Dealing with Fools

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)

       The fear of the Lord for the unbeliever is fear of His judgment (Matt. 10:28), and it is a fear that can lead to Christ for salvation (1 Cor. 15:3-4).  For the believer, the fear of the Lord is a profound reverence for God because He is holy, righteous and just (Ps. 89:14; 1 Pet. 1:15-16).  It is a healthy fear that leads to knowledge and obedience.  Moses wrote, “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name” (Deut. 10:20).  The fear of the Lord discourages sinfulness because we know He will discipline us in love if we turn away (Heb. 12:5-11).  The fear of the Lord is to hate what God hates; for Scripture reveals, “the fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth” (Prov. 8:13).  The fool has no fear of God, and he is said to “despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7b). 

       The Bible, especially Proverbs, contrasts the wise man (Heb. ḥoḵmâ; Gk. sophía) with the fool (Heb. ˓ewîl, kesîl, nāḇāl; sāḵāl; Gk. áphrōn, mōrós, anóētos).[1]  Wisdom (Heb. hokmah, Grk. sophos) is the beneficial instruction for making good choices that agree with God’s word.  The Bible contrasts divine wisdom which comes from God, and worldly wisdom which ultimately comes from Satan (James 3:15-17).  Divine wisdom is the knowledge necessary to perform a task in conformity to God’s standards and values.  Biblical wisdom is based on God’s revelation in the Bible and leads to moral uprightness.  The wise man “will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5; cf. 2:5); however, “fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7b).  The fool rejects the wisdom of God in Scripture which leads to salvation and righteous living.  The fool can be educated or uneducated, rich or poor, white or black, old or young, male or female.  He is friendly toward the world and its philosophies and values that promote human wisdom and accomplishments.  “A fool is not necessarily one who is marked by a low iq but one who leaves God out of his consciousness…The fool is the man who does not take God into consideration in every area of his life.”[2]

The word [fool] is used in Scripture with respect to moral more than to intellectual deficiencies. The “fool” is not so much one lacking in mental powers, as one who misuses them; not one who does not reason, but reasons wrongly. In Scripture the “fool” primarily is the person who casts off the fear of God and thinks and acts as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of God’s righteousness (Ps. 14:1; Prov. 14:9; Jer. 17:11; etc.). Yet in many passages, especially in Proverbs, the term has its ordinary use and denotes one who is rash, senseless, or unreasonable. The expression “you fool” (Matt. 5:22) is used in the moral sense, means “wicked,” and seems to be equivalent to judging one as worthy of everlasting punishment.[3]

       The fool, according to Solomon, is a fool by choice and never by chance.  He can stop being a fool anytime he’s ready to learn and apply God’s word.  He makes himself a fool by the way he thinks, and is identified as a fool by the way he speaks and by his behavior.  Over time, folly can be so ingrained into a person that neither kindness nor suffering can remove it from them.  Here are some biblical facts about the fool:

  1. The fool is a fool by choice and never by chance (Prov. 1:22-33).  “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”(Prov. 1:22).  “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind”(Prov. 18:2; cf. 14:9).  He can stop being a fool anytime he’s ready to learn and apply God’s word.
  2. The fool can be recognized by his outward behavior.  “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool” (Eccl. 10:3). 
  3. The fool loves to slander others.  “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).  Slander is the intentional circulation of a falsehood about another for the purpose of destroying their character. 
  4. Wickedness is like a game to fool, and it thrills him to do evil.  “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, and so is wisdom to a man of understanding”(Prov. 10:23).
  5. A fool can spout proverbial wisdom, but it has no meaning to him personally.  “Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools”(Prov. 26:9; cf. 15:2, 7).  There are people who have some biblical knowledge, but because they are a fool it becomes distorted and twisted to their own harm and the harm of others.  “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul”(Prov. 18:7; cf. 10:8, 10). 
  6. Children are naturally bent toward foolishness and the loving parent seeks to discipline it out of them.  “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him”(Prov. 22:15).  “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother”(Prov. 29:15). 
  7. The foolish child rejects his parent’s discipline.  “A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible”(Prov. 15:5).
  8. Over time, as the fool becomes an adult, his folly becomes entrenched in his heart and he is very resistant to any external pressures to change.  “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Prov. 17:10).  “Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him” (Prov. 27:22). 
  9. The fool is a grief to his father and mother.  “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother”(Prov. 10:1; cf. 15:20).  “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy”(Prov. 17:21; cf. 19:13).
  10. The fool ruins his own life and fights against God.  “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the LORD”(Prov. 19:3).
  11. Fools like to argue with others without a just cause.  “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Prov. 20:3).  It’s better to avoid the fool rather than pursue conflict with him.  “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest” (Prov. 29:9; cf. 20:23). 
  12. Fools are arrogant and often storm through life without consideration of others.  “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless”(Prov. 14:16).
  13. Those who employ a fool feel the painful effects of his stupidity.  “Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by”(Prov. 26:10).
  14. Fools repeat the same ugly acts over and over.  “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly”(Prov. 26:11).
  15. Fools have no control of their emotions.  “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back”(Prov. 29:11; cf. 25:28). 
  16. Fools pursue worldly pleasure and ruin themselves.  “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Eccl. 7:4). 
  17. The words of the wise are gracious, whereas the words of the fool express wickedness.  “Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness” (Eccl. 10:12-13).
  18. The person who befriends a fool causes himself harm.  “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). 

Dealing with the Fool:

       Wise men often do not answer the fool because he’s not teachable; though there are times the fool needs to be corrected so that his false estimation of himself does not go unchecked.  Wise men leave the presence of the fool, as there is no benefit to his company.  When one encounters a fool, there are several things one should do depending on the encounter. 

  1. Once a fool is identified, don’t provoke him, or you will bring grief on yourself.  “A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them” (Prov. 27:3). 
  2. Avoid speaking in the presence of a fool, or at least keep your words few.  “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Prov. 23:9).  Fools despise wisdom, so they despise those who speak and live by wisdom. 
  3. Don’t answer the fool in the midst of his foolishness.  “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him” (Prov. 26:4).  It is foolish to try to correct the fool, and is itself a display of folly that reveals a lack of biblical understanding.
  4. There are times to address the fool so that he does not think himself wise.  “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5).  This type of correction does not seek to correct the fool, but only his false estimation of himself.  Wisdom discerns when to answer the fool. 
  5. Lastly, make the conscious decision to leave the presence of the fool in order to spare yourself any pain.  “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge” (Prov. 14:7).  This is because “the foolishness of fools is deceit” and there is no truth in their speech (Prov. 14:8b). 

Steven R. Cook, M. Div. 

Related article: Biblical Wisdom  

[1] Allen C. Myers, “Fool”, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 390.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, Designed to Be Like Him: Understanding God’s Plan for Fellowship, Conduct, Conflict, and Maturity (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 55.

[3] Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos et al., “Fool”, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

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Vanitas Art

       The European Christian painters, during and after the Reformation, produced excellent art.  Prior to the Reformation, the Catholic Church had created idealized art in which Saints, the church, Christ and Mary were more than the Bible had revealed.  Within the Catholic Church, much of the art itself became objects of worship, and Protestants equated this with idolatry.  The art of the Renaissance was exceptional, but it reflected an almost purely humanistic perspective and was often reserved only for aristocracy and the educated elite in society.  Whereas the Catholic Church had wrongly idealized the Bible, itself and Saints, the Renaissance painters had wrongly idealized the greatness of man and human achievements. 

The Milkmaid - Jan Vermeer (c. 1658)

The Milkmaid – Jan Vermeer (c. 1658)

       Luther and Calvin both loved and appreciated art (and music), but sought to cleanse the church of statues and paintings which had become objects of idolatrous worship.  The destruction of art that idealized biblical characters and events is called iconoclasm (i.e. destruction of icons).  The new Reformation paintings showed common people and everyday life events (i.e. weddings, hunting scenes, and still life).  Reformation painters moved away from grandiose religious depictions and portrayed both man and nature as beautiful but fallen, and in need of Christ the Redeemer.  There was a strong biblical worldview, and the results were both attractive and refreshing.  The art was sometimes pedagogical and communicated a moral message, such as Vanitas Art

       Vanitas art originated in the 16th and 17th century in Europe in the Netherlands, France and Flanders (modern day Belgium).  The word vanitas is Latin and means “futility” or “meaninglessness” and derives from the Vulgate translation of Ecclesiastes 1:2, vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas (Vulgate).  There Solomon wrote, “vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).  Ecclesiastes teaches that life is uncertain, death is inevitable, and the pursuit of pleasure offers no real or lasting meaning.  Likewise, this genre of art communicates the transient nature of material things, the certainty of death, and the insignificance of earthly pleasure and human glory.  The moral message is that we should contemplate the effervescence of life and consider things eternal rather than temporal.  The symbols in the art often include a skull (death), bubbles (fragility and brevity), smoke (illusion of substance), an hourglass or watch (passing of time), fruit and flowers (things that quickly decay), instruments and music sheets (indulgent pursuit of pleasure), open books (pursuit of earthly knowledge), and dice (a picture of fortune).  See some of the symbols in the art below. 

Bavid Bailly Vanitas ca. 1651

David Bailly Vanitas ca. 1651

Notice the skull, bubbles, flowers and art.

Edwaert Collier Vanitas Still Life - ca. 1642–1708

Edwaert Collier Vanitas Still Life – ca. 1642–1708

If you look closely at the painting above, you can read vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas on a piece of paper.

Pieter Claesz - Vanitas Still Life ca.1628

Pieter Claesz – Vanitas Still Life ca.1628

Additional reading:

For more on the Reformation and Reformation art, see Francis Schaeffer’s video:

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

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The Virtue of Humility

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phi. 2:3-4)

       In Scripture, the humble are sometimes described as those who live in impoverished or difficult conditions (Deut. 15:7; 1 Sam. 2:7; 2 Sam. 22:28; Jam. 1:9); however, the inward virtue of humility does not automatically belong to those who are poor or suffer life’s hardships.  Humility is a lowliness of mind, an inward quietness before the Lord that reflects a poverty of spirit.  The humble know they need God and seek Him for wisdom, guidance and strength.  Humility is not a natural quality, nor does it come easily, but it is what the Lord requires of His people (Mic. 6:8; Eph. 4:1-2; Phi. 2:3-4).  The humble live with a constant sense of their weaknesses and inabilities to cope with life apart from God, and are keenly aware of their sinful nature and propensity to turn away from the Lord and befriend the world.  Humility is not a sense of worthlessness, but unworthiness of the Lord’s love and blessings.  The humble realize they deserve nothing good in this life, and any blessing they receive is from God’s grace. 

Humility in the spiritual sense is an inwrought grace of the soul that allows one to think of himself no more highly than he ought to think (Eph. 4:1–2; Col. 3:12–13; cf. Rom. 12:3)…It requires us to feel that in God’s sight we have no merit and to in honor prefer others to ourselves (Rom. 12:10; cf. Prov. 15:33). It does not demand undue self-depreciation but rather lowliness of self-estimation and freedom from vanity. The Gk. term praotēs, “gentleness” (rendered “meekness” in KJV) expresses a spirit of willingness and obedience and a lack of resistance to God’s dealings with us. But humility must also be expressed towards those who wrong us, in order that their insults and wrongdoing might be used by God for our benefit (see Acts 20:18–21). It is enjoined of God (Ps. 25:9; Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10) and is essential to discipleship under Christ (Matt. 18:3–4).[1]

       The Glory of HumilityHumility should not be thought of as passivity or weakness.  On the contrary, the humble person pursues righteousness and justice (Mic. 6:8) and can be very bold and outspoken.  Moses was very humble when doing the Lord’s will and standing confidently against Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage (Exodus chapters 3-12).  Jesus was humble when driving the money changers from the temple (Matt. 21:12-13), or rebuking the Jewish leaders for their arrogance and hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13-33).  Humility is not thinking less of self, but more of others.  Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phi. 2:3).  True Christian humility is voluntary—or self-imposed—as the believer surrenders his personal desires in loving service to others for their spiritual and material benefit.  It has the notion of child-like dependence, as Jesus taught His disciples (Matt. 18:3-4).  The greatest display of humility is found in God the Son who left His glory in heaven (Phi. 2:5-8; cf. John 17:5), became a man (John 1:1, 14; Heb. 10:5), became a servant (Mark 10:5; John 13:1-17), and ultimately “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phi. 2:8).  The glory of humility is seen at the cross (John 12:23, 32-33), where Jesus gave His life as an atoning substitutionary sacrifice for others (Rom. 5:6-10; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:18). 

       Humility is the basis for teachability, as David writes, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:8-9).  We sin when we ignore God and try to live independently of Him.  Sometimes God uses difficult circumstances to humble us and bring us to the place of perpetual dependence on Him, even though it is our nature to fight against being in the helpless place (read Dan. 4:28-37; 2 Cor. 12:7-10).  Being in the difficult situation—the place of suffering—is sometimes exactly where God wants us, and “the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position” (Jam. 1:9). 

       Scripture provides a true estimation of reality, allowing us to see God, the world, and ourselves from the divine perspective.  The Bible teaches that we come from God and that we have worth because we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).  We live and breathe and eat and enjoy life because God provides for us every moment of every day (Matt. 6:25-32).  God seeks out the humble, for he says in Isaiah, “to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2).  And Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  “Jesus does not demand visible self-abasement (cf. Mt. 6:16 ff.; Mk. 2:18–19) but a total trust in God that expects everything from him and nothing from self.”[2]  This is strength through weakness, victory through humility, realizing “the battle is the LORD’S” (1 Sam. 17:47; cf. 2 Chron. 14:11; 20:15).  Scripture reveals the victories of life are not by self-effort, for the Lord declares, ‘“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts”’ (Zech. 4:6), and, “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isa. 40:29).  Ultimately, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

       The prideful person rejects God and His revelation and seeks to operate independently of the Lord.  The believer needs to be aware of pride, for “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Prov. 16:18).  Arrogant people rarely see their own faults, but almost always focus on the faults of others.  Solomon writes about prideful men and states, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:2), and, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor” (Prov. 29:23).  It is the humble person who finds success in life; not necessarily a worldly success, but a divine success, in which the believer lives by faith and pleases the Lord (Heb. 11:6).

Summary points:

  1. Humility is the basis of teachability (Ps. 25:8-9; Prov. 11:2). 
  2. A humble person has a true estimation of:

a)    Self-worth (Rom. 12:3, 16)

b)    Personal ability (Acts 12:6-8)

c)    The world (Matt. 16:26; John 17:13-21)

  1. A humble person is aware of his own faults and inabilities, and seeks for God’s mercy and daily provisions to sustain him (2 Cor. 3:4-5; 9:8; 12:7-10).
  2. A humble person submits to legitimate authority:

a)    God (Jam. 4:7)

b)    Family (Eph. 6:1)

c)    Pastor (Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 5:5)

d)    Government (Rom. 13:1-5)

  1. A humble person accepts God’s Word as authoritative concerning his:

a)    Thinking ( Rom. 12:3, 16)

b)    Speaking (Jam. 4:11)

c)    Behavior (Phi. 1:27; Col. 3:12-17; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Pet. 3:11)

  1. A humble believer behaves properly toward God (Mic. 6:8; Jam. 4:10).
  2. A humble believer behaves properly toward other believers (Eph. 4:1-2; Phi. 2:3-4).
  3. A humble believer accepts Jesus as his role model for humility (Matt. 11:29; Phi. 2:7).
  4. A humble believer obeys God’s commands and walks by faith (Deut. 8:1-5).
  5. A humble believer rejects false humility (Col. 2:18; 23).

Humility is freedom from arrogance.  Arrogance is an overbearing self-importance which leads to rejection of Divine truth and authority. 

  1. An arrogant person has a false estimation of himself, his abilities, and the world (1 John 2:16).
  2. An arrogant person believes perception is reality (Isa. 1:18; 55:8-9).  According to the Bible, human perception is merely a rough approximation of reality, but it is never equal to it.
  3. An arrogant person has an inflated sense of his own abilities and self-worth which leads to pseudo-confidence (1 John 2:16).
  4. An arrogant person rarely sees his own faults, only the faults of others (Jude 16).

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

[1] Merrill Frederick Unger, “Humility” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

[2] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1155.

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The Maker of the Universe

Frederick William Pitt (1859-1943) was a pastor in London who was known for his doctrinal writings and poetry/hymns.  This thoughtful hymn, The Maker of the Universe, captures truth pertaining to the hypostatic union, that Christ is fully God and man.

The Maker of the Universe
As man for man was made a curse;
The claims of laws which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.
His holy fingers made the bough
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced his hands were mined
In secret places He designed;
He made the forests whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky that darkened o’er His head
By Him above the earth was spread;
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space;
The spear that spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rock His hands had made;
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years;
But a new glory crowns His brow,
And every knee to Him shall bow.

F. W. Pitt (1859-1943)

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Atonement for Sins

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement [Heb. כָּפַר kaphar] for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement [Heb. כָּפַר  kaphar].  (Lev. 17:11)

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  (Heb. 9:22)

       Sacrificial LambAtonement is a very important concept in the Old Testament.  The word atonement translates the Hebrew verb כָּפַר (kaphar) which means to “cover over, pacify, propitiate, [or] atone for sin.”[1]  The animal sacrificial system—which was part of the Mosaic Law—taught that sin must be atoned for.  The idea of substitution was clearly taught as the sinner laid his hands on the animal that died in his place (Lev. 4:15, 24; 16:21).  The innocent animal paid the price of death on behalf of the guilty sinner.  God established the Levitical animal sacrificial system as a way of teaching that human sin must be atoned for.  The atoning animal sacrifices were performed daily by the Jewish temple priests on behalf of Israelites who committed sins in ignorance (Lev. 4:1-4, 20, 26, 31).  More serious sins—those deliberately committed—were atoned for once a year on the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur—by the High Priest who would enter the Holy of Holies in the temple and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bull and goat on the mercy seat which was on the top of the Ark of the Covenant (Lev. 16:14-15).  There were two sacrifices on the Day of Atonement: a bull was sacrificed for the sins of the High Priest (Lev. 16:6, 11), and two goats for the sins of the nation (Lev. 16:7-10).  The sacrifice of the goats were “to make atonement [כָּפַר kaphar] for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year” (Lev. 16:34).  One goat shed its blood on the altar, and the other was sent away into the wilderness after the High Priest had laid his hands on it and confessed over it “all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins” (Lev. 16:21).  The innocent animals died in place of those who were guilty of sin.  

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship. Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jer. 44:4; Hab. 1:13) and to punish it (Ps. 5:4-6; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation. This makes it ruinous folly to seek to establish one’s own righteousness before God (Job 15:14-16; Rom. 10:2-3); it simply cannot be done.[2]

       The animal sacrificial system under the Mosaic Law taught that God is holy, man is sinful, and that God was willing to judge an innocent creature as a substitute in place of the sinner.  The animal that shed its blood gave up its life in place of the one who had offended God, and it was only through the shed blood that atonement was made.  A life for a life.  The whole animal sacrificial system under the Mosaic Law was highly symbolic, temporary, and pointed forward to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The Levitical priests would regularly perform their temple sacrifices on behalf of the people to God, but being a symbolic system, the animal sacrifices could never “make perfect those who draw near” to Him, for the simple reason that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1, 4).  For nearly fourteen centuries the temple priests kept “offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb. 10:11), until finally Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins for all time” and through that one offering “perfected for all time those who are sanctified” by it (Heb. 10:12, 14).  What the Mosaic Law could never accomplish through the sacrifice of symbols, Christ did once and for all time through His substitutionary death on the cross when he died in the place of sinners. 

       The Lamb of GodJesus’ death on the cross was a satisfactory sacrifice to God which completely paid the price for our sin.  We owed a debt to God that we could never pay, and Jesus paid that debt in full when He died on the cross and bore the punishment that rightfully belonged to us.  In Romans 3:25 Paul used the Greek word ἱλαστήριον (hilasterion)—translated propitiation—to show that Jesus’ shed blood completely satisfied God’s righteous demands toward our sin, with the result that there is nothing more for the sinner to pay to God.  Jesus paid our sin-debt in full.  There’s nothing for us to pay.  The Apostle John tells us “He Himself is the propitiation [ἱλασμός hilasmos – the satisfactory sacrifice] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2; cf. 4:10).  Jesus’ death on the cross forever satisfied God’s righteous demands toward the sins of everyone for all time!  God has “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).  Regarding Christ’s death, J. Dwight Pentecost states:

You can be adjusted to God’s standard, because God made Christ to become sin for us.  The One who knew no sin, the One in whose lips had never been found guile, took upon Himself our sin in order that He might bear our sins to the cross and offer Himself as an acceptable substitute to God for us—on our behalf, in our place.  And when Jesus Christ identified Himself with sinners and went to the cross on their behalf and in their place, He was making possible the doctrine of reconciliation.  He was making it possible for God to conform the world to Himself, to adjust the world to His standard so that sinners in the world might find salvation because “Jesus paid it all.”  You can be adjusted to God, to God’s standard, through Christ, by His death, by His cross, by His blood, and by His identification with sinners.[3]

       Atonement for sins is the basis for reconciliation, because God has judged our sins in the Person of Christ who died on the cross in our place.  The death of Christ has forever satisfied God’s righteous demands for our sin and it is on this basis that He can accept sinners before His throne of grace.  The blood of Christ is the only coin in the heavenly realm that God accepts as payment for our sin-debt, and Christ paid our sin debt in full!  That’s good news! 

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

       Because Jesus’ death satisfies God’s righteousness demands for sin, the sinner can approach God who welcomes him in love.  God has cleared the way for sinners to come to Him for a new relationship, and this is based completely on the substitutionary work of Christ.  God has done everything to reconcile us to Himself.  The sin debt that we owed to God has been paid in full by the blood of Christ. 

This article in an excerpt from my book: The Cross of Christ: Sufficient to Save

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

[1] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers 1979), 497.

[2] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1995), 138.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mi., Kregel Publications, 1965), 89.

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A Demonic Encounter

Camp Cedar Crest SignIt was summertime in southern California.  The year was 1976 and I was nine years of age.  My parents put me on a church bus and shipped me off to Camp Cedar Crest for a week.  The sights and smells of the forest were wonderful.  The camp was located in the mountains of southern California and I was with friends every day.  We had lots of activities like hiking, baseball and swimming to keep us busy.  There was opportunity for Bible study and songs around the campfire, which was nice. 

       Camp Cedar Crest Dining HallThere was a big, open dining hall where everyone ate together.  I remember the tall A-frame ceiling and the rows of tables that were lined up straight.  I’ll never forget that someone dared me to sniff pepper.  I sneezed about a dozen times or more.  Everyone laughed and thought it was funny.  I never did that again.  I had good fun at the camp and was glad I went.    

       There was another building that was used for worship and preaching.  I remember one night one of my friends was crying after a worship service and said he wanted to be saved.  After the service, we walked together to the front of the platform where several people were gathered and some adults talked and prayed with us.  My friend and I were relieved after someone shared the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4) and prayed with us. 

Friend at Camp Cedar Crest

My Friend

       Camp rules required that I always be with a friend when walking around camp.  It was smart because it was easy to get lost if you wandered away.  I was with two friends one time and we wandered up a hill just beyond the swimming pool.  We climbed on top of two round boulders that were as big as cars.  The boulders were leaning against each other, and we sat on one with our feet on the other.  As we sat and talked, one of my friends pushed with his legs and noticed that the boulder in front of us moved a little.  We looked at each other with big smiles, and all together began to rock that boulder back and forth with our feet until it fell forward.  To our surprise, that giant boulder began to roll downhill toward the camp and we looked at each in sheer panic.  Fortunately, after rolling several times, the boulder hit a few trees and came to a loud, crashing stop.  The trees were made to lean forward in the direction of the camp.  As we jumped off the boulder on which we were perched, we heard someone running up the hill and saw a camp counselor headed our way.  He came to inspect the sound of the rolling boulder and the crash it made as it hit the trees.  We admitted we had pushed the boulder over, but did not intend for it to go as far as it did.  We all got in trouble for going outside the camp bounds that day.  My punishment consisted of a reprimand and spending thirty minutes at the cabin with my nose pressed into a small circle drawn on a chalkboard.  I’ll never forget that rolling boulder or the smell of that chalkboard.

       It was not all sunshine and fun for some of the kids at camp that summer.  In our cabin there was a boy who kept to himself.  I remember he woke one night, trembling and shaking, holding onto the edge of the steel bunk bed as he cried.  Many of the kids avoided him, not knowing anything about him.  He rarely talked and kept to himself.  I think he did his best to hide, hoping to make it through the week unnoticed.  I had no way of knowing there was something wrong; something dark.  A demon was at work in our cabin.

       On the last night of camp everyone was gathered at the amphitheater where we sang songs and watched a movie on a big screen.  I think the movie was Herbie Rides Again, which had come out a year or two before.  Even though it was summertime, I remember the evenings got cold in the mountains, and I had forgotten to bring my jacket with me.  I asked a camp counselor if I could run back to my cabin and grab my sleeping bag.  He said yes, but to take a friend or two with me.  Two of my friends ran with me as we cut across paths and raced to our cabin.  Upon entering the cabin we turned on the light and to our surprise we saw a boy huddled in the corner.  It was the same boy who had been having bad dreams during the week and avoiding others.  He was sitting in the darkness, crouched in the corner, fearful of something or someone. 

       I remember telling the boy he was not supposed to be at the cabin alone because everyone was at the amphitheater watching the movie.  He just stared at me.  My friends and I approached him and he stood up.  He moved away from the corner and positioned himself between two of the bunk beds that were against the wall.  His eyes kept moving about the room as though some danger was present.  He looked afraid and I felt compassion for him.  I remember my grandmother praying with me when I was afraid, and without much thought, I asked him if it was alright if we prayed for him.  To my surprise, he slowly nodded, and we approached him with arms outstretched toward his shoulders.  A look of fear washed over his face as he quickly walked backward.  His eyes were darting around and his facial movements quickened as we closed the gap of only a few feet between us.  Suddenly, his head bowed and he became calm, eerily calm, with his shoulders limp at his side, standing like a lifeless ragdoll. 

       We prayed as our hands rested on the boy’s shoulders.  We were praying a simple prayer to God as only children can do.  Our prayer contained no great theology or eloquent speech.  There was only a basic understanding from Scripture that we could call on God the Father in the name of Jesus in a time of need.  It was simple faith simply applied.  Suddenly the boy in front of us turned violent.  He threw up his arms and knocked away our hands.  He turned and grabbed hold of the steel frame of the bunk bed and began to rock it back and forth with great strength.  He began to throw suitcases at us—the suitcases we’d packed earlier in anticipation of leaving the next morning.  Without any thought, I grabbed him by the waist and wrestled him to the ground.  His strength was more than I could handle, and my two friends jumped on top of him and helped hold his arms and legs to prevent his violence from causing harm. 

       It was at that moment he started growling.  Deep guttural sounds were coming from him; sounds too deep for a human to make.  He tossed his head back and forth, from right to left, and kept growling like a wild animal.  I could feel the deep vibration in the tone of his voice.  I was frightened.  I wanted to run, but was afraid to let go.  Then his head stopped for a moment and our eyes met.  That’s when I knew.  His once brown eyes where now frosty white.  I could see the outline of an iris and pupil, but they were shades of white; not brown and black like before.  Some physiological change had occurred in the boy and I was staring into the eyes of what appeared to be a demon.  I cried out to my friends to look, and when they saw what I saw, together we started crying out to the Lord for help.  The boy continued to whip his head back and forth and on occasion stop and look at me.  I knew there was something supernatural at work; something dark.  My friends and I lay on the floor of the cabin crying, shaking, hearts racing, too afraid to let go, and calling out to the only One we knew could help us.

       After nearly ten minutes, the boy began to calm down.  The growling began to soften.  His head stopped turning from side to side and he looked upward toward the ceiling.  It took a minute, but I watched his eyes slowly fade from white to brown.  Suddenly, the boy’s facial expression turned from anger to confusion.  He started looking around the room in bewilderment and wanted to know how he got on the floor and why we were crying.  I was fearful it was some sort of demonic trick and asked my friends not to release him for a few minutes.  After we saw his eyes remain normal for a little bit, and his strength and behavior seemed normal, we let go of him and lifted him to his feet.  He said the last thing he remembered was us praying over him and being extremely afraid, although he did not know why he was afraid. 

       The boy then conveyed what he saw in his mind after we started praying for him.  Originally, he said he could hear our prayers, but our voices gradually softened and then there was silence.  He said he was standing in complete darkness, when there appeared a light from above.  Like a spotlight, it shown on a dark figure that was tall, dressed in a black cloak, with red eyes.  The light appeared to cause distress to the dark figure, although it made no sound.  The boy said he watched the figure thrash its arms around as though trying to fight off the light, but it could not.  Slowly the figure began to fall backwards, swinging its arms violently as it fell, and after about ten minutes, it finally hit the ground.  The boy said after the light faded away, he suddenly became aware us laying over him on the ground and crying out to the Lord for help.  We were stunned at his account. 

       We grabbed him by his arms and with nervous excitement we marched back up to the main campground and grabbed the nearest adult we could find and exclaimed a demon had just been cast out of this boy.  We were so nervous and excited, we kept repeating ourselves.  Several adults took the boy from us and went into a nearby room where they prayed over him and shared the gospel message.  About twenty minutes later the boy emerged and came and talked with us.  He said someone in his family was involved in occult practices and several months earlier he’d been encouraged to invite a “friendly spirit” into his life to help guide him.  That’s when his life changed for the worse and his fears and nightmares began.  By the time we finished talking, the movie had ended and it was time to go back to our cabins for the night.  I barely slept a wink.  I doubt the other kids did either. 

       This personal story is true as best I remember.  My thoughts and memories are adequately clear to lead me to think this was a legitimate case of demon possession.  I realize only those who were there that night can verify this account, and I’ve not been able to contact any of them since that event.

Steven R. Cook, M. Div. 

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The Sovereignty of God

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ (Isa. 46:9-10)       

       God is the sovereign Creator-Lord of the universe (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Dan. 4:35).  He is infinitely good, and all good things were created by Him, for Him, and to His glory. From Genesis to Revelation, God governs the lives of people and nations.  People exist because God gives them life.  David writes, “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3).  He determines the duration of each person’s life, having final control over the day and cause of a person’s death.  It is written, “in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps. 139:16).  And Hannah, in her stately prayer says, “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam. 2:6).  People live and die as God decides, “for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).  God controls when and where people live in history, for “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).  Even the great rulers of this world exist because of His plan, for “It is He who changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding” (Dan. 2:21).  God has power over wealth and poverty, for “The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts” (1 Sam. 2:7).  The Lord is supreme over all His creation, “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6).  God declares, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).  No one who can understand all His ways, or stop what He has set in motion.  “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan 4:35).  God allows fallen angels and humans to produce sin and evil, but they never act beyond or against His sovereign will (Job 1:1-21; Ps. 105:12-15; 1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Cor. 12:7-10).  God’s sovereignty over all creation is a prevailing theme throughout Scripture.  God has many attributes[1], but His sovereignty is foremost.  The Bible reveals God is righteous and just, truthful and loving, merciful and gracious, and the humble boast that they know Him.

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)

Steven R. Cook, M. Div. 

[1] Scripture also teaches God is: omniscient (Ps. 139:1-6; Matt. 6:31-33), omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Heb. 13:5), omnipotent (Job 42:2; Isa. 40:28-29), righteous (Ps. 11:7; 119:137), just (Ps. 9:7-8; 19:9; 50:6; 58:11), holy (Ps. 99:9), immutable (Ps. 102:26, 27; Mal. 3:6), truthful (2 Sam. 7:28; John 17:17; 1 John 5:20), loving (Jer. 31:3; 1 John 4:7-12, 16),  faithful (Deut. 7:9; Lam. 3:23; 1 John 1:9), merciful (Ps. 86:15; Luke 6:36; Tit. 3:5), gracious (Ps. 111:4; 116:5; 1 Pet. 5:10), and eternal (Deut. 33:27; 1 Tim. 1:17).

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