What is Religion?

The questions below come from chapter 1 of Louis Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine.

1. Is religion limited to certain tribes and nations?

No.  All men were created in the image of God, and even though all men are fallen, all show some form of the corrupted seed of religion still operating in them.  It is the character of sinful man that he constantly rebels against the knowledge of God naturally implanted within him.

2. How can we learn to know the real nature of true religion?

Even though all men are suppressing a natural knowledge of God, and even though nature itself testifies to his being, it is only by the study of God’s special revelation to man – His Word – that we can have a knowledge of “true” religion.

3. What terms are used in the Old and New Testament to describe religion?

Old Testament – the fear of the LORD

New Testament – faithfulness to Jesus Christ

4. How would you define religion?

Religion is the love and fear of God (piety) and a love for fellow man (charity).

5. What mistaken notions are there as to the seat of religion in man?

Intellectual – religion is agreeing to a set of propositions

emotional – religion involves a certain tenderness or emotion regarding our relation to God

will – religion involves moral forbearance and good works

6. What is the center of the religions life according to Scripture?

The Scriptures teach that the heart is the true seat of religion in man.  Out of it flows his thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions, and morals.

7. What different explanations have been given of the origin of religion?

Various theories have been put forth, but none of the theories imagined by psychologists or historians can explain man’s natural desire to connect to his creator and to search for meaning in the universe.

8. What is the only satisfactory explanation?

God created man (in his first estate) with an ability and desire to know Him and to have fellowship with him, but man has fallen and severed this relationship through rebellion and sin.  Man constantly suppresses this knowledge and will never embrace true religion unless powered by God to understand His special revelation of Himself given in His Word.


Who Was Obadiah?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

1. Who was Obadiah?

He was an prophet of Judah, whose name means “Servant of Jehovah”.  Nothing
else is known about him.

2. What the theme of his prophecy?

That Edom would be punished for taking advantage of Judah while Judah was
under attack by a foreign invader.

3. What the date and circumstances of this prophecy?

This is debatable.  Some think it takes place very early when the Philistines
and Arabians plundered Jerusalem because of the sins of Jehoram (2 Chron
21:16-17).  Other believe this prophecy came about during the initial stages
of the Babylonian captivity.

4. What was the attitude of Edom toward Israel and what the history which evidences this attitude?

The Edomites held hostility against the Israelites from the time of the split
between Jacob (father of Israel) and Esau (father of Edom); to the time when
the Edomites would not allow the Israelite slaves to travel from their land
after the exodus from Egypt.

The LORD says, through Obadiah, that the Edomites are full of pride and have
taken advantage of Israel during her distress by taking prisoners and
stealing her goods.

5. What of the general character of the book?

According to Carroll, “The style of Obadiah is remarkably original. …The
language is full of thought and pregnant with meaning. It has a vigor,
terseness, and rapidity which carry the reader along and place him by the
prophet’s side in fullest sympathy.”

6. What other passages of Scripture should be studied with Obadiah?

Jeremiah 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 35 both describe the arrogance of Edom and
God’s judgement against her.

7. Give a brief analysis of the book.

– vss 1-14:  God’s Judgement Because of Edom’s Arrogance and Treatment of Israel
– vss 15-21: The Day of the LORD and the Kingdom of God

8. What is the summary of verses 1-2?

God calls the nations to rise up against Edom to destroy her.

9. What was the character of the Edomites and what was the place of their security?

– The Edomites were proud and arrogant.
– The dwelt securely in the tops of the mountains

10. How is the completeness of the desolation described?

– Nothing will be left – it will be a complete desolation.

11. What reason did the prophet here assign for such desolation?

Edom sided with Israel’s enemies, plundered Israel, and rejoiced in her calamity.

12. What hope for Israel’s victory does the prophet here hold out to the people and how is it to be realized?

Israel will have final victory.  She will be as a flame and Edom will be as
stubble that will be burned and destroyed.

13. When were Obadiah’s prophecies fulfilled?

Edom was destroyed in the 6th Century BC by the Babylonians.  The survivors
pushed into the Negev region of Southern Judah – an area known as Idumea in
the New Testament.  These Idumeans were forced into Judaism and incorporated
into the Kingdom of Judah in the Second Century BC.

The LORD’s kingdom and Israelite posession of the Edomite land (modern
Jordan) will be fulfilled in the last days.

14. What are the lessons of the prophecy of Obadiah?

Love your brother
Pride goes before the fall
Beware of false confidence
Fear God’s wrath

Who Were the Later Prophets?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Introduction – The Prophets in General

1. What section of the Bible are we studying?

The later prophets

2. What can you say, in general, of the commentaries on this section?

Generally, older commentaries are better (pre-1880s), but some conservative modern works may be consulted judiciously.

3. What commentaries are especially commendable?

– Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
– Hengstenberg
– The Pulpit Commentary

4. What are the time limits of the prophetic period and what was the special mission of the prophets?

This period extends 700 years from Samuel to Malachi.

The mission of the prophets was to preach against the despotism of the kings and formalism of the priesthood.

5. What is the definition of the word “prophet”?

The Greek word (prophetes) means “to speak for”, i.e. on behalf of another, so the prophet is one that speaks on behalf of God to man.

6. By what words or terms were the prophets known? Give an illustration of each.

Hebrew nabhi  – means “speaker”
Hebrew ro’eh  – means “seer”
Hebrew chozeh – means “messenger”

also called, “man of God”, “servant of Jehovah”, etc.

7. What can you say about the inspiration of the prophets?

Their minds were stimulated and guided by the Holy Spirit as they proclaimed the message of Jehovah.

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 Pet 1:21)

8. What can you say about prophecy and fulfillment, and what does Orelli say
   about fulfillment of prophecy?

Many prophecies receive successive fulfillments, but one fulfillment is higher and greater than all the rest.  Orelli says, A prophecy can only be regarded as fulfilled when the whole body of truth included in it has attained living realization.”

9. What were the three great periods of writing prophets and who were the writing prophets of each of these periods?

The Assyrian Period, the Chaldean Period, and the Persian Period.

The Assyrian Period:

1) Obadiah
2) Joel
3) Jonah
4) Amos
5) Hosea
6) Isaiah
7) Micah
8) Nahum

The Chaldean Period:

1) Zephaniah
2) Habakkuk
3) Jeremiah
4) Ezekiel
5) Daniel

The Persian Period:

1) Haggai
2) Zechariah
3) Malachi

10. What are the three distinct elements for which a student of the prophets should look?

1) The historical context in which the prophet lived
2) The fulfillment (past or future) of the prophet’s message
3) Age-abiding principles that speak to our age

11. What are certain things that should be remembered in a study of the prophets?

1) Sovereignty of God
2) Obedience to God
3) Glory to God
4) A living hope that God would have ultimate victory

12. What are important considerations in the interpretation of prophecy?

1) Their teaching was full of figures, symbols, parables, and allegories to confound the simple and unbelieving.
2) Understanding the Pentateuch is necessary to understand these figures and symbols

13. What are the underlying themes found throughout predictive prophecy?

1) The failure of the Jewish nation
2) The coming of the Jewish Messiah
3) The establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom
4) The restoration of the Jews to that Kingdom
5) The spread of that Kingdom over the whole earth

What Was the Assyrian Empire?

The Name

The name Assyria is derived from the Greek name Ashur (a descendant of Cush). According to Genesis 10, Cush was one of the sons of Ham, and Cush begat Nimrod the mighty hunter. Nimrod was apparently a builder, as he founded Babel, as well as other important early cities in the land of Shinar (the region we now call Mesopotamia). Out of this region went Ashur, who built the prime cities of the region – Nineveh, Rehoboth, and Calah. These cities are located in the Tigris river valley in northern modern day Iraq (south of the present city of Mosul).


The Assyrian Empire extended from its chief city-state Assur in upper Mesopotamia on the Tigris River. At its peak, it extended from Babylon in the South, to the Kurdish mountains in the North. It occupied the Persian lands now known as Iran and extended as far west as Egypt. The Empire fell in the third century before Christ and was later conquered by the Medes and Romans. It was a hotbed of Christian growth for several centuries before the region was conquered by the Islamic Arabs.


The religion, art, and culture of Assyria was greatly derived from the Babylonians. The national god of the Assyrian people was Assur, who had the Assyrian King as his high priest. This god was also associated with Asherah, “the queen of heaven”, whose worship spread into Israel in the 10th century. Another important god of the Assyrian people was Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess, whose temple was at Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria.


The Kingdom of Assyria came to great prominence under King Tiglath-pileser I in the early 1100s BC (about the time of the reign of Saul over Israel). He extended the empire as far west as the Mediterranean. Later the kingdom declined (during the reigns of David, Solomon, and Solomon’s sons), but was greatly revived (Neo-Assyrian Empire) under the leadership of Assur-nazir-pal III (911 BC). His son, Shalmaneser III, who reigned during the period of Israelite prophets Elija and Elisha, organized all of these conquered territories in the mid-800s and extended the kingdom east and west, destroyed Syria, conquered Persia and Babylon and posed a great threat to Judah. Later Neo-Assyrian Kings (Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II) drove the Egyptians out of Canaan and conquered Samaria and the 10 Israelite Tribes comprising the northern kingdom of Israel. The conquered people were taken into captivity and resettled into new lands, never to return.

Shalmaneser’s son Sennacherib and moved the capital city to Nineveh, defeated the Greeks, and extended his power into Asia Minor. Egypt, trying to gain a foothold in the region, united with Israel (Hezekiah) and several other small nations (Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron), but was driven out by Sennacherib in 701 BC. The Assyrians conquered Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron and destroyed much of the land of Judah, but did not conquer Jerusalem. The Judeans paid tribute to Sennacherib and he left.

The Assyrians continued to exert power in the region until the rise of the Median and Persian kings in the 600s and 500s, respectively.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Thanksgiving thoughts from 2015…

Abraham's Seed

Today is, in the United States, the national observance of Thanksgiving to God for all his blessings in 2015 and commemoration of the first American Thanksgiving which took place in the Plymouth Colony in 1621.


Special days of fasting and mourning for sin and special days of feasting and celebration were common and frequent elements in the life of the 17th Century Puritans. What made that first recognized Thanksgiving celebration on US soil, in 1621, to be such a notable event is the fact that it is the first that was thoroughly documented. Those Plymouth Pilgrims suffered so many great difficulties in their first year in the New World, in their quest for religious freedom, that the first great harvest that God bestowed upon them was incredibly sweet.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year! It is the quintessential Protestant Holiday! It is the hearty, sincere, and humble…

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Happy Reformation Day 2016

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany.  There were certainly many reformers within the church both before, during, and after Martin Luther, but the unintended consequence of this seemingly insignificant event sparked a debate that would eventually roar across the Western Church like a wild fire.  For this reason, Christians celebrate the reformation of the church on October 31st every year.  Next year, of course, will be the 500th anniversary of this momentous occasion!


Our reformation hero for 2016 is John Knox.  Knox was born in Scotland in 1505.  He was well educated as a child and taught at both the University of Glasgow (his Alma matter) and the University of St. Andrews.

The details of Knox’s conversion are not known.  It is known, however, that by 1543, Knox was preaching the free gospel of grace and supported reformed movements within the church.

In 1546, Knox’s friend and fellow reformer George Wishart was burned at the stake at St Andrews castle by Cardinal Beaton.  Shortly after, reformers stormed the castle and killed Beaton.  Many protestants, including Knox, took refuge in the castle.  Knox preached and taught in the castle for a year until he was captured by the French during the Siege of St. Andrews Castle.


As a French prisoner, Knox was sentenced to be chained to an oar as a galley slave.  Knox labored as a slave for 19 months (nearly dying from the harsh conditions).  He was freed as a condition negotiated by Protestant King Edward VI of England.  Knox was returned to England in 1549 where he preached and worked with the English reformers.

Knox had to flee to Frankfurt, Germany when “Bloody” Queen Marty ascended to the throne in 1554.  Later, Knox moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he befriended John Calvin and pastored an English church.

In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland to lead the reformation of the church there.  In his home country, Knox developed a Presbyterian form of church government (as opposed to the hierarchical form of the church of England).  Knox stood up to the Queen of Scotland (at great peril to his own life) and eventually won all of Scotland to the reformed cause.

In 1570, Knox suffered a stroke, but continued his prolific preaching schedule (having to be carried to the pulpit to preach).  Finally, by November of 1572, Knox was spent and the Lord took him home.  His influence on the Scottish reformation, the Westminster Assembly, and American and English religion could never be understated.


“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched
infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am
compelled to thunder out the threatening of God against the obstinate
― John Knox

Matthew Henry’s “Notes”

Shane Lems has a great post today encouraging the use of Matthew Henry’s commentary.

…I appreciate Henry because he had such a great knowledge of Scripture that he constantly alluded to other Bible passages in his commentary. Also, I like Henry because he understood the doctrines of grace and highlighted them in his comments. One other reason I keep on using Henry’s commentaries is because he always worked to apply the text…

Read the Whole Article Here: Matthew Henry’s “Notes”

How Well Can God Be Known?

In the prior 2 posts, I discussed how God can be known: personally and through special revelation.  In this post, I will briefly discuss how much (in what manner) we can actually know about God.  In other words, can the finite mind comprehend infinite wisdom?

This is really a question that answers itself.  Obviously, if God is eternal, all knowing, and all powerful; his infinite qualities cannot be “fully” understood by mere creatures who are made subject to space and time, have significant limitations, and are damaged by sin.  Sooner could an ant fully comprehend and understand all the thoughts and actions of a human being than a man could understand the ways of the Almighty God.

According to King David, a man who knew God as well as any sinful man could:

  • Ps 145:3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
  • Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
  • Ps 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

According to David, God has, in His essential nature, a greatness, power, understanding, and knowledge that is unsearchable and un-understandable.  In is in this sense that God is said to be incomprehensible.  This does not mean that man can know nothing of God, but rather it means that He cannot be fully understood by us.  It is always important to keep this essential truth in mind when we consider the ways, workings, and character of our Creator.  This knowledge should humble us and meditating on it should cause us to be overcome with a sense of awe and worship!

In meditating on the infinite wisdom of God, the Apostle Paul exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord?  … For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36). 

As we learned in the first two posts in this series, this does not mean that we can know nothing of God at all.  Indeed, we can know things about Him by observing his work in nature, and more importantly, we can know Him through His Word by the working of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10).  The nature of this type of knowledge is apprehensive in nature, rather than comprehensive.  According to the 1828 Webster dictionary, the definitions of these important terms are:

Comprehension – Capacity of the mind to understand; power of the understanding to receive and contain ideas; capacity of knowing.  The nature of spirit is not within our comprehension.

Apprehension – An inadequate or imperfect idea, as when the word is applied to our knowledge of God.

 As Paul says, “who hath known the mind of the Lord?”  Indeed, we haven’t.  In fact, we never shall.  On the basis of 1 Cor 13:12, some Christians are under the impression that we shall know God perfectly in eternity.  This is simply untrue.  If human beings were given the knowledge and power in the eternal state, to know everything of God perfectly, we would be equal to Him in some measure.  This is not what the Apostle is teaching.  Paul is teaching us, in 1 Cor 13, that our personal knowledge of God today is hazy and imperfect, but in that day, we will behold him in a face-to-face fashion.  It is one thing to say you have seen a picture of someone.  It is quite another to have actually met that person face-to-face.  Someone who has only seen a picture of the President has a far less complete understanding of what the president is like than one who has met him face-to-face.  In the eternal state, we are promised something far greater – not just to meet our Creator face-to-face, but to know him!

According to Dr. Wayne Grudem, this doctrine has great application to the Christian life.  If we can never fully comprehend God, we can never stop learning about Him and His greatness – “for we will never run out of things to learn about him, and we will thus never tire in delighting in the discovery of more and more of his excellence and of the greatness of his works.”  He goes on to say, “For all eternity we will be able to go on increasing in our knowledge of God and delighting ourselves more and more in him…”

As says the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end (i.e. purpose) of man?

A: To Know God and enjoy Him forever.

Thomas Vincent writes in his commentary on the catechism:

Q. How will God be enjoyed by his people hereafter?

A. God will be enjoyed hereafter by his people, when they shall be admitted into his glorious presence, have an immediate sight of his face, and full sense of his love in heaven, and there fully and eternally acquiesce and rest in him with perfect and inconceivable delight and joy. “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”— 1 Cor. 23:12. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”— Heb. 4:9. “In thy presence there is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”— Ps. 16:11