The Virus Of All Viruses

By Jefferson Alleyne, adapted from Drawing Near Publications

In the 1980’s doctors made a declaration that they had discovered a deadly virus and that it was going to take many lives. There was a lot of talk and money spent, but thousands of lives were still lost.

People all over the world took note of it and began to ask numerous questions. Where did the virus come from? Who are those that can get it? How is it passed on? What are the consequences? Is there a remedy?

Mankind in general has taken the virus seriously, but it has affected man in a very serious way. This virus is known as the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. There have been various opinions as to its origin, yet there is no doubt as to how it is being passed on. The effects and consequences of it are evident worldwide. But man does not yet know an effective remedy.

There was another important declaration made thousands of years before the one in the 1980’s. It was about a much greater virus: The greatest virus of all – sin. God made this declaration and He pointed out where this virus came from and what are its consequences. He has also shown how it is passed on and who would be infected. But thankfully He has also shown the remedy for it. Hallelujah!

The Origin Of The Virus
Just like AIDS, sin has an origin. Its origin is through Adam. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12 NKJV).

Sin is here in this world because of the disobedience of Adam. God had told him to freely eat of all the trees that were in the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil fooled Eve and she ate of the fruit and then offered it to Adam. Sadly, Adam knowingly disobeyed God and brought sin into this world with all of its ruin.

The Effects Of The Virus
The consequences of AIDS are terrible, but those of sin are greater. The evidence of sin is undeniable; its ruin and misery are everywhere. Corruption and violence are rampant. We see its effects in the hospitals, prisons and graveyards. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

The Spread Of The Virus
AIDS, they say, does not discriminate; anyone exposed to it can get it. Sin does not discriminate, for everyone in this world gets it. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5).

We have the evil root of sin in us, and from it the fruit of evil acts come. It is universal. None of us can point fingers at Adam or Eve because we also sin against God. At times we are deceived, and at other times we deliberately sin against God.

The Remedy For The Virus
Although there are treatments, there is no known cure for AIDS. However, God has a perfect and complete remedy for sin. It is found in Christ Jesus who was crucified for you. Christ “has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). Look to Him and He will save you. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:14-15).

God says to call on Him and He will apply His remedy to your life. “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). Call on Him and be saved from all your sins today! Read more.


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Do people become angels when they die?

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

The brief answer is an emphatic, “No!” To help us to answer these questions let’s look at a story the Lord Jesus told that is recorded in Luke 16:19-31. Other Scripture passages confirm what we learn from this story, and add more details.

A rich man who lived in luxury every day and a poor beggar name Lazarus, full of sores, ultimately died. Indeed, Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.

When Lazarus died, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (NKJV), a term the Jews used to indicate heaven. The Bible refers to Abraham as “the friend of God” several times. Notice, the beggar did not become an angel; rather, he was carried by the angels.

Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” An angel is a created being, but a spirit being. When God sends an angel on an errand to people, the angel normally appears in a bodily form, looking like a person. The Bible often describes an angel that appears to someone as looking like a man or a young man, sometimes in white garments. Never do we read of an angel resembling a woman or looking like a child. The Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25 that the angels of God in heaven do not marry, so these mighty created spirit beings do not multiply. Although they are ancient beings, for angels were present and rejoicing when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7), we never find a reference to age in connection with God’s angels.

The Bible refers to angels in heaven, but nowhere does it indicate that a believer should look forward to fellowship with these exalted beings, great in power. The Christian’s portion is “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23), and “thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4:17). We shall be there in worshiping adoration, falling down before the throne, singing of the worthiness of the Lord Jesus as Creator and Redeemer, and as the One worthy to loose judgment upon the earth.

Nowhere do we find saints in the presence of the Lord looking back on the earth, occupied with the persons and circumstances that were part of their former life on earth. From reading Scripture carefully I would believe that we will be aware of things that are happening as the Lord visits judgment upon this guilty world. But then we will see things from His point of view, for our old, fleshly nature will no longer be a part of us. Until the rapture, only our soul and spirit are in that wonderful condition of bliss with the Lord, for our bodies are in the grave or elsewhere. At the rapture, our body will be changed to be like the Lord’s present body of glory, and it will again be united to our soul and spirit. Our portion as redeemed saints is higher far than that of angels, and our interest and joy will be to gaze on the lovely face of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ with hearts bowed in adoration.

The rich man, we read, “also died and was buried.” He may have had many servants during his lifetime, but there were no angels to serve him after his death. He was “in torments in Hades, longing for a drop of water.” He thought of his five brothers and wanted them warned so they would not come to this place of torment. Hades, the place of torment for the soul and spirit of the unsaved dead, is not a place a person can enjoy together with his friends and loved ones. Our Lord described the destination of the unsaved dead as a place of outer darkness where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth – there is no fellowship in such horrible suffering!

The person suffering in hades will already be in extraordinary torment in the flame. He will be able to remember what he had in his life on earth and will doubtless remember every opportunity he had to be saved, which he neglected or rejected. Also, he will be made conscious of that great gulf that will forever keep him where he is – lost and eternally separated from God. He will have no chance to change his condition or to go back and warn others against coming to that dreadful place he is in. And hell, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, will be full torment for body, soul and spirit forever and ever. No one becomes an angel there or tenderly watches his loved ones back on earth to see what they are doing. He has absolutely no ability to help anyone then.

It is here on earth that God invites us to receive the salvation His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has wrought for us on the cross at Calvary. Then one day soon we will be with Him forever. On the other hand, to reject or neglect to receive the salvation God so freely offers us will result in the eternally fatal consequences of hell forever. Choose now, for God says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”! (2 Cor. 6:2).

1 Corinthians

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NKJV

By Leslie M. Grant

First Corinthians (Corinth means “satiated” or “satisfied”) was written by Paul to correct the disorders allowed at Corinth in the early Church. This epistle lays down solid, practical principles of local assembly government and order, most necessary for the Church of God around the world. This authoritative universal application is emphasized in 1 Corinthians 1:2, 4:17, 11:16 and 14:33,37.

The city of Corinth was a center of Greek philosophy, and it was morally corrupt. Hence the world’s wisdom is discarded in chapter 1. Chapter 2 replaces it with God’s revelation by His Spirit because “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (v.14).

Human wisdom cannot order the path of the Assembly of God, but the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God to hearts and consciences is sufficient to maintain divine order according to the mind of God. In 1 Corinthians 1-2 intellectual pride is rejected; in chapters 3-7 fleshly corruption is as fully judged; and chapters 8-10 guard against fellowship with any demon influence through idolatry. First Corinthians 11-14 give basic details of assembly truth and practice.

The unity of the body of Christ, in separation from unholy associations, is stressed throughout the book. Yet the unity is seen to be displayed in a wonderful diversity of gifts which call for godly exercise. The importance of sound doctrine also is a vital matter, and chapter 15 strongly stresses the truth of the resurrection both of Christ and of His saints at His coming as being basic to the testimony of the Assembly, or Church.

First Corinthians is a valuable book to encourage appreciation and concern for every member of the body of Christ and to strengthen collective testimony according to the mind of God.

Marriage Just a Piece of Paper?

By Emmanuel V. John

There are various concepts of marriage. From the Christian perspective, marriage is a covenant, commitment and pledge based on the unconditional love of God. It is usually made in the consciousness of the presence of God and other witnesses. This covenant is a complete commitment to the Lord Jesus and each other, more binding and lasting than any legal contract.

Distortion Of The Concept Of Marriage
There seems to be an increasing distortion of the concept of marriage. Some couples express their beliefs that marriage is “just a piece of paper,” or a mutual contract based on trial and error that can be terminated at any time. On the other hand, some are justifying their relationships of living together without marriage. Sadly, their beliefs are often communicated to their children, families, friends and others. Instead of loving, giving, existing, enduring and enjoying each other, the behaviors in unmarried relationships are often reflected in hardness and coldness, being thin-skinned or sensitive, a lack of joy, lusting and getting. Individuals tend to be easily displaced, discarded or divorced.

However, there is hope and help for every hurting heart in such a relationship. Jesus is still the answer today for all our questions in relationships. We do not seek to depend on religion, rituals, regulations, reformation or reincarnation; but on a relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Divine Perspective Of Marriage
The sacred institution of marriage was established by God Himself, not by man, in creation: “The LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:21-24 ESV). Therefore, according to God’s design, marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman that is intended to be a monogamous relationship in which various needs are met – physically, spiritually, sexually, socially and other ways.

The Lord Jesus sanctified marriage by His presence at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. He was invited to the wedding, but after a while there was no more wine, a symbol of joy. It is possible for the joy to run out in a relationship, but Jesus can restore it. This wedding was graced by the presence of Jesus and gladdened by His power, in that He turned the water into wine – better wine – and gave glory to God (Jn. 2:1-11)

The Holy Spirit approves marriage as a blessed union between Christ and His Church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). In order for Adam to receive his bride, he gave up a part of his life, a rib; but the Lord Jesus gave up His whole life for the Church – all believers. How important it is for a husband to go all-out in responding to the needs of his wife.

The Holy Scripture affirms marriage: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb.13:4). Sex in the marital relationship is blessed of the Lord and is a mode of procreation, recreation and communication in an intimate and loving way.

The Dynamic Prescription Of Marriage
It is conclusive that marriage is more than a piece of paper, although the paper, or license, is important as a proof of marriage and commitment to each other in the presence of God and others. Since God has established marriage, then His guidelines in the Bible are the best for all relationships.

Many relationships fail because they despise His Word – deny, distort and disregard His guidelines. But today you can decide to have a new beginning by obeying the Lord and His Word, the Bible. It is not too late to do what is right. You can never go wrong in doing what is right in God’s sight, that your marriage will be more than a piece of paper as it is centered in the precious person of Jesus Christ.

What Does The Rapture Mean For Christ?
It is the event Christ is waiting for now. He is the Bridegroom, and it will be a joy for Him to take His bride to be with Him. It is good to think about this aspect, as Paul said, “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ” (2 Th. 3:5 jnd; see Rev. 3:10). When still on earth, the Lord prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory” (Jn. 17:24 KJV).

What Does The Appearing Mean For Christ?
It will be the moment of glory and display. He had refused to be made king by men (6:15), presented Himself to Jerusalem in meekness (Zech. 9:9; Mt. 21:7-10) and had been rejected shortly afterwards. But at His appearing, He will be universally recognized (Phil. 2:10-11), “glorified” and “admired” (2 Th. 1:10). The One who once bore the crown of thorns – a curse – will then wear “many diadems” (Rev. 19:12 JND), “the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (v.16).

—By Michael Hardt

Races, Racial Prejudice And God’s Plan In All This

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

Have you ever faced questions like these:

  • Who am I, and why am I of a certain race?
  • Why do people of different races often not get along well with each other?
  • Why are so many people, often even Christians, racially prejudiced, sometimes even to the extent of persecuting or killing one another?
  • Is one particular race best?

When God created mankind He created them male and female. God does not tell us in His Word the color of Adam and Eve. Scientists speculate, research and periodically come up with new theories. Famous artists have painted rather intriguing pictures, and most children’s storybooks have their own depictions of Adam and Eve. It is interesting that believers, especially children, in various parts of the world often portray persons in Scripture to look like themselves. In other words, they identify with them. The race each one of us belongs to is the human race; and truly, God’s Word is for each one of us.

Genesis 1 says clearly that God created mankind male and female. Chapter 2 shows that the female was created from the male and was given to him by God to complete him and give him joy. These are the only two kinds of people God made – and He made them so they would need one another and that the human race would go on. Ephesians 5:21-33, one of many Scripture portions that refers to this, points out that what God gives us in Genesis is a beautiful picture of something even more wonderful: Adam and Eve represent Christ and the Church. Christ loved the Church and gave Himself in death for it, and now is graciously preparing it to be His bride forever in glory. This picture shows us too what God’s will is for the loving, self-sacrificing relationship of husband and wife in marriage.

More important than race, Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (NKJV). While there are several different blood types which one must be careful to distinguish when giving blood transfusions, none of these types is specific to one race. If I would need a blood transfusion, the race of the person providing the blood would not matter. And when God speaks of sinners, He tells us that all have sinned. He never breaks this down by race, as men so often do with statistics. We can be thankful that in this day of grace God offers salvation freely to “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17 KJV). The Bible assures us that God is no respecter of persons. Men make differences among people, race and color, but God makes no such distinction.

When we read Genesis 6-9, we see that because of man’s wickedness God destroyed mankind off the face of the earth through a tremendous flood, which even covered the tops of the mountains. Only one family of eight persons – Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives – was spared. From them, the present population of the earth has descended. As one traces their progeny through Genesis 10 and 11, it becomes plain that Shem was the one through whom the Savior eventually came. He was the ancestor of the people of Israel as well as of their Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern neighbors. Japheth was the ancestor of the people who lived in Europe. Ham, whose name means “black,” was the ancestor of the majority of Africans and the probable ancestor of most Asians and Native Americans. Ham’s descendents were very practical and are credited with the largest amount of the great inventions of ancient times.

Returning to Acts 17:26 we see that God in His wisdom has “determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (NKJV). In His wonderful grace He has fitted people for the environments in which He has placed them, even though people have moved, and have often been moved, to many places besides their ancestral homes. A man with dark skin living near the equator can really thank our all-wise and all-loving God that He has made him that way, for science says his skin does not sunburn as easily as others. This is but one reason to appreciate God’s provision for people. There are many other such evidences of our Creator-God’s loving, tender care for His creatures too.

In Matthew 11 we see the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, looking back over the past years of His ministry. He spoke sadly as He denounced cities where He had done many of His mighty works, but who had not believed on Him. Then we see our Lord Jesus turning to His God and Father and saying, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (vv.25-26).

This statement of the Lord’s must ultimately be our answer as Christians to questions about how God has made us – things we do not understand. Human reasoning is not going to give us the answer. God’s Word tells us of God’s love for us. It tells us of His goodness and His wisdom. It tells us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Scripture tells us that “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The Bible reminds us to “behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 Jn. 3:1). And it tells us that we are soon going to be like our Lord Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is. May we with the apostle Paul say, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Another thing: In John 9 the disciples asked the Lord why the man who was blind from birth was blind, whether it was because he or his parents had sinned. The Lord answered that it was not for either of these reasons, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. The chapter goes on to detail how the blind man was healed and how this brought him into much difficulty with the Pharisees. In fact, eventually he was cast out of the synagogue, but through all these problems he became a worshiper of the Lord Jesus.

I would suggest that you, whoever you are, were born the way you were not because of any sin of your own or of your ancestors, but that the works of God should be revealed in you. God may have uniquely fitted you to be able to serve Him where you are or in a place or situation in which He is getting ready to place you. For a person of another race to do the work He gives you to do could very well be a much more complicated and difficult matter.

Passing on to the subject of prejudice, especially racial prejudice, we have noted that God is no respecter of persons. God has made the different races. He does not play favorites. His grace reaches out to all. Again and again He exhorts us to be like Him. In the Old Testament we find Him repeatedly exhorting His people Israel to show kindness to the strangers among them. Prejudice is one of the ugly products of pride. It is taking an attitude of superiority to another individual, race or group in society. It is totally un-Christlike.

Again consider Acts 17:26, where we see that God “has determined [every nation of men’s] pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Sinful man has done much to disturb this order. Rulers have moved peoples they subjugated to other places. In the Bible, the conquering Assyrians did so with the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonians with the people of Judah. In later years African chiefs often sold their captives to Arab, European, or American slave traders, and these captives were forced into slavery in lands far from their homes. Today, vast numbers of people are trying to escape from warfare, persecution, poverty or other difficult situations by migrating to nations where they feel their condition will be better. Many are losing their lives in the process, and countless others are deeply resented or hated. Human pride, jealousy, lust and other sinful conditions of heart are causes of such wicked attitudes and the deeds that spring out of them.

How sadly different such attitudes are to the loving heart of our God who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, still extends His loving invitation to all mankind, regardless of race or skin color: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). How have you responded to Him?

Thoughts As To Shepherding

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” —Psalm 23:1 KJV

“For I have not shunned to declare unto you … all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers … to feed the church of God.” —Acts 20:27-28

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” —1 Peter 5:1-4

“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” —Isaiah 40:11

The following lines are thoughts shared by an older brother in the Lord who had been given the gift of shepherding. During his decades of caring for the flock of God, he served in a very self-sacrificial way, giving glory to God.

The above opening precious statement of Psalm 23 is essential. He is my possession, ever filling all my needs. It is only then that we receive all the counsels of God.

The charge begins with an exhortation: Take heed to yourselves first and then to all the flock. Be sure to notice this: It is the Holy Spirit who makes us or sets us up as overseers! A note by the well-known Bible scholar J. N. Darby (1800-1882) on shepherds is very vital: “They are to act in this character, or have it by acting!” It is not simply an exhortation to do it, but to acquire that character by doing it – to be so characterized. Be shepherds.

The elders are addressed in 1 Peter 5. They are mature in serving God in the God-given capacity that is according to 1 Corinthians 12, one of the many spiritual gifts that He has bestowed on His redeemed people, “the sheep.” God knows that the sheep need oversight and feeding, with rich up-building while strengthening Christ-likeness. The feeding, or rather the service of it, is not by constraint, but by wholehearted willingness and “of a ready mind.” The passage goes on to warn against human means of dealing with God’s people, instructing elders to be examples to believers, the flock.

The foregoing, may I suggest, is the means to an end, namely to train “the younger.” They are written about in 1 John 2:13-14: “… Young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one … Young men, because ye are strong and the Word of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” This work must be current and ongoing, to be given up totally and unreservedly in service to the Master, who came not to be served but to serve! Through 1 Peter 5:4, the elders are exhorted to feed the flock of God, taking oversight willingly, being of a ready mind and examples to the flock. But in verse 5, Peter commands, “Ye younger likewise submit unto the elder and both to each other, yes to be subject one to another clothed with humility.”

This is the preparation of a vessel, or servant, called by God to be with the sheep like the shepherd David of old. All of the foregoing has instructions for the welfare of the souls. Isaiah 40:11 speaks of the love and care of God for His people Israel, yet it is very practical and an example to us in relation to families, households and assemblies.

In closing I would just like to refer to Abel and Enoch. Abel was a keeper of sheep. In Genesis 4 we read of Abel’s flock of which God had respect, that is, unto Abel and his offering.

Abel walked with God. Then we read twice in Genesis 5 that Enoch “walked with God” (vv.22,24). “Enoch walked with God and he was not; for God took him.” May we be of like faith – ever walking with God!

A Few Challenges from the Story of Nicodemus

By Curt Darling

Who was Nicodemus? Reading through John 3 we see that he was a Pharisee who had a curiosity about the Lord Jesus. Others of that same ruling class probably had questions about Him, but they were not apparently interested in finding out the truth. Do you want to know the truth, the real truth?

Nicodemus was a man of reputation as a ruler of the Jews, yet he came to Jesus by night so as to not damage it. Many people do the same thing. Rather than being open about their interest in Christ they seek to keep their standing in their social circles, whether in their family, friend, school or work settings. Could this be a lesson for us as well?

This Pharisee had been noticing Jesus and admitted that He was a “teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him” (v.2 KJV). Jesus’ response, recorded in the next verse, was likely unexpected by Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This was something Nicodemus could not understand, so he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?”

Jesus told Nicodemus that a man had to “be born of water and of the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:26 tells us that water is representative of the Word of God. We are only born again by the work of the Word of God and Spirit of God in our hearts, minds and lives. Our natural birth was one of flesh, following in the line of Adam, but to be born of the Spirit means new life in Christ! Like the wind, one cannot see the Spirit, but its effects are very evident. Does this seem to be too much to grasp?

It was for Nicodemus at the time. Jesus rebuked him because as a teacher in Israel and knowing the Scriptures he should have known better. But the Lord patiently continued, speaking of descending, ascending and being in heaven. The Lord Jesus is God. Do you believe that?

Jesus gave an illustration from the written Scriptures in that day (Num. 21:4-9) to help Nicodemus understand. When the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they complained about the manna God gave them to eat. The wandering they experienced, to begin with, was their own fault as they had not followed Him by faith. Are you wandering through life because you haven’t trusted Him? The manna, which the people said they “loathed,” pictured the Lord Jesus and the provision of life He gives through Himself (see Jn. 6:50). How dared they abhor it and, in type, the Son?

This attitude angered God then as it does today, and it demanded judgment. Serpents appeared, biting the complainers; and many people died. Through this the people still living recognized that they had sinned against the Lord ­ something that death still tells us now ­ and they asked Moses to pray for them. Instead of acting for yourself, are you trying to be saved from God’s judgment through the faith of a godly person you know?

As an intercessor, Moses prayed for them, but that was not sufficient to keep them from this judgment of death, nor is it today. The Lord told Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Num. 21:8). A person realizing death was coming had to, by faith, turn toward that pole and simply look at that serpent. That person would then live. It worked because God said it would. The fiery serpent on the pole, the Lord revealed to Nicodemus, was a picture of Himself: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus works today too! Do you believe?

Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will not perish. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17). Jesus continued by telling Nicodemus that a person who believes is not condemned; but the one who does not believe is condemned already. The Lord was the light that came into the world. Unbelievers hated that light for it revealed their evil, but believers came to the light. Don’t you think that Nicodemus was touched by what Jesus said?

Turning to John 7:44-52 we read of how the Pharisees sought to take Jesus. But the officers they sent to do so returned without Him, reporting that “never man spake like this man.” In the course of the ensuing discussion, Nicodemus said, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Do you want to hear what Jesus said and did?

The Son of Man was lifted up just as was the serpent Moses had made in the wilderness. As Nicodemus saw the Lord Jesus on the cross he must have remembered the first conversation they had had in secret. This Pharisee believed; have you?

Later, John 19:38-42 tells us how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took care, at their own expense, of the body of their Savior. They placed it in a sepulchre and wrapped it in linen cloths with a large amount of myrrh and aloes. This was in keeping with the Jewish custom. But there is more to this story, for to touch a dead body, according to the law of Moses, was to become unclean and would keep them from celebrating the Jewish Passover, a most important feast, held then. In effect, these men who had followed the Lord secretly, now in a very public way, separated themselves from religion to be attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. They knew who He was and what He did. So, they believed and acted in faith to the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ ­ God Himself. When you look at yourself with this in mind, do you see anything like this in your life?

Sign Gifts

Part One
The Gift Of TONGUES And Its Use

By Albert Blok

There are many differing opinions about the importance and use of tongues. Some believe that if one does not speak in tongues, that person is not saved. Others consider speaking in tongues to be a gift that is still important today, but they do not say that it must be done to be a born again Christian. Then there are other people who believe that speaking in tongues was a gift of the past and that this gift is, generally speaking, not in function anymore.

But what do we learn about speaking in tongues as we see it in the Bible? To start, we need to understand the meaning of the word “tongue” as it is used in Scripture.

The Word’s Use
The word “tongue” is used in several ways. It is applied to the muscle that we have in our mouth, as we see in the story of Gideon: “Every one that laps of the water with his tongue, as a dog laps …” (Jud. 7:5 KJV).

“Tongue” is also used to indicate speech or talking, as in Exodus 4:10 when Moses said, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Similarly, Esther stated, “But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue …” (Est. 7:4). James observed, as to our quickness in often talking unadvisedly, “The tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:5-8).

A third manner in which “tongue” is used is in terms of a specific, known and identifiable language. One example is found in Ezra 4:7, which says, “The letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.” In Acts 2:7-11 the many foreigners “were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? … We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” From these verses we see that the third explanation of “tongue” is the one that applies to our study.

Three Occurrences
There is no example of anyone speaking in tongues in the Old Testament. Furthermore, it is interesting to notice that we have no account or indication that John the Baptist, the great herald of the coming Messiah, ever spoke in tongues. Nor do we have a record of the Lord Jesus doing so. It was however something that would come later, and the Lord Jesus in His parting message told His disciples that there would be those who would speak with new tongues (Mk. 16:17).

The first mention and time that we have of speaking in tongues was at Pentecost in Acts 2:4-11, a passage we already referenced. The Holy Spirit had come down and had baptized all the believers into one Body, the Church. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. What was the subject? It was the “wonderful works of God.” Although unknown to those who spoke them, the words were known to the listeners – the actual languages of every man in their own language.

The second time that tongues is mentioned is in Acts 10:44-46, and it is further explained in Acts 11:15. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (10:44-46). The newly believing Gentiles spoke in tongues, which were understood by the Jews as they recognized that they were magnifying God.

The third encounter as to the use of tongues took place in Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 19:1-7: “It came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

In all three cases, when the people received the Holy Spirit they spoke in tongues. Each time there was a change or demonstration that God was working in a special way. In Acts 2 it was a new relationship: The Lord in heaven identifying Himself with a group of believers on earth, baptizing them together and thus forming the Church. At that time there were only Jewish believers.

The adding of Gentiles to the Church, and that equally in relationship with Christ, is noticed in Acts 10. They spoke in tongues just as the Jews had done on the first day, at Pentecost, showing that there was no longer any distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles. This may not be such an important difference to us now, but at that time it certainly was marked. Therefore we understand Peter’s explanation: “For as much then as God gave them the like gift [the Holy Spirit] as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (11:17).

In Acts 19, certain men of Ephesus were looking for Christ to come as the Messiah, having understood only this much from the preaching of John the Baptist. It was a Jewish position. But since the preaching of John the Baptist, the Lord had been rejected and had gone to heaven. When they understood this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. This took them from an Old Testament position to a New Testament one. God wanted to show the change by having them speak in tongues. We need to understand that this was a situation that occurred at that time, but it cannot be repeated because the teaching of John the Baptist has been replaced.

The Fourth Occurrence
It is interesting to consider that speaking in tongues is spoken of only four times in the Scriptures. The fourth and last time is in 1 Corinthians 12-14, and the subject is about gifts as given to each one individually as the Holy Spirit willed and gave. The emphasis of the teaching in these chapters in relation to the gift of tongues is the correcting of the abusive, incorrect use of this gift in the assembly of Corinth.

As we read these three chapters in the context of the entire first letter to the Corinthians, we quickly see that they were very carnal, desiring to satisfy their flesh. That group of believers had many difficulties. There was gross immorality, infighting, selfishness and a spirit of division. Among these believers were those who had the gift of tongues, as given by the Holy Spirit as He willed. However, they were using this gift incorrectly. From this example we see that speaking in tongues was not a sign of spirituality, as many teach today. It was not proof of someone being saved or an indication of being filled with the Holy Spirit, for a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit could not use a gift in an incorrect way.

Some believe speaking in tongues is a necessary proof of salvation, because of what took place in Acts 2 and 10. However, the people who spoke in tongues in Acts 2 had already believed in the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Instead, what happened at Pentecost was the beginning of the Church. Likewise, the Gentiles in Acts 10 spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the Word, showing that they were now received in the same manner as the Jews had been – this did not take place as a proof of their individual salvation. There are many other examples in Scripture of individuals who never spoke in tongues at their conversion, such as Saul of Tarsus, Lydia of Philippi and the jailer in Philippi and his family.

As A Sign Gift
It is important to notice that speaking in tongues is placed last in the list of gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-10,28). Rather than having the desire to speak in tongues, believers are admonished to seek the gift of prophesy (14:1-5).

As stated before, it is important to see that the gift of tongues is only used in New Testament Church times, not in the Old Testament. The sign gifts, of which tongues would be considered part, were for the confirmation of the message of the gospel: “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:2-4).

Although signs were a demonstration and verification of the work of God in the preaching of the gospel, the gift of tongues was principally a sign and proof to the unbelieving Jews of the truthfulness of the new message that was being proclaimed: Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith. We see this in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22: “In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” Paul, as directed by the Holy Spirit, said that tongues were a sign to the unbelievers – the ones under the law, the people of Israel. So the purpose of tongues was to show the unbelieving Jews that God was now working in a special way, different than before.

One may wonder why this would apply even in Corinth, but we know that Jews were scattered all over and Paul’s practice was that he would reach out to his own people with the message of the gospel in almost every place he went. This was the case in Corinth too, where “he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).

Concluding Thoughts
In the correct understanding of Scripture, there is a principle of “first mention.” This principle is that unless clearly indicated otherwise, the significance of the word is to be interpreted by its first use, which in this use of “tongues” means a specific, known and identifiable language. This is clearly understood in the passage of Acts 2 where various languages are named. In Acts 10 and 19 the hearers understood what was being said, so in all three cases it was an identifiable and understood language. There is no justification to think otherwise. Considering this, the practice by some to utter unintelligible sounds and noises with the pretext that they are speaking in tongues has absolutely no Biblical justification or support and thus must be dismissed as something that is artificial and false.

As we read through the book of Acts we see that the miracles and sign gifts diminished rapidly as time passed. Historically we read nothing about the use of tongues after Acts 19, only 27 years after Pentecost. There is no further mention of the use of tongues except for the corrective letter to the church in Corinth.

It is important to notice that Peter, James, John and Jude were all present at Pentecost and personally experienced what happened that day. All wrote letters, which we have in the New Testament, but none of them wrote about tongues in their letters even though they did speak about the Holy Spirit (collectively a total of 27 times).

Peter in 1 Peter 2:2 told us that we are to grow and be built up. How, by tongues? No, but by the pure milk of the Word.

Paul wrote 13 or 14 letters and in only one of these letters did he write about tongues. It was in one of his earliest letters – 1 Corinthians – and when he did it was in a corrective way.

The gift of tongues was used in praise or prayer (Acts 2, 10; 1 Corinthians 14:2,14), and for edification (v.26), but there are no occasions in Scripture to suggest its private use. It was for public use before unbelieving Jews with the application of perfect love, as put forward in 1 Corinthians 13, to verify the message of the gospel of grace by faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Look for the conclusion of this Series next month.


We do not find speaking in tongues in the Gospels, other than in the prophecy of the Lord Jesus in Mark 16:17. In verse 14 the Lord reproached the Eleven for their unbelief and hardness of heart. He then gave them the commission to preach the gospel to all the creation, indicating the consequences for the hearers and the signs that would follow those who believe (vv.15-17). The Eleven went forth and the Lord fulfilled His promise, confirming the word by the signs following it. Notice these points: Signs were only given as confirmation of the word, it does not say signs would follow all believers, and the promise in this passage was given only to the Eleven.

——H. L. Heijkoop (adapted)