Category Archives: Bible Questions

Answers to Some Questions About the Word “Apostles”

ApostlesLogo

Recently, a friend of mine asked for permission to use some of the material we have posted here on the apostles to teach in the congregation he works with.  I told him that was fine with me, and so he began.  But he ran into some objections from the get-go regarding my definition of the word “apostle.”

Here’s the email I received:

So, I started to teach on the apostles and the congregation had some surprisingly not so positive feed back……..before we ever really got started on Epaphroditus

They were surprised by your definition of apostle being so broad.  

  • ‘Didn’t an apostle have to see Jesus, like it says when Matthias was chosen?’  
  • ‘I thought being an apostle meant you could do miracles and give the ability to do the miraculous to others?’   
  • ‘Using his definition, is there even a difference between disciple and apostle?  Or is it Apostle and apostle?’ 
  • ‘Where do we draw the line?  Does the fact that we help support _________ on missionary trips to Honduras make him an apostle since the church sent him on a mission?’
  • ‘Aren’t we all apostles then because we all have a message to take from Jesus himself: the Gospel?’

I was quite surprised by this resistance to how you presented it in your material.  I really didn’t have anything to answer other than this is how you had chose to tackle the subject.

Pretty sure this is not what you expected … but I promised them I would pass their questions along and see what you said about it.

So, in order to clarify, and to eliminate anymore possible difficulties with his using the material there, I sent the following letter as an answer to their questions.  I am posting it here, because perhaps some of you may have had the same thoughts as you read through the original introduction to this series… WAY back in January.  🙂

My brethren,

__________ wrote me and conveyed some concern that many of you had regarding my initial definition of the word “apostle.”  I appreciate the opportunity to try to clarify and hopefully dispel any worries that you might have with me (though we’ve never met) and the material.  With that in mind, I offer the following three points, followed by answers to some of the specific questions that were asked:

(1) The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “one sent [with a specific mission].”  It is said in many Bible dictionaries that by the time the New Testament was written, this word had taken on the sense of an emissary, a delegate for someone else.

God inspired the writers of the New Testament to use this word, in its many forms (noun, verb, singular, plural, etc.) to describe the fourteen men we consider to be “Apostles” (i.e., the original twelve plus Matthias and Paul).  However, this exact same Greek word is used in other places in the New Testament to describe people who weren’t of that number.  Since God inspired men to use this word to describe more than just the official “Apostles,” then we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge that He used it in a broader sense than we’re used to.

*Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gave this as the definition of “Apostle”:
Apostle

APOS’TLE, n. [Gr. to send away, to sent.]

A person deputed to execute some important business; but appropriately, a disciple of Christ commissioned to preach the gospel. Twelve persons were selected by Christ for this purpose; and Judas, one of the number, proving an apostate, his place was supplied by Matthias. Acts 1.

The title of apostle is applied to Christ himself, Heb 3. In the primitive ages of the church, other ministers were called apostles, Rom 16; as were persons sent to carry alms from one church to another, Phil 2. This title was also given to persons who first planted the Christian faith. Thus Dionysius of Corinth is called the apostle of France; and the Jesuit Missionaries are called apostles.

Among the Jews, the title was given to officers who were sent into distant provinces, as visitors or commissioners, to see the laws observed.

*Smith’s Bible Dictionary start’s itsdefinition this way:

Apostle. (one sent forth). In the New Testament, originally the official name of those twelve of the disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth. The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers.  See 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25.

*Fausset’s Dictionary includes this sentence in its article on “Apostle”:

“Apostle” is used in a vaguer sense of “messengers of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).

(2) There is a difference between an “apostle” [a “sent one”] and someone who wore the title or held the official office of an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Epaphroditus was said to be an “apostle” of the church (the KJV says “messenger,” though it is the exact same word as what is translated “apostle” in the NT).  Jesus Christ was called an Apostle–because He was sent by God with a mission.  James, the brother of the Lord, is called an “apostle.” Barnabas is called an “apostle.”  But none of these men wore the title, or held the office of “Apostle.”  Only Paul and the “twelve” could lay claim to that.  These others were simply ones who were sent by someone with a specific mission–the actual meaning of the word “Apostle.”

A similar case exists with the word “elder.”  There is a difference between someone who holds the title/office of “elder” in the church, and someone who is just an “elder” — an older person (as in 1 Tim 5:1-2).

(3) If we wish to use Bible words in the way the Bible uses them, then we could say that a missionary sent out by the congregation is an “apostle” of that congregation–but given the way denominations have twisted and tortured the word in applying it to offices within their ranks, as well as the exclusive way we’ve traditionally used “apostle” to refer only to the twelve and Paul, it wouldn’t be very expedient to do that; in fact, it would be downright confusing.

Questions:
1. Didn’t an apostle have to see Jesus, like is says when Matthias was chosen?
  In order to hold the office of an apostle, to be one of the specific twelve men that Jesus chose to be his miracle-working and miracle-giving representatives to the world, then yes, absolutely he had to see Jesus.  But this was not a requirement for someone to be called an “apostle” in the general sense of the word.

2. I thought being an apostle meant you could do miracles and give the ability to do the miraculous to others? That is 100% true, so long as we are talking about the office or title of “apostle,” which was only held by fourteen men (the twelve, plus Matthias, plus Paul).  There are other men who were called “apostles” in a general sense (Barnabas was called an apostle in Acts 14:14), but who are distinguished from those who held the office of an “apostle” (Barnabas was not a member of “THE apostles,” Acts 4:36, 9:27).

3. Using his definition, is there even a difference between disciple and apostle?  Or is it Apostle and apostle? A disciple is a follower, and a learner from someone else.  An apostle (in the general sense of the word) is someone who is sent away with a mission from someone else.  Not all disciples of Jesus were mature enough or trusted enough to be sent by Him as His delegate.  Even when the Bible speaks of Epaphroditus, who Paul calls “your messenger” (the Greek word is apostolos), it shows that he was someone who was mature and trusted by the congregation to be sent on their behalf to help Paul.  So, there is a difference between disciple and apostle.  I think that the second half of the question really gets the emphasis: Apostle (as a proper name, a title, the name of an office in the first-century church) is something describing the “twelve” and Paul; apostle is the general sense of the word, meaning anyone who was sent away with a specific mission.

4. Where do we draw the line?  Does the fact that we help support ________ on missionary trips to Honduras make him an apostle since the church sent him on a mission? I’ll answer the second part first.  From a strict definition of the word “apostle,” then yes, one could call Tony an “apostle” of the church there where you meet.  In fact, the Bible uses it that way in 2 Cor 8:23.  Titus and his companions were called “messengers (Greek, apostolos) of the churches.  However, using it that way today would get confusing as all get-out to people–both in the church and out of it–because of how we’ve traditionally understood the word “apostle” (referring to the twelve and Paul), and because of how some denominations have perverted the word to refer to their leaders (i.e., the Mormons and others).  The line between an “apostle” in the general sense and an “apostle” in the sense of people like Peter, Andrew, James, and John is this: Jesus selected twelve men to be called (or given the title of) “apostles.”  Judas fell by transgression, and God chose Matthias to be his replacement so that there were again “twelve” on the Day of Pentecost.  Paul repeatedly lays claim to the title of “apostle” and says that he is not one whit behind the other apostles.  Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture (2 Peter 3), so we know that Paul was also among this group.  There is where the line is drawn.  No one outside of those fourteen men were ever “called” (or given the title of) an “apostle.”

5. Aren’t we all apostles then, because we all have a message to take from Jesus himself: the gospel?  The idea of an “apostle” is that a person is sent away from somewhere.  The men called “apostles” in the Bible (in either the general sense or the specific sense of the twelve plus Paul) all left their homes and went somewhere else to carry out the mission in other cities or areas.  Jesus (called an apostle in Hebrews) left heaven and came to earth.  Paul left Tarsus and Jerusalem and traveled the whole Roman Empire.  Peter preached in many places within Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  John did the same thing, as well as spreading God’s word from Patmos (an island west of Asia Minor).  We’re not given the travels of the other apostles in the Scriptures, but they all stayed in Jerusalem for a time, which was not their home–they were all from Galilee (see Acts 2).  So, in answer to the question, while we have been given a message to spread, the gospel, we haven’t been called to leave our home behind and personally go and take the gospel to other lands.  We are not apostles in either sense of the word.

In conclusion, there are THE apostles (the twelve plus Paul) and then there are “apostles” in the general sense of the word.  The purpose of the material I’ve written is to look at the Christians whom God saw fit to call “apostles” (apostolos) in the Bible.  We first look at the ones who are not part of THE apostles (though they all almost certainly were able to perform miracles after having hands laid on them by one of the twelve or Paul).  Then we look at the “Twelve” (including Matthias), and finally, Paul.

If you have any specific questions or desire clarification on a specific point, feel free to email me or send a question through __________ and he will get it to me.  I will answer it as promptly (and with biblical support) as I can.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Was Lot Really Righteous?

Question: How could Peter call Lot a “righteous man” when Genesis 19 presents him as anything but righteous?

Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them with an overthrow, having made an example out of them to those that are about to be living ungodly;  And delivered righteous Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) –2 Peter 2:6-8

Three times in this passage, Peter—by inspiration—calls Lot “righteous.”  This is not the impression one gets when reading Genesis 19.  In that chapter, Lot was willing to give up his two virgin daughters to a crowd of angry men wanting to fulfill their sexual urges.  He did not leave Sodom willingly: the angels of God had to grab him and his family and basically drag them out of the city.  He was commanded to go to the mountains to be safe, but he said that he’d be killed if he went in the mountains, showing an incredible lack of faith.  He got so drunk, he didn’t even realize his daughters had sexual relations with him.

But God calls him “righteous” three times.

Some have said that Lot was only righteous by comparison.  While Lot comes out looking good when you compare the two, I don’t think that is what we are to get out of this passage, because Peter goes on to explain Lot’s righteousness as something that existed before the events of Genesis 19 (from day to day).

Lot’s offering of his daughters is, to the modern reader, inexcusable.  Many have said that it was a cultural thing, where daughters were viewed less as family and more as property.  Some of the same people emphasize the idea of hospitality—that taking someone into your house meant that you would do anything to protect them.  Those may be the case, though I personally cannot wrap my mind around offering up my own daughters to a crowd of men.

But perhaps what we are to learn from God using the word “righteous” three times to describe Lot is that even righteous people stumble and fall sometimes, but God knows the hearts.  How would you react if you were told to hurry up and run out of the city?  Would you hesitate?  How would you react if you were told to run to the mountain—a place perhaps known as being unsafe?  Would you be scared?  How would you react if your wife, your sons, some of your daughters, and your home were all destroyed?  Do you think you might be tempted to drink away your sorrows?

God said Lot was a righteous man, and even righteous men can have their moments of weakness.  I think that is part of the lesson to be learned here.

Lot was called “righteous” because the sins of the people around him troubled him greatly.  He hated seeing the sinfulness, the debauchery, the unbridled wickedness that the city was known for.  For us to be righteous, we must also be troubled by sin.  It’s when we get so used to sin that it doesn’t bother us anymore that we are in trouble.

-Bradley Cobb

 

Did Paul Receive the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands?

Question: The book of Acts says that Ananias came and laid hands on Paul so that he would “receive the Holy Spirit.”  Does that mean that he had the Holy Spirit before he was baptized? –F.B.U.

To answer this question, we need to look at the text that it comes from:

Acts 9:17-18

And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. And putting his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus that appeared to you in the way as you came has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized.

Putting his hands on him…”Brother Saul…receive your sight…”

Here we see the miracle of Saul’s sight being restored. Verse 18 makes it clear that was the result of Ananias’ laying hands on him. That much is clear and undisputed by anyone who believes the Bible.

The question now, though, is what do we make of the phrase “be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are several opinions from scholars as to what this means. Some insist that it is the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit being given to Saul of Tarsus—prior to baptism—by Ananias laying hands on him. Others say basically the same thing, except they say it was the gift of miracles being given to Saul prior to his baptism by Ananias laying hands on him.

When Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit,” miracles (usually inspiration) are always under consideration. Examine them for yourself: John the Immerser (Luke 1:15), John’s mother, Elisabeth (Luke 1:41-45), John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), the apostles again (Acts 4:31), Stephen (Acts 6:5, 7:55-56), Barnabas (Acts 11:22-24), Paul (Acts 13:9-11), and the disciples of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14, 51-52).

Understanding this, let’s now look at the evidence to come to a rational, biblical conclusion to this potential conundrum.

First, Jesus said that the purpose of Ananias’ laying hands on Saul was so he would receive his sight. That was seen in verse 12 of this same chapter. There was no indication in Jesus’ words that Ananias was going to give Saul the Holy Spirit.

Second, the only result of this event shown in the Bible is that Saul received his sight. After he put his hands on Saul, the Bible only records that Saul received his sight. It says nothing about him receiving the Holy Spirit. If we look at Acts 22, where Saul (who is also called Paul) is telling about this very event, we see that he doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit at all—but he does mention receiving his sight again.[1]

Third, the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit was only available to the apostles. This is shown in chapter 8, verses 14-18. Ananias was not an apostle, and so—unless someone wishes to argue that Ananias should be classed as an apostle—the evidence is against his being able to pass on this gift.

Fourth, Saul was lost in his sins when Ananias laid his hands on him, and was not a candidate to receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not been baptized. This principle is seen in Acts 8:15-16. Acts 22:12-16 shows that he was still lost in sins after Ananias laid his hands on him. The Holy Spirit was promised only to those who were the obedient servants of God.[2]

Fifth, Paul makes it very clear throughout his life that he did not receive his apostleship from any man. Miracles (the gift of the Holy Spirit) and the ability to pass them on were “the signs of an apostle.”[3] Paul states that he was “an apostle—not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.”[4] All of the apostles received their miraculous ability direct from heaven.[5] Paul would be no different.

Sixth, we see no record of Saul performing miracles until years later. The first time we read of Saul (now called Paul) doing any miracle is in Acts 13:9-11. This is the first time where Paul is said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Now, this does not mean that Paul was unable to perform miracles prior to Acts 13, but it is supportive evidence that he didn’t receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him. There is no evidence that Saul was able to work miracles before that event.

Seventh, it took the testimony of Barnabas to convince the apostles that Saul was really a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might ask, What does that have to do with anything? If Saul of Tarsus had the miraculous abilities given by the Holy Spirit at this point, it would have been very simple for him to prove to the apostles and other disciples that he was a Christian. But instead, it took Barnabas speaking on his behalf. Though not conclusive, this evidence seems to indicate that at this point Saul did not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since the evidence implies that Saul did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, what exactly did he mean when he told Saul “Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Ananias’ mission was to heal and baptize Saul; to bring him into the family of God and Christ. As you can see from other passages in Acts,[6] the Holy Spirit was only given to those who were servants of God, and who obey Him. Ananias came to help Saul become spiritually acceptable before God, and thus also help him become a candidate for the reception of the Holy Spirit. It was preparatory work.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] Acts 22:12-13

[2] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

[3] II Corinthians 12:12

[4] Galatians 1:1

[5] Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31

[6] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

Is the Lord’s Supper the most important part of worship?

 

Question: Is the Lord’s Supper more important than the other actions in the worship service? –B.C., Indiana.

Thanks for the question. There are many sincere brethren who believe that the Lord’s Supper is the central element of our worship, and there are many other sincere brethren who believe it is exactly of equal importance with the other areas of worship and dedication to God that take place in the assembly. But the question is this: What does the Bible say?

First, notice Acts 20:7. The apostle Paul had spent a full week in Troas just so he could assemble with the saints on the Lord’s Day. But Luke describes the assembly this way: “The disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread.” This isn’t talking about a common meal. Paul could have had a common meal with the saints any day of the week. Especially consider that during Paul’s time, Sundays were work days. This verse is a reference, not to a regular meal, but to the Lord’s Supper.

According to Luke, the inspired historian and writer of Acts, the main reason the disciples came together was to take the Lord’s Supper. Was it the only reason? Of course not. Paul preached to them all night long, and though the text doesn’t say it, we can safely surmise that they also sang and prayed as well.

Second, Christians in the Bible were criticized because they weren’t focusing on the Lord’s Supper when they came together. Look at 1 Corinthians 11: “…I am not praising you, because you are not coming together for the better, but for the worse. … When you come together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.”

The inspired apostle Paul told the Christians in Corinth that they were sinning, coming together for the worse, because their coming together wasn’t to eat the Lord’s Supper. Sure, they literally ate the unleavened bread and drank the fruit of the vine, but they didn’t treat it as the sacred, Jesus-instituted meal that it was meant to be.

Other passages in the same book show us that they also prayed and sang when they came together, as well as exhorted and instructed one another with preaching (see chapter 14). The Lord’s Supper was not the only reason they were to come together, to be certain. But Paul uses soul-condemning language in regards to their lack of focus on the Lord’s Supper (see 11:29), but doesn’t use that language when talking about their improper singing and speaking in the assembly.

Third, the Lord’s Supper is the only part of the assembly that was actually ordained specifically by Jesus Christ. Think about it for a moment: singing, praying, preaching, and giving were all things done throughout the Old Testament. But the Passover was a special event, one with great depth of meaning; one that was a memorial of what God had done for Israel; one that held a place of prominence over the regular temple worship.

In the same way, the Lord’s Supper is a special event; one with great depth of meaning; one that is a memorial of what God (through Jesus Christ) has done for us. It is given prominence by God through His inspired writers. It is the part of worship that Jesus Himself commanded His followers to practice to remember Him and His death.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Singing and praying, preaching and giving, they are all commanded by God, and are therefore important.  But there is a focus, an emphasis given to the Lord’s Supper that puts it above the rest.

Final Thoughts

Christians have been done a disservice by hearing preachers, elders, and members talk of the Lord’s Supper as “an important part, but not the most important part of our worship.” The Lord’s Supper has been relegated to a five-minute snack with little to no spiritual reflection offered by the ones serving at the Lord’s table.

If you were to ask most Christians what they remembered about the worship period last Sunday, they’d probably tell you about the sermon, perhaps the song leading, and maybe a prayer that stuck out in their mind.

The Lord’s Supper was the primary reason the early church gathered together. Don’t you think it’s time we got back to doing that?

-Bradley Cobb

Are Preaching Schools Authorized?

Are Preaching Schools authorized in the Bible? Should a church be paying teachers there and/or paying students to go to school? Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this.—James D.

Thanks for writing. In order to discover the answer to your question, we need to go to the Scripture and notice certain things. We must also keep in mind that if God gives a command, but doesn’t tell us how we are to carry it out, then the how is left to our own judgment (so long as it doesn’t violate another command of God). For example, Jesus said to “go teach all nations.” He said to go and to teach, but He didn’t say how we were to go—it could be on foot, by car, airplane, by horse, etc… He also didn’t say how we were to teach all nations—it could be in person, via correspondence courses, books, DVDs, television/radio, over the phone, etc… This is an important principle to keep in mind as we look at this question.

First, the command to teach men is found in 2 Timothy 2:2. This is Timothy teaching men (plural). Paul doesn’t say, “teach men in your house.” He doesn’t say, “Teach them at the church building.” He says simply to teach them. The specifics (time, place, length, setting, etc…) are not given, thus Timothy had liberty to do the teaching where and when he saw fit. If Timothy had set up his own “School of Preaching,” he would have not added nor taken away from the command given, nor would he have violated it at all—it would simply have been an expedient to obey the command to teach men.

We, therefore, have Scriptural authority for an individual Christian teaching others in whatever way is deemed expedient. But what about a congregation? After all (in case you are unaware), every school of preaching is the work of a specific congregation.

The purpose of a “school of preaching” is to build up Christians so that they will be able to go out and teach others (see Hebrews 5:12). This is something to be done individually (II Timothy 4:2) but also collectively as a congregation (Ephesians 4:12, 16). The specifics of where, what time, setting, etc… are not given, and thus the HOW of the “building up” of the saints, helping them to grow as they are taught, is a matter of opinion/expediency.

These above things being true, a congregation can set up a school of preaching to teach men, and they have not violated any command of the Scriptures.

Second, regarding the funding aspect—The apostle Paul received financial aid from several congregations in order for him to preach the gospel to the lost, but also to help Christians become grounded in the faith and to be prepared to teach others. Thus we have a divinely approved example of a preacher/teacher being supported by other congregations while he works to build up the saints.  The ones being taught in a preacher training school are saints, thus it follows this divinely approved example.

Third, regarding supporting students—you’re not paying them to go to school. That is a misnomer. You’re sending money so that they can live WHILE going to school. Several congregations gathered money and sent it to the poor saints in Jerusalem so that they could live. This money was collected by one trustworthy person who wasn’t a part of their congregations, and taken to be left with the church in Jerusalem for the elders there to disperse as needed. If it is permissible—and even commanded—for congregations to send money to help Christians who needed it to be able to eat and live, then it is permissible to do the exact same thing for Christians today who have dedicated themselves to the study and spread of God’s word.

Though some people are opposed to the idea of preaching schools, the Bible gives authority for these works to exist.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – Will the Wicked Be Resurrected Too?

Question: When the final judgment takes place, will the wicked be raised too? I’ve been reading several books lately, and some of them say that the wicked will simply be destroyed and cease to exist. What are your thoughts? – W.A.A., California.

Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate your writing to get my thoughts, but I’m sure that you’ll agree that what’s really important is what the Bible says on the matter.

The doctrine that you have read about is generally called annihilationism. That is, the belief that the wicked, instead of being sent to a place of torment, will simply be annihilated—being completely removed from existence. Their punishment, according to this belief, would be that they simply cease to exist. This view is held by the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it has also been advocated by respected men in the church like Homer Hailey.

But again, the question is: what does the Bible say?

First, we can look at the teaching of Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 15:19-31). In that teaching, whether you call it a parable or not, Jesus teaches the reality of torment for the wicked after death. This is a conscious torment—the rich man was very much aware of his pain and anguish. He was not annihilated at the point of his physical death.

Secondly, and perhaps most convincingly, are the words of Paul from Acts 24:14-15. “[I am] believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets, and have hope towards God…that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”

Thirdly, the Scriptures teach that at the judgment, all men will have to answer for the things done in the body, whether they be good or evil (II Corinthians 5:10). This shows that everyone will be present at the final judgment—not just the saints.

Fourthly, Jesus constantly speaks of a place of constant torment for the wicked. He calls it “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” He calls it the place where the fire is never quenched and the worm doesn’t die. He also calls it “hell.” There is no need for such a place if the wicked simply cease to exist. Since there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in that place, that means there will be people there—the wicked people.

The Scriptures are pretty clear that the wicked will be raised and stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. After their sentence, they will be sent to hell-a place of constant conscious torment.

That’s not my opinion—that’s what the Bible says.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – How did Jude Get Enoch’s Prophecy?

Question: How did Jude get Enoch’s prophecy, since it isn’t recorded in the Old Testament? Is the “Book of Enoch” inspired? And if so, why isn’t it in the Bible?—S.P.

Thanks for writing. This section of Jude (that is, verses 14-15) has caused perhaps the most discussion and confusion of any section of the entire letter. Is Jude endorsing an apocryphal book as being from God? If so, why isn’t it included in our Bibles today? Is Jude using an uninspired document as proof of what he’s been speaking? If so, how can we have any confidence of what is inspired and what isn’t? Is it possible that Jude is quoting something that truly happened, but just wasn’t recorded for us? There are so many questions, and each of them deserves to be answered.

So, let’s look at the text and answer the questions:

(14) And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

Enoch

There are a few things that Enoch is known for in the Scriptures. First, he was taken by God and did not see death. Elijah is the only other on in Scripture that was taken by God without having to suffer physical death. Second, he “walked with God” or “pleased God,” which is the reason why he did not see death (Gen. 5:22, 24, Heb. 11:5). Third, he was the father of Methuselah (Gen. 5:22).

So far as the Scriptures outside of Jude are concerned, this is basically all we know about Enoch.

The seventh from Adam

If there was any doubt about the one who gave the prophecy, Jude eliminates it here. The prophecy he is about to quote came from Enoch, the seventh in chronology, starting with Adam. In order, they are: (1) Adam, (2) Seth, (3) Enos, (4) Cainan, (5) Mahaleel, (6) Jared, and (7) Enoch.

Enoch…prophesied

This is extremely important to understand, because Jude is saying without a doubt, that this prophecy is from the Enoch mentioned in Genesis 5. And because Jude was written by inspiration of God, we can know that this prophecy was indeed given by the real Enoch who was taken by God before the flood.

Why is this important? It is important for multiple reasons:

First, there is no such prophecy recorded in Scripture.

Some people, in trying to explain how Jude could quote a prophecy that isn’t recorded, have said that perhaps Jude is quoting from some other Enoch. But Jude makes it clear that the Enoch he is quoting is the seventh from Adam. That objection is thrown out.

Second, because Jude has been accused of quoting an uninspired book as Scripture.

The Book of Enoch 1:9 says:

“And behold! He cometh
with ten thousands of [His] holy ones
To execute judgment upon all,
And to destroy [all] the ungodly:

And to convict all flesh
Of all the works [of their ungodliness]
which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things
which ungodly sinners [have spoken] against Him.

If you read Jude 14-15, you will see a striking similarity between the two passages.

It has become fashionable to say that Jude is quoting from this uninspired book. But given that no one can pinpoint the date in which it was written (with guesses ranging from 200 BC to AD 200), it is just as likely that whoever wrote “the Book of Enoch” was quoting from Jude.

If Jude was quoting from the Book of Enoch, then he lied when he said he was quoting from the real “Enoch, the seventh from Adam.” Hopefully, you can see that the charge leveled against Jude is a serious one. If Jude was quoting from the “Book of Enoch”—written no earlier than 200 BC—then the book of Jude cannot be inspired, for it would be speaking a lie as though it were truth—proving it was not from God.

So, how this all be settled? Where did the information come from? Why is Jude 14-15 so similar to Enoch 1:9?

Here are some plausible possibilities.

Possibility #1: There was an oral tradition that Enoch had given this prophecy, though it was not ever written down in the Old Testament Scriptures. If indeed this is the case, then the prophecy of Enoch was passed down by word of mouth accurately for over 2500 years. While it is possible, it seems very unlikely that any oral tradition could be passed down for 2500+ years and remain anything close to accurate. However, if there was an oral tradition to this effect, then Jude was confirming its authenticity and application (by inspiration), and there would be no surprise that the so-called “Book of Enoch” would have included it.

Possibility #2: Jude was given this information directly by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This possibility assumes there was no oral tradition, but instead that Jude was given information that wasn’t in the Old Testament record. This should not be a surprise, because the apostle Paul was given the names of two Egyptian magicians who withstood Moses—even though those two men were never named in the Old Testament (see 2Ti. 3:8). This was information given by inspiration without any reliance on an outside source.

Possibility #3: The Book of Enoch, though uninspired, contained an accurate quote of Enoch which was afterwards affirmed by God through Jude. What must be kept in mind is that this does not mean that everything in the Book of Enoch is accurate. This is just like when Paul quoted from two uninspired poets. He was only saying that the part he quoted was accurate—nothing more (see Act. 17:28, Tit. 1:12). The problem with this is again that no one knows when Enoch was written (some guesses are as late as the second century AD—long after Jude was written).

Of the three, I am convinced that the second is the most likely, though the other two are possible.

-Bradley S. Cobb

(Note: the above information comes from our book, “Fight for the Faith: A Study of the Letter from Jude”)

Bible Q&A – Was Cornelius a Proselyte?

Question: Was Cornelius a Proselyte? – Anonymous

It is asserted by some that Cornelius, because he feared, worshiped, and prayed to God—the God of Israel—that he must be a proselyte [a convert] to Judaism. Some make the claim that he was a partial proselyte, a “proselyte of the gate,” that kept the Jewish customs and feasts, but who had not been circumcised. But can either of these claims be proven?

First, there is nothing in the text of Acts 10-11 (the only places in which Cornelius is mentioned) to indicate that Cornelius was anything other than a Gentile. Even the passage that speaks of what kind of man he was—one that worshiped and served God—says nothing about Jews, Judaism, Israel, or the Law of Moses.

Second, in light of this, we should also note that there were others in the Bible who worshiped and served God, yet who were not attempting to follow the Law of Moses. Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Melchizedek, and others were all people who worshiped and served God without ever knowing anything about the Law of Moses and Judaism. These men were all Gentiles—non-Jews, and worshiped God under what we’ve come to describe as the Patriarchal law. This law was exclusive to the Gentiles, and was never rescinded until the gospel began to be taken to the Gentiles in the book of Acts.

Third, had Cornelius been a “proselyte of the gate,” such a fact would have been ammunition for the Judaizing teachers who demanded obedience to the Law of Moses prior to becoming a Christian. It would have been brought up by those who were trying to keep the Gentiles from entering the church as Gentiles. But this concept—that Cornelius was somehow a Jew in actions, though not in circumcision—is foreign to all the biblical evidence.

Fourth, If Cornelius was a proselyte, then the Bible is a lie. The conversion of Cornelius and his family is the record of the first Gentile converts. This fact is made clear throughout chapters ten, eleven, and even in chapter fifteen (see 15:7). Yet, in Acts 6, we read of a well-regarded Christian named Nicholas, and one of the few things we know about him is that he was a proselyte—that is, a Gentile who converted to Judaism. Therefore, if Cornelius was a proselyte one of the following must be true:

  • Peter, the apostles, and the inspired author of Acts were all mistaken in saying that Cornelius and his family were the first Gentile converts—Nicholas pre-dates him.
  • Peter, the apostles, and the inspired author of Acts were all mistaken in saying that Cornelius and his family were the first Gentile converts—they were proselytes, and therefore no longer classed as Gentiles.

These are the only two options if Cornelius was a proselyte. The true option is this:

Cornelius and his family were Gentiles—not proselytes to Judaism in any way, shape, or form. This matches perfectly with what is said about them in Acts. This matches perfectly with the attitude of the Jews in going into his house. This matches perfectly with the attitude of the other Jews who heard about it. This harmonizes perfectly with the fact that a proselyte named Nicholas was already a Christian—he wasn’t counted as a Gentile anymore.

Was Cornelius a proselyte? No. He was a Gentile—the first Gentile to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – Prayer to Jesus?

Question: I’ve heard a lot of people recently addressing their prayers to Jesus. When I asked them about it, they said that we’re supposed to pray to God, and Jesus is God, therefore we can pray to Jesus. On the surface, that sounds good, but I’m still bothered by it. Can you help me understand this?—“Confused,” in Oklahoma.

Thanks for writing. I understand your concern, and I think it’s great that you want to know for sure what the right thing to do is. Before we answer this question, I want you to realize that there’s no way to deal with this completely in one article. Entire books have been written on this topic (from both sides of the debate).

To get the answer to this question, we have to turn to the Bible. One thing that bothers me is that the specific people you mentioned did not show you from the Bible where they get their doctrine, but they tried to prove it by human reasoning. Even if they are correct in their belief, the argument they gave you is not proof. After all, here is the exact same argument, applied to something else.

Jesus died on the cross. Jesus is God. Therefore God died on the cross. And since the Holy Spirit and the Father are both God, that means that the Father died on the cross, as did the Holy Spirit.

What is true of one person of the Godhead is not always true for the rest of them. Regardless of whether prayer can be offered to Jesus, the “Jesus is God, therefore we can pray to Him” argument isn’t proof at all.

Let’s look at the evidence:

What did Jesus Say?

Therefore, pray after this manner [or, in this way]: “Our Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9).

Jesus is the Son of God, and is deity in His very nature. However, when He was giving instructions about the one people were to pray to, he specifically stated prayer is to be directed to “the Father.”

…That whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you (John 15:16).

Jesus, speaking to His apostles, is preparing them for His departure. And He tells them that whatever they ask of the Father, He would give to them.

In that day, you will ask me nothing. But whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you (John 16:23).

Jesus has just finished telling His apostles that He will be leaving them. He will die and later ascend to heaven. And after He left, He would send the Comforter, that is the Holy Spirit, to guide them into all truth (16:12-15). That’s important to keep in mind, because here Jesus says, “in that day, you will ask me nothing.” When is Jesus speaking about? He’s talking about the time after His ascension. From that point on, Jesus says, they won’t ask Him anything. Instead, they will be asking the Father.

To Whom did Jesus Pray?

This may seem like an ignorant question, but it’s worth answering. Nowhere did Jesus pray to Himself. But just as important, there is no record of Jesus praying to the Holy Spirit either. And if praying to Jesus is permissible based on the fact that He is God, then why didn’t Jesus ever pray to the Holy Spirit—who is also called “God” (Acts 5:3-4)?

“Father, the hour is come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you” (John 17:1).

We could put the entire prayer of John 17 here, and it would be abundantly clear who Jesus addressed His prayers to. Look at verses 1, 5, 21, 24, and 25 of that chapter and you’ll see that Jesus continually addresses His prayer to the Father.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

At His death, His prayer was to the Father—and to no one else.

To Whom did the Apostles Pray?

They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “Lord, you are God who has made heaven and earth and the seas and all that is in them….For of a truth, against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together…” (Acts 4:24, 28).

It should be obvious from this passage that the apostles were praying to the Father, since they were speaking to the one who had a child named Jesus. Thus, this passage shows them praying to the Father.

What were the Apostles’ Commands?

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Colossians 1:3).

The one they give thanks to and pray to, is identified as the Father.

Giving thanks to the Father… (Colossians 1:12).

Paul repeats his previous statement about the one to whom prayers of thanks are offered.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).

To whom did the inspired apostle Paul direct Christians to pray and give thanks? The Father.

Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

We are to always and in all things give thanks to the Father. That covers every prayer of thankfulness. There are no prayers of thankfulness, then, that are to be directed anywhere else. They belong only to the Father.

Be anxious for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6-7).

Paul says that in everything—nothing is left out—requests are to be made known unto God. And lest anyone argue that this could mean Christ, Paul continues and shows that he is speaking of the Father, and not Jesus Christ as “God” in this passage.

In everything, prayers and supplications and thanksgiving are to be directed to the Father.

Objections?

In the light of this clear, direct, and blunt evidence, there are still those who object and argue that prayer can be directed towards Jesus. We will, Lord willing, consider their arguments in a later article.

 -Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – Jesus the Only Speaking God?

Question: I read an article recently in a brotherhood paper which said that it was Jesus, not the Father, who was “walking and talking” with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. His reasoning was that “A Spirit does not have feet and a voice …” And since Jesus is the only one from the Godhead who was said to become “flesh,” it must have been Him in the garden, and not the Father. This is confusing to me. Can you shed some light on the matter?—G.J.R., Oklahoma.

I have read the article that you refer to, and while I don’t necessarily have an issue with his conclusion, the arguments that he uses to get there are not valid.

The article is on the question “Where art thou?” from Genesis 3:9. This question was spoken by “The LORD God,” but as the person who wrote the article showed, the Godhead is comprised of more than one entity. And to quote the article, “therefore the phrase ‘Lord God’ does not ‘definitively’ answer the question!” To this, we fully agree. Just because something is said to be done by God doesn’t show us exactly which member(s) of the Godhead were the doers. For example, Genesis 1:1 says God created the heavens and the earth, but John 1:1-3 shows us that it was “the Word” [Jesus] who did the actual work of creating.

The article makes the statement that “the Father is the planner,” and gives some passages which show the Father is the one who planned and purposed the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:23, Ephesians 3:11). The article then states that Jesus is the “Executor,” that is, the one who actually does the doing of things. There is nothing in the article to pinpoint the Holy Spirit’s role is in the Godhead.

While we gladly admit that these statements are often the case, they are not always the case. They are not absolutes. We will show this to be the case momentarily.

The article, however, assumes that these distinctions are true 100% of the time, with no variation, and that therefore the Father is only ever the planner, and never the “executor” or doer of His will. Therefore, Jesus [the Word] is the only “Executor” or doer, and that everything that is actively done by God can only be done by Jesus.

Using these two descriptions as absolutes, the article proceeds to reason from them and apply them to Genesis 3:9. The exact quotation is:

[W]hen it is observed that “The Word/Logos” is the “Executor” and He created all things, it is correctly deduced that it was “The Word”, who became “flesh” (John 1:14) “walking and talking” in the Garden.

The problem with this reasoning is that the roles of the Godhead in regards to “planner” and “Executor” are not absolutes. For example, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the Father (Acts 13:30, 37, Galatians 1:1). The Father planned it, and the Father executed His plan Himself.

The quotation continues (immediately following the above quote):

A Spirit does not have feet and voice that spake the world into existence, which asked the question, “Where art thou?”

It is this argument that I have the biggest problem with. While it might sound good on the surface, the necessary conclusions from this statement violate Scripture. And if the necessary conclusions violate Scripture, then the statement itself must be wrong. The article argues that only one who “became flesh” can be “walking and talking” because “A Spirit does not have feet and voice that spake the world into existence.”

Here, we offer our objections:

(1) If it requires flesh to do “walking and talking,” then that demands that before the world could be spoken into existence, one of the Godhead had to become flesh. The writer states that a Spirit does not have a voice; therefore the necessary conclusion is that one of the Godhead had to be flesh before creation.

(2) Jesus is the only one of the Godhead who is said to have been “made flesh.” If it requires flesh for God to speak, the necessary conclusion is that every time we see God talking in the Bible, it’s actually Jesus speaking. This makes for a very interesting conundrum, because when Jesus was raised up out of the water after being baptized, a voice [God] spoke from heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Are we really to believe that Jesus (the only member of the Godhead who was ever in the flesh) was speaking to Himself from heaven, calling Himself His own Son?

(3) The Holy Spirit—one of the Godhead that did not become flesh—can speak (Acts 10:19-20).

There are other instances that could be used, but we believe these are sufficient to show that these arguments used in this article are not valid.

Please note: the article was written by a good, faithful gospel preacher. This response was written merely to bring to light some issues that the brother probably did not consider in his arguments. His conclusion, that it was Jesus who asked the question to Adam and Eve, is his opinion, and could possibly be the correct one. My problem was not with the conclusion, but with the reasoning used to get there.

———-

Because this question is now before us, I will present the evidence that I believe might point to a different conclusion.

When people read Genesis 3:8, they make an assumption that God Himself is “walking” in the Garden when this event took place. As in, this is God in human form, literally walking with human feet through the foliage. If that’s what Genesis 3:8 said, I’d stop right there and say, “that might be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.” But that’s not what the text actually says.

Genesis 3:8 says “They heard the voice of God walking in the Garden.” It’s not God walking through the Garden; it’s God’s voice “walking” through the Garden. You might ask, “How does a voice walk?” The word which is translated “walking” is usually translated as went or go (or a variation of these two words). Thus, they heard the voice of God going through the Garden. They didn’t hear God Himself in human flesh walking through the Garden of Eden; they heard His voice as it went through the Garden.

Luke 3, in giving the complete genealogy of Jesus, states that Adam is the son of God (Luke 3:38). The member of the Godhead that Adam would have interacted with, it seems, would have been his “Father.”

We’ve already shown from the incident at Jesus’ baptism (and to that, we could add the Transfiguration) that the Father is fully capable of speaking to humans in a voice they can understand.

These arguments are not definitive in answering the question, but they absolutely show that the Father could easily have been the one whose voice went through the Garden of Eden, asking Adam and Eve “Where art thou?”

-Bradley Cobb