For example, there are differing views regarding the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Four common views are the historicist (a method of interpretation which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events), preterist (past fulfillment), futurist (future fulfillment), and the idealist (called the spiritual, allegorical, or non-literal approach) views. The book of Revelation belongs to a class of literature called “apocalyptic.”

The Bible uses many literary forms. For example, it uses genera’s such as; law, historical narrative, wisdom, poetical, gospel, didactic letters, or epistles, predictive, and apocalyptic literature. In addition, there are differences in millennial views, such as Pre-Millennial A-Millennial Post-Millennial and a subset of Pre-Millennialism is Dispensational Pre-Millennialism. To some eschatology would be considered under the area of adiaphora, to others it would not.

How do we sort out and resolve the disagreements? The instruction from the confessional standard is a good rule of thumb where it says, “common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.” Christian prudence and charity are called for in the area of adiaphora.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Good & Necessary Consequence Chapter 1.6:

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

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

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


1. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1993), pp. 269-278.

2. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Romans, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.1815.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Romans, Vol. 18, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.411.

“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. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

*** Reformed answers http://reformedanswers.org/

**** https://www.gotquestions.org/

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