Thursday, April 9, 2015

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart?


The question of whether Pharaoh hardened his own heart or if God was the one who hardened it has been discussed for centuries in the Christian world. The answer to this question is simple, but it calls for a thorough review of the scriptures which address it. In scripture we find places where it tells us "Pharaoh  hardened his heart" and other places where it tells us "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." So the simple answer to this question is, "both Pharaoh and God played a role in the process." In this article I will seek to unravel the way that this process happened and how it testifies to God's patience and sovereignty as well as the free will that He has given to us as human beings.

Let's begin with looking Chronologically at the hardening of Pharaoh's heart:

1.) Exodus 7:13- "Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said."

2.) Exodus 8:15- "But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said."

3.) Exodus 8:32- "But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go."

4.) Exodus 9:12- "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses."

5.) Exodus 9:34- "When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts."

6.) Exodus 10:1- Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them."

7.) Exodus 10:20- "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go."

8.) Exodus 10:27- "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go."

9.) Exodus 11:10- "Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."

10.) Exodus 14:4- "And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this."

11.) Exodus 14:8- "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly."

12.) Exodus 14:17- "I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen."


So we see 3 distinct instances (2. 3. & 5.) where the Bible clearly indicates that Pharaoh hardened his own heart out of his own autonomous choice. We also see 6 distinct instances (4. 6. 7. 8. 9. & 11.) where the Bible says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, one of which correlates to the #5 occurrence which says Pharaoh and his officials hardened their own hearts.  So which is it? Did God harden Pharaoh or did Pharaoh harden his own heart? I think the correlation between occurrence #5 & #6 gives us some insight.

5.) Exodus 9:34- "When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts."

Here we see that after the plague of hail Pharaoh and his officials hardened their own hearts. This was written from an intentional perspective of the writer indicating that Pharaoh and his officials did in fact make this choice on their own. Now take a look at how God addresses this occurrence in the next chapter:

6.) Exodus 10:1- Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them."

So although from a technical aspect we understand from occurrence #4 that Pharaoh and his officials decided to rebel, God in occurrence #5 admits that His sovereignty played a part in the process. Now we know from scripture that God does not cause sin or evil to happen (James 1:13), so how is it that He played a role in hardening these men so that they sinned? The answer is that God "indirectly hardened them." That is, God foreknew that because of their sinful disposition they would respond to His righteous judgments with hardness. So the phrase "God hardened them" refers to God sending judgment with the knowledge of how they would respond, yet sending it anyway. Even the prophet Samuel admits that Pharaoh was the one who ultimately hardened his own heart:

1 Samuel 6:6-"Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?"

Does this mean that God was wrong to send judgement upon Pharaoh in such a way that he knew Pharaoh would respond with hardness of heart? Absolutely not. If you notice that Pharaoh initially set into motion the process of hardening by doing so of his own accord in occurrence #1, #2 & #3 we can realize that judgement was appropriate for this man who willfully disobeyed God. Thus the subsequent hardenings  in occurrences #3-#11 were the snowball effect (spiritual consequences) of Pharaoh's initial prideful disposition (Proverbs 16:18). Although God knew this all in advance Pharaoh was capable of repentance from the beginning (see Ezekiel 18:23). The unfathomable wisdom in this entire ordeal is that God was able to take the righteous judgement of a willfully sinful man and use it to display His glory and power to all who lived in Egypt (Exodus 14:4).

We see Paul explaining this process of spiritual consequence and the "snowball effect" of rebellion in Romans chapter 1:

Romans 1:21-24- "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.


Pharaoh initially chose to rebel against God. After a window of time to repent God decided to give Pharaoh over to his hardness as a spiritual consequence to his actions. God has worked this way throughout the whole of scripture. He is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). He "strived with men" in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:3), being patient with them as the Ark was being built, even using Noah to preach to them (2 Peter 2:5). But after they had reached a point of "no return" (Genesis 6:5) He sent the flood as righteous judgement for their actions. 

God does not directly harden anybody so as to cause them to sin (James 1:13). But He does hand people who are already willfully rebellious over to their sin as a spiritual judgement for their actions (Romans 1). This was the case with Pharaoh, and it is also the case with many today. God is long suffering toward us, calling us all to repent. But once we reach the breaking point demonstrating no willingness to respond to God when He calls, He hands us over to our wickedness and allows for us to be tangled in our own mess.

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

For more inspirational content SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

photo credit: http://www.eborg2.com/BibleOT/02-Exodus/Exodus-002.jpg


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Can you lose your salvation?


The Doctrine of Eternal Security  teaches that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation. It doesn't mean that a person who is truly saved will never lose faith or backslide at any time. But that they will ultimately persevere in faith (in spite of failures) such as not to lose their salvation.

When one meets the condition of responding to the Gospel with faith and repentance they become included in Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption:

Ephesians 1:13-14-"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth,the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."

So above we find Paul explaining to the Ephesians that we are included in Christ when? "When we heard the message of truth,the gospel of our salvation, and believed it." So when we hear the Gospel of Christ and we allow it to pierce deep into our heart, it produces faith (see Romans 10:17) which redeems us and includes us among the eternal predestined holy people of God. He goes on to explain whether or not we can be "excluded" from Christ at any point saying, "when you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession."So Paul clarifies that once we are included in Christ we are sealed from ever being excluded from Christ, notice we are sealed "until the redemption of those who are God’s possession (into eternity/ the resurrection of the righteous)."

There is a theological perspective formally known as Conditional Security which objects to the eternal security of the believer. Among the objections are a few scriptures that if misunderstood, can seem as though they are saying one can lose their salvation. Let's take a look as some of these.

Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”

At first glance this scripture seems to teach that a believer can lose their salvation. The first possible explanation is that the author is using a common argument technique called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurd conclusion. The author is setting up a hypothetical statement saying “IF a Christian were to fall away, here is the absurdity of what would have to happen...” In this case the absurd conclusion would mean that Jesus would have to be crucified again, but we know this is ridiculous because His sacrifice was completely sufficient the first time (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus said "it is finished" (John 19:30). So by showing the absurdity of the conclusion the author disproves the assertion that a true believer could lose their salvation.

Another possibility is that these individuals were Hebrew converts in the process of coming to embrace Christianity but not fully converted at that point. The theology website "got-questions" explains the phrases in this passage that can be misinterpreted to mean that the author is addressing Christians, here is how it is explained:

"This passage is written not about Christians but about unbelievers who are convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted.

According to this interpretation, the phrase “once enlightened” (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. However, understanding the words of scripture is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the “true Light,” giving light “to every man”; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group—unbelievers who have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith."

This interpretation also sees the phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus’ “tasting” death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved.

Finally, this interpretation sees the “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance." (http://www.gotquestions.org/Hebrews-6.html)


I would even add to this view by pointing out that verse 7-8 says, "For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned." What the author is doing here is drawing a contrast between those who receive God's blessing/salvation (those who bear fruit), and those unbelievers who fall away (those who produce thorns and thistles). In this comparison both crops received rain and nourishment (enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit) but one bore fruit and the other bore useless vegetation. What was the difference? One accepted the Gospel, received a new nature, and bore fruit, and the other rejected the Gospel after being given every possible sign that it was true, leaving no possibility of repentance.

Lastly, the author confirms to us that he is not referring to those who are genuine Christians by saying in verse 9, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation." By referring to them as "beloved" and saying that they are certain of "things that belong to salvation" rather than "things that belong to damnation" the author is clarifying that there is a difference between them (the fruit bearing crop) and those who fall away (the thorn bearing crop). The ones who fall away are not included among those he titles "the beloved" but rather those whom he titles as "worthless, near being cursed, and having an end to be burned." Therefore it is clear from this passage that true believers will not fall away while many who "profess to be Christians" will fall away.

Hebrews 10:26-29- “For if we are willfully sinning after receiving the full knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins.”

This is another classic scripture touted as evidence that a true believer can lose their salvation. What some scholars have failed to take into account is the fact that the author was speaking to Hebrew Christians that were undergoing great persecution for leaving Judaism. Among these Hebrews were those who may have been exposed to the Gospel in such a way that they were receptive, but not yet accepting it fully with their hearts. These men would fit into the category of the individuals mentioned in the parable of the sower where the seed was "sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away (Mark 4:17). The author of Hebrews argues constantly throughout the letter that the temple sacrifices have become obsolete in light of the arrival of Jesus as the "Great High Priest." Therefore the author is calling these men to not fall prey to falling away from their desire to convert in the face of persecution, because there "remains no more (temple) sacrifice concerning sins.” The author was emphasizing that Judaism offers no provision for atoning for sin because the temples sacrifices have become fulfilled in Jesus, and Christ became the perfect sacrifice that takes away sin for all time (Hebrews 9:28). Therefore we can see how this verse perfectly fits the context of the author appealing to men who had received a "full knowledge of the truth" but were considering turning back to Judaism instead of trekking forward into a full embrace of the Gospel by faith in Jesus Christ.

In the parable of the sower we find 4 different categories of people with each of the analogies referring to the condition of their heart (See Mark 4:13-20). The first is the path (hard heart), then the rocky soil, then the thorny ground, and then the good soil. The Bible only mentions one category of people actually being considered "saved" (the good soil). In the rocky soil, and thorny ground category the Bible indicates that they "received the word" but it did not take root enough to lead to salvation. Therefore there are many instances in which people can exhibit "Christian behavior" yet the don't actually have a genuine relationship with Christ, this is often the case with passages that are used to teach a Christian can lose their salvation including Hebrews 10:26. Read the words of Jesus & the apostle John:

Matthew 7:22-23-"Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

1 John 2:19- "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

The strengths of the Doctrine of Eternal Security are that it prevents us from devoting ourselves to God out of a sort of "slavish obedience" only following the Lord because they are afraid that He will revoke grace from us if we make a wrong move. It also gives us a basis for rejoicing and thanking God for the free gift of eternal life, which if there was a possibility of becoming "unsaved" due to a future sin we would not be able to rejoice with certainty in the hope of eternal life as the Bible exhorts us to. 

The opponents of Eternal Security argue that it's primary flaw is providing people with a license for immorality. And I would say that depends on how this doctrine is taught, and is something we need to take serious. If people come to the conclusion that Eternal Security gives them a license for immorality I would suggest that they have only been given half of the story. Inherent in becoming one of God's children and being pardoned from sin is also becoming adopted by a Father who disciplines His children. This means that after we become Christians God has promised to correct and discipline us when we commit sin (Hebrew 12:6), and His discipline is not pleasant by any means. So are there consequences for sin after becoming a Christian? Absolutely. But can a Christian sin in such a way that God revokes grace from them? No because the power of the Holy Spirit keeps them from such an end and chastens them back to the place of obedience (1 Peter 1:5, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrew 12:6). Therefore, Eternal Security does not provide a license for immorality, on the contrary it reinforces the reality that we have a New Nature in Christ and loving Father who protects us from being separated from His love and that includes protecting us from ourselves through discipline (Romans 8:39).

The last common objection from supporters of "Conditional Security" is, "since God gives us free will He will not force us to keep our salvation if we later decide we do not want it any longer." The problem with this is that our will changes after being saved. If God causes our will to work for His good purpose then we can trust that our decisions will not lead to a total and final rejecting of Christ. He has "sealed us until the day of redemption (Ephesian 1:13-14)," and Philippians 2:13 says "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." So not only do we receive the Holy Spirit who seals us when we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to cause our will to avoid an ultimate decision to relinquish our position in Christ. This is why Jesus could confidently say "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)"

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is required for salvation?


Acts 2:37-38- "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

So the first question that comes to my mind is which component provides the remission of sins "repentance" or "baptism" or "both?" In order to avoid conjecturing I begin to research other parts of God's Word that my shed some light because Peter doesn't take time to specify the full meaning in his discourse. I want the Biblical answer not the personally formulated answer. So I begin to study the word regarding the phrase "remission of sins" and find many scriptures:

Matt. 26:28- For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Acts 10:43- To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 13:39- And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Acts 15:9- And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Hebrews 6:1- not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.

Ephesians 1:7- In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace

Romans 3:25- Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;


From this study I see a pattern emerging. Repentance is described as "getting rid of dead works and having faith toward God (Hebrew 6:1)." The blood of Christ provides remission for our sins (Matt 26.28 etc.) And we receive this "propitiation through faith in His blood (Romans 3:25 etc.). We also see that faith in Christ's blood gives us remission of sins (Acts 10:43). So I can now see the Biblical answer to my question emerging as "repentance (faith toward God) provides remission of sins through the blood of Christ."

This immediately causes me to wonder what component baptism plays in the process that Peter is describing. So I begin to search out what the Bible teaches regarding the role of Baptism:

1 Peter 3:21- The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Hebrew 9:14- How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Colossians 2:11-12- 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Romans 4:11- And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised:


From this study I see another pattern emerging. Baptism is described as a "figure" which operates as "an answer of a good conscience toward God." Our conscience is purged by faith in Jesus' blood (repentance, Hebrew 9:14) and baptism declares that this purging has taken place. Baptism is compared to circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12) which was a " a seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had yet being uncircumcised." So I can conclude that baptism "saves us (Greek- sozo "Completes us, makes us whole in a temporal sense") (1 Peter 3:21) " in the sense of operating as a sign /seal of the righteousness that we already received by repenting of dead works and having faith toward God.

The Bible does not indicate the Baptism washes away sin but that it operates as "the answer of a good conscience toward God." And it circumcises the "old self" by burying Him with Christ leaving only the "new self" in place thereafter (a new self that came through repentance and faith). So I see baptism playing a "sealing" role (which Peter calls "figurative salvation") and repentance playing a "saving" role. 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that Baptism only "saves us" figuratively (seals the righteousness we already have by faith) through the answer of a good conscience toward God. 

Remission= repentance (Hebrews 6:1) (Hebrews 9:14) (Acts 10:43)
Calling on the Lord= declaring "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9)
Baptism= the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21), which is by immersion.

The statement "answer of a good conscience toward God" assumes that a good conscience is already present. This good conscience comes through the purging of Jesus' blood through faith (Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 3:25). Scripture teaches Baptism as an "answer/ response" of a good conscience toward God, which means salvation takes place prior to baptism making a good conscience already present in the individual who is getting baptized.

Based upon how the whole of scripture addresses baptism I can conclude that it is absolutely crucial to a Christian's effectiveness in the kingdom, but I cannot conclude that it is the means by which God bestows eternal life upon an individual. Scripture repeatedly teaches that faith in Christ is how one receives eternal life, baptism is repeatedly taught as a "first act of obedience by those who are saved through faith."

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

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photo credit: http://www.crosswaybible.org/believers-baptism/

Thursday, April 2, 2015

On what day was Jesus crucified?

Every year as we make our way toward Easter many people wonder what day of the week Jesus actually died on. The reason being is that Jesus said that He would spend three days & three nights in the grave before rising (Matt. 12:40) but we celebrate His crucifixion on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday, which adds up to only 1 and 1/2 days.

People who support the view that says Jesus was crucified on Friday cite Mark 15:42 which says that Jesus was crucified on "the day before the Sabbath," and the Jewish Sabbath has always been on Saturday. But this still leaves the problem of Jesus saying He would spend 3 days and 3 nights in the grave. The key to understanding what day Jesus was crucified on is to understand that "High Holy Days" were considered Sabbath days also.

John 19:31 tells us that Jesus was crucified on the day leading up to Passover which was a "High Holy Day (Sabbath)." Based on the 3 days and 3 nights time table that Jesus gave us we can calculate that Jesus died on Wednesday evening leading into Passover which fell on Thursday that year. This would mean that Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath of that year's Passover. He spent Wednesday night Thursday day- Thursday night Friday day- Friday night and Saturday day- in the grave rising on Saturday evening (3 days and 3 nights). Thus, the women who visited the tomb on Sunday morning found the tomb empty.

Scripture further substantiates this timeline in Mark 16:1 which tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices for Jesus body after the "Sabbath" and then in Luke 23:56 it says that after they returned from preparing the spices they rested on the Sabbath. Therefore, the only way for it to be possible for the women to purchase spices after the Sabbath AND rest on the Sabbath afterward is if there were two Sabbaths that week. The first being the Passover Sabbath on Thursday, the second being the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. So the women would have most likely purchased the spices on Friday.

As you can see this timeline fits very well with the Biblical events which are mentioned surrounding the days during which Jesus was crucified, buried, and risen from the dead. Tradition has dictated that we celebrate the 3 day timeline from Friday to Sunday instead of Wednesday to Sunday. This does not mean that we should disengage in celebrating Easter the way our modern culture does. In the grand scheme of things it makes little difference as to which timeline you subscribe to. I hope this article has shed some light on this perplexing question that many have wondered about. God bless and happy resurrection day!(see below for a chart that illustrates this timeline)



Photo credit: http://www.rapturechrist.com/twosabbaths.htm

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

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