The Adversary (Part 2)

The Bible teaches that we have an adversary.  Peter warned, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  He is presented as real and dangerous.

His Names

The Bible refers to our adversary by the following names:

1.  Satan

The Hebrew term (Satan) appears 24 four times in the Old Testament.  It is rendered in English: “adversary,” and “Satan.”  It is sometimes used of an adversary, in general (e.g. 1 Samuel 29:4; 1 Kings 11:14, 23, 25).  It is sometimes used of the adversary (e.g. Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7; Zechariah 3:1-2).  The word means “adversary.”

The Greek word (Satanas, Satan) appears 35 times in the New Testament.  It is consistently rendered “Satan.”  It is sometimes used as an adversary, in general (e.g. Matthew 16:22-23).  It is most often used of the adversary (e.g. Revelation 12:9).  The word means “adversary.”

2.  Devil

The Greek word (diabolos) appears 36 times in the New Testament.  It is consistently rendered “devil.”  It is consistently used of the adversary.  The word is used of Satan (Revelation 12:9; 20:2).  The word means “an accuser, a slanderer” (Vine’s).  He slandered God to man, accusing Him of lying, and withholding something good from man (Genesis 3:4-5).  He is a liar (John 8:44).  He accused Job of only serving God because of physical benefits (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7).  He misjudged Job.

The word diabolos should not be confused with daimon.  The King James Version frequently renders daimon as devil.  However, the word refers to a demon.

The word diabolos does appear in the plural twice (1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3).  It is rendered by most translations as “slanderers” or “false accusers.”  In the plural, it does not refer to the devil, but wicked men and women.

3.  Adversary

This word (antidikos) appears in 1 Peter 5:8.  The word means “firstly, an opponent in a lawsuit… is also used to denote an adversary or an enemy without reference to legal affairs” (Vine’s).

4.  Abaddon/Apollyon

Abaddon is the Hebrew; Apollyon is the Greek equivalent.  The word is translated “destruction” in the Old Testament (Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:12; Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 15:11; 27:20).  It is used just once of the adversary (Revelation 9:11).

5.  Beelzebub (Baal-Zebub)

This word appears 11 times in the Bible.  It appears in the Old Testament 4 times (2 Kings 1:2, 3, 6, 16).  It is used of the god of Ekron, a Philistine city.  It appears 7 times in the New Testament (Matthew 10:25; 12:24-27; Mark 3:22-23; Luke 11:15-18).  It is equated with Satan (Matthew 12:26-27; Mark 3:22-23; Luke 11:15-18).  He is the ruler or prince of demons (Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15).

Why is Satan called Beelzebub?  (1) “It is a well-known phenomenon in the history of religions that the gods of one nation become the devils of its neighbors and enemies” (I.S.B.E. Vol. 1, p. 423).  It is possible that Israelites began to use the name of the Philistine god as a name for the devil.  (2) Beelzebub literally means “Lord of the dwelling.”  It is used in the New Testament in connection with demon possession (cf. Matthew 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:20-22).

6.  Belial

The word is a Hebrew word which was translated into Greek.  It is most frequently used in the Bible of evil men (e.g. Deuteronomy 13:13; “corrupt men”; 1 Samuel 25:17, “scoundrel”).  However, it may be used of the adversary twice (Nahum 1:15, “the wicked one”; 2 Corinthians 6:15, “Belial”).  The word means “either ‘worthless’ or ‘hopeless ruin’… ‘extreme wickedness and destruction,’ the later indicating the destiny of the former” (Vine’s).  “The term implies ‘reckless,’ ‘lawless.’  The word also came to be used as a synonym for ‘vain fellow’ or ‘fool,’ a ‘good for nothing'” (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 104).

7.  Serpent/Dragon (Leviathan)

This terminology is found together 3 times in scripture (Isaiah 27:1; Revelation 12:9; 20:2). The term dragon is used of the adversary and wickedness 12 times in Revelation (Revelation 12:3,4,7,9,13,16,17; 13:2,4,11; 16:13; 20:2). The term serpent is used of the adversary 5 times in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9,14,15; 20:2). Satan is called the serpent because he appeared as a serpent to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).  He is called the dragon due to his might (cf. description of Leviathan Job 41).

8.  The prince of demons/The ruler of demons

He is so-called 3 times (Matthew 9:33-34; 12:22-24; Mark 3:22).  He evidently had rule over the demons which were afflicting humanity.

9.  The prince of power of the air

This name is used only once (Ephesians 2:2).  Paul is appealing to a contemporary belief.  Adam Clark comments, “Satan is termed prince of the power of the air, because the air is supposed to be the region in which malicious spirits dwell, all of whom are under the direction and influence of Satan, their chief” (Clark’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 437).

10.  The god of this world/The ruler of this world

This language is used twice (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:14).  His influence is greater than many realize.  John said “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).

11.  The wicked one

He is so-called at least 11 times (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19; 13:38; Luke 11:4; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19).  The word “wicked” (poneros) “expresses especially the active form of evil” (Vine’s).  He is active.

12.  The Tempter

He is twice so-called (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).  The Greek word (peirazon) means “the (one) tempting” (Vine’s), or “the always tempting one” (Wayne Jackson, The Book of Job, p. 105).

Why Does Satan Seek to Destroy Us?

We are not told.  Some believe that it is because he is jealous of man’s relationship with God.  Others have suggested that it is because he wishes to deprive God a relationship with man.

The reason really does not matter.  The righteous will never have peace with him.  Whatever his motives, it is more important to know how to resist this adversary.  He can be resisted (James 4:7).  God has provided the necessary armor for us to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11-ff).

How Does He Seek to Destroy Us?

Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.”  However, the truth is, the devil does not force you to sin.  He is the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).  He tempts.  However, if one is drawn away, it is by his own lust (James 1:14-15).  Bert Thompson has written, “It is important to recognize that while Satan is the originator of sin, he is not the immediate cause of sin… Satan’s constant coercion and tantalizing temptation do not, and cannot override man’s free will” (Thompson, Satan – His Origin and Mission, pp. 20-21).

Satan is not allowed to be an irresistible force.  God limits what he can do (Job 1:12; 2:16).  We are promised: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We can resist him (James 4:7).  God has provided the proper armor against him (Ephesians 6:11).

He is the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).  I do not claim to fully understand how he is able to bring about temptation.  However, I do know that there are three basic areas in which man is tempted (1 John 2:15-17).  He tempts through the lust of the flesh (fleshly appetites), the lust of the eyes (sensual desires), and the pride of life (glory, honor).

This is how he tempted Eve (Genesis 3).  The fruit was good for food (lust of the flesh).  The fruit was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes).  The fruit was desirable to make one wise (pride of life).

This is how he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4).  He tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread (lust of the flesh).  He showed Him the kingdoms of the worlds and their glory (lust of the eyes).  He tempted Him to prove that He was under God’s protective care (pride of life).

He still uses these three methods.  Beware.

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The Adversary (Part 1)

The more one understands about an opponent, the better prepared one is to deal with an opponent.  Consider: (1) This is true in sports.  Teams spend a great deal of time studying video of opponents.  They want to understand strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and tactics.  They want to minimize surprises.  (2) This is true in debate.  One is greatly helped, if one knows the arguments, answers, words, and tactics used in the past by an opponent.  This minimizes surprises.  (3) This is true in military.  It is said that during a battle in North Africa, General George Patton shouted, “I read your book, Rommel!  I read your book!”  Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had written a book, Infantry Attacks, which was published in 1937.  This book revealed much about Rommel’s thinking and tactics.  Patton knew the enemy, and this led to success in battle.  (4) This is also true spiritually.  the more we understand about the Adversary, the better prepared we can be.

His Origin

Some believe that Ezekiel 28:1-19 speaks of his origin.  He was created (Ezekiel 28:13, 15).  He was created perfect (Ezekiel 28:15).  He was the anointed Cherub (Ezekiel 28:14).  He was in the garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:13).  He sinned (Ezekiel 28:15-19).

However, the context concerns the prince or King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:1-2, 11-12).  The terms “prince” and “king” are sometimes used as synonyms (cf. Psalm 76: 12).  This is about man (Ezekiel 28:2, 7-10).

Highly figurative language is used in Ezekiel 28.  The King of Tyre is compared to: (a) Adam living in Eden (Ezekiel 28:13).  He was surrounded by beauty.  (b) The anointed Cherub (Ezekiel 28:14a).  He was the protector, the guardian of the paradise in which he lived.  (c) One on the holy mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:14b).  He was in fellowship with God.  However, due to pride and sin he was cast out of the holy mountain (Ezekiel 28:2, 5, 16-17).  The sword would kill him (Ezekiel 28:7-10).  Babylon is in view, coming against him (Ezekiel 26:7; 29:18).

Some believe that while this is primarily about the King of Tyre, the King’s downfall is being compared to the downfall of Satan.  I suppose that it is possible.  However, I see nothing which demands this view. Some may infer it, but the text does not imply it.

The Bible does not clearly address the origin of Satan.  However, Satan does not seem to possess the characteristics of deity.  Wayne Jackson writes, “The devil is clearly not omnipotent as is evident by the following: (a) His power to afflict was limited (Job 1:12; 2:6); (b) When rebuked by the messenger of Jehovah, he had to remain silent (Zechariah 3:2); …  (d) He had to ‘ask’ for the apostles (Luke 22:31); (e) He can ‘snatch’ no one from the Lord’s hand (John 10:28)…  (g) When cast into hell he will be powerless to resist (Revelation 20:10).  Moreover, scripture affirms that He is in us (i.e., God) is greater than he (i.e. the devil) that is in the world (1 John 4:4) to sum it up: (1) Deity is all-powerful.  (2) But Satan is not all-powerful.  (3) Thus, Satan is not deity” (Jackson, The Book of Job, p. 107).  Bert Thompson writes, “The only possible conclusion one can reach regarding Satan is that he is not deity.  But such a conclusion has serious implications.  If Satan does not partake of the nature of deity, then he cannot be eternal.  Then, he must be a created being” (Thompson, Satan – His Origin and Mission, p. 9).

All things created were created by God through His Word (Jesus).  Consider: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16); “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

His Fall

1. Some believe that Isaiah 14:12-15 speaks of Satan’s fall.  He’s referred to as “Lucifer” (from the Hebrew root halal meaning “to shine,” the Latin term “Lucifer” adopted from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate means “light-bearing”).  He wanted to ascend above all.  He wanted to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:13-15).  He would be brought down (Isaiah 14:12, 15).

However, the context concerns the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:3-4).  It is about a man (Isaiah 14:16).

Some believe that while this is primarily about the King of Babylon, the King’s downfall is being compared to the downfall of Satan.  I suppose that it is possible.  However, nothing in context demands this view.  Some may infer this, but it is not implied.

2. Some believe that Luke 10:17-18 speaks of Satan’s fall.  Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

However, the context does not refer to Satan’s original fall.  The context concerns the mission of the seventy (Luke 10:1, 17).  H. Leo Boles comments, “With a prophetic eye Jesus saw the downfall of Satan.  The demons being subject to the seventy gave the occasion for Jesus to utter this prophecy” (Boles, A Commentary on The Gospel According to Luke, pp. 219-220).  This foresees Satan’s defeat. Jesus saw him falling quickly from power, as lightning falls from the sky.

3. It seems likely that Revelation 12:7-9 is a flashback to Satan’s fall.  Though, we must be careful.  The book of Revelation is a book of symbols (Revelation 1:1). Some well-respected Bible students are not so sure that Satan’s original fall is in view.

Consider these facts: (1) The Bible speaks of the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  (2) Some angels did sin (Job 4:18; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).  (3) The devil has sinned from the beginning (1 John 3:8).  Guy Woods and Roy Lanier Jr. suggests this most likely means that he was the first to sin (Woods, A Commentary on Peter, John and Jude, p.267; Lanier, Epistles of John, p. 91).  (4) Pride seems to have led to his fall (1 Timothy 3:6).  It seems reasonable to conclude that the devil was a heavenly being (perhaps an angel) who rebelled against God.  Bert Thompson writes, “Since the scripture speaks of ‘the devil and his angels,’ it becomes reasonable to suggest that Satan was either the instigator, or leader (or both) of this heavenly revolt” (Thompson, Satan – His Origin and Mission, pp. 12-13).

Did God Create Evil?

If, by “evil,” one means sinful behavior, the answer is “no” (cf. James 1:13-14, 17).  Rex Turner Sr. writes, “God did not create evil, nor did he make or cause Satan to be evil” (Turner, Systematic Theology, p. 78).  Bert Thompson writes, “God did not create Satan as an evil adversary; rather, Satan became evil” (Thompson, Satan – His Origin and Mission, p. 9).

What about Isaiah 45:7?  “Evil” (KJV) refers to “calamity” (NKJV).  It refers to punishment to come upon Babylon (Isaiah 47:10-11).

Why Allow Satan’s Continued Influence?

We are not told why God allows Satan’s continued influence.  I am sure that He has His reasons.  “T. Pierce Brown has proposed, God may have ‘allowed Satan to retain his power, temporarily, until he is through using him to test and purify a people for his ultimate glory and purpose'” (Thompson, Satan – His Origin and Mission, p. 19).

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“Conspicuous Conservation”

Two young economists, Steve and Allison Sexton (twins), argue that the popularity of the Toyota Prius is found in “conspicuous conservation.”  Steve Sexton explains, “The Honda Civic hybrid looks like a regular Honda Civic.  The Ford Escape hybrid looks like a Ford Escape.  And so, our hypothesis is that if the Prius looked like a Toyota Camry or Toyota Corolla, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is.  And so what we set out to do in this paper is to test that empirically” (Levitt and Dubner, When to Rob a Bank, p. 185).  What did they conclude?  Stephen Dubner writes, “The question they really wanted to answer was this: How much value do people who lean green place on being seen leaning green?  The Sextons found that the Prius’s ‘green halo’ was quite valuable to its owners – and, the greener the neighborhood, the more valuable the Prius is” (ibid).  Collin Campbell writes, “When you drive a Prius, the Sextons argue, there’s a ‘green halo’ around you.  You make new friends, you get new business opportunities.  In an especially ‘green’ place like Boulder, Colorado, the effect could be worth as much as $7,000” (

Do not misunderstand me.  I am not defending their theory.  I have not seen the data. It is interesting an interesting theory. My aim in mentioning the theory is to get us to consider motives, why we do what we do. I am using it as a lead into a Biblical point.

Let us ask: Why we do what we do as Christians?  Would we do the same things if no one saw what we did?  Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.  Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:1-2); “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5); “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:16).

God wants genuine devotion. He does not want devotion which is motivated by receiving glory from men. He certainly, does not want pretended devotion, to be seen by men as devoted to God.

I am afraid that many are pretending to be Christians.  Let us truly be Christians.  Let us live the Christian life whether anyone is watching or not.  It should not be about getting credit from men, but serving God. “Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).

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Why Was God Displeased at Babel?

The events at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) occurred not long after the Flood.  If the division of the earth in the days of Peleg (Genesis 10:25) refers to the events at Babel (and I think that it does), then the events at Babel occurred about a century after the Flood [Peleg was born 101 years after the Flood (Genesis 11:10 + 11:12 + 11:14 + 11:16)].  If this is not correct, then it must have occurred between  the Flood and the call of Abram, a period of about four centuries {Abram’s call came 395 years after the Flood [Genesis 11:10 + 11:12 + 11:14 + 11:16 + 11:18 + 11:20 + 11:22 + 11:24 + (12:4 – 11:32)].  Note: Genesis 11:26 seems to mean that this is when Terah began to have sons, not that they were triplets (e.g. Noah’s sons Genesis 5:32 cf. 7:6; 11:10).  Abram did not leave Haran until Terah died (Acts 7:4)}.

The events at Babel changed the world.  Man was of one language and one speech (Genesis 11:1).  Due to the events at Babel, the LORD made it where man was (and is) no longer was united in language.

Obviously the LORD was displeased with something at Babel.  But what?  Let’s explore this…


1.   Theory One: They did not want to comply with God’s command.

“They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city… lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth'” (Genesis 11:4).

Josephus wrote, “They settled on the Plain of Shinar, and grew so numerous that God counseled them to send out colonies.  In their disobedience, they imagined that God was trying to divide them and make them vulnerable to attack.  So they followed Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, who set up a tyranny” (Antiquities 1).

2.  Theory Two: They were prideful.

“They said, ‘Come let us build a city, and a tower… let us make a name for ourselves…'” (Genesis 11:4).

The river plains of Shinar seems to have lacked stones and lime-stone (mortar) for building (Clark, Genesis, p. 89).  This did not stop them. They were making bricks for stones. They used asphalt (bitumen) for mortar. They were building a city.  They were building a high tower.  Was there nothing that they could not do?  James Burton Coffman commented, “The children of men… were clearly infected with the ‘us’ virus, the pride arrogance, and conceit of the people standing starkly obvious in this cryptic account (Coffman, Genesis, p. 159).  It is said that Nimrod taught the people that happiness came not from serving God, “but to believe that it was their own courage which procured happiness” (Josephus, Antiquities 1).

What about the tower? Some have suggested that the tower was to be a fortified watch tower to protect against attacks from other people.

3.  Theory Three: They were trying to escape another flood.

“They said, ‘Come let us build… a tower whose top is in the heavens…'” (Genesis 11:4).

Josephus wrote, “So they followed Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, who sat up a tyranny and began building a tower higher than any water could reach in case God wanted to flood the earth again” (Antiquities 1).

4.  Theory Four: They were idolatrous.

“They said, ‘Come, let us build… a tower whose top is in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4).

The King James Version reads, “a tower whose top may reach unto heaven.”  Adam Clark commented, “there is nothing for ‘may reach’ in the Hebrew, but its head or summit to the heavens, i.e. to the heavenly bodies… The Targums both of Jonathan ben Uzziel and of Jerusalem, assert the tower was for idolatrous worship” (Clark, Vol. 1, p. 89).

Mesopotamian towers, known as Ziggurats or Zikkurate, are thought to have been part of ancient temple structures.  Some believe that the tower was such a structure.

Assessment of Theories

The reason that there are various theories is because the Bible provides limited information.  Therefore, men theorize.  Let’s assess these theories.

1.  Theory One seems possible.  Certainly, their motive was to prevent being scattered.  This is stated.

Let us remember: “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23).

2.  Theory Two is more than a theory.  They wanted to make a name for themselves.  Keith Mosher Sr. has written, “The people were building a memorial to themselves…  Their real motive was a desire for renown and for unity of self-purpose rather than God-purpose” (Ed. Curtis Cates, The Book of Genesis, p. 184). They seem to have had the same attitude that Nebuchadnezzar later had when he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).

Let us remember: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18); and “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

What about the theory the tower was a fortified watch tower to protect against attacks from others? I ask: attacks from whom? It appears that at least most, if not all of humanity were at Babel. I have seen no evidence to the contrary. Moreover, if it was a fortified tower, still pride or something else had to be involved for God to so react. God is not against nations protecting their citizens.

3.  Theory Three is not hinted at in the Bible.  Moreover, there seems to be obvious problems with this view.  Consider: (1) Who could make a tower so high, and strong enough to withstand the forces of water found in a global flood?  (2) If they were making the tower for this purpose, wouldn’t it make much more sense to build the tower on a high mountain top, instead of in the Mesopotamian valley area?  The elevation of that land is not high.  (3) If such a tower could be built, certainly it could not hold the entire population at the top, could it? This theory makes little sense to me.

Let us remember that no one can escape God’s wrath by such a strategy.  Remember the words of Amos, “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him!  Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him!  (Amos 5:19).

4.  Theory Four is not clearly taught in the Bible.  It is possible that they were worshipping objects in the sky; but this theory seems to lack sufficient evidence.

Let us remember: “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10).

Lessons to Remember

1.  Not all unity is pleasing to God.  They were united at Babel in sin.

The kind of unity needed is found in these words: “only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

2.  Sin may have long-lasting consequences.  Men still have difficulty communicating because of differences in language.

However, the gospel is designed to unite man.  The Holy Spirit provided inspired men the gift of tongues to proclaim the gospel in the first century (cf. Acts 2:5-11).  The message of the gospel is for all of mankind (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Romans 1:16).  The gospel is the great unifier (cf. Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 3:10-11).

3.  While we may not have all the details, the events at Babel seem to be about an old issue: Who do we ultimately serve?  God or self?  God or society (and national pride)?  God or some other?  Who will be God?



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If You’ve Been Comforted, Comfort Others

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

God be blessed (eulogetos, praised).  The original word is used, in the New Testament, only of  God.  Why was Paul praising God?  The answer is that God had comforted Paul and Timothy (“us” cf. 2 Corinthians 1:1) and Silvanus  (“us” cf. 2 Corinthians 1:19).

How did God comfort them?  (1) Comfort is provided by God’s revelation, which came through inspired men like Paul and Timothy (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).  Is this in view?  Paul wrote, in this very book, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Paul knew of “the things which are not seen” by revelation.  (2) Comfort came to Paul, and his company, by the coming of Titus, and Titus’ report.  Notice: “When we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side.  Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.  Nevertheless God, who comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.  For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it.  For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance… For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!  In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:5-11).  This I believe fits the context.  God’s inspired message through Paul had brought these brethren to repentance. This bought comfort to Paul.

Paul’s attitude was that those who had received comfort, should help comfort others.  Adam Clark comments, “Even spiritual comforts are not given for our use alone; they, like all the gifts of God, are given that they may be distributed, or become instruments to help others” (Clark’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 314).  Consider this: The revelations given to men like Paul, was not given for the benefit of these men alone (cf. Romans 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:13; Ephesians 3:1-7; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

God gives the Christians comfort even in the face of difficulties (cf. John 16:3; Romans 15:4).  The spiritually mature find this comfort.  It is their duty to help others also experience this comfort.  Consider these passages: (1) “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18); (2) “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  (3) “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all… pursue what is good both for yourself and all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

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Cursed Be Canaan

A preacher and dear friend in Africa contacted me, asking me to explain why Noah cursed Canaan (Genesis 9:18-27).  Let’s consider the text…

Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard.  Then he drank of the wine and was drunk and became uncovered in his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21).

This is the first record of drunkenness in the Bible.  Marion Fox suggests, “It is possible that yeast would not ferment in the antediluvian atmosphere… The Pasteur point (the Pasteur effect or Pasteur reaction) at which cells turn from fermentation to respiration might be reached by yeast in the antediluvian atmosphere.  If so, yeast would not ferment grape juice and Noah would not have known about alcoholic beverages” (Fox, A Study of The Biblical Flood, p. 68).  Is this the explanation?  Or, did Noah with full knowledge of what alcoholic wine could do, become drunk.  Henry Morris was of this opinion writing, “Scripture does not hesitate to call attention to the failures of even the most saintly of even the most saintly of men.  Noah, having stood strong against the attacks of evil men for hundreds of years… now let don his guard, as it were, when it seemed that all would be peace and victory from now on” (Morris, The Genesis Record, p. 233). It seems that some time has passed since the flood (cf. Genesis 7:7; 1 Peter 3:20); though, this does not settle the matter.

The Bible later warns about wine.  “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).  “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper” (Proverbs 23:31-32).

“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.  But Shem and Japheth took a garment laid it on their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father.  Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness” (Genesis 9:22-23).

William W. Grasham comments, “The account does not record what Ham told his brothers or with what attitude he spoke of the incident.  Was he inviting them to look at his father’s nakedness…?  Was he ridiculing his father…”  (Editor Eddie Cloer, Truth For Today Commentary, Genesis, p. 280).  Ham seems to have gossiped (at the very least) instead of covering the nakedness, as the other two brothers.  Love does not so behave (1 Corinthians 13:1-7).

So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.  Then he said: cursed be Canaan…” (Genesis 9:24-ff).

Who is the younger son (youngest son, ESV)?  (1) Some think this refers to Ham.  However, Ham is always mentioned in the middle (Genesis 5:32; 7:13; 9:18; 10:1).  It seems natural to list the sons according to birth order (e.g. 2 Samuel 3:2-5).  Either Japheth (cf. NKJV) or Shem (cf. NASB, ESV) appears to be the oldest (Genesis 10:21).  (2) The term “son” can be used in Bible a few different ways: (a) Son (Genesis 4:25); (b) Grandson or more remote descendant (Matthew 1:1); (c) Son-in-law (1 Samuel 24:16; 26:17); (d) Step-son, legal son (Luke 4:22); (e) Son by leverite law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6 cf. Matthew 22:24-26).  Therefore, some think that this refers to Canaan.  Canaan may have been Noah’s youngest grandson (cf. Genesis 10:6).

What did the younger son do?  Speculation abounds.  (1) Some think that this refers to Ham’s gossip and disrespectful behavior.  (2) Some think that Ham conceived Canaan through incest.  The incestuous relations with one’s father’s wife is referred to as uncovering the father’s nakedness (Leviticus 20:11).  The theory is that Ham was with his mother while Noah was drunk.  However, the text says nothing like this.  The nakedness is context is literal.  Shem and Japheth cover Noah.  (3) Some think Ham did something sexual to Noah. They think  that to see Noah’s nakedness means to have sexual intercourse with him (cf. Leviticus 20:17-21).  However, again let us point out that this does not seem to fit how the words are used in context (Genesis 9:22 cf. 9:23).  (4) Some have suggested that Ham castrated Noah, and that Noah cursed Ham’s youngest offspring since he himself could now have no more offspring. The Bible does not even hint at such. (5) Some think that Canaan also gossiped about Noah, and mocked him, along with Ham. However, the text is silent on such.  (6) Some think that Canaan did something to Noah while he was undressed.  James Burton Coffman speculated, “When Ham talked about his father’s condition to Shem and Japheth, the conclusion must be allowed that Canaan, Ham’s son, in that gossip learned about Noah’s shameful condition, and then acting independently of his father, he went to Noah and dishonored his grandfather.  We are not told exactly what he did, but it was certainly more than ‘looking on’ Noah’s uncovered state, otherwise Noah could not possibly have known it upon recovering from his drunkenness.  That action of Canaan was the second offense against Noah.  As man able scholars have pointed out that offense was almost certainly some form of sexual sin” (Coffman, Genesis, p.141).  This last explanation makes sense to me, and provides a possible answer as to why the curse was upon Canaan.  However, the text does not fill in the details.  It is best not to teach theories as facts.

However, let us not miss a clear point.  Instead of gossiping, we should show respect and help for one another.  Matthew Henry commented, “The pious care of Shem and Japheth to cover their poor father’s shame, v. 23.  They not only would not see it themselves, but provided that no one else might see it, herein setting us an example of charity with other men’s sin and shame… There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all… There is a robe of reverence to be thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1, pg. 60).

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Pitch-pipes and PowerPoint

Members of the church of Christ have historically emphasized that the Bible teaches that we should have Biblical authority for what we do.  God has required such.  He did under the Old Covenant (e.g. Leviticus 10:1-2; 1 Samuel 13:9-14; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21).  He does under the New Covenant (e.g. Acts 15:22-24; Colossians 3:17 – Thayer indicates that to do a thing “in the name of” is used of “by one’s command and authority” ; Vine’s indicates that it can mean “in recognition of the authority of”).

Some ask “What about pitch-pipes?” and “What about PowerPoint?”  I believe that there are two types of people who ask such questions.  (1) Some are people who do not believe in this hermeneutical approach to the Bible.  They reject the need to limit worship (and other matters) to what is authorized by explicit statements, accounts of action (examples), and implication in the Bible.  Therefore, they ask such questions to ridicule the need for authority (reduction ad absurdum), or to expose what they believe is an inconsistency in our practice (note: showing an inconsistency in us does not prove their position).  (2) Others are people who believe that we must have Biblical authority for what we do.  However, they do not understand how such things are authorized.

People may ask these questions for different reasons.  Whatever the reason, let us provide an answer.

 Generic Command v. Specific Command

A generic command is a command to do something, but certain specifics are not mentioned.  A few examples: (1) Christians are to assemble on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  The hour has not been specified.  God has left it to man to decide.  The place has not be specified.  Israelite males were required to worship in Jerusalem, three times per year (Deuteronomy 16:16 cf. 2 Chronicles 7:12; 1 Kings 12:27; Luke 2:41-42).  No such requirement exists for Christians.  The church met in various locations (Acts 8:1; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1; 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2; 1 Peter 5:13; Revelation 1:11; 2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; 3:14).  (2) Christians are to give on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  How this giving is to be collected is not specified.  Should it be dropped into a box?  Should we pass a hat?  God has left such details to man.  (3) Christians are to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  The type of songs are specified: psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  However, the specific songs and how to start these songs are not specified.  Therefore, God has left such to man (e.g. song books, song leader, the pitch and speed of the song).

A specific command is a command to do something with certain things specified.  A few examples: (1) God did not just tell Noah to build the ark; He told Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood, with certain features, and dimensions (Genesis 6:13-16).  Where God has specified, man is not at liberty.  (2) God did not tell Christians to make music (any music).  He specified the type of music (singing) and the type of songs to be used (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs).  (3) Jesus did not tell His disciples to eat and drink something remembering Him.  He specified the elements (Matthew 26:26-28).  Unleavened bread (cf. Exodus 12) and the fruit of the vine (grape juice) are to be used.

Expedient v. Addition

I am using the word ‘expedient’ to refer to an aid to carry out God’s command.  A few examples: (1) Saws and hammers may have been expedients to Noah’s building the ark.  (2) A collection plate may be an expedient to gathering the collection.  (3) A podium may be an expedient to preaching and teaching.  (4) Song books may be an expedient to singing.  So also may be the use of an overhead projector or PowerPoint to display the words and musical notes of the song.  An expedient does not add to what is being done.

I am using the word ‘addition’ to refer to an unauthorized addition to what God commanded.  A few examples: (1) The use of another kind of wood in the ark (e.g. oak, pine, etc.) would have been an addition.  (2) The use of chicken and iced tea, along with unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, would be an addition.  (3) The use of purely patriotic songs, along with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, would be an addition.  (4) The use of instrumental music in our worship is an addition to the command to sing.


It is possible for one to use the pitch-pipe as a musical instrument, like a harmonica, to play a tune.  Moreover, it could be used this way with the intent of worshipping God.  Such would be an addition.

However, it is an expedient to use a pitch-pipe to get a pitch in preparation to leading a song.  There is no intent to worship with such.  The pitch-pipe ceases to be blown before the intended song of worship begins.

Consider this comparison.  A song leader may clear his throat before leading a song.  He does so preparing to worship in song.  He does not do so as a part of worship  N.B. Hardeman said in one of his tabernacle sermons of 1923, “I have been told …that there is just as much scripture for the organ or piano or flute or violin as there is the tuning fork…  they are not parallel…You watch what a tuning fork does… I strike it here, and it gives the pitch of the music to be sung…When does worship begin? In the singing of the song. There was an old gentleman in my town who in answer to this, once made this remark  ‘the difference between a tuning fork and the organ is this: that the tuning fork has enough respect for God to quit before worship begins, while an organ continues all the way through.’ Let me say to my friends who use the organ that if you would use it as a tuning fork, let it stop before we commence to worship God, I would not open my mouth against it.” (Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons Vol. 2, p. 278).  G.K. Wallace said, in the Wallace-Hunt debate of 1951, “All right, now what are we doing with the tuning fork?  We do not produce music with it.  The singing is a result.  The singing is a result of getting pitch.  You get the pitch”(Wallace-Hunt Debate, p. 37).  Guy N. Woods said, “The tuning fork gives the leader the pitch of the first note and is silent when the worship begins.  This is one great difference between a tuning fork and organ or piano – the tuning fork knows when to quit!” (Woods, Questions and Answers, Vol. 2, p. 34).


It is an expedient to use PowerPoint.  In singing, its function may be likened to the song book (It displays the words and notes of the song).  In preaching and teaching it may function as a Bible (displaying the text being studied) or as a visual aid (much like white boards, chalk boards, overhead projectors, hand-out notes, flannel boards and sheet sermons – preachers of an earlier generation often presented their points on white sheets which were suspended before the audience).

The use of visual aids is authorized.  They were used in the Old covenant (e.g. Jeremiah 18:1-ff; 19:1-ff; Ezekiel 4:1-3; 12:1-7; 24:1-14).  They may be used under the New Covenant (e.g. Acts 21:10-11).

Let us be careful Bible students.  Let us discern between good and evil.  Let us discern between what is an expedient and what is an addition.

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