Tag Archives: faith

The Uniform is Useless | Bible Gleanings – June 26-27, 2021

The truth always comes out—just ask John K. Giles, the failed escapee from Alcatraz Island. After an unsuccessful train heist, he began serving his federal sentence in the legendary Alcatraz Penitentiary. This maximum-security prison housed gangsters and thugs like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly—and Giles landed himself behind bars with them. Such infamous criminals were sent to Alcatraz because it was considered inescapable. But Giles was cunning—and he found a way out.

The U.S. Army used to send laundry to Alcatraz Island to be washed—it kept the prisoners busy and kept our armed forces in clean uniforms. Giles worked at the loading dock where the military laundry was delivered to be washed. And piece by piece, he sneakily snagged a complete army uniform. Then on July 31, 1945, he merely dressed in the uniform and walked aboard an army boat, pretending to be an officer. Unfortunately for Giles, the boat was not headed for freedom like he expected. The boat docked at Fort McDowell on Angel Island, a major processing location for troops during World War II. As he set foot on Angel Island, he was back in cuffs again.

He fooled the army officials for a while, and may have fooled himself as well—but he couldn’t keep it up forever. He wore an army uniform on the outside, but he was still John K. Giles, the criminal, on the inside.

One of the most sobering truths in all of Scripture is that many people wear the Christian uniform on the outside yet remain unconverted on the inside. You can wear every piece of the suit and still be lost in your sins. You can be baptized, read the Bible, attend church regularly, give large offerings, and do other good works, but none of that matters if you aren’t changed by the gospel. According to Jesus, many individuals will fool others and even themselves into believing they are sincere believers, but they will not fool Him.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

How can you truly be saved, according to Jesus? By coming to know Him in faith. People trusting in their “many mighty works” will be cast away from the presence of the Lord into eternal hell. Only those who know Christ can be assured that their boat is headed for heaven instead of hell. Since you can’t fool the Lord, repent of your sins and believe that Christ and His work are enough for your salvation. 


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Fruit in the Ashes | Bible Gleanings – May 22-23, 2021

Fruit in the Ashes

It turns out that grapes love volcanoes—specifically the ash that volcanoes emit. Vineyard farmers in Spain’s Canary Islands have discovered and capitalized on this strange situation. Eighty miles from the sandy beaches of Lanzarote lies a charcoal landscape formed by volcanic eruptions from the 1730’s. There are enough craters and jagged hills on the island to make you think you’re on the Moon. The only difference is that this Spanish terrain is engulfed in black ash, and there are undeniable signs of life—namely, hundreds of farmers picking over 2.6 million pounds of grapes annually.

How do grapes grow in such a sooty wasteland? According to Mónica R. Goya, a New York Times journalist who visited the island, the magic is in the dirt. The ash prevents erosion, retains moisture, and regulates ground temperature. It also has nourishing soil beneath it, and there are plenty of old cinders to make pits for the grapevines to protect them from violent winds. Incredibly, fruit can grow even in the ashes.

The Bible declares the same truth. The apostle James once wrote that the fruit of endurance grows best in the ashes of trials and tribulations:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [or endurance]. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Christian, do you feel like your life is in ashes? Perhaps the news of an unexpected diagnosis has left you feeling like your life is a dark and crumbling wasteland. Maybe the abrupt passing of a loved one has made you feel like a volcano of pain and grief erupted upon your once-joyful life. It may be that loneliness has buried your happiness and cheer, like ash concealing thousands of acres that used to be beautiful. You may feel like Job when he cried, “God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes” (Job 30:19).

Whatever volcanic trial has erupted in your life, the Lord promises that tribulation is the best soil for endurance. Sometimes He permits a volcano to rupture to plant you in the ideal place to trust Him and His plan for your life. God uses adversity to deepen your faith and strengthen your spiritual muscles. To be sure, troubles and trials aren’t pretty—they are painful. But God is cultivating the beautiful fruit of endurance in the midst of your afflictions, and that is reason to rejoice. As Paul stated, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance” (Romans 5:3).


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

What’s Under Your Roof? | Bible Gleanings – April 3-4, 2021

What’s Under Your Roof?

The woman’s home and land had the kind of beauty and elegance that instantly made you think, “Oh yeah—this person is loaded.” The two-story home was decorated with charcoal-colored brick with a gleaming texture. Vivid flowers surrounded the house and every bush was flawlessly whittled down. The exposed aggregate driveway wound aesthetically through the yard, weaving through the gorgeous green and hilly property. Speaking of green, I’ll bet that not one blade of grass was improperly trimmed.

This heavenly home was also the workplace of an accredited tax preparer my father and I had visited to pay our dues to Caesar.1 My mouth dropped in awe at the enticing appearance of the outside. However, my mouth dropped even farther as we were welcomed through the front door. Mountains of paperwork smothered the tables and countertops. Another mountain was in the sink—a pile of dirty dishes that would have tumbled had one more fork been laid on top. And a tornado of children had obviously blown through every room, as Barbie dolls and soldier toys lay far and wide.

Now—I’m not being critical—just take a look inside my home! The point is, looks are deceiving. What was under the roof contradicted what was outside of the walls. The condition of the inside was completely different from the appearance of the outside. And appearances only go so far—what really matters is what’s inside.

Apparently, the Lord God agrees: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b). God cares about the condition of the inside, that which is “under your roof,” within your heart. And it doesn’t matter if the lawn of your life is perfectly trimmed if the living room of your heart is a sinful mess. External conformity to Scripture is meaningless without internal purity. As Jesus once said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28). Jesus also said that upkeep of the outside is foolish if we neglect maintenance on the inside (Luke 11:39-40).

The truth is, none of us have our house in order—we all need the Spirit of God to make the inside clean. That is why you must be washed and regenerated by the Spirit as you take hold of Christ by faith alone (Titus 3:5). And after your heart has been purified by the Spirit, you must continually pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). So, what’s under your roof?

  1. This story is from many years ago, in a location far away from Murray. That’s why I thought no harm would be done in sharing this account. Plus, I know the woman referenced and she would get a kick out of this story as she is a faithful believer in Christ.

Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

The Movie of Your Life | Bible Gleanings—November 7-8, 2020

The Movie of Your Life

Walt Disney released the first full-length animated movie in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was one-of-a-kind and enjoyed an enormous amount of box office success. Producing the film was a gargantuan task and an outstanding achievement, to say the least. Back in the late 30’s, there were no iPhones, computers, or user-friendly editing programs. So, how did they do it?

A documentary explained that Disney employees stacked glass panes with drawings and shifted them around to simulate movement. The process was essentially a sophisticated flipbook. Disney artists drew over one million pictures for this particular movie. And each image flashed onto the screen for a mere one twenty-fourth of a second! You can watch the film today at regular speed, and it all seems so simple. Millions of pictures, hours of meticulous editing, and a considerable amount of money all poured into a film that lasts only an hour and a half.

Life is just like a movie, isn’t it? Your life is short: “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14b). Yet, the Lord God is using a million different events to ensure your life plays out the way He’s planned. You are in the movie at “regular speed,” living day by day, as each scene unfolds by the hour. The sovereign Lord of the universe has put infinite thought, skill, and careful attention into every detail of your life’s movie. Only He knows the movie of your life from beginning to end because He is directing it.

And like a movie, your life has painful scenes and happy ones. Maybe your life has had more of the former than the latter. As long as you are the Lord’s child by faith in Christ, you can take heart in knowing that God is working everything out (good things and bad things) for your good. That’s what the Bible says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The movie of your life is incomplete right now. God won’t be finished with it until you take your final breath. You have to wait for God to complete it – you can’t hit fast-forward.

While you wait, trust the process and the God who is behind it. Walk in obedience empowered by grace, and hope in the Lord and His plan for your good and His glory. David wisely tells you, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5). As the scenes of your life play out, will you trust in the Lord?



Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

The Need for Studying Theology, a Guest Post by Michael Chadwick

Before I dive into the subject of why theological study is crucial for the Christian, I would really like to address something important. When you read the title of this post, you may have had certain doubts. You might have had one of these reactions: Theology? I don’t want to lose the simplicity of faith! Won’t I substitute thought for action? I mean, theology has caused divisions – theology uses big words, and it just complicates communication. Isn’t theology all based on speculation, and doesn’t theology major on minor truths? 

If you had a reaction similar to this, you’re not alone. You see, a large number of people in the church, unfortunately try to avoid theology and all that goes along with it like avoiding some plague. Most people have strong doubts about theology – but let me encourage you by saying that theology is not a bad thing. In fact, if theology is done with the right motive, it is a most glorious thing. With that said, let’s dive in deeper into why we should study theology and why it is definitely a good thing.

First of all, what is theology? Theology, in its literal translation is the study of God. The meaning of the word comes from two separate words: Theo (meaning God) and ology (meaning study). Essentially, theology is the study of God. Henry Clarence Thiessen gives us an even better way to understand the definition of theology, saying that “we may define theology as the science of God and His relations to the universe.”¹ Why is this? Why is theology the science of God and how He relates to the universe? Because in Christian theology, you have to include many different doctrines. Throughout years of study, we now include every Christian doctrine to this idea of theology. Doctrines such as:

  • the doctrine of revelation (the study of how God reveals Himself to us, etc.)
  • the doctrine of God (this includes His nature, His attributes, His decrees, His works, etc.)
  • the doctrine of humanity (this includes our nature, and our relationship to both sin and a holy God)
  • the doctrine of Christ (includes both the person and the work of Christ)
  • the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (includes both the person and the work of the Holy Spirit)
  • the doctrine of salvation (how it is that we are saved, what does that entail, etc.)
  • the doctrine of the church (how is the church to be led, what is the purpose of the church, etc.)
  • the doctrine of last things (consummation and what will happen when we die)

This was far from a complete list, but it definitely gives a good overview of what we consider to be theology today. It’s not just one idea, or a few scattered ideas – it is a science – the science of God. Theology is important because it deals with every day Christian life, as you can see clearly from the list above.

Why should we study theology? There are four main reasons why it should be important for Christians to study theology. So why should we sit down and enjoy studying theology?

1. Study Theology Because the Bible Teaches That Theology is Important

The first reason is because the Bible teaches us that theology is important. Look at Hosea 4:1-6:

“Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear. Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for you people are like those who contend with the priest. So you will stumble by day, and the prophet also will stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (NASB).

In the beginning verse, God tells the people of Israel that there is a case against them – because on top of many other things, there was no knowledge of God in the land. And this is an essential part of theology. We as theological students try to learn more and more about our God. We need the right knowledge of God as Christians. This passage from Hosea calls us to pursue that knowledge, and it does so through one of its many warnings found in verse 6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” If God is unchangeable (which is one of His many attributes), then He can do the same thing to us. We can be spiritually destroyed and reap the consequences without knowledge of God. We as Christians, as God’s people, need to have knowledge about God. Also, similar instruction is found in Malachi 2:7, “for the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” In the local church, your pastor(s), deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, or any other persons in leadership roles should help you in your personal study of the knowledge of God. This study is what we call theology. So first we see that the Bible teaches that study of theology is important.

2. Study Theology Because Jesus Demonstrated That Theology is Important

Secondly, we should study theology because Jesus demonstrated that theology is important. Let us look at Matthew 16:13-16:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (NASB)

What is pictured in this passage is that they are walking in a line and Jesus goes to each disciple individually and asks these questions. When it says that Jesus was asking the disciples, it has the action of beginning to ask and kept asking. Finally, after he got through all of the disciples, he got to Peter. And Peter said that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The point: Jesus wanted to know what people were saying about Him. By doing this, He was demonstrating that theology is important to Him. If we cannot answer this fundamental question right, then we cannot dive further into theology, for if we have an answer any different than Peter’s, anything else we say is as flawed as the “wisdom” of this world.

3. Study Theology Because it is Important for Discipleship

Thirdly, to be a disciple we need to study theology. Remember, if we cannot answer who Jesus is correctly, we cannot begin to go anywhere else in Scripture. To be a true disciple of Christ, we have to know what Christ says, does, and thinks. The only way we can figure this out is by reading our Bibles and by studying theology. We need theology to help us in our walk with God. We need theology to be better ambassadors for Him. The Christian life may start out with a “blind” and simple faith, but God does not want us to stay there. God wants you and I to grow in our faith. God wants us to learn more about Him, and as we do we will be growing disciples.

4. Study Theology Because the Early Church Demonstrated That Theology is Important

Last, the early church demonstrated that theology is important. The early church had to rely on sound theology to safeguard against the all-too-frequent heresies that came about. Many of the major heresies really started after the apostle John died. Soon after his death was when Gnosticism was on its rise. This heresy affected people’s understanding of the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of humanity. If you ever decide to research Gnosticism, you will see that its impact was so sever that we are still trying to recover from this heresy. On a similar note, you even have to be careful when studying the heresies! Make sure you have a very solid foundation on the Bible before you work through those. There were many other heresies that came about that compelled the early Church to rely completely on sound theology. And that demonstrates the need for studying it.

Conclusion: Study Theology for the Glory of God

As I said in the introduction, if you study theology with the right motive, then it is a most glorious thing. Since we know why we should study theology, then we need to find out what the right motive is for studying theology. So what is this right motive? The answer to that is really the answer to why we do anything. We as Christians do everything to bring praise, honor, and glory to our sovereign King. That is always the end goal in everything that we do. Our motive for studying theology is no different. We study theology for God’s glory. If our motive is anything other than to learn more about our Creator, and to grow in our relationship with Him, then we are wrong and need to desperately repent. There are many who study theology so that they can answer all the questions, and be the smartest person in the room – quite plainly, that is wrong. They need to repent because it is clear that God is displeased with that. Truthfully, they would be better off not studying theology in the first place. So before starting to study theology, ask yourself why you are doing this. If the answer is not so that you can grow in order to glorify God, then wait until you can answer that way.


  1. Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 1-2.
13716047_10153790694491547_9032896755713306761_nMichael Chadwick is the pastor of Jensen Baptist Church in Pineville, Kentucky. He and his wife Kari live in Pineville, where they both study at the acclaimed Clear Creek Baptist Bible College.

God’s Protection, a Guest Devotion by Bradley Finley

Matthew 28:20b: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

God is saying that you never have to feel outnumbered, intimidated or outclassed by anything on earth. Why? Because, “I am with you.” As His follower, you have 24/7 access to Him; to His power and His protection.

Isn’t it amazing that God is there for us all the time? Whenever you need him, He’s there and He will always protect us. A great example of God’s protection is in the book of Daniel. (You can read chapter 3 for the full story.) There were three men: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men were thrown into a fire because they did not worship King Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth man in the fire that looked like a “Son of God” (3:25). He called the three men out and their bodies had not been harmed, nor was a piece of hair from their heads singed, their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. They were faithful to God and God protected them from a fire! Like them, God wants us to defend Him. Sometimes when we stand up for Him, we may face harm. It’s important to remember, if God protected them from a fire, what else can He protect you from?

You’ve Got Questions: Does God Exist?

You’ve Got Questions: Does God Exist?

It’s the most significant question of all time: Is there a God, or isn’t there? How can we believe in Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists? There are many arguments for the existence of God and these arguments attempt to analyze the evidence, especially the evidence from nature, in extremely careful and logically precise ways, in order to persuade people that it is irrational to reject the idea of God’s existence. It is “the fool” who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Belief in God’s existence is not based on some blind hope apart from any evidence, but it is based on an overwhelming amount of evidence from both the Bible and Creation. These evidences can be seen as valid proofs for the existence of God, even though some still reject them. Why should you believe in God?

Cause and Effect

Proving God’s existence by observing the world around us begins with affirming what is most obvious in all reality: things exist. There is no rational argument that can deny that things exist. Also, there is no rational argument that can deny that the universe exists. If the universe exists, then it must have had a beginning. The universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe had a cause. This is the Law of Cause and Effect, every effect must have a cause. In other words, everything that happens has a catalyst; everything that came into being has something that caused it. Things don’t just happen by themselves. So, when you consider the fact that every known thing in the universe has a cause, you are left asking, “Who or what caused the universe?”

That cause, being outside the whole universe, is God. Many argue that some things are caused by other things, but this does not solve the problem. This is because those other things had to have causes, too, and this cannot go on forever. For example, all trees began to exist at some point (for they have not always existed). Each tree had its beginning in a seed (the “cause” of the tree). But every seed had its beginning (“cause”) in another tree. There cannot be an infinite series of tree-seed-tree-seed, because no series is infinite—it cannot go on forever. All series have two endings at the end and at the beginning. So in relation to the cause of the universe, something that does not need to be given existence must exist to give everything else existence. This something would have to always exist, have no cause, have no beginning, have no limit, be outside of time, and be infinite. That something is God. This affirms the foundational verse for the entire Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Created With Purpose

We already know that the universe requires a Creator, but what about the design, harmony, and order of the universe? The orderly world in which we live clearly demonstrates that a great mind was behind its arrangement. The Bible identifies God as that great intelligence. So, the existence of God is also proven by the order and useful arrangement in the universe. When we are walking on a beach and find a wristwatch, we do not assume that time and random chance produced the watch from blowing sand. Why? Because it has the clear marks of design—it has a purpose, it conveys information, it is specifically complex. No scientific field considers design to be spontaneous; it always implies a designer. With all the design evident in our universe, it’s no wonder Job says, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10 ESV).

We know that every life form in Earth’s history has been highly complex. For example, the amount of information in the 3 billion base pairs in the DNA of every human cell is equivalent to that in 1,000 books of encyclopedia size. Similarly, the human brain has approximately 10 billion gigabytes of capacity. Besides living things here on Earth, the whole universe seems designed for life. There are literally hundreds of conditions necessary for life on Earth—everything from the mass density of the universe down to earthquake activity must be fine-tuned in order for life to survive. The random chance of all of these things occurring is literally beyond imagination. Wayne Grudem writes, “Since the universe appears to be designed with purpose, there must be an intelligent and purposeful God who created it to function this way.” (1)

The Lawgiver

Human beings are unique among God’s creation in that we are moral creatures. That’s one of the many things that separate us from the animals—we have a distinctive knowledge of right and wrong, and so for example, we set up court systems with punishment for wrongdoing. So, we need to face the fact that all people recognize some moral code—that some things are right, and some things are wrong. In fact, every time we argue over right and wrong, we appeal to a higher law that we assume everyone is aware of, holds to, and is not free to arbitrarily change. If right and wrong imply a higher standard or law, then that law requires a lawgiver. There must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and who will someday mete our justice to all people. We see that even the most remote tribes who have been cut off from the rest of civilization observe a moral code similar to everyone else’s.

Differences certainly exist in civil matters, but things bravery and loyalty, greed and cowardice, are universal. If man were responsible for inventing this code of morality, then it would differ as much as every other thing that man has invented. Romans 2:14-15 says, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness. . .” (emphasis mine). Paul is saying here that the Gentiles’ consciences attest to what is right and what is wrong in their behavior. Paul isn’t saying that the testimony of human conscience is always a perfect moral guide, but the very existence of this testimony is sufficient to render people accountable to God. Without God there would be no objective basis for morality, no life, and no reason to live it. Yet all these things do exist, and so does God.

You’ve Got Questions: What Happens if a Christian Dies by Suicide?

You’ve Got Questions: What Happens if a Christian Dies by Suicide?

It is a sad fact that some Christians have committed suicide. Adding to the tragedy is the false teaching that committing suicide automatically consigns one to hell. Many believe that a Christian who commits suicide will not be saved. This teaching is not supported in the Bible. Scripture teaches that, from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life. According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). No “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing”; therefore, not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love. Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, dies by suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

Suicide is not what determines whether a person goes to heaven or not. Only by trusting in Christ for salvation are you guaranteed entrance into heaven. You must be justified by faith in Christ. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Of course, if the unsaved person commits suicide, all he has done is expedite his journey straight into hell. There is no way to sugar coat that truth. But will that unsaved person go to hell because he committed suicide? No. The reason for his going to hell isn’t because he committed the act, but because he is an unsaved sinner. Sin is what separates us from God. We are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), “children of wrath,” and enemies of God; hostile to God.

Suicide is not the “unforgivable sin” as many say, but those who take the sacred name of Christ upon their lips dare not contemplate it. Our lives belong to God and He alone has the prerogative to bring them to an end. In the very words of God, “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39 NIV, emphasis mine). The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is—self-murder. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die. We should say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15). God is the giver of life. He gives, and He takes away (Job 1:21). Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is ungodly because it rejects God’s gift of life. No man or woman should presume to take God’s authority upon themselves to end his or her own life.

Characters in the Bible

In addition, the Bible mentions six specific people who died by suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4–6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (Matthew 27:5). Five of these men were noted for their wickedness (the exception is Saul’s armor-bearer—nothing is said of his character). Some consider Samson’s death an instance of suicide, because he knew his actions would lead to his death (Judges 16:26–31), but Samson’s goal was to kill Philistines, not himself.

Furthermore, many people in Scripture felt deep despair in life. Solomon, in his pursuit of pleasure, reached the point where he “hated life” (Ecclesiastes 2:17). Elijah was fearful and depressed and yearned for death (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah was so angry at God that he wished to die (Jonah 4:8). Even the apostle Paul and his missionary companions at one point “were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). However, none of these men committed suicide. Solomon learned to “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Elijah was comforted by an angel, allowed to rest, and given a new commission. Jonah received admonition and rebuke from God. Paul learned that, although the pressure he faced was beyond his ability to endure, the Lord can bear all things: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Conclusion

In conclusion, suicide is a sin. It is not the “greatest” sin—it is no worse than other evils, in terms of how God sees it, and it does not determine whether or not a person goes to hell. However, suicide definitely has a deep and lasting impact on those left behind. The painful scars left by a suicide do not heal easily. May God grant His grace to each one who is facing trials today (Psalm 67:1). May God grant the psalmist’s perspective to each one who is facing trials today: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

You’ve Got Questions: Is Justification by Faith or by Works?

You’ve Got Questions: Does James’ Teaching About Faith and Works Contradict Paul’s Teaching About Faith and Works?

When climbing from lowlands to mountaintops, one must often pass through clouds. While ascending to the peak, sight soon becomes fogged. When you enter a layer of clouds, it helps to have a guide to help you avoid loose rocks that you can’t see as you try to get the best views of the mountaintop. I hope that this article will serve as a guide to clarification regarding the compatibility of the teachings of Paul and James about faith and works. If you’ve studied the Scriptures for long, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. We often receive questions along the lines of “Explain how these verses do not contradict!” or “Look, here is an error in the Bible!” If you are troubled in answering your skeptics or just desiring clarity from theses passages of Scripture, I pray that you are helped by the information presented here. I want you to get the best view of the mountaintop of truth that is evident in these passages.

The Obstacle in Our Journey

The obstacle that we have approached in our journey of Bible study is this: Does James’ teaching on faith and works contradict Paul’s teaching on faith and works? To answer this question it is important to understand that there are difficult passages of Scripture. There are verses that appear to contradict each other. We must remember that the Bible was written by approximately 40 different authors over a period of around 1500 years. Each writer wrote with a different style, from a different perspective, to a different audience, for a different purpose. We should expect some minor differences. However, a difference is not a contradiction. It is only an error if there is absolutely no conceivable way the verses or passages can be reconciled.

James writes in his letter “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24; out of context), while Paul writes to the Romans “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (3:28; also out of context). Some see an apparent contradiction by saying that Paul is teaching salvation by faith alone and James is teaching salvation by faith plus works. This apparent problem is solved just by examining the contexts of the passages.

The Clouds Dissipate

To begin, let’s look at an earlier verse where this concept began: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” (James 2:21 ESV). On the surface, James may seem to contradict Paul. Paul denies that Abraham was “justified by works” (Rom. 4:2), arguing from Genesis 15:6 that Abraham’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). However, James’ assertion in this verse (that “Abraham [was]. . . justified by works”) is based not on Genesis 15:6 but on Genesis 22:9-10, where (many years later) Abraham began to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Thus, James apparently has a different sense of the word “justify” in view here, as evidenced by the different Scripture passages, and the different events in Abraham’s life, to which James and Paul refer. The primary way in which Paul uses the word “justify” emphasizes the sense of being declared righteous by God through faith, on the basis of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice (Rom. 3:24–26), whereas the primary way that James uses the word “justify” here in James 2:21 seems to emphasize the way in which works demonstrate that someone has been justified, as evidenced by the good works that the person does (see Matt. 12:33–37).

With that biblical concept in mind, some clouds have hopefully dissipated as we now look at the verse in question. “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24). James again seems at first to contradict Paul’s teaching that one is justified by faith alone (Rom. 3:28), but the two are compatible. For James, “faith alone” means a bogus kind of faith, a mere intellectual agreement without a genuine personal trust in Christ that bears fruit in one’s life. Recall how the “demons believe—and shudder” (2:19). He is arguing that simple mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James both affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly. Therefore, the conclusion drawn is that James, in agreement with Paul, argues that true faith is never alone: it always produces works (Eph. 2:10).

I have heard it said well before that Paul is emphasizing the purpose of faith: to bring salvation. While James is emphasizing the results of faith: a changed life. Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.

Keep Digging and Digging

The Bible is a book that is not merely for reading. It is a book for studying so that it can be applied. Through careful study in the contexts of our passages above, the answer is discovered. If vigorous study of the Word is neglected, then it is like swallowing food without chewing and then spitting it back out again—no nutritional value is gained by it. The Bible is God’s Word. As such, it is as binding as the laws of nature. We can ignore it, but we do so to our own detriment, just as we would if we ignored the law of gravity. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how important the Bible is to our lives! Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If we make little effort and merely “sift through the pebbles in a stream,” we will only find a little gold dust. But the more we make an effort to really dig into it, the more reward we will gain for our effort. “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Psalm 119:16).