What is Inerrancy?

What is Inerrancy? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the teaching of “Inerrancy.” As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, and confessional evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. The terms “Inerrancy,” “Infallibility,” “Sufficiency,” and “Plenary Inspiration” are connected concepts in Scripture.


Without error, non-errant. In Christianity, inerrancy states that the Bible, in its original documents, is without error regarding facts, names, dates, and any other revealed information. Inerrancy does not extend to the copies of the biblical manuscripts. *

“Inerrant” simply means “without error,” or “true” in the sense that we normally speak of true sentences, true doctrines, true accounts, true principles. Were God to speak to us in person, “directly,” none of us would dare to charge him with error. Errors arise from ignorance or deceit; and our God is neither ignorant, nor is he a deceiver. Similarly, we dare not charge his written Word with error.” – John Frame

“The church has historically acknowledged that Scripture in its original manuscripts and properly interpreted is completely true and without any error in everything that it affirms, whether that has to do with doctrine, moral conduct, or matters of history, cosmology, geography, and the like.” – Gregg Allison

Infallibility of Scripture:

Question: What does it mean that the Bible is infallible? What is biblical infallibility?

Answer: The word infallible means “incapable of error.” If something is infallible, it is never wrong and thus absolutely trustworthy. Similarly, the word inerrant, also applied to Scripture, means “free from error.” Simply put, the Bible never fails. **

Sufficiency of Scripture:

Question: What is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? What does it mean that the Bible is sufficient?

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

What is plenary inspiration?

Question: What is verbal plenary inspiration?

Answer: The Bible is God’s Word to humanity. It was written by human authors, but God prompted and guided them to write what they did. Every word, word form, and word placement found in the Bible’s original manuscripts was divinely and intentionally written. This is the orthodox view of the church and is known as verbal plenary inspiration. **

A Short list of Synonyms for Inerrancy:

Adjective: unerring, dependable, authoritative, flawless, certain, correct, exact, faultless, sure, true, trustworthy, unimpeachable, and unquestionable.

Gordon H. Clark on the Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture:

“The inerrancy of Scripture, as Quenstedt so carefully detailed it, is of fundamental importance. Nowhere else can we learn of salvation. Nowhere else could we learn of justification by faith alone. Nowhere else is there any information about Jesus Christ. Whatever later Christian authors have written about the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection, has its source in Scripture. If the Scripture is in error here and there, it is possible that it is in error here. Then too, from the standpoint of logic, there is a question the new so-called evangelicals are reluctant to answer. It is this: If the Bible contains falsehoods here and there, the theologian must have a criterion to distinguish the parts that are true from the parts that are false: What is the criterion? In a court of law, if the judge and jury detect a witness perjuring himself two or three times, or even once, they cannot accept any of the remainder of his testimony. If some things he says happen to be true, they must be proved by other witnesses. Therefore attacks on the evangelical position are obliged to state the criterion they use in separating the truths of the Bible from its falsehoods. What is this criterion by which, from its superior position, it convicts the Scripture of error? Are the Assyrian inscriptions infallible in matters of history? Is Swedenborg an inerrant authority on Heaven and Hell? Bultmann at least had the consistency to say, ‘We do not know a single thing Jesus ever said or did.’” (1)

The Inerrancy and Historicity of Genesis 1-3, Part 1 by John Yeo:

What is Biblical Inerrancy?

Webster’s Dictionary defines “Inerrancy” as: “exception from error.” It defines “infallible” as “1: incapable of error. 2: not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint. 3. Incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals.” In addition, the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” notes in Article 12: “WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.” According to the same document, divine inspiration pertains only to the original autographs of Scripture (Article 10) and that the Bible’s inerrancy is directly related to its divine inspiration (Article 15).

In Genesis 3:1, the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say … ?” The devil from the outset of creation has attempted to deceive God’s people and to twist His Holy Word. The doctrine of inerrancy—although the word itself is not found in the Bible —has been understood to be an orthodox biblical teaching due to the Scripture’s self-attestation concerning its own veracity. Biblical inerrancy, therefore, is an important doctrine because it safeguards the canonical Scriptures from those who would say that the Bible is only a human product that is “like any other book” full of errors and mythological elements. In contradistinction, the Bible affirms its own truthfulness. The well-respected “Lion of Old Princeton,” B.B. Warfield, was accurate when he pointed out, “[What] Scripture says, God says.” How is this so? Key passages in the Bible reveal this vital truth:

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NASB)

Note that God says that He would raise a prophet and put His words in his mouth. The words that the prophet speaks carry the full weight and authority as if God had spoken them Himself. This description regarding the “office of the prophet” reveals that the prophet was to be the depository of divine revelation. In other words, if the prophet sent by God spoke or wrote, that authoritative word would be binding upon the consciences of its hearers and equivalent to canonical Scripture.

“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2 NASB)

The words God inspired Moses, the Prophet, to speak and write were considered covenantal words, i.e., canonical. As a result, they were not to be tampered with because they had their origin from the very mouth of God.

“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 NASB)

Notice that the word translated “tested” by the NASB is actually the word meaning “to refine” in the Hebrew MT text just as a goldsmith or silversmith would burn off the dross only to reveal the pure nature of the precious metal. The verse may be translated, “Every word of God is pure” (e.g., see the NKJV and Tanakh [Jewish Publication Society] translations). Notice that the warning to add to the canonical Word of God is also reiterated as in Deuteronomy 4:2.

“The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” (Psalm 119:160 NASB)

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NASB)

These two verses declare the veracity of Scripture because they come from God. Note that Jesus Himself in John 17:17 equates the Word of God to truth itself.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)

There is a clear “cause and effect” relationship in these two very important verses. The “cause” is what we’ve already pointed out: Scripture is divinely inspired by God. The “effect” is seen in the way the Scriptures may be applied: “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” In sum, it is clear that the Apostle Paul affirmed the “God breathed-out” quality of “all Scripture” in order that it might serve as the source of all our Christian faith and practice.

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2Peter 1:20-21 NASB)

The Apostle Peter could not have been any clearer: Scripture did not originate in the mind of man, but in God. The Holy Spirit “moved” the writers of Scripture to communicate exactly what He wanted and preserved them from error at the same time (e.g., Proverbs 30:5: “Every Word of God is pure….”).

The force of the biblical passages above proves the logic and validity of the doctrine of inerrancy. In other words, if God had truly inspired the Prophet, Moses, to write on a scroll (as it says in Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22) then it would be more than rational to believe that He could have and would have prevented Moses from mixing error into His Word and to provide exactly what He wanted Moses to record. Thus, the doctrine of inerrancy is not simply a teaching that has been foisted onto the Bible in order to protect it. The Bible declares its own inerrant and authoritative quality so that the people of God might place their full trust in His Word and because His Word is the objective truth of God. (2)

Comments, “Inerrancy,” “Infallibility,” and “Sufficiency” are biblical teachings that stand or fall together:

It is important to see at the start of this study just how closely God is identified with the Scriptures. Consider this example from the book of Romans:

“For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:11)

The apostle Paul in the book of Romans says, “For the Scripture saith.” It is significant to note when you consult Isaiah 28:16 whom the apostle is quoting, you find that it is God speaking.

To establish this further:

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

Then in Romans, we read:

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

Was God speaking or the Scriptures? If there is any doubt, we know for sure after reading “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” Exodus 9:16 says that it is God speaking, whereas, Romans says, “the Scripture saith.”

Therefore, it is clear that God and the Scriptures are so closely identified as to be synonymous. In essence, we learn from these examples, “thus saith the Lord God” and the phrase “the Scriptures saith” can be and are used interchangeably. (Underlining and bolding emphasis mine)

The Biblical view of the Old Testament Scriptures

The scriptural passages in this section of the present study give a biblical rationale for putting confidence in the Word of God. The passages cited in this section from the Old Testament teach that the Old Testament itself is the Word of God. The New Testament passages cited in this section refer to the Old Testament as Scripture or the very Word of God. Because of this, there is no reason to doubt that the Old Testament is the Word of God.

The following five passages speak of the Word of God:

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

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

“Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:13)

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

We see that these five passages set God’s Word apart from the writings of men by the fact that God’s words are “pure,” “a lamp and light,” and are “eternal.” If you despise the Word by rejecting or altering it, you will be destroyed. What man can claim this about his writings?

Furthermore, when reading the Old Testament, there is no mistaking that God is speaking to man beginning in Genesis 1:3 with the phrase “And God said” or the similar phrase “And the Lord said.” Exodus 32:9. In addition, you have God speaking using the familiar terminology “Thus saith the Lord” or “saith the Lord” in places such as Genesis 22:16, Exodus 5:1, all the way to Malachi 1:2. In the prophets we read passages like “And say, Here ye the word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 19:3). There are many variations of these above phrases. In fact, there are many hundreds of Old Testament passages like this, which establish the divine authenticity of the Old Testament.

How does the New Testament view the Old? Consider the importance of the following New Testament verse:

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

Searching the Scriptures daily should be the practice of all believers. The believers in Berea used the Scriptures as a test for the truth or falsity of a given message and are commended for this practice. In this particular instance, the Bereans were commended for examining even the Apostle Paul’s message. Surely, this gives the individual Christian the basis for questioning church doctrine if not established biblically. This verse from Acts 17:11 deals primarily with the Old Testament Scriptures since at this stage in redemptive history the New Testament was in the process of being given and compiled. Because of this, we can infer that the Old Testament is the Word of God. It was the Old Testament that was searched by the Bereans to see if Paul’s message was true.

Consider the words of Christ himself when speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures:

“…the Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)

The Sufficiency of Scriptures:

The self-evident testimony of the Scriptures is that they are sufficient. The Scriptures are entirely adequate to meet the needs of the believer. This teaching is all over the face of the Scriptures. The believer can have confidence in the Scriptures. God’s Words are described as “pure,” “perfect,” “a light,” and “eternal.” This conclusion is one that can be drawn from or deduced from the Scriptures by good and necessary consequence. Reliability and sufficiency go hand in hand. An insufficient or incomplete document is not reliable. (3)

B. B. Warfield observations Inerrancy:

“The religion of the Bible thus announces itself, not as the product of men’s search after God, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him, but as the creation in men of the gracious God, forming a people for Himself, that they may show forth His praise.”

“What is important to recognize is that the Scriptures themselves represent the Scriptures as not merely containing here and there the record of revelations—“words of God,”—given by God, but as themselves, in all their extent, a revelation, an authoritative body of gracious instructions from God; or, since the alone, of all the revelations which God may have given, are extant—rather as the Revelation, the only “Word of God” accessible to men, in all their parts “law,” that is, authoritative instruction from God.” (4)

A Short Account of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church. (5)

For the complete statement of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, see ***

Sola Scriptura from the Belgic Confession 7:

Belgic Confession 7: The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to Be the Only Rule of Faith

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For, since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures; nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul saith. For, since it is forbidden to add unto or take away any thing from the Word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.

Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees, or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, Try the spirits whether they are of God. Likewise, if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house.

In closing:


Quite a few people have suggested that “inerrant” is not a good word to use in describing Scripture. This article is designed to respond to that objection. Before we take up the specific term “inerrant,” however, it will be well for us to remind ourselves, in more general terms, of what the Reformed faith and the Bible itself teach us about Scripture.

First, Scripture is the covenant constitution of the people of God.1 The first written Word of God, the first Bible, was the Ten Commandments, written by the very finger of God on tables of stone (Ex. 24:12, 31:18, 32:15f, 34:1). In it, God speaks as the author of the document: “I am the Lord your God.” That written Word was put in the holiest place in Israel, beside the Ark of the Covenant, where it was to stand as God’s witness against Israel (Deut. 31:26).2 As such, the written Word was to govern every aspect of the lives of God’s people (Deut. 4:1-14, 5:32-6:25).3 Nearly every chapter in Deuteronomy urges the people to obey all the laws, testimonies, statutes, commandments, and words… (such eloquent redundancy!) Of God’s written Word. Nearly every verse of Psalm 119 calls God’s people back to these statutes; revival in Israel is always a revival of obedience to (sometimes rediscovery of) the law.

Beyond the Decalogue, God gave other Words to his people. The song of Moses in Deut. 32 (see 31:19) is such a Word. Words of Joshua were later added (Josh. 24:25f). And God sent prophets; the very definition of a prophet was that he proclaimed God’s Word, not words of his own devising (Deut. 18:18-20). Many of these prophecies were written down. Jesus regarded the whole Old Testament as God’s written Word (Matt. 5:17-19, John 5:45, 10:33-36), as did the apostles (Rom. 15:4, II Tim. 3:16, II Pet. 1:21, Jas. 4:5, 11).

The New Testament is a New Covenant, and thus it involves the giving of divine Words (Matt. 7:24-27, Mark 8:38, John 6:68f, 12:47ff, 14:15, 21, 23f, 15:7, 10, 14, 17:6, 17, I John 2:3-5, 3:22, 5:2f, II John 6, I Tim. 6:3, Rev. 12:17, 14:12). Jesus himself wrote no books, but he provided for his apostles to speak and write for God (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13, I Cor. 2:10-13, 4:1, 14:37, Gal. 1:1, 11f, 16, 2:2). By the Holy Spirit’s witness and the content of the books themselves, Christians recognize the New Testament, as they do the Old, as God’s book.

Thus the church has historically confessed that Scripture is the Word of God. It is God speaking to us. There are also human authors of Scripture, and the content of Scripture reflects their personalities, styles, and experiences. But the humanity of Scripture does not mean that Scripture has less authority than, say, the divine voice at Mount Sinai. The authority of Scripture is nothing less than the authority of God himself, as the passages cited earlier clearly demonstrate.

We have, therefore, no right to bring negative criticism against the Bible. As the Belgic Confession states, with the canonical books “there can be no quarrel at all,” (Article 4), “we believe without a doubt all things contained in them…” (Article 5), and “the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects” (Article 7). When God speaks to us, we dare not criticize what he says. Our only recourse is to believe and to obey.

Now, what of inerrancy? Well, the inerrancy of Scripture is certainly implied in what I have said already, if we are permitted to take “inerrancy” in its normal, dictionary meaning. “Inerrant” simply means “without error,” or “true” in the sense that we normally speak of true sentences, true doctrines, true accounts, true principles. Were God to speak to us in person, “directly,” none of us would dare to charge him with error. Errors arise from ignorance or deceit; and our God is neither ignorant, nor is he a deceiver. Similarly, we dare not charge his written Word with error.

This is not a mere “modern” position. As we have seen, it is the position of Scripture itself. Augustine in the fifth century declared, “None of these (scriptural) authors has erred in any respect of writing.” Infallibility4 is affirmed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 and in the Belgic Confession, Article 7.

Shall we speak today of biblical “inerrancy?” The term does, to be sure, produce confusion in some circles. Some theologians have gone far astray from the dictionary meaning of “inerrant.” James Orr, for example, defined “inerrant” as “hard and fast literality in minute matters of historical, geographical, and scientific detail.”5 Well, if “inerrancy” requires literalism, then we should renounce inerrancy; for the Bible is not always to be interpreted literally. Certainly there are important questions of Bible interpretation that one bypasses if he accepts biblical inerrancy in this sense.

But we should remember that Orr’s use of the term, and the similar uses of contemporary theologians, are distortions of its meaning. Perhaps those distortions have become so frequent today as to inhibit the usefulness of the term. For the time being, however, I would like to keep the term, and explain to people who question me that I am not using it in Orr’s sense, but rather to confess the historic faith of the church.

We do have a problem here: Other things being equal, I would prefer to drop all extra-scriptural terms including “infallible” and “inerrant” and simply speak, as Scripture does, of God’s Word being true. That’s all we mean, after all, when we say Scripture is inerrant. But modern theologians won’t let me do that. They redefine “truth so that it refers to some big theological notion6 , and they will not permit me to use it as meaning “correctness” or “accuracy” or “reliability.” So I try the word “infallible,” a historical expression that, as I indicated in a footnote above, is actually a stronger term than “inerrancy.” But again, modern theologians7 insist on redefining that word also, so that it actually says less than “inerrancy.”

Now what is our alternative? Even “accuracy” and “reliability” have been distorted by theological pre-emption. “Correctness” seems too trivial to express what we want to say. So, although the term is overly technical and subject to some misunderstanding, I intend to keep the word “inerrant” as a description of God’s Word, and I hope that my readers will do the same. The idea, of course, is more important than the word. If I can find better language that expresses the biblical doctrine to modern hearers, I will be happy to use that and drop “inerrancy.” But at this moment, “inerrancy” has no adequate replacement. To drop the term in the present situation, then, can involve compromising the doctrine, and that we dare not do. God will not accept or tolerate negative human judgments concerning his holy Word. So I conclude: yes, the Bible is inerrant.

John Frame’s Foot Notes:

1. Some will be pleased to see that I am not arguing as a “fundamentalist” ala the fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century, but very much in the Reformed tradition, expounding the implications of God’s covenant with us. Others will not.

2. It is not men’s witness to God, as theologians often suggest, but God’s witness against men.

3. For more on the concept of Scripture as covenant constitution, see M. G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972). This is a very important, though much neglected study.

4. If we are permitted, again, to use the dictionary — and why shouldn’t theologians use the dictionary!? — “infallible” is a stronger term than “inerrant.” “Inerrant” means there are no errors; “infallible” means there can be no errors.

5. Orr, “Revelation and Inspiration,” in Millard Erickson, ed., The Living God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), p. 245.

6. Emil Brunner’s “Truth as Encounter.”

7. e.g. J. Rogers and D. McKim, in The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979). (6)


1. Gordon H. Clark, The Pastoral Epistles 1 and 2 Timothy, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 183-184.

2. John Yeo, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Inerrancy and Historicity of Genesis 1-3, Part 1 https://theologicalmatters.com/…/the-inerrancy-and-histori…/

3. Jack Kettler, The Religion that Started in a Hat, adapted from Chapter 1, “Sola Scriptura,” (Maitland, Florida, MCP Books), pp. 10, 11, 37.

4. Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company), pp. 72, 101.

5. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition http: //www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html

6. John Frame, IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 4, Number 19, May 13 to May 20, 2002

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* CARM Theological Dictionary: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

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

The Inerrancy of the Bible by Gordon H. Clark http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/…/AudioTranscript33.TheIn…

The Inerrancy of the Autographa by Greg L. Bahnsen https://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pt042.htm

The Case For Inerrancy: A Methodological Analysis by R. C. Sproul http://www.ccel.us/godsinerrantword.ch11.html

The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture by Cornelius Van Til https://presupp101.files.wordpress.com/…/van-til-the-protes…

*** Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html

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Thoughts on God’s Existence and the futility of Atheism

Thoughts on God’s Existence and the futility of Atheism                                                    by Jack Kettler


In this article, there will be some distinctive quotes about atheism. First, there will be quotes against atheism, then interaction of quotes from atheists and quotes critical of atheism. Following the section on quotations will be commentary and analysis.


Note: In most cases, the source of many quotations are not listed since the citations herein are readily available on the internet.


Definition of Atheism


a’-the-iz’-m (atheos), without God and not any God of any depiction has ever existed.


The Scriptures declare:


“The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.” (Psalms 14:1)


“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” (Psalms 19:1)


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 ESV)


Introductory observations:


According to the apostle, this truth of our knowledge of God is stamped upon the consciences of all mankind. God has engraved it upon their conscience. When interacting with atheists, we are not dealing with lack of evidence for God; we are dealing with the suppression of evidence. All of the evidence in the world will convince an atheist.


There is no God, says the atheist absolutely. The atheists has no basis for claiming absolutes, therefore, he is involved in a self-refuting contradiction. In addition, the atheist’s assertion is a universal negative and impossible to prove in terms of how it is advanced by the atheist. One cannot prove a general broad claim that is a “negative” claim. Since the atheist is finite, he cannot really be sure of his assertion, which requires infinite knowledge.


Quotations to provoke thoughts:


“God is that, the greater than which cannot be conceived.” – Anselm of Canterbury


“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton


“Agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality.” – Cornelius Van Til


“By this rejection of God, agnosticism has embraced complete relativism. Yet this relativism must furnish a basis for the rejection of the absolute. Accordingly, the standard of self-contradiction taken for granted by antitheistic thought presupposes the absolute for its operation. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist.” – Cornelius Van Til


“When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.” – Greg Bahnsen


“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.” – Michio Kaku


“The greatest artists, saints, philosophers, and, until quite recent times, scientists… have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid…. I’d rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr. Johnson, Blake, and Dostoevsky than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H. G. Wells, and Bernard Shaw.” – Malcolm Muggeridge


“Atheism cheapens everything it touches-look at the results of communism, the most powerful form of atheism on earth.” – Peter Kreeft


“But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


“Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


The next four quotations show a connection of philosophies that are relevant:


“We were taught that atheistic historical materialism was built on the three major scientific discoveries of the 19thcentury, namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics, the cell theory in biology, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was said of Darwin’s Origin of Species: ‘Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views.’” – Dr. Yingguang Liu


“Chinese socialism is founded upon Darwin” – Mao Tse-Tung


“Darwinism was to Nazism and communism like fuel and spark to fire. Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Jong II, and all communist despots past and present have been committed scientific materialists. They shut down churches and promoted atheism, exalted Darwinism and promoted evolutionary theory as the scientific rationalization for the state and the ethical justification for their brutal policies.” – Russell Grigg


“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” – G. K. Chesterton


“One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death.” – Jennifer Fulwiler


“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics, as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” – Frank Tipler


“I remember how frustrated I became when, as a young atheist; I examined specimens under the microscope. I would often walk away and try to convince myself that I was not seeing examples of extraordinary design, but merely the product of some random, unexplained mutations.” – Rick Oliver


“A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” – Francis Bacon


“I now believe there is a God…I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.” “…we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience and that only a deliberate refusal to “look” is responsible for atheism of any variety.” – Antony Flew


“The atheist is cheating whenever he makes a moral judgment, acting as though it has an objective reference, when his philosophy in fact precludes it.” – William A. Dembski


“A universe whose only claim to be believed in rests on the validity of inference must not start telling us the inference is invalid.” – C.S. Lewis


“Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.” – Alister McGrath


“Atheists themselves used to be very comfortable in maintaining that the universe is eternal and uncaused. The problem is that they can no longer hold that position because modern evidence that the universe started with the Big Bang. So they can’t legitimately object when I make the same claim about God-he is eternal and he is uncaused.” – William Lane Craig


“If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. It cuts its own throat.” – C.S. Lewis


“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?” – Ravi Zacharias


“You think you are too intelligent to believe in God. I am not like you.” – Napoleon Bonaparte


“I don’t understand how, up to now, an atheist could know there is no God and not kill himself at once.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky


“Atheism: It seeks to replace in itself the moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky


“If the laws of logic are metaphysically dependent on God, it follows that every logical argument presupposes the existence of God. What this means is that every sound theistic argument not only proves the existence of God but also presupposes the existence of God, insofar as that argument depends on logical inference. Indeed, every unsound theistic argument presupposes the existence of God. And the same goes, naturally, for every antitheistic argument. The irony must not be missed: one can logically argue against God only if God exists.” – Dale Tuggy and Greg Welty paraphrasing Van Til


Atheist and Christian Ideas Contrasted:


“That scientific inference requires, for its validity, principles, which experience cannot render even probable is, I believe, an inescapable conclusion from the logic of probability. . . .   “Knowledge,” in my opinion, is a much less precise concept than is generally thought, and has its roots more deeply embedded in unverbalized animal behavior than most philosophers have been willing to admit. . . . To ask, therefore, whether we “know” the postulates of scientific inference is no so definite a question as it seems. . . .   In the sense in which “no” is the right answer we know nothing whatsoever, and “knowledge” in this sense is a delusive vision. The perplexities of philosophers are due, in a large measure, to their unwillingness to awaken from this blissful dream.” – Bertrand Russell


“Modern science boldly asks for a criterion of meaning when one speaks to him of Christ. He assumes that he himself has a criterion, a principle of verification and of falsification, by which he can establish for himself a self-supporting island floating on a shoreless sea. But when he is asked to show his criterion as it functions in experience, every fact is indeterminate, lost in darkness; no one can identify a single fact, and all logic is like a sun that is always behind the clouds.” – Cornelius Van Til


“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” –

Aldous Huxley


“That which is called humanism, but what would be more correctly called irreligious anthropocentrism, [atheism] cannot yield answers to the most essential questions of our life.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


“I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discoverable in mathematics, it would be in a new field of mathematics, with more solid foundations than those that had hitherto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.” – Bertrand Russell


“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz, we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.” – Douglas Wilson


“There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness, anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing.” – Bertrand Russell


“Humanism or atheism is a wonderful philosophy of life as long as you are big, strong, and between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. But watch out if you are in a lifeboat and there are others who are younger, bigger, or smarter.” – William Murray


“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” –

William Provine


“To say that something is wrong because… it is forbidden by God, is…. perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong… even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable… The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” – Richard Taylor


“There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” “The hard answer is it [a moral decision] is a matter of opinion.” – David Silverman


“Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.” – R.C. Sproul


“What (Stephen) Hawking says in his book The Grand Design is the universe exists because it needed to exist, and because it needed to exist, it therefore created itself. His conclusion merely restates his premise, which means his argument is circular. Nonsense is nonsense, even when spoken by famous scientists.” – John Lennox


“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self-evident… Christianity is a system.” [When getting rid of Christian morality] “Everything is permitted.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


“I am convinced that when Nietzsche came to Switzerland and went insane, it was not because of venereal disease, though he did have this disease. Rather, it was because he understood that insanity was the only philosophic answer if the infinite-personal God does not exist.” – Francis A. Schaeffer


“If there is no God, why bother to tell the truth? Why not steal?” – Ben Stein


“If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky


“Apparently it was just an amazing coincidence that every Communist of historical note publicly declared his atheism … .there have been twenty-eight countries in world history that can be confirmed to have been ruled by regimes with avowed atheists at the helm … These twenty-eight historical regimes have been ruled by eighty-nine atheists, of whom more than half have engaged in democidal acts of the sort committed by Stalin and Mao … .” – Vox Day


“To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.” – Ravi Zacharias


“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?… Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying; it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” – C.S. Lewis


This next entry by Cornelius Van Til explains the psychology of unbelief:


“Agnosticism is, in the first place, psychologically self-contradictory upon its own assumptions. Agnosticism wants to hold that it is reasonable to refrain from thorough epistemological speculations because they cannot lead to anything. But in order to assume this attitude, agnosticism has itself made the most tremendous intellectual assertion that could be made about ultimate things. In the second place, agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality. . . . the alternative is not between saying something about ultimate reality or not saying anything about it, but that the alternative is rather between saying one thing about it or another. Every human being, as a matter of fact, says something about ultimate reality.


It should be noted that those who claim to say nothing about ultimate reality not only do say something about it just as well as everybody else, but they have assumed for themselves the responsibility of saying one definite thing about ultimate reality. They have assumed the responsibility of excluding God. We have seen again that a God who is to come in afterward is no God at all. Agnosticism cannot say that it is open-minded on the question of the nature of ultimate reality. It is absolutely closed-minded on the subject. It has one view that it cannot, unless its own assumption be denied, exchange for another. It has started with the assumption of the non-existence of God and must end with it. Its so-called open-minded attitude is therefore a closed-minded attitude. The agnostic must be open-minded and closed-minded at the same time. And this is not only a psychological self-contradiction, but an epistemological self-contradiction. It amounts to affirmation and denial at the same time. Accordingly, they cancel out one another, if there is cancellation power in them. . .


Incidentally, we may point out that, in addition to being psychologically and epistemologically self-contradictory, the agnostic is morally self-contradictory. His contention was that he is very humble, and for that reason unwilling to pretend to know anything about ultimate matters. Yet he has by implication made a universal statement about reality. He therefore not only claims to know as much as the theist knows, but he claims to know much more. More than that, he not only claims to know much more than the theist, but he claims to know more than the theist’s God. He has boldly set bare possibility above the theist’s God and is quite willing to test the consequences of his action. It is thus that the hubris of which the Greeks spoke so much, and upon which they invoked the wrath of the gods, appears in new and seeming innocent garb.” (1)


Gordon H. Clark on the Atheist’s Argument, abridged:


“The reader of this may expect to find a straightforward refutation of atheism. But he may be disappointed, for the situation is somewhat complicated. In the first place, one might accuse the atheist of never having proved that the physical universe is the only reality and that there are no supernatural beings. This would be satisfactory, if the term atheism means the argued denial of a Deity. But atheists, like agnostics, shift the burden of proof and say the theist is under obligation to demonstrate the truth of his view; but the atheist considers himself under no such obligation. Atheists usually wobble back and forward. Yet, Ernest Nagel, who may be called a naturalist in philosophy, seems to argue: “the occurrence of events [he means each and every event without exception]…is contingent on the organization of spatio-temporally located bodies…. That this is so is one of the best-tested conclusions of experience…. There is no place for an immaterial spirit directing the course of events, no place for the survival of personality after the corruption of the body which exhibits it.”


This is an atheistic, not an agnostic, statement. He argues that science has proved the nonexistence of God, but the argument is invalid. No scientist has ever produced any evidence that man’s intellect ceases to function at death. Since his methods have not discovered any spirit, Nagel assumes there can be none. He refuses to question his methods. Atheism is not a conclusion developed by his methods; rather it is the assumption on which his methods are based. (2)


From the Dictionary of Theological Terms: Arguments for God’s Existence (Traditional)


“The evidences produced, by the use of logic, in favour of God’s existence. Some have held that by one or other of these arguments the existence of God can be demonstrated or proved. Others hold that a demonstration is not possible, but that the accumulated weight of the evidence from all the arguments confirms belief in God’s existence. Still others give even less credibility to all logical arguments on the subject and hold that God’s existence is a truth revealed to, and received by, faith alone.


The arguments most often used in favour of God’s existence are as follows:


  1. The a priori argument argues from cause to effect and is based on “self-evident truths,” or upon essential laws of human intelligence. From these principles, it labours to show that belief in God is a logical necessity.


  1. The ontological argument of Anselm—i.e., Anselm’s argument from the nature of being or existence. Recognizing the difference between absolute, perfect being, and relative, imperfect being, he argued in the form of a syllogism.


Major premise: The human mind possesses the idea of an absolutely perfect being.


Minor premise: Absolute perfection of being implies necessity of existence (for that which must exist is of a higher order than that which may exist).


Conclusion: An absolutely perfect being does exist—for that which must exist, does exist.


  1. The cosmological or a posteriori argument argues from effect to cause. It proceeds: Every effect must have a cause adequate to produce it. The world, or the universe, is an effect and, therefore, must have an adequate cause. The only cause capable of producing such an effect is an all-powerful, eternal Creator, God.


  1. The teleological argument is the argument from design. The universe bears evident marks of design or purpose; everywhere there is a wise and skillful adaptation of means to end. But design presupposes an intelligent designer, God.


  1. The moral argument considers the phenomena of conscience in the human soul and the universal feeling of accountability and dependence in men (the religious sentiment). It is argued that this sentiment is common to the moral constitution of all men, and if God does not exist, this universal conscience is a lie. Thus, the primary sources of our belief in God are built into our moral constitution.


  1. The historical argument shows three things: (a) that the human race is not eternal—that it had a beginning, or was created; (b) that the providential presence of God is evident in human history; (c) that it has been the universal consent of all men of all races throughout all history that God exists.


  1. The Scriptural argument uses the evident supernatural origin of the Bible, its miracles, its prophecies, and the beneficial effects it always produces wherever it is introduced as proofs that the God of the Bible does indeed exist.


In all such arguments, the danger to be avoided is that of assuming man’s ability to be a competent judge and interpreter of the facts. All argument starts with some presupposition. To presuppose the ultimacy of human reason and interpretation is to deny the ultimacy of God and the fallen state of man. On the presupposition of the ontological Trinity, each form of argument has merit and appears in Scripture. But on any other presupposition, no argument can demonstrate the truth of God’s existence, for truth cannot be established by presupposing a lie.


A consistently Christian way of arguing for God’s existence rests on the implications of God’s revelation of Himself as the I AM. God is. He is not one fact among others, to be proved as a mathematical formula or logical proposition may be proved. He is not the most probable way of explaining the observable data of the universe that may be satisfactorily interpreted without reference to Him at all. He is the necessary ground of all facts and all predication. The only reason there is anything to know, and the only reason anything has any meaning so as to be knowable, is the reality that God is. He is back of all the facts of the universe, giving them reality and meaning (John 1:1–3; Col. 1:17). Nothing can exist apart from Him. We do not think of any fact rightly unless we see it as a God-created fact. Thus David, in considering the heavens, spoke to the Lord of “thy heavens, the work of thy fingers” (Psa. 8:3). Those who study God-created facts apart from the God who created them simply take what Cornelius Van Til calls God’s capital and invest or use it in illicit ways.


Because of the truth of this line of argument, we may say that it is only the presupposition of the great I AM that the facts of the universe “fit.” If they find their true meaning in God their Creator they cannot be consistently interpreted on any other basis than the acceptance of God’s existence. Without God, they become a meaningless jumble (see Atheism). Thus, one of the uses of rational argument is to shew that any other presupposition than that of the ontological Trinity of Scripture is incapable of making sense of the facts of the universe. It is only because God is that anything is (Psa. 19:1–3; Rom. 1:19–20).” (3)


The Irrefutable Transcendental Argument:


  1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).
  2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities, which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.
  3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn’t, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.


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


Presuppositionalism and its response to Atheism:


“‎People have presuppositions… By ‘presuppositions’, we mean the basic way that an individual looks at life- his worldview. The grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. A person’s presuppositions provide the basis for their values- and therefore the basis for their decisions.” – Francis A. Schaeffer


Worldview apologetics or presuppositionalism sets forth the biblical basis for Christianity and then by contrasting it with other worldviews and establishing its superiority. It points out and questions the inconsistencies and absurdities of alternative worldviews. It does this by using the reductio ad absurdum argument.


How presuppositionalists start by Gordon H. Clark: The Axiom of Scripture:


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


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


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


The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity being based on an indemonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so may Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be that God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.” (4)


Clark continues:


“Logically the infallibility of the Bible is not a theorem to be deduced from some prior axiom. The infallibility of the Bible is the axiom from which several doctrines are themselves deduced as theorems. Every religion and every philosophy must be based on some first principle. And since a first principle is first, it cannot be “proved” or “demonstrated” on the basis of anything prior. As the catechism question, quoted above, says, “The Word of God is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify Him.” (5)


To paraphrase the Christian starting principle by Gordon H. Clark:


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

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

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

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

Why the atheist cannot find God:

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

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

Atheists refuse to acknowledge how their system works:

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

Pressing the antithesis:

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

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

Unanswerable questions for the atheist:

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

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

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

Pressing the antithesis further:

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

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

For the atheist, there is ultimately only irrationalism:

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

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

The Christian Solution to knowledge:

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

The following picture illustrates the atheist and other non-believers dilemma.
The following picture illustrates the atheist’s impossible escape to nowhere. Picture credit **

At this point, the atheist needs to be confronted with the consequence of his unbelief. Hence,


Pascal’s Wager:


(1) It is possible that the Christian God exists and it is possible that the Christian God does not exist.


(2) If one believes in the Christian God then if he exists then one receives an infinitely great reward and if he does not exist then one loses little or nothing.


(3) If one does not believe in the Christian God then if he exists then one receives an infinitely great punishment and if he does not exist then one gains little or nothing.


(4) It is better to either receive an infinitely great reward or lose little or nothing than it is to either receive an infinitely great punishment or gain little or nothing.




(5) It is better to believe in the Christian God than it is not to believe in the Christian God.


(6) If one course of action is better than another then it is rational to follow that course of action and irrational to follow the other.




(7) It is rational to believe in the Christian God and irrational not to believe in the Christian God.


In other words:


“Pascal therefore proposes a wager, Either God exists or He does not. The agnostic professes that human reason cannot decide which alternative is true. But one must be true, the other must be false. Which one will you accept? The agnostic cannot refuse to make a decision; he cannot refuse to wager; he is already wagering. Whether he lives or dies, he either believes in God or he does not.


Now, if he does not believe in God, and he wins, he gains nothing. If he does not believe in God, and he loses, he loses eternal blessedness. The agnostic therefore has nothing to win and everything to lose. If, however, a man wagers on God and loses, he loses nothing; but if he wins, he wins an infinite reward. The believer, therefore, has nothing to lose and everything to win. How then can anyone who is the least interested in his own welfare accept agnosticism?” – Gordon H. Clark


The Gospel in a nutshell:


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


In closing:


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


The Suicide of Thought by G. K. Chesterton:


“But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore, he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything.


“For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.


“Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself.


“He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself.


“A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble [mock scepter of office], and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble.


“The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts.


“In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics, he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics, he attacks morality for trampling on men.


“Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” – G.K. Chesterton (6)


In agreement with Chesterton:


“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.” – T. S. Eliot




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


Personal comments above should NOT be understood as being original. Biblical and philosophical indebtedness for the above comments go to Francis A. Schaeffer, Gordon H. Clark, Ronald H. Nash, Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen and R.J. Rushdoony! It has been attempted to re-state the biblical and philosophical genius of the above named!




  1. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1970), pp. 213-214.
  2. Gordon H. Clark, Atheism, Trinity Review, (Unicoi, Tennessee, The Trinity Foundation)
  3. Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International 2002), p. 39-40.
  4. Gordon H. Clark, In Defense of Theology, (Fenton, Michigan, Mott Media, Inc. Publishers, 1984), pp. 31-33.
  5. Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed 1985), pg. 18.
  6. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 3, “The suicide of thought”, Kindle edition.


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


Agnosticism by Gordon H. Clark http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/agnosticism-by-gordon-h-clark/


* The Great Debate: Christian philosopher Greg Bahnsen debates atheist Gordon Stein at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGAazNCfdY


** Van Til’s Copernican Revolution Van Til’s Waterman-slide picture curtesy of


Summary of Dr. Alan Myatt’s Conversations with atheists at http://www.myatts.net/articles/atheists10.html


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Did Christ come soon as He predicted in Matthew 24:34?

If you are an inflexible eschatological dispensationalist, you may want to take a pass on reading this article.

Did Christ come soon as He predicted in Matthew 24:34? Jack Kettler

In this study, biblical texts will be consulted that have Jesus saying in the first century that He is coming soon or quickly. How are these texts to be understood? The passages surveyed in this study are a small sampling of Scriptures of this nature. As in previous studies, lexical, and commentary, evidence will be consulted.

The Words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Matthew 10:23)

Strong’s Greek 2064:

erchomai: to come, go

Original Word: ἔρχομαι

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: erchomai

Phonetic Spelling: (er’-khom-ahee)

Definition: to come, go

Usage: I come, go.

“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34; and Mark 13:30)

This passage from Matthew, which is repeated by Mark, is of particular importance in this study. Did Jesus make a mistake in this passage regarding the time of “all these things being fulfilled, which included His coming? See Mathew 10:23 and 24:1-33. If the word “generation” is taken at face value, one can wonder how the fulfillment predicted by Jesus happened.

For example, C.S. Lewis’ comments on Matthew 24:34 may come as a shock:

“Say what you like,” we shall be told [by some critics]; “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘This generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’ The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side.” (1)

Shockingly, Lewis believed Christ was “wrong” and Matthew 24:34 according to Lewis, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” Is it possible to preserve the literal integrity of the passage and see its first-century fulfillment? How so?

The meaning of “generation” is crucial to have a proper understanding of the passage. If “generation” is understood in the normal way of approximately 40 years, then the fulfillment of Christ’s prediction is imminent and not thousands of years in the future. Lewis, while a brilliant scholar, nevertheless, was inexcusably ignorant with the many commentators through history who saw the fulfillment of the Matthew prophecy in the first century, not in some distant time in the future. Matthew 24:34 is fulfilled in the coming of Christ in judgment upon apostate Judaism in the first century with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Romans. Christ was not talking about the second coming at the end of history in Matthew 24:34. In Matthew chapter 24 and the similar passages from Mark and Luke, deals with the genera of biblical literature, namely, “apocalyptic.” In portions of the book of Daniel, and Revelation we see the same genera. Apocalyptic literature is distinct from didactic, historical narrative or poetical. The rules for interpretation are different.

One approach to reconcile this apparent contradiction that Lewis perceived has been to argue that the word “generation” could be understood to mean race, referring to the Jewish people and that their race would endure until the fulfillment of the prophecy in the distant future. As we survey the lexical material, it will be seen that this a strained interpretation of the word “generation.” There are many passages in the gospels if using this interpretation of “generation” would be completely absurd. See commentary evidence below.

The word generation is crucial to a proper understanding of the passage. An extended overview is in order:

STRONGS NT 1074: γενεά

The original word for “this generation” is genea.

Strong’s concordance for this shows:

1) Fathered, birth, nativity

2) That which has been begotten, men of the same stock, a family

a) The several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a genealogy

b) metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character

1) esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation

3) The whole multitude of men living at the same time

4) An age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a space of 30 – 33 years

Generation from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

jen-er-a’-shun (Latin generatio, from genero, “beget”):

(1) The translation (a) of dor, “circle,” “generation,” hence, “age,” “period,” “cycle”: “many generations” (De 32:7); (b) the people of any particular period or those born about the same time: “Righteous before me in this generation” (Ge 7:1); “four generations” (Job 42:16); (c) the people of a particular class or sort, with some implied reference to hereditary quality; the wicked (De 32:5; Pr 30:11); the righteous (Ps 14:5; 112:2).

(2) toledhoth, “births,’ hence (a) an account of a man and his descendants: “The book of the generations of Adam” (Ge 5:1); (b) successive families: “The families of the sons of Noah, after their generations” (Ge 10:32); (c) genealogical divisions: “The children of Reuben …. their generations, by their families” (Nu 1:20); (d) figurative, of the origin and early history of created things: “The generations of the heavens and of the earth” (Ge 2:4).

(3) genea, “a begetting,” “birth,” “nativity,” therefore (a) the successive members of a genealogy: “All the generations from Abraham unto David” (Mt 1:17); (b) a race, or class, distinguished by common characteristics, always (in the New Testament) bad: “Faithless and perverse generation” (Mt 17:17); (c) the people of a period: “This generation shall not pass away” (Lu 21:32); (d) an age (the average lifetime, 33 years): “Hid for (Greek “from the”) ages and (from the) generations” (Col 1:26). The term is also by a figurative transference of thought applied to duration in eternity: “Unto all generations for ever and ever” (Eph. 3:21) (Greek “all the generations of the age of the ages”).

(4) genesis, “source,” “origin”: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Mt 1:1; the American Revised Version, margin “The genealogy of Jesus Christ”).

(5) gennema, “offspring,” “progeny”; figurative: “O generation of vipers” (Lu 3:7 the King James Version).

(6) genos, “stock,” “race,” in this case spiritual: “But ye are a chosen generation” (1Pe 2:9; the American Standard Revised Version “an elect race”). Philip Wendell Crannell (2)

Getting back to C.S. Lewis. Is there a solution to what Lewis saw as a mistake on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ? There is, but not by equating “generation” with race. This translation of “generation” is an uncommon and forced exegesis of the passage in Matthew 24:34. The solution is in the plain everyday literal usage of “generation.” Taking the word “generation” literally is not a problem for Bible interpreters.

Consider the next several commentary entries:

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Matthew 24:34:

“(34) This generation shall not pass. . . .—The natural meaning of the words is, beyond question. That which takes “generation” in the ordinary sense (as in Matthew 1:17, Acts 13:36, and elsewhere) for those who are living at any given period. So it was on “this generation” (Matthew 23:36) that the accumulated judgments were to fall. The desire to bring the words into more apparent harmony with history has led some interpreters to take “generation” in the sense of “race” or “people,” and so to see in the words a prophecy of the perpetuity of the existence of the Jews as a distinct people till the end of the world. But for this meaning there is not the shadow of authority; nor does it remove the difficulty which it was invented to explain. The words of Matthew 16:28 state the same fact in language, which does not admit of any such explanation.

Till all these things be fulfilled.—Better, till all these things come to pass.” (3)

“Some have sought to get around the force of this text by saying that the word generation here really means race, and that Jesus was simply saying that the Jewish race would not die out until all these things took place. Is that true? I challenge you: Get out your concordance and look up every New Testament occurrence of the word generation (in Greek, genea) and see if it ever means ‘race’ in any other context. Here are all the references for the Gospels: Matthew 1:17; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19; 13:30; Luke 1:48, 50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51; 18:8; 17:25; 21:32.Not one of these references is speaking of the entire Jewish race over thousands of years; all use the word in its normal sense of the sum total of those living at the same time. It always refers to contemporaries. (In fact, those who say it means “race” tend to acknowledge this fact, but explain that the word suddenly changes its meaning when Jesus uses it in Matthew 24! We can smile at such a transparent error, but we should also remember that this is very serious. We are dealing with the Word of the living God.).” (4)

“First, “this generation” always means the generation to whom Jesus is speaking. It is the contemporary generation, the generation alive at the hearing of Jesus’ words… Those who deny that ‘this generation’ refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking in the Matthew 24 context must maintain that “this generation” means something different from the way it is used in other places in Matthew and the rest of the New Testament!” (5)

“The most critical portion of this text is Jesus’ declaration that ‘this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (6)

Matthew 24 Commentary That Generation Shall Not Pass, a Summary and Highlights:

“In Matthew 24:34, Jesus declares, “[T]his generation shall not pass” until a series of events transpire–including the second coming. Did Jesus mean “this generation will not pass away” or “that generation shall not pass away,” was Matthew 24 fulfilled in the first century? Two first century Roman historians record a supernatural event that was seen in the sky at the start of the Jewish War with Rome, in A.D. 66, that appears to fulfill Biblical prophecy concerning the second coming. Almost immediately thereafter, the Roman Historian Cassius Dio records a mass vision of a multitude of spiritual bodies coming out of the earth at the sound of a trumpet in what appears to be a literal resurrection of the dead that same year in fulfillment of Matthew 24:31. These two events marked the start of the worst war Israel ever faced. As a result of this war, the Roman army worshipped the beast and his image on the ensigns within the Temple and then destroyed it in A.D. 70 such that “not one stone [was] left on another” in fulfillment of Matthew 24:2 and Matthew 24:15. Around this time, the saints, including the disciples, were martyred in Jerusalem and Rome; the sun and moon were darkened; many false messiahs and false prophets appeared; and there were earthquakes, famines, wars and rumors of wars. Jesus was right. “This [first century] generation [did] not pass until all” the predictions in this chapter literally occurred! For a detailed explanation of the historical events that fulfill seemingly every detail of every prediction in this chapter see the following commentary on Matthew 24.” (7)

* For the full commentary, see link below.

From the New Bible Commentary on related passages from Mark and Luke:

(On Mark 13 and Luke 21)

“These verses are often understood as referring to the parousia, and thus as moving to the second part of the disciples’ question. But immediately after does not leave room for a long delay, nor does the explicit time-scale given in v 34. The word parousia does not occur in this section but is prominently reintroduced in the new paragraph which begins at v 36, where its unknown time is contrasted with the clear statement that the events of this paragraph will take place within this generation. This section is therefore in direct continuity with what has gone before, the account of the siege of Jerusalem. Here we reach its climax.

The words of vs 29–31 are almost entirely woven together from OT prophetic texts. V 29 is drawn from Is. 13:10 and 34:4, where the language of cosmic upheaval symbolized the political fall of pagan nations. The language about the Son of Man coming on the clouds is drawn from Dn. 7:13–14, which, as we have already seen (on 10:23; 16:28; 19:28) points to the vindication and enthronement of Jesus (rather than to his parousia). V 31 is based on passages, which refer to the promised return of Israelites from exile.

In this context, therefore, this poetic language appropriately refers to the great changes which were about to take place in the world, when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. It speaks of the Son of Man entering into his kingship, and his angels gathering in his new people from all the earth. The fall of the temple is thus presented, in highly allusive language, as the end of the old order, to be replaced by the new régime of Jesus, the Son of Man, and the international growth of his church, the new people of God.

All this would happen very soon, once the preliminary signs of vs 15–21 have occurred, just as summer inevitably follows quickly once the leaves appear on the fig-tree. Within this generation it would all be over; we have Jesus’ word for it! (8)

From the above commentary entries, we see that Jesus was speaking to His first-century listeners (this generation) about the soon coming events, which included the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. The answer to C.S. Lewis is that there is not a problem with a false or unfulfilled prophecy at all. Christ’s predictions came true in the first century.

This approach to Matthew 24 is what is called realized eschatology or preterism and has been held by many commentators throughout church history. This approach utilizes a literal interpretation of the word “generation.” Preterism is the view that says the many of the events spoken about in Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation have been partially or completely fulfilled in the events leading up to and surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. We do not have to be embarrassed like Lewis. We can rejoice and praise God for fulfilled prophesy. We do not have to resort to a forced an unusual meaning on the way “generation” would have been understood by the first-century Israelite.

Contrary to what many have been taught, Matthew 24:34 is not dealing the physical second coming at the end of history, but rather a spiritual coming of God in judgment against Jerusalem and the people of Israel for their rejection of the Messiah. Even though it is a spiritual coming in judgment, this does not take away from the reality of the events that occurred in the first century. Spiritual events are real. In Mark 14:62. Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The “coming” of the Son of Man is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, which speak of His literal resurrection and His seating at the Father’s right hand. Christ was vindicated over Israel that had rejected him.

Also, a number of passages in the book of Revelation confirm the imminent coming of Christ in the first century.

Additional Scriptures from the book of Revelation on the imminent coming of Christ:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

Strong’s Greek 5034:

tachos: speed

Original Word: τάχος, ους, τό

Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter

Transliteration: tachos

Phonetic Spelling: (takh’-os)

Definition: speed

Usage: quickness, speed, hastily, immediately.

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3)

Strong’s Greek 1451:

eggus: near (in place or time)

Original Word: ἐγγύς

Part of Speech: Adverb

Transliteration: eggus

Phonetic Spelling: (eng-goos’)

Definition: near (in place or time)

Usage: near.

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11)

Strong’s Greek 5035 – tachu

“And he said unto me, these sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” (Revelation 22:6)

Strong’s Greek 5034 – tachos

“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)

Strong’s Greek 5035 – tachu

“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 22:10; See Daniel 8:26)

Strong’s Greek 1451 – eggus

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12)

Strong’s Greek 5035 – tachu

“He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) (Underlining emphasis mine)

Strong’s Greek 5035 – tachu

If taken at face value, the passages in Revelation are speaking of something that was to take place soon, not the distant future. The imminent return of Christ that we see in the Revelation passages are events that were to happen quickly. The words soon and quickly do not make sense if not taken literally. Consult any thesaurus for synonyms of these words. If quickly, shortly do not mean what they say in their everyday usage, what do they mean? These texts if taken literally prove that the book of Revelation must be historically fulfilled prophesy, except for the final two chapters, which pictures the new heaven and new earth. See Revelation 1:1, 3 and Revelation 22:6, 10. These imminent passages are either true or false. Do not be embarrassed like Lewis.

Additionally, consider how the apostle John in 22:10 is told: “…seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” Compare Revelation 22:10 with Daniel 12:4. Daniel is told to “shut up the words, and seal the book.” Daniel’s prophesy deals with the coming of the Messiah. See Daniel 9:24-27. The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy would happen in approximately 500 years. Daniel is told to “seal the book” and John is told, “seal not…the prophecy” of this book. These two commands are exact opposites, proving that John’s Revelation was to be fulfilled shortly in the first century. The biblical conclusion is that the texts of Revelation show quite literally, “The time is at hand” 1:3, and “…which must shortly be done,” and “Behold, I come quickly” 22:6.

One argument against the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ in judgment upon apostate Israel in the first century is that in God’s sight, times are different for Him and us. For example, people may cite, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2Peter 3:8-9ESV). In verse 8, Peter is referring to Psalm 90:4 and is encouraging the disciples to have patience in the face of persecution. Does Peter contradict himself in verse 8 and 9? Verse 9 is not arguing for thousands of years before the promises are to be fulfilled. What does “the Lord is not slow,” mean?

is not slow [to fulfill ]

βραδύνει (bradynei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 1019:

bradunó: to retard, to be slow

Original Word: βραδύνω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: bradunó

Phonetic Spelling: (brad-oo’-no)

Definition: to retard, to be slow

Usage: I am slow, I delay, tarry.

Using this passage from 2Peter as an attempt to answer the problem that C.S. Lewis saw in Matthew 24 is just speculation and special pleading for an unnatural use of language. Moreover, by saying that “the Lord is not slow,” Peter may have had the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in view. It is commonly believed that 2Peter was written around 68AD. Peter was in Rome around that time and may have had first-hand knowledge of Roman’s plans for Israel’s destruction.

Back to the understanding of the word “generation.” Also, the words “soon,” “shortly,” “quickly,” and “the time is at hand.” Do God’s Words have a different meaning for Him and us? If so, we cannot know anything. If God’s Words mean one thing for Him and another for us, this opens the door to absolute skepticism. Moreover, it is indeed no answer for liberal critics of the Bible.

We must not abandon literal biblical revelation:

“When Paul in human Greek says that God justifies believers, did he speak the literal truth or some other, unknowable kind of truth that is not truth at all? A phrase similar to “human language” occurs frequently in other authors. They contrast “human logic” with “divine logic.” But do they dare make explicit what this phrase means? Human logic says, if all men are mortal, and if Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. But if divine logic is different, then all men can be mortal and Socrates can be a man, yet Socrates will not be mortal. Or, again, if human mathematics says that two plus two is four, and if divine truth differs from ours, then for God two and two are five or ten or anything but four. The point here is that human logic and divine logic are identical. Human logic is a part of the divine image in man. It is God’s trademark stamped upon us. Only by rejecting the Biblical doctrine of God’s image can one contrast human language with divine language and divine logic with human. Finally, if human language cannot be literally true, any assertion “language is not literal” cannot be literally true. The position is self-refuting, and one can have little hope of explaining how “language formed on mythical patterns” can convey God’s truth.” (9)

In conclusion:

As in the case of “generation” in Matthew 24:34, the Revelation texts as seen, also speak of the imminent return of Christ. The words are literal and do not have to be contorted into non-literal mumbo jumbo. The book of Revelation chronicles the unfolding judgment of God upon apostate Judaism of the first century. Next is a different look at events in the book of Revelation.


“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:8)

Revelation 11:8 is speaking of Jerusalem. Jerusalem in Revelation is spiritually called Sodom, Egypt, and even Babylon. John uses Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt as functional equivalents.


1. Babylon is identified as a “great city” in Revelation 17:18. Jerusalem is identified as a “great city” in Revelation 11:8:

“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the “great city,” which “spiritually” is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:8)

2. Babylon the Great is a “harlot” (Revelation 17:5). Jerusalem has been referred to as a “harlot” in the Old Testament.

For example, “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. How is the faithful city become a harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers” (Isaiah 1:20-21).

3. “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw ‘her,’ I wondered with great admiration.” “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that ‘great city’ Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” “And in ‘her’ was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Revelation 17:6, 18:21, 24).

The “great city” referred to, as “her” is guilty of the crimes, which Jesus previously attributed to Jerusalem in Matthew:

“That upon you (Jerusalem) may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon ‘this generation.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under ‘her’ wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:35-37)

The “Great Tribulation” happened in 70AD. Thus, Christ’s prediction that judgment would come to the “generation” that heard the prophecy is vindicated and Lewis was wrong.


1. C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385.

2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for Generation, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1199.

3. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Matthew, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 150.

4. David Chilton, The Great Tribulation, (Ft. Worth, Texas, Dominion Press), p. 3.

5. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, (Powder Springs, Georgia, American Vision), p. 56.

6. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker), p.16.

7. Dr. Daniel Morais, Matthew 24 Commentary: THAT Generation Shall Not Pass, (Fort Worth, TX, revelationrevolution.org)

8. D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed., New Bible Commentary 21st century edition, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Inter-Varsity Press, 4th ed.), p. 936-937.

9. Gordon Clark, God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 161-162.

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

For more study:

* https://revelationrevolution.org/matthew-24-commentary-tha…/

Recommended Christian Eschatology Studies:

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation

Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX

Oswald T. Allis

Prophecy And The Church

Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey

Gary DeMar

Last Days Madness

American Vision, Powder Springs, Georgia

R. C. Sproul

The Last Days According To Jesus

Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI

Francis X Gumerlock

The Day and the Hour

American Vision, Powder Springs, Georgia

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Rahab an example of faith in Hebrews 11:31

Rahab an example of faith in Hebrews 11:31 By Jack Kettler

The goal of this study is to protect the integrity of God’s Word and find an apologetic answer to a difficult case that is highlighted in Scripture. The possible apologetic solution dealt with in this study is a hypothesis.

“By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:31)

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” (Joshua 2:4-5 ESV)

“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

Was Rahab warranted in lying when she said the spies had departed from her house? James tells us that Rahab’s actions justified her. Specifically, what actions, lying, or receiving the spies with peace? The ninth commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” It seems convoluted to limit Rahab’s faith to only receiving the spies and not also hiding them and giving them advice on escaping.

Is the Bible contradictory here? It seems that the Bible is saying that lying sometimes can be justified. First, Rahab lied; second, she is listed in Hebrews as an example of faith. How do we understand these texts from Joshua, Hebrews, and James? Because of what James tells in verse 25 about Rahab’s faith and her lying to protect the spies seemingly is inseparable.

The traditional viewpoint on Rahab is that she lied in violation of the ninth commandment. God forgave her for the lie and commended her as an example of faith despite her sin, much like David’s adultery with Bathsheba, which is recorded in 2Samuel chapter 11. Despite David’s sin, he was still a man after God’s heart.

What about the midwives in Egypt?

Another case of lying is in Exodus 1:15-22, there is the story of the Hebrew midwives. Pharaoh commanded the midwives to kill the newborn male Hebrews. The midwives disobeyed the command. The midwives lied when questioned concerning their actions. The midwives “feared God” (Exodus 1:17) “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives…” (Exodus 1:20) God approved of the midwives course of action.

In contemporary history, we have a similar example of lying to save lives:

For example, the Corrie ten Boom family’s activity in the Dutch resistance is relevant. They risked their lives harboring those hunted by the Gestapo. Some fugitives would stay only a few hours, while others would stay several days until another “safe house” could be located. Corrie ten Boom became a leader in the “Beje” movement, overseeing a network of “safe houses” in the country. Through these activities, it was estimated that 800 Jews’ lives were saved.

The ten Boom family lied to the Gestapo, and many lives were spared from certain death. In modern-day evangelicalism, Corrie ten Boom has always been viewed as a hero who acted on her faith.

What about Jacob’s lie?

“Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn; [a lie] I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.’ And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, because the LORD thy God brought it to me [a lie]… And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am [a lie].” (Genesis 27:19-20, 24 KJV)

In the bigger picture, Isaac was standing in the way of God’s sovereign election. God overruled Isaac’s will, and God’s will is fulfilled. (Romans 9:11–13)

David feigned himself mad:

“So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard.” (1Samuel 21:13 ESV)

A solution to the dilemma that the story of Rahab presents us:

Is there a biblical standard that can excuse men for lying in the time of war?

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Is the enemy in the time of war your neighbor? See John Gerstner’s answer to this question under the for more study section.

Are soldiers in captivity suppose, to tell the truth endangering other soldiers or be tortured as a result of not telling the captors the truth? Other situations that can be contemplated are just as horrific. Then there are cases of a whistleblower or undercover narcotics detectives. Both examples involve a level of deception against evildoers.

R.C. Sproul in dealing with the case of Rahab admits she unequivocally lied. Sproul’s solution, in essence, argues:

“There are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth.” (1)

Rahab’s lie:


Is Sproul correct? Is this a solution to the seeming contradiction in Scripture?

Consider Sam Storms’ answer to this dilemma:

“Falsehood vs. Lie

It appears, then, that there are occasions when deception is ethically permissible. But note: not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is an intentional falsehood that violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth. So the question is not whether it is ever morally permissible to lie, but “What is a lie?” A lie is the intentional declaration or communication of a falsehood designed to deceive someone who has a moral and legal right to know the truth. A lie is telling an untruth to someone to whom you are morally and legally obligated to speak the truth. There are, however, certain occasions in which you are not under obligation to tell someone the truth (e.g., in times of war, criminal assault, and so on.).

A lie is an intentional falsehood that violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth.

I want to be certain that no one responds to this article with anything less than a fervent commitment to truth-telling. In arguing, as I have, that there may be occasions when the communication of a falsehood is ethically permissible, I am not suggesting Christians that should become lax or casual in their treatment of the truth. The truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Our goal should never be to wiggle our way around the truth or search for an ethical loophole. When the psalmist describes the person who is privileged to “sojourn” in God’s tent and to “dwell” on his holy hill (Ps. 15:1–5), among the qualities cited is speaking “truth” in his heart, refusing to “slander with his tongue,” and being the sort of person “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” “He who does these things,” David insists, “shall never be moved.” (2)


The Bible seems to endorse the concept of a hierarchy of ethics, in which one rule may take precedence over another rule.

Example 1. The Scripture forbids working on the Sabbath. “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day, you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2 ESV) There does not seem to any wiggle room here.

However, Jesus made exceptions for healing and doing good.

Example 2. It is wrong to kill someone. “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13 KJV)

However, if an aggressor or thief breaks in and is killed in a struggle, there is no penalty. “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” (Exodus 22:2 NASB)

Example 3. “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20 ESV) “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.” (Proverbs 19:9 KJV)

Nevertheless, the Hebrew midwives were blessed by God Exodus 1:20. Jacob lied and yet God blessed him Genesis 27:19-20, 24.

In addition, the Old Testament case laws endorse this hierarchy of ethics when distinguishing between first-degree murder, manslaughter, and legitimate self-defense. It certainly seems that Scripture allows leeway for some level of deception against evildoers.

There are three ethical possibilities to resolve this dilemma as Sam Storms develops a possible solution to the case of Rahab:

“Typically, people align themselves with one of three possible positions:

(1) Conflicting absolutism or “the lesser of two evils” approach – According to this view, sometimes two or more absolute principles will conflict and there is simply no way to avoid sinning. One must choose the lesser of two evils. In this case, lying is a sin, but it is less evil than allowing the spies to be killed. So, Rahab was wrong to lie, but she would also have been wrong to tell the truth. It was impossible for her to avoid sinning so she simply chose the lesser of two evils and should throw herself on the mercy of God.

(2) Hierarchicalism or “graded absolutism” – On this view there is an ordered hierarchy of moral values in which some have priority over others. When one cannot avoid making a choice, one should choose the higher of the two. In doing so, the other choice is no longer regarded as sinful. Rahab was exempt from telling the truth in order to save the lives of the two Israeli spies. She communicated a series of falsehoods, but did not sin in doing so.

(3) Non-conflicting absolutism – This is the view which says that it only seems or appears to be the case that two moral absolutes conflict. In reality, they don’t. In such situations, there will always be a third way or another option that does not entail committing a sin. In Rahab’s case, she should not have lied but should have trusted God to provide for her a way to protect the spies that didn’t involve sinning. On this view, Rahab was right to have hidden the spies, but she should then have refused to respond to the king or to have answered the question concerning their whereabouts. She could have said, “Come in my house and look around,” all the while praying that God would conceal their location from those searching for them.

I tentatively embrace view (2).

We must remember that communication of truth or falsehood can also be non-verbal, through our conduct or actions. So, for example:

Is it ethical for a Christian to post a “Beware of the Dog” sign on your fence or door to deter a burglar, even when you don’t own a dog?

Is it ethical for a Christian to give the impression that one is at home by leaving on the lights, again to frighten off would-be intruders or thieves?

Is it ethical for a woman, when attacked by a rapist, to fake a heart attack or to pretend to faint or to call out to her husband as if he were close by when in fact he is not?

Were the Allies in WWII justified in deceiving Hitler concerning the location of the Normandy invasion?

Is it ethical for the police to operate radar in unmarked cars?

Is it ethical for the police to conduct undercover, plain-clothes investigations which by definition demand that they deceive people concerning their identity and intent?

Is it ethical for those in the military to wear camouflage uniforms in order to mislead their enemies concerning their location?

Let’s add to these examples the biblical case of the Hebrew midwives, who misled Pharaoh when he demanded that they kill any new born male babies:

“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families” (Exod. 1:17-21).

When it comes to Rahab, we must reckon with two references to her in the NT:

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31).

In James 2:25 the author cites Rahab as an example of someone whose works proved the reality of her faith, “when she received the messengers [the spies] and sent them out by another way.”

Rahab is praised for welcoming the spies into her home and for sending them out safely and away from the men who sought their lives. This was accomplished through verbal deceit. How could the NT authors speak of her in this way, praising her faith, if they believed her guilty of the sin of lying? How could they praise her for a goal she attained through illicit and unethical means?

My point is this: There are occasions when deception is morally permissible. Not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is an intentional falsehood which violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are instances in which men forfeit their right to know the truth. A lie is the intentional declaration or communication of a falsehood designed to deceive someone who has a moral and legal right to know the truth. A lie is the telling of an untruth to someone to whom we are morally and legally obligated to speak the truth.

And there do appear to be instances when we are not under obligation to tell a person the truth: in times of war, on those occasions when someone has criminal intent, or when a person’s life is at stake. Because of his intent to break into my home and steal what does not belong to him, a thief has forfeited his right to know whether or not I’m in the house. By their unjustified aggression, enemies of the state forfeit the right to know the way in which our military forces intend to defeat them. Etc.” (3)

In the following abridgment of an article on lying, by author Jeffery A. Mirus who reaches a similar conclusion as Sproul and Storms.

Is Lying Ever Right? By Jeffery A. Mirus

“For convenience, let us put the case very precisely. Consider a man with a house guest whom a group of thugs wants to murder. The thugs come to the door. Because they don’t wish to create an outcry before they’re sure they’ve found their quarry (giving him time to escape, for example, from a neighboring house), they don’t force their way in to search. Instead, they knock on the door and simply ask whether their intended victim is within. Refusing to answer will almost certainly be interpreted as an affirmative response. So here is the dilemma: If you answer the door, and you don’t trust the thugs’ intentions, do you have to tell the truth? …

What Is a Lie?

Note that a solution to this conundrum could come in one of two forms. It may be that: (1) The immorality of lying admits of exceptions such that there is no objective evil, or at least no subjective evil (guilt), in lying to the thugs; or (2) a very careful definition of “lying” will show that speaking falsely to the thugs is not a lie at all. Great and holy thinkers have wrestled with both possibilities, but it is perhaps more logical to take up first the question of the definition of “lying.” By carefully defining our terms, will we find that there is a distinction between speaking falsely and lying, just as there is between killing and murder? Are some falsehoods not lies? What precisely does it mean to lie? …

Regardless of definition, many others have suggested that the immorality of lying admits of exceptions. These argue, for example, that one is not obligated to tell the truth to an enemy, or that political leaders may speak falsely for reasons of state. Such exceptions may be permitted by the principle of double effect: Just as one can morally kill to defend someone’s life, so one can morally lie for a similar reason. The deception (or killing) is a secondary effect of a legitimate action. But with killing there is more at work than double effect. It is not moral to kill anyone whose existence threatens our own lives (consider the case of abortion to save the life of the mother, or cannibalism in a life raft). Rather, the one killed must somehow have the character of an unjust aggressor. Thus we commonly define murder as the taking of an “innocent” life (that is, the right to life has not been forfeited) and we distinguish murder sharply from mere killing. If the same is true of lying, the solution is not so much a matter of exception as of definition.” (4)

In conclusion:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)

John Gerstner says:

“It is not a violation of the ninth commandment to lie to the enemy in time war.” (5)

The conclusion reached in this study contradicts the majority of many of the great men of the faith in their understanding of Rahab’s lying and still be included as an example of faith in the book of Hebrews.

In humble disagreement with the majority:

The Bible seems to endorse the concept of a hierarchy of ethics, in which one rule may take precedence over another rule. The hierarchy of ethics seems to be established by the three examples listed above where instead of being guilty of God’s law there is no penalty and in particular, the case of the midwives lying, there is a favor from God.

Moreover, the hierarchy of ethics, in reality, is how many Christians operate when it comes to examples set forth above as in times of war, law enforcement, and protection of innocent people from evildoers.

If a Christian must always tell the truth, then they could never be trusted in times of war if captured by the enemy to protect their fellow soldiers. A legitimate whistleblower could never trust a Christian.

Therefore, there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth. Rahab was justified by her actions like the midwives in Egypt, and at the same time, she had true faith.


1. R.C. Sproul, Rahab’s lie, http://www.ligonier.org/…/broad…/audio/rahabs-lie-july-2019/.

2. This article was adapted from Sam Storms’ book Tough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions (Christian Focus, 2015).

3. Sam Storms, Two Spies and a Shady Lady Joshua 2:1-24. https://www.samstorms.com/…/two-spies-and-a-shady-lady-josh….

4. Jeffery A. Mirus, Is Lying Ever Right? https://www.catholic.com/…/print-edition/is-lying-ever-right.

5. John Gerstner, The Ten Commandments (pt. 9) Handout Theology.

“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: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

See John Gerstner on the ninth commandment https://www.youtube.com/watch…

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What is Apostasy?

What is Apostasy? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on apostasy. Can a true believer commit apostasy and lose his soul is a question that enviably comes up in a study of this nature. We will look at several of the most cited apostasy passages. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary, lexical, and confessional evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live.

A question to ask at the beginning, is it possible for a false believer to commit apostasy?


The abandonment or renunciation of a profession of the Christian faith. *


The falling away from the faith. It is a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer. It can also describe a group or church organization that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible. **

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on Apostasy:


a-pos’-ta-si, a-pos’-tat (he apostasia, “a standing away from”):

I.e. a falling away, a withdrawal, a defection. Not found in the English Versions of the Bible, but used twice in the New Testament, in the Greek original, to express abandonment of the faith. Paul was falsely accused of teaching the Jews apostasy from Moses (Acts 21:21); he predicted the great apostasy from Christianity, foretold by Jesus (Matthew 24:10-12) which would precede “the day of the Lord” (2Thessalonians 2:2). Apostasy, not in name but in fact, meets scathing rebuke in the Epistle of Jude, e.g. the apostasy of angels (Jude 1:6). Foretold, with warnings, as sure to abound in the latter days (1Timothy 4:1-3; 2Thessalonians 2:3; 2Peter 3:17). Causes of: persecution (Matthew 24:9, 10); false teachers (Matthew 24:11); temptation (Luke 8:13); worldliness (2 Timothy 4:4); defective knowledge of Christ (1John 2:19); moral lapse (Hebrews 6:4-6); forsaking worship and spiritual living (Hebrews 10:25-31); unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Biblical examples: Saul (1Samuel 15:11); Amaziah (2Chronicles 25:14, 27); many disciples (John 6:66); Hymeneus and Alexander (1Timothy 1:19, 20); Demas (2Timothy 4:10). For further illustration see Deuteronomy 13:13; Zec. 1:4-6; Galatians 5:4; 2 Peter 2:20, 21.

“Forsaking Yahweh” was the characteristic and oft-recurring sin of the chosen people, especially in their contact with idolatrous nations. It constituted their supreme national peril. The tendency appeared in their earliest history, as abundantly seen in the warnings and prohibitions of the laws of Moses (Exodus 20:3, 4, 23; Deuteronomy 6:14; 11:16). The fearful consequences of religious and moral apostasy appear in the curses pronounced against this sin, on Mount Ebal, by the representatives of six of the tribes of Israel, elected by Moses (Deuteronomy 27:13-26; 28:15-68). So wayward was the heart of Israel, even in the years immediately following the national emancipation, in the wilderness, that Joshua found it necessary to re-pledge the entire nation to a new fidelity to Yahweh and to their original covenant before they were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 24:1-28). Infidelity to this covenant blighted the nation’s prospects and growth during the time of the Judges (Judges 2:11-15; 10:6, 10, 13; 1Samuel 12:10). It was the cause of prolific and ever-increasing evil, civic and moral, from Solomon’s day to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Many of the kings of the divided kingdom apostatized, leading the people, as in the case of Rehoboam, into the grossest forms of idolatry and immorality (1Kings 14:22-24; 2Chronicles 12:1). Conspicuous examples of such royal apostasy are Jeroboam (1Kings 12:28-32); Ahab (1Kings 16:30-33); Ahaziah (1Kings 22:51-53); Jehoram (2Chronicles 21:6, 10, 12-15); Ahaz (2Chronicles 28:1-4); Manasseh (2Chronicles 33:1-9), Amen (2Chronicles 33:22). See IDOLATRY.

Prophecy originated as a Divine and imperative protest against this historic tendency to defection from the religion of Yahweh. In classical Greek, apostasy signified revolt from a military commander. In the Roman Catholic Church, it denotes abandonment of religious orders, renunciation of ecclesiastical authority, defection from the faith. The persecutions of the early Christian centuries forced many to deny Christian discipleship and to signify their apostasy by offering incense to a heathen deity or blaspheming the name of Christ. The emperor Julian, who probably never vitally embraced the Christian faith, is known in history as “the Apostate,” having renounced Christianity for paganism soon after his accession to the throne. An apostate’s defection from the faith may be intellectual, as in the case of Ernst Haeckel, who, because of his materialistic philosophy, publicly and formally renounced Christianity and the church; or it may be moral and spiritual, as with Judas, who for filthy lucre’s sake basely betrayed his Lord. See exhaustive articles on “Apostasy” in the Jewish Encyclopedia. Dwight M. Pratt (1)

Scripture Teaching:

“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

From the Puritan commentary, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Luke 8:13 we learn:

“They on the rock are they, which when they hear … The seed that fell upon the rock, or stony ground, signify such sort of hearers,

Who receive the word with joy. The Ethiopic version reads, “with joy of heart”. But, this sort of hearers receive not the word into their hearts, or with their hearts believe it, and from their hearts obey it, only into their heads; and have only, an historical faith of it; nor with hearty, spiritual, solid joy, or joy in the Holy Ghost: for their hearts remain like a rock, unbroken by the word; but with a flash of natural affection, which quickly goes off.

And these have no root; neither “in themselves”, as the other evangelists say, they have no true grace in them; nor have they any root in Christ, nor in the love of God:

Which for a while believe: their faith is a temporary one, like that of Simon Magus; which shows it is not true faith; for that is an abiding grace, Christ, who is the author, is the finisher of it, and prays for it, that it fail not. The Persic version renders it, “in the time of hearing they have faith”; and such sort of hearers there are, who, whilst they are hearing, assent to what they hear, but when they are gone, either forget it, or, falling into bad company, are prevailed upon to doubt of it, and disbelieve it. The Arabic version renders it, “they believe for a small time”; their faith do not continue long, nor their profession of it, both are soon dropped:

And in the time of temptation fall away: “or go back”, as the Vulgate Latin version, they draw back unto perdition; or “forsake that”, as the Arabic version reads, the word, they have heard, and received, their faith in it, and profession of it: “and soon become apostates”, as the Persic version renders it. By “the time of temptation”, is not meant any particular and sore temptation of Satan, but a time of affliction and persecution, as appears from the other evangelists; which is a trying time to professors of religion, and when those who have not the root of the matter in them, fall away.” (2)

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (1Timothy 4:1)

Theologian William Hendriksen’s comments on this passage in Timothy are helpful:

“But the Spirit expressly says that in later seasons some will depart from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 (embodied) in (the) insincere utterance of those who speak lies, whose own conscience is seared, 3 forbidding (people) to marry, and (enjoining them) to abstain from foods which God created in order that those who believe and acknowledge the truth may partake of them with thanksgiving. 4 For, every creature of God is good, and nothing is fit to be thrown away if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Though the church be ever so glorious, reflecting the radiance of its precious Lord and Savior (1Tim. 3:15, 16), apostasy is just around the corner, for not all who belong outwardly to the church belong to it inwardly.

The present chapter deals with this apostasy.

1. But the Spirit expressly says that in later seasons some will depart from the faith.

“The Spirit says,” that is, “is now saying.” To whom was the Spirit speaking? Acts 20:29, 30 leads me to think that the apostle meant “to myself” (perhaps also to others). The Spirit, then, is saying that “in later seasons” — eras of this new dispensation, eras definitely marked out in God’s foreknowledge — some will depart or apostatize from the faith (objective sense), the body of redemptive truth, the Christian religion.

The Spirit was saying this expressly (“in stated terms”). There was neither doubt nor vagueness about it. A half dozen years ago Paul, addressing the elders of the churches located in the very region where Timothy was now laboring, had spoken as follows: “I know that after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” A few years after that speech recorded in Acts 20, the apostle, writing to the Colossians from his first Roman imprisonment, had warned them against accepting the error that faith in Christ’s atoning work has to be supplemented by ascetic beliefs and practices (Col. 2). And now, writing to Timothy from Macedonia, he is distinctly informed by the Holy Spirit that the error, already present in its incipient form, will grow and develop in the manner indicated in verse 3.

Men will depart from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. As the context indicates (and see also 1John 4:6 where “the spirit of seduction” is contrasted with “the Spirit of truth”), these spirits are not men but demons. Like planets that seem to wander back and forth among the constellations, these spirits wander; moreover, they cause men to wander. They seduce, lead astray. By giving heed to them one is giving heed to doctrines of demons (cf. 2Cor. 4:4; Rev. 13:11, 14).” (3)

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)

Regarding the persons mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 the Puritan John Owens says:

“And it appears, yea is evident, —

1. That the persons here intended are not true and sincere believers, in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such; so that from hence nothing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final apostasy. For,

(1.) There is in their full and largo description no mention of faith, or believing, either expressly or in terms equivalent; and in no other place in the Scripture are such intended, but they are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And,

(2.) There is not anything ascribed to these persons that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial relation unto God in Christ, or any such property of their own as is not communicable unto others. For instance, they are not said to be called according to God’s purpose; to be born again, not of man, nor of the will of flesh, but of God; nor to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the sons of God by adoption; nor have they any other characteristical note of true believers ascribed to them.

(3.) They are in the following verses compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briers. But this is not so with true believers. For faith itself is an herb peculiar to the enclosed garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed.

(4.) The apostle afterwards discoursing of true believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as may be apostates; which is supposed of the persons here intended, as was before clared. For,

[1.] He ascribeth unto them in general “better things, and such as accompany salvation,” verse 9.

[2.] He ascribes a “work and labor of love,” as it is true faith alone which worketh by love, verse 10, whereof he speaks not one word concerning these.

[3.] He asserts their preservation; —

1st, On the account of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, verse 10;

2dly, Of the immutability of his counsel concerning them, verse 17, 18. In all these and sundry other instances doth he put a difference between these apostates and true believers. And whereas the apostle intends to declare the aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal privileges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word, in name or thing, of those which he expressly assigns to be the chief privileges of true believers, Romans 8:27-30.” (4)

The Puritan John Gill on Hebrews 6:4-6 writes:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.—Heb. 6:4-6.

This Scripture is often used to contradict the final perseverance of the saints: and it is said, that “The doctrine of the possibility of the final departure of true believers and penitents from the faith, is fully contained in these words; that it is evident they are spoken of such, from the word, enlightened, used by the same apostle, speaking to the same persons, in Heb. 10:32, who were so enlightened as to know they had an inheritance in heaven; and from the words, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, which imply, that they had once truly repented, and were once truly in that state to which they were to be renewed, and their loss of it; and that these must fall totally and finally, because the apostle doth pronounce it a thing impossible to renew them to repentance, and on this account, that they crucified to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame. But,

1. Admitting that these words are spoken of true believers, they will bear such a version and sense as will be so far from furnishing out an argument against the saints’ perseverance that they will conclude one for it; for they may be rendered thus; it is impossible that there should be any who have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, etc., and yet fall away, that is, it is impossible that such should fall away; agreeable to which is the Syriac version of the words; it is impossible, etc., that they should sin again; so as to die spiritually, or lose the grace of God, and stand in need of a new work of grace upon them; which would require the crucifying of Christ again, and a re-exposing him to public shame; which latter things are impossible: and therefore the former, namely, that they should sin in such a manner; for, according to this version, the several other things mentioned, are connected with the word impossible; as it is impossible that they should be renewed again to repentance; that they should again crucify the Son of God, and put him to shame. This sense of the words is also confirmed by the Arabic version. Moreover, should we read the words, if they fall away, they do but at most contain a supposition of the saints falling; & suppositio nil ponit in esse, a supposition puts nothing in being, proves no matter of fact; nor can it be concluded from hence, that any such have fallen away; and are, at most, only expressive of the danger they are in, and of the difficulty of restoring them when fallen even partially; a total and final falling away, being prevented by the grace and power of God.

2. It is not evident, from the characters of those persons, that they were true believers; they are said to be once enlightened, which some understand of their being once baptized; and it is certain, that illumination, were used by the ancients, for baptism; and, enlightened once, for baptized persons: accordingly, the Syriac version reads the words thus, who once, have descended into baptism; the Ethiopic, after they are baptized; and it will not be denied, that some such, as Simon Magus, may totally and finally fall away; but not to insist on this sense of the words. There are two sorts of enlightened persons; some who are savingly enlightened by the Spirit of God, to see their lost state and condition, their need of salvation by Christ, and their interest in it, who shall never perish: others are enlightened only into the doctrines of the Gospel, and some to such a degree, as to be able to preach them unto others, and yet entirely destitute of the grace of God; and when such fall away, they are no proofs, nor instances, of the apostasy of real saints. The enlightened persons in Heb. 10:32, are not the same with these here mentioned; for the believing Hebrews are manifestly distinguished from these, verse 9; But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; and therefore, though the Hebrews were so enlightened as to know that they had an inheritance in heaven, it does not follow, that these were enlightened in the same manner, and so sincere Christians and true believers. They are also said to have tasted of the heavenly gift; by which, whether we understand eternal life, or any of the blessings of grace, as a justifying righteousness, or with the Greek fathers, the remission of sins; the meaning is, that they had some speculative notions about these things, and some desires after them, arising from a natural principle of self love; or should Christ himself be intended by it, tasting of it, stands opposed to eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, which is proper to true believers, who feed upon him, internally receive him, and are nourished by him; while hypocrites, and formal professors, only taste of him, have a superficial knowledge of him, and gust for him. In the same sense are they said to have tasted the good word of God, the Gospel, in the bare form and notion of it, and the powers of the world to come; meaning either the state of the church, and the glorious things relating to it, after the first resurrection, which they might have some notional apprehensions of; or the joys and glories of heaven, on which they might be able to make some natural and pleasing reflections; or rather, the miracles and mighty works in the former part of the Gospel dispensation, or times of the Messiah, the Jews, world to come; which many, as Judas and others, were able to perform, who were not sincere Christians, nor true believers, and yet might be said to be partakers of the Holy Ghost; not of his person, nor his grace, but of his extraordinary gifts; in which sense not only Dr. Hammond, but Dr. Whitby himself, understand the phrase. Now it may be observed, that here is nothing said of these persons but what may be applied to hypocrites, nor any thing that is peculiar to true believers; these are not said to be regenerated, nor sanctified, nor justified, nor adopted, nor sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, all which are true of real saints. Besides, true believers are in the context, manifestly distinguished from them, and are compared to the fruitful earth, when others are only likened to the barren land, verse 8-9; their case is mentioned with a view to stir up the saints to industry and diligence, verse 11-12; and so be the means of their final perseverance; which they had reason to expect and believe, from the immutability of God’s counsel, the safe refuge in Christ, the nature of hope, the anchor sure and steadfast, and the entrance of Christ, their forerunner for them, into heaven, verse 17-20.

3. The phrase, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, does not imply that they had once truly repented, and their loss of true repentance; that cannot be lost, it is inseparably connected with life and salvation, and therefore is called repentance unto life, and unto salvation. The repentance of these persons, like that of Cain, Pharaoh, and Judas, was only a shew of one, a counterfeit one; and consequently, the renewing them again to repentance, designs a renovation of them to that which they only seemed to have, and to make pretensions to.

4. It will be granted, that these persons might, and such as these, may fall finally and totally; but inasmuch as it does not appear that they were true penitents and believers, they are not to be mentioned as, nor allowed to be, instances of the final departure of such from the faith.” (5)

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2Peter 2:20-22)

Simon J. Kistemaker is very helpful in understanding this passage from Peter:

Doctrine 2:20–22

In the last three verses of this chapter, Peter sums up the final destiny of the false teachers by stressing that they have returned to their former way of life. In effect, they affirm a proverbial truth: as a dog returns to its vomit and a pig to its mud so the apostates revert to their sinful lifestyle.


20. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

Who is the subject of this verse? Some writers say: “The false teachers.” Other commentators assert: “The new Christians who are led astray.” The arguments advanced to defend either position are cogent. For instance, the use of the conjunction for (omitted in the) as a first word in verse 20 forms a bridge to the immediately preceding verse (v. 19). Because the two texts form one unit, they have the same subject: the false teachers. On the other hand, the verb to escape appears in verses 18 and 20. The subject of this verb appears to be identical in both verses. But the argument on the use of a particular verb must be balanced by the observation that the verb to master, overcome in verses 19b and 20 refers to the false teachers. And last, in the light of the preceding verses that feature the apostates as the dominant subject, many commentators apply the last three verses to these teachers. Granted that convincing evidence has been presented by both sides, I am persuaded that in view of the flow of the entire chapter the subject is the false teachers.

a. “If they have escaped the corruption of the world.” This is a factual statement, even though it appears in a conditional sentence. The element of probability is missing and the experience of what has happened in the past becomes evident. In the Greek, the verb form indicates that the false teachers on one occasion departed from the corruption of the world. “They had once escaped the world’s defilements” (; also see). The difference in the verb form (in v. 18) is evident: “[They] have barely begun to escape” (). This variation in the use of the verb form shows that Peter was thinking of the new converts who were in the process of breaking with their past. Here in verse 20, however, he is describing the heretics who at one time forsook their world and its corruption. “There can be little doubt that the false teachers had once been orthodox Christians.” In the past, these people were members of the church and they became acquainted with the teachings of the Christian faith.

b. “By knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Did the false teachers at one time know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? The answer is yes. For example, when Jesus commissioned his disciples two by two, he sent out Judas and another disciple. “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:12–13). Obviously, Judas knew Jesus; in the name of Jesus he preached and performed miracles. Yet Judas betrayed his Master.

The apostates had a knowledge of Jesus Christ, but their knowledge lacked the intimacy that characterizes the relationship of the true believer with Christ. Observe Peter’s personal touch in the phrases our knowledge of him (1:3) and your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). These people had professed the name of Christ as their Lord and Savior but in time fully disclosed that their knowledge was merely intellectual knowledge (compare Matt. 13:20–21). Also note that Peter refrains from using the terms faith and believer in this context. The teachers never put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Because they lacked a personal relationship with Christ, they fell away.

c. “And are again entangled in it and overcome.” The Greek actually indicates that these teachers were again woven into the fabric of the world’s corruption. This matter is an accomplished fact: although they left the world momentarily, they returned and defiled themselves again with its sordid sin. The result is that they are no longer free; they are slaves of sin (v. 19). Any resistance to the corruption of the world is out of the question, for they are overcome by sin and serve as slaves.

d. “They are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” Here is the conclusive statement in Greek that Peter borrows almost verbatim from the teachings of Jesus. About casting out a demon who returns to a former demon-possessed person with seven other spirits, Jesus says, “And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45; Luke 11:26; and compare Matt. 27:64).

Peter writes descriptively about the destiny of the apostates. Yet his words contain an urgent warning to the believers not to follow the path of the heretics that leads to irrevocable and everlasting destruction.

Doctrinal Considerations in 2:20

Within the church of Jesus Christ are true believers and pseudobelievers. Scripture tells the church members to make a clear distinction between these two groups. They live alongside each other much the same as the wheat and weeds in the same field. When the pseudobelievers depart on their own accord, they demonstrate that they never belonged to the body of Christ. Writers of Scripture, therefore, distinguish between the two groups by using the pronouns we and us over against they and them.

Peter differentiates between the members of the church and the false teachers with the use of the personal pronouns. In verse 20, for instance, he refers to the teachers with the plural pronoun they. In the last three verses of this chapter (vv. 20–22), he speaks only of the teachers and not of the believers. The exception is that Peter uses the possessive pronoun our in the phrase “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

In these verses, then, Peter never calls these teachers believers or children of God. Throughout these verses he describes them as people who deliberately sin against God and his Word. He repeatedly declares that these people face God’s judgment and destruction (vv. 3, 9, 12, 17).

Did these false teachers ever know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? By listening to the words of Jesus we receive an answer. Jesus says that only the person who obeys his Father in heaven will enter the kingdom. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matt. 7:22–23).


21. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

a. Unfulfilled duty. What Peter communicates about the false teachers is the opposite of what was expected of them. If their faith had been genuine and their knowledge had been true, they would have developed spiritually to teach others the way of salvation. If they were true Christian teachers, they would have taught others the gospel of Christ. However, they refused to follow “the way of righteousness” and they denied Jesus Christ as sovereign Lord (v. 2; Jude 4). Their lives were contrary to fact.

b. Apostasy. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,” says Peter. But alas, although they were instructed in the Christian faith, they fell away from God and his Word. Because they deliberately have turned against God, they face eternal judgment. Scripture clearly and repeatedly warns against the danger of apostasy. Here are two passages:

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.… From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” [Luke 12:47–48]

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [Heb. 10:26; also see Heb. 6:4–6; Prov. 21:16]

At this point we must distinguish between intentional and unintentional sins. The person who deliberately sins against God expresses open rebellion that in Old Testament times resulted in capital punishment (Num. 15:30). The writer of Hebrews, commenting on the destiny of an apostate, says: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).

c. Comparison. If they had not known the way of righteousness, the teachers would have been able to claim ignorance. Not now. They have known “the way of righteousness” that John the Baptist already revealed to the people of Israel in preparation for the coming of Jesus (Matt. 21:32). Moreover, the expression the Way served as a synonym for the Christian faith in the first half of the first century.

The false teachers not only have known the Way, but also have turned “their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” What is this “sacred command”? It is equivalent to the message of Christ’s gospel. In the parallel passage, Jude calls this commandment “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (v. 3, italics added). In other words, the command of Peter and the faith (Christian doctrine) of Jude are the same.

Peter writes that this commandment, namely, the gospel, was passed on to them. The expression passed on is a technical term that refers to receiving the gospel for the purpose of teaching it and thus handing it on to the hearers (see especially 1Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3; Jude 3). Peter calls this gospel tradition sacred, which means that it must be kept intact, obeyed, and taught. The false teachers, however, broke the chain of receiving and transmitting the gospel of Christ. They altered its content, rejected its teachings, and perverted its truth (compare vv. 1–3). By doing so they committed the unpardonable sin, that is, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32; 1John 5:16).


22. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Peter concludes his descriptive analysis of the false teachers with two proverbs. The first one he takes verbatim from the Old Testament. Proverbs 26:11 has this reading:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

The Jews treated dogs with contempt and not as man’s best friend. According to the Old and New Testaments, Jews treated dogs as unclean animals. A dog “lived on refuse of all kinds and thus was a potential carrier of many diseases.” As a scavenger, a dog would return to its own vomit and thus fulfill the proverb. Peter uses this proverb to compare the natural habit of a dog with the practice of false teachers who return to living in sin.

The second proverb seems to have been a common saying in the ancient world, for it appears in various manuscripts. The truth of this proverb is self-evident. A pig seeks relief from pesky insects and the heat of the sun by wallowing in the mud. Although the sow is washed, by nature the pig returns to the mud from which it has come. It rolls around in slime and grunts contentedly. Once again, the application to the apostates is graphic and descriptive. As the pig enjoys wallowing in the mire, so the heretics take pleasure in revelry and immorality.

Jesus mentions dogs and pigs in the same sentence when he says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matt. 7:6). He instructs his disciples to distinguish between people who are receptive to the message of the gospel and those persons who trample underfoot that which is sacred. Such people are similar to dogs and swine.

Here is a conclusive observation: By vomiting, the dog relieves itself of internal impurities; the sow, when it is washed, is cleansed from clinging external mud. Nevertheless, both animals return to the selfsame filth.

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 2:20–22

Verse 20

εἰ—the simple-fact condition with the indicative mood in both the protasis and apodosis clauses denotes reality.

ἀποφυγόντες—the aorist active (compare the present tense in v. 18) seems to indicate that Peter wants to designate a group of people different from those mentioned in verse 18.

τοῦ κυρίου—Peter employs one definite article for more than one noun: “Lord” and “Savior” (see 3:2).

ἐμπλακέντες—from ἐμπλέκω (I entangle, involve in), this participle is the aorist passive. The aorist signifies single occurrence of an action; the aorist also means that it precedes the action of the main verb in the clause. The passive implies an agent, namely, the devil.

ἡττῶνται—Peter uses the present passive form of the verb, which appears as the perfect passive in verse 19. The present serves as a perfect.

Verse 21

ῆ̓ν—the imperfect indicative is translated as a “potential imperfect.” It expresses the idea “of an obligation which comes over from the past and is not lived up to.” The particle ἄν is absent.

ἐπεγνωκέναι—as a perfect active infinitive from the verb ἐπιγινώσκω (I learn to know), this perfect tense shows lasting effect. The context of the infinitive reveals, however, that the apostates refused to teach the Christian gospel. The dative plural of the aorist active participle ἐπιγνοῦσιν relates to the pronoun αὐτοῖς (for them).

Verse 22

συμβέβηκεν—the perfect active tense of the compound verb συμβαίνω (I meet, happen, come about) stresses continuity.

κύων—this is an independent nominative featured in a proverbial expression. It is equivalent to a nominative absolute. The word κύων refers not to a house dog, but to a stray dog that is wild.

τό—without the accompanying noun, the definite article in the neuter singular has a substantival sense.

λουσαμένη—from λούω (I wash), this middle aorist participle has a passive meaning. (6)

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1John 2:19)

Again, we will utilize Simon J. Kistemaker’s insights into this passage from 1John:

Antichrists Went Out 2:19

19. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Five times in this verse, John uses the word us. In the original, John writes “from us” four times and “with us” once. He wants to make sure that the reader understands that those whom he calls antichrists have left the church because they really did not belong to the church. The antichrists leave but the members of the church remain. Not those who deny the Christ are important, but the believers. And for this reason, John stresses the pronoun us at the end of every clause.

a. “They went out from us.” John omits the details, but we assume that the original readers knew the situation and had vivid memories of the tension that eventually caused the departure of the unbelievers. The writer of Hebrews sketches the picture when he writes,

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. [6:4–6]

b. “But they did not really belong to us.” John says that these people were not from within the Christian circle. They were not true Christians because they did not belong to the source, namely, Christ. They attended the worship services for some time, but they were never in Christ (compare John 15:1–6).

c. “For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.” This is a conditional statement with a negative implication. Note that in the first clause John implies that the people he designates antichrists never really belonged to the church because they deny the Christ. In the second clause, John indicates that true believers remain, whereas the antichrists leave the fellowship of the church. Believers belong; deniers depart.

d. “But their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” The New International Version differs from a more literal translation by giving the intent of a Semitic idiom. Here is the verbatim text: “that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (). A literal translation of this idiom fails to convey the meaning John expresses. He is not saying that there are exceptions. On the contrary, the idiom means that “none of [the antichrists] belonged to us.”

Doctrinal Considerations in 2:19

This text teaches the doctrine of perseverance. The unbelievers who denied Jesus’ divinity or humanity were never part of the church because they did not belong to Christ. Their presence in the visible church was temporary, for they failed in their perseverance. If they had been members of the invisible church, they would have remained with the body of believers. As F. F. Bruce observes, “The perseverance of the saints is a biblical doctrine, but it is not doctrine designed to lull the indifferent into a sense of false security; it means that perseverance is an essential token of sanctity.”

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 2:19

ἐξῆλθαν—the aorist active of ἐξέρχομαι (I go out) shows that at one time these people were part of the church and then left. The tense indicates that the departure had taken place. They left, presumably, on their own accord.

εἰ—this is a contrary-to-fact conditional sentence. Instead of the aorist tense, the past perfect μεμενήκεισαν (from the verb μένω, I remain) appears. (7)

In Closing:

The Westminister Confession of Faith Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the Saints:

Section I.–They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

Section II.–This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own freewill, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Section III.–Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their perseverance, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalise others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.


The perseverance of the saints is one of the articles by which the creed of the followers of Calvin is distinguished from that of the followers of Arminius. The latter hold that true believers may fall into sins inconsistent with a state of grace, and may continue in apostasy to the end of life, and consequently may finally fall into perdition. The same doctrine is avowedly supported by the Church of Rome; for the Council of Trent has decreed “If any person shall say that a man who has been justified cannot lose grace, and that, therefore, he who falls and sins was never truly justified, he shall be accursed.” In opposition to this tenet, our Confession affirms, that true believers “can neither totally nor finally fall away from a state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” There may seem to be a redundancy of language in this statement, for, if believers cannot fall totally, it follows that they cannot fall finally. Both terms, however, are employed with the utmost propriety. “They are intended to oppose the doctrine of Arminians, who affirm, that although a saint may fall totally from grace, he may be restored by repentance; but that since this is uncertain, and does not always take place, he may also fall finally, and die in his sins. Now, we affirm, that the total apostasy of believers is impossible, not in the nature of things, but by the divine constitution; and, consequently, that no man who has been once received into the divine favour can be ultimately deprived of salvation.”

The value of the visible invisible church distinction is helpful in understanding why a seemingly true believer departs from the church and faith is seen in the next two passages:

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1John 2:19)

My comments on the 1John passage:

In the visible church, there are false believers and true believers. They both (tares and wheat) grow together until the end. The tares are part of the visible church. The wheat is part of the visible church plus the universal invisible church. Only God knows the true membership roll making up the invisible church. On a human level, we cannot read the hearts of professors of faith. That is why many are shocked when a seemingly strong member of the church departs and goes into unbelief as John explains in 1John 2:19. In other words, “they were not all of us.”

The next two passages provided supporting evidence that not everyone who names the name of Christ is truly a believer.

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2Timothy 3:5)

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you*: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23) (Underlining and bolding emphasis mine)

* ‘I never knew

ἔγνων (egnōn)

Verb – Aorist Indicative Active – 1st Person Singular

From the Strong’s Greek 1097

ginóskó: to come to know, recognize, perceive

Original Word: γινώσκω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: ginóskó

Phonetic Spelling: (ghin-oce’-ko)

Definition: to come to know, recognize, perceive

Usage: ginṓskō – properly, to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance).

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Matthew 7:23:

“23. And then will I profess unto them—or, openly proclaim—tearing off the mask.

I never knew you—what they claimed—intimacy with Christ—is just what He repudiates, and with a certain scornful dignity. “Our acquaintance was not broken off—there never was any.”

Depart from me—(Compare Mt 25:41). The connection here gives these words an awful significance. They claimed intimacy with Christ, and in the corresponding passage, Luke 13:26 are represented as having gone out and in with Him on familiar terms. “So much the worse for you,” He replies, “I bore with that long enough; but now—begone!”

Ye that work iniquity—not “that wrought iniquity”; for they are represented as fresh from the scenes and acts of it as they stand before the Judge. (See on the almost identical, but even more vivid and awful, description of the scene in Luke 13:24-27). That the apostle alludes to these very words in 2Ti 2:19 there can hardly be any doubt—“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Individuals, who make profession of faith that is later abandoned, commit apostasy. Individual churches and entire denominations and even nations can and have committed apostasy.” (8)

Christ’s declaration that He never knew certain professors of faith certainly establishes the view that false believers can commit apostasy without actually ever being in Christ.

As noted in the exposition of the Westminster Confession above, the apostasy of true believers is a doctrine promoted by the Roman Church. In contrast, the final perseverance of believers is a Reformation Protestant doctrine.


1. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 202.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Luke, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 226.

3. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 145-146.

4. John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. W. H. Goold, vol. 22, Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1855), p. 84. PDF of Chapter 6. p. 101-102.

5. John Gill, The Cause of God & Truth, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, reprint 1980), pp. 55-57.

6. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Peter and Jude, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 311-316.

7. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James and 1-111 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 276-278.

8. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 912.

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM Theological Dictionary: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

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

John Owen Exposition of Hebrews 6


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What is God’s wrath?

What is God’s wrath? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on God’s wrath. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary, lexical, and confessional evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live.


God’s perfection of righteous anger against sin; his “eternal detestation of all unrighteousness.” *


Biblically, it is the divine judgment upon sin and sinners. It does not merely mean that it is a casual response by God to ungodliness, but carries the meaning of hatred, revulsion, and indignation. God is by nature love (1John 4:16), however, in His justice He must punish sin. The punishment is called the wrath of God. It will occur on the final Day of Judgment when those who are unsaved will incur the wrath of God. It is, though, presently being released upon the ungodly (Romans 1:18-32) in the hardening of their hearts.

Wrath is described as God’s anger (Numbers 32:10-13), as stored up (Romans 2:5-8), and as great (Zechariah 7:12). The believer’s deliverance from God’s wrath is through the atonement (Romans 5:8-10). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thessalonians 5:9). **

Scripture Teaching:

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:12) (Underlining emphasis mine)

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” (Proverbs 11:4)

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on John 3:36:

“The wrath of God abideth on him. – Once only in the four Gospels does this term, so full of tremendous meaning, meet us, and that in the Gospel of fullest love, and in a context which speaks of the Father’s love to the Son, and of eternal life, which is the portion of all who believe on the Son. It must be so. This wrath (comp. Romans 2:8; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Revelation 19:15) is not the fierceness of passion, nor is it the expression of fixed hatred. It is the necessary aspect of love and holiness toward those who reject love, and willfully sin. It is not here spoken of as coming upon them, or as passing from them. It abideth, ever has and ever must; for the wrath of love must abide on hatred, the wrath of holiness must abide on sin. But none need hate, and none need live in willful sin. “He that believeth”—how vast the love and bright the hope of the all-including words—“hath eternal life”! (Comp. Note on John 6:56.)” (1)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Romans 1:18:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven,…. The apostle having hinted at the doctrine of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ; and which he designed more largely to insist upon in this epistle, and to prove that there can be no justification of a sinner in the sight of God by the deeds of the law, in order to set this matter in a clear light, from hence, to the end of the chapter, and in the following ones, represents the sad estate and condition of the Gentiles with the law of nature, and of the Jews with the law of Moses; by which it most clearly appears, that neither of them could be justified by their obedience to the respective laws under which they were, but that they both stood in need of the righteousness of God. By “the wrath of God” is meant the displicency and indignation of God at sin and sinners; his punitive justice, and awful vengeance; the judgments which he executes in this world; and that everlasting displeasure of his, and wrath to come in another world, which all through sin are deserving of, some are appointed to, God’s elect are delivered from, through Christ’s sustaining it, in their room and stead, and which comes and abides on all impenitent and unbelieving persons. This is said to be “revealed”, where? not in the Gospel, in which the righteousness of God is revealed; unless the Gospel be taken for the books of the four Evangelists, or for the Gospel dispensation, or for that part of the ministry of a Gospel preacher, which represents the wrath of God as the desert of sin, the dreadfulness of it, and the way to escape it; for the Gospel, strictly taken, is grace, good news, glad tidings, and not wrath and damnation; though indeed in Christ’s sufferings for the sins of his people, which the Gospel gives us an account of, there is a great display of the wrath of God, and of his indignation against sin: but this wrath of God is revealed in the law, it is known by the light of nature, and to be perceived in the law of Moses, and may be observed in the Scriptures, where are many instances and examples of divine wrath and displeasure; as in the total destruction of the old world by a world wide flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, the plagues of Egypt, and the several instances mentioned in this chapter. This wrath is said to be God’s wrath “from heaven”, by the awful blackness which covers the heavens, the storms and tempests raised in them, and by pouring down water or fire in a surprising manner, on the inhabitants of the world; or “from heaven”, that is, openly, manifestly, in the sight of all; or from God who is in heaven, and not from second causes; and more especially it will be revealed from heaven, when Christ shall descend from thence at the day of judgment: the subject matter or object of it,” (2)

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.” (Romans 2:5-8)

“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6)

Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians 5:6:

“Verse 6. – Let no man deceive you with empty words. No man, whether pagan or nominal Christian: the pagan defending a life of pleasure as the only thing to be had with even a smack of good in it; the Christian mitigating pleasant sins, saying that the young must have an outlet for their warm feelings, that men in business must put all their soul into it, and that life must be brightened by a little mirth and jollity. As opposed to what the apostle has laid down (ver. 5), such words are empty, destitute of all solidity or truth. For on account of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. The sophistry is swept away by an awful fact – the wrath cometh, is coming, and will come too in the future life. It comes in the form of natural punishment, Nature avenging her broken laws by deadly diseases; in the form, too, of disappointment, remorse, desolation of soul; and in the form of judgments, like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, or the sword which never departed from David’s house.” (3)

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:10)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words on wrath:


[1, G3709, orge]

See ANGER and Notes

(1) and


[2, G2372, thumos]

hot anger, passion, for which See ANGER, Notes

(1) and

(2), is translated “wrath” in Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28; Romans 2:8, RV; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 11:27; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 14:8, Revelation 14:10, Revelation 14:19; Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 18:3; “wraths” in 2 Corinthians 12:20; “fierceness” in Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15 (followed by No. 1).

[3, G3950, parorgismos]

occurs in Ephesians 4:26, See ANGER, A, Note


Note: For the verb parorgizo, “to provoke to wrath,” Ephesians 6:4, AV, See ANGER, B, No. 2. (4)

Short list of synonyms for wrath:

Extreme or hot anger, fury, hate, indignation, vengeance, passion, fierceness

Definition for WRATH, (ANGER), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


rath, roth, rath (‘aph, from ‘anaph, “to snort,” “to be angry”; orge, thumos, orgizomai): Designates various degrees of feeling, such as sadness (Ps 85:4), a frown or turning away of the face in grief or anger (2Ch. 26:19; Jer. 3:12), indignation (Ps 38:3), bitterness (Jdg. 18:25), fury (Est 1:12), full of anger (Gen 4:5; Jn. 7:23), snorting mad (Gen 27:45; Mt 2:16).

1. Divine Wrath:

Wrath is used with reference to both God and man. When used of God it is to be understood that there is the complete absence of that caprice and unethical quality so prominent in the anger attributed to the gods of the heathen and to man. The divine wrath is to be regarded as the natural expression of the divine nature, which is absolute holiness, manifesting itself against the willful, high-handed, deliberate, inexcusable sin and iniquity of mankind. God’s wrath is always regarded in the Scripture as the just, proper, and natural expression of His holiness and righteousness which must always, under all circumstances, and at all costs be maintained. It is therefore a righteous indignation and compatible with the holy and righteous nature of God (Nu 11:1-10; Dt. 29:27; 2 Sam 6:7; Isa 5:25; 42:25; Jer. 44:6; Ps 79:6). The element of love and compassion is always closely connected with God’s anger; if we rightly estimate the divine anger we must unhesitatingly pronounce it to be but the expression and measure of that love (compare Jer. 10:24; Ezek. 23; Am 3:2).

2. Human Wrath:

Wrath, when used of man, is the exhibition of an enraged sinful nature and is therefore always inexcusable (Gen 4:5, 6; 49:7; Prov. 19:19; Job 5:2; Lk 4:28; 2Cor. 12:10; Gal 5:20; Eph. 4:31; Col 3:8). It is for this reason that man is forbidden to allow anger to display itself in his life. He is not to “give place unto wrath” (Rom 12:19 margin), nor must he allow “the sun to go down upon his wrath” (Eph. 4:26). He must not be angry with his brother (Mt 5:22), but seek agreement with him lest the judgment that will necessarily fall upon the wrathful be meted out to him (Mt 5:25, 26). Particularly is the manifestation of an angry spirit prohibited in the training and bringing up of a family (Eph. 6:4; Col 3:19). Anger, at all times, is prohibited (Nu 18:5; Ps 37:8; Rom 12:19; Gal 5:19; Eph. 4:26; Jas 1:19, 20).

3. Divine Wrath Consistent with Love:

Wrath or anger, as pertaining to God, is very much more prominent in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. This is to be accounted for probably because the New Testament magnifies the grace and love of God as contrasted with His wrath; at least love is more prominent than wrath in the revelation and teaching of Christ and His apostles. Nevertheless, it must not be thought that the element of wrath, as a quality of the divine nature, is by any means overlooked in the New Testament because of the prominent place there given to love. On the contrary, the wrath of God is intensified because of the more wonderful manifestation of His grace, mercy and love in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. God is not love only: He is also righteous; yea, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29); “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). No effeminate, sentimental view of the Fatherhood of God or of His mercy and loving-kindness can exclude the manifestation of His just, righteous and holy anger against sin and the sinner because of his transgression (1Pet 1:17; Heb. 10:29). One thing only can save the sinner from the outpouring of God’s righteous anger against sin in the day of visitation, namely, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the divinely-appointed Redeemer of the world (Jn. 3:36; Rom 1:16-18; 5:9). Nor should the sinner think that the postponement or the omission (or seeming omission) of the visitation of God’s wrath against sin in the present means the total abolition of it in the future. Postponement is not abolition; indeed, the sinner, who continually rejects Jesus Christ and the salvation which God has provided in Him, is simply `treasuring up’ wrath for himself “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who (one day) will render to every man according to his works: …. to them that …. obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, …. wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil” (Rom 2:5-9; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 6:16,17; 16:19; 19:15).


God’s anger while slow, and not easily aroused (Ps 103:8; Isa 48:9; Jon 4:2; Nah 1:3), is to be dreaded (Ps 2:12; 76:7; 90:11; Mt 10:28); is not to be provoked (Jer. 7:19; 1Cor. 10:22); when visited, in the present life, should be borne with submission (2 Sam 24:17; Lam 3:39, 43; Mic 7:9); prayer should be earnestly made for deliverance from it (Ps 39:10; 80:4; Dan 9:16; Hab. 3:2); it should be the means of leading man to repentance (Isa 42:24, 25; Jer. 4:8).

Certain specific things are said especially to arouse God’s anger: continual provocation (Nu 32:14), unbelief (Ps 78:21, 22; Heb. 3:18,19), impenitence (Isa 9:13, 14; Rom 2:5), apostasy (Heb. 10:26, 27), idolatry (Dt 32:19, 20, 22; 2Ki 22:17; Jer. 44:3), sin in God’s people (Ps 89:30-32; Isa 47:6), and it is manifested especially against opponents of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ps 2:2, 3, 5; 1Thess 2:16).

4. Righteous and Unrighteous Anger:

There is a sense, however, in which anger is the duty of man; he is to “hate evil” (Ps 97:10). It is not enough that God’s people should love righteousness, they must also be angry with sin (not the sinner). A man who is incapable of being angry at sin is at the same time thereby adjudged to be incapable of having a real love for righteousness. So there is a sense in which a man may be said to “be …. angry, and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Anger at the sin and unrighteousness of men, and because their sin is grievous to God, may be called a “righteous indignation.” Such an indignation is attributed to Jesus when it is said that He “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart” (Mk 3:5). When anger arises because of this condition, it is sinless, but when anger arises because of wounded or aggrieved personality or feelings, it is sinful and punishable. Anger, while very likely to become sinful, is not really sinful in itself.

We have illustrations in the Scriptures of wrath or anger that is justifiable: Jesus (Mk 3:5), Jacob (Gen 31:36), Moses (Ex 11:8; 32:19; Lev 10:16; Nu 16:15), Nehemiah (Neh. 5:6; 13:17,25); of sinful anger: Cain (Gen 4:5,6), Esau (Gen 27:45), Moses (Nu 20:10,11), Balaam (Nu 22:27), Saul (1 Sam 20:30), Ahab (1 Ki 21:4), Naaman (2 Ki 5:11), Herod (Mt 2:16), the Jews (Lk 4:28), the high priest (Acts 5:17; 7:54). William Evans (5)

Chapter VI of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof

I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit.[1] This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.[2]

II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, [3] and so became dead in sin, [4] and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. [5]

III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; [6] and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. [7]

IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good,[8] and wholly inclined to all evil,[9] do proceed all actual transgressions.[10]

V. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; [11] and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. [12]

VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,[13] does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner,[14] whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God,[15] and curse of the law,[16] and so made subject to death,[17] with all miseries spiritual,[18] temporal,[19] and eternal.[20]

Scriptural proofs:

[1] GEN 3:13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 2CO 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

[2] ROM 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

[3] GEN 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. ECC 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. ROM 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

[4] GEN 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. EPH 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

[5] TIT 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. GEN 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. JER 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ROM 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

[6] GEN 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 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. 2:16 AND THE LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. ACT 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. ROM 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 1CO 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

[7] PSA 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. GEN 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth. JOB 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 15:14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

[8] ROM 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. ROM 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. ROM 7:18 For I know that in me(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. COL 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.

[9] GEN 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 8:21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. ROM 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

[10] JAM 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. EPH 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. MAT 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

[11] 1JO 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ROM 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. JAM 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. PRO 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? ECC 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

[12]ROM 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. GAL 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

[13] 1JO 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

[14] ROM 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. ROM 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

[15] EPH 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

[16] GAL 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

[17] ROM 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[18] EPH 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

[19] ROM 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. LAM 3:39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?

[20] MAT 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. 2TH 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

In closing:

The Wrath of God is transferred to Jesus on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice is called a propitiation or expiation, which is the act of appeasing God.

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Romans 3:25)

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17ESV)

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2:2)


“Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.” – John Murray


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, John, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 406.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 19.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ephesians, Vol. 20, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 208-209.

4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 1251.

5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 3113.

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM Theological Dictionary: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

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

Jonathan Edwards, SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD https://www.monergism.com/thethresh…/…/pdf/edwards_angry.pdf

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Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study

Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study by Jack Kettler

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching on Romans 8:28 regarding God’s promises. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. This promise in Scripture has always been a favorite.

Scripture Teaching:

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

When Paul says: “all things work together for good,” it does not exclude trials and tribulations. This promise gives great encouragement during times of trouble. In times of blessings, the promise gives way to praise and adoration. There are many great promises of God’s care for His people. There are three passages listed below.

Supporting Passages:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) Protecting

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Giving

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” (Ephesians 1:9) Revealing

Beyond the qualification of being one of God’s people, there are no conditions attached to these promises.

For the reader’s edification, Romans 8:28 is broken down word by word:

Digging Deeper from the Strong’s Lexicon:


δὲ (de)


Strong’s Greek 1161: A primary particle; but, etc.

we know

Οἴδαμεν (Oidamen)

Verb – Perfect Indicative Active – 1st Person Plural

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


ὅτι (hoti)


Strong’s Greek 3754: Neuter of hostis as conjunction; demonstrative, that; causative, because.


θεὸς (theos)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.

works all things together

συνεργεῖ (synergei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 4903: To cooperate with, work together. From sunergos, to be a fellow-worker, i.e. Co-operate.

πάντα (panta)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 3956: All, the whole, every kind of. Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.


εἰς (eis)


Strong’s Greek 1519: A primary preposition; to or into, of place, time, or purpose; also in adverbial phrases.

[the] good

ἀγαθόν (agathon)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Singular

Strong’s Greek 18: A primary word; ‘good’.

of those who

τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.


ἀγαπῶσιν (agapōsin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 25: To love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem. Perhaps from again, to love.


Θεὸν (Theon)

Noun – Accusative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.


τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.


οὖσιν (ousin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

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


κλητοῖς (klētois)

Adjective – Dative Masculine Plural

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

according to

κατὰ (kata)


Strong’s Greek 2596: A primary particle; down, in varied relations (genitive, dative or accusative) with which it is joined).

[His] purpose.

πρόθεσιν (prothesin)

Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4286: From protithemai, a setting forth, i.e. proposal; specially, the show-bread as exposed before God.

What exactly is a promise? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has an excellent entry:


prom’-is (most frequently in the Old Testament dabhar, “speaking,” “speech,” and dabhar, “to speak” also ‘amar, “to say,” once in Psalms 77:8, ‘omer, “speech”; in the New Testament epaggelia, and the verbs epaggellomai, and compounds):

Promise holds an important place in the Scriptures and in the development of the religion that culminated in Christ. The Bible is indeed full of “precious and exceeding great promises” (2Peter 1:4), although the word “promise” is not always used in connection with them. Of the more outstanding promises of the Old Testament may be mentioned:

(1) The proto-evangelium (Genesis 3:15);

(2) The promise to Noah no more to curse the ground, etc. (Genesis 8:21, 22; 9:1-17);

(3) most influential, the promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation in whom all families of the earth should be blessed, to give to him and his seed the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:2,7, etc.), often referred to in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:25; Deuteronomy 1:8,11; 6:3; 9:28, etc.);

(4) The promise to David to continue his house on the throne (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 18; 1Kings 2:24, etc.);

(5) the promise of restoration of Israel, of the Messiah, of the new and everlasting kingdom, of the new covenant and outpouring of the Spirit (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2; 55:5; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:37-42; 33:14; Ezekiel 36:22-31; 37:11; 39:25, etc.).

In the New Testament these promises are founded on, and regarded as having their true fulfillment in, Christ and those who are His (2Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 3:6). The promise of the Spirit is spoken of by Jesus as “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4), and this was regarded as fulfilled at Pentecost. The promise of a Saviour of the seed of David is regarded as fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:23, 32; 26:6; Romans 1:2; 4:13; 9:4). Paul argues that the promise to Abraham that he should be “heir of the world,” made to him before circumcision, is not confined to Israel, but is open to all who are children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:13-16; compare Galatians 3:16,19, 29). In like manner the writer to the Hebrews goes back to the original promises, giving them a spiritual and eternal significance (4:1; 6:17; 11:9, etc.). The New Testament promises include manifold blessings and hopes, among them “life,” “eternal life” (1Timothy 4:8; 6:19; 2Timothy 1:1; James 1:12), the “kingdom” (James 2:5), Christ’s “coming” (2Peter 3:9, etc.), “new heavens and a new earth” (2Peter 3:13), etc. For “promise” and “promised” in the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) has frequently other terms, as “word” (Psalms 105:42), “spake,” “spoken” (Deuteronomy 10:9; Joshua 9:21; 22:4; 23:5,15, etc.), “consented” (Luke 22:6), etc. References to the promises occur repeatedly in the Apocrypha (Baruch 2:34; 2 Macc. 2:18; The Wisdom of Solomon 12:21; compare 2Esdras 3:15; 5:29). W. L. Walker (1)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Roman’s 8:28 is most edifying:

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

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

How is this known?

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Calvin on Romans 8:28 continues to illuminate us:

“28. And we know, etc. He now draws this conclusion from what had been said, that so far are the troubles of this life from hindering our salvation, that, on the contrary, they are helps to it. It is no objection that he sets down an illative particle, for it is no new thing with him to make somewhat an indiscriminate use of adverbs, and yet this conclusion includes what anticipates an objection. For the judgment of the flesh in this case exclaims, that it by no means appears that God hears our prayers, since our afflictions continue the same. Hence, the Apostle anticipates this and says, that though God does not immediately succour his people, he yet does not forsake them, for by a wonderful contrivance he turns those things, which seem to be evils in such a way as to promote their salvation. If anyone prefers to read this verse by itself, as though Paul proceeded to a new argument in order to show that adversities, which assist our salvation, ought not to be borne as hard and grievous things, I do not object. At the same time, the design of Paul is not doubtful: “Though the elect and the reprobate are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great, difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby promotes their salvation.”

But we must remember that Paul speaks here only of adversities, as though he had said, “All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God, that what the world regards as evil, the issue shows to be good.” For though what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of the saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation; yet this belongs not to this passage, the subject of which is the cross.

It must also be observed, that he includes the whole of true religion in the love of God, as on it depends the whole practice of righteousness.

Even to them who according to his purpose, etc. This clause seems to have been added as a modification, lest anyone should think that the faithful, because they love God, obtain by their own merit the advantage of deriving such fruit from their adversities. We indeed know that when salvation is the subject, men are disposed to begin with themselves, and to imagine certain preparations by which they would anticipate the favor of God. Hence, Paul teaches us, that those whom he had spoken of as loving God, had been previously chosen by him. For it is certain that the order is thus pointed out, that we may know that it proceeds from the gratuitous adoption of God, as from the first cause, that all things happen to the saints for their salvation. Nay, Paul shows that the faithful do not love God before they are called by him, as in another place he reminds us that the Galatians were known of God before they knew him. (Galatians 4:9.) It is indeed true what Paul intimates, that afflictions avail not to advance the salvation of any but of those who love God; but that saying of John is equally true, that then only he is begun to be loved by us, when he anticipates us by his gratuitous love.

But the calling of which Paul speaks here, has a wide meaning, for it is not to be confined to the manifestation of election, of which mention is presently made, but is to be set simply in opposition to the course pursued by men; as though Paul had said, – “The faithful attain not religion by their own efforts, but are, on the contrary led by the hand of God, inasmuch as he has chosen them to be a peculiar people to himself.” The word purpose distinctly excludes whatever is imagined to be adduced mutually by men; as though Paul had denied, that the causes of our election are to be sought anywhere else, except in the secret good pleasure of God; which subject is more fully handled in the first chapter to the Ephesians, and in the first of the Second Epistle to Timothy; where also the contrast between this purpose and human righteousness is more distinctly set forth. Paul, however, no doubt made here this express declaration, – that our salvation is based on the election of God, in order that he might make a transition to that which he immediately subjoined, namely, that by the same celestial decree, the afflictions, which conform us to Christ, have been appointed; and he did this for the purpose of connecting, as by a kind of necessary chain, our salvation with the bearing of the cross.” (3)

In closing:

Another relevant area when studying God’s promises is known as conditional and unconditional promises. Studying these distinctions of promises is beyond the scope of this present study.

In short, God’s promises fall into two categories, unconditional and conditional:

· An unconditional promise is one that God guarantees without any conditions attached (Genesis 15:18-21)

· A conditional covenant is an agreement between two or more parties that requires certain terms to be met (Isaiah 5:1-7)

“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. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘PROMISE,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 2459.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 506-507.

3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans, Volume XIX, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 314-316.

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

The Saint’s Pocket Book of Promises by Joseph Alleine http://www.onthewing.org/…/Alleine%20-%20The%20Saints%20Poc…

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