Sunday, January 30, 2011

Children of Obedient Parents Turning Out for God--Certainty or Mere Possibility? Part 1

Does the Bible teach that godly parents who raise their children as they ought have a Divine promise that their children will be saved and live for Him, or is such only a possibility? If they do what is right, can they be certain that God will save their children and lead them to follow Him, or must they fear that, despite doing everything that they ought to do, their children could end up tormented in fire and brimstone for all eternity, so that it would have been better for them to have never been born (Mark 14:21)? A number of texts of Scripture relate to the question.

The locus classicus for the doctrine that parents have a Divine promise that their children will be saved and live for God if they are raised properly is Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.[1]

The natural and obvious reading of this passage is that the verse is a promise—if one obeys the command[2] to train up a child in the way he should go, in the way of spiritual and ethical righteousness, then when the child is old,[3] he will not depart from it. The meaning of the verse is accurately rendered in the Authorized Version.[4] Proverbs 22:6 is exemplified, with very significant linguistic parallels,[5] in other books of the Bible:

“And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD.” (1 Kings 22:43a)[6]

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2)

“And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 20:32)

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.” (2 Chronicles 34:2)[7]

Proverbs 22:6 therefore states that a child trained up in holiness will not depart from that righteous way. But is the verse a promise, or only a principle that can—and will—fail at different times? The verse is unquestionably a promise, a certainty guaranteed by the omnipotent and faithful God. Every time “will not depart,” the future tense of the verb in question,[8] appears in the Old Testament, and God is making the statement,[9] certainty, not mere possibility, is in view.[10] Thus, Proverbs 22:6 means exactly what it appears to mean to one who simply takes the verse at face value—a child who is trained up in the way he should go will not depart from that right way.


[1] :hÎ…n`R;mIm r…wñsÎy_aáøl Ny#Iq◊zÅyŒ_y`I;k M¶A…g wóø;k√råd y∞IÚp_lAo rAoÅ…nAlœ JKâOnSj

The Targum reads: :hynym yfsn absn dk ald hyjrwa lybql aylfl jkwa

[2] “Train up” (JKâOnSj) is an imperative: “Train [thou] up,” not a future indicative, “If thou shalt train up.”

[3] Nothing in Proverbs 22:6 breathes the slightest hint that a child that is trained up properly may reject Christ and go into the world, but when he reaches old age he will repent and turn to the Lord and the way of righteousness. The verb rendered “when he is old” in the verse, a Hiphil of Nqz, means “to grow older” (The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, trans. & ed. M.E.J. Richardson). As the child grows older year after year and decade after decade, he will continue in the way of righteousness, not reject it and then repent decades later when he has dishonored God, destroyed his life, filled his parents with shame and grief, and become an old man. Compare the continuity of development in the only other Hiphil of Nqz in the Old Testament, Job 14:8.

[4] y∞IÚp_lAo means “according to” (cf. Exodus 17:1, h¡DOwh◊y y∞IÚp_lAo, “according to the commandment of the LORD”). The Hebrew wóø;k√råd y∞IÚp_lAo, rendered in KJV margin as “in his way,” means “in the way he should go.” The idea of the text is a moral command—the way of righteousness—not some sort of other training, such as training a child in job skills. This is evident because the verb Knj, “with Vl to train up Pr 22:6,” (HALOT), means, in all the other texts where it is found, “to dedicate” (ibid.) or consecrate to Jehovah (Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5). The verb is related to the noun h;Dk¨nSj, which is always used of a believer’s dedication or consecration of an object to his God (Numbers 7:10–11, 84, 88; Psalm 30:1; Daniel 3:2–3 (here of an idolator dedicating something to the false god in which he believes); Ezra 6:16–17; Nehemiah 12:27; 2 Chronicles 7:9; cf. JKwønSj, “Enoch,” the holy man whose name means “dedicated [to God],” Genesis 5:24. Thus, Proverbs 22:6 speaks of a training up that is a consecration to God, not to an ability to lean how to farm or to engage in building construction. That training in “his way” (wóø;k√råd) is in “the way that he should go” in the sense of the way of holiness, rather than in some morally neutral way or way of professional skills, is likewise evident from a consideration of the entire verse. Every time the verb “depart” (rws) in Proverbs 22:6b is found in the book of Proverbs, it is related to spiritual or ethical departing, never to a morally neutral departing (Proverbs 3:7; 4:24, 27; 5:7; 9:4, 16; 11:22; 13:14, 19; 14:16, 27; 15:24; 16:6, 17; 22:6; 27:22; 28:9). The righteous “depart from evil” (3:7; 13:19; 14:16; 16:6, 17) and “from the snares of death” (13:14; 14:27) and “from hell” (Proverbs 15:24) and “depart not” from righteousness (5:7). Furthermore, every time the verb “depart” controls a clause with the word “way” (JK®r®;d) in Scripture the departure relates to spiritual and ethical matters (Exodus 32:8; Deuteronomy 9:12, 16; 11:28; 31:29; Judges 2:17; Psalm 119:29; Isaiah 30:11; Lamentations 3:11; Malachi 2:8; cf. Job 21:14; 34:27; Proverbs 16:17). Thus, the “way” from which the child that has been trained up and consecrated to Jehovah will not depart is the way of holiness and spiritual righteousness, the way of the faithful people of God.

[5] Proverbs 22:6; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 20:32; 34:2 all contain the verb “depart” (rws) negated with the same particle (aøl) connected to the verb with a maqqef, and the same word “way” (JK®r®;d) as in Proverbs 22:6. The texts allude to each other.

[6] Note that the failure of 1 Kings 22:43b is not one of Jehoshaphat’s personal piety, but took place because “as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 20:33).

[7] Compare the positive instances of not departing from righteousness in 2 Kings 18:6; 27:2; and the instances of not departing from evil in 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 6, 11; 14:24; 15:18, 24, 28; 17:22.

[8] Technically, the imperfect form of rws when the verb is not conveying an imperatival force or some idea other than a simple affirmation about the future and is not connected to a waw-conversive, or when in the perfect tense rws refers to a simple future idea because of the context and the presence of waw­-conversive.

[9] That is, a text such as Judges 9:29 does not count. Gaal the son of Ebed is not infallibly faithful in his promises—but Jehovah is. Similar instances to Judges 9:29, where a man is making an affirmation about the future, appear in Judges 20:8; Job 15:30; 27:5.

[10] The forty verses in the category in question are: Genesis 49:10; Exodus 8:11; 23:25; 33:23; Deuteronomy 2:27; 7:4, 15; 31:29; Judges 9:29; 16:17; 1 Samuel 17:46; 2 Samuel 7:15; 12:10; 2 Kings 23:27; Is 3:18; 5:5; 10:27; 11:13; 14:25; 25:8; 31:2; Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 11:18–19; 16:42; 23:25; 26:16; 36:26; Hosea 2:17; Amos 6:7; Zephaniah 3:11; Zechariah 9:7; Job 34:20; Proverbs 22:6; 27:22; Daniel 11:31; 12:11; 1 Chronicles 17:13; 2 Chronicles 30:9; 33:8. Isaiah 18:5 might also fit. None of these texts can be proven to be anything less than a promise, while the overwhelming majority are clearly infallibly certain promises. The burden of proof is on the advocate of the view that Proverbs 22:6 is merely a principle that will fail at times to find a text where his weakened sense of the verb in question unquestionably appears. His position fails to meet that burden of proof. Even if texts where the verb was a principle instead of a promise appeared in the Bible—and there are no clear instances—the person who would deny that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise would need to prove that the “principle” sense is not just found somewhere in the Bible, but is the actual idea in Proverbs 22:6, against the overwhelming majority of instances where the verb conveys an actual promise—and this also cannot be done.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our Strategy for Sacramento, California part one

What is our church in El Sobrante, California doing in the vicinity of Sacramento, California? At the root of this is Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, and Matthew 28:18-20. We are following the pattern we see with Jesus in Galilee. He preached in every village and town. Right where we are at in El Sobrante, we have been to every door in Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo, and Rodeo. We've been to a big chunk of Richmond and then Crockett. We're still not done with those last two, and Richmond is very big. And then working out, we have El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, and then Emeryville too. At the same time we are preaching to our immediate area, we are looking for a base of operations away from where we are already.

Several factors got us looking at Sacramento to start with, and not necessarily in the following order. One, it's the capital of California. Two, my family had been up to Sacramento many times on vacation and there isn't a church like ours in that area. We were not satisfied with what we visited. Three, we are not sure that a true gospel is being preached in a serious way there. I'd be happy to know otherwise, but I wasn't sure yet. Four, we had family of members of our church that lived up there and couldn't find a church with certain distinguishing marks like ours. Five, it's a huge population with Sacramento and the surrounding towns: Roseville, Orangevale, Elk Grove, El Dorado, etc. Six, we have men who are very close to have finished their pastoral training, that is, we think they are about ready. Seven, I had scouted and surveyed the area to a certain degree two years ago but knew that we were not quite ready to make a commitment to going up there. As of October, however, we did start. Eight, we have a home in which to meet.

Our church is evangelizing Sacramento. We do not want to get in the way of anyone who is preaching a true gospel. I have not noticed that we are. We are starting with evangelism in a place that I do not see anyone else doing anything in a systematic way. As we evangelize, if people are saved and baptized, we will have a church. However, we are there to preach.

At the same time, we have some people who are already saved up there that meet with us on Sunday afternoons at 3:00pm. We have fifteen or so that come. We've seen four professions of faith, three door-to-door, who are now in discipleship. We are teaching the group about the assembling of a church---prayer, praise, exhortation, fellowship, preaching, giving, and serving. We are explaining the Scriptures to them. At about 4:15pm, Marlowe Robles is taking a small group through an evangelistic Bible study. While he does that, I go out preaching the gospel alone or with others. We would be glad if a church comes out of this, but we're there to give the gospel to everyone in the area.

About a month before we began our first meeting, we started by canvassing the area with 2,000 flyers announcing the meeting. If a saved person was there without a church, we wanted him to know about it. We didn't find anyone from that. We still let people know about the meeting. In addition to handing out a tract, we pass out a flyer with the time and place on Sunday. We also have a website, so that someone interested can learn more about who we are.

The major cost here is for fuel to drive up. We spent money on the 2,000 flyers. We don't pay for a building because we meet in a care home owned by the Balatbat family, who are in our church. We brought up a piano and spent money to tune it. We bought hymn books. You'll hear that it costs a lot of money to "start a church." You don't see that in the Bible. It isn't happening with us either. We are taking offerings in the meeting and using them for what we need. Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine sent us 1000 dollars to use for the new work. This support is going to be very helpful in the next two years.

We don't have to see a church started. We preach the gospel and if people want it and believe it, we will have a church. I think we will, but it isn't the goal. The goal is casting the seed everywhere and seeing if it finds good soil. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are All Believers Disciples? part 3

Mark 8:34-38[i] teaches that one who does not become a disciple of Christ will be eternally damned. In v. 34,[ii] denial of self and taking up the cross is a representation of the sinner’s coming to the point of saving repentance, with a resultant lifestyle of continued following of Christ.[iii] As already indicated above, Christ’s call to sinners to “follow me” (v. 34) was a call to discipleship, since the Lord’s “disciples follow him” (Mark 6:1; Matthew 8:23; Luke 22:39; John 18:15; 21:20).[iv] One who was bearing a cross in the land of Israel in Christ’s day was on his way to the shameful and extremely painful death of crucifixion (John 19:17); thus, repentant faith in Christ involved losing one’s life, that is, turning from his own way of living, exaltation of self and comfort, to surrender to Christ as unconditional Lord (Mark 8:35). The person who wishes to continue to live his own way, to “save his life,” will eternally lose “both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, 39),[v] while one who turns from his own way, denying himself, taking up the cross, and losing his own life for the sake of Christ and the gospel, will save his life or soul (pseuche) by receiving eternal life. “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:25). To encourage the lost to give up their own way and surrender to Christ’s Lordship for salvation, Christ reminds them that it profits them nothing if they would gain the whole world, but lose their souls (Mark 8:36-37). Those who, rather than being ashamed of their sins (Romans 6:21; contrast Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16) are ashamed to follow Christ and His Words in the evil and adulterous world will have Christ be ashamed of them at His return and be damned—for Christ is “not ashamed to call [true believers] brethren” (Hebrews 2:11), and “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16; Luke 9:26). No text in Scripture indicates that God will be “ashamed” of His people—he is not ashamed of them (Hebrews 11:16). Mark 8:34-38 clearly teaches that all saved people are disciples, and that one who refuses to become Christ’s disciple will face an eternity in hell.

Mark 10:13-31 exemplifies the teaching of Mark 8:34-38. Christ told a man who wanted to “inherit eternal life” (10:17) to “take up the cross, and follow” Him (10:21). He refused to do so, because he was unwilling to forsake his riches, and so he did not inherit the kingdom of God (10:22-24). Indeed, the Lord Jesus taught that fallen man’s attachment to sin is so strong that nobody will come to repentance and be saved apart from God’s supernatural working (10:25-27). Those who do leave all to forsake all to follow Christ (10:28-29) become God’s “children” (10:24) and will “receive . . . in the world to come eternal life” (10:30), having come to Christ as Lord and Savior with the faith of a little child (10:13-16). Matthew 19:16-30 supplements the record in Mark, indicating “eternal life” (19:16) is promised to those who “come and follow” Christ (19:21). Those who forsake all “inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). Similarly, in Luke 14:15-35, Christ teaches that “whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath” (14:33, 26) to “bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (14:27, 33); those who refuse to put Christ before property (14:18-19) and people (14:20, 26) will not “eat bread in the kingdom of God” (14:15), but be “cast out” (14:35) of the eschatological feast of the saints (14:24) into hell,[vi] while God rejoices over the repentance and salvation of those who become disciples in the way people rejoice over the recovery of a lost sheep, coin, or son (Luke 15). Parallel passages confirm the plain teaching of Mark 8:34-38—disciples get eternal life, and those who do not become disciples are damned. This fact requires the identification of believers and disciples as a single class, the people of God.

Scripture is clear that all believers are disciples. The notion that, after regeneration, a smaller, elite group of believers choose to become disciples is entirely absent from Scripture. Disciples are regularly contrasted with the unregenerate, but never with an underclass of truly saved people who have not yet become disciples. When disciples sin or backslide, they are never said to lose their status as disciples and return to a supposed larger unconsecrated Christian underclass. The usage of the noun and verb forms for disciple make the equation of believers and disciples exceedingly plain. Indeed, the terms Christian and disciple are explicitly equated (Acts 11:26). Numerous passages of Scripture teach and affirm the truth that one becomes a disciple at the moment of saving faith, and that those who do not become disciples are unbelievers who will be damned. If only some Christians are disciples, then only some Christians get eternal life and escape hell, are adopted into the family of God, enter the kingdom of God, have faith in Christ, and have a new nature—in short, if only some Christians are disciples, only some Christians are Christians. The Bible is clear—a believer is a disciple, and a disciple is a believer.


[i] 34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 34 kai« proskalesa¿menoß to\n o¡clon su\n toi√ß maqhtai√ß aujtouv, ei•pen aujtoi√ß, ›Ostiß qe÷lei ojpi÷sw mou e˙lqei√n, aÓparnhsa¿sqw e˚auto/n, kai« aÓra¿tw to\n stauro\n aujtouv, kai« aÓkolouqei÷tw moi. 35 o§ß ga»r a·n qe÷lhØ th\n yuch\n aujtouv sw◊sai, aÓpole÷sei aujth/n: o§ß d∆ a·n aÓpole÷shØ th\n yuch\n aujtouv eºneken e˙mouv kai« touv eujaggeli÷ou, ou∞toß sw¿sei aujth/n. 36 ti÷ ga»r wÓfelh/sei a‡nqrwpon, e˙a»n kerdh/shØ to\n ko/smon o¢lon, kai« zhmiwqhØv th\n yuch\n aujtouv; 37 h£ ti÷ dw¿sei a‡nqrwpoß aÓnta¿llagma thvß yuchvß aujtouv; 38 o§ß ga»r a·n e˙paiscunqhØv me kai« tou\ß e˙mou\ß lo/gouß e˙n thØv geneaˆ◊ tau/thØ thØv moicali÷di kai« aJmartwlwˆ◊, kai« oJ ui˚o\ß touv aÓnqrw¿pou e˙paiscunqh/setai aujto/n, o¢tan e¶lqhØ e˙n thØv do/xhØ touv patro\ß aujtouv meta» tw◊n aÓgge÷lwn tw◊n aJgi÷wn.

[ii] The Lord addresses “the people . . . with his disciples also” in v. 34. He teaches the unconverted multitudes, the “people” (o¡cloß), because v. 34-38 was a call for them to repent and receive salvation. He also addressed His disciples because believers should be reminded about the comittment to follow the Lord they made when they repented and believed the gospel, and because not only at the moment of conversion and regeneration, but “daily” believers are to take up the cross and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).

[iii] Note the aorists aÓparnhsa¿sqw and aÓra¿tw, in contrast with the present imperative aÓkolouqei÷tw. Self-denial and cross-bearing certainly continues after the moment of saving faith, as the aorists are reasonably seen as ingressive (cf. Luke 9:23), but they nonetheless emphasize the point of the sinner’s “turn[ing] to God from idols” (1 Thessalonians 1:9) as the command to “follow” in Mark 8 parallels the result of regeneration, “serv[ing] the living and true God; and . . . wait[ing] for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; note that the turning is similarly aorist, while serving and waiting are present tense forms).

[iv] Further texts that connect those who “follow” (aÓkolouqe÷w) Christ with the status of a disciple or of one who will have eternal life rather than eternal death are: Matthew 4:20, 22; 8:19, 22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21, 27–28; 20:34; Mark 1:18; 2:14; 9:38; 10:21, 28, 32, 52; 15:41; Luke 5:11, 27–28; 9:23, 49, 57, 59, 61; 18:22, 28, 43; John 1:37–38, 40, 43; 8:12; 10:4, 27; 12:26; 13:36–37; 21:19–20, 22; Revelation 14:4; 19:14. Many of the remaining texts, which speak of multitudes following Christ, including among them what was certainly a substantial number of unconverted persons (cf. Mark 2:15; Matthew 12:15; 19:2), describe those “disciples” (John 6:60, 66) who followed Christ for the wrong reasons (John 6:60-68) and thus were professedly His followers, although they “walked . . . with him” only for a time (John 6:66).

[v] Compare the uses of aÓpo/llumi in Matthew 10:28; Luke 13:3, 5; John 3:15-16; 10:28; 11:50; 17:12; Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Jude 5, 11. Note the following texts which, as in Mark 8:35, employ both aÓpo/llumi and yuch/: Matthew 10:28, 39; 16:25; Luke 17:33; John 12:25. While the aÓpo/llumi and yuch/ combination does not of itself absolutely require a reference to eternal damnation (cf. Luke 6:9), the saying of Mark 8:35 is specifically tied to losing one’s life in hell in Matthew 10:28, 39, and to gaining eternal life in heaven in John 12:25, so Mark 8:35 necessarily refers to eternal bliss or woe.

[vi] The verb “cast out” (ba¿llw) in Luke 14:35, out of 125 instances in the New Testament, is never employed for a judgment where believers are cast out by God, but the lost are, over and over again, said to be cast (ba¿llw) into the fires of hell (note Matthew 3:10; 5:13, 25, 29-30; 7:19; 13:42, 48; 18:8-9; Mark 9:42 (cf. vv. 41-48), 45, 47; Luke 3:9; 12:58; 14:35; Revelation 2:22; 12:4, 9, 13; 14:19; 18:21; 19:20; 20:3, 10, 14-15). Note as well the ba¿llw & e¶xw texts Matthew 5:13; 13:48; Luke 14:35; John 15:6, where the lost are those who are cast out each time (the only remaining text with ba¿llw & e¶xw, 1 John 4:18, does not speak of anything eschatological, whether judgment or deliverance).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Are All Believers Disciples? Part 2

Disciples are never distinguished from the regenerate who are at a lower plane, but are regularly distinguished from hell-bound lost people. Disciples are contrasted with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17) from perishing multitudes (Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 19:36-38) and from the persecuting ungodly, (Matthew 10:22-27). Disciples are those who have been given spiritual truth and enter the kingdom of heaven, in contrast with the lost, who do not do so (Matthew 13:10-12; Mark 4:33-34; Luke 8:9-11). Disciples will feast with Christ in the consummation (Mark 2:18-19). Disciples inherit the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20) and their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20-24). Disciples are Christ’s spiritual brethren (Matthew 12:49-50; 28:7-10) and those who recognize Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:14-16, 20). Disciples are Christ’s little ones (Matthew 10:42); His little children (John 13:33) who cannot come into condemnation (13:33) are disciples (13:35), believers (14:1) who will have heavenly mansions (14:2-3) with the Lord Jesus. Disciples are those who bear fruit (John 15:8) and consequently are not burned eternally in the fires of hell (15:6). Disciples (John 16:7) are believers (John 16:27) and are therefore those who are promised the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:7-17; 14:16-18; cf. 20:19-22). Christian “brethren” are “disciples” (Acts 6:1-3; 9:17, 26-30; 14:28-15:1). Disciples are those who are not unsaved, but are “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). When Paul preached the gospel message that “by [Christ] all that believe are justified from all things, from which [they] could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39) those who “believed” received “eternal life” (13:48) and thus became “disciples” (13:50; cf. 14:1, 21-23). People who have had God “purif[y] their hearts by faith . . . disciples . . . through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall be saved” (15:9-11). When people heard the gospel, they either became “disciples” or they rejected the Savior and “believed not” (Acts 19:9). Disciples (Acts 9:1) are those who are of the Christian “way” (9:2). Saul received a commission to persecute Christ’s disciples (9:1-2), and he consequently persecuted all believers, all who “call on [Christ’s] name” (9:14; cf. 9:19, 21, 25-27). Scripture clearly and regularly equates the categories of believer and disciple, promises those who are in these categories the same eternal felicity, and warns of eternal damnation for all who do not become disciples or believers.

The act of making disciples is expressed with the Greek verb matheteuo.[i] Making disciples (Matthew 28:19) takes place by preaching the gospel and having people come to repent (Luke 24:47) and believe (Mark 16:15-16), and thus receive the remission of sins (Luke 24:47; Mark 16:16; John 20:23), after which the believers or disciples should be baptized (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16). The response to the preaching of the gospel is people becoming disciples by the new birth (Acts 14:21), for one is discipled “unto the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:52). As with the noun mathetes, the verb matheteuo indicates that one becomes a disciple by becoming a believer.[ii] No text teaches or implies that disciples are an elite subcategory within a larger group of Christians.

John 8:30-32 indicates that disciples are those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The discourse of John 8 takes place in the Jerusalem temple (v. 2, 20, 59), where Christ debates and refutes the Pharisees in front of a watching audience. In 8:12-13 Christ addresses “the Pharisees” and they reply. He then responds in v. 14-18, they answer Him in v. 19, and He responds in v. 19, making it clear that they are lost in their sins (v. 19). This interaction between the Pharisees and the Lord continues in v. 20-29. Although now called “the Jews” (v. 22), Christ still debates the same Pharisaic opponents, for v. 21 (“then said Jesus again unto them”) indicates He still speaks to the Pharisees of v. 13. Verse 24 (“therefore”) also shows the interaction continues through v. 29. It is very apparent that these Pharisees are lost (v. 21, 23, 24); indeed, they will be responsible for Christ’s crucifixion (v. 28). As the Lord preaches to and answers the Pharisees, many of those listening to His public disputation with them savingly believe on Him (v. 30-32).[iii] The Lord then tells those who have now believed on Him that their initial justifying faith will evidence itself in perseverance (v. 31-32). In v. 33, the Pharisees (“they,” as in v. 27) challenge Christ’s address to His new disciples. The speakers in v. 33 are not the new converts—their words are nowhere recorded in the chapter—rather, the public disputation with the Pharisees found in the rest of John eight is continued from v. 33 through the end of the chapter. Thus, John chapter eight records a conversation between Christ and the Pharisees with others looking on and listening in. Some of the onlookers believed on the Savior and received His exhortation in v. 30-32, the only break in the dialogue, and one which occurs without a record of the response of those addressed. Christ said to those who had “believed,” “ye . . . are my disciples” (John 8:31). The identification of the categories believer and disciple is explicit.[iv] The specification that those the Lord Jesus addressed would evidence their status as true converts[v] by perseverance does not undermine the His identification of believers as disciples. Christ does not say that those who believe would “become” disciples by continuing in His Word, but that those who “are” currently disciples because they have truly believed will evidence their regeneration by perseverance—they “are” saved people “if” they continue.[vi] The “if . . . then” clause is an evidence/inference construction, so “the relation the protasis[vii] [has] to the apodosis[viii] is that of ground, or evidence . . . for example, ‘If she has a ring on her left hand, then she’s married.’ Notice that the protasis is not the cause of the apodosis. In fact, it is often just the opposite.”[ix] Those who had become the Lord’s disciples at the moment they believed in Christ would persevere; if someone did not do so, he never was a true convert.[x]


[i] Discussing the verb maqhteu/w, BDAG comments:

maqhteu/w (s. maqhth/ß) . . . 1. to be a pupil, with implication of being an adherent of the teacher

a. intr., be or become a pupil or disciple (Plut., Mor. 832b; 837c; Ps.-Callisth. 2, 4, 4 tini÷; Iambl., Vi. Pyth. 23, 104 m. tw◊ˆ Puqago/raˆ; schol. on Apollon. Rhod. Proleg. A a) tini÷ (Orig., C. Cels. 2, 9, 60) of someone (∆Iwsh\f) e˙maqh/teusen tw◊ˆ ∆Ihsouv Joseph had become a disciple of Jesus Mt 27:57 v.l. [the word appears in the TR but not the critical Greek text]. Likew. as

b. pass. dep. (Just., A I, 15, 6; Hippol., Ref. 1, 2, 16) maqhteu/omai become a disciple tini÷: (∆I.) e˙maqhteu/qh tw◊ˆ ∆Ihsouv Mt 27:57. grammateu\ß maqhteuqei«ß thvØ basilei÷aˆ t. oujranw◊n a scribe who has become a disciple of the kgdm. of heaven or who has been trained for the kgdm. Mt 13:52 (grammateu/ß 2b). Abs. IEph 3:1. ma◊llon maqhteu/omai I am becoming a disciple more and more IRo 5:1. This gave rise to a new active form (B-D-F §148, 3; Rob. 800)

2. to cause one to be a pupil, teach, trans. (AscIs 3:18 kai« maqhteu/sousin pa¿nta ta» e¶qnh kai« pa◊san glw◊ssan ei˙ß th\n aÓn[a¿]stasin touv aÓgap[h]touv; Just., D. 53, 1 Cristo\ß . . . e˙maqh/teusen aujtou/ß) make a disciple of, teach tina¿ someone Mt 28:19. i˚kanou/ß make a number of disciples Ac 14:21. Abs. a± maqhteu/onteß e˙nte÷llesqe what you command when you are instructing or winning disciples IRo 3:1.—uJmi√n maqhteuqhvnai become your disciples, be instructed by you IEph 10:1 (cp. pres. subst. ptc. oi˚ maqhteuo/menoi = oi˚ maqhtai÷ Did., Gen. 69, 24; 245, 17; aor. ptc. ai˚ de« touv qeouv Cristw◊ˆ maqhteuqei√sai e˙kklhsi÷ai Orig., C. Cels. 3, 29, 24; Polu/karpoß . . . uJpo\ aÓposto/lwn maqhteuqei÷ß Iren. 3, 3, 4 [Harv. II 12, 4]).—DELG s.v. manqa¿nw. M-M. EDNT. TW. Sv.

[ii] The like is true of the related nouns maqh/tria and summaqhth/ß. However, these words appear only in Acts 9:36 and John 11:16 and consequently make only a rather limited contribution to the question of the equation of the category of believer and disciple. The verb manqa¿nw, “to learn,” is naturally employed with frequency for Christian growth (Philippians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 14:31) and for the acquisition of other sorts of information (Acts 23:27), but it likewise indicates that one becomes a “learner” or disciple of Christ at the moment of conversion (Matthew 11:26; John 6:45), and makes no division between Christians who learn of Christ and a supposed category of Christians who do not learn of Him.

[iii] The perfect tense form of “believe” in v. 31 (pepisteuko/taß) demonstrates that the aorist “believed” (e˙pi÷steusan) in v. 30 denotes saving faith in many of those hearing Christ speak. Those who “believed” or received what Christ said in v. 30 as true were the same group as those who savingly believed in v. 31-32. The perfect tense of pisteu/w is never used for spurious “faith” in unsaved people (John 3:18; 6:69; 8:31; 11:27; 16:27; 20:29; Acts 15:5; 16:34; 18:27; 19:18; 21:20, 25; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; 1 John 4:16; 5:10).

[iv] Note further that John records in the following chapter that one who wished to become (thelo + ginomai) Christ’s disciple came to believe on Him, John 9:25-30, 35-38.

[v] aÓlhqw◊ß maqhtai/.

[vi] Note also that John repeatedly refers to continuing faith in true disciples—they grow in faith as they continue to believe on Christ, John 2:11; 16:29-31; 20:8, 26-29. “[D]isciples . . . believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:22).

[vii] The protasis is the “if” portion of a conditional clause.

[viii] The apodosis is the “then” portion of a conditional clause.

[ix] Pg. 683, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel Wallace.

[x] A third class condition, rather than a first class condition, is employed in John 8:31-32 because the evidence of continuance was not yet present. Christ’s admonition to those He had just brought to Himself accords with the greater framework of Biblical evangelistic methodology, so that His admonition to His new converts is good to give to any newly professed believer in the Lord. Those who profess faith should know what a “disciple indeed” looks like and have assurance of salvation promised to them if they evidence themselves as such (1 John 2:29; 3:7; 5:13). Christ’s practice of telling new believers that true salvation will evidence itself in perseverance stands in radical contradistinction to the popular and totally unscriptural practice of a soulwinner providing immediate and unconditional assurance to all who have just professed faith. If the Lord Jesus conditioned assurance upon perseverance in His counsel to those whom He, in His omniscience, knew were genuinely converted, how much more should soulwinners, who are very far from omniscient, condition assurance upon perseverence when speaking to those who have newly professed Christ but may or may not have come to genuine faith!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interpreting Violence

How is that the murderer in the Fort Hood massacre wasn't influenced to kill by Islam, exposed to heavy dosages every day and uttering an Islamic chant as he shot his victims, but the murderer in the Tucson, Arizona massacre was influenced to kill by a political poster he had never claimed to see?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Are All Believers Disciples? part 1

Are All Believers Disciples?

Some affirm that only certain believers are disciples. Discipleship is said to be a status that certain believers chose to enter into at some point after their conversion, so that, within the larger class of believers, a smaller, elite group of believers are disciples. Others affirm that, while there are such things as false believers (cf. John 2:23-3:3; 12:42; Acts 8:13) and false disciples (John 6:60, 66; 12:4),[i] and neither all believers nor all disciples are equally spiritually strong (cf. Acts 14:22; 18:23), the Bible nevertheless equates the categories of believer and disciple, so that all saved people, all believers, are disciples. This second position is the one taught in Scripture.

The Greek noun translated disciple appears 269 times in 253 verses in the New Testament,[ii] while related words that shed further light on the nature of a disciple appear a number of additional times.[iii] Generally, a disciple is a learner (Mark 9:31; Luke 11:1)[iv] or follower, and a disciple of Christ is one who follows the Lord Jesus and follows or keeps His commandments (cf. Matthew 21:6; 26:19).[v] Scripture thus repeatedly records that Christ’s “disciples follow him” (Mark 6:1; Matthew 8:23; Luke 22:39; John 18:15; 21:20). While, as is expected, not all of the 269 references to disciples specifically define the word, very strong exegetical evidence from many passages establish that one becomes a true disciple of Christ at the same moment that one becomes a true believer, so that discipleship begins at regeneration, and all the people of God, not some elite minority, are identified as disciples in Scripture. No verse in Scripture teaches that believers become disciples at a post-conversion crisis or that only some of the regenerate are disciples. Rather, it was the “disciples [who] were called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Disciples are Christians, and Christians are disciples.[vi]

Disciples are not an elite order of especially consecrated believers because disciples are too often sadly lacking in consecration. Disciples can be chastened as those of “little faith” (Matthew 8:23-27) and can fail to have the kind of faith that is associated with God’s powerful working (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:18-19). They can act in pride (Mark 9:31-34). They can require Christ’s correction (Matthew 19:13-14; 26:8-10) and rebuke (Luke 9:54-55), because they make Him “much displeased” (Mark 10:13-14). Disciples can fear to boldly confess Christ (John 19:38) although their faith does not stay perpetually hidden (19:39-40). Disciples can sleep instead of pray, give in to temptation and fear, and fail to unflinchingly stand for Christ (Matthew 26:40, 45, 56; Luke 22:45-46; John 18:15-27), although their faith does not fail and their repentant return to their Redeemer is as certain as are the answers to Christ’s prayers for His own as High Priest (Luke 22:32) since Christ powerfully works in them through His Word to bring them back to Himself when they sin (22:60-62). Disciples can fail to grasp spiritual truth as they ought to (Mark 7:18-19; 8:16-21; 9:32; John 4:31-35; 9:2-3; 11:11-13; 12:16) and even fail to pursue understanding as they ought when they fail to grasp it (Luke 9:45). While disciples—since they are believers and are therefore the recipients of a new heart—are going to be different from the unregenerate, they are not an elite subcategory of especially consecrated Christian. No text indicates that a special post-coversion act of consecration makes a believer into the higher category of disciple, nor that a certain amount of sin makes a disciple lose his status and return to a lower subcategory of believer. Rather, all believers, with both their Spirit-wrought change and their remaining indwelling sin, are identified as disciples.


[i] Note that Simon the sorceror not only had a kind of belief, but he also assumed the mark of a disciple by getting baptized (Acts 8:13). Baptism is the outward mark of a disciple (Matthew 28:18-20), that is, of a believer (Mark 16:15-16). Nonetheless, he was still “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” and was going to “perish” eternally unless he came to “repent” and was “forgiven” (Acts 8:20-23). Judas Iscariot is another example of a false disciple (Matthew 10:1, 4; John 12:4), and those “disciples” in Acts 19:1-7 were unregenerate until Paul preached the gospel to them and they were converted and baptized (contrast the practice with the already regenerate man Apollos, 18:25-28). The reality of professing believers who are still lost is presented throughout the Bible (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:1).

John 6:60-68 equates false believers with false disciples, and contrasts them with true believers or true disciples. The genuine people of God believe and are sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and cannot forsake Him, but false disciples can and do cease to follow Him.

[ii] Maqhth/ß appears in Matthew 5:1; 8:21, 23, 25; 9:10–11, 14, 19, 37; 10:1, 24–25, 42–11:2; 12:1–2, 49; 13:10, 36; 14:12, 15, 19, 22, 26; 15:2, 12, 23, 32–33, 36; 16:5, 13, 20–21, 24; 17:6, 10, 13, 16, 19; 18:1; 19:10, 13, 23, 25; 20:17; 21:1, 6, 20; 22:16; 23:1; 24:1, 3; 26:1, 8, 17–19, 26, 35–36, 40, 45, 56; 27:64; 28:7–9, 13, 16; Mark 2:15–16, 18, 23; 3:7, 9; 4:34; 5:31; 6:1, 29, 35, 41, 45; 7:2, 5, 17; 8:1, 4, 6, 10, 14, 27, 33–34; 9:14, 18, 28, 31; 10:10, 13, 23–24, 46; 11:1, 14; 12:43; 13:1; 14:12–14, 16, 32; 16:7; Luke 5:30, 33; 6:1, 13, 17, 20, 40; 7:11, 18–19; 8:9, 22; 9:1, 14, 16, 18, 40, 43, 54; 10:23; 11:1; 12:1, 22; 14:26–27, 33; 16:1; 17:1, 22; 18:15; 19:29, 37, 39; 20:45; 22:11, 39, 45; John 1:35, 37; 2:2, 11–12, 17, 22; 3:22, 25; 4:1–2, 8, 27, 31, 33; 6:3, 8, 11–12, 16, 22, 24, 60–61, 66; 7:3; 8:31; 9:2, 27–28; 11:7–8, 12, 54; 12:4, 16; 13:5, 22–23, 35; 15:8; 16:17, 29; 18:1–2, 15–17, 19, 25; 19:26–27, 38; 20:2–4, 8, 10, 18–20, 25–26, 30; 21:1–2, 4, 7–8, 12, 14, 20, 23–24; Acts 1:15; 6:1–2, 7; 9:1, 10, 19, 25–26, 38; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 16:1; 18:23, 27; 19:1, 9, 30; 20:1, 7, 30; 21:4, 16.

[iii] The verb maqhteu/w appears four times (Matthew 13:52; 27:57; 28:19; Acts 14:21), and the nouns maqh/tria and summaqhth/ß appear once each (Acts 9:36; John 11:16).

[iv] See BDAG, Liddell-Scott, & Louw-Nida.

[v] Similarly, a disciple of John the Baptist would follow him and his commands, Matthew 9:14; 11:2; 14:12; Luke 7:18-19; a disciple of the Pharisees would follow them and their commands, Matthew 22:15-16; cf. Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; and a disciple of other false teachers would follow them and their commands, Acts 20:30. John sought to have those who followed him, who were his disciples, become followers or disciples of Christ, John 1:35-39; 3:26-30. The Lord Jesus organized His church before Pentecost in Acts 2 (Matthew 16:18; 18:17) out of those of John’s disciples who had been saved and immersed by the Baptist, and then became His disciples. Christ’s pre-Pentecost church of immersed saints practiced the ordinances of baptism (John 3:22; 4:1-2) and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; cf. Matthew 26:30 & Hebrews 2:12) before Pentecost.

[vi] In Acts 11:26, crhmati÷sai te prw◊ton e˙n ∆Antiocei÷aˆ tou\ß maqhta»ß Cristianou/ß explicitly equates the category Christian and disciple. Maqhta»ß functions as the subject of the infinitive crhmati÷sai, and Cristianou/ß is a predicate accusative in the construction (cf. pgs. 190-197, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace). Since this syntactical pattern is “similar [in function] to the nominative subject and predicate nominative construction, following the same principles for distinguishing [the subject and predicate words]” (pg. 190, ibid.), and the equivalent subject-predicate nominative construction is a convertible, not a subset proposition, because maqhta»ß is articular and Cristianou/ß is a proper noun (pgs. 40-46, ibid.), the two categories disciple and Christian are explicitly equated as convertible terms. The “construction indicates an identical exchange . . . both nouns have an identical referent. The mathematical formulas of A=B, B=A are applicable in such instances. . . . There is complete interchange between the two [nouns]” (pg. 41, ibid.). Disciple = Christian, and Christian = disciple.

Saturday, January 01, 2011