CTT | Cultural Context of Scripture?

Good Monday Morning!  Last week while I was reading up on various pastor’s websites, I came across a comment on one of Voddie Baucham’s messages that caught my ire. The poster was asserting that Voddie was overly patriarchal in his theology and that he was guilty of “ripping Scripture out of their Cultural Context”. Now, the allegation of Voddie being “too patriarchal” is one of opinions, and I have no desire to jump into that; however, when it comes to this notion of “cultural context” of scripture, now we’ve got something to address.

How “Cultural Context” Used

Invariably, if the idea of “cultural context” comes up, the topic of discussion is likely gender roles or so-called homosexual marriage. There are times it pops up in “scientific” arguments, too. The idea is that Scripture was written in a time when “people weren’t as educated/enlightened as we are today”. The “therefore” that follows can take a number of directions, but they all generally point to an idea that since mankind has evolved in knowledge and sophistication, we must amend or update our understanding of the Scriptures. This is false.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV)

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

You see, the Word of God transcends the wisdom of men. There is absolutely no way to suggest that anyone need to interpret Scripture by culture. There is no such thing as a cultural context of Scripture. Man does not determine the Law of God nor His Gospel. In fact, the wisdom of man is evil at its core, due to the fall, and actually prevents man from knowing God.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV)

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Whenever we encounter the notion of “cultural context” coming from a professing Christian, we are seeing evidence of someone whose view of scripture as though it came to a fallen world rather than the Word being “in the Beginning” before the world ever fell away from Him.

John 1:1-18 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life,and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Scriptural Context Defines Culture

When it comes to rightly handling the Word of God, the only context that matters is that of Scripture. There are times when we will divide scripture into Law and Gospel, and we will also point out that some scripture pertain to specific covenants while others are enduring; however such distinctions are provided by Scripture, not arbitrarily appropriated by men. The proper worldview is a Scriptural one. God created everything in 6 days, that is the Truth of God’s Word. This Truth has been rejected by mankind for quite some time, but man’s rejection of God’s Truth defines man’s sinful state. Our sinful culture is defined by its rejection of God and His Word.

Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

In Christ Jesus,

CTT | What About Soul Ties?

Presentation1Have you ever heard someone teach on “soul ties” and the need for Christians to become aware of them and sever them? I learned about this Word of Faith doctrine at youth retreats and in every Christian “self-help” Book (oxymoron) dealing with sexual purity, adolescence, dating, and marriage. Books teaching about deliverance from addictions to spiritual bondage all point to these soul ties (and generational curses) as the background chains or hindrances to Spiritual Growth and freedom. But are these teachings Biblical?

Well, let’s first look to a resource that presents itself as a Bible study site:

What a soul tie is

The Bible speaks of what is today known as soul ties. In the Bible, it doesn’t use the word soul tie, but it speaks of them when it talks about souls being knit together, becoming one flesh, etc. A soul tie can serve many functions, but in it’s simplest form, it ties two souls together in the spiritual realm. Soul ties between married couples draw them together like magnets, while soul ties between fornicators can draw a beaten and abused woman to the man which in the natural realm she would hate and run from, but instead she runs to him even though he doesn’t love her, and treats her like dirt. In the demonic world, unholy soul ties can serve as bridges between two people to pass demonic garbage through. I helped a young man not too long ago break free from downright awful visitations from demons, all due to an ungodly soul tie he had with a witch. The man was a Christian, and the only thing that allowed her to send demonic torment his way, is through the soul tie. Other soul ties can do things such as allow one person to manipulate and control another person, and the other person is unaware to what is going on or knows what is going on, but for no real reason, allows it to continue. (from GreatBibleStudy.com, accessed 9/23/14)

Wow, that’s quite a collection of things lumped under “soul ties”. Does the Bible teach any of this? From here on out, we will only look at what the Scripture says. Let’s examine the premise behind these claims in bold first before exploring this doctrine any further.

Souls being knit together

The first claim is that the Bible talks about souls being knit together. Where does the Bible talk about that? Well, the phrase is mentioned in the Bible but it isn’t really taught. The most commonly used text for this idea comes from 1 Samuel 18. Let’s begin in chapter 17 so that we can get some context as to when this all took place.

1 Samuel 17:50-58 (ESV) | David Defeats Goliath
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

55 As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” 57 And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

1 Samuel 18:1-5 (ESV) | David and Jonathan’s Friendship
1 As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

Okay, so here we have written that after God defeated Goliath at the hand of David, Jonathan took to David and loved him as his own soul. Their souls were knit together. In the Hebrew the phrasing for “soul knit to soul” here is nephesh qashar nephesh. The Hebrew language has very few words so each word has a meaning that is broader than our English word for “soul”. Before we look at the meanings of the individual words, let’s look at where this idea is conveyed elsewhere in Scripture. Such a place is found in Genesis 44. Now, to set this next quote up a bit, this is during the 7 years of famine that followed the 7 years of bounty prophesied to Pharoah by Joseph. If you remember Joseph was the favored son of his father, Jacob (who would later be renamed Israel), whose brothers sold him into slavery. They deceived Jacob and told him that Joseph was killed (Genesis 37). Fast forward many years later, Joseph is now second-in-command of all Egypt and his brothers have come for food to weather the famine. If you are unfamiliar, I recommend reading the whole story beginning in Chapter 37, but for now let’s dive into 44.

Genesis 44:18-34 (ESV) 18 Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ 24 “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ 26 we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us,‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ 30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

We see here Judah pleading with Joseph (not yet knowing it was him) not to hold the youngest as they go back for their father. Judah explains that Jacob’s life is bound up in the boy’s life, here we see in the Hebrew “nephesh qashar nephesh“. Jacob’s life (nephesh) is bound up in (qashar) the boy’s life (nephesh). Jacob had explained to Judah that the mother of Joseph had only borne him 2 sons, and one was presumed dead; therefore, all that Jacob had left of her was this youngest boy. Jacob barely survived losing his favored son, Joseph, and Judah and the rest of the family believed fully that if they should return again without the youngest, Jacob would die of grief.

So does this mean the modern-day teaching of soul ties is Biblical? Well, let’s ask a couple of questions.

  • Is this a prescriptive text? Does the Scripture teach us about these soul ties here or whether they are good or bad? No. In both instances we have descriptive texts of uniquely strong emotional bonds.  Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, and then answered the question of “who is our neighbor” in a parable. Jonathan’s love for David saves David’s life on a couple of occasions from King Saul. David refuses to raise his hand against Saul (God’s anointed) and is terribly grieved when he learns of Saul’s death and the death of Jonathan. Jacob’s love for his youngest son is strong and tied to his deeply-seated love/loss for Joseph. Is it healthy? Not really, but neither is it being prescribed here. It simply was. Notice, however, that in neither case is this “knitting together of souls” happening in the background or by mistake or accident. These are deliberate bonds of love.
  • Is this connection a Spiritual One? As we saw in the 2 texts above, the word nephesh is translated both soul and life. I have yet to find it translated “spirit” as in the spiritual part of a person. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruwach. Nephesh is more commonly associated with the emotions, mind, passions, and physical being rather than spiritual.

Clearly this idea of souls being knit together is a depiction of a deep emotional bond between two people. However, we haven’t established its existence at a Spiritual level nor have we seen any actual teaching on the matter. We see it merely describing a level of love that is uniquely strong in nature. We don’t see anything similar in the New Testament. Granted, we shouldn’t expect to see Hebrew terms being taught in the New Testament, but there is no teaching in the New Testament regarding a knitting of souls or a soul-bond between two individuals.

Becoming One Flesh

This is the most commonly taught aspect of this soul tie thing, especially in books targeting youth or adolescence. The idea here is that sex automatically ties the souls of those involved together. As the teaching goes, this is meant to be a good thing in marriage, but in the case of pre-marital or extra-marital sex it’s touted as its own spiritual problem beyond that of adultery. As the doctrine goes this connection then leaves an open door for continuing sin and spiritual torment and even blocked blessings from God… whether you are aware of this lasting soul tie or not. Is that what happens in sex?

Genesis 2:20-24 (ESV) 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Here we don’t see any of the Hebrew words used in the previous example of knitting souls. We see here that the two will become one flesh. There is no invoking of any spiritual realm here. She was formed from his flesh, and in the joining of their flesh they become one flesh again.

Souls Tied in the Spiritual Realm?

Marriage is a covenant of flesh. That is how Jesus taught it in Matthew 22.

Matthew 22:23-30 (ESV) | Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

The setup here is wonderful, because what the Sadducees created in their hypothetical was in keeping with the Law. No sin is described and there is no adultery here according to the Law. What the Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus with is that if there is a resurrection then at the resurrection she would now be guilty of adultery having multiple husbands, and having slept with all the brothers (specific sins in the Law). Jesus obliterates this trap by exposing their ignorance of the Scriptures… there is no marriage in the resurrection. Therefore, marriage is an earthly covenant of flesh, not a Spiritual one. It points to a spiritual relationship between Christ and His Church, but it is only a shadow of it. With this understanding, let’s take a look at Paul’s teaching/rebuke to the Corinthians in Chapter 6.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

While I dislike making arguments from silence; however, if sexual immorality were more than sin and somehow created a spiritual connection that needed a special severing, I believe Paul would have taught it plainly here. He doesn’t. Instead he moves right on into marriage, divorce, widows, and living as called. Why? Because sin is sin and there is no need to invent theories behind sins, one only needs to look in the Law, for the Law identifies sin and convicts us of sin. Adultery and all other forms of sexual immorality are sin. The answer to breaking the Law while under the Mosaic Covenant is death. The answer under the new covenant of Jesus’s blood is also death, but that death having already been paid by Jesus Christ. Which brings us to our assessment on this matter of “soul ties”.

Rescuing Mechanism for Word of Faith Theology

The doctrine of “soul ties” looks plausible at first (especially since it seems to fit our experience), but in-truth it cannot be taught from the scriptures, nor can it be substantiated as a Spiritual phenomenon. The biggest problem with this teaching is in the assertion that one who is “born again” saved by Grace, through Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, might still have some sort of spiritual connection as a result of some past sin that remains at work in the believer’s life unless it is severed by some specific prayer. Really? Is that the Message of the Gospel? That once you have been made alive in Christ, parts of your soul might be unwittingly be bound in the spirit realm to past sin? No, it isn’t. This notion of the soul tie is a rescuing mechanism for the Word of Faith movement.

In the Word of Faith (WoF) movement, sin is not properly taught. More importantly, the condition of sin and the completeness of Christ’s substitutionary atonement on our behalf are not properly taught. In fact, once a person is saved the WoF movement rarely goes back to the cross except to declare promises based on the cross and “speak them” into existence. They teach that healing needs to be claimed and declared based on Isaiah 53, and that prosperity in this life is to be spoken into existence based on our having been adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. The glaring problem with this teaching is the fact that Christians still get sick, Christians still die, and Christians still have financial struggles. The WoF catch-all for this fact is that we have to grow in faith until we are walking in the Spiritual realm and bringing Heaven down to earth, until then we get sick or we are poor because of our lack of faith. Then there comes the issue of repeated or habitual sins and addiction. Because WoF has a slanted view of the problem of sin, they need a rescuing mechanism for why confession of sin and repentance unto salvation doesn’t immediately remove the flesh’s desire to sin. Soul Ties (and generation curses) seem to offer an explanation for why we find ourselves caught up in sin even after we have been saved. It offers an external actor for the sin, a need for prophetic insight into the “root cause of the sin” and another occasion to “declare” freedom and to “speak” deliverance into existence. Unfortunately, if the ritual doesn’t stick… the Christian is back to square one… questioning his own faith and whether or not Christ truly died for him and his sin.


This “soul tie” thing isn’t Biblical. If you want to know why you continue to sin after having been saved by Grace, it’s because you still live in a fallen world, and walk in corrupted flesh that actively seeks out sin in opposition to the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Paul teaches in Romans 7 and in Galatians 5:16-26. In Galatians, he isn’t comparing Lost versus Saved; rather he is pointing out that our flesh desires sin but our Spirit desires Holiness. Walking in the Spirit is to deny the flesh daily, not by treating it harshly (asceticism) but by resisting its temptation and obeying the Holy Spirit. We confess and repent from our sins daily, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ. Repentance is a continual process. As we grow in knowledge and faith in Christ, we become more and more aware of the sin within our own flesh, and the deceitfulness of our own heart. There is not special ritual or prayer to cut off sin, for the answer to all sin, to all of the Law, is the Cross of Jesus Christ. There will come a day when we will no longer have to contend with our own sinful flesh, when at least our bodies will truly be healed of the sin of Adam and made perfect, that is in the resurrection in the Great and Final Day of Christ’s return.

Philippians 3:7-14 (ESV) 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Are there demons? Absolutely. Do they tempt and attack? Yes. Is there some special spiritual-jujitsu Christians need to learn to combat them? No. The Gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from spiritual darkness. We must contend with the flesh, resist devil (tempter), and repent of sins daily. We need God’s Grace every hour of every day.

1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The forgiveness is immediate based on what Christ already accomplished at the cross. The cleansing is a continual process that will be completed when we are finally free of this earthly, fallen, body and are given our new heavenly bodies on the day of Christ’s Return.

May the Lord Bless and Keep you firmly in His Will,
In Christ Jesus,

CTT | Give No Offense

Last week, there was a great blog by Matt Walsh about “microaggressions” and our perpetually offended culture. As great as that blog was, I thought we should dig into an often misquoted or misinterpreted passage regarding offense.

2 Corinthians 6:3 (KJV) Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:

Whenever this verse is quoted, much of the time it is presented as a command or a rebuke against someone who offended another person. It is used to prohibit Christians from disagreeing with questionable teaching, or practices, or even to suggest that we cannot point out out-right false teaching if doing so might offend the person. This verse is also sometimes used to justify the false notion that “we need to earn the right to speak truth” to those who are lost. Telling someone they are in sin, have sinned, or are teaching falsely might offend them or someone who believes in them; therefore, we dare not do that. But is that what this passage is about? Is that a notion that Paul taught elsewhere? Let’s take a look at the text.

The end of the verse isn’t the end of the thought. So, our first goal should be to complete the thought. We’ll do it in KJV and then transition to ESV.

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (KJV) 6 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (ESV) 6 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

By simply switching to a good translation that uses more modern English, we see a different meaning being conveyed by this verse. Now, placing a stumbling block before an individual does fit within the definition of “giving an offense” to that individual, but we don’t usually hear that meaning in common English. The Greek word being translated “offense” or “cause for offense” here is proskopē.  Here we see a real problem with the English word “offense” shifting a great deal from it’s KJV use. In fact, if we look up the term “offence”  in the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, we see that every definition of the word relates to either a stumbling block, an occasion for sin, or a trap of some sort. Nowhere do we see the modern-day reference to “hurt feelings”.

Let’s also look beyond the word translations and finish the thought. In the KJV it ends in a colon, and in the ESV there is a comma. Clearly, Paul wasn’t finished with that thought, and if we trace the punctuation we see just how much he is packing into this idea. The ESV inserts a period in the middle of verse 8, but it seems to help to break up quite the run-on sentence.  Notice the “but” immediately following the verse 3 punctuation… everything that follows serves as the antithesis of “giving offence” or “putting an stumbling block”. In that list we see many things but I underlined things that caught my eye: Knowledge, Genuine Love, Truthful Speech, and Weapons of righteousness. Everything on the list is important, but when this verse is invoked to silence Truth, Knowledge (from the Word of God), genuine love (I really like the KJV’s “love unfeigned”) there is a major problem. The problem that arises is the notion that the truth, knowledge of Scriptures, might be the stumbling block. That is not what Paul is sharing here. The reference to weapons of righteousness in the right hand and left is very interesting. Later on in his letter, Paul comes back to this thought in an interesting way.

2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV)10 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

We see here that Paul clarifies what it is we do with our weapons of righteousness. While he doesn’t use the full phrase again, he specifies that our weapons (hoplon) are not of the flesh before detailing what it is we do, which is to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive to obey Christ and ready to punish every disobedience. To the individual is who is found in error, all of this might indeed “offend” in the modern-English sense, but none of it counts as “a stumbling block” in the Biblical sense to those who are in Christ.

Now, there are occasions in Scripture where “a stumbling block” is a good thing, in that it causes the wicked to stumble. Here, the Apostle Paul uses a different Greek word skandalon.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)| Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

That seems an odd distinction between the reaction of the Jews and that of the Gentiles toward the Word of the Cross. He says twice that the Gentiles regard it as folly, and yet for the Jews it is a stumbling block, or trap. Thankfully, we see in Scriptures some reactions to the Gospel that agree with the distinction Paul makes here.

Acts 5:17-33 (ESV) | The Apostles Arrested and Freed
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people allthe words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit,whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

What is so cool about this exchange is that the Sadducees rightly identified the message of the cross but completely missed it’s meaning. In their pride and arrogance, they missed the fact that the miraculous was pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, and they were trying to avoid being made guilty of putting Him to death. For it was the religious leaders who sent Jesus to the Romans for crucifixion, they paid blood money to Judas for the betrayal of Jesus, and yet the very message of the cross on which was prepared a way of salvation for them caused them to stumble for their sin. As for the folly to the Gentiles, we see this clearly when Paul taught in Athens and at the Areopagus.

Acts 17:18 (ESV) 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said,“What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Acts 17:32 (ESV) 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said,“We will hear you again about this.”

The Word of the Cross is both a stumbling block to the Jews, and folly to the Gentiles. In closing out this thought, let us turn to 1 Peter 2.

1 Peter 2:1-12 (ESV) | A Living Stone and a Holy People
2 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.


As Christians, we have plenty of warning and exhortation to speak in love, humility, meekness, and patience so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might not be hindered by our lack of love and self-control. However, nowhere can we say that we should remain silent in the face of wrong, or sin, or false teaching for the sake of not “offending anyone”. As Brad Stine said in one of his comedy skits, “if you’re offended by something I said, then I apologize, but if you’re offended by the TRUTH… well… that’s between you and God.”

I pray that you have a wonderful week. Do spend some time in God’s Word this week. May the Lord Bless and keep you firmly in His Will,
in Christ Jesus,

CTT | “Loving God and Neighbor” is not the Gospel

If you’ve ever heard someone “boil down the Gospel” into “We just need to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves” then what you’ve witnessed is a slight-of-hand switch from Gospel to Law. This is perhaps one of the most subtle mistakes I’ve seen that can lead to major problems. It is a great case for “almost right is still wrong“.

It is impossible to preach the Gospel without properly teaching the Law. In modern-day Christendom, we see a lot of popular teachers claim to preach “only the Gospel” while accusing others of being Pharisaical. The Greatest Commandment and its second are indeed righteous and must be taught as an exhortation to Christians; however, they are not the Gospel, they are the Law. The Gospel is that Jesus fulfilled the Law and bore the full penalty for our sin, though He was perfect and spotless before the Law of God and completely without sin, so that in Him we are made righteous by His Blood.

The 2 Greatest Commandments are Law

Let’s begin by taking a look in Matthew where a Lawyer from among the Pharisees questioned Jesus regarding the Law.

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus answered the question perfectly and clearly. Notice that in His answer, we still see Jesus declaring this to be the foundation of all the Law and the Prophets. Jesus taught the Law and in most cases He raised the standard of understanding the Law by taking it from an outward measurement to an inward matter of the heart. Jesus is not teaching Gospel in these passages; rather, His teaching the perfection of the Law. Let’s turn back, if you will, to Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:17-22 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

This is hard truth. This is the Law of God. The Law has to be fulfilled and accomplished, but it will not be abolished, invalidated, or circumvented. The commandments to love God with all of you and to love your neighbor as yourself are the Law. What did Paul teach regarding the Law?

Galatians 3:5-14 (ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

So you see, whenever a popular “teacher”, “preacher”, “theologian”, or “evangelist” claims to be preaching “only Gospel” but then boils it down to “Love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and Love your neighbor as yourself”… well, he’s just repeating the Law. A law by which all of us, all of mankind fail to keep. No one born of man is capable of keeping the Law. Said preacher isn’t preaching any Gospel; rather, he is preaching only Law. The Gospel is the answer… THE ONLY ANSWER to the Law. God the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Living God, fulfilled the Law and the Prophets on our behalf, so that in Him we might be found righteous, not according to any of our works, but according to His.

Jesus Christ is the Gospel

The “good news” of Jesus Christ is the Gospel by which we are saved, redeemed, justified, and put on the righteousness of Christ. There is no “boiling down” of the Gospel. If you skip teaching the Law, you strip the meaning of the Gospel. The Law convicts us of our sin and our unrighteousness. The Law demonstrates to us our inability to be righteous or to make ourselves righteous in God’s eyes. The Law convicts us of sin and in so doing sentences each and every one of us to death and the wrath of God. However, the Law is not the end of the story. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He took our place, walked the earth as a man, fulfilled and accomplished the Law and the Prophets to perfection, and then became a curse in our place to receive the full wrath, judgement, and punishment for our sin on the cross. In this great act of Love for us, He alone was worthy to uphold the Law of God and sacrifice Himself for our sin. Only in Him, can we find salvation. The Law convicts us of our sin, the Gospel of Jesus Christ allows us to put faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin bought by His blood on the cross.

Philippians 3 (ESV) 3 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ are we made right with God, and by faith we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who teaches us and grows us into the fullness of Him who Saved us. We must continue studying both the Law and the Gospel, because when we first came to the knowledge of Christ, by the Grace of God, and received faith by hearing the Word of God, we understood as mere infants the Greatness of God’s Love for us. As we grow in understanding of the Law, it should simultaneously deepen our understanding of how wonderful and how merciful the Gospel is, that while we were yet sinners and enemies of God He still chose to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Until the day of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead, you will NEVER out-grow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You will spend the rest of your life here on earth learning, growing, and maturing into the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for even Paul pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us be faithful stewards of the gift of Gospel of Jesus Christ and preach both Law and Gospel. We dare not presume to “boil down” the Gospel into a Law that man cannot fulfill, especially since the very point of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ already did what we could never do for ourselves.

May the Grace of God fill your heart, soul, and mind freeing you to Love Him and Love your neighbor by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

CTT | A Still Small Voice?

CTTHave you ever heard someone teach that in order to hear from God you need to pray and then meditate, or be silent and wait for God to speak directly to you in “a still small voice”? Where does this idea come from? Should we expect to hear God audibly in a still small voice? Is God the only “still small voice” we might hear? How are you supposed to tell the difference? Is there a problem with this teaching? Well, at the very least, let us see what happens when we look to the Scriptures to complete the thought.

The only reference in scripture to this “still small voice” is found in 1 Kings chapter 19. Let’s look at how the passage is usually quoted/referenced by those who present this as THE way we should seek direction from the Holy Spirit:

1 Kings 19:11-13a (NKJV)
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.

The ESV translates the highlighted phrase “the sound of a low whisper”. I decided to see what the Hebrew says here using an online interlinear Bible:


If we look at the word-for-word translation (which is NOT the only way we translate any document, much less the Bible) it comes out “the voice of thin stillness”. The Hebrew really is a beautiful language, and some day I’d like to study it, but what we have here is an attempt to capture/describe the silence that fell after the fire. The point here is that I don’t see anything wrong with translating it “the voice of thin stillness”, “the sound of a low whisper”, or “a still small voice”. I think the latter allows a little too much room for springboarding, but as with all Scripture, I think we’ll understand this concept better if we look at the greater context. We’ll continue in NKJV for this next portion before switching back to the ESV.

1 Kings 19:1-18 (NKJV)
19 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire,but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

15 Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Wow, there are some truly awesome and wonderful things taking place in this passage. Things that point to earlier scriptures, too. However, before we can get into those wonderful treasures, we have to dispense with the false-gold of this “still small voice” distraction. I’d like to first draw your attention to the fact that the “still small voice” Elijah heard was not bringing the message or the command of the Lord; rather, it was how Elijah knew it was time to take action. Elijah didn’t move for the violent wind, the earthquake, or the fire because the text clearly states that the Lord was not in them. Upon hearing the still small voice, Elijah didn’t get his revelation or message from God, he recognized that the Lord was coming. He then covered his face and did what God had commanded him to do, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord“. Once Elijah was standing at the entrance of the cave, a voice came to him… the Voice of the Lord. And He spoke as He no doubt spoke in verse 9, and just prior to the signs and wonders in verse 11.

So, can God the Holy Spirit speak to us in a whisper? Yes, He is God. Is that the only way God speaks? Absolutely not. Does this passage mean that I should expect to God to speak to me in a whisper? Nope. In fact, since it’s the only time we have a reference to this in Scripture it should fall in the same category as God’s hand appearing and writing on the wall. So we can’t expect to hear from God? Yes, but not necessarily audibly or in a vision or a dream. God is not the only one capable of speaking, He’s just the only One we should be serving. By way of reminder, let us look at how we were warned by the Apostles:

1 John 4:1-6 (ESV)
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

2 Corinthians 11:10-15 (ESV)
10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Not only do we have to guard against false spirits, demons, and false prophets/teachers/apostles but we have our very own flesh to contend with. For our very flesh is fallen and actively seeks self-gratification working against the Spirit of God.

Galatians 5:16-21 (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our flesh, our selfish hearts, will plot and scheme to rationalize sinful behavior, or to self-indulgence. I highlighted here sensuality, idolatry, and sorcery to point out that the flesh also seeks out these things apart from demonic influence. Pantheism, panentheism, and eastern mysticism all serve man’s fleshly desire to deny the One True God of worship. This is a sickness in our flesh that will be once-and-for-all healed when by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ we are given new bodies, free of the curse of sin and death. Until that day, we are to take up our crosses daily and follow Christ, by crucifying the flesh and its evil desires, and walking in the Spirit of God.

So, how do we hear from God? I do believe that God the Holy Spirit is always working in our lives and speaking to us, but I can also point you to the one method of communication that is available to everyone, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient… the Word of God in the Scriptures. Will always be an audible voice (whispered or thundered)? Nope. Can it be? Yes, it could be, but even if it is… you MUST search for it in God’s Word. There is no excuse, you MUST test the spirits, and the ONLY test of the Spirits is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Remember, the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy!

If someone starts with “the Lord told me” and ends up twisting scripture, taking it out of context, or teaching or teaching something that cannot be found in scripture, it isn’t the Lord that spoke. If it is a prophecy that doesn’t come to pass, it wasn’t God (it could have simply been their flesh). If it is a prophecy/sign/wonder that does come to pass but they are teaching a false gospel, it isn’t God and is most likely demons. They are to be rebuked sharply, and if they do not repent they are to be rejected.

Bonus Material

Okay, now I didn’t want to bring this to a close without looking at some of the fascinating things going on in our text. I’ll be switching back to the ESV but please note that you can always change the translation in the web links as well as open up your own Bible at your leisure.

What takes place in 1 Kings 19 is of great spiritual and historical significance. First, this takes place after God answered Elijah’s prayer that He show Himself to a rebellious people who had turned away after Baal. God completely consumed the sacrifice, the alter, and the water making perfectly clear that He is God. Then Elijah slew the prophets of Baal (450 men). Remember, though, that most (if not all) of these were Israelites who had turned away from God. This was judgement, according to the Law of Moses. Anyone who led the children of Israel to worship false gods, gods they did not know, gods that did not deliver them from Egypt was to be put to death. This is made clear in Elijah’s prayer and in the response of the children of Israel at Mount Caramel.

1 Kings 18:36-40 (ESV)
36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Judgement came to the House of Israel. The people confessed the Lord as God. They fell on their faces in repentance. Judgement was dispensed. Elijah then asked the Lord to open up the heavens to bring the rain, and He did so. By all accounts, this should have been a sign of Israel turning back to God as in the time of the Judges. However, Ahab was a weak and evil king and Jezebel was unrepentant and sought to kill Elijah. Elijah flees Israel and stops in the land of Judah where he leaves his servant and then asks God to just kill him.

1 Kings 19:4-8 (ESV)
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

I his despair, we see that Elijah considers himself a failure. The role of the Prophet is to speak the Word of the Lord to His people, so that they will turn their hearts to God. Repentance is always the goal, whether by way of warning of impending judgement, or in the midst of tribulation to bring about repentance leading to salvation. The people repented after the fantastic display of God’s might, only for Jezebel to seek vengeance on Elijah. God sends him and angel, twice, to get him up and feed him, and to let him know his journey will be too great. Where is he going? To Horeb, the mount of God. Now this… is where it gets pretty awesome. Horeb is where Moses spoke to God and was given the 10 Commandments, the tablets of the Testimony. Why was he going there? To seek God and intercede for His people, Israel just as Moses did after they had worshiped the golden calf. Let’s start reading and I think you’ll smile at the parallels.

Exodus 33:12-23 (ESV)
12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

I believe Elijah came to Horeb, and could have very well been in the very same cleft in the rock when the violent wind, the earthquake and the fire came. But God was not in those supernatural events (thought clearly He caused them). I say this because notice Elijah’s reaction when he recognizes the Lord in the sound of the silence… he covers his face with his cloak. God then speaks to Elijah, but begins by asking “What are you doing here, Elijah”? Let’s look at Elijah’s answer:

1 Kings 19:14 (ESV)
14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah believed himself to be the only faithful prophet left, and rather than be regarded as a true Prophet of God, he was being hunted. God’s answer makes it clear that judgement was not complete, and God is still in control.

1 Kings 19:15-18 (ESV)
15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes fromthe sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

God doesn’t stop to explain Himself, He commands Elijah to anoint 3 individuals, Elisha (his successor), Jehu (king of Israel), and Hazael (king of Syria). God is not finished, and Elijah is not alone. God will preserve 7,000 in Israel who did not bow to Baal or kissed his idol. By this time, we see God already revealing His plan to bring judgement upon the house of Israel. Israel is divided into 2 kingdoms, and we know that Israel (northern kingdom) gets scattered by Assyria. Judah will go into Exile some time afterward. All pointing to the coming of the Messiah, the branch of David, the Christ. Remember John the Baptist?

Matthew 17:9-13 (ESV)
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

I believe that Elijah was discouraged and ran to Horeb to seek God, because he didn’t understand why after such an awesome and overwhelming miracle and ultimate demonstration of who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel is… that still the people did not turn from their wickedness. There was no shortage of faith, he just didn’t see God’s full plan. He called the people to repent at Mt. Carmel, and John the Baptist called the people in the wilderness to repent and be baptized. The Word of the Lord had been spoken and recorded, either they would believe in the Word of the Lord by Moses and the Prophets, or they would not. Jesus made it very clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Luke 16:27-31 (ESV)
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father [Abraham], to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The Scriptures point to Jesus. The Law and the Prophets point to Him. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ, and does not speak of Himself, but of what is spoken by God the Father and God the Son. We have the Word of God, and it is sufficient. Does God speak to us? Absolutely… and He will always point us to His Word. You don’t learn to recognize the voice of God by “intuition” or “feeling” or even by “signs and wonders”; rather, you learn to recognize the Voice of God by spending time in His Word. Ignore the mysticism, and turn to the Word of God.

I am not a cessationist, that discussion will come very soon, but I am also not willing to accept every wind of doctrine or allow every self-proclaimed prophet or apostle to take the Name of the Lord in vain. Not all prophesy, not all hear the voice of God audibly. Each person with a Bible, or access to the Internet, have access to the very Word of God preserved by the Spirit of God.

In Him,