What’s the Difference Between Godly Sorrow & Worldly Sorrow

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The Difference Makes the Difference

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul begins chapter seven by launching into a lengthy discussion about how to “perfect holiness” by “cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1)”. Inevitably, this dovetailed into a unique perspective on sorrow and repentance. Paul describes (and we’ll look closer at it in a moment) the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. It’s a vitally important distinction because one leads to spiritual death and the other to salvation. The difference makes the difference. We’ve all got to get this one right.

Called to Stop Sinning

The Bible teaches us that the Church is a called-out assembly. God has called us out of sin, and God has called us into holiness. We are supposed to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). That standard is very high because God is supremely holy. You might be thinking that it is impossible to be sinless. And in a way, you’re right. However, the New Testament reminds us repeatedly that we are to be without sin (holiness). In fact, 1 John 2:1 pauses and says, “Stop sinning. Just stop it!”

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not… (1 John 2:1).

If you take the Bible and boil it down to its essence, the central theme is God’s grand plan to get humanity from sinfulness to sinlessness.

Our Response to Sin is the Key

It’s easy to start sinning, but it’s hard to stop. That’s basically been humanity’s problem from the beginning. For most people, defining what is and isn’t sin is problematic. Sin is so pervasive and normal that we don’t feel horrified by it. And if we don’t feel horrified by sin, we don’t think of it as all that bad. My struggles with sin have taught me that sin’s grip is hard to break. If you’re human, you have your own stories and struggles with sin too. I also know how enticing sin can be from the countless hours I’ve spent trying to help others find deliverance from every sin you can imagine. I’ve noticed through the years that the real issue isn’t that we have sinned (because we have) or if we will sin (because we will).

The question that matters is, what will we do with our sin? How we respond to sin usually helps us stop or causes us to keep on sinning. Godly sorrow over sin produces genuine repentance, which allows the Holy Spirit to step in and empower us. Worldly sorrow leads to lackadaisical repentance, which only perpetuates sin in our lives. Worldly sorrow produces a self-sustaining cycle of sinfulness. Before highlighting the vital differences between godly and worldly sorrow, we must clear up an apparent contradiction in the Bible.

Does God Cleanse Us, or Do We Cleanse Ourselves?

Sin is a stain on our lives. God desires to present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). God is deadly serious about His church being holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). That’s why we’re all in such desperate need of the blood of Jesus. Only His blood cleanses all the stains of sin. But do we cleanse ourselves, or does Jesus cleanse us? The passages below might be a little confusing at first glance.

…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

To answer this question, we need to identify the context of these two verses. In the previous chapter, Paul clarifies his target audience, “for ye are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).” Clearly, Paul is talking about repentance to people who have already obeyed the Gospel and are in the Church. He’s referring to the ongoing process of sanctification (holiness), which requires continued repentance. We must skip forward to pinpoint John’s intended audience:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

So, it’s clear that John is writing about the initial salvation experience, when we first take ownership of our sinfulness, leading to repentance and obeying the Gospel. At that moment, God covers us with His blood.

God’s Role & Our Responsibility

At salvation, something compelling happens; when we repent, our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9); at baptism, our sins are remitted (Acts 2:38); at the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we are empowered (Acts 1:8). God did the cleansing work at Calvary, and we stepped into that cleansing flow via obedience. However, regarding our continued walk with God, 2 Corinthians 7:1 clarifies that we must “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” In other words, God does the initial work. Then He expects us to put some effort into the process from that moment forward. To be sure, His Spirit comes inside to help lead, guide, comfort, correct, convict, strengthen, and encourage us along the way. But the infilling of the Spirit doesn’t remove our free will. After salvation, God expects us to exercise an often-overlooked fruit of the Spirit – self-control (Galatians 5:23).

Sometimes I hear church folks say, “if only God would give me the power over this ____ sin.” But God has already given us His Spirit. He’s already cleansed us. So now we must cleanse ourselves daily. If we’re not careful, we’ll use God as an excuse for our continued sin. God cleanses us first, and then we are responsible for walking in that cleansing. That’s the process of sanctification or holiness. In answer to the original question: Does God cleanse us, or do we cleanse ourselves? The answer is that God does the major cleanse first, and then we step in and do minor cleansing as we continue our walk with the Lord.

A Simple Illustration

A simple, albeit imperfect illustration, may help clarify this concept. Roughly once a month, I take our family SUV to a full-service carwash. They detail our vehicle inside and out. I do that because they have the equipment, chemicals, and expertise that allow them to do a thorough cleaning that I’m not capable of doing. It’s almost like having a new vehicle when they get done. I didn’t do the cleansing. They did. But if I eat a bagel in the car and crumbs fall everywhere, I must clean that mess myself. Otherwise, I’ve wasted my time and money on that professional cleaning job. They cleaned it first in ways I can’t do alone. But I still have a responsibility to keep it clean. In much the same way, that’s how walking in holiness works.

Problems in the Corinthian Church

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he is very forthright with them. The church was super messed up with big-time problems and significant sin issues. For example, a young man was having an affair with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Even more revolting, rather than the church being grieved. They laughed about the situation like it was a joke (1 Corinthians 5:2). Paul was so angry that he demanded that if the guy refused to repent, they should turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5). That leaven of malice and wickedness would destroy the whole church if they didn’t deal with it correctly (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). All this background is essential because we can now understand 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 and answer the question: What’s the difference between godly and worldly sorrow?

I’m Not Sorry That I Made You Repent

8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance… (2 Corinthians 7:8-9).

In the above verses, Paul was trying to let the church know that his first letter (1 Corinthians), with its strong rebuke, was not intended to make them feel sorry but was a call to repentance.

…for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of… (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

In other words, when you have godly sorrow. It leads to godly repentance, and you don’t have to confess the same sin repeatedly.

…but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things, ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

The Contrast

In his unique way, Paul carefully contrasts these two types of sorrow. They both lead to outward repentance, but only one is genuine. The result of godly sorrow is a change in behavior and attitude. But worldly sorrow brings death. It certainly brings spiritual death, but in the immediate, it might mean the death of a marriage, a friendship, victory, blessings, spiritual power, or family relationships. Tragically, in extreme cases, it could culminate in an untimely physical death because of sin.

For All That Is in the World

Anything derived from the world is compromised, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).” Worldly sorrow is derived from either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. So, for example, a person might feel sorrow for their sin because of the pain it produces. They feel that pain in their flesh, and that pain can be intense. It’s real! Emotional and physical pain caused by sin can become unbearable at times. And many people assume the remorse they feel because of their agony is genuine repentance. But if that remorse is a temporary emotion birthed from pain, it’s not godly sorrow.

A second kind of worldly sorrow results from the lust of the eyes. People can be sorry because they see how sin has impacted their life; lost loved ones, broken relationships, wasted moments, embarrassments, and failures. Their kingdom might be crumbling before their eyes like a slow-motion nightmare. Consequences that used to seem so unlikely and distant come crashing into focus. They might think, “I’m going to lose my wife, kids, or job.” But ultimately, their focus is on their kingdom. Many people feel this kind of worldly sorrow and confuse it for genuine repentance. But true repentance is not self-centered. It’s God-centered.

Thirdly, the pride of life produces another type of worldly sorrow. People may feel sorry because they are embarrassed that people can see their sins. They see their reputation going down the drain, their influence waning, or they feel disliked. Perhaps they want to be viewed in a more positive light. But the critical issue is their name. Again, the sorrow is selfishly motivated. Therefore, the resulting repentance is only skin deep.

Me, Myself & I

Worldly sorrow always brings the focus on me. It’s all about my feelings. My pain. My reputation. My happiness. But godly sorrow focuses on the fact that my sin has grieved God and others. Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow is acutely aware that my sin has grieved the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow isn’t just sorry because of sin’s consequences on my kingdom. It’s more concerned with God’s Kingdom. Godly sorrow isn’t worried about the reproach that I brought on my name but with the reproach that I brought on God’s name. As the prophet Nathan said to David after his horrific sin with Bathsheba, “You have brought great occasion to the enemies of the lord to blaspheme his name (2 Samuel 12:14).” Nathan was more concerned with how David’s sin would impact the world’s understanding of God than he was with king David’s reputation.

Seven Characteristics of Godly Sorrow

Paul doesn’t leave us with a nebulous definition of godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:11 describes what godly repentance looks like in action. He lists seven things that accompany godly sorrow. Numbers are significant in the Bible, and the number seven represents completion and perfection. Therefore, it could be said that these seven things signify complete and perfect repentance.

1. Carefulness

Carelessness leads to sinfulness. A careful person is full of care, caution, and intentionality. Godly sorrow produces carefulness where casualness once reigned supreme. Decisions are weighed out and made thoughtfully. Every action is measured according to the Word of God. Godly sorrow refuses to blame sin on ignorance, incompetence, recklessness, or inattention to detail.

2. Clearing of Yourself

Godly sorrow doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t blame other people or circumstances for sin. There’s no hiding, covering, manipulating, shifting, or maneuvering of responsibility. Worldly sorrow keeps things hidden and harbors secret sins and motives behind closed doors. Godly sorrow seeks to clear the air and clean the conscience. It thrives on transparency and always advocates for the truth to be displayed.

3. Indignation

Godly sorrow recoils at the thought of past sins. Old lifestyles aren’t viewed as the “good old days.” It doesn’t laugh at sin or find it entertaining. Carnal things that used to seem euphoric become repulsive. The thought of sin and evil produces anger, indignation, and disgust. Godly sorrow views sin as a vile thing to be detested. It doesn’t despise sinners, but it does hate sin. In much the same way as you would hate cancer while loving a cancer patient.

4. Fear

I’m always nervous when someone repents of a particular sin and says, “I know I’ll never do that again.” I’d much rather someone say, “I’m going to take every precaution possible to make sure I never fall into that sin again because I’m afraid of going back to that terrible thing.” You will take godly precautions when you have a healthy fear of a possibility. Furthermore, a little fear of the Lord is a good thing.

5. Vehement Desire

Godly sorrow is fueled by a fervent desire to serve God and avoid sin. Vehement means to show strong feelings. It’s forceful, passionate, urgent, and intense. It isn’t mellow, mild, or casual. Godly sorrow recognizes the seriousness of sin and its desperate dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

6. Zeal

The Greek word for zeal is spoudē, found twelve times in the New Testament. The primary meaning of zeal is “haste” or “diligence.” Meaning diligence in the sense of “earnest zeal.” It’s always used in the context of living out godly lives.[i] The idea is that godliness takes ongoing work and tenacious effort.  

7. Revenge

When godly sorrow is in play, everything in your being wishes you could return and fix the things sin has taken from you. So, in a certain sense, you are looking for revenge against the enemy of your soul. That’s why brand-new saints often get so on fire for God. They are avenging what the enemy stole from them when they were under the bondage of sin. Godly sorrow never looks longingly back toward Egyptian taskmasters.

Final Thoughts

It’s not hard to receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. But if you’ve been around an Apostolic church for a while, you’ve probably noticed that some people seek the Holy Ghost for weeks or even months without being filled. The apostle Peter didn’t say, “repent and be baptized, and you might receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” He said, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” My experience has taught me that many people struggling to receive the Spirit are actually struggling with repentance. They might be sorrowful and going through the motions of repentance, but their sorrow is worldly and does not lead to life. Gently and lovingly, helping them to decipher the difference between godly and worldly sorrow can lead them to the breakthrough they need.


[i] Renn, Stephen D., ed. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005.

Divine Inspiration (What the Bible Has to Say for Itself)

The Good Book

The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time. It’s estimated that roughly a billion copies have been sold. That’s probably not entirely accurate. And it doesn’t consider the millions of free electronic editions available to the masses. Ironically, the Bible is more accessible thanks to the internet than ever. Yet, biblical illiteracy increases with each passing decade. Regardless, millions of people have a Bible on a shelf or hidden away in some forgotten drawer. Others treasure their Bible like gold and read it with sacred reverence. Grab ten people off the street, and you’ll get ten opinions about the Bible. However, if it’s not the whole Word of God, then it cannot be a good book.

All or Nothing

C.S. Lewis famously said that Jesus Christ was either “Lord, liar or lunatic.” Similarly, the Bible makes claims about itself incompatible with the idea of being just a good book of wisdom. The Bible is either the Divinely inspired Word of God or the silly ramblings of misguided delusional men. It’s either entirely true or the longest-running, best-coordinated con job in recorded history. Essentially, the Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition. If it’s genuinely from God, half-hearted attention will never suffice. And if it’s not, it’s the worst form of manipulative evil. No viewpoints in-between those two options are logical or possible.

Divine Blessings

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” Regardless of race, denomination, or background, if you ask any Christian if they would like to have Divine blessings, they will answer, “yes.” And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find large portions of them hearing and obeying the entirety of God’s Word. Most Christians have their candy stick verses or their preconceived dogmas. Sadly, most Christians ignore, overlook, or gloss over large portions of Scripture that seem extreme or inconveniently counter-cultural. Sometimes, they miss so many vital doctrines that their salvation is jeopardized. Others might slip into Heaven, but they miss tremendous blessings that otherwise would have been poured into their lives. Complete obedience to God’s Word is the key to accessing Divine blessings. There is no shortcut or substitute.

What Does the Bible Have to Say for Itself?

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is either entirely true or a complete lie. But it’s impossible to remain intellectually honest without acknowledging the miraculous continuity of the Bible. Don’t forget that the Bible was written over a period of nearly 2,000 years by forty authors writing from three continents, and it maintains perfect uniformity of message. All sixty-six books comprising the Bible are united in perfect harmony and point exclusively to Jesus Christ, the true Author. Unlike the famed futurist Nostradamus, the Bible’s fulfilled prophecies are precise and uncanny. Scripture’s flawless internal consistency defies natural explanation. But rather than talking about the Bible, let’s take a close look at what the Bible has to say for itself.

The Bible Lays Claim to Divine Origins

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Biblical authors were consistent in claiming that their words were not theirs. Holy men of old viewed themselves as vessels filled by God. They emptied themselves of the words poured into them by the Holy Ghost. If the Bible is not God’s divinely inspired Word, it is a fraudulent document filled with dribble. Of course, I believe the evidence proves (including my life interactions with it) that the Bible is true. However, the claims Scripture makes about itself are so radical that they demand complete acceptance or total rejection. Anything in between complete acceptance or total rejection is an intellectual cop-out. Partial approval or shallow half-hearted nods of respect aren’t compatible with the very nature of the Bible. In our culture plagued with near psychosomatic commitment issues, the biblical insistence upon total adherence is difficult to digest. However, it is the essence and the reality of what the Holy Writ requires.

The Bible Lays Claim to Perfection

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).

It could help to rephrase this claim in more understandable terms. The Bible lays claim to moral perfection. If Scripture is the divine Word of God, and if it is true that God is supremely just, then anything prescribed in His book is perfectly righteous. God’s Word sets the standard of right and wrong, good or bad, and so on. Therefore, even if our human sensibility is offended or confused, it does not make God’s Word imperfect. Humanity is corrupted by sin and does not easily comprehend genuine justice. We don’t perceive evil as precisely as we should. Meaning we are reliant upon the Bible to reveal moral Truths to us. Without the authoritative Word of God, humanity is left to its own misguided inward moral compass. Our understanding of good and evil has been tampered with by sin and by the sins of our fathers. We hide God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) to replace our broken compass with God’s flawless GPS.

The Bible Lays Claim to Sanctifying Truth

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).

Without falling off a theological cliff, sanctification can be described as the process of being made holy. So how can one become holy? By living according to God’s Truth. And that Truth is contained in the Bible. Obedience to God’s Word is the only path to holiness. Anything less falls short of sanctification. All other versions of morality, although containing measures of truth, are not the Truth. Therefore, they fail to make one morally pure in the eyes of the Lord. It’s prudent to remember that God’s holiness is His most biblically acclaimed attribute. Our call to be sanctified through the Word is no insignificant thing. It isn’t just theological jargon or intellectual banter. It is a God-given imperative to be taken seriously.

The Bible Lays Claim to Flawlessness

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5).

The word “pure” in the above Scripture comes from the Hebrew word yastsib, which means “true.”[i] However, in the more profound sense of the word here, it means “certain” or “reliable.”[ii] The distinction is important because God’s words aren’t just true at the moment they’re given. They are eternally reliable. This alludes to the prophetic surety of God’s Word. And to Its literal reliability in the past, present, and future. The Bible is eternally true. Its Truth doesn’t morph, degrade, or rescind. So, when the Bible speaks of the past, we can trust that it is true regardless of what current science might say. When the Bible tells of the future, we can believe it shall be so without reservation. When so-called modern “facts” contradict Scripture, rest assured that Scripture will stand vindicated.

The Bible Lays Claim to Vitality

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Admittedly, despite the King James Version being the best English translation, it sometimes creates embarrassing moments for the modern reader. I can’t tell you how many years I took the word “quick” to mean that the Word of God is a fast-moving sword. And while it is true that the Word can and does often move quickly in a person’s life, “quick” is an Old English word for “alive.” The Holy Bible is living. As we interact with the Word, the Spirit of God moves in us and upon us. The Word doesn’t change but progressively reveals things to us as we interact. That’s why you can read the same verse a thousand times, and one day, you comprehend something that previously seemed mundane. As we humbly submit ourselves to the Word, it changes us from the inside out.

The Bible Lays Claim to Salvific Exclusivity

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:13-17).

The Bible is crystal clear in the claim that it holds the exclusive plan of salvation for humankind. No other book, creed, faith, or culture has access to eternal salvation with God in Heaven. Universalism is the deceiver currently working to deceive the very elect. It might be tempting to buy the lie that many paths lead to God. For some, that sounds tolerant and exceedingly loving. However, it is not possible to believe the Bible and hold to universalism at the same time.

Furthermore, for those who like to deny the relevance of the Old Testament in the New Testament era: When Paul declares that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” the New Testament was not yet completed or in circulation among the Church. The apostle was referring to the Old Testament. Indeed, the theological relevance of the Old Testament was affirmed by the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. All of whom referred back to the Old Testament in their preaching, teaching, and correspondence.

The Bible Lays Claim to Unbridled Power

Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9).

Undoubtedly the apostle Paul was a mighty man of God. He walked in power and authority. Yet, he was still just a man. He suffered unending trials and tribulations. Paul was aware that his multiple incarcerations might cause some to doubt the power of God’s Word. He quickly reminded fearful believers that while we might be bound, the Word of God is never bound. God’s Word bristles with unbridled power even in the darkest of times. It’s working even when we can’t see it. It’s moving even when we can’t feel it. There is no thwarting or diminishing the Word of the Lord. A particular comfort comes when we understand that our weaknesses and sufferings cannot bind the work of the Word.


[i] “יציב,” Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance paragraph 3620.

[ii] “י,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament 1613.

Three Trees

The Beauty of Biblical Symbolism

One of the many things I love about Scripture is the symbolism stretched across its pages. It’s everywhere. Of course, it’s all meant to conjure imagery and teach lessons within lessons. Almost every story in the Bible contains a message within a lesson within another moral. I realize we can get carried away and start imagining things that aren’t actually there. We might extract beliefs that aren’t divinely intended without careful consideration, which can be dangerous. And many of my friends are understandably wary of focusing too much on biblical symbolism. I get that. However, avoiding biblical symbolism altogether robs us of vast, awe-inspiring realms of beauty that God intended for us to experience.

The Juxtaposition of Jesus’ Rhetoric

One thing many anti-symbolists forget is that Jesus alternated between straightforward and intensely parabolic teachings. What is a parable exactly? It uses imagery, stories, and symbols to illustrate a moral truth. Jesus is perhaps best known for His use of parables. And they weren’t always immediately understandable because the parables were peppered with prophetic meanings. Quite literally, many of the implications of the parables could not be understood because they weren’t intended to be comprehended at that moment. Like full-fledged prophecy, many parables only made sense in the future as events unfolded. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jesus interacted this way because God has always used signs, symbols, parables, types, and shadows in His communication with us. For example, when God rebuked Satan in the Garden after The Fall, He spoke cryptically: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The First Good News

Genesis 3:15 is sometimes referred to as the “first good news” because it’s the first foretelling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God announced that a male descendant—He—would someday deal the serpent (meaning Satan) a fatal blow. The New Testament writers understood Jesus Christ to have fulfilled this prophecy (Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8). In an extended sense, the New Testament also indicates that God would work through the Church—those indwelt by the Spirit of Christ—to destroy the works of the Devil (Romans 16:20).

The Significance of Symbolism

It’s worth considering why God would employ so much symbolism throughout Scripture. As best I can tell, there are three reasons: One, because Satan does not know the future, prophecy is purposefully vague to keep Satan confused. Two, if humanity knew the exact details of future events, we might be tempted to help them along when we need to get out of the way. Three, it builds faith when humans look back through the lens of history and see the puzzle pieces clicking into place.

The uninformed might assume the Bible is a carefully orchestrated body of literature. Perhaps, like an epic Tolkein novel, all the little loose ends are skillfully tied up in the mind of a genius for our consumption. However, the Bible is a library of individual books, with over thirty-three inspired writers spanning 1,500 years, written in different places, cultures, millennia, and perspectives. The only constant across the Bible’s pages is God’s inspiration. It would have been impossible, unthinkable, and unmanageable for mere humans to coordinate such a thing without the divine breath of God.

Therefore, when we see various symbols popping up throughout the inspired Book, we see glimpses of the marvelous mind of God. The magnificent consistency of eternal Truth peeks out from Genesis to Revelation offering fresh illuminations of ancient revelations. And while we should be careful not to build beliefs entirely on symbolism, it certainly can reinforce clearly defined doctrines. Powerful inspiration comes from recognizing that these symbols come from God’s throne, not men’s mere imaginations.

A Tale of Three Trees

It’s no exaggeration to say that trees are necessary for life to exist. They suck carbon dioxide out of the air and release the oxygen we need to breathe. Historically, trees have provided food, shelter, energy, sustenance, biodiversity, beauty, and soil preservation. We literally cannot survive without what trees provide for us daily. It’s also not an exaggeration to say a single tree was at the center of the utter destruction of God’s original created world.

Tree One: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17).

In God’s interaction with Adam, He begins by offering a level of freedom that you and I have never seen or experienced. “Of every tree,” He said, “thou mayest freely eat.” Adam had unparalleled autonomy to do as he pleased. He had comfort, ease, authority, abundance, creativity, beauty, and eternality. The nature of God was to lead with freedom before establishing the first human law. This almost imperceptible detail allows us to glimpse the goodness of God towards humanity. We tend to view God’s laws as burdensome without taking the time to appreciate the freedoms God provides. God’s privileges and benefits far outweigh the weight of the laws He levies upon us. We also think it would be easier serving God if we had fewer rules and regulations. However, humanity’s first sin proves that God’s rules aren’t the problem. The frailty of our flesh and the pervasiveness of evil are the problems. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not evil by its nature. There was nothing wicked about the tree. To claim this would imply that God created something evil, which would contradict Genesis 1:31. The tree was not the source of sin; humanity was. The tree didn’t contribute to man’s sinfulness beyond providing him with an opportunity to obey or disobey.

In Jewish tradition, the Tree of Knowledge and the eating of its fruit represents the beginning of the mixture of good and evil together. Before that time, the two were separate, and evil had only a nebulous existence in potential. While free choice did exist before eating the fruit, evil existed as an entity separate from the human psyche, and it was not in human nature to desire it. Eating and internalizing the forbidden fruit changed this, and thus was born the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. The closest comparison we have is the sadness of watching a child lose the sweet innocence of youth. No wonder Jesus commands us to be “born again” (John 3:5-7). It also sheds light on Jesus’ mysterious charge, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-5).

In Rashi’s notes on Genesis 3:3, the first sin came about because Eve added an additional clause to the divine command: “Neither shall you touch it.” By saying this, Eve added to God’s command and thereby came to detract from it, as it is written: “Do not add to His Words” (Proverbs 30:6). However, evil already existed in the heart of Lucifer. Adam and Eve’s first sin offended God in three ways: One, by rejecting God’s authority (we typically call that rebellion). Two, by distorting His instructions (His holy Word). Three, probably most offensive to God, by accepting Satan’s influence. All subsequent sins follow that same threefold pattern of offense against God.

Tree Two: The Cross on Golgotha’s Hill

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

Because a tree became the symbol of condemnation looming before humanity in constant judgment. It’s fitting that a tree roughly formed into a cross by sinful hands would become the universal symbol of hope and salvation. In His infinite foreknowledge, God knew that He would become the sacrifice for our sins. Furthermore, God formed the tree that would become His mode of execution. When Lucifer slithered into Eve’s presence and convinced her to taste the fruit of the Forbidden Tree, he couldn’t have known that the mind of God had already formed the tree that would become crucial to the remedy. Only God can so thoroughly turn things around in such a beautifully poetic way.

Tree Three: The Tree of Life

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim’s, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).

Contrary to popular belief, the Tree of Life did not predate God. The Tree of Life received its life-sustaining properties from the Lord: “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden…” (Genesis 2:9). Mankind lost the privilege of accessing the Tree of Life by eating from the Forbidden Tree. In that instant, death became a looming inescapable aspect of human existence. Physical and spiritual pain throbbed into the hearts of the First Father and the First Mother and has been passed down to every subsequent family tree.

Every teardrop, every disappointment, every disease, and every act of unspeakable horror is a direct result of that first sin. Even worse, humanity lost connection and relationship with its Maker. Consequently, losing purpose, fulfillment, direction, inward peace, and intrinsic joy. In a symbolic gesture of finality, God placed an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance of the Garden to keep guard over the invaluable Tree of Life. Humanity was cast into a cruel cursed world. Yet, it’s sublimely splendid how God allowed Himself to be nailed onto the same roughly hewn materials central to humanity’s first sin. While that splintered tree bore Christ, He bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24). A tree for a tree, a perfect sacrifice in place of hopelessly flawed sacrifices, that’s what Christ did for us. And if we take up our crosses and follow Him in this fallen earthly realm, we will taste the Tree of Life’s exquisite fruit when we step into that faraway country beyond this kingdom.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

It Filled the House – The Journey from Tabernacle to Temple to Earthen Vessels with Samuel Vaughn (Article + Podcast)

After reading It Filled the House (The Journey from Tabernacle to Temple to Earthen Vessel), I knew Samuel Vaughn needed to be a guest on the Apostolic Voice podcast. I’ve never met Samuel, but I knew we were like-minded thinkers from how his book was written. Vaughn is a systematic thinker. As the title suggests, It Filled the House takes the reader on a Holy Ghost journey from the book of Exodus to the New Testament. Actually, if you count some detours in the book, it takes the reader from Genesis to the New Testament.

Systematic Theology Made Enjoyable

Essentially, Vaughn has connected the theological dots between the types and shadows of the Old Testament and the explicit commands regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Furthermore, It Filled the House does more than demonstrate the necessity of the Holy Ghost in the New Birth experience. It also highlights the continuing role of the Spirit in a believer’s life. But don’t mistake It Filled the House as a boring theological read. It’s not. Along the way, Vaughn scatters practical illuminations from the Scripture that encourage, uplift, and challenge our walk with God. It’s almost as if the systematic theological aspect of the book sneaks up on you from chapter to chapter, which is the mark of a good writer.

When the Glory Cloud Seems to Be Departing

Vaughn begins It Filled the House by noting the first instance the Bible refers to the glory cloud in Exodus 13:21-22. The cloud represented the Spirit of God, and it led them through the wilderness away from Egypt. The inference is that God’s Spirit still guides us today, but it does so internally rather than externally. It’s important to recognize that God purposefully led the Hebrews to a dead end at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. And that’s the moment the glory cloud moved from the front to the back. Vaughn paints the picture like this:

What beautiful imagery of the cloud floating over the children of Israel toward their enemy. But can you imagine the confusion and anxiety of Israel? The God that had been leading them in front was now behind them instead. What did it mean? Did it mean God was leaving them or walking away? No doubt, many within the group believed God’s repositioning to be abandonment. But God was not abandoning them. He was posturing Himself.

Vaughn compares that Red Sea experience to how we often feel when faced with trials where God seems far away. I like the way Vaughn phrases the reality of what God was doing, “What we think is desertion is actually deterrence!” He continues:

God goes before His people. Sometimes, God goes behind them as well. He provides direction from the front and protection from behind. God is acting as the bookends of provision and protection. He is truly the author and the finisher of our faith.

God goes before His people. Sometimes, God goes behind them as well. He provides direction from the front and protection from behind. God is acting as the bookends of provision and protection.

Years ago, the Lord illuminated something that impacted my understanding of How God operates. I was studying the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. And I was a little troubled because there’s nothing listed in the vast array of God’s spiritual armor that offers protection for our backs. It’s as if our backs are completely exposed to attack. And my life experience informs me that most spiritual and physical attacks come from behind. During that time of prayer and study, God reminded me of how the glory cloud moved from direction to protection at the Red Sea encounter. The principle of God’s word is that if we always move in the direction God leads when opposition arises, if we have put on the whole armor of God, the Lord Himself will fight from behind, and the Spirit empowers us to battle forward.

God Exposes the Egyptian False Gods

God manifested His glorious presence with a cloud during the day, and at night that cloud morphed into a pillar of fire. God did not choose these two symbols randomly. These symbols exposed two of the most revered false gods in the vast pantheon of Egyptian gods. Vaughn gives a short history lesson to set up a profound point:

The Egyptians worshipped the sun god, Ra, which used fire to create light. Another deity in their pantheon was the god, Shu. Shu was the god of the air and light. One of Shu’s responsibilities was to protect Ra from the evil snake-god Apep that tried to destroy Ra each night and prevent the sunrise.  

Vaughn leaps to the crux of the lesson:

God used fire at night to show that He could provide light when Ra could not, thus proving to Egypt that Ra was dead. He used a cloud that moved freely in the sky to show that He had power over the air, showing that Shu was no more.

God used fire at night to show that He could provide light when Ra could not, thus proving to Egypt that Ra was dead. He used a cloud that moved freely in the sky to show that He had power over the air, showing that Shu was no more.

God intentionally used symbols the Egyptians revered to prove that their gods were subdued. It was a magnificent display of God’s power over false gods, ideologies, and philosophies. Similarly, the Spirit of God is required for us today to expose falsehoods, strong delusion, and anything opposed to biblical Truth.

The Spirit of God is required for us today to expose falsehoods, strong delusion, and anything opposed to biblical Truth.

Types & Shadows Within the Exodus Story

Warning: I’m going to seriously nerd out on this topic. So, if you’re a casual reader looking for quick points, go ahead and skip down to the next subject.

The apostle Paul compared New Testament baptism to the crossing of the Red Sea in 1 Corinthians 10. Vaughn describes it this way, “The Red Sea is a shadow of water baptism for Christians today.” He continues, “Crossing the Red Sea, then, is akin to passing through the water for the remission of sins.” The typological imagery of the Hebrew’s deliverance from Egypt to New Testament salvation is fascinating. Each element of salvation and the Christian life is foreshadowed in the Exodus story.

Egypt represents both the bondage of sin and the world from which we need saving. Moses, as the deliverer, then becomes a type of Christ. The captive Hebrew’s decision to leave Egypt is a type of repentance. As mentioned, the Red Sea is a type of water baptism. The cloud and pillar of fire become symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew’s subsequent wandering in the wilderness post-Red Sea is a type of a believer’s life as a stranger and pilgrim in this present world awaiting entrance into the Promised Land. And, of course, the Promised Land itself is emblematic of our eternal home in Heaven.

As Vaughn carefully points out, Acts 2:37-38 emphatically states that the three elements of the New Birth (or salvation) is repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, first evidenced by speaking in other tongues (or previously unlearned languages) as the Spirit gives the utterance (or inspiration). Apostolics differ from numerous other persuasions in that we affirm the essentiality of baptism and Spirit infilling. However, this has caused some consternation when comparing the typology of the Exodus account to the apostolic view of New Testament salvation. The glory cloud typifying the Spirit of God leads them but does not fill them as the Spirit does in Acts 2.

Vaughn does an admirable job of continuing the biblical narrative of the cloud going from the Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple and finally into human vessels in Acts 2. He demonstrates that Scripture doesn’t leave the typology of the infilling of the Spirit unfinished or unfulfilled. However, as is often the case in Scripture, there’s a mixing of metaphors that completes the short-term picture emblematic of salvation in the Exodus account. For those who would like a resolution of salvific foreshadowing, it can be found in Exodus 15:22-27, which describes the Hebrew’s encounter with the bitter waters of Marah.

Upon leaving the Red Sea (baptism), Moses led the people into the desert of Shur. The King James Version says, “Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea (Exodus 14:22).” The New Living Translation says, “Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea (Exodus 15:22).” However, the literal translation of “brought” and “led” is that he “made them journey,” which is not a common expression in this context.[i] As you will see momentarily, the forcefulness of this language further drives home the Scriptural theme of moving from baptism to the infilling of the Spirit. Once again, I’m reminded of Acts 2:38 and its declaration to repent and be baptized, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 

After three days in the desert, they desperately needed life-giving water. This typifies the believer’s need to be filled with the Spirit to survive life in the wilderness (this world) traveling to the Promised Land (Heaven). Arguing that the infilling of the Holy Ghost isn’t necessary for salvation is like arguing that water isn’t essential for life. When the Hebrews finally reached the waters of Marah, it was too bitter to drink. Some commentators suggest the bitterness of the water referred to the taste due to high mineral content. As if people literally dying of thirst would fuss about bad-tasting water. I find that view ludicrous. Likely the water was undrinkable due to high salt content.[ii]

Arguing that the infilling of the Holy Ghost isn’t necessary for salvation is like arguing that water isn’t essential for life.

So, in Exodus 15:24, Moses cried out to God, and the Lord showed him a tree. Isn’t that amazing? Now we have a tree that becomes a type of the cross. Interestingly, this verse doesn’t describe Moses receiving any Divine instructions about what to do with this tree. Although perhaps we can take it for granted that the instructions were given. Regardless, Moses cast the tree into the bitter water, and it miraculously became sweet (drinkable). Furthermore, after tasting the sweet water, the people received a standard from the Lord to listen carefully to His commands and obey all His ordinances and decrees. That instruction came with a promise that if they were obedient, they would not suffer the diseases of the Egyptians, and they would find healing from the hand of the Lord (Exodus 15:25-26).

Let me try to unpack all the New Testament parallels in that brief passage of Scripture.

  • We have no access to the life-giving water of the Spirit without the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Peter 2:24-25, John 3:16, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:13, Philippians 2:5-8, Colossians 2:14, Colossians 1:19-20, Ephesians 2:16, 1 John 2:1-4, Romans 6:6, Isaiah 53:5).
  • There is no life (salvation) without the infilling of the Spirit (Romans 8:5, Romans 8:9, Romans 8:14, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 John 4:13).
  • Not only is the Spirit necessary, but it is wonderfully sweet.
  • The infilling of the Spirit enables us to live in obedience to the commandments of the Lord. It empowers us to overcome the bondage of sin. Without the Spirit, we would quickly be enslaved again by the world (Egypt) (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, Acts 4:33, 1 Corinthians 12:10, Hebrews 2:4)
  • The Spirit opens the door to the miraculous. Spiritual and physical healing are obtainable because of the cross and the successive working of the Spirit in and through God’s people (James 5:14-15, Matthew 18:18, John 14:12).
  • Because of the supernatural empowerment over sin the Spirit provides, we can be impervious to common ailments typical of Egyptian (worldly) lifestyles.
  • For reference sake, here is a list of other Scriptures that speak metaphorically of the Spirit as water (John 4:10-15, John 7:37-39, Isaiah 12:3, Isaiah 44:3, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:17, 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 12:13, John 6:63, Exodus 17:6).  

There is no life (salvation) without the infilling of the Spirit (Romans 8:5, Romans 8:9, Romans 8:14, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 John 4:13).

Without the Spirit, we would quickly be enslaved again by the world (Egypt) (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, Acts 4:33, 1 Corinthians 12:10, Hebrews 2:4)

Whew. Ok. One final thought on the typology found in the Exodus story: Exodus 16 introduces the miraculous manna from heaven that God provided for the children of Israel to sustain them during their wilderness wanderings. That manna typifies the Word of God a believer needs to be spiritually sustained today. Just as the people had to gather the manna for themselves each morning, we are to hide God’s word in our hearts daily. A day without feasting on the Word should be as rare as a day without food.

Just as the people had to gather the manna for themselves each morning, we are to hide God’s word in our hearts daily. A day without feasting on the Word should be as rare as a day without food.

Just as it was the ministry’s job to preserve the manna for future generations in Exodus 16:33, today it is the ministry’s responsibility to preserve the Word from generation to generation. Also, the Israelites grew tired of the manna. Eventually, their gratitude turned to ungratefulness, and they hungered for Egyptian foods (Numbers 11:6, Numbers 21:5). When the people spoke against Moses and the manna, God sent poisonous snakes among the people as a judgment. Here are a few lessons we should learn from the manna:

Just as it was the ministry’s job to preserve the manna for future generations in Exodus 16:33, today it is the ministry’s responsibility to preserve the Word from generation to generation.

  • People who grow tired of the Word will attack the man of God over them.
  • Tiring of the Word is a sign of carnality.
  • The Word is our spiritual sustenance. We die spiritually without the Word, just as we would die physically without food.
  • Grumbling about the Word invites poisonous things into our lives.
  • There is hidden manna in Heaven for those who are victorious (Revelation 2:17).
  • Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us that God humbled the Israelites by letting them go hungry and then feeding them with manna to teach them that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus quoted this Scripture while being tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4).
  • Jesus was the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the Word incarnate (John 1:1-3), the Living Word (John 6:63), the bread of life (John 6:35). One of the most dramatic links between Old Testament types and shadows is in John 6:58, where Jesus refers to Himself as the “true bread” that came down from heaven. Jesus describes how the ancient Israelites ate manna from heaven, but it did not provide eternal life. In contrast, Jesus promises that the manna He provides will live forever.

There is hidden manna in Heaven for those who are victorious (Revelation 2:17).

Desire Invites the Divine

Vaughn brings out a beautiful point from Moses’ forty days basking in the cloud of God’s glory as he received the Ten Commandments. I’d never thought of it this way, but Vaughn notes that the forty days on the mountain was a time of total isolation from people. While Moses was enjoying the presence of the Lord, the people were creating a golden calf and falling into idolatry. Vaughn says:

It was when the people wanted to distance themselves from God and the man of God that God called Moses to meet with Him. Often when we are ostracized from people who feel threatened by our relationship with God, He will call us up to the mountain to stay a bit longer with Him.

Often when we are ostracized from people who feel threatened by our relationship with God, He will call us up to the mountain to stay a bit longer with Him.

There is inevitable loneliness that accompanies true dedication to the Lord. A social dissidence resides in the heart of every lover of God’s presence. As Vaughn says, “God will always lead you where He can be with you.” If God has to sever friendships to be with you, He will do it. If God is leading you away from a relationship, rest assured He is doing so to be with you. God calls you to climb the mountain, not as a punishment, but as an invitation to be with Him uniquely and memorably. Never allow peer pressure or the desire to fit in keep you from climbing the mountain and experiencing the glory of God. Vaughn stresses that it takes discipline to climb a mountain, and it requires spiritual discipline to enter into God’s presence today. Vaughn gives this insightful thought:

God will always lead you where He can be with you. If God has to sever friendships to be with you, He will do it. If God is leading you away from a relationship, rest assured He is doing so to be with you.

Never allow peer pressure or the desire to fit in keep you from climbing the mountain and experiencing the glory of God.

The exclusive presence of God only seems exclusive to those who are unwilling to pursue Him. Praying, fasting, and studying are disciplines, but eventually, discipline becomes desire. And desire invites the Divine.

The exclusive presence of God only seems exclusive to those who are unwilling to pursue Him. Praying, fasting, and studying are disciplines, but eventually, discipline becomes desire. And desire invites the Divine.

The Difference Between the Cloud and the Glory

Vaughn spends a good deal of time underscoring how the cloud of God and the glory of God are two distinct manifestations. In reference to Exodus 40:33-35, Vaughn states, “The cloud covered the tent of the congregation while the glory of God filled the Tabernacle.” You might remember that Moses asked to see God’s glory. But God responded that no man could look fully at His glory and live. Therefore, God only partially granted Moses’ request by allowing him to look at the hinder parts of His glory. Even that little glimpse of God’s glory was so powerful that it caused Moses’ face to shine with a brilliant light.

The cloud was a shield or partition that covered the glory of God so the people could see it without really seeing it. But just as Moses’ shining face became a conduit for God’s glory to be glimpsed by the people, we can also become glowing lights of God’s glory for our generation. Consider this powerful quote from Vaughn:

Can people tell we have been in the presence of God? We should have an afterglow of His character in our attitude if we are spending time with God. More time in the presence of love will make us more loving. More time in the presence of peace will make us peaceful. More time in the presence of joy will make us joyful. Consequently, the people you come in contact with will notice the difference, and it will brighten their day. If your life is not shining light into this dark world, then perhaps you are not spending enough time with God.   

We should have an afterglow of His character in our attitude if we are spending time with God. More time in the presence of love will make us more loving. More time in the presence of peace will make us peaceful.

If your life is not shining light into this dark world, then perhaps you are not spending enough time with God.

The New Tabernacle of God

Vaughn draws an interesting comparison between the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the New Testament Church. He begins by quoting a portion of John 1:14, “…and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Vaughn points out that “dwelt” is the Greek word meaning “to tabernacle.” Jesus became flesh so that God could tabernacle with humanity in a new way. Vaughn makes his main point, saying:

Since the Tabernacle is a type of the Church, it can be argued that the Israelite camp represents our life. Just as the Tabernacle was at the center of the Israelite camp, we must build our lives around the Church, the dwelling place of God. God is not limited to a physical structure, but like the Tabernacle, the Church is a place where we regularly visit with God.

Just as the Tabernacle was at the center of the Israelite camp, we must build our lives around the Church, the dwelling place of God. God is not limited to a physical structure, but like the Tabernacle, the Church is a place where we regularly visit with God.

Three Factors Always Surrounding A Move of God

In great detail, Vaughn builds the case beginning with Leviticus 9:22-23 and moving carefully to the book of Acts, that three common factors always surround or proceed a move of God:

  1. A house was built.
  2. There were consecrated people who followed instructions.
  3. There was a sacrifice.

And there were two responses from God:

  1. The cloud.
  2. The fire.

To prove his point, Vaughn walks us through the parallels between the move of God surrounding the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple. In both instances, a house was constructed, consecrated people carefully followed instructions, and sacrifice was present. And both times, God responded with a cloud and fire. In true systematic fashion, Vaughn intended these images to fill our minds so we could fully comprehend the spiritual formation of the New Testament Church. And he begins that comparison in a unique manner which few other commentators have touched upon, by quoting Jesus’ shocking declaration found in John 2:19-20:

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

Of course, those words were shocking to the listeners because they didn’t understand that Solomon’s corrupted temple was about to become irrelevant within the New Testament paradigm. The presence of God was about to relocate from the Temple to earthen vessels thanks to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That same Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead desires to dwell inside us individually (Romans 8:9-10). Vaughn says it best:

It was never enough to have a house among His people; He wanted to be inside of His people. God wants more than to dwell among us; He longs to live in us! In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle preceded the Temple because the Tabernacle was a mobile place for a mobile people while the Temple was a permanent place for a permanent people. God’s glory dwelt in the fleshly temple of Jesus while He walked with humanity. Now He resides in the fleshly Temple of our hearts as a permanent fixture in our lives. Jesus was the living Temple. Now we are the living Temple! When we receive the Holy Spirit, we carry the glory of God around with us.

It was never enough to have a house among His people; He wanted to be inside of His people. God wants more than to dwell among us; He longs to live in us!

Jesus was the living Temple. Now we are the living Temple! When we receive the Holy Spirit, we carry the glory of God around with us

The New House

In the final pages of It Filled the House, Vaughn begins tying the threads of prophecy and biblical symbolism into a coherent thread. Once he is done, the reader can easily see the tapestry of God’s design woven throughout Scripture. Vaughn draws from Hebrews 3:6, reminding us that Christians are now the house of Jesus or the dwelling place of God. Remember, the first factor surrounding a move of God is the building of a house. Vaughn explains:

The house built on the Day of Pentecost was not a physical structure like the Tabernacle or Temple. Instead, each individual became the Temple of the Holy Ghost. After the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost, the Bible began referring to the group as the church.

The house built on the Day of Pentecost was not a physical structure like the Tabernacle or Temple. Instead, each individual became the Temple of the Holy Ghost.

The new house of God is bonded together, not with brick and mortar, but by the Holy Spirit. And while we are thankful for buildings dedicated exclusively to worshipping the Lord, buildings are not the church. The church is the collective body of Spirit-filled believers. Vaughn concisely drives that point home:

Whereas the people of God once worshipped solely at a physical place that God had filled, they now become the structure that God fills.

Whereas the people of God once worshipped solely at a physical place that God had filled, they now become the structure that God fills.

In a scene intended to remind us of Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple, cloven tongues of fire descended upon the heads of the disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 2). Furthermore, they spoke in other tongues (previously unlearned languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance. God responded to their sacrifice with Divine fire. Here we see that the people in the Upper Room became the house, the sacrifice, and they followed instructions. Anyone longing to receive the Holy Spirit today must follow that example. In other words, if a person longs to receive the Spirit of God, they must present themselves as a temple longing to be filled. Also, they must empty themselves through repentance, therefore presenting themselves as a living sacrifice. And they must be completely obedient to God’s Word. Anyone willing to do so will undoubtedly experience the glory of God.

The Superiority of the New House

The moving of the Spirit from Tabernacle to Temple to Earthen Vessels was a necessary progression that God intended all along. And because God does everything perfectly, the new house of God comprised of Spirit-filled people is superior to the former houses made with human hands. For example, Vaughn astutely points out that Solomon’s Temple, although massive, was fixed in size while the people multiplied around it. Meaning the Temple in all its splendor could not have accommodated worship forever. No building is large enough to accommodate and contain the worship of the countless multitudes God is reaching towards. Vaughn says:

Instead of adding to the Temple, God designed a new house that would always grow at the same rate as His people. This new house is called the church.

Instead of adding to the Temple, God designed a new house that would always grow at the same rate as His people. This new house is called the church.

This subject reminds us that when we become overly fixated on building better buildings rather than reaching souls, we have misplaced our mandate. That’s not to say that facilities aren’t good, necessary, and even wonderful. They are. Just as a family needs a house, the family of God requires a shared space that accommodates its needs. But there’s an old saying that applies to individual families, and it’s relevant to the church family as well: A house does not make a home. It takes far more than a building to make a group of people family, and it takes far more than a church house to make a group of people the church. Vaughn gives one last example of how the new house of God is superior to the Tabernacle and Temple of old:

When we become overly fixated on building better buildings rather than reaching souls, we have misplaced our mandate.

A house does not make a home. It takes far more than a building to make a group of people family, and it takes far more than a church house to make a group of people the church.

Like the Tabernacle in Moses’ day, the church is mobile… Like the Temple, the church has the permanence of God’s Spirit within the hearts of the believers. In this way, the church carries both the mobility of the Tabernacle and the permanence of the Temple.

Like the Tabernacle in Moses’ day, the church is mobile… Like the Temple, the church has the permanence of God’s Spirit within the hearts of the believers. In this way, the church carries both the mobility of the Tabernacle and the permanence of the Temple.

As you can see, the Spirit enables, unites, excites, and invites the whole world into fellowship with God. The infilling of the Spirit isn’t a side doctrine or a menial gift for some super-elite people. It’s the very thing that makes the church the church.

As you can see, the Spirit enables, unites, excites, and invites the whole world into fellowship with God. The infilling of the Spirit isn’t a side doctrine or a menial gift for some super-elite people. It’s the very thing that makes the church the church.


[i] John N. Oswalt, “Exodus,” in Genesis Exodus, vol. 1 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), 401.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#4238

[ii] Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus, Kregel Exegetical Library. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), 412.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/KEL_OT-7#4063

Link to purchase It Filled the House by Samuel Vaughn on Amazon.com

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Dear Dr. Peterson

Please forgive the gimmicky aspect of this letter. Your immense popularity or repulsiveness (depending on whom you’re talking to) renders you unreachable by normal means. I’m under no illusion that you will see this letter. However, I sincerely hope this reaches you at some point. Allow me to begin by expressing my sincere earnestness in praying for your health and for the health and safety of your family, whom you seem to love dearly. Also, I’d like to thank you for your thoughtful, meaningful, and life-impacting contributions to national conversations. 12 Rules for Life has roused many forgotten young men to rally to the challenges of existence with courage, integrity, and goodness.

Beyond Refreshing

Along with millions, I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcast and following your lectures. I’ve cheered in admiration as you’ve resolutely refused to be cowed by woke media personalities or bullied into submission by cultural fads. You are a voice of reason, logic, and morality. That’s beyond refreshing in this post-postmodern or metamodernist culture (I’d love to hear your thoughts on post versus post-post versus metamodernism). It must be strange navigating the complexities of fame on a worldwide platform. I, for one, am appreciative that you do so with grace and kindness even when in strong disagreement.

Your Popularity Among Christians

I’ve heard you ponder the question of why you are so popular among Christians several times. And why your lectures on Genesis garnered overwhelming positive attention. Even though you are not a theologian, I thoroughly enjoy your religious conversations. Your influence has impacted me to take a renewed interest in Jungian psychology. I’m indebted to you for that as I quote Jung several times in a soon-to-be-released book that takes a biblical look at alcohol. Anyway, most people you speak with lean more philosophical than evangelical. Although you remain cautiously critical of “orthodox” Christianity, the liturgical influence on your religious (or philosophical) thinking is obvious.

A Brief Context

For the sake of transparency, I am a minister within a marginalized segment of Christianity. Interestingly, postmodernism helped and hurt us at the same time. It hurt in the sense that culture moved away from seeking or even believing in absolutes or Truth. Yet, it helped because we are less ostracized due to our beliefs (we were severely persecuted at the turn of the twentieth century). These words might sound a little foreign; I am a Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal Christian. We’re the fastest-growing religious movement in the world, even as liturgical churches are shrinking. In the past one hundred-plus years, we have exploded to the tune of approximately fifty million worldwide. Even though we are technically evangelical by definition, historically, our evangelical brethren have been loath to allow us that title.

Answering the Question

I mention my beliefs not because I expect you to find my theology particularly interesting (although you might). But because I believe my perspective allows a unique insight into your immense popularity among Christians of all stripes. You are tremendously popular in my circles and the converging circles of Christianity. And here’s why: You intellectually articulate the defense of our existence. That’s the nutshell version. Beyond that, you are the most intelligent person using your influence to help us maintain space and have a voice in the public space. Even when you don’t agree with everything we say or believe, you brilliantly defend our right to hold those thoughts and speak them out loud, whether in our churches, public forums, or the universities. Your unique one-foot in Christianity and one-foot outside Christianity stance gives you gravitas blatantly religious leaders can’t wield.  

The Woke Wave

Sincere Christians saw the woke wave coming decades before it hit culture full force. We were silenced and demonized in the public schools. Our children were bullied into submission by Stalin-like totalitarian tactics. The universities turned Christian shaming into an art form. I’ve been forbidden to open up city council meetings by praying in the name of Jesus. And that’s in the Bible Belt of the United States. That’s only one small aspect of the anti-free speech overreach directed at Christians in public forums. We’ve watched our cities covered in graffiti while the Ten Commandments were removed from our courtrooms. We’ve had to fight like mad to keep the government from forcing us to fund abortions for people on our payrolls. Same-sex couples who’ve never darkened the doors of our churches routinely try to force us to marry them in our buildings, hanging legal action over our heads if we don’t comply. If we dare try to help children suffering from gender dysphoria overcome their confusion lovingly, we’re called hate-mongers and worse. I could go on and on.

You’re the Voice We Could Not Use

We’re subjugated to name-calling constantly while being told to keep our mouths shut. Free speech is only allowed for certain woke groups these days. All this seemed to go from a simmer to a boil when the transgender movement began doing its best to force us into ignoring science and radically changing definitions. Then you stepped onto the scene and became the voice we could not use in that arena. Your brilliance, coupled with genuine humility, captured our consciousness. As we got to know you, we realized you were a true friend and a sincere moralist. And while we may approach morality from divergent directions, we hold it dear nonetheless.

You’re Much Like Aaron

In some ways, your notoriety reminds me of Aaron (greatly anticipating your book and lectures on Exodus). As you know, much has been assumed about the Bible’s description of Moses as being “slow of speech and slow of tongue (Exodus 4:10).” Was Moses simply inarticulate? Did he have a stutter? I’ve always leaned towards the theory that Moses had a speech impediment of some kind. Whatever it was, God wanted Moses to overcome it and speak. But Moses resisted God and failed to use his voice. God relented and sent Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman before Pharaoh and often before the people. Moses’ failure to speak up created a vacuum (particularly in the political and secular realm) that Aaron naturally filled. God even acknowledged that Aaron was intelligent and eloquent compared to Moses (Exodus 4:14-16). It seems you have become the confident voice the Church was too afraid or perhaps unable to use. You’re the unofficial spokesperson, if you will.

The Overlooked Experience of Glossolalia

Admittedly, my primary motivation for writing is a burning desire to humbly add something to an ongoing thread that permeates your conversations. First, you have mentioned a particular mystical religious encounter that was personal to you. Also, the question of transcendent, mysterious occurrences, their origins, and repeatability comes up periodically. Lately, I’ve been noticing more and more scientific questions involving the use of psychedelics to replicate (or achieve) a spiritually transformative experience. I find myself talking to your podcast through my air pods when these topics arise. Mainly because the transformative encounter described in these conversations, although rare in liturgical circles, are frequent experiences for Pentecostals. We experience many types of transcendent encounters with God, but most notable is what the book of Acts refers to as speaking in other tongues. Which can be a known language (although previously unlearned) or a heavenly language, but it produces an ecstasy and clarity like nothing in this world can offer. This biblical phenomenon is commonly referred to as glossolalia in academic circles. Apostolics consider it to be a necessary element in the process of redemption.

Glossolalia’s Transformative Narrative

Regardless, I’ve witnessed countless individuals give up smoking, various drugs, and alcohol without any withdrawal symptoms after experiencing glossolalia (we would refer to it as receiving the Holy Spirit). It’s that well-documented transformative religious experience you’ve mentioned at various times. I know how strange this can sound to a person unfamiliar with it. However, is it stranger than looking for answers in psychedelics? Having witnessed your intellectual curiosity at play, I’m reasonably confident you would find the data interesting at the very least. Hundreds of millions have experienced glossolalia. Many of those millions have been permanently changed for the good. If this sounds overly preachy, I apologize. I am a preacher, and there’s nothing I can do to change that reality. Believe it or not, I’ve tried very hard to avoid inserting gobs of theology, dogma, and personal opinions into this letter. My only hope is that perhaps you will use a measure of your vast intellect to investigate glossolalia with a level of openness. Whatever else, it can’t just be discarded outright or ignored with any genuine intellectual honesty. Just the plethora of historical biblical accounts (Isaiah 28:11-12, Mark 16:17, Acts 2:1-47, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) set a narrative that’s difficult to reject off-hand.

Encouragement in Exodus

Please continue to speak against impending malevolence courageously. May you and your family be blessed. I pray your body remains as strong as your mind. I’ll bid farewell with one of my favorite passages from the book of Exodus:

8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel (Exodus 1:8-12).

This passage encourages me when I’m feeling weak and insignificant, and adversaries seem intensely overwhelming. It’s a reminder that even enemies perceive the strengths that I can’t see. Furthermore, affliction placed upon righteous people is a precursor to growth and eventual deliverance.

Sincerely, Ryan French

Our God Is One with Dr. Talmadge French (Article + Podcast)

Sweet Heat Skittles

My father, Dr. Talmadge French and I, just finished recording America and End Time Prophecy, the Oneness of God & Miracle Mission’s Moments for the podcast (linked below). You absolutely do not want to miss that episode. Dad recounted major miracles he’s witnessed and experienced from his missions trips around the world. We talk prophecy, rapture stuff, and think about where America fits into all of that. And dad gives an updated count of the number of oneness Pentecostal believers worldwide. We taste and rate Sweet Heat Skittles at the end. That was fun!

Our God Is One

We mentioned the release of his best-selling book Our God Is One: The Story of the Oneness Pentecostals in the Serbian language during that conversation. Dad originally released Our God Is One in 1999. It’s incredible to think that twenty-three years later, it’s impacting the Serbian work of God and has become an instrument to bring trinitarian churches into the oneness movement! Which inspired me to summarize Our God Is One in this format. Usually, I would include the link to purchase the book, but it’s been out of print for several months. Thankfully, it will be reprinted, rebranded, and updated in the near future. Our God Is One is a unique blending of oneness Pentecostal history, theology, methodology, and statistical analysis. This summary is not a replacement for the book itself but rather a complementarian, precursor, or refresher for those who have already read it. From this point forward, I will refer to dad as Dr. French for the sake of readability.

It’s All in Him!

Most apostolics are familiar with George Farrow’s classic song penned in 1920, “It’s All in Him.” It isn’t shocking to hear lyrics like that now, but there was a time at the turn of the twentieth century when lyrics like “For in Him Dwells All the Fullness of the Godhead and Lord of All is He” would have reeked of heresy to most Christians. Dr. French opens by quoting that and several other notable self-designated Jesus’ Name Pentecostal anthems. In those early days of the oneness movement, songs like that were an expression of separation and a brave exclamation of revelation. George Farrow and others differentiated themselves from their trinitarian counterparts with rhythms and rhymes.

Dr. French opens the book by quoting that great song in homage to those early oneness Pentecostal pioneers. Those first leaders couldn’t have imagined the phenomenal growth their movement would experience over the next one-hundred-plus years. In what Dr. French calls “those early, unassuming days of the movement,” their focus wasn’t on growth but correct doctrine and pleasing God.

In the early, unassuming days of the Oneness Pentecostal movement, their focus wasn’t on growth but correct doctrine and pleasing God. -Dr. Talmadge French

Important Definitions

It would be challenging to follow Our God Is One or this article without clarifying definitions. Thankfully, Dr. French gives two helpful definitions right away. He defines Oneness Pentecostalism below:

Oneness Pentecostalism is that theologically distinctive branch of the Pentecostal movement which emphasizes what it views as the Scriptural formula for water baptism – baptism ‘in the name of Jesus’ – and the absolute, indivisible ‘Oneness’ of God revealed in the full Deity of Jesus Christ. It emerged within the context of the fervor of restorationism and “back to the Bible” literalism at the turn of the century. Classical Pentecostalism’s argumentation for a return to “the Bible” regarding speaking with tongues and spiritual gifts was simply applied to the issues of baptism and the Godhead.

Notice the term Dr. French used in the above quote, “Classical Pentecostalism.” For some, that might not be a familiar term, so he goes on to explain further:

Oneness Pentecostals have usually been categorized as ‘classical’ Pentecostals, referring not only to their roots in the early movement but their shared belief in the essentiality of tongues as the “initial evidence” of the Spirit baptism.

Doctrinal Distinctives

The explosive growth of the oneness movement is intrinsically linked with its doctrinal distinctives. Dr. French gives a succinct overview of classical oneness theology:

In its rejection of the classical conception of the Trinity, it embraced, in actuality, a highly Christocentric, simultaneous modalism of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in which Jesus is God. Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament, the one and only God in totality, incarnate in the New Testament. The ‘Oneness of God’ is an all-encompassing Jesus-centrism in which Father, Son, and Spirit are not conceived as separate, distinct ‘persons’ within the Godhead, but rather as ‘modes’ or ‘manifestations’ of God.

The explosive growth of the oneness movement is intrinsically linked with its doctrinal distinctives.

The Oneness of God is an all-encompassing Jesus-centrism in which Father, Son, and Spirit are not conceived as separate, distinct persons within the Godhead, but rather as modes or manifestations of God. -Dr. Talmadge French

Not unlike the theological constructs of early Jewish Christianity, Oneness theology link the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One,” with the most primitive of the kerygmatic confessions of the early church – “Jesus is Lord.” That is, Jesus is the one and only Lord, the ‘totality’ of the Godhead, incarnate. Thus, He is not a part, or a second part, or second person, but God in totality, manifest in human form as the unique God-man. “Father” and “Son” are viewed simply as incarnational terms necessary for the discussion of God in His dual nature, God and man. Likewise, “Holy Spirit” is the distinguishing expression for “Christ in,” God indwelling, the believer at and after Pentecost, in the unique manner made possible only by the reality of the resurrection.

Not unlike the theological constructs of early Jewish Christianity, Oneness theology link the Shema: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One, with the most primitive of the kerygmatic confessions of the early church – Jesus is Lord. -Dr. Talmadge French

Oneness Roots

Interestingly, Dr. French clarifies an often-asked question: Are oneness Pentecostal evangelical? And the answer to that is “yes.” The oneness movement is rooted in a passion for Jesus Christ, Scripture, life-changing new birth experiences, and evangelism. But that doesn’t mean mainstream Evangelicalism embraces the oneness movement. Dr. French mentions J.I. Packer, who referred to Pentecostalism as Evangelicalism’s “half-sister.” Sadly, that kind of pejorative, and worse, is historically typical. But oneness Pentecostalism traces its roots back to the holiness and restorationist movements of the nineteenth century, which, as Dr. French points out, “is sometimes referred to as ‘radical’ Evangelicalism.”

At its onset, the oneness movement was shunned, ostracized, criticized, and belittled by Evangelicals and classical trinitarian Pentecostals. The oneness movement’s explicit rejection of Trinitarian doctrine combined with its strong holiness underpinnings has made it a target for charges of cultism, bigotry, and heresy. And while Dr. French acknowledges that the oneness movement has become more widely accepted, “mainstream” Christianity still views it derisively. Especially in light of Evangelicalism’s rapid drift away from moral absolutes, biblical inerrancy, and godly living. This creates what Dr. French calls the “dilemma and paradox” of the oneness movement. He boils it down in this statement:

Their (the oneness movement’s) distinctive theological identity is, at one and the same time, both rooted in Pentecostal-Evangelicalism, and yet at enormous tension with it.

Though rooted in the holiness movement and budding trinitarian Pentecostalism, the oneness movement is best described as restorationism. Dr. French describes it this way:

Oneness Pentecostalism, within a dozen years of the rise of Pentecostalism, was birthed in a rekindling of restorationist fervor which swept through the entire movement, vigorously promoting a return to the New Testament baptismal formula and understanding of the Godhead.

Oneness Pentecostalism was birthed in a rekindling of restorationist fervor which swept through the entire movement, vigorously promoting a return to the New Testament baptismal formula and understanding of the Godhead. -Dr. Talmadge French

Pentecost In My Soul

Few things capture the essence of oneness theology as accurately and concisely as the songs birthed in those early days. To illustrate this, Dr. French highlights the famous Black Holiness songwriter Thoro Harris who, after converting to Pentecostalism, penned “Pentecost In My Soul” in 1914. He wrote many beloved Pentecostal hymns such as “Jesus Only” and “All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus.” Those songs and many others encapsulate the highly Christocentric pietism that made the oneness movement radically distinct from its counterparts. And it was enormously successful. But that doesn’t mean it was easy, Dr. French notes:

Pentecostals were struggling with an inevitable clash with historic Christianity, the heritage of the Protestant Reformation, and their own spiritual identity. Central to this struggle was the conviction that the historic church, largely apostatized, required restoration to primitive Christian faith.

To be sure, there was some disagreement about what primitive Christianity was in practice and theology. However, Pentecostals genuinely believed they were experiencing a ‘latter day’ restoration. And they viewed the Reformation as a steppingstone towards restorationism. Dr. French summarizes those early views this way:

Pentecostalism, in this way, perceived the period from the Reformation forward as restoration, from Luther’s sola scriptura to Wesley’s holiness to Seymour’s Azusa revival. Oneness adherents have also identified elements within the Radical Reformation, especially Michael Servetus and the immersion and anti-Trinitarianism of the Anabaptists, as evidence of glimmers of restoration.

Pentecostalism, perceived the period from the Reformation forward as restoration, from Luther’s sola scriptura to Wesley’s holiness to Seymour’s Azusa revival. Dr. Talmadge French

Fundamentalist Influences

It would be incorrect to say that Pentecostalism is rooted in Fundamentalism. However, it is substantially influenced by it. Dr. French is quick to mention there is “considerable” debate about “the extent and precise nature of Fundamentalism’s influence upon Pentecostalism.” He clarifies the distinctions and the influences, stating:

Fundamentalism, like Pentecostalism, embraced premillennialism, dispensationalism, and the verbally inerrant inspiration of Scripture. At the turn of the century, as Pentecostalism was emerging, Fundamentalism was the point conservative force opposing the higher critics and the modernist attacks on the miracles of the Bible. Although these were issues with which Pentecostalism readily identified, it was tenuous indeed, for Fundamentalism opposed with equal rigor Pentecostalism’s belief in modern miracles and tongues.

Regardless, Pentecostalism often utilized Fundamentalist arguments to further the points they agreed with. And even found Fundamentalist writers who openly favored oneness doctrinal positions.

Higher Life Influences

In 1875, the Keswick movement formed a holiness group that emphasized “higher life” and promoted “experiential holiness.” Dr. French states:

Important themes included enduement with power and the infilling of the Spirit, stressed by such leaders as R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody. Yet it rejected the phenomenon of emerging Pentecostalism.

If I understand correctly, it seems John Wesley’s Methodism, including its holiness beliefs and emphasis on Spirit baptism, greatly influenced the Keswick movement, which influenced the early Oneness Pentecostals. Dr. French says it like this:

As did their forerunners in the holiness movement, the Pentecostals emphasized holiness, enthusiastically and with restorationist zeal, as separation from sin and worldliness. And, due perhaps to the intensity of the restorationist motif as the dominant influence within Oneness Pentecostalism, the emphasis upon strict standards of holiness remains a prominent feature of the movement. Apart from the issue of the means of sanctification, holiness was considered a restored, essential element in the life of a believer. “A holiness preacher?” wrote D.C.O. Opperman, “God has no other kind. Might as well say `wet water’ as to say `holiness preacher.’”

As did their forerunners in the holiness movement, the Pentecostals emphasized holiness, enthusiastically and with restorationist zeal, as separation from sin and worldliness. -Dr. Talmadge French

Holiness was considered a restored, essential element in the life of a believer. A holiness preacher? wrote D.C.O. Opperman, God has no other kind. Might as well say wet water as to say holiness preacher.

The Predominant Impulse of Oneness Pentecostalism

Indeed, all of the above-mentioned theological strands converged at the dawning of the twentieth century to form the oneness movement. Even early healing movements helped weave conditions for Oneness Pentecostalism to emerge successfully. But Dr. French views restorationism as “the dominant and overarching influence amidst other significant streams which intermingled in important ways.” Unique to Oneness Pentecostalism was a predominant restorationist impulse that viewed the entire New Testament through the lens of the book of Acts. In doing so, they made the book of Acts accounts typical experiences for all believers.

The Founding of Pentecostalism

In addition to the “latter rain” metaphor, Pentecostal founders like Howard Goss referred to the movement as “the winds of God.” They spoke of tongues as falling “suddenly from Heaven.” And although glossolalia had occurred among earlier holiness movements sporadically, it was Charles Fox Parham that, as Dr. French says, “provided the spark which ignited Pentecostalism as a distinctive movement by theologically linking `tongues’ with the baptism of the Spirit.” Parham was the first to articulate that tongues were the evidence of Spirit baptism. Although he still considered tongues a “second work of grace.” Dr. French describes the early oneness movements preferences regarding their identity:

Interestingly, Oneness Pentecostals tended to self-identify most readily with Parham’s original designation for the movement, “Apostolic,” even more so than the term “Pentecostal.” “Pentecostal” related mostly to the experience of Spirit baptism, whereas “Apostolic” was a more direct identification with the restoration of the doctrine, faith, and experience of the New Testament witness of the apostles.

Early Pentecostal Controversies

Like every movement, the early Pentecostal movement was plagued with controversies and fraught with disagreements. Dr. French describes debates that surrounded the issue of sanctification:

William H. Durham, a Baptist minister from Chicago who experienced tongues at Azusa in 1907, opposed the commonly accepted holiness view of sanctification as a separate, second crisis experience, or a “second work of grace” distinct from salvation. Instead, Durham espoused a view that posited the work of sanctification in the single experience of conversion, not subsequent to conversion. This view was predicated on the sufficiency of Calvary to ascribe sanctification to the believer at the time of conversion but experienced as a spiritual process throughout life. Durham referred to this as the “finished work of Calvary” view of sanctification.

But the sanctification issue paled in comparison to the Oneness controversy. Dr. French summarizes the debate saying:

At issue in the Oneness controversy was the centrality of the name of Jesus in baptism, the soteriological significance of Spirit baptism, and the nature of the unity of the Godhead. The Oneness issue was commonly referred to as the “new issue” by its opponents, not for its novelty, but to distinguish the issue from the recent controversy over salvation.

The early Pentecostal movement prayed in the name of Jesus, claimed healing in Jesus’ name, sang Christocentric songs, and “largely ignored” the precision of Trinitarian faith. So, it shouldn’t have been all that shocking that many would eventually desire to be baptized in Jesus’ name. Dr. French quotes Charles F. Parham on this subject:

We were waiting upon God that we might know the Scriptural teaching of water baptism. Finally, the Spirit of God said: “We are buried by baptism into His death.” …Then how quickly we recognized the fact that we could not be buried by baptism in the name of the Father and in the name of the Holy Ghost because it stood for nothing as they never died or were resurrected.

The Spark That Lit the Flame

A Pentecostal camp meeting called the World-Wide Apostolic Camp Meeting took place in April of 1913. It was a much-anticipated meeting lauded as a great unifier. Yet, in actuality, it was the initial spark that lit the flame of the oneness movement, eventually separating it from Trinitarian Pentecostalism altogether. Canadian minister R.E. McAlister wasn’t the main speaker or even on the program. McAlister simply gave a short sermon as they were preparing for a baptismal service “in a pool near the big tent.” Dr. French describes the intense and pivotal moment this way:

In a cursory defense of single immersion, McAlister noted that apostolic baptism was administered as a single immersion in a single name, Jesus Christ. “The words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism.”

History records an “audible shudder” swept the preachers at the mention that the name Jesus was used exclusively in apostolic baptism. Of course, they tried to stop and sensor him, but the inspired words had already been spoken. The impact of that little sermon was far more significant than McAlister could have ever dreamed. Dr. French states:

The implications concerning Jesus’ name baptism raised at Arroyo Seco fueled the theological flame within many who attended. John G. Sharpe, a young minister, was so moved that, after praying and reading the Bible all night, he ran through the camp the following morning shouting that he’d received a “revelation” of the power of Jesus’ name. Frank J. Ewart, G.T. Haywood, Harry Morse, John G. Schaepe, R.J. Scott, George Studd, R.E. McAlister, Andrew D. Urshan, Homer L. Faulkner, and Frank Denny… would soon enthusiastically embrace baptism in the name of Jesus as the exclusive apostolic formula.

In Conclusion

Our God Is One goes on in far more detail concerning various splits among Pentecostal groups, eventually forming oneness groups like the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the United Pentecostal Church International, and many others. He recounts the stories of now-infamous pastors who were hepatized in Jesus’ name and branded as heretics by their peers. Many of those pastors went on to rebaptize entire congregations in Jesus’ name as revival swept the world. But Dr. French is most acclaimed for his unparalleled documentation of modern Oneness Pentecostalism worldwide. In 1999, it was staggering when Dr. French provided careful documentation of twenty million Oneness Pentecostals. He updates the number on the podcast episode below, but you’ll have to listen for yourself to hear that.

The Beginning of the World (Creation vs. Evolution, Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness, Oneness vs. Trinitarianism) with Steven Waldron

Over the years, I find myself drawn more and more to the book of Genesis in prayer and study. It’s possibly the most attacked book in the Bible by liberal scholars, pseudo-scientists, and a litany of other detractors. The enemy knows if he can cast doubt on one book of the Bible, the others fall too. And because Genesis lays the foundation for the other sixty-five books, its validity is critical. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians have unnecessarily caved to societal pressures and contorted doctrinal positions into impossible knots. They’ve redefined, parsed, injected, and superimposed non-literal meanings into Genesis, leaving a husk of originality. This capitulating is often done in obeisance to the overinflated scientific communities wildly unscientific theories like the Big Bang and Darwinian Evolution.

The enemy knows if he can cast doubt on one book of the Bible, the others fall too. And because Genesis lays the foundation for the other sixty-five books, its validity is critical.

Many well-meaning Christians have caved to societal pressures and contorted doctrinal positions into impossible knots. They’ve redefined, parsed, injected, and superimposed non-literal meanings into Genesis, leaving a husk of originality.

Expanding Circles of Truthless Knowledge

For serious-minded people, the unflinching partiality in proclaiming ideas as fact is maddening beyond words. The oddity of what I’m trying to describe brings 2 Timothy 3:7 and its depiction of the last days squarely into focus: Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Knowledge has undoubtedly increased exponentially over the past one hundred years alone, yet the truth is fuzzier than ever for most. You might think in a naturalistic society, questions of gender would be settled debates, but not in a culture that’s stuck in a learning circle. Picture, if you will, a circle of learning with truth just on the outside of the circle. In their learning, they sometimes touch truth briefly, but the curvature of the loop takes them past reality into incredible error. As the circle of knowledge expands, it grows away from truth rather than encompassing reality. The ever-expanding knowledge that edges away from the solid foundation of absolute truth leave learners empty, broken, unfulfilled, unguided, and unregulated. They are like compasses without a true north or oceans without the gravitational pull of the moon.

Expanding Circles of Truthless Knowledge

Knowledge that edges away from the solid foundation of absolute truth leave learners empty, broken, unfulfilled, unguided, and unregulated. They are like compasses without a true north or oceans without the gravitational pull of the moon.

Scientific Science Deniers

But there is a glimmer of hope. The scientific community has mismanaged and overstepped itself on so many occasions that people are starting to catch on. Large swaths of Christians and even irreligious folks are beginning to realize that worshipping at the altar of science “so-called” is a dangerous proposition. Some generations forgot that Hitler and other vile historical figures committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of science and progress. The oddities and evident confusion or outright malevolence of the scientific community’s response and involvement in COVID jolted many people out of complacency. Even with the most generous opinions towards the scientific community surrounding COVID, most people have found it to be incompetent at the very least. Yet, unbelieving heretics are being burned at the public stake of opinion in disgrace for daring to disagree with the First Church of Scientific Naturalism. How interesting and telling it is that the science community so often becomes the predominant deniers of genuine science.

How interesting and telling it is that the science community so often becomes the predominant deniers of genuine science.

My Faith Journey

I was homeschooled and then went into private Christian schools throughout my childhood and teenage years. I was not taught the theory of Evolution formally in school—quite the opposite. However, like all other kids born since the mainstreaming of the Big Bang Theory, I wrestled with questions in my heart. It was hard to find coherent rebuttals to Darwinian thought aside from disgusted remarks about how we didn’t come from monkeys or that Evolution is pollution in my younger years. While that’s all cute and accurate, it didn’t satisfy my curious mind. Thankfully, I found two books that at least began answering all my questions: Scientific Creationism edited by Henry M. Morris Ph.D. and The Flood: In the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology by Alfred Rehwinkel (yes – I was a nerd). I highly recommend clicking the links included on those book titles and grabbing your own copies on Amazon.

Steven Waldron’s Creationist Commentary

Because of my faith journey, I understand the importance of intelligently pushing back against error, falsehoods, and well-formed untruths. And that is why I was so delighted to read and promote Pastor Steven Waldron’s new book series entitled Commentary on Genesis (Discussions in Scripture Series – A Creationist Commentary), Volumes 1-3 on the Apostolic Voice Podcast, Episode 51. There are many excellent books and commentary on Genesis, but I know none that approach the book of beginnings the way Waldron has done it. For one, he uses a conversational tone that is nonetheless intellectual and readable at the same time. Secondly, it is a verse-by-verse discussion. And thirdly, the majority of the book’s focus revolves around defending the literal interpretation of Genesis. Fourthly, it is not dull or droning. And there are other nuggets of profound information scattered throughout the book as well. Every Christians should own all three volumes of Steven Waldron’s Commentary on Genesis (Discussions in Scripture Series – A Creationist Commentary).

Episode 51, Highlights

I’ve linked our podcast chat below, and I certainly hope you will listen. However, I also wanted to highlight some of the significant points from Waldron’s book and our conversation in written form. Perhaps it will whet your appetite for more, and seeing things in writing helps burn them into our memories. At least that’s my hope. Besides, what could be more interesting than the beginning of the world?

Six Days of Creation

Like myself, Waldron affirms the biblical belief that the world is young and that God literally created the world in six days with no gaps or caveats. In his opening rejection of Evolution, Waldron declares:

All Spiritual and Scientific laws are found here in creation. The theory of Evolution destroys our connections with the past and with God. Are we in the image of a bacteria or God? Does the world have purpose, or is all just random chance? How can we know where we are going if we do not know where we came from? Is there a sense of meaning? The literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is consistent with reality. It is what we see when we look around, whether biologically, geologically, morally, or astronomically. Everything fits perfectly with Scripture.

The literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is consistent with reality. It is what we see when we look around, whether biologically, geologically, morally, or astronomically. Everything fits perfectly with Scripture.

We Want Utopia Because We Lost Utopia

Waldron makes a philosophical and theological connection between the Garden of Eden and the human condition. We yearn for utopia because we lost it at the human fall in Edan. There seems to be a deep longing in the human psyche to regain humanistically what we lost spiritually. Yet, our only hope for that kind of redemption is found in Jesus. A necessary reality that God foreknew before creation itself. When humanity tries to create a utopia apart from God, the opposite occurs. Every. Single. Time.

We yearn for utopia because we lost it at the human fall in Edan. There seems to be a deep longing in the human psyche to regain humanistically what we lost spiritually.

Attention to Division

There’s a paradox in Scripture that first plays out in the book of Genesis. While unity gives humanity great power for good or evil, division similarly empowers us (Genesis 1:4-7). Waldron notes this Divine attention to division:

We also see that division is a key concept early in Genesis. Division of light and dark. Division of waters. Division of day and night. Evening and morning. Later divisions into kinds of various living things are mentioned. Then an enclosed Garden, separated from the world, for man and woman. And the division of what could be consumed and what could not.

I believe this to be a type and foreshadowing of later biblical teachings on holiness and separation from the world—the division of the clean and the unclean, the righteous and the profane, etc. Indeed, the typology of light and darkness is perpetuated throughout both Testaments, culminating dramatically in John 1:1-14. There’s much more to explore on this subject. The depths have yet to be treaded. In the meantime, the apparent paradox is reconciled with the revelation that true unity in the spiritual sense can only be achieved by first paying great attention to the details of Divine division.

True unity in the spiritual sense can only be achieved by first paying great attention to the details of Divine division.

The Law of Biogenesis (Life Produces Life)

Pasteur’s beaker famously proved that only life produces life. Previously, even scientists erroneously believed the corpse itself produced the observable maggots on a dead carcass. By isolating meat in a beaker, Pasteur paved the way for further breakthroughs revealing that only life begets life. It takes life to make life. Dead things do not produce living things. Waldron illuminated this point while commenting on Genesis 1:11:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

God is the source of all life, and He placed life within the seed giving it potential to fill the earth with its own kind. An incredibly complex genetic structure determines its own kind. As Waldron astutely points out:

Genetic walls are built into the seed, which ensures that which is encoded in the cell is what is produced. Change comes from within the DNA, not from without. Cut off a thousand generations of rat tails, and the rodent DNA still says rats will reproduce with tails. The law of kinds, DNA, and genetic walls does not allow for Evolution. This is observable science.

Cut off a thousand generations of rat tails, and the rodent DNA still says rats will reproduce with tails. The law of kinds, DNA, and genetic walls does not allow for Evolution. This is observable science.

Young Earth and the Lunar Recession

One inconvenient fact for evolutionists is that the moon is receding from the earth about two inches each year. Waldron makes this case in detail:

If the earth were much over six thousand years of age, the lunar gravitation which currently causes our beneficial tides would wreak havoc and destruction on planet earth. And before that, it would have just crashed into the earth. So, if current processes extend backwards just a few millennia, they would be an impossibility. The same is true for the sun. It is decreasing in size at the rate of five feet per second. Just a few thousand years ago, the earth would be unbearably hot from the closeness of the sun, and life on earth would be impossible.

After Their Kind (Genesis 1:21)

Again, we see the biblical fixation on the certain immutable traits of species (Genesis 1:21). Fish produce fish after their kind. Trees produce trees after their kind. Two dogs don’t produce a cat, and so forth. Waldron pivots from this into a discussion of the fossil record:

Fossils from whatever strata they are found show the same things that are alive today. There are no transitional fossils in the fossil record, and certainly not the chains of fossils from one kind to another, that Evolution and Darwin say should be there and should be the vast majority of the fossil record. “Kinds” are exactly what we see in DNA and the laws of genetics. There is fixity of each species, and only slight variations are possible within the genetic walls of each kind.

The Majestic Plural (Genesis 1:26)

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… (Genesis 1:26).

Here we have a Scripture commonly referred to by Trinitarians suggesting an allusion to the trinity in the Old Testament. Who is God talking to in Genesis 1:26? Waldron walks through several possibilities posed by Christendom throughout the centuries. For example, the traditional Jewish explanation has been that God was referring to the Cherubim’s or other angels (that distinction is another topic for another day). Waldron lists three reasons this might be a possibility. Eventually, though, he states, “The pushback on this subject is that only God is the Creator. And whoever God is referring to here seems to be participating in the act of creation.”

One thing we know for certain, Moses, the inspired author of Genesis, was monotheistic. He did not see this as an indication of God’s plurality or a hint of two hidden separate persons in the Godhead. I concur with Waldron’s assertion that Elohim is seen as the plural of majesty. In other words, God was using the language of royalty about Himself in Genesis 1:26. Charles Ryrie, in his systematic work Ryrie’s Basic Theology, makes an unusual admission for a trinitarian scholar:

We have already suggested that the plural name for God, Elohim, denotes God’s unlimited greatness and supremacy. To conclude, plurality of persons from the name itself is dubious.[i]

Ryrie goes on to speculate despite the evidence that a mystical trinity is probably evidenced in the text. But he ends up having to contradict himself gravely to do so. Regardless, in my opinion, God was not playing hide-and-seek with Moses or giving a peek-a-boo moment for a trinity to be revealed at a later date. Instead, God was speaking of Himself with a majestic plural. Interestingly, Waldron poses another possibility:

Since God dwells outside of time, as well as in time, He could have been referring to the man Christ Jesus here, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Since all things were made by Jesus, predicated upon Him, this is entirely possible and plausible.

I have no problem with that view. However, for my mind, the majestic plural is the best explanation of this verse. Even today, it isn’t uncommon to hear someone speak of themselves in the plural. It adds gravitas and majesty to their countenance. It’s historically common among royalty. And since God is the supreme ruler of all things it would make sense for Him to speak in that vernacular of Himself. Even intellectually honest Trinitarians are eventually forced to admit that Genesis 1:26 is not a Divine admission of three persons.

One thing we know for certain, Moses, the inspired author of Genesis, was monotheistic. He did not see this as an indication of God’s plurality or a hint of two hidden separate persons in the Godhead (Genesis 1:26).

God was not playing hide-and-seek with Moses or giving a peek-a-boo moment for a trinity to be revealed at a later date. Instead, God was speaking of Himself with a majestic plural (Genesis 1:26).

Endnote

[i] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 58.

Ep. 51 | The Beginning of the World (Creation vs. Evolution, Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness, Oneness vs. Trinitarianism) with Steven Waldron Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

Ryan French and Pastor Steven Waldron have a riveting conversation about the literal interpretation of the biblical description of a six-day creation versus the secular religion of evolution and the Big Bang Theory. In addition, we are taking a deep plunge into the book of Genesis based on Steven's new book series entitled Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1 (Discussions in Scripture Series – A Creationist Commentary). Their discussion explores issues of morality, good and evil, light and darkness, and the oneness of God as opposed to trinitarianism. This episode unequivocally exposes the secular anti-God religion surrounding the false theory of evolution. Furthermore, it reveals that it takes more faith to believe in science "so-called" than it does the Bible. Steven Waldron Links: Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1 | Commentary on Genesis, Volume 2 | Commentary on Genesis, Volume 3 | New Life of Albany, GA YouTube Channel | Biblical Archeology Today with Steve Waldron Podcast | The Premier Study Bible — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
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Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

Generally, it seems Bible-affirming Christians agree that drinking to the point of drunkenness is sinful. However, total abstinence of alcoholic beverages is viewed by the majority of the “Christian” world as puritanical and antiquated. There’s lots of talk about moderation and Christian liberty combined with distortions and contortions of biblical passages cited by the moderate drinking crowd. Others, like myself, are firmly planted on the side of complete alcoholic self-denial.

The Three Paths to Alcoholic Abstinence

There are essentially three paths leading to complete alcoholic abstinence. Path one, personal experiences, history, hurt, conflict, danger, abuse, and heartache associated with drinking either due to their addiction or the habits of someone close to them. These real-life experiences are deeply ingrained and hard to argue against because they are so compelling. Typically, I find this to be the most common path leading people to take an unwavering stance against drinking. Path two, a practical and moral approach against alcohol by observing the destruction it causes from a distance and recognizing that far more evil than good is associated with its use. Path three begins with a biblical grounding and proper application of biblical absolutes and principles, leading to a doctrine of total alcoholic abstinence.

Each of these paths are good, but without the inclusion of path three (right biblical doctrine), we are merely giving great advice rather than a true spiritual direction. That’s not to say anecdotal experiences, opinions, testimonies, observations, and innate moral wisdom aren’t powerful. Those things are essential and persuasive. This article will include those arguments against alcohol as well. However, there seems to be so much biblical illiteracy and confusion on this subject. It’s becoming far more crucial for the Church to recenter the focus of our anti-alcohol stance firmly around the Bible. If we could learn to merge these three powerful paths, it would forge a highway for people to access easily. So, we’ll walk down these three paths and culminate with a hard look at what the Bible has to say about the subject.

Practical Objections to Alcohol

Millions of people worldwide abstain from alcohol without any Scriptural grounding or religious affiliation because they’ve seen the dangers it poses. It’s not hard to pick on alcohol because it leaves a wake of devastation everywhere it goes. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, coming after tobacco. A person who succumbs to excessive alcohol use loses a potential of thirty years of life. As many as forty percent of all the hospital beds across the country are used to treat health conditions that develop from alcoholism.The epidemic is so bad that seventeen percent of men in the general population and eight percent of women will meet the criteria for alcoholism in their lifetime.

And those stats are only a reflection of individuals who obtained treatment. Many millions more suffer from alcohol-related issues and never receive any diagnosis or treatment. Many statistics indicate (and I’ve perused them, so you don’t have to do the tedious work) that roughly fifty-six percent of Americans suffer from alcohol dependence. Another subset under that stat may not be physically dependent, but their drinking has long-lasting social consequences on their health, family, friendships, and productivity. Drinking is a proven contributor to suicide. Many drink to forget, but in the end, it only worsens their problems. The vast majority of rapes in the U.S. involve alcohol. Thirty percent of all driving fatalities each year are directly related to alcohol. The U.S. spends 199 billion dollars per year, trying in vain to stop this problem. This list could go on and on (you can read all the links at the end of this article if you’re interested).

The Dragon that Won’t Let Go

What stands out to me from the mountains of data collected is how few people break free from the grip of alcohol. Governments spend billions of dollars a year trying to solve the problems. Thousands of privately funded organizations work admirably to help people stay sober. Yet, the data shows only about ten percent of the people who complete these programs remain sober long term. Human attempts to cure what many scientists call a drinking epidemic have been tepid at best. For example, by classifying alcoholism as a disease but treating the substance itself (the actual alcohol) as harmless, society lulls millions of victims into the clutches of a ruthless dragon called alcohol addiction. Society gives the false impression that drinking is harmless, frivolous, fun, and only problematic for a small minority of “sick” people. Yet, no one begins drinking, hoping, or expecting to be dependent on drinking. By refusing to take the problem seriously and not defining alcohol as the dangerous dragon that won’t let go, society is complicit in the staggering loss of life and potential caused by drinking.

One More Major Practical Objection to Alcohol

You could probably pick out a stranger on the street in five seconds and hear stories about how their family hurts because of alcohol. Massive percentages of parents are missing in action either emotionally, spiritually, or physically because they self-medicate with alcohol. This brings enormous dissonance and disconnection in the lives of children. Even if the children don’t imitate their parents drinking patterns, they live with emotional scars that never seem to heal. Divorce rates are intrinsically tied to drinking. Drinking is a leading cause of marital unfaithfulness, adultery, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological distancing. The drinker rarely sees themself as the problem. Meaning they project blame on the innocent people around them. Or maybe the drinker has legitimate grievances that people around them care deeply about, but the alcohol fogs their brain and keeps them from finding lasting solutions to their woes. They begin fighting the people who care about them the most. The dragon of drinking causes them to be at odds with God, which moves them further down the rabbit hole of turmoil. In my opinion, these practical moral objections to alcohol are reasons enough to abstain completely.

But Don’t People Drink in the Bible?

The Bible is perplexingly silent on wine or alcohol in the Genesis account from Creation to the Flood. Interestingly, the great evils of Nimrod and the degeneration of humanity after the Fall in the Garden of Eden wasn’t directly linked to rampant alcoholism. Some assume Jesus’ mention of pre-Flood people’s eating, drinking, and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38, Luke 17:26-28) is a reference to alcoholism. However, when taken literally, the Greek word drinking Jesus used doesn’t necessarily imply drunkenness.[i] Jesus’ overall point about pre-Flood people was their lack of awareness and unwillingness to heed the signs of coming judgment. Indeed, all kinds of wickedness must have been swirling around within the human condition. Still, their most profound problem was their refusal to seek after God. The sinful human tendency to avoid God is still humanity’s most significant problem. Jesus knew complacency would become even more acute in the Last Days (Matthew 24:39-41), so He warned us to avoid the trap of assuming everything will always just be normal.

Noah Gets Drunk

This brings us to the curious situation of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) getting drunk (Genesis 9:21). We don’t have many details; Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), drank wine, and became intoxicated (Genesis 9:21). The Bible is commendable in that it never tries to cover up the flawed nature of its heroes. Whether or not Noah intended to get drunk hardly matters in the grand scheme of the story. His drunkenness produced nakedness (Genesis 9:21-22), a condition already marked by God as deeply shameful (Genesis 3:7-11, 21). Ham accidentally discovered his father’s scandalous condition and told his brothers Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:22). When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor and realized what Ham had done to him, he immediately pronounced a curse on the descendants of Ham (Genesis 9:24-25).

The Awful Aftermath of Noah’s Drunkenness

Speculation abounds as to what Ham did to his father to warrant such a harsh judgment.[ii] It’s safe to stick with the context and conclude that Ham took on a demeanor of disrespect towards his father. Rather than respectfully covering Noah’s nakedness and preserving his dignity, Ham gossiped about it to his brothers. Shem and Japheth wisely backed into their father’s tent and covered his shame without looking (Genesis 9:23). Noah’s failure is not a biblical license to excuse drunkenness. Noah was pre-law and pre-revelation, operating as best he could in a brand-new world full of uncertainty. He fell short, and the Bible wisely gives us the first recorded consequences of fermented wine. The Flood didn’t rid the universe of sin. It just gave humanity a fresh start. This tragic episode in Noah’s life story serves as a reminder of human righteousness’s frailty. It’s astounding how relevant Noah’s drunken failure is in today’s world. Wine lowered inhibitions, ushered in shameful nakedness and ripped a family apart. And, thousands of years later, intoxication is doing the same thing but on an epic scale.

It Just Gets Worse

The Bible’s second mention of drunkenness is even more horrific than the first. Lot had just barely escaped the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). He took his two surviving daughters to live in a cave because he feared the surrounding people (Genesis 19:30). His two daughters hatched a disgusting plan to get their father drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him (Genesis 19:31-35). They desired to have children and preserve their future in some twisted way. Clearly, all those years living in Sodom had warped their morals. Their plan was successful to Lot’s abysmal shame, and from those incestuous children, two of Israel’s most antagonistic tribes were birthed: The Moabites and the Ammonites (Genesis 19:36).

This passage doesn’t explicitly condemn drunkenness or incest; it doesn’t have to. Every Israelite reader would have known these were sins to be avoided because two of Israel’s most troublesome enemies were spawned due to Lot’s drunken actions.[iii] Again, the Bible demonstrates that alcohol is at the center of familial brokenness, terrible judgment, and sexual deviancy. Furthermore, a pattern of generational curses and consequences emerges only nineteen chapters into the Bible directly linked to alcohol. The Bible becomes much more explicit and forceful in its condemnation of alcohol later, but these early chapters give implied warnings about alcohol’s evils. The Bible consistently sheds a negative light on drinking and the fallout surrounding it.

More Unfavorable Mentions

Nabal died of a stroke after insulting David and throwing a drunken party (1 Samuel 25:1-44). His name means “fool,” which fits perfectly with his actions. In one of King David’s vilest moments, he intentionally got Uriah drunk while trying to cover up that he had impregnated the poor man’s wife. When that didn’t work, King David arranged for Uriah to be killed (2 Samuel 11:1-26). Zimri assassinated wicked King Elah of Israel while Elah was drunk, fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu (1 Kings 16:7-14). A pagan king named Ben-Hadad made a strategic blunder in battle while in a drunken state (1 Kings 20:15-21). Interestingly misfortune befalls each of these people from Noah to King Ben-Hadad either while in their drunken stupor or shortly after they woke up.[iv] In my opinion, these stories alone give compelling reasons a wise Christian should avoid alcohol entirely without needing a single explicit biblical command.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Joel

4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten, and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten, and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:4-5).

The prophet Joel viewed the locust plague as a manifestation of God’s displeasure due to His people’s sins, and, quite appropriately, he directed his first great caution, “Awake,” to a prominent class of sinners always present in any wicked society, the drunkards. The destruction of all vegetation, including the vineyards, would have interrupted and cut off the supply of intoxicants for years to come. Notably, Joel did not address this class as unfortunates overcome by some innocent disease. The Biblical view of drinking intoxicants and wallowing in drunkenness relates such conditions to wickedness and not to disease. As Shakespeare put it:[v]

O thou invisible spirit of wine, If thou hast no name to be known by, let Us call thee devil.[vi]

Unlike many of the other prophets, Joel did not condemn Israel for idolatry. Earlier in their history, when Joel was prophesying, idolatry was not the great sin in Israel. Joel only mentions one sin, the sin of drunkenness.[vii] It would be a grave error to overlook the gravity of this inference by the prophet Joel. Of course, the subtext is Israel’s spiritual drunken stupor, but their literal drunkenness is the obvious sin. Joel compares the easily visible sin of outward drunkenness to Israel’s spiritual indifference. Even more compelling is the parallel the prophet makes between intoxication and spiritual malpractice. How can intemperate people properly serve a temperate God? Joel pointed out the irony that God sent a plague of locusts cutting off Israel’s ability to remain intoxicated, forcing the people to become sober long enough to reflect on their sins and the resulting judgments of God.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Hosea

Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT).

In this blistering chapter (Hosea 4), God rebuked the Israelites, likening them to literal and figurative prostitutes. God described Israel’s culture as murderous, unfaithful, adulterous, unkind, dishonest, and idolatrous. Then God pinpoints why their society had become so awful because they didn’t have proper knowledge and understanding of God. Then God revealed the root of the problem: Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT). Notice, God did not say drunkenness has robbed My people of understanding. Wine compounds terrible decisions and poor judgment in all its recreational uses, usually resulting in spiritual ignorance and stupidity.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Isaiah

1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: But even these reel with wine and stagger from strong drink:

7 The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink; They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while seeing visions, They stagger when pronouncing judgment. 8 For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, so that there is no place [that is clean] (Isaiah 28:1-3, 7-8).

Ephraim and Israel are synonymous terms for the ten northern tribes, also called Samaria. The picture here of drunkards is both literal and spiritual. They were in a stupor as far as spiritual understanding was concerned. In this instance, to be spiritually drunk is to be filled with pride.[viii] In this great city of abundance, drunkenness had become the prevailing sin, or rather, the root sin that spawned many other sins. Like the prophet Joel, Isaiah strikes at the source of the problem.

Religious leaders who were supposed to seek God’s word and give it to the people could not blame an ecstatic experience of the Spirit for their condition. They drank of other spirits.[ix] The debauched leaders were consumed by what they consumed. Though no doubt literal as well, the metaphorical “vomit” of cynicism poured out of Jerusalem’s leaders.[x] Spiritual leaders, “so-called” influenced by alcohol, spew out false guidance and lead their followers astray. Like so many other biblical passages, this passage links the consumption of strong drink with sin, bad judgment, spiritual lethargy, pride, misplaced confidence, and dereliction of duty.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Habakkuk

4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people (Habakkuk 2:4-5).

Here the prophet Habakkuk points out the wickedness of the typical Babylonian: He was addicted to alcohol. War was his passion. The prophet described him as a man “who enlargeth his desire as [Hades], and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations.” But wine was his downfall.[xi] Several translations render “transgresseth by wine” as “wine is treacherous” or “wine betrays.” Depicting wine or alcohol in general as a betrayer is a truism that reaches beyond Babylon’s vices. No different from people today; Babylonians drank for pleasure but found pain instead. Drinking aggravated their baser passions, and they became a perverted people. Habakkuk continues this theme a few verses later:

15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16 Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lord’s right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory (Habakkuk 2:15-16).

Babylon is now condemned for leading others, her neighbors, into debauchery by causing them to drink intoxicants.[xii] In verse fifteen, drunkenness is connected with immorality (that he can gaze on their naked bodies), and they often go hand in hand.[xiii] Beyond the shame and sin of nakedness, this Scripture’s context suggests that perverse sexual acts accompanied intoxication.[xiv] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the correlation between alcohol, indecency, and sexual immorality. Ancient biblical prophets understood by observation and logic what we know scientifically; alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions and ability to exercise sound judgment. Inebriation leads to inhibition, inhibition often leads to indecency, and indecency often leads to sexual deviancy.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Daniel

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (Daniel 5:1-4).

Daniel prophesied during the time of Babylonian captivity when God’s people were essentially well-treated slaves in Babylon. We don’t know why but Belshazzar, king of Babylon, decided to throw a great feast. The Aramaic construction of “whiles he tasted the wine” from the text seems to imply “under the influence of the wine.”[xv] So, when Belshazzar became slightly drunk, he made a foolish decision he wouldn’t otherwise have made. He called for the sacred vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought into the feast. Belshazzar and his entourage desecrated those holy vessels with wine and idolatrous worship. At that very moment, the hand of God wrote on the wall warning of Belshazzar’s judgment, and Belshazzar was assassinated that night (Daniel 5:5-30). Interestingly, Habakkuk condemned the Babylonians for their drunken lifestyle, and just a few years later, Daniel witnessed Babylon’s fall due to a drunken decision made by its king?

We can hardly misunderstand the importance of wine since Daniel mentions wine or drinking in each of the first four verses of chapter five. Daniel specifically links drinking with the pagan worship of gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. The curse of Deuteronomy 32:15 falls on those who practice idolatry.[xvi] And, later, Daniel rails against Belshazzar, saying, “…they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them (Daniel 5:23).” To be clear, Daniel explicitly connects not only Belshazzar’s idolatry but also the drinking of wine in sacred vessels to God’s wrath.

The Biblical Connection Between Alcohol and the Mishandling of Spiritual Things

I’m not taking liberty with the Bible to connect drinking with the mishandling of spiritual things. The story of Belshazzar alone is a great example. However, it’s worth noting that Daniel refused to drink the king’s wine after he was first taken captive by the Babylonians. More precisely, the Bible says, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank (Daniel 1:8)”. Most commentaries recognize two main reasons Daniel refused the king’s meat: 1) Babylonian meat would likely have been offered in sacrifice to false gods. 2) Babylonian meat would likely not be in keeping with Old Testament dietary laws.[xvii] However, the other foods Daniel agreed to eat would also have been dedicated to false gods rendering the first point unlikely.[xviii] Furthermore, accepting the second explanation supposes Daniel believed Babylonian wine was off-limits.

The question naturally emerges, why did Daniel refuse the king’s wine? I believe the answer is twofold, and we begin finding the solution by observing that it was the king’s meat and wine Daniel refused. This understanding leads us to the first of a twofold answer: Daniel avoided the luxurious diet of the king’s table to protect himself from being ensnared by the temptations of the Babylonian culture. He used a distinctive diet to retain his distinctive identity as a Jewish exile and avoid complete assimilation into Babylonian culture (which was the king’s goal with these conquered subjects).[xix] Two, to abstain from the Old Testament prohibition against “strong drink” (which we have already outlined to some degree), Jews customarily diluted wine with water. Some added three parts of water to wine, others six parts, and some as much as ten parts of water to one part of wine. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine.[xx]

In ancient times, wine and strong drink didn’t have the alcohol content associated with modern beverages. Diluting wine with water rendered it down to microscopically small levels of alcohol content. Even drinking the undiluted wine would have required drinking from early morning until night to achieve inebriation (Isaiah 5:11). Without jumping too far ahead into the New Testament, this is why Paul could write without hypocrisy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23)”. Obviously, the wine mentioned by Paul is not meant as a beverage but as a medicine.[xxi] This Scripture no more authorizes drinking alcohol for pleasure than it prohibits the drinking of water. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was often unintoxicating.[xxii]

Regarding Daniel, he refused the king’s wine out of wisdom and obedience to Scripture. Daniel was set apart for the Lord’s service, and Babylonian wine was contrary to that spiritual calling. Daniel knew that by honoring God and refusing the Babylonian lifestyle, he would be healthier than his pagan captors. By setting himself apart, he invited the favor of God into his life, and it was visible to everyone around him (Daniel 1:15-18). Beyond that, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17)”. Because mind-altering substances didn’t bind Daniel, he was able to handle spiritual things properly. Before you assume I’m stretching Scripture to fit my view, let’s look at the priesthood, the Nazarite vow, and the Rechabites.

The Priesthood & Alcohol

8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses (Leviticus 10:8-11).

It seems this commandment from God was not random. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, had just offered strange fire before the Lord. God immediately responded by striking them dead with fire (Leviticus 10:1-7). In context, this prohibition suggests that intoxication led Nadab and Abihu to perform their blasphemous act.[xxiii] This commandment was necessitated by humanity’s inability to decipher the difference between “holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean” when under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol dulls the senses and clearly makes someone “blemished.” Only priests in full possession of their faculties could enter the Sanctuary, for anything less was not worthy of God. God requires the very best. Therefore, to be under the influence of alcohol is clearly to be “unclean.” And the uncleanness remains until the total effects of the alcohol have worn off. And if they did enter under the influence of alcohol, they were in danger of immediate death, for it would be seen as a direct insult to the holiness of God. This statute was set as permanent for all time, stressing its seriousness. Paul takes this up concerning Christian worship when he says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18-20)”. A state of intoxication is dishonoring to God. To be in such a condition is to be less than the best for God and excludes us from His presence.[xxiv]

The broader point being made in the Levitical instruction to the priests is that God is holy, and nothing that comes short of that holiness should be permitted into His presence. Nothing ritually unclean could enter the Sanctuary, or it would be defiled.[xxv] Some have speculated that God gave the priests (and, by extension, the rest of us) a license to drink when they were off duty. However, this is not the case. Rather, God forcibly demonstrated the importance of sobriety as an individual draws closer to God’s presence. The stress is on the importance of keeping the Sanctuary and its precincts holy to bring home the holiness of God. It meant that purity would become a daily concern for all the people, both physically and morally.[xxvi]

The idea here is that for anyone to come short of God’s requirements is to be rendered unclean. The priesthood’s duty was to discern, teach, and demonstrate God’s statutes and requirements, both concerning rituals and life. God’s people must always seek to avoid any possible sources of defilement. They, too, must be holy. For us, the question must always be, how can we ensure that we are the best for God? What should we avoid that might make us less than the best? In our case, it is spiritual cleanness that we must encourage and spiritual uncleanness that we must avoid (2 Corinthians 7:1, Mark 7:20-23). And we should be daily concerned that we do so. We must not enter His presence unclean.[xxvii]

This passage in Leviticus (Leviticus 10:8-11) clarifies several straightforward reasons modern Christians should avoid alcohol altogether. First, it demonstrates that God views alcohol as rendering a person unholy and incompatible with His presence. Second, it clarifies that alcohol renders a person unworthy and incapable of handling spiritual things. And thirdly, New Testament saints of God are likened to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost. Understanding the third point is probably the most crucial revelation a person needs to abstain from alcohol completely. So, let’s zero in on what it means for the Bible to liken saints to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost.

New Testament Priesthood, Living Sacrifices & Temples of the Holy Ghost

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God (1 Peter 2:5, NLT).

Paul called the Church a “temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:21) and “a dwelling” (Ephesians 2:22). Believers make up the Church and serve in it, ministering as a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. All believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 4:16, Revelations 1:6) and need no other mediator than Jesus Christ to approach God directly. Priestly service requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16, 22).[xxviii] Not only does God consecrate us as a temple to Himself, in which He dwells and is worshipped, but He also makes us priests. Peter mentions this double honor as a call to holiness and purity. Of the spiritual sacrifices, the first is the offering of ourselves, as Paul says in Romans 12:1. Like the ancient priesthood, we can’t offer anything until we present ourselves unto God as living sacrifices, which is done by denying ourselves.[xxix] As becomes clear in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter evoked Exodus 19:5–6 and Isaiah 61:6, emphasizing that as priests (as well as stones) in this new temple, believers offer spiritual sacrifices, not physical animal sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15).[xxx]

The gravity of what the above Scriptures mean for New Testament believers can’t be overemphasized. Although many try to avoid it, the reality is that God views Spirit-filled Christians as priests, temples, and sacrifices. The holy Spirit of God dwells within us, and His holiness will not mix with unholiness. God’s Spirit will not compete with intoxicating spirits for our time, energy, focus, attention, or adoration. Furthermore, the same timeless (Leviticus 10:9) commandments regarding moral behavior and purity, which applied to the priesthood, pertain to modern believers. That word spiritual, when applied to house and sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), does not mean immaterial (humans are not supernatural persons), but rather influenced or dominated by the Holy Spirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11, 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15, 12:1, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 3:16). Christians are a new temple of God operating under the constant influence and power of the Holy Spirit.[xxxi]

The Nazarite Vow & Alcohol

A Nazarite was a person specially dedicated or separated unto God. They can be viewed as lay priests, although they were not necessarily Levites. Like priests, Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine or strong drink of any kind (Numbers 6:4).[xxxii] Nazarites were like standard-bearers to show other people the way. They shone brightly with the special glory of God (Lamentations 4:7).[xxxiii] When the prophet Amos chastised Israel and Judah for their backsliding, he mentioned the Nazarites:

11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? Saith the Lord. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not (Amos 2:11-12).

Amos was reminding Israel and Judah that godly prophets and Nazarites were a distinct blessing from God. But instead of honoring and appreciating holy examples, they enticed the Nazarites to drink wine and commanded the prophets to be quiet. Amos considered this a particularly heinous sin for which God would make them “moan” with pain (Amos 2:13). I hope not, but someone might remain convinced that drinking in moderation is not a sin (later, we will examine the difficulty of defining moderation). However, let me give a firm warning: Enticing others to drink alcohol will likely invite the anger of God. If a person remains unconvinced and unconvicted, they should leave the godly convictions of others alone. God always calls us to give deference to firmer and stricter convictions than our beliefs (Romans 14:15-23). Otherwise, we are enticing that person to sin (Romans 14:23).

Although the Nazirite vow is an Old Testament concept, there is a New Testament parallel to the Nazirite vow. Once again, we are connecting back to Romans 12:1-2, where Paul states:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, because of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (ESV).

For Christians, the ancient Nazarite vow symbolizes the need to be separate from this world, a holy people consecrated to God (2 Timothy 1:9). Thankfully, in the New Testament, we are no longer bound by ceremonial and ritualistic laws that have no bearing on our salvation because of the work that Jesus accomplished. However, we are now called and enabled by the Holy Ghost to be even more separated unto God morally in many ways.

15 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

The Rechabites & Alcohol

18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; because Ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab, your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever (Jeremiah 35:18-19).

We first read about Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in II Kings 10:15-23 when Jehu, the king of Israel, allied with Jonadab to destroy the followers of Baal. King Jehu knew Jonadab was zealous for God and an influential man. Together they completed what the prophet Elijah had begun. They killed all the worshippers of Baal.[xxxiv] So complete was this destruction that the pagan worship of Baal (which included human sacrifice, sometimes parents sacrificed their children) was wiped out in Israel, and the temple of Baal was torn down and made into a garbage dump.[xxxv]

In great wisdom, Jonadab commanded his family to abstain from wine and strong drink. He instructed them not to buy houses but to dwell in tents. He asked them not to plant vineyards or buy fields. Jonadab set standards to preserve his family both physically and spiritually. Some of his guidelines sound unreasonable to modern ears. But Jonadab wanted to ensure his family would survive the changes that would come to Israel when foreign invaders destroyed the nation. He took measures that permanently set them apart. He was preparing his family for the tragedies the prophets had been warning Israel about for years. Many other families didn’t survive the pagan invasions because they had been “living the good life.” But Jonadab’s family survived because they listened to the wisdom of their father.

Almost three hundred years after Jonadab’s death, the nation of Judah was in great turmoil. Idolatry was everywhere. Jerusalem was about to be captured, destroyed, and plundered by the Babylonians. Suddenly in the middle of all this turmoil, God said to Jeremiah, “Go find the descendants of Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:2).” They gathered the Rechabites together and offered them wine. Astonishingly, three hundred years later, the descendants of Jonadab refused wine and held to their father’s commandments. Jeremiah was using the Rechabites to illustrate faithfulness and obedience to the unfaithful and disobedient people of Judah. He wanted the leaders in Jerusalem to see what genuine dedication looked like. In Jeremiah 35:19, we see perhaps the most extraordinary promise given to a father and a family in the entire Bible. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever (Jeremiah 35:19).” Meaning, somewhere in our world today, at least one descendent of Jonadab is alive and serving the Lord.

Notice the enormous contrast the Bible spotlights between the families of Noah, Lot, and Jonadab. The involvement of alcohol brought lasting curses on the families of Noah and Lot. The absence of alcohol played a significant role in the physical and spiritual preservation of Jonadab’s family. If nothing else, the Rechabites further underscore the wisdom of complete temperance. The Rechabites’ biblical account gives a template for multi-generational family success: Holiness and separation from the world’s destructive habits and patterns. I am reminded of what Paul wrote:

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

Proverbs Warnings Against Alcohol

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).

Wine is pictured as a mocker, scoffing at the person foolish enough to drink it. Beer or strong drink is portrayed as a brawler. It not only bullies the drinker but turns him into an aggressive fool.[xxxvi] This verse is the beginning of a long series of warnings against strong drink by Solomon. Wise people, he said, will not be deceived by it. Other proverbs in the series point out that wine leads to poverty (Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 23:21); it produces sorrow, strife, needless wounds, gossip, and red eyes (Proverbs 23:29–30); however desirable it may seem, it is a deceiver and harms all who drink it (Proverbs 23:31–32); it fills a person’s thoughts with lust and leads to adultery (Proverbs 23:33); and, finally, it is addictive and unpredictable (Proverbs 23:35).[xxxvii] Notice the alcoholic drink itself—not just its damaging effects—is described in disapproving terms—no matter how much or how little is used.[xxxviii]

The Foolishness of the Moderate Drinking Argument

It’s incredibly foolish to take one sip of alcohol! Suppose we go to the airport to board a plane, and as we present our tickets at the gate, we are told that one seat in every eighteen will fall through the floor before the flight is over. Startled, we ask which seats will fall. The attendant says, “We don’t know, but probably more of them are on the left side of the plane.” What person in his right mind would board such a plane? When someone takes his first drink, he is like a person who would board that plane. To embark on such a course is to risk becoming a confirmed drunkard before the journey of life is over. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but it’s worth repeating: If you never taste alcohol, you will never get drunk. Furthermore, if intoxication isn’t the goal, what is the point of drinking alcohol at all?

When the arguments for “moderate drinking” are made, several questions and problems arise. Why drink something so potentially destructive at all? When does intoxication begin? How drunk is too drunk? How do you know the moment before you’ve had too much (especially knowing that alcohol lowers inhibitions and weakens the ability to make wise decisions)? Maybe you’re willing to risk becoming a raging alcoholic, but do you want to gamble with your kids’ lives also? Is sipping a tiny bit of alcohol more important than being a stumbling block to others? Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve never drunk to excess? Could you give it up tomorrow if you were convinced drinking is a sin? How do others around you view your drinking habits?

The reality is this. No one starts out planning to be a drunkard. But it happens every single day. Because alcohol is a mocker, it’s like a serpent that strikes unpredictably with lightning speed. Everyone goes through terrible seasons of pain, disappointment, suffering, and discouragement. Sadly, it’s during those seasons many people lean on alcohol instead of the Lord. Many “moderate” drinkers have become full-blown drunkards in seasons of depression. Honestly, the words alcohol and moderation are paradoxical; it’s just not reasonable for an individual to believe they can coexist indefinitely. Ironically, every alcoholic I’ve known whose life was in shambles considered themselves a moderate drinker who had everything under control.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Jesus

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34).

Because we don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming, He warned us to keep a constant watch. Other Scriptures caution us to watch for the signs of His return, but Jesus instructed us to look inward and watch ourselves so that we will be ready and worthy when He returns. The prophets sometimes spoke of judgment as a trap that would catch the unprepared (Isaiah 8:14, Jeremiah 50:24, Ezekiel 12:13), and Jesus employed this exact terminology.[xxxix] Interestingly, The Living Bible provides the best modern translation of Jesus’ words:

Watch out! Don’t let my sudden coming catch you unawares; don’t let me find you living in careless ease, carousing and drinking, and occupied with the problems of this life, like all the rest of the world (Luke 21:34, TLB).

Alcohol, in all its various forms, is incompatible with a lifestyle of readiness for the rapture. Spiritual alertness is vital to the Christian lifestyle. We are like watchmen on the wall looking intently for the Lord’s return. Like soldiers, we are commissioned to prepare others for His return as well. Anything that dulls the senses, or weakens resolve, or misconstrues good judgment conflicts with our mission.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Paul & Peter

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober… (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

Some argue that Jesus was condemning drunkenness but not drinking in moderation. However, the apostle Paul understood precisely what Jesus meant, and he mirrored it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul is basically quoting Jesus’ comments from Luke 21:34. The context of this passage is very important and can only be intentionally misconstrued. In verse six, Paul uses the word “sober” in relation to alertness. In verse seven, he references drunkenness, symbolizing lostness. And again, in verse eight, Paul commands us to be “sober.” Paul’s use of the word sober wasn’t symbolic. That’s clear contextually, and because Paul could have utilized other Greek words to signal figurative soberness. However, he twice used the Greek word nepho, which means to abstain from wine.[xl]

The apostle Peter also echoed the words of Jesus from Luke 21:34 in his first letter:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

Peter likely remembered Jesus’ injunction to abstain from drinking and his failure to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) while writing, “…be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peter’s instructions were literal and figurative at the same time. Because you can’t be spiritually sober and physically influenced by spirits. Furthermore, Peter twice used the Greek word nepho (sober), which, as already mentioned, means literally to abstain from wine. 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a lion roaming around seeking to devour us. Peter made a profound connection between alcohol and vulnerability to Satanic attack.

Again, 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “gird up the loins of our minds” and be “sober.” In the next verse (1 Peter 1:14), he commented that some might have acted differently out of ignorance, but he emphatically warned them not to conform to their former desires. Essentially, he called the Church to a higher level of holiness than the Jews had previously followed. He explains why by quoting the book of Leviticus: But as the One who called you is holy; you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16, HCSB).

Of course, there are numerous New Testament passages strongly condemning drunkenness and demanding temperance. These verses are straightforward and require minimal commentary, so for the sake of time, I’ll list the references for those who might wish to dig into them and leave it at that (1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Galatians 5:21, Titus 1:7-8, 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 2:2-3, 2 Peter 1:6).

Questions Answered: Did Paul Condone Drinking in Moderation?

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Paul’s directives contrast the differences between being under the influence of wine, which leads to reckless actions, and being under the influence of the Spirit, which results in joyful living.[xli] “Did Paul condone drinking wine in moderation?” is a question that understandably comes up over and over again from sincere and insincere people. I’ve already touched on this issue, but it’s such a common question that it deserves extra attention. Regarding Ephesians 5:18, many commentators argue that Paul condoned by omission moderate wine consumption because he only mentions drunkenness. As if staggering, falling down, slobbering drunkenness is the only drunkenness God forbids. However, in this instance, Paul’s consistent denunciations of drinking and calls for sobriety in other passages made it unnecessary for him to be redundant in Ephesians 5:18. Also, the King James Version’s translation of Ephesians 5:18, although accurate, is unfortunately easily misunderstood by modern readers. For example, “…wherein is excess…” sounds to some as if Paul is saying, “getting drunk is excessive but drinking up to the point of excess is fine.” The English Standard Version gives a clearer perspective:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).

Paul didn’t intend to give a new revelation about drinking or drunkenness. Actually, he was building on a concept his readers already understood to signify the importance of being continuously refilled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. But confusion surrounding the Bible’s overall view of alcohol stems from modern readers’ disconnection to ancient times.

Questions Answered: A Little Wine for the Stomach?

Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).

The above verse is probably the most cited verse used to justify moderate drinking, which is laughable because there are far more troubling passages of Scripture to contend with than Paul’s medical advice to Timothy. And this was medical advice. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommends that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was typically unintoxicating.[xlii]

Paul was certainly not telling Timothy to get drunk; in Paul’s day, most wine was watered down two parts water to every part wine, and wine was not distilled, so the alcohol content was not high. At the same time, before refrigeration and hermetic sealing, any grape juice that had been kept for some months after the last grape vintage included some alcohol content. Would we tell every Christian today with a stomachache to avoid water and go have a watered-down beer? Or was that simply the best remedy available in Paul’s day, in contrast to our own?[xliii] If a pastor advises someone to take NyQuil or go under anesthesia, it does not mean they are recommending recreational drugs or casual alcohol consumption.

Questions Answered: Not Given to Much Wine?

Likewise, must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine… (1 Timothy 3:8).

Some interpret this as saying that deacons must not be habitual drinkers, which might seem to condone moderate alcohol consumption. However, in light of how strongly Paul condemns drunkenness (1 Corinthians 6:10), he probably had a different meaning in mind. Since there were many forms of wine available—both fermented (alcoholic) and unfermented—Paul is more likely advising self-control and warning against the excessive use of unfermented wine. In extremely pagan and self-indulgent cultures like Ephesus, excessive use of even non-alcoholic wine was prevalent. It often led to the use of other wines that were mixed and intoxicating. Essentially, Paul was emphasizing self-control and moderation in all areas of life, even in good things.[xliv] This answer and the previous explanations also apply to Titus 1:7 and Titus 2:3.

Questions Answered: Let Him Drink?

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (Proverbs 31-4-7).

This passage is a song by Bathsheba written for her son, Solomon. Therefore, these troubling verses (Proverbs 31:6-7) are not to be taken literally. In essence, she seems to be utilizing a condescending figure of speech by comparing the poor’s drunkenness to Solomon’s regality. By contrasting the plight of the poor and dying, Bathsheba exclaims that Solomon should consider himself above such lowly things. Her advice to Solomon is relevant to us as well. We, too, should abstain from judgment perverting influences like strong drink.

For those who struggle with that viewpoint, notice that the Hebrew word used for wine in this passage does not necessarily refer to fermented wine (more on that in a moment). I can’t imagine a worse prescription for curing depression (even by modern standards) than drunkenness. Furthermore, why differentiate between strong drink and wine unless there is a substantive difference between the two? I have no issue with the ancient medical practice of giving strong drink to the dying or those in terrible physical agony. Likewise, few Christians would have any problem with cancer patients taking morphine or a strong narcotic for pain. Only the cruelest-hearted would deny the use of medical narcotics to a hospice patient. Such medical practices are a far cry from recreational drug use or drinking.

Questions Answered: Did the Early Church Get Drunk During Communion Services?

For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken (1 Corinthians 11:21).

In addition to the Lord’s Supper, the Early Church held what was referred to as the agape feasts, much like a present-day church fellowship meal (2 Peter 2:13, Jude 1:12). These probably took place in homes where those in the Early Church often met for worship and fellowship. “One remains hungry, another gets drunk” could also be translated, “One remains hungry, another is filled to the full,” since the word “drunk” (Greek methuö) can refer to being intoxicated or to being filled or satisfied without reference to intoxication. The context of this verse clearly relates to the meal in general. When the Corinthians came together for their fellowship meals before eating the Lord’s Supper, some gathered in small groups, separated by social class, and ate separately (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). The poor, who could not contribute much, if any, to the meal, were often ignored and left hungry.

Paul condemned the behavior of those who ignored the poor (1 Corinthians 11:17) for three reasons: One, they were practicing and encouraging division in the Church. Two, they were humiliating members of the Church who were poor and probably coming directly from work without food (1 Corinthians 11:22). Three, some of the rich saints may have brought fermented wine and got intoxicated, which Paul would have considered even more unacceptable. Some interpreters, however, feel that Paul was not referring to an issue of intoxication here, or else he would have severely condemned it as he did elsewhere in the letter (1 Corinthians 6:10). He considered drunkenness not only as an issue of dishonor toward others but also a condition serious enough to cause people to turn from God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21).[xlv]

Questions Answered: Was Jesus A Winebibber?

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19).

Glutton and drunkard were insults that denote a rebellious son who deserves to be put to death (Deuteronomy 21:18–21).[xlvi] Jesus compared John the Baptist’s rejection and his own to the behavior of childish brats who would not play either the wedding game or the funeral game (Matthew 11:7-22). Neither John’s ascetic abstinence (compared to mourning or singing a dirge at a funeral) nor Jesus’ enjoyment of food and drink (likened to dancing at a wedding feast) was satisfactory to the Pharisees. John was slandered with the charge of demon possession (Matthew 11:18), and Jesus was smeared as a glutton and drunkard because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. No doubt Jesus did associate with such folk, but the charges of drunkenness and gluttony were unsubstantiated lies, evidently circulated by the Pharisees, who objected to table fellowship with sinners.[xlvii] It’s almost dramatically comical that people use the lies of the Pharisees against Jesus to justify their winebibbing.

Questions Answered: Isn’t Aged Wine Fermented?

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined (Isaiah 25:6, ESV).

This eschatological passage is sometimes used against teetotalers to defend drinking aged (fermented) wine. The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is a victory celebration in Heaven given by the Lord for the saints. Apparently, some people find it easy to believe the Lord will happily get all the saints drunk in Heaven. Interestingly, this is a newer misunderstanding or misconstruing of Scripture, likely due to the English Standard Version’s uptick in popularity. The English Standard Version and many other translations butcher this verse and outlandishly alter its intended meaning by inexplicably adding the descriptors “aged” and “well-aged” to the word wine. Leaving hapless, low-information readers with the impression God approves of fermented wine. So much so that He will personally provide it for His people. One can only wonder if some of these modern translators had a pro-alcohol agenda? The King James Version is accurate although dated:

And in this mountain, shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isaiah 25:6).

The words “aged” or “well-aged” are not in the Hebrew text. “Lees” is a good King James word meaning dregs or pulp. A banquet of “aged wine” (shemarim) is translated literally as “a banquet of preserves,” which probably refers to luscious grape juice that had been preserved for a long time for a particular purpose.[xlviii] And “refined” (zāqaq) is a Hebrew verb meaning to refine or to purify. The literal meaning of this word is to strain or extract. “Refined” is used about gold (1 Chronicles 28:18), silver (1 Chronicles 29:4, Psalms 12:6), and water (Job 36:27). It is also used regarding the purification of the Levites, comparing it to the refining of gold and silver (Malachi 3:3).[xlix] Interestingly, the prophetic wine Isaiah envisioned will be purified in every sense of the word.

Questions Answered: Did God Ok Strong Drink in the Old Testament

And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

This verse applies to special occasions for worship and thanksgiving by the entire household, including men, women, youth, and little children. The Hebrew word used here for “wine” (yayin) can indicate either fermented grape juice or unfermented grape juice. The Hebrew word for “fermented drink” (shekar) can be rendered “sweet drink.” This clarity removes the difficulty of suggesting that adults and children are commanded to worship God by consuming addicting and intoxicating beverages.[l] The purpose of the worship service was “that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). To properly worship God and learn to revere (regard with respect and honor) Him, we need to be alert and self-controlled (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

We should note that the Levite priests were present at the worship service (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). As we’ve already covered, the priests were absolutely forbidden to have anything to do with strong drink. Breaking that commandment invited the death penalty (Leviticus 10:9). It would be contrary to God’s holy character to commend the free use of intoxicants by the worshipers while in the company of the priests. Also, the nature of the festival was a harvest feast, during which time fresh harvest products would be used (Deuteronomy 14:23). This suggests that new fresh juice (non-alcoholic) was available. In this instance, the New King James Version gives an accurate English translation:

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

Some conservative scholars think (shekar) is best rendered “strong drink” and that it was fermented but low in alcohol content. Others note that Numbers 28:7 uses this same word for the content of a strong drink offering, indicating perhaps that the strong drink was not drunk by the people but used in a drink offering to the Lord.[li] While those are interesting thoughts, I lean heavily in favor of the viewpoint that the word “strong drink” is mistranslated in the King James Version. The New King James Version gives a much better picture of the original Hebrew wording. Regardless, we can rest assured God was not promoting a drunken worship celebration involving children in honor of His holiness.

Questions Answered: Did Jesus Turn Water into Fermented Wine?

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now (John 2:9-10).

A quick Google search will show there’s a raging debate as to whether the Hebrew word for “wine” (yayin) only refers to wine that has fermented. Of course, pro-drinkers insist wine mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments is always fermented. For example, this is often cited to affirm the belief that Jesus’ first miracle endorsed the use of alcohol by turning water into fermented wine (John 2:1-11). “When men have well drunk” does not mean that they were intoxicated, though it is usually employed in that sense. In this context, it means when they have drunk sufficient, and the keenness of their taste has waned so that they could not readily distinguish the good from that which was worse.[lii]

There are numerous reasons to conclude that Jesus did not contribute to a drunken wedding celebration. Foremost in my mind is the reality that Jesus would not violate His Word: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken (Habakkuk 2:15). It would have been scandalous to the highest degree had Jesus done such a thing. And not just in pharisaical circles but also among ordinary Jewish people. Furthermore, creating aged (fermented) wine would have been antithetical to the miracle’s message. Jesus demonstrated that His new wine is superior, as is everything tied to the new, Messianic age He was introducing.[liii] This introduction miracle is directly linked to the Feast of Pentecost, where the new wine of the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the Church (Acts 2:1-18). The new fresh superiority of the wine at the wedding feast typified the new fresh superiority of the wine poured out at Pentecost. Ironically, skeptical onlookers at Pentecost also mistook the miracle for drunkenness, and Peter quickly assured them they were intoxicated by the Spirit, not alcohol (Acts 2:13-16).

Questions Answered: Does Yayin Always Mean Fermented Wine?

Those who argue that the Hebrew word yayin (wine) and its Greek equivalent oinos (wine) always refer to fermented wine are forced to ignore several salient Scripture passages. In both cases, the biblical word wine is used interchangeably to describe fresh juice or various levels of fermented juice, depending on the context. Yayin is a generic term used approximately 141 times in the Old Testament which speaks of all sorts of wine (yayin). Sometimes, yayin is applied to all kinds of fermented grape juice. On the other hand, yayin is used for describing the sweet unfermented juice of the grape. It can refer to fresh juice as it is pressed from grapes. Isaiah prophesied, “The treaders shall tread out no wine (yayin) in their presses” (Isaiah 16:10).” Likewise, Jeremiah said, “I have caused wine (yayin) to fall from the presses; none will tread without shouting (Jeremiah 48:33).” Jeremiah even refers to the juice still in the grape as (yayin) in Jeremiah 40:10-12.

Further evidence that yayin at times refers to unfermented juice of the grape is found in Lamentations, where the author describes nursing infants as crying out to their mothers for their everyday food of “corn and wine (Lamentations 2:12).” Also, The Jewish Encyclopedia [1901] states: “Fresh wine before fermentation was called yayin-mi-gat (wine of the vat).”[liv] Fermentation is just another word for corruption. The potato must first rot (corruption) to make vodka. There is no corruption in God’s kingdom! Fermentation, corruption represents sin which is contrary to the holiness of God (Galatians 6:8).

In Conclusion

Deeply welded into our sinful nature is the predisposition to seek confirmation for our preconceived ideas. Just like two thieves could hang next to Jesus and reach completely different conclusions about Him, we are vulnerable to misperceiving Truths hanging all around us. Why can two people read the same Scripture and walk away with opposing views? And why can those two people be wrong at the same time? Often, it’s because they view Scripture through the grimy lens of existing beliefs and confusing distortions.

Simply put, our flesh tends to believe what it wants to believe. That’s why Paul exclaimed that he died daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). A carnal unsubmitted mind will never understand spiritual things. While I do pray, this treatise will persuade someone to walk away from the alcohol. I realize it will take more than mere words formed into arguments to break that yoke. Whether I’m completely right or entirely wrong will make no difference to a person locked into a position or bound by addiction. Perhaps this will strengthen wavering resolve in the hearts of unsure saints. Maybe a leader’s tired hands will be lifted by this work. Hopefully, a sincere-hearted questioner will find food for thought in this resource.

Like so many others, I’ve seen first-hand the wreckage and waste accompanying even so-called moderate drinking. I’ve seen personalities freakishly changed by drink. I’m firmly planted in the category of people who do not need a Bible to be convinced that alcohol is harmful beyond measure and without redeeming value. I realize that for some people, the dilemma isn’t so black and white. Those people look for gray areas and live in the shadows. There’s no long-term warmth or comfort in those shadows. But I chose a long time ago to live in the light.


[i] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “πίνω πίω πόω,” paragraph 4016. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#4016

There are at least six interpretations about the nature of this crime:

1. It was an act of incest between Ham and his mother. This is based on the later use of the phrase father’s nakedness to refer to the mother as translated word for word in the NASB (e.g., Leviticus 18:8). This interpretation sometimes suggests that Canaan was the result of this act of incest.

2. It was an act of homosexuality between Ham and his father. This is based on taking the phrase what his youngest son had done to him (Genesis 9:24) as referring to a physical act.

3. It was an act of trespassing by Ham into his father’s tent.

4. It was an act of castration. This view is found in the Talmud, a Jewish collection of rabbinical law, law decisions, and comments on the Laws of Moses. It is seen as a power struggle in the family.

5. It was an act in which Ham attempted to achieve authority over his father by “blackmailing” him with his indecent exposure. Ham, in this view, desired to be head of the family.

6. It was a viewing (accidental or purposeful) in which Ham did not treat his father with respect because he spoke about his condition to his brothers.

The last interpretation seems the most natural, when all the circumstances are considered. Any improper action can be seen as an attempt to embarrass the father and as a result possibly to take leadership from the father. The actions of the brothers Shem and Japheth seem to contrast with the actions of Ham. Since they actually covered Noah’s nakedness, Ham apparently saw and left his father in a compromising position and then gossiped about it. Since Canaan has been mentioned previously (Genesis 9:18, 22) and Noah’s curse on Canaan appears immediate, Canaan is best seen as living at the time of this incident.

[ii]Kenneth O. Gangel and Stephen J. Bramer, Genesis, ed. Max Anders, vol. 1 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2002), 94-95. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#1043

[iii] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 1747. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#1747

[iv] Joe Cathey, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “DRUNKENNESS,” paragraph 4819. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#4819

[v] Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Joel 1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/joel-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

[vi] William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Sc. 3. Line 285.

[vii] McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 27: Hosea & Joel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

[viii] J. Vernon McGee, Proverbs—Malachi, vol. III of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), paragraph 30067. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#30067

[ix] Trent C. Butler, Isaiah, ed. Max Anders, vol. 15 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2002), 164. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#57819

[x] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 11539. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#11539

[xi] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), 212. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#35650

[xii] David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 27 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 64. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#38672

[xiii] Stephen R. Miller, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, ed. Max Anders, vol. 20 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2004), 63. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#73119

[xiv] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 19110. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#19110

[xv] Eugene Carpenter, “Daniel,” in Ezekiel Daniel, vol. 9 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 374. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#77030

[xvi] Kenneth O. Gangel, Daniel, ed. Max Anders, vol. 18 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2001), 132. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#67248

[xvii] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16837

[xix] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 14336. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#14336

[xx] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330-1331. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16838

[xxi] J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians—Revelation, vol. V of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 454. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#60675

[xxii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xxiii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), paragraph 3077. https://accordance.bible/link/read/MacArthur_Study_Bible#3077

[xxiv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10:9”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvi] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvii] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxviii] Roger M. Raymer, 1 Peter (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 2:845. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#30327

[xxix] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 97601. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#97601

[xxx] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 17181. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#17181

[xxxi] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 105. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#59428

[xxxii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 3685. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#3685

[xxxiii] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 5239. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#5239

[xxxiv] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 14458. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#14458

[xxxv] A. H. Sayce, ISBE, s.v. “Baal (1),” paragraph 6416. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ISBE#6416

[xxxvi] Max Anders, Proverbs, ed. Max Anders, vol. 13 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2005), 198. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#49971

[xxxvii] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs, Volume Two, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), 56. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#24180

[xxxviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 4746. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#4746

[xxxix] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 12568. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#12568

[xl] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “νήφω,” paragraph 3443. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#3443

[xli] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 22602. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#22602

[xlii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985.https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xliii] Craig Keener, The Bible in its Context, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: Oak Tree Software, 2015), 39. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Keener-Context#433

[xliv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11961. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11961

[xlv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 10620. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#10620

[xlvi] Walter J. Harrelson, eds. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), paragraph 15714. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NISB#15714

[xlvii] David L. Turner, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in Matthew Mark, vol. 11 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 162. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#89927

[xlviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 5293. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#5293

[xlix] The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, s.v. “ז,” 301-302. https://accordance.bible/link/read/CWSD-OT#3374

[l] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 1627. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#1627

[li] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, eds. The Ryrie Study Bible. Expanded, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), paragraph 2891. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Ryrie#2891

[lii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 6497. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Barnes’_Notes_(NT)#6497

[liii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 23006. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#23006

[liv] Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for ‘Wine’. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/w/wine.html. 1901.

The Argument for Holiness with Charles A. Rhodus (Article + Podcast)

Charles A. Rhodus’ new book, The Argument for Holiness, is not a teaching resource defending the minutia of biblical holiness. It isn’t a handbook or a study guide. Instead, it’s a concise and straightforward defense of the necessity of holiness preaching in the twenty-first century. The author makes a heartfelt plea to church leaders, asking them to acknowledge holiness as salvifically necessary. Rhodus is clear; holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth. He implores saints to value holiness in their church and church leadership.

Holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth.

The Spirit of Jezebel

In four short chapters, Rhodus lays the case for his concerns. He begins by pinpointing the spirit of Jezebel, which seeks to infiltrate our churches and destroy the love of holiness. And by extension, our genuine love and relationship with the holy God of the Bible. Rhodus doesn’t deeply define the spirit of Jezebel. Instead, he uses it as typical of seducing spirits that promote lust, immorality, indecency, immodesty, and rebellion.

The Watchman on the Wall

Rhodus gives his most robust clarion call in chapter two, The Watchman on the Wall, by invoking Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman see the sword come and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” Reminding spiritual leaders of their Divine responsibility to warn of danger and the personal consequences if they do not. Chapter three quickly pivots to a passionate look at the spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). In keeping with the book title Rhodus argues that feelings are not superior to the Word of God. However, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Feelings are not superior to the Word of God, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Aggressively Cleansing the Temple

In my opinion, chapter four is the most insightful area of study in the book. Rhodus draws comparisons between Jesus’ aggressive cleansing of the temple and our obligation to do the same spiritually with our bodily temples. I gleaned nuggets of inspiration during the process of reading The Argument for Holiness. For example, Rhodus cites James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded,” and I noticed an element previously overlooked. The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness. I especially enjoyed my conversation with Rev. Rhodus in the Apostolic Voice Podcast featured below. We were able to rabbit trail in all kinds of interesting directions. Rhodus’ commitment to preaching hard truths with love and sincerity resonated with my spirit. The hour-long conversation flew by which is always an indicator of good content and spontaneous flow. I’m confident it will bless you while you’re listening.

The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness (James 4:8).