Tag Archives: Bible

An Introduction to Lamentations

The twenty-fifth book of the Bible is one that is rarely studied, taught, or preached on. This is a shame, because of many reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that this is inspired Scripture. It was given by God through His prophet, Jeremiah. There are lessons which can be learned from reading this short book, and ones which can easily apply today. An understanding of the overall concept of the book will be very helpful in understanding the book itself.

Its Setting

It’s 586 BC, and Jerusalem, the pride of the Jews, has just been completely destroyed. God’s chosen people have been captured, some brutally killed in the streets of the city, and the rest taken as prisoners of war by Babylon. The temple, a place designed by God Himself for the purpose of having a place for the people to worship Him, was abandoned by God and left in burning ruins. The people are in disbelief, scared, frightened, but at the same time, they are blaming God for their calamity. While God did indeed bring it upon them, Jeremiah constantly pointed out to them that it was their own fault that they had been taken captive, and that Jerusalem had been destroyed.

Its Message

The Hebrew title for this book translates literally “How?” It is the first word of chapters 1, 2, and 4. It crystallizes the message of the book well. Jeremiah had been preaching for around 40 years to a people who would not listen. He had prophesied many times that Babylon would come destroy Jerusalem and take them captive, but no one would repent and do the things necessary to avert God’s punishment. How could this have taken place? How could those who were supposed to be God’s people act like God’s message was unimportant? How could God’s people think that by giving Him lip service, they would be saved? Perhaps a better question is how can Christians live and act in the exact same way today? Because many Christians indeed act exactly this way as if God will save them as long as they show up on Sunday morning.

Its Structure

Though for the most part the chapters and verses in our modern-day English Bible were added long after the books were written, the Lamentations of Jeremiah are an exception. This is a collection of five distinct Hebrew poems, each with specific verse divisions within themselves. In all but chapter three, the poems are 22 verses long, with each verse beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. These verses are in alphabetical order in the Hebrew. Chapter three is alphabetical like the others, but instead has three verses for each letter (i.e., Verses 1-3 is the first letter aleph, 4-6 is bait, and so on). This same structure also appears in some of the Psalms, most notably Psalm 119. Because of the mourning done by Jeremiah in these five laments, at least one person has said he was “weeping from A to Z.”[i]

Its Chapters

These chapters have appropriately been termed “funeral dirges” by some, because Jerusalem has died. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapter one deals with the fact of the destruction and the grief which came as a result. Chapter two deals with the anger of God towards Judah and their agony over the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapter three is a prayer for God’s mercy by Jeremiah, beginning with despair and ending with confidence in God. The fourth chapter describes the conditions during the siege of Jerusalem as well as the causes and consequences of the siege. The final chapter is Jeremiah’s prayer to restore Judah to a right relationship with God.

The final three verses of this book are appropriate in seeing the state of the people at this time. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us, thou art very wroth against us (Lamentations 5:20-22). They feel forsaken, and say to God, “bring us back to you and we’ll stay faithful.” If only they had this willingness to be faithful when Jeremiah had been prophesying, they would not be in Babylonian captivity. Instead, since they rejected God, God rejected them. Now, Christian, are you being faithful to God? God has shown multiple times that He will indeed reject and destroy His people when they are not faithful to Him.

Examine yourselves as you examine the book of Lamentations.

-Bradley Cobb

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[i] Open Bible, Expanded Edition: King James Version. Introduction to the “Lamentations of Jeremiah.” (page 760).

Bible Q&A – Do We Have All the Apostles’ Letters?

Question: Could you expand on your answer about whether there are missing books of the New Testament?  Are you saying that we have everything the apostles wrote? Is it possible there other letters that we simply don’t have?anonymous

That’s a great question, and it really deserves an answer. After all, if we don’t have everything, there could be something important that God expects of us that we don’t know about! We know that the Old Testament mentions books and writings that we don’t have. However, many of those are mentioned simply as historical records and not God-inspired books. Other writings mentioned in the Old Testament might be references to specific Old Testament books, just under a different name. For example, 2 Chronicles 9:29 mentions “the book of Nathan the prophet…the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and…the visions of Iddo the seer.” This could very well be a reference to the books of first and second Kings.

But now, let’s look at the questions that were asked.

Do we have everything the apostles wrote? No, we don’t. How can I say that? I find it difficult—no, impossible to believe that 75% of the apostles never wrote anything. I also find it impossible to believe that the apostle Paul spends two years in jail in Caesarea and writes nothing during that time. Or that during his (minimum) two years—730 days—in jail in Rome, he only writes four short letters. But the fact that we don’t have everything that ever was written by the apostles shouldn’t make us concerned.

Here’s some things to consider:

1. Not everything the apostles wrote would have been inspired. If the apostle Paul gave Luke a list of scrolls to pick up from the Roman library, that wouldn’t have been an inspired list. So, even if we’re missing Andrew’s list of chores for his son to do, that doesn’t mean we’re missing anything inspired. Letters by the apostles of a non-religious nature would not be inspired, nor would there be any reason for them to be copied and passed on for 2,000 years. That’s why we don’t have any of them.

2. A different letter doesn’t mean it contained different information. Look at the books of Colossians and Ephesians. They are very similar in a lot of the things they discuss. Many congregations were dealing with the same kinds of problems. So, even if Paul wrote a letter to the church in Macedonia, that doesn’t mean it contained anything different from what’s in the other letters that we do have. If letters to other congregations were written by Paul or the other apostles, they would have been inspired, but they would have contained basically the same information as we have in the New Testament books.

3. We might actually have some of the supposedly “missing” letters. Many people point to the “Letter from Laodicea” that Paul mentions in Colossians 4 as a letter that’s gone missing. But many Bible students have suggested that this letter is actually the letter we call Ephesians, or possible Philemon (this will be addressed in a later Bible Q&A). So, it is quite possible that we have some of the letters that people think are “missing.”

4. Any supposedly missing letters were not ever recorded as existing. The early church (the first couple centuries after Christ) wrote a lot, and quoted from a lot of Scripture. So much so that it’s said, “if every copy of the Bible were destroyed, we could put it back together through quotes from the early Christian writers.” Every apostolic letter they mentioned or quoted from is contained in the 27 books of the New Testament. They never quoted from any other letters of Paul, Peter, Matthew, John, or any of the other apostles. This is because they didn’t have any others. If there were other letters, they were unknown to the church at large from the very beginning.

5. If we don’t have it, we don’t need it. God is powerful. God could rip apart the entire earth and then put it back together as though it had never happened. If God wanted us to have a specific letter, we’d have it. His word says that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God…so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” and that God has given us everything “that pertains to life and godliness” (II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:3). God made sure that we have what we need. If there are other letters, they do not contain anything different or additional to what we already have. Because God is infinitely powerful, we can know that everything that He expects from us and commands of us is contained in the 27 books that are in the New Testament.

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – What is Baptism?

Thanks for joining us.  For the next several weeks on Sermon Thursday, we will be looking at things that we’re calling The Fundamentals of the Faith.  These are things that each Christian needs to know and understand so they can then help to teach others.  This week, we deal with the question, What is baptism? Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what baptism means!  Some folks might say that, but they’d be wrong.  Instead, baptism is one of the things—religiously speaking—that is the most misunderstood by people.

Its substance is misunderstood. Some say it is baptism in water, others say it is only baptism in the Holy Spirit, others say both, and still others say it is just being baptized in the word of God.

Its mode (how it is to be done) is misunderstood.  Some say sprinkling, some say pouring, some say immersion, some say it is completely mental.

Its subjects (who is supposed to be baptized) are misunderstood. Some say babies, others say believers only, others say adults only, some say Jews-only, others say I can get baptized in your place for you.

Its meaning is misunderstood. Some say it is an outward sign of an inward grace, others say it is to add you to a denomination after you’re saved, still others say that it is an act of obedience which in turn saves you.

With all this confusion about almost every aspect of baptism, can we really know what baptism means?  Yes we can, by looking at the Scriptures.  Let’s empty our minds of everything we think we know about baptism, and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

The substance of baptism (what one is to be baptized in).

Baptism is first mentioned in the book of Matthew, chapter three, when John the baptizer comes on the scene.

The Scriptures state that John baptized them in Jordan (Matthew 3:6).  This is the Jordan River.  John himself clearly stated that he baptized with water (Matthew 3:11).   When Jesus was baptized by John, He came “up immediately out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).

It is true that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is also mentioned, but that is one that would be performed by Jesus Christ—and Him only (Matthew 3:11).  So, we’ve got two different kinds of baptism mentioned in this chapter.  Are they both still valid today? And how can we know?

Ephesians 4:4-6 (which was written at least 25 years after Jesus died) says there is “one Lord, one faith, ONE baptism.” So, by the time that book was written, there was only one valid baptism.  So, which one is it?

Acts 8:35-36 (which took place after Jesus died) says that Philip began to preach Jesus to this man.  And after hearing Jesus preached to him, the man (a eunuch) said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”  Based on what he had been taught by Philip (who had been sent by God), the only baptism that was important to him was baptism in water.

I Peter 3:20-21 (written around the same time as Ephesians) says, “eight souls were saved by water, this corresponds to baptism which now saves you, too” (SENT).   The only baptism which matters is baptism in water.

OK, it involves water, but is it sprinkling? Pouring? Being fully submerged under water?

The Mode of baptism (how baptism is to be done).

Just calling something baptism doesn’t make it baptism.  Calling a rose a skunk doesn’t make it a skunk.  The word baptism has a meaning.  But, just to be sure, let’s look at how baptism in water is described in the Bible.

Acts 8:38-39And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Did you see what I saw there? Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water. That’s interesting.

John 3:23John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there.

So, baptism requires much water. That’s noteworthy to remember.

Romans 6:3-4Don’t you know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him in baptism into death

Interesting. Baptism is described as a burial.

Put these things together:

  1. Baptism requires much water.
  2. Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water.
  3. Baptism requires a burial in water.

Just using what the Bible says, we can know that baptism is…

  1. NOT sprinkling water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  2. NOT pouring water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water and coming out of the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  3. Baptism IS being completely submerged, immersed in water.  This requires much water, requires going into and coming out of the water, and it is a burial in water.

The Subjects of baptism (who can be baptized).

Ok, we’ve figured out completely from the Bible that baptism must be in water, and that it is being immersed, completely submerged in water and being brought back up; but who is eligible to be baptized?

Again, let’s not guess or use man’s opinion; let’s just look at what the Bible has to say about it.

Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.

This verse makes it pretty clear that the person being baptized must be capable of believing (in Jesus Christ).

Acts 2:38repent and be baptized, every one of you.

This makes it pretty clear that whoever is baptized has to be capable of repenting (that is, realizing their sins and turning away from them).

Now I want you to consider something with me.

Babies are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ, and they don’t have the mental capacity to even understand what sin is.   Babies are not candidates for baptism at all, ever.

What about small children?  They are not old enough to comprehend their own sin, nor mature enough to understand what baptism is.

So, according to the Bible, who is eligible for baptism?

If you believe in Jesus Christ, and are willing to repent of your sins (and mature enough to understand what that means), then you are eligible for baptism.  Some people reach that point of maturity earlier than others. If you are an adult, you have reached that point. Teenagers—you want to be treated like an adult? Then you’ve reached that age as well.

The Bible teaches baptism is a burial in water, and the only ones it applies to are those who are old enough to believe in Christ and repent of their sins.

But what is the purpose of baptism?

The Meaning (purpose) of baptism.

I think we can all agree that if the Bible tells us baptism has a specific meaning or purpose, then that should end the discussion.

So, let’s let the Bible speak about the purpose of baptism.

Acts 2:38 – Baptism is “for the remission of sins.”  The word “remission” means “forgiveness.”  So, baptism is for forgiveness of sins.

Does that mean “because sins have already been forgiven” or does it mean “so that your sins can be forgiven”?

That’s a great question, and easily answered.  That verse says that two things (and both of them are commanded) are “for forgiveness of sins”—REPENTANCE and baptism.   Acts 8:22 says “Repent, therefore, of this, your wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps the thought of your heart might be forgiven.

There’s no getting around it: God will not forgive sin without someone repenting first. So, when Acts 2:38 says repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, it has to mean so that your sins will be forgiven—because God will not forgive someone’s sins unless they repent first.

So, baptism is in order to have your sins forgiven.

Acts 22:16 – Baptism washes away your sins.

A very devout man was praying hard for three days, and God sent another man to him.  This man that God sent said, “why are you waiting, get up and be baptized, washing away your sins.”

Baptism is in order to have your sins washed away.

Mark 16:16 – baptism is for salvation.  He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  That’s pretty plain.

I Peter 3:21baptism does also now save you.  There’s not really much comment needed there.  The Bible plainly states that baptism saves you.

The only conclusion that you can make from these verses is that you have to be baptized if you want to be saved.  There are many other passages we could go to which show this just as clearly.

What About You?

Now, perhaps is the time to ask the most important question—do YOU need to be baptized?

Perhaps you’ll say “I was baptized when I was a baby.” If a baby is baptized, then all that happened was that the baby got wet—because the baby had no sins to wash away in the first place. That baptism doesn’t match what’s in the Bible, and so it wasn’t really baptism.

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized when I was younger.” To that, I simply ask this: why were you baptized?  If you were baptized because you believed in Jesus and you knew you needed to be baptized in order to have your sins forgiven, then that is great!  However, many younger people are baptized because their friends were baptized and they didn’t want to feel left out.   Many younger people are baptized because they feel like it is expected of them.  Many younger people are baptized without really understanding why they were doing it.

If any of these describe you, then were you really baptized like the Bible says to be baptized?

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized in the Baptist Church” or some other religious group.  I have no doubt that you did it with the best of intentions.  In fact, I praise you for wanting to follow God’s will.  However, I have to ask you this: were you baptized for the reasons that the Bible gives?

  1. Were you baptized so that your sins could be washed away?
  2. Were you baptized for the purpose of being saved?
  3. Or did you believe you were saved before you were baptized?

You see, while these religious groups have many things that are praiseworthy, a lot of them say that baptism doesn’t save you.

But the Bible says it does.

They say that baptism is so you can be part of the Baptist Church or the Methodist Church or whatever church AFTER you’re saved.

The Bible says that baptism is what saves you—only one of them can be right.

So, the question that you have to honestly, sincerely ask yourself is this: If I was baptized for the wrong reasons, where does that leave me?

I don’t know about you, but that is not a predicament I’d want to be in.   The Bible speaks of a group of men who had been baptized, and thought their baptism was just fine.  However, they discovered that their baptism wasn’t the right baptism.  They were then baptized properly, having their sins forgiven.  You can read about them in Acts 19.

Conclusion:

My friends, don’t let there be any doubt about your salvation.  Don’t let there be any doubt about whether you were baptized for the right reasons. Right now, take care of it by coming to God, believing in Jesus Christ, leaving your sins behind, and being baptized according to the Scriptures. When you do that, you don’t have to ever doubt it.

Some of you might be thinking, “I’m not sure if I need to be baptized properly or not.”   To you, I say this: do it. Do it to be sure.

It could be that your baptism was proper in the first place, and you will just be getting wet—but you will have a pure, confident conscious.  But it could also be that you had good reason to doubt—and this would save your soul.   Please, come be baptized now!

Why I Don’t Believe “Fulfillment of Prophecy” is a Convincing Proof of Inspiration

Before you decide to mark me as some liberal anti-Christian heretic, read this sentence:

The Bible is inspired by God, and evidence of the wonderfully amazing fulfillment of prophecy is all throughout the Bible.

But I don’t believe that it’s a very good tool to use in convincing people that the Bible is inspired.  I know preachers who think that “fulfillment of prophecy” is the biggest and best proof that the Bible is from God.  That it is the “ace in the hole” for convincing skeptics.  I was told that by one of my teachers in preaching school, and I’ve heard it many times since then.

But I don’t think it’s very convincing.

Don’t get me wrong, as someone who already believes in the Bible, I find the fulfillment of prophecy to be phenomenal.  It blows my mind and leaves me awestruck that God could prophesy things hundreds–even thousands of years before they actually happened.  Every time I discover another type/antitype or foreshadowing prophecy in the Bible, I get excited and it makes my faith even deeper.

But that’s because I already believe the Bible is inspired.

I want you now to imagine that you don’t believe the Bible is from God.  In fact, you think that it was something put together by a bunch of folks who were writing after the fact, and that it is full of contradictions.  Imagine that you are opposed to the very idea that the Bible could be from God.

With that mindset, I want you to see how you would respond to these arguments:

(1) In Isaiah, it says that God would raise up a man named Cyrus, and in Ezra, we learn that Cyrus–150 years later–was the name of the king of Persia.  See, Isaiah even named him over a century before he was born!

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I’d say something like, “Prove Isaiah was written 150 years before Cyrus was born.”  Or, “the oldest copies of Isaiah are 400 years AFTER Cyrus was king.”  Or “It’s easy to claim that it was written before then, but claiming doesn’t prove it.”

(2) In Nahum, God says that Nineveh (the capitol of Assyria) would be “dissolved,” and that’s literally what happened less than 100 years later when Babylon diverted the river and dissolved the mud bricks that Nineveh was built with!

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I’d say, “the oldest copies of Nahum came 400-500 years after Nineveh was destroyed.  It was written after the fact.”

(3) The Old Testament foretells that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, and would suffer and die, and establish His kingdom.  All of those things were fulfilled in the New Testament.

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I might say something like this: “In the Harry Potter books, things that are foretold or foreshadowed in books one through six came to pass by the time book seven was completed.  According to your logic, then, Harry Potter is inspired by God.”

The point is this: if someone doesn’t already believe the Bible is inspired, then quoting prophecy and fulfillment in something they think is fiction anyway is not going to prove that it is from God.  They’ll write it off as men looking at what was already written and trying to tie up loose ends in later books and letters.

There are much better ways of proving the inspiration of the Bible.  And once someone is convinced that the Bible is inspired, fulfillment of prophecy is a great tool to further convince them.  It will help deepen their faith.  But if they don’t already believe the Bible is from God, fulfillment of prophecy won’t convince them.

Just some food for thought.

–Bradley Cobb

The David Lipscomb Commentary Collection

David Lipscomb.  He was a gentleman and a true scholar.  He helped hold the church together, especially in the south, after the Civil War.  He helped to create the Gospel Advocate, and was its editor for decades.  He also helped found the Nashville Bible School (now David Lipscomb University).

DavidLipscomb

In 1896, David Lipscomb published his commentary on Acts.  Before his death in 1917, Lipscomb had compiled his own commentary notes on the books of John, and all of Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon), but never published them because he believed they could be improved upon.  He requested that J.W. Shepherd, his dear friend, expand these notes and publish them.  Beginning in 1935, the David Lipscomb commentary collection began to see the light of day.

J.W. Shepherd took Lipscomb’s notes, but also went back and scoured through all of the articles that Lipscomb had written for the Gospel Advocate to find more material.  And, at the request of Lipscomb, Shepherd also added his own notes to “fill out” the commentaries on Paul’s epistles.  C.E.W. Dorris was chosen to expand the notes on John.

Then these commentaries were made available to the public.

  • John (originally published in 1939)
  • Acts (originally published in 1896)
  • Romans (originally published in 1935, expanded in 1943)
  • First Corinthians (originally published in 1935)
  • Second Corinthians and Galatians (originally published in 1936)
  • Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (originally published in 1939)
  • Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (originally published in 1942)

Years have gone by, and these commentaries are still of great use!  This is why we have taken the time (well over 100 hours of work) to convert these wonderful commentaries into e-Sword format (as well as theWord, MySword, and e-Sword HD).

Seven volumes, 2110 pages of notes, all available in one very usable format.  We have taken great care to make sure the formatting is beneficial, that the spelling is correct, and as much as was possible, check to make sure the cross-references  were correct (if you find a mistake, please let us know).  Comments in italics were added by J.W. Shepherd (or C.E.W. Dorris in the book of John).

Look at the example below (Acts 2:38), and see for yourself.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

Lipscombe-Sword

This collection is an absolute bargain!  Just $4.99 gets you the entire seven-volume set (that’s less than 72 cents per volume!).

NowAvailable

Bible Q&A – Are Babies Born in Sin?

I heard someone on the radio talk about people having a “sinful nature,” and as proof that we are all born sinners, he quoted Psalm 51:5 from the NIV. Are we really born sinners?—D. from Illinois.

Thanks for the question. This is one that has bothered people for many years. In fact, this one doctrine has led to all sorts of other doctrines and practices which are foreign to the Bible.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the passage, quoted in the NIV (since that was what the man referenced). This version of the Bible has David saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” When you read that passage by itself (which is questionably translated), it can sure make you think that we are all “born in sin.” But we need to look at the rest of the Bible first, then we’ll come back to this passage.

In order to understand where people are coming from when they say that we are all “born in sin,” we need to figure out how they came to that conclusion. They claim that all people are born sinful, condemned to hell from the time they were conceived (some say from the moment of birth) because of the sin of Adam. They claim that we all hell-bound sinners from birth because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This is why Catholics and Lutherans “baptize” (actually sprinkle) babies—to supposedly cleanse them of the sin of Adam.

But do we really bear the sins of Adam?

Let’s think this through for a moment. If every human is born sinful because of the sin of Adam, then that applies to everyone who has ever been born, starting with Adam and Eve’s first child. That would apply to every person under the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.

But this doctrine is 100% denied in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel, while speaking words directly from God, said, “the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). And look at what else God says through this prophet: “The son will not bear the sin of the father, nor will the father bear the sin of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). God makes it incredibly clear that we do not “inherit” sin from any ancestors.

King David was incredibly upset, because his brand-new baby was incredibly sick. Then the baby ended up dying at just 7 days old. But, when the baby died, King David said these words: “Now he is dead…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David, a prophet of God (Acts 2:29-30), said that he would be reunited with his son. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, and fully expected to go to heaven, that means he also fully expected his infant sin to be in heaven as well. This is because babies aren’t born in sin.

But suppose someone won’t accept these Old Testament examples as evidence. What then?

How about the New Testament, which clearly states that we will be judged on what we do, and not on what someone else does? All people will be judged, according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

But let’s consider one more thing: if all babies are born sinful, bearing the guilt of Adam’s sin, then no one can be saved!

Whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean by that???

If all babies are born in sin, born sinful, then that means Jesus Christ was a sinner from birth. That means Jesus wasn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice. And if Jesus isn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice then (1) His death on the cross couldn’t take away sin, and (2) the New Testament contains lie after lie when it says that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).

So, which one are you going to believe: the Bible, which says Jesus never knew sin, or the people who claim all babies (which must include Jesus) are born in sin?

As for me and my house, we’ll believe the Bible.

But what about Psalm 51:5?

Yes, that’s where this question started, so let’s paint the picture. David has sinned, having committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan has confronted him and said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s realization that he has sinned completely overwhelms him. And in that state, he writes Psalm 51.

He says, “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me [that is, it’s all around me, it’s everywhere I look]. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).

David is poetically saying that all he can see is his sin. It’s like he’s always sinning. He’s such a horrible sinner, it’s like he’s done nothing but sinning. It’s like he’s been sinning since he was born. His sin is overwhelming him, and he’s begging for God’s forgiveness. He’s not saying, “I was a hell-bound sinner the instant I was conceived.” He’s saying, “I’m such a horrible sinner, it feels like that’s all I’ve done my entire life.”

And he’s not that different from us. Haven’t you ever said, thought, or heard the words, “I can’t do anything right”? Or perhaps, “All I ever do is mess up”? That’s how David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 51.

So, to answer the original question: No, we are not born sinners. We do not get our sin from someone else. We are born precious and free from sin. We become sinners when we ourselves disobey God’s law.

For further reading on this topic, check Luke 18:16 and Romans 7:7-9.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Justified by Works

The Cobb family is proud to announce the release of our newest book!

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Justified by Works: A Study of the Letter from James is a 264-page commentary on what has been called the most practical book of the New Testament.

There is an extensive introduction, answering questions such as:

  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?
  • Does the date matter?
  • Who first received the letter?

Every verse is covered with in-depth notes discussing things like (1) how each verse and phrase fit into the overall context of the book, (2) a better understanding of some of the original words, (3) how the passages applied to the original readers, (4) how we can apply these same verses to us today.

It is thorough and in-depth, but it is also very easy to read and understand.  The books was written to be useful to new Christians as well as those who have been teaching the Bible for years.

And to celebrate the release of this new book, we’re making it available at a massive discount for this week only.

Paperback – $9.99 $5.99

eBook – $2.99 99 cents!

Bible Q&A – Is the Bible Incomplete?

I heard someone say that our Bible is incomplete because we don’t have the “real” First Corinthians (I Cor. 5:9) or the “Letter from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16).  Is our Bible incomplete?–A.Y., from Oklahoma.

Thanks for the question.  This goes along with the question we discussed last week as well on the so-called “lost books of the Bible.”  It’s true that some people say we have an incomplete Bible because it appears we might be missing some letters written by the apostles.  By saying this, they try to cast doubt on God’s revealed word.  After all, how can you know you are going to heaven if you don’t even have the complete Bible?  What should the Christian’s response be to such charges?

First, we need to understand the seriousness of the charge these people are making.  To say we have an incomplete Bible is to question everything we know about God’s word.  Imagine for a moment that there are parts of the Bible that were lost to time, and they included specific commands regarding worship or salvation that we simply do not have anymore.  We couldn’t know whether or not we were pleasing to God.  We couldn’t know if we were saved.  We couldn’t be sure about anything!  II Timothy 3:16-17 says Scripture is given so that we may be equipped for EVERY good work.  But if part of the Scripture is missing, are we still equipped for EVERY good work?

Also, this charge goes directly to the core of God Himself!  To say God’s message to mankind (the Bible) is incomplete is to say that God is not all-powerful.  Ask yourself this: Can God make sure His word is available to all mankind through the ages (see Mark 13:31)?  Would a loving, all-powerful God allow His message to disappear to where it is impossible for people to follow it?  Of course not!  God providentially made sure that we have all that we need to be pleasing to Him (Romans 10:17, Hebrews 11:6, II Peter 1:3).

Are we missing any inspired writings?  It is very possible that the apostles wrote letters which we do not have today.  After all, can we say for certain that Andrew, James, Phillip, Thomas, Bartholemew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the zealot), Thaddeus, and Matthias never wrote a letter to Christians?  Can we say for certain that in over 30 years of preaching and traveling that Paul only wrote 13 letters total?  That Peter only wrote two letters?  That John only wrote five (including Revelation)?  While it might indeed be true, you would be hard-pressed to make a convincing argument that says the majority of the apostles never wrote anything.  But, what we do have is what the all-powerful God of heaven decided was necessary for us to have.

We do not have recorded for us all the words and acts of Jesus Christ.  In fact, John said it would be impossible to write everything that Christ did (John 21:25).  But do we have what we need?  Absolutely!  Even if we do not have everything written by each apostle, we still have those things we need to get us to heaven.  The all-powerful God has given us what He decided we need.  Other letters would not give us anything new or different than what we already have.

So, if someone tries to claim that the Bible is incomplete, let them know that the all-powerful God has made sure we have everything that we need to get to heaven.  The Bible, therefore, is perfect and complete.  God included everything we need.  If God wanted other books in the Bible, they would already be in there.

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – Lost Books of the Bible?

Question: I keep hearing about “Lost Books of the Bible.”  Should these books be in our Bibles?—anonymous.

Thanks for the question!  I, too, once had the same question.  I have a book in my library that claims to be “Lost Books of the Bible.”  It sounds sensational, but the title is misleading.  When you hear about supposed “lost books of the Bible” on TV, radio, magazines, or internet, that’s also quite misleading.  Here’s why:

First, these books were never part of the Bible to begin with.  Books like The Gospel of Peter, or The Gospel of Judas, or any of a hundred more with similar titles were never considered part of the Bible.  There is no historical record—none whatsoever—that these books were ever put on equal standing with the Bible.  No Christian in history ever believed these books were actually part of God’s word.

Second, these books were written far too late to be an actual part of the Bible.  With only a few possible exceptions, every one of these supposed “lost books of the Bible” were written in the mid-second century or later.  Jesus told the apostles that He would guide them (the apostles) into all truth by means of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  When we read what the apostles wrote, we will have the same knowledge that they had (Ephesians 3:3-5).  The apostles were all dead for close to 100 years before these so-called “lost books of the Bible” were written.  Any books written after the apostles died are not inspired by God.

Third, these “lost books” weren’t ever really lost.  They were known and mentioned by writers for hundreds of years after they were written.  The fact is, they weren’t really of any value, so people eventually stopped reading them or even mentioning them.  So, after a while people basically forgot they existed.  Then hundreds of years later, some archaeologists found some of these books in Egypt.  They were never “lost.”  They just got put away and never used again.

Something else you might find interesting regarding these no-so-“lost books” is this: One of the reasons Christians knew these books weren’t really from God is that a lot of them are ridiculous.  Take, for example, this quote from the book called The Gospel of Thomas:

Simon Peter said to them, “Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “Look, I am going to invite her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit like you males. For every female that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Women must become men in order to get to heaven?  Now you can see why it was never considered to be from God.

So, the things that people claim as the “Lost Books of the Bible” weren’t ever really lost, and they were never part of the Bible to begin with.

—Bradley Cobb

Paul’s Self-Portrait

The inspired apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters that are preserved for us in the pages of the New Testament.  In them, he gives various details about his life.  These are like pieces of Paul’s autobiography.   In writing to the young preacher Timothy, Paul took the time to explain just why he was so thankful to Jesus Christ.  In doing this, Paul (with words) painted his self-portrait.

He first was thankful to Christ for counting him as trustworthy and making him a preacher (Timothy 1:12).  Since Paul is writing to his “son in the faith,” it is obvious that he is trying to impress on Timothy the great blessing of being a preacher.  How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace (Romans 10:15)!  Paul’s thankful that he’s been given the opportunity to teach others.  He painted himself as a man who knew the blessing of proclaiming God’s word.

After expressing his thankfulness, he explains some of the reasons why he is so thankful.  Previously, Paul was a blasphemer, one who spoke against Christ and, by extension, God.  He was also a persecutor of both Christ and the church (Acts 9:1-5).  In addition to those, he was also injurious to Christ and the church, causing them untold harm and speaking evil of them.  But even after having done all of these things, Paul received mercy from the Lord.  He says that the grace of the Lord was “exceedingly abundant.”  This shows that not only is the grace of our Lord plentiful, but that it is far more than we could ever conceive.  The mercy shown to him made him extremely grateful to the Lord.  He painted himself as a man unworthy of being a preacher, but also painted himself as a man blessed by God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Paul then explains the reason he received that mercy and grace: Christ came into the world was to save sinners.  Paul declared himself to be the chief (or greatest) sinner (I Timothy 1:15).  Paul here paints himself as a humble man, knowing the terribleness of the deeds he had committed.  He expresses that this grace was extended to him to show others the exceedingly abundant mercy of God and Christ (I Timothy 1:14).  It was to show the longsuffering of Christ (I Timothy 1:16).  It was done to be a pattern or example for all future believers: If Christ could forgive Paul–the chief of sinners–and show mercy on him, they could receive mercy as well.  Timothy was reminded of this so that he could then proclaim this truth to others.  Paul painted himself as a man blessed by the mercy of God.

Paul’s self-portrait becomes clear in this passage.  He paints himself as a thankful man, blessed to preach the gospel.  He also paints himself as one who knows he was unworthy because of his sins.  This shows the humility with which he described himself.  He then brightens the picture, painting himself as a recipient of  God’s monumental grace.  Paul’s self-portrait shows an extremely thankful man who knows the importance of the mercy and grace shown to him by God.

That is the apostle Paul.  On multiple occasions, however, he told people to follow the example he left (I Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17).  Are you following the example of Paul?  You have been given the opportunity to teach others.  Are you thankful for those opportunities?  The more important question is “Are you taking advantage of those opportunities, or wasting them?”  You have been shown mercy by the Lord.  Are you continually thankful for it as you should be?  Thank God for His mercy and His gospel!  Thank God for allowing us to teach others!

–Bradley Cobb