Heresy, what does the Bible say?

Heresy, what does the Bible say? 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 about heresy. What is it? How to avoid it?

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. May God be glorified always!
Definitions from two sources:
Heresy: An erroneous teaching, especially on issues of significance to salvation, requiring true Christians to divide from those who hold or teach it. *
Heresy: A doctrinal view that deviates from the truth, a false teaching. We are warned against it in Acts 20:29-32 and Philippians 3:2. Heresies include teachings that Jesus is not God and that the Holy Spirit is not a person (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, The Way International), that men may become gods (Mormonism), that there is more than one God (Mormonism), that Jesus lost His divinity in hell and finished the atonement there, and that good works are necessary for salvation (all cults say this), to name a few. **
From Scripture:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)
Scriptural warnings:
“For there must be also heresies among you that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19)
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1–6)
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling.” (1 Timothy 1:3–6)
What to do about heresy?
“A man that is a heretick after the first and second admonition reject.” (Titus 3:10)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Titus 3:10:
Verse 10. – Heretical for an heretick, A.V.; a for the, A.V.; refuse for reject, A.V. Heretical (αἱρετικόν); only here in the New Testament, not found in the LXX., but used in classical Greek for “intelligent,” i.e. able to choose. The use of it here by St. Paul is drawn from the use of αἵρεσις for “a sect” (Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5, 14; Acts 26:5; Acts 28:22; 1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1), or the doctrines taught by a sect. The heretic is one who forsakes the truth held by the Church, and chooses some doctrine of his own devising (αἵρεσις). The tendency of such departures from the doctrine of the Church to assume more and more of a deadly character, and to depart wider and wider from the truth, gave to the name of heretic a darker shade of condemnation in the mouth of Church writers as time advanced. But even in apostolic times some denied the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:11, 12); others denied the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1); and there were some who were of the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9); so that already an heretical man, drawing away disciples after him, was a great blot in the Church. Admonition (νουθεσία); as 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 6:4. After a first and second admonition refuse (παραιτοῦ); see 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 5:11. It does not clearly appear what is intended by this term In 1 Timothy 5:11 it meant refusing admission into the college of Church widows. If these had been persons seeking admission into the Church, or ordination, it would mean “refuse them.” Vitringa (Huther) thinks it means “excommunication.” Beza, Ellicott, Huther, Alford, etc., render it “shun,” “let alone,” “cease to admonish,” and the like. (1)
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
her’-e-si, her’-e-si (hairesis, from verb haireo, “to choose”): The word has acquired an ecclesiastical meaning that has passed into common usage, containing elements not found in the term in the New Testament, except as implied in one passage. In classical Greek, it may be used either in a good or a bad sense, first, simply for “choice,” then, “a chosen course of procedure,” and afterward of various schools and tendencies. Polybius refers to those devoting themselves to the study of Greek literature as given to the Hellenike hairesis. It was used not simply for a teaching or a course followed, but also for those devoting themselves to such pursuit, namely, a sect, or assembly of those advocating a particular doctrine or mode of life. Thus, in Acts, the word is used in the Greek, where the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) have “sect,” “sect of the Sadducees” (Acts 5:17), “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). In Acts 26:5 the Pharisees are called “the straitest hairesis (sect).” The name was applied contemptuously to Christianity (Acts 24:14; 28:22). Its application, with censure, is found in 1 Cor. 11:19 m; Gal 5:20 margin, where it is shown to interfere with that unity of faith and community of interests that belong to Christians. There being but one standard of truth, and one goal for all Christian life, any arbitrary choice varying from what was common to all believers, becomes an inconsistency and a sin to be warned against. Ellicott, on Gal 5:20, correctly defines “heresies” (King James Version, the English Revised Version) as “a more aggravated form of dichostasia” (the American Standard Revised Version “parties”) “when the divisions have developed into distinct and organized parties”; so also 1 Cor. 11:19, translated by the Revised Version (British and American) “factions.” In 2 Pet 2:1, the transition toward the subsequent ecclesiastical sense can be traced. The “destructive heresies” (Revised Version margin, the English Revised Version margin “sects of perdition”) are those guilty of errors both of doctrine and of life very fully described throughout the entire chapter, and who, in such course, separated themselves from the fellowship of the church.
In the fixed ecclesiastical sense that it ultimately attained, it indicated not merely any doctrinal error, but “the open espousal of fundamental error” (Ellicott on Tit 3:10), or, more fully, the persistent, obstinate maintenance of an error with respect to the central doctrines of Christianity in the face of all better instruction, combined with aggressive attack upon the common faith of the church, and its defenders. Roman Catholics, regarding all professed Christians who are not in their communion as heretics, modify their doctrine on this point by distinguishing between Formal and terial Heresy, the former being unconscious and unintentional, and between different degrees of each of these classes (Cath. Encyclopedia, VII, 256 ff). For the development of the ecclesiastical meaning, see Suicer’s Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, I, 119-23. H. E. Jacobs Bibliography Information (2)
From the book Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present:
The word “heresy” . . . is the English version of the Greek noun hairesis, originally meaning nothing more insidious than “party.” It is used in this neutral sense in Acts 5:17, 15:5, and 26:5. Early in the history of the first Christians, however, “heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ—later called “special theology” and “Christology.” Harold O. J. Brown (3)
From the modern work, A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy by Robert Bowman:
Looking over these warnings from Scripture, we may classify heresies into six major categories:
1. Heresies about revelation – teachings that distort, deny, or add to Scripture in a way that leads people to destruction; false claims to apostolic or prophetic authority.
2. Heresies about God – teachings that promote false gods or idolatrous distortions of the true God.
3. Heresies about Christ – denials of His unique Lordship, His genuine humanity, His true identity.
4. Heresies about salvation – teaching legalism or licentiousness; denying the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection; and so forth.
5. Heresies about the church – deliberate attempts to lead people away from the fellowship of true Christians; utter rejection of the church.
6. Heresies about the future – false predictions for which divine authority is claimed; claims that Christ’s return has taken place; and the like.
Note that errors in any one of these six categories tend to introduce errors into the other five. Take, for instance, the heretical view held by many groups that the church became totally apostate in the early centuries and thus had to be “restored” in the last days. This doctrine implies (1) that Scripture is not a sufficient revelation, but needs supplementing or “explaining” by some authoritative teacher or publication. It also almost always serves as a basis for rejecting the early church’s views of (2) God and (3) Christ. Since the Reformation is rejected as falling short of the needed restoration, (4) the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith is likewise rejected. And the doctrine of a restoration comes to dominate the group’s views of (5) the future, as it requires them to view many or most biblical prophecies about the future as finding fulfillment in their own group.
We find then that an error in any area of doctrine can affect every other area. Therefore, although heresies tend to fall directly into one or more of these six major categories, heresies can in fact occur on virtually any doctrinal subject. For example, someone who teaches that angels should be worshipped is teaching a heretical view (Col. 2:18), even though the subject matter is angels. This is because worship of any creature completely cuts the heart out of any confession of God as the one God.
Nor should it be thought that the New Testament gives us a complete catalogue of all possible heresies. In our day there are literally thousands of clever distortions of Christian theology that deserve the label heresy, and they can be seen as such apart from being explicitly anticipated and identified as heretical in the Bible. The Bible teaches us what is absolutely essential, enunciates principles as to what is basic to sound Christian faith and what is nonessential, gives us a wide variety of examples of heresies, and expects us to exercise discernment in evaluating new and controversial teachings when they surface.
Furthermore, it must be realized that as the church progresses through history and deepens its understanding of Scripture, heresies in general are becoming more subtle, more deceiving, more easily mistaken for authentic Christianity. (4)
Names of ancient heresies, most of which are in existence today sometimes known under different names:
Sabellianism; Docetism; Monophysitism; Adoptionism; Nestorianism; Arianism; Socianism; Donatism; Pelagianism; Gnosticism and Manicheanism.
For example, Arianism is promoted today by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some elements of Gnosticism is seen in Mormon theology.
Trinitarian Heresies:
Modalism (i.e. Sabellianism, Noetianism and Patripassianism)
Taught that the three persons of the Trinity as different “modes” of the Godhead. Adherants believed that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. A typical modalist approach is to regard God as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in sanctification. In other words, God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune. Stemming from Modalism, Patripassianism believed that the Father suffered as the Son.
Tritheism confessses the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three independent divine beings; three separate gods who share the ‘same substance’. This is a common mistake because of misunderstanding of the use of the term ‘persons’ in defining the Trinity.
Taught that the preexistent Christ was the first and greatest of God’s creatures but denied his fully divine status. The Arian controversy was of major importance in the development of Christology during the fourth century and was addressed definitely in the Nicene Creed.
Taught that Jesus Christ as a purely divine being who only had the “appearance” of being human. Regarding his suffering, some versions taught that Jesus’ divinity abandoned or left him upon the cross while other claimed that he only appeared to suffer (much like he only appeared to be human).
Taught that while Jesus was endowed with particular charismatic gifts which distinguished him from other humans but nonetheless regarded Him as a purely human figure.
Taught that that the Holy Spirit is a created being.
Taught that Jesus was born totally human and only later was “adopted” – either at his baptism or at his resurrection – by God in a special (i.e. divine) way.
Taught that Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are components of the one God. This led them to believe that each of the persons of the Trinity is only part God, only becoming fully God when they come together.
George Gillespie, a Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly explains what heresy is:
“I conceive that these six things do concur to make a heresy:
1. It is an error held by some minister or member of a church; I mean either a true church, or an assembly pretending and professing to be a true church; for both Peter and Paul, where they foretell that heresies were to come, 2 Pet. 2.1; 1 Cor. 11.19, they add ἐν ὑμῖν, among you, i.e., among you Christians; so, Acts 20.30, Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things. Therefore, the Scriptures gives not the name of heretics to those who are altogether without the visible church, but it calleth such by the names of heathens or unbelievers, or they that are without, or the like.
2. It is an error voluntarily and freely chosen, both in the first invention or broaching of it (which is proper to the heresiarchs), and in the maintaining of it or adhering to it (which is common to all heretics). This I collect from the very name which the Scripture gives to it; for αἵρεσις comes from αἱρέομαι, I choose. Therefore, we give not the name of heretics to such Christians as are compelled, in time of persecution, to profess such or such an error, which, peradventure, were a formal heresy, if voluntarily and without compulsion professed. They ought, indeed, to die, and to endure the greatest torments, before they profess what they know to be an error; but this their sin is not properly called heresy, for an heretic doth freely and voluntarily hold that which is his error. And, in this respect and consideration, Tertullian thinks that an heretic is said to be αὐτοκατάκριτος, condemned of himself, Tit. 3.11, because he hath of himself chosen that which doth condemn him.[2] The Apostle there hath commanded to reject an heretic. If I reject him (might one say) then I lose him, I destroy his soul. Nay (saith the Apostle), his perdition is of himself, for he hath chosen his own ways, and his soul delighteth in his abominations. This interpretation is much surer and safer than to say that a heretic is called αὐτοκατάκριτος, or self-condemned, because he goes against his own light, and against the principles received and acknowledged by himself; which sense is accompanied with many dangerous consequences.
3. It is such a choosing of error as is accompanied with a rejecting of truth. A heretic puts light for darkness, and darkness for light; good for evil, and evil for good; he chooseth error as truth, and refuseth truth as error. They that give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, do also depart from the faith, 1 Tim. 4.1; resist the truth, 2 Tim. 3.8; and turn away their ears from the truth, 2 Tim. 4.4; their course hath a terminus a quo as well as ad quem.
4. It is an error professed and maintained, and which, by that means, becomes a scandal and snare to others. For although there may be heresy (as well as other kinds of sin) lurking and hid in the thoughts, yet that belongs to God’s judgment only, not to man’s. The heresies which are spoken of, 1 Cor. 11.9, are certainly known, and apparently discriminative, even among men. And heretics are scandalous persons, to be avoided and rejected, Rom. 16.17; Tit. 3.10; which could not be except their errors were known.
5. It is an error contradictory of some chief and substantial truth, grounded upon, or, by necessary consequence, drawn from, the Holy Scripture. There was never yet any heretic in the Christian world who contradicted that which is literally and syllabically in Scripture. The most damnable heretic will offer to subscribe to the Scripture instead of a confession of faith, who yet will not subscribe to all truths which necessarily follow from the words of Scripture. But I call not every error heresy, which is contrary to any consequential truth grounded upon Scripture. As the Scripture reckons not all who sin to be workers of iniquity, so it reckons not all who err to be heretics. Although there is not any sin or error in the true nature of it venial, yet every sin is not a gross and heinous sin, and every error is not heresy. Heresies are mentioned as greater evils than schisms, 1 Cor. 11.18, 19, which could not be so if every error were a heresy.
6. It is an error factiously maintained, with a renting of the church, and drawing away of disciples after it, in which respect Augustine said, Errare potero, hæreticus non ero,—I may err, but I shall not be a heretic. Heretics are deceivers and seducers, who endeavour to pervert others and to overthrow their faith, 2 Tim. 3.13; Acts 20.30; 2 Tim. 2.17, 18; Rom. 16.17-19; 2 Pet. 2.2. All known and noted heretics are also schismatics, who make a rupture, and strengthen their own party by drawing after them, or confirming unto them disciples and followers (in so much that αἵρεσις often used for a sect, as Acts 5.17; 15.5; 24.5; 26. 5). For this cause the Donatists were condemned as heretics, without imputation of heresy to Cyprian. And, O strange turning about of things (saith Vincentius Lirinensis, Advers. Hæret. Cap. 11), the authors of the same opinion are judged catholic, but the followers heretics; the masters are absolved, the disciples are condemned; the writers of these books are the children of the kingdom, but hell shall receive the assertors or maintainers. This last ingredient which is found in heresy is hinted by the Arabic interpreter, 1 Cor. 11.19, where he joineth schisms and heresies, as was noted before; and, indeed, in the original, the particle καὶ, and the rising of the speech, sets forth heresy as carrying schism with it in its bosom. I believe, saith the Apostle, in part what I hear of your schisms, for there must be also heresies, i.e., both schisms and somewhat more. Calvin, Institutes. Lib. 4, cap. 2, sect. 5, makes the breaking of church communion, and the making of a rent, a thing common both to heretics and schismatics: for heretics break one band of church communion, which is consent in doctrine; schismatics break another, which is love, though sometimes they agree in the like faith.
From all which scriptural observations, we may make up a description of heresy to this sense: Heresy is a gross and dangerous error, voluntarily held and factiously maintained by some person or persons within the visible church, in opposition to some chief or substantial truth or truths grounded upon and drawn from the holy Scripture by necessary consequence.
Heresy is a gross and dangerous error, voluntarily held and factiously maintained by some person or persons within the visible church, in opposition to some chief or substantial truth or truths grounded upon and drawn from the Holy Scripture by necessary consequence.”
[2] Tertull. de Præscrip. Advers. Hæret. Hæreses dictæ græca voce ex interpretatione electionis, quia quis sive ad instituendas sive ad suscipiendas eas utitur. Ideo et sibi damnatum dixit hæreticum: quia et in quo damnatur sibi elegit. (5)
In conclusion, we can say, heresy is the departure from the Scriptures on a points of salvific importance. Doctrinal confessions are important helpful constraints for assistance in maintaining an orthodox understanding of Scripture.
One of the best ways to detect theological errors, is to be completely conversant with theological truth. In banking, tellers can detect counterfeit bills by being at home and familiar with the real currency. This is the challenge for believers, if you are knowledgeable in Christian orthodoxy, the error of heresy can be detected without difficulty.
“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. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Titus, Vol. 21, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 45-46.
2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘HERESY'” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1377.
3. Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), p. 2. Bowman,
4. Robert M., Jr., Orthodoxy & Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal Discernment, Part two, (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Publishing, 1992), p. 3.
5. George Gillespie, A Treatise of Miscellany of Questions, (Published by Mr. PATRIK GILLESPIE, Minister at GLASGOVV.EDINBURGH, Printed by GEDEON LITHGOVV, Printer to the University of EDINBURGH), Chapter IX.-What is meant in Scripture by the word Heresies, and how we are to understand, that there must be Heresies for making manifest the Godly partie, or those that are approved, I Cor. 11.19.
“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:
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:
** CARM theological dictionary
**** Reformed answers
A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy by Robert M. Bowman
A Survey of Heresies…/onsite/heresies.pdf
Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics…/survey-finds-american-christian…/
See Confessional Documents as a Reformed Hermeneutic
Edward A. Dowey Jr., The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997) Vol. 79, No. 1, Presbyterians, Polity, and Confessional Identity (SPRING 2001), pp. 53-58 Published by: Presbyterian Historical Society Stable URL:

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Hell, what the Bible say?

Hell, what does the Bible say? 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 about Hell and corresponding words associated with the final judgment. We will not delve into other issues like soul sleep or annihilationism.

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. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

The place of eternal punishment for the wicked. *

Hell is the future place of eternal punishment of the damned including the devil and his fallen angels. There are several words rendered as Hell: Hades – A Greek word. It is the place of the dead, the location of the person between death and resurrection. (See Matthew 11:23; Mat 16:18; Acts 11:27; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; Rev 6:8). Gehenna – A Greek word. It was the place where dead bodies were dumped and burned (2 Kings 23:13-14). Jesus used the word to designate the place of eternal torment (Matthew 5:22; Mat 5:29-30; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5). Sheol – A Hebrew word. It is the place of the dead, not necessarily the grave, but the place the dead go to. It is used of both the righteous (Psalms 16:10; Psa. 30:3; Isaiah 38:10) and the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalms 9:17). Hell is a place of eternal fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 19:20). It was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41) and will be the abode of the wicked (Revelation 22:8) and the fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4). **

From Scripture:

“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)

“And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42)

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:13)

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:42-48)

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:19–31)

“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” (2 Peter 2:17)

“Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 1:13)

“And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.” (Revelation 9:2)

“And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11)

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10–15)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Matthew 13:42:

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire, Not a material, but a metaphorical one; denoting the wrath of God, which shall fall upon wicked men, and abide upon them to all eternity: which is sometimes called hell fire, sometimes a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; and here a furnace of fire, expressing the vehemency and intenseness of divine wrath, which will be intolerable; in allusion either to Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, or as some think, to the custom of burning persons alive in some countries; or rather, to the burning of chaff and stubble, and the stalks of any unprofitable things that grew in the field (f), for the heating of furnaces, and is the very language of the Jews, who used to compare hell to a furnace; so Genesis 15:17 is paraphrased by them (g),
And behold the sun set, and there was darkness; and lo! Abraham saw until the seats were set, and the thrones cast down; and lo! “Hell”, which is prepared for the wicked in the world to come, “as a furnace”, which sparks and flames of fire surrounded; “in the midst of which”, the wicked fell, because they rebelled against the law, in their lifetime.
Which is expressed in much the same language, and conveys the same ideas as here; and no wonder is it that it follows,
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth; declaring the remorse of conscience, the tortures of mind, the sense of inexpressible pain, and punishment, the wicked shall feel; also their furious rage and black despair,
(f) Misn. Sabbat. c. 3. sect. 1. & Maimon, & Bartenora in ib. (g) Hieros. Targum in Genesis 15.17. (1)

Hell and words associated with the final judgment:

Apollyon – Abaddon
The Valley of Hinnom
Fire and brimstone
Bottomless pit
Outer darkness
Place of torment
Furnace of fire
Lake of fire
Everlasting fire

GEHENNA from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

ga-hen’-a (geenna (see Grimm-Thayer, under the word):

Gehenna is a transliteration from the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, “valley of Hinnom.” This latter form, however, is rare in the Old Testament, the prevailing name being “the valley of the son of Hinnom.” Septuagint usually translates; where it transliterates the form is different from Gehenna and varies. In the New Testament the correct form is Gee’nna with the accent on the penult, not Ge’enna. There is no reason to assume that Hinnom is other than a plain patronymic, although it has been proposed to find in it the corruption of the name of an idol (EB, II, 2071). In the New Testament (King James Version margin) Gehenna occurs in Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,15,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. In all of these it designates the place of eternal punishment of the wicked, generally in connection with the final judgment. It is associated with fire as the source of torment. Both body and soul are cast into it. This is not to be explained on the principle that the New Testament speaks metaphorically of the state after death in terms of the body; it presupposes the resurrection. In the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) Gehenna is rendered by “hell” (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT). That “the valley of Hinnom” became the technical designation for the place of final punishment was due to two causes. In the first place the valley had been the seat of the idolatrous worship of Molech, to whom children were immolated by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). Secondly, on account of these practices the place was defiled by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), and became in consequence associated in prophecy with the judgment to be visited upon the people (Jeremiah 7:32). The fact, also, that the city’s offal was collected there may have helped to render the name synonymous with extreme defilement. Topographically the identification of the valley of Hinnom is still uncertain. It has been in turn identified with the depression on the western and southern side of Jerusalem, with the middle valley, and with the valley to the E. Compare EB, II, 2071; DCG, I, 636; RE3, VI.
Geerhardus Vos (2)

Hell from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

Topical Bible outline for “Hell.”
1. The Word in the King James Version:
The English word, from a Teutonic root meaning “to hide” or “cover,” had originally the significance of the world of the dead generally, and in this sense is used by Chaucer, Spenser, etc., and in the Creed (“He descended into hell”); compare the English Revised Version Preface. Now the word has come to mean almost exclusively the place of punishment of the lost or finally impenitent; the place of torment of the wicked. In the King James Version of the Scriptures, it is the rendering adopted in many places in the Old Testament for the Hebrew word she’ol (in 31 out of 65 occurrences of that word it is so translated), and in all places, save one (1Co 15:55) in the New Testament, for the Greek word Hades (this word occurs 11 times; in 10 of these it is translated “hell”; 1Co 15:55 reads “grave,” with “hell” in the margin). In these cases the word has its older general meaning, though in Lu 16:23 (parable of Rich Man and Lazarus) it is specially connected with a place of “torment,” in contrast with the “Abraham’s bosom” to which Lazarus is taken (Lu 16:22).
See a list of verses on HELL in the Bible.
2. The Word in the Revised Version:
In the above cases the Revised Version (British and American) has introduced changes, replacing “hell” by “Sheol” in the passages in the Old Testament (the English Revised Version retains “hell” in Isa 14:9,15; the American Standard Revised Version makes no exception), and by “Hades” in the passages in the New Testament (see under these words).
See the definition of hell in the KJV Dictionary
3. Gehenna:
Besides the above uses, and more in accordance with the modern meaning, the word “hell” is used in the New Testament in the King James Version as the equivalent of Gehenna (12 t; Mt 5:22,29; 10:28, etc.). The Revised Version (British and American) in these cases puts “Gehenna” in the margin. Originally the Valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, Gehenna became among the Jews the synonym for the place of torment in the future life (the “Gehenna of fire,” Mt 5:22, etc.; see GEHENNA).
See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.
4. Tartarus:
In yet one other passage in the New Testament (2Pe 2:4), “to cast down to hell” is used (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)) to represent the Greek tartaroo, (“to send into Tartarus”). Here it stands for the place of punishment of the fallen angels: “spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits (or chains) of darkness” (compare Jude 1:6; but also Mt 25:41). Similar ideas are found in certain of the Jewish apocalyptic books (Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Apocrypha Baruch, with apparent reference to Ge 6:1-4; compare ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT).
On theological aspect, see PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING. For literature, see references in above-named arts. And compare article “Hell” by Dr. D. S. Salmond in HDB. (3)

Hades from the Dictionary of Theological Terms:

The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol. Sheol is translated in the AV “hell,” “grave,” and “pit,” while Hades is ten times translated “hell,” and once “grave.”
There has long been controversy over the exact import of the words. There are two views among Bible believers.
Divided Hades View
W. E. Vine expresses what is now perhaps, the most common view: “Hades [is] the region of departed spirits of the lost (but including the blessed dead in periods preceding the ascension of Christ)… It corresponds to ‘Sheol’ in the OT.… It never denotes the grave, nor is it the permanent region of the lost; in point of time it is, for such, intermediate between decease and the doom of Gehenna. For the condition see Luke 16:23–31.
“The word is used four times in the Gospels, and always by the Lord, Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; it is used with reference to the soul of Christ, Acts 2:27, 31; Christ declares that He has the keys of it, Rev. 1:18; in Rev. 6:8 it is personified, with the signification of the temporary destiny of the doomed; it is to give up those who are therein, Rev. 20:13; and is to be cast into the lake of fire, ver. 14” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Usual Reformed View
Reformed theologians usually take a very different view. They reject the theory of a divided Sheol or Hades and hold that the Scriptures nowhere warrant our locating paradise in Hades. W. G. T. Shedd summarizes the arguments for the Reformed position as follows:
Sheol Means a Punitive Evil. “That Sheol is a fearful punitive evil, mentioned by the sacred writers to deter men from sin, lies upon the surface of the OT, and any interpretation that essentially modifies this must therefore be erroneous.”

Sheol Often Means Hell. Sheol signifies the place of future retribution.

“1. This is proved by the fact that it is denounced against sin and sinners, and not against the righteous. It is a place to which the wicked are sent in distinction from the good.” Then follows a long list of texts: Job 21:13; Ps. 9:17; Prov. 5:5; 9:18; 23:14; Deut. 32:22; Ps. 139:8; Prov. 15:24; Job 26:6; Prov. 15:11; 27:20. In these last three references, destruction is in the Hebrew Abaddon. Shedd argues that since Abaddon is the Hebrew word for Apollyon who is “the angel and king of the bottomless pit” (Rev. 9:11), the use of Sheol in these texts proves that it denotes hell. “There can be no rational doubt, that in this class of texts the wicked are warned of a future evil and danger. The danger is that they shall be sent to Sheol.”
“2. A second proof that Sheol is the proper name for Hell, in the OT, is the fact that there is no other proper name for it in the whole volume—for Tophet is metaphorical, and rarely employed. If Sheol is not the place where the wrath of God falls upon the transgressor there is no place mentioned in the OT where it does.”
Shedd finds it “utterly improbable” that there should be such silence, when the final judgment is so clearly announced.
“3. A third proof that Sheol in these passages, denoted the dark abode of the wicked and the state of future suffering, is found in those OT texts which speak of the contrary bright abode of the righteous, and of their state of blessedness.”
Shedd then argues that paradise cannot be placed as a part of Sheol: “There is too great a contrast between the two abodes of the good and evil, to allow them to be brought under one and the same gloomy and terrifying term Sheol.” Again he lists proof texts: Ps. 16:11; 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Isa. 25:8; Prov. 14:32.
4. As a fourth proof that Sheol signifies the place of future retribution, Shedd cites its inseparable connection with spiritual and eternal death. This is true of Hades, as it is used in the NT (Prov. 5:5; Rev. 20:14).
Sheol Often Means the Grave. But, Shedd argues, Sheol has another significance: “Sheol signifies the ‘grave’ to which all men, good and evil alike, go down. That Sheol should have the two significations of hell and the grave, is explained by the connection between physical death and eternal retribution. The death of the body is one of the consequences of sin, and an integral part of the penalty.… As in English, ‘death’ may mean either physical or spiritual death, so in Hebrew, Sheol may mean either the grave or hell. When Sheol signifies the ‘grave,’ it is only the body that goes down to Sheol. But as the body is naturally put for the whole person, the man is said to go down to the grave, when his body alone is laid in it … When the aged Jacob says, ‘I will go down unto my (dead) son mourning’ (Gen. 37:35), no one should understand him to teach the descent of his disembodied spirit into a subterranean world. ‘The spirit of man goeth upward and the spirit of the beast goeth downward’ (Eccl. 3:21).”
Shedd cites the following texts to prove that Sheol signifies the grave: 1 Sam. 2:6; Gen. 44:31; Job 14:13; 17:13; Num. 16:33; Ps. 6:5; Eccl. 9:10; Hos. 13:14; Ps. 88:3; 89:48. He goes on, “Sheol in the sense of the ‘grave’ is represented as something out of which the righteous are to be delivered by a resurrection of the body to glory, but the bodies of the wicked are to be left under its power. Ps. 49:14, 15; 16:10; Hosea 13:14. St. Paul quotes this (1 Cor. 15:55), in proof of the blessed resurrection of the bodies of believers—showing that ‘Sheol’ here is the ‘grave,’ where the body is laid and from which it is raised.”
Objections to Idea that Sheol Means Grave. Shedd seeks to answer some of the objections to his last point. He argues that Psa. 16:10 and Acts 2:31 use soul to mean body and points out that in Lev. 19:28; 21:11; 22:4; Num. 6:6; 19:11, 13; Hag. 2:13, the Hebrew word nephesh, “soul” is translated properly by “dead body.” He also remarks that Acts 2:31 proves that Psa. 16:10 uses Sheol as he has argued because, “Acts 2:31 asserts that ‘David spake of the resurrection of Christ,’ … but there is no resurrection of the soul. Consequently it is the body that David speaks of.”
Hades Means Hell and Grave. What has been said of Sheol holds good for Hades. Mostly, it signifies the place of torment, and in three places (Acts 2:27, 31; 1 Cor. 15:55) it signifies grave.
In reply to the objection that Sheol and Hades cannot mean grave because there are other words for grave—Hebrew qeber and Greek mnemeion—Shedd replies, “Grave has an abstract and general sense, denoted by Sheol, and a concrete and particular, denoted by qeber. All men go to the grave, but not all men have a grave.… These remarks apply also to the use of Hades and mnemeion.” (All quotations from Shedd’s The Doctrine of Endless Punishment.)
Summary of Differences

Basically then, there are two views current among Bible believers. We may summarize their differences:

1. The first places paradise (at least until Christ’s resurrection) as a compartment of Sheol or Hades. The second denies this and says the location of paradise in the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) is the only location given in Scripture, with no hint of its ever having been located anywhere else.
2. The first emphasizes that Sheol refers generally to the region of the departed spirits (as does Hades until the resurrection of Christ). The second repudiates this and holds that “hell” is the proper translation.
3. The first holds that Sheol and Hades never mean grave. The second is equally adamant that in certain texts it does.
4. The first holds that the souls of the wicked and of the righteous both went to Sheol in the OT period (and in the NT until the resurrection of Christ). The second holds that in the OT only the souls of the wicked went to Sheol and that the saints went to heaven—as Elijah, upon his translation, did. In this particular aspect of the dispute, the upholders of the divided Hades view point out that Samuel “came up from the earth” (1 Sam. 28:7–20). Those of Shedd’s persuasion answer that this does not change the plain statement of Prov. 15:24 and that Samuel is represented as coming up from the earth “because the body reanimated rises from the grave” (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:602). Furthermore, in the entire narrative, Sheol is not once employed.

Doctrinal Implications:

There are many doctrinal issues hanging on the view adopted. According to the first view, Christ’s soul descended into Sheol/Hades. Upholders of this view give differing reasons for His descent and speak of various activities while He was there. Most, however, say it was to proclaim His victory and to lead out the saints from paradise into heaven.
Shedd’s position denies such a descent into Sheol/Hades by Christ to preach or proclaim anything. He says that if such a doctrine were true, it would form a fundamental part of the gospel, on a par with the incarnation, and it is inconceivable that it should be so completely passed over in the great dogmatic statements of faith in the NT. Jesus’ cry on the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Shedd takes to be conclusive evidence that He did not go to any underworld of departed spirits, for “the hands of God” could not be taken as a description of any place but heaven.
One reason for opposing “grave” as a translation of Sheol or Hades is the use the self-styled Jehovah’s Witnesses (see Russellites) make of such a belief. They say Sheol always means “the grave” and nothing more. However, Shedd’s view, with its strong emphasis on Sheol as a place of dreadful punishment, poses arguments that the Jehovah’s Witness sect can never answer.
After observing so many differences of opinion, it is worth noting that both parties hold Sheol/Hades to be a place of disembodied spirits. As the eternal blessedness of the believers in heaven is to be enjoyed by the entire man, including the body, so the eternal damnation of the sinner in hell is to be endured by the entire man, including the body. Thus Hades will give up the dead which are in it and, reunited with their bodies, they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:13, 14).
See Descent into Hell; Intermediate State. (4)

HELL by R.C. Sproul

We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.

Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.

There is no biblical concept more grim or terror-invoking than the idea of hell. It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.

Almost all the biblical teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. It is this doctrine, perhaps more than any other that strains even the Christian’s loyalty to the teaching of Christ. Modern Christians have pushed the limits of minimizing hell in an effort to sidestep or soften Jesus’ own teaching. The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These graphic images of eternal punishment provoke the question, should we take these descriptions literally or are they merely symbols?

I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. It is probable that the sinner in hell would prefer a literal lake of fire as his eternal abode to the reality of hell represented in the lake of fire image. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.

A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.

No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.” (John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell [Orlando: Ligonier Ministries, 1991], 75.)

Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.


1. The suffering of hell is beyond any experience of misery found in this world.
2. Hell is clearly included in the teaching of Jesus.
3. If the biblical descriptions of hell are symbols, then the reality will be worse than the symbols.
4. Hell is the presence of God in His wrath and judgment.
5. There is no cruelty in hell. Hell will be a place of perfect justice.
6. Hell is eternal. There is no escape through either repentance or annihilation.

Biblical passages for reflection: Matthew 8:11-12, Mark 9:42-48, Luke 16:19-31, Jude 1:3-13, Revelation 20:11-15. (5)

Westminster Confession, Chapter 32:

Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead with scriptural proofs.

I. The bodies of men after death return to dust and see corruption;a but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them.b The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies;c and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.d Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the scripture acknowledgeth none.
a Gen. 3:19; Acts 13:36.
b Luke 23:43; Eccl. 12:7.
c Heb. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23 with Acts 3:21 and Eph. 4:10.
d Luke 16:23,24; Acts 1:25; Jude ver. 6,7; 1 Pet. 3:19.

II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed:e and all the dead shall be raised up, with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.f
e 1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51,52.
f Job 19:26,27; 1 Cor. 15:42-44.

III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.g
g Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:21.

“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. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Matthew, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 645.
2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘ GEHENNA,’ “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1183.
3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Hell,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1371.
4. Alan Cairns, In Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International 2002), pp. 169-171.
5. R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale House, 1992), pp. 285-287.

“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:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at:


Jonathan Edwards SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD…/…/pdf/edwards_angry.pdf

Hell a PDF by Jonathan Edwards, C H Spurgeon, Edward Donnelly, J C Ryle

Recommended Books

Death and the Afterlife Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1984). ISBN: 0871234335 (paperback edition 076422686X). “For readers seeking a scholarly, thorough discussion of the biblical doctrine of death and the afterlife, this volume will provide the answer. It is one of the most extensive and scholarly discussions of the subject which has come to the attention of this reviewer. Morey has covered a wide range of research and holds solidly to conservative orthodox theology on the reality of heaven, hell, and life after this life. The book deals with biblical terms relating to the subject, such as spirit, soul, body, Sheol, Gehenna, and eternal punishment. The second half of the book is an apologetic for the biblical teaching on the subject of death and a defense of scriptural teaching as opposed to liberal views of annihilationism and universal salvation. Comprehensive indexes and an extensive bibliography support the conclusions of the author.” –J. F. Walvoord.

William G. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1986). ISBN: 0851517544. Reprint of the original edition of 1885. “The rejection of the doctrine of Endless Punishment cuts the ground from under the gospel. Salvation supposes a prior damnation. He who denies that he deserves eternal death cannot be saved from it so long as he persists in his denial. If his denial is the truth, he needs no salvation. If his denial is an error, the error prevents penitence for sin, and this prevents pardon. No error, consequently, is more fatal than that of Universalism. It blots out the attribute of retributive justice; transmutes sin into misfortune, instead of guilt; turns all suffering into chastisement; converts the atonement work of Christ into moral influence; and makes it a debt due to man, instead of an unmerited boon from God. No teaching is more radical and revolutionizing, in its influence upon the Christian system. The attempt to retain the evangelical theology in connection with it is futile.”

John H. Gerstner, Repent or Perish: With a Special Reference to the Conservative Attack on Hell (Ligonier, Pennsylvania: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990). ISBN: 187761114X.

John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Darlington, United Kingdom: Evangelical Press, 1993). ISBN: 0852343035.

Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1995). ISBN: 0875523722.

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). ISBN: 0310240417. Contributors include Douglas J. Moo, J.I. Packer, Gregory K. Beale, Daniel I. Block, Sinclair B. Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler, and Robert Yarbrough.

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Grace and Mercy

Grace and Mercy by Jack Kettler

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

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In this study, we will look at both Grace and Mercy. Are these two words synonymous? Are they defined differently? If so, what are the distinctions?

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. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

God’s unmerited favor toward the undeserving and ill-deserving; God giving sinners better than they deserve. *

That perfection of God whereby he is good “toward those in misery and distress.” *

Grace is unmerited favor. It is God’s free action for the benefit of His people. It is different than Justice and Mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. But because of God’s love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.
Grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Grace rules out all human merit. It is the product of God that is given by God, because of who He is not because of who we are. It is the means of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are no longer under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). (See 1 Corinthians 15:11; Romans 5:2; Rom 5:15-20; 2 Corinthians 12:9; and 2 Corinthians 9:8). **

Mercy is the act of not administering justice when that justice is punitive. Because of our sinfulness we deserve death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but God provided an atonement for sin and through it shows us mercy. That is, He does not deliver to the Christian the natural consequence of his sin which is damnation. That is why Jesus became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21) and bore the punishment due to us (Isaiah 5345). It was to deliver us from damnation. (Compare with justice and grace.)
God saved us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5) and we can practice mercy as a gift (Romans 12:8). “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). **

Question: What is the difference between mercy and grace?

Answer: Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy. ***

Grace from Scripture:

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

Romans 11:6 from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works, Upon election, being called “the election of grace”, the apostle forms an argument, showing the contrariety and inconsistency of grace, and works, in that affair; proving, that it must be by the one or the other: and if by the one, then not by the other; and that these two cannot be mixed and blended together in this matter. If election is “by grace”, as it certainly is; for no other reason can be given why God has chosen one, and not another, but his own sovereign pleasure, or that free favour and unmerited love, with which he loves one and not another; and not because they are better, or had done or would do better things than others; “then it is no more”, or not at all, for it never was “of works”, was not influenced by them, does not arise from them, for it passed before ever any were done; and those that are done aright spring from it, and therefore could never be the rule and measure, causes, motives, and conditions of it; otherwise grace is no more grace; for “Grace (as Austin has long ago observed) is not grace, unless it is altogether freed;”’ it will lose its nature, and ought to change its name, and be no more called or reckoned grace, but a due debt; and a choice of persons to salvation should be thought, not to be what God is free to make or not, but what he is obliged to, as a reward of debt to men’s works: but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; if election springs from, and depends upon the works of men, let no man ascribe it to the grace of God; for there is nothing of grace in it, if this be the case: otherwise work is no more work; that will free gift: but these things are contrary to one another; and so unalienable and unalterable in their natures, that the one cannot pass into the other, or the one be joined with the other, in this or any other part of man’s salvation; for what is here said of election, holds true of justification, pardon of sin, and the whole of salvation. The Ethiopic version applies it to justification. (1)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

Mercy from Scripture:

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Lamentations 3:22 from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

Mercy is nothing else but love flowing freely from any to persons in misery, and differs from compassion only in the freeness of the emanation. It is not because God had not power enough utterly to have consumed us, nor because we had not guilt enough to have provoked his justice to have put an end to our lives, as well as to the lives of many thousands of our countrymen, but it is merely from the Lord’s free love and pity to us in our miseries. If God had not a blessing in store for us, how is it that we are captives, and not slain as many others were during the siege? (2)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us…” (Ephesians 2:4)

Grace – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G5485, charis]
has various uses,
(a) objective, that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard; it is applied, e.g., to beauty, or gracefulness of person, Luke 2:40; act, 2 Corinthians 8:6, or speech, Luke 4:22, RV, words of grace” (AV, “gracious words”); Colossians 4:6;
(b) subjective,
(1) on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill generally, e.g., Acts 7:10; especially with reference to the Divine favor or “grace,” e.g., Acts 14:26; in this respect there is stress on its freeness and universality, its spontaneous character, as in the case of God’s redemptive mercy, and the pleasure or joy He designs for the recipient; thus it is set in contrast with debt, Romans 4:4,16, with works, Romans 11:6, and with law, John 1:17; See also, e.g., Romans 6:14,15; Galatians 5:4;
(2) on the part of the receiver, a sense of the favor bestowed, a feeling of gratitude, e.g., Romans 6:17 (“thanks”); in this respect it sometimes signifies “to be thankful,” e.g., Luke 17:9 (“doth he thank the servant?’ lit., “hath he thanks to’); 1 Timothy 1:12;
(c) in another objective sense, the effect of “grace,” the spiritual state of those who have experienced its exercise, whether
(1) a state of “grace,” e.g., Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18, or
(2) a proof thereof in practical effects, deeds of “grace,” e.g., 1 Corinthians 16:3, RV, “bounty” (AV, “liberality”); 2 Corinthians 8:6,19 (in 2 Corinthians 9:8 it means the sum of earthly blessings); the power and equipment for ministry, e.g., Romans 1:5; Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2,7.
To be in favor with is to find “grace” with, e.g., Acts 2:47; hence it appears in this sense at the beginning and the end of several Epistles, where the writer desires “grace” from God for the readers, e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; in this respect it is connected with the imperative mood of the word chairo, “to rejoice,” a mode of greeting among Greeks, e.g., Acts 15:23; James 1:1 (marg.); 2 John 1:10,11, RV, “greeting” (AV, “God speed”).
The fact that “grace” is received both from God the Father, 2 Corinthians 1:12, and from Christ, Galatians 1:6; Romans 5:15 (where both are mentioned), is a testimony to the deity of Christ. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:12, where the phrase “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” is to be taken with each of the preceding clauses, “in you,” “and ye in Him.”
In James 4:6, “But He giveth more grace” (Greek, “a greater grace,” RV, marg.), the statement is to be taken in connection with the preceding verse, which contains two remonstrating, rhetorical questions, “Think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?” and “Doth the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) which He made to dwell in us long unto envying?” (See the RV). The implied answer to each is “it cannot be so.” Accordingly, if those who are acting so flagrantly, as if it were so, will listen to the Scripture instead of letting it speak in vain, and will act so that the Holy Spirit may have His way within, God will give even “a greater grace,” namely, all that follows from humbleness and from turning away from the world. See BENEFIT, BOUNTY, LIBERALITY, THANK.
Note: The corresponding verb charitoo, “to endue with Divine favor or grace,” is used in Luke 1:28, “highly favored” (marg., “endued with grace”) and Ephesians 1:6, AV, “hath made … accepted;” RV, “freely bestowed” (marg., “enduced.”).
[2, G2143, euprepeia]
“comeliness, goodly appearance,” is said of the outward appearance of the flower of the grass, James 1:11. (3)

Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to have, etc.) – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to have, etc.)
[A-1, Noun, G1656, eleos]
is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used
(a) of God, who is rich in mercy, Ephesians 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Titus 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Romans 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succor them. Hence they are to pray boldly for mercy, Hebrews 4:16, and if for themselves, it is seemly that they should ask for mercy for one another, Galatians 6:16; 1 Timothy 1:2. When God brings His salvation to its issue at the Coming of Christ, His people will obtain His mercy, 2 Timothy 1:16; Jude 1:21;
(b) of men; for since God is merciful to them, He would have them show mercy to one another, Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Matthew 23:23; Luke 10:37; James 2:13.
“Wherever the words mercy and peace are found together they occur in that order, except in Galatians 6:16. Mercy is the act of God, peace is the resulting experience in the heart of man. Grace describes God’s attitude toward the law-breaker and the rebel; mercy is His attitude toward those who are in distress.”* [* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 340,341.]
“In the order of the manifestation of God’s purposes of salvation grace must go before mercy … only the forgiven may be blessed … From this it follows that in each of the Apostolic salutations where these words occur, grace precedes mercy, 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4 (in some mss.); 2 John 1:3’ (Trench, Syn, xlvii).
[A-2, Noun, G3628, oiktirmos]
“pity, compassion for the ills of others,” is used
(a) of God, Who is “the Father of mercies,” 2 Corinthians 1:3; His “mercies” are the ground upon which believers are to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, as their reasonable service, Romans 12:1; under the Law he who set it at nought died without compassion, Hebrews 10:28;
(b) of men; believers are to feel and exhibit compassions one toward another, Philippians 2:1, RV “compassions,’ and Colossians 3:12, RV “(a heart) of compassion;” in these two places the word is preceded by No. 3, rendered “tender mercies” in the former, and “a heart” in the latter, RV.
[A-3, Noun, G4698, splanchnon]
“affections, the heart,” always in the plural in the NT, has reference to “feelings of kindness, goodwill, pity,” Philippians 2:1, RV, “tender mercies;” See AFFECTION, No. 2, and BOWELS.
Note: In Acts 13:34 the phrase, lit., “the holy things, the faithful things (of David)” is translated, “the holy and sure blessings,” RV; the AV, following the mss. in which the words “holy and” are absent, has “the sure mercies,” but notices the full phrase in the margin.
[B-1, Verb, G1653, eleeo]
akin to A, No. 1, signifies, in general, “to feel sympathy with the misery of another,” and especially sympathy manifested in act,
(a) in the Active Voice, “to have pity or mercy on, to show mercy” to, e.g., Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 17:15; Matthew 18:33; Matthew 20:30-Matthew 20:31 (three times in Mark, four in Luke); Romans 9:15-Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18; Romans 11:32; Romans 12:8; Philippians 2:27; Jude 1:22-Jude 1:23;
(b) in the Passive Voice, “to have pity or mercy shown one, to obtain mercy,” Matthew 5:7; Romans 11:30-Romans 11:31; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 2:10.
[B-2, Verb, G3627, oikteiro]
akin to A, No. 2, “to have pity on” (from oiktos,””pity:’ oi, an exclamation, = oh!), occurs in Romans 9:15 (twice), where it follows No. 1 (twice); the point established there and in Exodus 33:19, from the Sept. of which it is quoted, is that the “mercy” and compassion shown by God are determined by nothing external to His attributes. Speaking generally oikteiro is a stronger term than eleeo.
[B-3, Verb, G2433, hilaskomai]
in profane Greek meant “to conciliate, appease, propitiate, cause the gods to be reconciled;” their goodwill was not regarded as their natural condition, but as something to be earned. The heathen believed their gods to be naturally alienated in feeling from man. In the NT the word never means to conciliate God; it signifies
(a) “to be propitious, merciful,” Luke 18:13, in the prayer of the publican;
(b) “to expiate, make propitiation for,” Hebrews 2:17, “make propitiation.” That God is not of Himself already alienated from man, See John 3:16. His attitude toward the sinner does not need to be changed by his efforts. With regard to his sin, an expiation is necessary, consistently with God’s holiness and for His righteousness’ sake, and that expiation His grace and love have provided in the atoning sacrifice of His Son; man, himself a sinner, justly exposed to God’s wrath (John 3:36), could never find an expiation. As Lightfoot says, “when the NT writers speak at length on the subject of Divine wrath, the hostility is represented, not as on the part of God, but of men.” Through that which God has accomplished in Christ, by His death, man, on becoming regenerate, escapes the merited wrath of God. The making of this expiation [(b) above], with its effect in the mercy of God
(a) is what is expressed in hilaskomai. The Sept. uses the compound verb exilaskomai, e.g., Genesis 32:20; Exodus 30:10, Exodus 30:15-Exodus 30:16; Exodus 32:30, and frequently in Lev. and Num. See PROPITIATION.
[C-1, Adjective, G1655, eleemon]
“merciful,” akin to A, No. 1, not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate, is used of Christ as a High Priest, Hebrews 2:17, and of those who are like God, Matthew 5:7 (cp. Luke 6:35-Luke 6:36, where the RV, “sons” is to be read, as representing characteristics resembling those of their Father).
[C-2, Adjective, G3629, oiktirmon]
“pitiful, compassionate for the ills of others,” a stronger term than No. 1 (akin to A, No. 2), is used twice in Luke 6:36, “merciful” (of the character of God, to be expressed in His people); James 5:11, RV, “merciful,” AV, “of tender mercy.”
[C-3, Adjective, G2436, hileos]
“propitious, merciful” (akin to B, No. 3), was used in profane Greek just as in the case of the verb (which see). There is nothing of this in the use of the word in Scripture. The quality expressed by it there essentially appertains to God, though man is underserving of it. It is used only of God, Hebrews 8:12; in Matthew 16:22, “Be it far from Thee” (Peter’s word to Christ) may have the meaning given in the RV marg., “(God) have mercy on Thee,” lit., “propitious to Thee” (AV marg., “Pity Thyself”). Cp. the Sept., 2 Samuel 20:20; 2 Samuel 23:17.
[C-4, Adjective, 448, aneleos / anileos] “unmerciful, merciless” (a, negative, n, euphonic, and A, No. 2, or C, No. 3), occurs in James 2:13, said of judgment on him who shows no “mercy.” (4)

Grace (χαρις) From Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:

The Biblical Use of the Term “Grace.” The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit. The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9. It may denote the kindness of beneficence of our Lord, II Cor. 8:9, or the favour manifested or bestowed by God, II Cor. 9:8 (referring to material blessings); I Pet. 5:10. Furthermore, the word is expressive of the emotion awakened in the heart of the recipient of such favour, and thus acquires the meaning “gratitude” or “thankfulness,” Luke 4:22; I Cor. 10:30; 15:57; II Cor. 2:14; 8:16; I Tim. 1:12. In most of the passages, however, in which the word charis is used in the New Testament, it signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, affected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fulness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,” Rom. 3:24; 5:2, 15; 17:20; 6:1; I Cor. 1:4; II Cor. 6:1; 8:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 8; 3:7; I Pet. 3:7; 5:12. (5)

Mercy; Merciful from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

mur’-si, mur’-si-fool (checedh, racham, chanan; eleos, eleeo, oiktirmos): “Mercy” is a distinctive Bible word characterizing God as revealed to men.
In the Old Testament it is most often the translation of checedh, “kindness,” “loving-kindness” (see LOVINGKINDNESS), but rachamim, literally, “bowels” (the sympathetic region), and chanan, “to be inclined to,” “to be gracious,” are also frequently translated “mercy”; eleos, “kindness,” “beneficence,” and eleeo, “to show kindness,” are the chief words rendering “mercy” in the New Testament; oiktirmos, “pity,” “compassion,” occurs a few times, also oiktirmon, “pitiful,” eleemon, “kind,” ‘compassionate,’ twice; hileos, “forgiving,” and anileos, “not forgiving,” “without mercy,’ once each (Heb 8:12; Jas 2:13).
(1) Mercy is (a) an essential quality of God (Ex 34:6-7; De 4:31; Ps 62:12, etc.); it is His delight (Mic 7:18,20; Ps 52:8); He is “the Father of mercies” (2Co 1:3), “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), “full of pity, and merciful” (Jas 5:11); (b) it is associated with forgiveness (Ex 34:7; Nu 14:18; 1Ti 1:13,16); (c) with His forbearance (Ps 145:8, “Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great lovingkindness”; compare Ro 2:4; 11:32); (d) with His covenant (1Ki 8:23; Ne 1:5), with His justice (Ps 101:1), with His faithfulness (Ps 89:24), with His truth (Ps 108:4); mercy and truth are united in Pr. 3:3; 14:22, etc. (in Ps 85:10 we have “Mercy and truth are met together”); (e) it goes forth to all (Ps 145:9, “Yahweh is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works”; compare Ps 145:16, “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing,” the Revised Version margin “satisfiest every living thing with favor”); (f) it shows itself in pitying help (Ex 3:7; Ezr 9:9 f), supremely in Christ and His salvation (Lu 1:50,54,58; Eph. 2:4); (g) it is abundant, practically infinite (Ps 86:5,15; 119:64); (h) it is everlasting (1Ch 16:34,41; Ezr. 3:11; Ps 100:5; 136:1-26 repeatedly).
(2) “Mercy” is used of man as well as of God, and is required on man’s part toward man and beast (De 25:4; Ps 37:21; 109:16; Pr. 12:10; Da 4:27; Mic 6:8; Mt 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”; Mt 25:31-46; Lu 6:36, “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; Lu 10:30 f, the Good Samaritan; Lu 14:12-16; Jas 3:17).
(3) In the New Testament “mercy” (eleos, usually the Septuagint translation of checedh) is associated with “grace” (charis) in the apostolical greetings and elsewhere. Trench points out that the difference between them is that the freeness of God’s love is the central point of charis, while eleos has in view misery and its relief; charis is His free grace and gift displayed in the forgiveness of sins–extended to men as they are guilty; His eleos (is extended to them) as they are miserable. The lower creation may be the object of His mercy (eleos), but man alone of His grace (charis); he alone needs it and is capable of receiving it (Synonyms of the New Testament, 163 f).
(4) From all the foregoing it will be seen that mercy in God is not merely His pardon of offenders, but His attitude to man, and to the world generally, from which His pardoning mercy proceeds. The frequency with which mercy is enjoined on men is specially deserving of notice, with the exclusion of the unmerciful from sonship to the all-merciful Father and from the benefits of His mercifulness. Shakespeare’s question, “How canst thou hope for mercy rendering none?” is fully warranted by our Lord’s teaching and by Scripture in general; compare especially the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Mt 18:21-35).
(5) As the rule, the American Standard Revised Version has “lovingkindness” for “mercy” when checedh is used of God, and “kindness” when it is used of men in relation to each other. “Compassion” (translation of racham) is also in several instances substituted for “mercy” (Isa 9:17; 14:1; 27:11; Jer. 13:14; 30:18), also “goodness” (translation of checedh referring to man) (Ho 4:1; 6:6). W. L. Walker (6)

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 87:

Q: What is repentance unto life?
A: Repentance unto life is a saving grace,1 whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin,2 and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,3 doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God,4 with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.5

1. Acts 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
2. Acts 2:37-38. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. Joel 2:13. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
4. Jeremiah 31:18-19. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.
5. 2 Corinthians 7:11. For behold this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Psalm 119:59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

In closing, some additional Scriptures on God’s gracious actions:

“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 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. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” (Psalm 65:4)

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 5:21)

“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14)

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in heavenly with Christ, (by grace ye are saved ;)” (Ephesians 2:1, 5)

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

After reading these Scriptures, the reader will have noticed the words and phrases in these passages such as “circumcise” “give” “put” “opened her heart” “gives life” “ordained” “he made alive” and “you hath He quickened.” These verses teach that God’s gracious action is responsible for our conversion, not our works.

As we saw from the passage from Ezekiel, the prophet taught that we had hearts of stone before our conversion. Also, the apostle Paul teaches that we were slaves in bondage to sin. We must conclude that God’s gracious actions for us are real. We are saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor, and God mercifully turned away His wrath from us that are in Christ Jesus.

Grace and mercy are not the same. We can say that mercy is: God not punishing us for our sins and grace is God blessing us when we do not deserve it. Hence, grace is God’s unmerited favor, and mercy is our deliverance from God’s righteous judgment.

“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. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 309.
2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 655.
3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 499-501.
4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 732-735.
5. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1949), pp. 426-27.
6. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Mercy and Merciful,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2035-2036.

“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 for 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:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at:


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Idols and Idolatry

Idols and Idolatry by Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at Idols and Idolatry. What is an Idol? What is Idolatry? How to guard against it.

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. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

The worship of false gods; the worship of the one true God by images; the worship of the one true God conceived as less than He is; the giving of honor due to the one true God “to some of His creatures or to some invention of His creatures;” the valuing of anything or anyone more than the one true God.. *

Idol, Idolatry:
An idol is a representation of something in the heavens or on the earth. It is used in worship and is often worshiped. It is an abomination to God (Exodus 20:4). Idolatry is bowing down before such an idol in adoration, prayer, or worship. In a loose sense, idolatry does not necessitate a material image or a religious system. It can be anything that takes the place of God: a car, a job, money, a person, a desire, etc. Idolatry is denounced by God at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and is considered a form of spiritual fornication. **

From Scripture:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)

The Pulpit Commentary on Exodus 20:3:

Verse 3. – Thou shalt have. The use of the second person singular is remarkable when a covenant was being made with the people (Exodus 19:5). The form indicated that each individual of the nation was addressed severally, and was required himself to obey the law, a mere general national obedience being insufficient. No one can fail to see how much the commands gain in force, through all time, by being thus addressed to the individual conscience. No other gods before me. “Before me” literally, “before my face,” is a Hebrew idiom, and equivalent to “beside me,” “in addition to me.” The commandment requires the worship of one God alone, Jehovah – the God who had in so ninny ways manifested himself to the Israelites, and implies that there is, in point of fact, no other God. A belief in the unity of God is said to lie at the root of the esoteric Egyptian religion; but Moses can scarcely have derived his belief from this source, since the Egyptian notions on the subject were tinged with pantheism and materialism, from which the religion of Moses is entirely free. Outwardly the Egyptian religion, like that of the nations of Western Asia generally, was a gross polytheism; and it is against polytheistic notions that the first commandment raises a protest. (1)

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.” (Romans 1:21-24)

Comments from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Romans 1:21:

21. Because that, when they knew God—that is, while still retaining some real knowledge of Him, and ere they sank down into the state next to be described.
they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful—neither yielded the adoration due to Himself, nor rendered the gratitude which His beneficence demanded.
but became vain—(compare Jer. 2:5).
in their imaginations—thoughts, notions, speculations, regarding God; compare Mt 15:19; Lu 2:35; 1Co 3:20, Greek.
and their foolish—”senseless,” “stupid.”
heart—that is, their whole inner man.
was darkened—How instructively is the downward progress of the human soul here traced! (2)

Idol – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G1497, eidolon]
Primarily a phantom or likeness (from eidos, “an appearance,” lit., “that which is seen”), or “an idea, fancy,” denotes in the NT
(a) “an idol,” an image to represent a false god, Acts 7:41; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Revelation 9:20;
(b) “the false god” worshipped in an image, Acts 15:20; Romans 2:22; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 10:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:21.

“The corresponding Heb. word denotes ‘vanity,’ Jeremiah 14:22; Jeremiah 18:15; ‘thing of nought,’ Leviticus 19:4, marg., cp. Ephesians 4:17. Hence what represented a deity to the Gentiles, was to Paul a ‘vain thing,’ Acts 14:15; ‘nothing in the world,’ 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19. Jeremiah calls the idol a ‘scarecrow’ (‘pillar in a garden,’ Jeremiah 10:5, marg.), and Isaiah, Isaiah 44:9-Isaiah 44:20, etc., and Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:18-Habakkuk 2:19 and the Psalmist, Psalms 115:4-Psalms 115:8, etc., are all equally scathing. It is important to notice, however, that in each case the people of God are addressed. When he speaks to idolaters, Paul, knowing that no man is won by ridicule, adopts a different line, Acts 14:15-Acts 14:18; Acts 17:16, Acts 17:21-Acts 17:31.”* [* From Notes on Thessalonians, pp. 44, 45 by Hogg and Vine.] (3)

Idolatry – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G1495, eidololatria]
Whence Eng., idolatry, (from eidolon, and latreia, “service”), is found in 1 Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5; and, in the plural, in 1 Peter 4:3.

Heathen sacrifices were sacrificed to demons, 1 Corinthians 10:19; there was a dire reality in the cup and table of demons and in the involved communion with demons. In Romans 1:22-Romans 1:25, “idolatry,” the sin of the mind against God (Ephesians 2:3), and immorality, sins of the flesh, are associated, and are traced to lack of the acknowledgment of God and of gratitude to Him. An “idolater” is a slave to the depraved ideas his idols represent, Galatians 4:8-Galatians 4:9; and thereby, to divers lusts, Titus 3:3 (See Notes on Thess. by Hogg and Vine, p. 44). (4)

Idolatry from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

i-dol’-a-tri (teraphim, “household idols,” “idolatry”; eidololatreia): There is ever in the human mind a craving for visible forms to express religious conceptions, and this tendency does not disappear with the acceptance, or even with the constant recognition, of pure spiritual truths (see IMAGES). Idolatry originally meant the worship of idols, or the worship of false gods by means of idols, but came to mean among the Old Testament Hebrews any worship of false gods, whether by images or otherwise, and finally the worship of Yahweh through visible symbols (Ho 8:5-6; 10:5); and ultimately in the New Testament idolatry came to mean, not only the giving to any creature or human creation the honor or devotion which belonged to God alone, but the giving to any human desire a precedence over God’s will (1Co 10:14; Ga 5:20; Col 3:5; 1Pe 4:3). The neighboring gods of Phoenicia, Canaan, Moab–Baal, Melkart, Astarte, Chemosh, Moloch, etc.–were particularly attractive to Jerusalem, while the old Semitic calf-worship seriously affected the state religion of the Northern Kingdom (see GOLDEN CALF). As early as the Assyrian and Babylonian periods (8th and 7th centuries BC), various deities from the Tigris and Euphrates had intruded themselves–the worship of Tammuz becoming a little later the most popular and seductive of all (Eze 8:14)–while the worship of the sun, moon, stars and signs of the Zodiac became so intensely fascinating that these were introduced even into the temple itself (2Ki 17:16; 21:3-7; 23:4,12; Jer. 19:13; Eze 8:16; Am 5:26).

Topical Bible outline for “Idolatry.”

The special enticements to idolatry as offered by these various cults were found in their deification of natural forces and their appeal to primitive human desires, especially the sexual; also through associations produced by intermarriage and through the appeal to patriotism, when the help of some cruel deity was sought in time of war. Baal and Astarte worship, which was especially attractive, was closely associated with fornication and drunkenness (Am 2:7-8; compare 1Ki 14:23 f), and also appealed greatly to magic and soothsaying (e.g. Isa 2:6; 3:2; 8:19).

Sacrifices to the idols were offered by fire (Ho 4:13); libations were poured out (Isa 57:6; Jer 7:18); the first-fruits of the earth and tithes were presented (Ho 2:8); tables of food were set before them (Isa 65:11); the worshippers kissed the idols or threw them kisses (1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2; Job 31:27); stretched out their hands in adoration (Isa 44:20); knelt or prostrated themselves before them and sometimes danced about the altar, gashing themselves with knives (1Ki 18:26,28; for a fuller summary see EB ).

See a list of verses on IDOLATRY in the Bible.

Even earlier than the Babylonian exile the Hebrew prophets taught that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods, but reigned alone as God, other deities being nonentities (Le 19:4; Isa 2:8,18,20; 19:1,3; 31:7; 44:9-20). The severe satire of this period proves that the former fear of living demons supposed to inhabit the idols had disappeared. These prophets also taught that the temple, ark and sacrifices were not essential to true spiritual worship (e.g. Jer 3:16; Am 5:21-25). These prophecies produced a strong reaction against the previously popular idol-worship, though later indications of this worship are not infrequent (Eze 14:1-8; Isa 42:17). The Maccabean epoch placed national heroism plainly on the side of the one God, Yahweh; and although Greek and Egyptian idols were worshipped in Gaza and Ascalon and other half-heathen communities clear down to the 5th or 6th century of the Christian era, yet in orthodox centers like Jerusalem these were despised and repudiated utterly from the 2nd century BC onward.

See the definition of idolatry in the KJV Dictionary
See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.
Wm. Wake, A Discourse concerning the Nature of Idolatry, 1688; W.R. Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites; E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture; J.G. Frazer, Golden Bough (3 vols); L.R. Farnell, Evolution of Religion, 1905; Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte; Beathgen, Der Gott Israels u. die Gotter der Heiden, 1888.
Camden M. Cobern (5)

In closing, a great sermon on Idolatry:

Idolatry Condemned

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.—1 John 5:21

John has, in this epistle, written much concerning the love of Jesus, as well he might, for he knew more about that love than any other man knew. And yet, when he had written concerning love to Jesus, he was moved to an intense jealousy lest by any means the hearts of those to whom he wrote should be turned aside from that dear Lover of their souls who deserved their entire affection. And, therefore, not only love to them, but also love to Jesus made him wind up his letter with these significant words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”…

First, keep yourselves from worshipping yourselves. Alas, how many fall into this gross sin! Some do it by indulgence at the table. How much of eating, and especially of drinking, is there which, correctly speaking, is nothing better than gluttony and drunkenness! There are professing Christians who perhaps never are regarded as intoxicated, yet they sip and sip and sip until, if they do not lose the control of their brain, they cause observers to raise the question whether they ever had any at all. It is almost a pity for some professing Christians that they can thus indulge themselves at home…It is a scandalous thing when there is such a sin as this in the Church of God…I urge all of you, beloved, to see to it that you offer no sacrifices to gluttony nor pour out libations to Bacchus. For if you do, you prove that you are idolaters worshipping your own bellies and that God’s love dwelleth not within you.

There are others who worship themselves by living a life of indolence. They have nothing to do, and they seem to do it very thoroughly. They take their ease, and that is the main thing in which they take any interest. They flit from pleasure to pleasure, from show to show, from vanity to vanity, as if this life were only a garden in which butterflies might fly from flower to flower, and not a sphere where serious work was to be done and all-important business for eternity was to be accomplished. Worship not yourselves by trifling as these indolent people do.

Some worship themselves by decorating their bodies most elaborately. Their first and their last thought being, “What shall we wear?” Fall not into that idolatry.

Then there are some people who make idols of their wealth. Getting money seems to be the main purpose of their lives. Now it is right that a Christian man should be diligent in business. He should not be second to anybody in the diligence with which he attends to the affairs of this life. But it is always a pity when we can be truthfully told, “So-and-so is getting richer every year, but he has got stingier also. He gives less now than he gave when he had only half as much as he now has.” We meet occasionally with people like the man who, when he was comparatively poor, gave his guinea; but when he grew rich, he only gave a shilling…

Some worship the pursuit which they have undertaken. They give their whole soul up to their art or their particular calling, whatever it may be. In a certain sense, this is a right thing to do; yet we must never forget that the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mat 22:37). This must always have the first place.

Let me here touch a very tender point. There are some who make idols of their dearest relatives and friends. Some have done this with their children. I remember reading a story of a good man who seemed as if he could never forgive God for taking away his child. He sat in a Quakers’ meeting, bowed down and sorrowful, and his time of deliverance came when a sister rose [and] uttered these words, “Verily, I perceive that children are idols,” and then resumed her seat. Such a message as that is often needed; yet it is a pity that it should be. Make no idol of your child or your wife or your husband; for by putting them into Christ’s place, you really provoke Him to take them from you. Love them as much as you please—I would that some loved their children, their husbands, or their wives more than they do—but always love them in such a fashion that Christ shall have the first place in your hearts.

The catalogue of idols that we are apt to worship is a very long one…It would take me a very long while to make a list of the various forms which the idolatry of the heart will take. But in a sentence let me say to you: remember that God has a right to your whole being. There is nothing, and there can be nothing which ought to be supreme in your affections save your Lord. And if you worship anything or any ideal whatever it may be, if you love that more than you love your God, you are an idolater; and you are disobeying the command of the text, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”…

I would say to you, beloved, in closing my observations upon this point: in the matter of your faith, be sure to keep yourselves from the idol of the hour. Some of us have lived long enough to see the world’s idols altered any number of times. Just now, in some professedly Christian churches, the idol is “intellectualism,” “culture,” “modern thought.” Whatever name it bears, it has no right to be in a Christian church, for it believes very little that appertains to Christ. Now I have some sort of respect for a downright honest infidel, like Voltaire14 or Tom Paine.15 But I have none for the man who goes to college to be trained for the Christian ministry, and then claims to be free to doubt the deity of Christ, the need of conversion, the punishment of the wicked, and other truths that seem to me to be essential to a full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Such a man must have strange views of honesty. And so has the minister who goes into a pulpit and addresses people when he knows that he does not believe any of the doctrines that are dearer to them than their own lives. Yet, the moment he is called to account for his unbelief, he cries out, “Persecution! Persecution! Bigotry! Bigotry!” A burglar, if I found him outside my bedroom door and held him till the policeman came, might consider me to be very bigoted because I did not care to have my property stolen by him and because I interfered with his liberty. So, in like manner, I am called bigoted because I will not allow a man to come and assail from my own pulpit the truths which are dearer to me than my life. I am quite willing to give that man liberty to go and publish his views somewhere else and at his own expense. But it shall not be done at my expense nor in the midst of a congregation gathered by me for the worship of God and the proclamation of the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Keep yourselves from this idol of the times; for it is the precursor of death to any church that gives it admittance…

Believe me, my brethren, that the Church of Christ, if not the world, shall yet learn that the highest culture is a heart that is cultivated by divine grace; that the truest science is…Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and that the greatest thought and the deepest of all metaphysics are found at the foot of the cross; and that the men who will keep on simply and earnestly preaching the old-fashioned gospel, and the people who will stand fast in the old paths are they who will most certainly win the victory. When those who are sailing in a frail bark, which they or their fellow-sinners have constructed, without a rudder, without a pilot at the helm, shall drift away and be dashed to pieces upon the rocks, they who trust in the Lord and have Him as their Pilot shall be kept clear of the rocks on which others have made shipwreck and shall be safely steered into the haven of peace and there be at rest for ever. (6)

Westminster Shorter Catechism on Idolatry with Proof Texts:

Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [119]
119] Exodus 20:3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Deuteronomy 5:7. Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly. [120]
[120] 1 Chronicles 28:9. And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever. Isaiah 45:20-25. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the LORD? And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. Matthew 4:10. Then saith Jesus unto him, get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, [121] or not worshiping and glorifying, the true God as God, [122] and our God; [123] and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. [124]
[121] Psalm 14:1. The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
[122] Romans 1:20-21. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
[123] Psalm 81:10-11. I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
[124] Ezekiel 8:16-18. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. Romans 1:25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Q. 48. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A. These words before me in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God. [125]
[125] Deuteronomy 30:17-18. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. Psalm 44:20-21. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out? For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Ezekiel 8:12. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14)

“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” – John Calvin

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21)

“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. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Exodus, Vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 131.
2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1142.
3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Idol,” (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 573-574.
4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Idolatry,” (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 574-575.
5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Idolatry,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 1447-1448.
6. Charles Spurgeon, from a sermon delivered, at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Lord’s-Day Evening, Sept. 6th, 1874.

“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:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at


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Not to Seethe a Kid in his mother’s milk, a study in Compassion

Not to Seethe a Kid in his mother’s milk, a study in Compassion by Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at the passage: “The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)

As will be seen, this passage and related passages will note, men exercising good stewardship are to care for animals.

As in previous studies, we will look at scriptures, and commentary evidence for the purpose to glorify God in how we live in response to God’s Word. May God be glorified always!

From Scripture:

“The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)

Commentary evidence from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Exodus 23:19:

This seems to be a general rule, extending to all the fruits which the earth first produced; in every kind of which the very first are here enjoined to be offered unto God, before they should presume to eat any of them. It may seem to be repeated here, where the year of rest is mentioned to leach them the first-fruits were to be given to God of all that the earth produced, not only by their labour and seed, as might be thought from Exodus 23:16, but also of its own accord, as is here implied.
He names one kind, under which he understands a lamb, or a calf, &c., according to the use of Scripture style. This law many understand literally, and that it is forbidden to them, because the idolaters had such a custom, whereof yet there seems to be no sufficient proof; nor, if there were, doth it seem to be a rite of that importance or probability to entice the Israelites to imitate it, that there needed a particular law against this, more than against a hundred such ridiculous usages which were among the heathen, and are not taken notice of in the book of God’s laws. The words may be rendered thus,
Thou shalt not seethe, or roast, (for the word bashal signifies to roast as well as to boil, as it is evident from Deuteronomy 16:7)
A kid, being, or whilst it is (which is to be understood, there being nothing more common than an ellipsis of the verb substantive)
In his mother’s milk; which it may be said to be, either,
1. Whilst it sucks its mother’s milk; and so it may admit of a twofold interpretation:
(1.) That this is to be understood of the passover, of which most conceive he had now spoken, Exodus 23:18, in which they used either a lamb or a kid, Exodus 12:5, and then the word bashal must be rendered roast.
(2.) That this speaks not of sacrifice to God, wherein sucking creatures were allowed, Exodus 22:30 Leviticus 22:27 1 Samuel 7:9, but of man’s use; and so God ordained this, partly because this was unwholesome food, and principally to restrain cruelty, even towards brute creatures, and luxury in the use of them. Or rather,
2. Whilst it is very tender and young, rather of a milky than of a fleshy substance, like that young kid of which Juvenal thus speaks, Qui plus lactis habet quam sanguinis, i.e. which hath more milk than blood in it. And it may he said to be in its mother’s milk, by a usual hypallage, when its mother’s milk is in it, i.e. whilst the milk it sucks as it were, remains in it undigested and unconverted into flesh, even as a man is oft said to be in the Spirit, when indeed the Spirit is in him. And what is here indefinitely prohibited, is elsewhere particularly explained, and the time defined, to wit, that it be not offered to God before it was eight days old. And this interpretation may receive light and strength from hence, that the law of the first fruits, which both here and Exodus 34:26 goes immediately before this law, doth in Exodus 22:30 immediately go before that law of not offering them before the eighth day, which implies, that both of them speak concerning the same thing, to wit, the first-fruits or first-born of the cattle, which were not to be offered to God while they were in their mother’s milk, saith this place, or till they were eight days old, saith that place. And consequently, if they might not be offered to God, they might not be used by men for food. (1)


“And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.” (Leviticus 22:28)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Leviticus 22:28:

And whether it be cow or ewe. Or “an ox or sheep” (f), for this law, as Aben Ezra says, respects both male and female, and neither the one nor the other with their young might be slain; though Jarchi says, the custom is concerning the female, for it is forbidden to slay the dam and its son, or daughter; but it is not the custom concerning males, wherefore it is lawful to slay the father and the son:
ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day; or, “it and its son” (g), the young, whether of a cow or ewe, and whether it be male or female; though Gersom observes, that this law takes place only in the dam and its female young, and not in the father and the son; for it is not manifest, in many animals, who is their father, wherefore he is not guilty of stripes, if the father and his son are slain in one day, even though it is known it is its father: the reason of the law seems to be, to encourage mercy and pity, and to discourage cruelty: hence the Targum of Jonathan is, “and my people, the children of Israel, as our Father is merciful in heaven, so be ye merciful on earth: a cow, or a sheep, &c.”’
(f) “bovem vel pecus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (g) “ipsum et filium ejus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (2)


“If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam [mother] with the young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:6:

Verses 6, 7. – (Cf. Leviticus 22:28; Exodus 23:19.) These precepts are designed to foster humane feeling towards the lower animals, and not less to preserve regard to that affectionate relation between parents and their young which God has established as a law in the animal world. That thou mayest prolong thy days (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12). (3)

A New Testament passage similar to what we have seen is in 1 Corinthians:

“For it is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9)

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says this regarding the Corinthians text:

9. Ox … treadeth … corn—(De 25:4). In the East to the present day they do not after reaping carry the sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area under the open air to be threshed by the oxen treading them with their feet, or else drawing a threshing instrument over them (compare Mic 4:13).
Doth God … care for oxen?—rather, “Is it for the oxen that God careth?” Is the animal the ultimate object for whose sake this law was given? No. God does care for the lower animal (Ps 36:6; Mt 10:29), but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head of animal creation. In the humane consideration shown for the lower animal, we are to learn that still more ought it to be exercised in the case of man, the ultimate object of the law; and that the human (spiritual as well as temporal) laborer is worthy of his hire. (4)

As the commentary noted: the Corinthian passage is quoting Deuteronomy 25:4, livestock were also allowed to eat as they worked. It would have been cruelty to the beast to deny it food as it labored in the field.

From the book, The Law of the Covenant. An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, consider:

This law is thrice stated in the Torah (Ex.23:19; 34:26; Dt.14:21). It is obviously quite important, yet its significance eludes us. There are many laws which prohibit the mixing of life and death, yet we wish to know the precise nuance of each. There is no example of the breaking of this law

In Scripture, unless we go to a metaphorical application, seeing the kid as a symbol for a human child. We notice that the kid is a young goat, a child. The word only occurs 16 times in the Old
Testament. In Genesis 27:9, 16, Rebekah put the skins of a kid upon Jacob when she sent him to
Masquerade as Esau before Isaac. Here the mother helps her child (though Jacob was in his 70s at the time). In Genesis 38:17, 20, 3, Judah pledged to send a kid to Tamar as payment for her services as a prostitute. In the providence of God, this was symbolic, because Judah had in fact failed to provide Tamar the kid to which she was entitled: Judah’s son Shelah. Judah gave his seal and cord, and his staff, as pledges that the kid would be sent, but Tamar departed, and never received the kid. When she was found pregnant, she produced the seal and cord and the staff, as evidence that Judah was the father. The children that she bore became her kids, given her by Judah in exchange for the return of his cord and seal and his staff. Finally, when Samson visited his wife, he took her a kid, signifying his intentions (Jud.15:1). These passages seem to indicate a symbolic connection between the kid and a human child, the son of a mother (Indeed, Job 10:10 compares the process of embryonic development to the coagulation of milk.) The kid is still nursing, still taking in its mother’s milk in some sense, Jacob and Rebekah being an example of this. The mother is the protectress of the child, of the seed. This is the whole point of the theology of Judges 4 and 5, the war of the two mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. Indeed, the passage calls attention to milk. The milk of the righteous woman was a tool used to crush the head of the serpent’s seed (Jud.4:19f. 5:24-27). How awful if the mother uses her own milk to destroy her own seed!

Victor P. Hamilton as written that “in the husbandry of Israel a young male kid was the most expendable of the animals, less valuable than, say, a young lamb. The young males were used for meat; the females kept for breeding. Thus, a kid served admirably as a meat dish: Gen. 27:9, 16; Jud.6:19; 13:15; 15:1; 1Sam.10:3; 16:20….” Accordingly, one of the most horrible things imaginable is for a mother to boil and eat her own child. This is precisely what happened during the siege of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah describes it in Lamentations 4:10, “The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they became food for them because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” The same thing happened during the siege of Samaria, as recorded in 2 Kings 6:28f.In both passages, the mother is said to boil her child.

We are now in a better position to understand this law, and its placement in passages having to do with offerings to God. The bride offers children to her husband. She bears, them, rears them on her milk, and presents them to her lord as her gift to him, Similarly, Israel is to present the fruits of her hands, including her children, to her Divine Husband. She is not to consume her children, her offerings, or her tithes, but present them to God. The command not to boil the kid in its own mother’s milk is a negative command; the positive injunction it implies is that we are to present our children and the works of our hands to God. Jerusalem is the mother of the seed CPs. 87:5; Gal. 4:26ff.). When Jerusalem crucified Jesus Christ, her Seed, she was boiling her kid in her own milk. In Revelation 17, the apostate Jerusalem has been devouring her faithful children: “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” Her punishment, under the Law of Equivalence, is to be devoured by the gentile kings who supported her (v.17). (5)

In summation:

Attempting to find applications for eternal principles in the Older Covenant, in a previous study we learned that a binding overarching principle is found in Mark’s gospel.

“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

This command applies even to animals that a neighbor owns.

Wandering or lost animals must be returned to the owner:

“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3)

If a pit is left uncovered, and an animal falls into it, the owner of the pit shall pay the owner of the animal restitution:

“And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.” (Exodus 21:33-34)

If neighbor’s ass or an ox fall by the way, help shall be given him to lift the animal up again:

“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.” (Deuteronomy 22:4)

“And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11)

Loving the neighbor is the key. Is there a principle in the law that protects a neighbor? The actual law in the Old Covenant Israel is expired today. Digging a little deeper it may be possible to glean a modern-day application from a binding moral principle. From this study and looking at scriptural cross-references, we can see that God wants us to care for our neighbor and his property, including animals.

“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” (Psalm 36:6)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

God cares for the birds of the field and animals. Therefore we should take care of animals under our care.

“And he said unto him, my lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.” (Genesis 33:13-14)

‘Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

God’s Consideration for Animals by G.T. Coster on Jonah 4:11:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city…
The “much cattle” in Nineveh a plea with God for the preservation of the city. And still, be animals where they may:
1. God has made them.
2. He preserves them. “His full hand supplies their need.”
3. He dowers them with beauty, or swiftness, or strength, with sensibility and sagacity.
4. He makes them of varied serviceableness to man, and has given man authority over them. “Thou madest him to have dominion over all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field.”
5. “He regardeth the life of the beast;” complacently, in their “lower pleasures;” pitifully, in their “lower pains;” constantly and minutely, “not one falleth on the ground” without him.
6. He would have them preserved from cruelty and needless destruction (Exodus 9:19).
7. It is God-like to care for the lower animals.
“He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God, who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.” G.T.C. (6)

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:9)

“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)

“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6)

When looking for modern applications, use as the rule of thumb, protecting and loving a neighbor and his goods or property. Thankfully, we are not stumbling in the dark ethically. We have God’s wisdom from the Old Covenant case laws as a place to look for solutions.

“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. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 169.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 349.
3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Deuteronomy, Vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.355.
4. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1205.
5. James B. Jordon, The Law Of The Covenant, An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, (Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas 1984). pp. 190-192.
6. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Jonah, Vol. 14, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 97-98.

“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:

For more study:

* For an excellent source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
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The Five Solas and how do we understand them?

The Five Solas and how do we understand them? by Jack Kettler

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

This study is an overview of what are known as the “Five Solas.” How are we saved, who is gets the glory, and what is the believer’s binding doctrinal authority? Prayerfully, these questions will be clarified and answered in this theological synopsis.

Definitions from two sources:

Five Solas
Literally, the “five alones,” the “five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers’ basic beliefs and emphasis in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day “consisting of sola scriptura (scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). *

The five Solas are five Latin phrases popularized during the Protestant Reformation that emphasized the distinctions between the early Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. The word sola is the Latin word for “only” and was used in relation to five key teachings that defined the biblical pleas of Protestants. **

1. Sola Scriptura: “Scripture alone.”
2. Sola Fide: “faith alone.”
3. Sola Gratia: “grace alone.”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone.”
5. Soli Deo Gloria: “to the glory of God alone.”

From Scripture:

Sola Scriptura
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Sola Fide
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

Sola Gratia
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Solo Christo
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” (1 Timothy 2:5)

“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Soli Deo Gloria
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)

Comments; Sola Scriptura still at the Center of the Divide and Why:

Some Roman Catholics have alleged that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura. Some former Protestants, now Roman Catholic, apologists, have said that Sola Scriptura means “the Bible plus nothing else.” Alleging that the Protestant position is “the Bible plus nothing else” is a straw-man argument and is false. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the final court of appeal, not the only court of appeal. To the Roman Catholic, we ask, “Where does the Bible direct God’s people to an outside authority structure such as a ‘sacred oral’ tradition?” The force of this question should not be dismissed. We see that Sola Scriptura is taught all over the face of Scripture and that the traditions of men are condemned by Christ repeatedly. In essence, the critics of Sola Scriptura are saying that the Protestant must accept, as the final authority, whatever is stated by the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Church.

However, if the church is always correct, why did Christ attack the religious authorities of the Old Testament Church? Christ did this using the most forceful terminology, such as hypocrites and vipers. The fact is that sometimes even the church will err in its doctrine. If the Old Testament Church erred, why should anyone deny or be surprised at the fact that the church in the gospel age can and has fallen into error as well? What happens when the church misinterprets the Bible? Can the believer challenge the misinterpretation? As Protestants, we say yes to the last question, but this does not mean by doing so we are disregarding or repudiating the church. It means that we have to test all things in light of Scripture. Testing all things in light of Scripture includes even the rulings and doctrine of the church. If this is necessary, it should be done in humility. The faithful church sees that the Scriptures always stand as the final infallible authority above it. Christ is the head of the church. He speaks through the Scriptures. The faithful church should always be reforming and checking itself in light of Scripture.

How can error creep into the church? The leaders in the Old Testament covenant nation did not want the people to misinterpret and break God’s law. Trying to prevent misinterpretation of Scripture and the breaking God’s law is a worthy goal. Who would want that to happen? To prevent this, the elders of Israel built walls and fences created with man-made regulations to go around God’s law. These man-made laws are found in the Talmud. These additional laws would allegedly keep the people from even getting close to breaking one of God’s laws. Did this work? What were the consequences of this? These man-made laws produced ignorance in Israel regarding God’s law. The traditions of the elders became confused with the word of God. They, in fact, became a significant burden for God’s people. Not only were these traditions of men a burden, but they also made the commandments of God of no effect (Mark 7:13).

Likewise, the Roman Church did not want people to misinterpret Scripture because it is God’s Word. This ostensibly sounds good, since it is wrong and sinful to misinterpret God’s Word, and it would bring judgment upon those who did so. What was the Roman Church’s attempted solution to this possibility of misinterpretation? The Roman Church placed the Bible on its list of forbidden books! If the people did not have the Bible to read, then they would not be able to misinterpret it. The logic may be correct, but it is perverse. Eventually, the people in the Roman Churches were not able to recognize the difference between the church’s laws, traditions, superstitions, and heresies, and the pure Word of God. In fact, these strategies by ancient Jewish leaders and Romanists produced a greater ignorance of the law of God and the Scriptures. These strategies to keep the people of God from breaking God’s law or misinterpreting the Bible were noble on the surface, but in reality are evil, since they produce ignorance among the people of God.

Does the theory of “sacred oral tradition” invalidate the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura? How do we know if sacred traditions are true? Is it because the church says so? How do we know the word of the church regarding a particular sacred tradition is true? Is it because it is in agreement with sacred tradition? If this is the case, then we would seem to be going in a circle.

In Eastern Orthodoxy and Romanism, tradition is elevated on a par equal with Scripture. So it needs to be asked: Has God revealed all his revelation now? Otherwise, is the body of revelation, i.e., “sacred tradition” still expanding? If it is still expanding, how long will these alleged traditions continue to expand or grow? If the sacred oral traditions are written down, what becomes of them? Are they now considered to be equivalent to the Old and New Testament writings? If so, why not revise the Scriptures by adding them to the Bible? Is there a sacred book of traditions? Are there commentaries that explain these “sacred traditions”? If so, are these commentaries inspired? Can every-day men read them? Alternatively, do we need a special leader to decipher the meaning?

Does this expanding body of revelations or traditions ever contradict each other? It should be noted that Roman Catholic theology is still evolving because of the influence of these traditions. The development of Mariology is an example of this. One would have to be dishonest to deny that there are contradictions between the different traditions. For example, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholics have traditions that contradict each other at various points. The role of “feasts,” “fasts,” “festivals,” the “filoque,” “papal claims,” “original sin,” “purgatory,” the “immaculate conception” and the use of “icons” are examples of different, contradictory traditions. Moreover, there is much debate and disagreement upon precisely what some traditions mean in the first place.

The Eastern Orthodox Church first acted on a fundamental principle of Protestantism by breaking with the Roman Church in 1054 over the filoque controversy. The filoque controversy erupted when a Roman Catholic Pope, outside of a church council, changed the Nicene Creed. The fact is, there are serious theological differences between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, which include divisions or factions among themselves, as well as with new age mysticism, liberalism, and outright humanism, manifesting themselves in a variety of ways.

In defense of Protestantism, it needs to be explained how someone may look at the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide (by faith alone) and say this is not what the Bible teaches. They might say, “The Bible says we are saved by grace.” Yet the Latin phrase that highlights this Protestant doctrine does not even mention grace, it only speaks of faith. Such statements would reveal an appalling amount of ignorance. Sola Fide, or “by faith alone” must be understood in its historical context. The debate that was raging at the time concerned faith as the means through which a person was saved or justified. Both positions had the doctrine of salvation by grace in their formulas.

Although the Roman Church uses the word “grace” in its formulation of justification, their religious sacramental system has subverted the biblical doctrine of grace and turned it into a system of works. The Protestant battle cry was “by faith alone” in contrast to the Roman Church, which was essentially saying “faith plus works.” Understanding the historical circumstances of the debate clears up any misconception about the Protestant use of the formula “by faith alone,” which did not leave out grace at all. Soli Gratia or “by grace alone” went right along with Sola Fide.

The Romanist position essentially said that faith plus works produced justification, which placed a man in a tenuous state of grace. In the Romanist view, a man could fall from this state of grace. The Protestant position in contrast to this said that it was “faith alone” (the result of God’s imputing grace) that produced justification, thus saving a man. If Sola Fide is taken out of its historical context, it can be made to appear to conflict with Scripture. The Latin formula is a phrase drawing attention to the difference between the Protestant and Romanist positions on justification. The Protestant position did not reduce it to “faith only,” minus grace, as the surface meaning of the Latin might appear. An objection like this is nothing more than a clever ‘straw-man’ fallacy that capitalizes on the ignorance of modern readers.

Likewise, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, if taken out of its historical context, can be made to appear to be unconvincing. The debate surrounding Sola Scriptura was a debate over ultimate authority. The Roman Church claims that it, the church, was the infallible final court of appeal. If time is taken to study the debate during the Reformation, it is clearly seen that the Protestants were claiming that the Bible the only infallible rule of faith and is the final court of appeal. They were not saying, “The Bible plus nothing else.” An ignorant person in the twentieth century looking at the Latin formula just on the surface may get this impression. If they believe this is the Protestant position, it is the result of their ignorance. To correctly understand the Latin formula used by the men of the Reformation, one must understand the context of the debate at the time.

The Protestants were not claiming that a person was forbidden to use commentaries or to refer to church history, or to have church synods and assemblies to help settle disputes. To illustrate, John Calvin produced a commentary set on the Bible that is still the standard against which all others are measured. Philip Schaff, a noteworthy Protestant historian, wrote a valuable eight-volume church history, a three-volume work on the creeds of Christendom, and edited the thirty-eight-volume church fathers set.

It is beyond dispute that Protestantism has produced a rich tradition of scholarship. Does this violate its stated position? Of course not! The Protestant position is not some simplistic “the Bible plus nothing” theory. Those who allege this are dishonest or ignorant. Since the Scriptures are the Word of God, Protestants have always maintained that there could be no other authority to which they may appeal. It should be noted that Protestants are not against traditions. Reformation Protestants are merely against traditions that are contrary to Scripture. Protestants believe firmly in the church’s role in the interpretation of Scripture. The Regula Fidei or what is known as the ‘Rule of Faith’, guards against the danger of the individual setting himself up as the ultimate interpreter of Scripture.

Radical individualism in the area of interpretation of Scripture is akin to anarchy. It should be noted that the Reformation Protestants strongly condemned the radical individualism of the Anabaptists of their day, which sought to overthrow all authority. The Ecumenical Creeds serve an essential role in understanding the Rule of Faith. In Protestantism, debates on the meaning of Scripture take place in the church. In Reformed Churches, in particular, there are courts of appeal to guard against the possibility of error at any level of the debate. Protestants claim that the Bible is the infallible final court of appeal in settling debates. The Bible being the final court of appeal is the meaning of Sola Scriptura. ***

A Contemporary Restatement of the Solas:

The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Formulated April 20, 1996, by a group of conservative evangelical theologians and pastors, The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a call to recover the historic Christian faith. The Five Solas of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation form the outline of the declaration.
The text

Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.

In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.

Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority

Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church’s life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.

Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s understanding, nurture and discipline.

Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliché’s, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God’s truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God’s provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher’s opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.

The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God’s grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.

Thesis One: Sola Scriptura

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith

As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus

We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.

We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.

Sola Gratia: The Erosion of the Gospel

Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world; from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.

God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.

Thesis Three: Sola Gratia

We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.

Sola Fide: The Erosion of the Chief Article

Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ’s imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.

Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ’s cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.

While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ’s substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God’s children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ’s saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.

Thesis Four: Sola Fide

We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion of God-Centered Worship

Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God’s and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God’s centrality in the life of today’s church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.

God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.

Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria

We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self- fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

Call to Repentance and Reformation

The faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ’s kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.

We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the “gospels” of our secular culture, which are no gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure adequately to tell others about God’s saving work in Jesus Christ.

We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God’s Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church’s worship, ministry, policies, life and evangelism. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
ACE Council Members the ACE council members at the time of the declaration were:
See below ****

In closing:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other-my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” – Martin Luther

“Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform.” – John Wycliffe

“The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.” – Immanuel Kant

“The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom.” – Vishal Mangalwadi

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Jesus.” – St. Jerome

“I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end and when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with His spiritual ointment.” – John Newton

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be: “A man of one book.” – John Wesley

“I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above.” – George Whitefield

“The Bible has always been regarded as part of the Common Law of England.” – Sir William Blackstone

“I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and….not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.” – George Müller

“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.” – Flavel

“The Bible as a book stands alone. There never was, nor ever will be, another like it. As there is but one sun to enlighten the world naturally, so there is but one Book to enlighten the world spiritually. May that Book become to each of us the man of our counsel, the guide of our journey, and our support and comfort in life and in death?”- A. Galloway

“The more you read the Bible, the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished by it.” – Charles Spurgeon

“The Bible is the light of my understanding, the joy of my heart, the fullness of my hope, the clarified of my affections, the mirror of my thoughts, the consoler of my sorrows, the guide of my soul through this gloomy labyrinth of time, the telescope went from heaven to reveal to the eye of man the amazing glories of the far distant world.” – Sir William Jones

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.” – Augustine of Hippo

“Let us therefore yield ourselves and bow to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, which can neither err nor deceive.” – Augustine of Hippo

“I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about such things, and inquire from the Holy Scriptures all these things.” – John Chrysostom

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” – Patrick Henry

“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)

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

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

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

CARM theological dictionary
And at:

*** My comments adapted from the book: The Religion that started in a Hat.

CH Spurgeon and the Five Solas of the Reformation…/

The Five Solas of the Reformation by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.

**** The ACE council members as the time of the declaration were:

Dr. John Armstrong
Rev. Alistair Begg
Dr. James M. Boice
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. John D. Hannah
Dr. Michael S. Horton
Mrs. Rosemary Jensen
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Dr. Robert M. Norris
Dr. R. C. Sproul
Dr. G. Edward Veith
Dr. David Wells
Dr. Luder Whitlock
Dr. J. A. O. Preus, III

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The Creation or Cultural Mandate, what is it?

The Creation or Cultural Mandate, what is it? By Jack Kettler

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

In this study, what is known as the creation or the cultural mandate will be covered by way of an overview. This overview will be coming from a Protestant Reformed viewpoint. The word dominion will appear several times in this overview. Some readers coming from a dispensational approach may be alarmed at this word. They should not be, it is a biblical word right in the Genesis text.

Definitions from two sources:

Cultural mandate

God’s command for the human race to fill the earth and rule over it; also called creation mandate, dominion mandate, or stewardship mandate. *

Creation, cultural mandate

The terms creation mandate and cultural mandate can be used in various contexts with subtly different meanings. It’s important to clearly define which of these definitions is at hand in any particular discussion.

The term cultural mandate is far more flexible, implying a wider range of topics than the term creation mandate. There are three primary versions of the idea of a cultural mandate. The first is essentially the same as the creation mandate. The second connects God’s command in Genesis 1:28 with Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20), implying divine authority over all social and political matters. The third places the Great Commission within the creation mandate, requiring political and social matters to be forcibly brought under Christian control. **

From Scripture:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

Let us consider the following comments from Man’s Creation and Dominion by R. J. Rushdoony that are relevant to the Genesis text:

What was God’s purpose in creating man? David answers this question, but much earlier God, in Genesis 1:26, tell us that it is dominion, and David, in Psalm 8:6ff, restates this saying, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou has put all things under his feet.” What God and His Word state so emphatically should be basic to the church’s ministry, but it is not. In fact, one important observer has said that only Chalcedon holds to and teaches dominion theology. But David sees this dominion calling of man as a basic aspect of being “crowned with glory and honor” (v. 5).

The church in the main has lost its dominion mandate and calling. As a result, instead of being the source of the world’s culture, the church is a shallow reflection of humanistic culture, man-centered and not God-centered. As Psalm 8:2 makes clear, our calling and our purpose should be to “still the enemy and the avenger.”

God created man to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth under Him (Gen. 1:26). When man fell into sin, God chose a people and commissioned them to this same task (Jos. 1:1ff.). But Israel failed and was replaced by the church, which was commissioned to the same task (Mt. 28:19-20). The church now, instead of wanting victory and dominion in the face of tribulation, wants rather to be raptured out of it. Will not God give rather tribulation than rapture to such a people? Should they not tremble before God and change their ways?

A strong people of God are told that the Lord even ordains strength “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings” which “still the enemy and the avenger” (v. 2). Now the mouths of famous preachers ordain weakness and retreat.

The dominion God promises to His people is total: it applies to every sphere. The mark of God’s being is absolute dominion, and this is His promise to His people.

The Lord’s Prayer is, in essence, a prayer for dominion: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). For most churchmen, the use of the Lord’s Prayer is a “vain repetition” rather than marching orders. Too many churches need to pray, “God have mercy on us, for we have neither prayed nor lived as we should.”

We must seek God’s dominion over ourselves and our world with all our heart, mind, and being. We must recognize that no church is truly Bible-believing if it rejects God’s dominion and our calling in Him to bring all things under His dominion, beginning with ourselves. (1)

Bio Note: Rousas John Rushdoony was a Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian and is widely credited as being the father of Christian Reconstructionism and an inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement. Rushdoony extended Cornelius Van Til’s thinking from philosophy to all of life and thought. He wrote over fifty books.

Two more critical Scriptural passages:

“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:6-8)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 8:6 we read:

Verse 6. – Thou madest him [man] to have dominion over the works of thy hands. An evident reference to Genesis 1:28, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” By these words man’s right of dominion was established. His actual dominion only came, and still comes, by degrees. Thou hast put all things under his feet (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Hebrews 2:8). In their fulness, the words are only true of the God-Man, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18). (2)

Another passage from Psalms speak of man’s ordained role by God in governing the earth:

“The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16)

Again, from the Pulpit Commentary:

Verse 16. – The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; literally, the heavens are heavens of Jehovah. They belong to him – he dwells there; but it is otherwise with the earth. But the earth hath he given to the children of men. For man God framed this fair world; to man’s use he adapted it with minutest care; and certainly not least for his own people, who are “the salt of the earth” – the human race by representation. (3)

Dutch Reformed theologians on the Cultural Mandate:

First, is Richard J. Mouw. He was Professor of Christian philosophy at Calvin College for seventeen years. He has also served as a visiting professor to the Free University of Amsterdam. He was appointed Professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1985. In 1993 he was elected president of Fuller Theological Seminary, retiring after 20 years of service.

Richard J. Mouw, explaining the cultural-mandate:

When we use the word “culture” to apply to human realities, we are referring to the ways in which we human beings cultivate patterns and processes that give meaning to our collective interactions, as well as the things that we “grow” as a result of those interactions. The Cultural Mandate for Kuyper, God cares deeply about culture and its development – so deeply that the divine desire that human beings engage in cultural activity was a central motive for God’s creating the world. In the narrative of Genesis 1, immediately after creating human beings in God’s own image, God gives them instructions about how to behave in the garden. In the three-part mandate of Genesis 1:28, the first thing God tells them is to “be fruitful and multiply.” That is about reproduction. He wants them to procreate, to have children. But when the Lord immediately goes on to tell them to “fill the earth,” that is a different assignment. This “filling” mandate, as viewed by Kuyper and others in the Reformed tradition, is a call to cultural activity – “the cultural mandate.” The first humans are placed in a garden – the raw nature of plants, animals, soil, and rocks – and they are instructed to introduce something new into that garden: the processes and products of human culture. When the Creator goes on to stipulate that they are to “have dominion” over the garden, that means they must manage – rule over – these patterns and processes of culture in obedience to God’s will. In the well-known formulation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, our “chief end” as created human beings “is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” – and at the heart of this glorifying our Maker is our obedient service as God’s designated caretakers in the cultural aspects of created life. Our true “enjoyment” includes our flourishing in the kind of participation in created life that God intends for us. (4)

Second, is Abraham Kuyper. He was elected Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905. He was an influential Calvinist theologian and journalist. We will consider some of his significant insights into the cultural mandate.

Abraham Kuyper, on the all-encompassing nature of the cultural-mandate”:

God is present in all life, with the influence of His omnipresent and almighty power, and no sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labora shall be permeated with its ora in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God. Consequently, it is impossible for a Calvinist to confine religion to a single group, or to some circles among men. Religion concerns the whole of our human race. (5)

Kuyper, on how Calvinists and Anabaptists differ in relation to the cultural-mandate:

The avoidance of the world has never been the Calvinistic mark, but the shibboleth of the Anabaptist. The specific, anabaptistical dogma of “avoidance” proves this. According to this dogma, the Anabaptists, announcing themselves as “saints,” were severed from the world. They stood in opposition to it. They refused to take the oath; they abhorred all military service; they condemned the holding of public offices. Here already, they shaped a new world, in the midst of this world of sin, which however had nothing to do with this our present existence. They rejected all obligation and responsibility towards the old world, and they avoided it systematically, for fear of contamination, and contagion. But this is just what the Calvinist always disputed and denied. It is not true that there are two worlds, a bad one and a good, which are fitted into each other. It is one and the same person whom God created perfect and who afterwards fell, and became a sinner—and it is this same “ego” of the old sinner who is born again, and who enters into eternal life. So, also, it is one and the same world which once exhibited all the glory of Paradise, which was afterwards smitten with the curse, and which, since the Fall, is upheld by common grace; which has now been redeemed and saved by Christ, in its center, and which shall pass through the horror of the judgment into the state of glory. For this very reason the Calvinist cannot shut himself up in his church and abandon the world to its fate. He feels, rather, his high calling to push the development of this world to an even higher stage, and to do this in constant accordance with God’s ordinance, for the sake of God, upholding, in the midst of so much painful corruption, everything that is honorable, lovely, and of good report among men. (6)

Now we will consider mistakes that have been made by Christians in regards to culture and a biblical plan of action:

Ideas have consequences. If the ideas are false, the consequences can be disastrous. By repudiating some mistaken theologies and strategies, we can get back on track so that government excesses and abuses, the result of a large-scale Christian abandonment of culture can be corrected. Dropping out of the system or acting like an ostrich will make us culturally irrelevant. Besides, short-term solutions ultimately fail. We are in a war of ideas. We need to change peoples’ minds, their worldview. It will not be an easy task, but one that can be accomplished. Changing a person’s worldview will take dedication and preparation on our part for a long-term battle. If we remain unwavering, then our children’s children will again taste the freedom of our forefathers. Christ calls us to disciple the nations in Matthew 28:18-20. We are given a cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28, which is carried out by the Great Commission. We can accomplish the task of reclaiming our freedoms through teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. We must have patience and apply wisdom. A flash in the pan activism accomplishes nothing of lasting value. Short sited activists of this nature usually end up becoming apathetic beer drinkers. We must “think generationally.”

We must see that our fight to regain freedom is a long-term multi-generation battle. Our children will see positive change as a result of our allegiance to the cause of freedom. It is interesting to note that many who claim to be Christian have in many cases been led astray by a pessimistic, dispensational eschatology (a view of history, which accepts as accurate, the ultimate defeat of God’s people before the second coming of Christ). Fallacious belief systems have serious, culturally debilitating consequences. Our lives must be built upon the solid Rock that is Christ. The gospel will triumph in history (Daniel 2:34, 35; Matthew 13:31-33). The belief in materialistic evolutionary origins determines how we live is false. Likewise, those obsessed with the end times speculation can suffer a cultural paralysis, which prevents a meaningful contribution towards building a Christian society. Origins and eschatology can be either positive or negative. The Christian must carefully consider Scripture before taking action.

We must endeavor to see things from God’s perspective. Why? Because God is God and He is sovereign. Besides, God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. The Christian is obligated to do the will of God. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty does not mean that we resign ourselves to defeat. On the contrary, this doctrine gives us the theological basis for working all the harder for the cause of freedom, and if it pleases God, then perhaps He will grant us deliverance. The book of Judges tells of God’s chastisements and the subsequent deliverance of His people. The state is God’s creation for good and order in society, and therefore has the moral authority to do many things like bringing punishment on evil doers. Today, and at many times in history, the state has been an instrument of man’s self-imposed slavery. Men sell themselves into slavery for the illusion of security. The rebuilding of society happens through the preaching of the gospel. The work of discipleship for a nation begins by teaching God’s principles for all of life. The work of discipleship of the nations, alone will reverse the trend towards socialism or the complete takeover by the out of control state.

Christians must learn the biblical principles of freedom to have a basis for speaking out against oppressive government or wickedness in the public sphere. We must be actively engaged in fighting against the idolatry of statism and maintain a principled opposition against all forms of tyranny and wickedness. For those who believe in the continual advancement of Christ’s kingdom in history, there is hope. We must press the claims of Christ’s Lordship in every area of life including the state. Christ is indeed the Lord of the state. Many Reformed and Presbyterian churches have held to the position known as “sphere sovereignty.” As noted, this position was formally developed by Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian statesman.

Kuyper summarized sphere sovereignty as follows:

“In order that the influence of Calvinism on our political development may be felt, it must be shown for what fundamental political conceptions Calvinism has opened the door, and how these political conceptions sprang from its root principle. This dominating principle was not, soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the Sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. A primordial Sovereignty which eradicates in mankind in a threefold deduced supremacy, viz., The Sovereignty in the State; The Sovereignty in Society; The Sovereignty in the Church.” (7)

This diagram illustrates Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty:

Kuyper’s influence is still with us today through the apologetics of the late Dr. Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Seminary. Several of Kuyper’s works are still in print. While he was one of the most powerful conservative pastor-theologians, he entered politics and became prime minister of the Netherlands. The Reformed churches in the Netherlands did not endorse Dr. Kuyper’s candidacy because of their adherence to the rudiments of the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. Sphere Sovereignty stated is that the state, church, and family are institutions created by and accountable to God. Each institution should not intrude into the sovereignty of the other institutions. For example, the state cannot pick candidates for church office. The elders of the church cannot tell a family that their children should not eat “Wheaties.” The church should not pick or endorse political candidates. There is little disagreement concerning the first two propositions, so why should Christians question the third? The genesis of sphere sovereignty existed in John Calvin (Protestant Reformer) and is continued in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), a distinguished Protestant confession.

Sphere sovereignty lies at the heart of and is fundamental to the Protestant doctrine of separation of powers. The spheres of sovereignty or authority must always be under God’s authority. This doctrine of the separation of powers is seen in Reformed church polity (government). For example, there are three layers of church courts: the first being the session of the local church, the second being the Presbytery or regional church court, and third the General Assembly, the highest court of appeal. This Protestant influence is also apparent in our American Constitutional Republic. For instance, we have three divisions or separations of powers, the Judiciary, Legislative, and Administrative.

KJV Dictionary Definition of dominion:

DOMINION, n. L. See Dominant.

1. Sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling.
The dominion of the Most High is an everlasting dominion. Daniel 4.

2. Power to direct, control, use and dispose of at pleasure; right of possession and use without being accountable; as the private dominion of individuals.

3. Territory under a government; region; country; district governed, or within the limits of the authority of a prince or state; as the British dominions.

4. Government; right of governing. Jamaica is under the dominion of Great Britain.

5. Predominance; ascendant.

6. An order of angels.
Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. Colossians 1.

7. Persons governed.
Judah was his sanctuary; Israel his dominion. Psalm 114.

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


do-min’-yun: In Ephesians 1:21 Colossians 1:16 the word so translated (kuriotes) appears to denote a rank or order of angels. The same word is probably to be so interpreted in Jude 1:8 (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”), and in 2 Peter 2:10 (the King James Version “government,” the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”). See ANGEL.

Strong’s Hebrew:

7985. sholtan — dominion

… 7984, 7985. sholtan. 7986. dominion. Transliteration: sholtan Phonetic

Spelling: (shol-tawn’) Short Definition: dominion. Word.

/hebrew/7985.htm – 6k

Seventy Two occurrences of the word Dominion or the concept in the following passages:

Matthew 20:25
Acts 26:18
Romans 6:9
Romans 6:14
Romans 7:1
1 Corinthians 15:24
2 Corinthians 1:24
Ephesians 1:21
Colossians 1:13
1 Timothy 2:12
1 Peter 4:11
1 Peter 5:11
2 Peter 2:10
Jude 1:8
Jude 1:25
Revelation 1:6
Revelation 5:13
Revelation 13:2
Revelation 13:4
Revelation 17:18
Genesis 1:26
Genesis 1:
Genesis 27:40
Genesis 37:8
Leviticus 26:17
Numbers 24:19
Judges 5:13
Judges 14:4
2 Samuel 8:3
1 Kings 4:24
1 Kings 9:19
2 Kings 20:13
1 Chronicles 4:22
1 Chronicles 18:3
1 Chronicles 29:11
2 Chronicles 21:8
Nehemiah 9:28
Nehemiah 9:37
Job 25:2
Job 38:33
Psalms 8:6
Psalms 19:13
Psalms 22:28
Psalms 49:14
Psalms 72:8
Psalms 103:22
Psalms 114:2
Psalms 119:133
Psalms 145:13
Isaiah 26:13
Isaiah 39:2
Isaiah 41:2
Jeremiah 2:31
Jeremiah 34:1
Jeremiah 51:28
Ezekiel 30:18
Daniel 2:37
Daniel 4:3
Daniel 4:22
Daniel 4:34
Daniel 6:26
Daniel 7:6
Daniel 7:12
Daniel 7:14
Daniel 7:26
Daniel 7:27
Daniel 11:3
Daniel 11:4
Daniel 11:5
Micah 4:8
Zechariah 9:10

Francis A. Schaeffer on a correct view of dominion:

“Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive.” (8)

This would be Godly dominion or faithful stewardship under God’s directions.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter IV.2 – Of Creation) states:

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, [4] with reasonable and immortal souls, [5] endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; [6] having the law of God written in their hearts, [7] and power to fulfill it: [8] and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. [9] Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, [10] and had dominion over the creatures. [11]

Scriptural proofs:

4. Gen 1:27

5. Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; Luke 23:43; Matt. 10:28

6. Gen. 1:26; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24

7. Rom. 2:14-15

8. Gen. 2:17; Eccl. 7:29

9. Gen. 3:6, 17

10. Gen. 2:17; 2:15-3:24

11. Gen. 1:28-30; Psa. 8:6-8

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

“The moral absolutes rest upon God’s character. The moral commands He has given to men are an expression of His character. Men as created in His image are to live by choice on the basis of what God is. The standards of morality are determined by what conforms to His character, while those things which do not conform are immoral.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

“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. R. J. Rushdoony, Man’s Creation and Dominion, (, 2001).

2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 49.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 62.

4. Richard J. Mouw – Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction (2011).

5. Abraham Kuyper: The Stone Lectures (Princeton University 1898), Lectures on Calvinism, (Eerdmans publishing, Grand Rapids, MI reprinted 1981).

6. Abraham Kuyper: The Stone Lectures (Princeton University 1898), Lectures on Calvinism, (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI reprinted 1981).

7. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures On Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1981), 79.

8. Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man, Complete Works of Francis A. Schaffer, A Christian Worldview Vol. 5, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Book), p. 42.

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

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

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:


CARM theological dictionary

And at



9 Abraham Kuyper Teachings on Christianity and Culture

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