Course Spotlight: By Prayer and Fasting

Scripture tells us what our Savior did to acquire spiritual strength, in connection with the devil’s attack on Him: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [or tried] by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1–2). Notice—He fasted!

Course Spotlight from The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Who is Reverend?

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min

Did you know that the English word reverend appears in our King James Bible only once and that it is never used of human beings?

Despite that, this word is often used as a title for clergy in the Christian world. This naturally raises the question of why it is customary to refer to members of religious orders by this term. This Digging Deeper explores the original intent of this word’s appearance in Scripture and some brief history behind its popular usage when referring to clerics. Our focus verse is: “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9 KJV throughout).

The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable offers a description of this psalm’s genre: “This is one of the acrostic psalms (cf. Psalm 9, 10; Psalm 25; Psalm 34; Psalm 37; Psalm 112; Psalm 119; Psalm 145). Each successive line in the Hebrew text begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The writer evidently expressed his thoughts this way so the Israelites could memorize and recite the psalm easily. He recounted the Lord’s great works of redemption that should draw out His people’s praise” (e-Sword 13.0). Redemption and covenant are deeply related to the word reverend when used of God, as we will consider later.

The meaning of reverend

Webster’s 1913 Unabridged Dictionary defines reverend as “Worthy of reverence; entitled to respect mingled with fear and affection; venerable” (e-Sword 13.0). Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible provides its etymology: “The word reverend comes to us from the Latins, reverendus, and is compounded of re, intensive, and vereor, to be feared; and most or right reverend, reverendissimus, signifies to be greatly feared” (e-Sword 13.0).

However, when this word is used in western culture of a religious office, the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary declares it to be: “A title of respect given to the clergy or ecclesiastics. We style a clergyman reverend; a bishop is styled right reverend; an archbishop most reverend. The religious in catholic countries, are styled reverend fathers; abbesses, prioresses, &c. reverend mothers. In Scotland, as in the United States, the clergy are individually styled reverend. A synod is styled very reverend, and the general assembly venerable” (e-Sword 13.0).

Nonetheless, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible boldly protests: “This title belongs not to man; nor does any minister, in assuming the title reverend, assume this. Indeed, the word reverend, as now used, gives us a very imperfect conception of the original term. Holy and tremendous is God’s name. He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, both in the way of judgment and in the way of mercy” (e-Sword 13.0). Once again, we see that what rightly belongs to God has been assumed by men for themselves.

Terrible and to be feared

Henry Morris defines the Hebrew word translated reverend in his July 1, 2021 “Days of Praise” reprinted article entitled The Reverend God: “However, the Hebrew word so translated in this verse (yârê’) occurs therein frequently, usually being translated (some 30 times) as ‘terrible.’ The first time it is applied to God was by Moses. ‘Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible’ (Deuteronomy 7:21). Note also Moses’ testimony in Deuteronomy 10:17: ‘For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.'”

Since yare is used in several different contexts, Ethelbert Bullinger’s Companion Bible defines it as: “to be feared. Hebrew. nora’ from yare’ to be afraid. The Niphal Part, (as here) rendered “dreadful” (5); “to be feared” (3); “fearful” (2); “fearfully” (1); “to be had in reverence” (1); “reverend” (1); “terrible” (24); “terrible acts” (1); “terrible things” (5); “terribleness” (1). Compare Psalm 45:4; 47:2; 65:5; 66:3,5; 68:35; 76:12; 99:3; 106:22, &c” (e-Sword 13.0).

Webster’s 1913 Unabridged Dictionary states that the word terrible in this context means: “Adapted or likely to excite terror, awe, or dread; dreadful; formidable” (e-Sword 13.0). God is a fearsome God to His enemies. However, His servants consider Him worthy of reverence, respect, fear, and veneration. Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments explains: “Terrible to his enemies, venerable in his people’s eyes, and holy in all his dealings with all men” (e-Sword 13.0).

A title fit only for God

Since this word should only be used of the Almighty, C.H. Spurgeon’s Treasury of David describes the profound respect and love that humans owe Him: “The whole name or character of God is worthy of profoundest awe, for it is perfect and complete, whole or holy. It ought not to be spoken without solemn thought, and never heard without profound homage. His name is to be trembled at, it is something terrible; even those who know him best rejoice with trembling before him” (e-Sword 13.0). Many Jews will not even pronounce His name out of deep respect but use substitute titles instead.

The Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D. M. Spence and by Joseph S. Exell, compares the awe and devotion our focus verse requires and reveals how most people have failed to offer them to God: “‘Reverend’ here means ‘worthy of reverence.’ Horace Bushnell has a striking sentence: ‘This age is at the point of apogee from all the robuster notions of Deity.’ And therefore this age is an irreverent age. Even in the shaping of religious beliefs there are signs of undue familiarity with God. And that undue familiarity explains much of the weakness of Christian living, and lightness of Christian worship” (e-Sword 13.0).

Many today are too casual with the Great God of the universe. Witness how frequently we hear people declare, “Oh my God (OMG)!” or “Oh, God (Gosh, Golly).” In cursing and swearing, many take God’s name in vain with shocking profanity – at least it should be shocking but so many are inured to this vulgarity. A healthy fear of God will motivate people to live godly lives that bring glory to His name and will deter them from misusing it. Notice the next verse: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10 KJV).

Related to a covenant relationship

In the first part of the verse, the psalmist declares that God sent redemption unto His people. The Holman KJV Study Bible details the word redemption for us: “Redemption (Hb padah) denotes the exchange of a payment price for liberation (Deuteronomy 7:8; Isaiah 35:10; 50:2; 51:11) and it occurs in this noun form only three other times (Exodus 8:23 ‘division’; Psalm 130:7; Isa. 50:2)” (Tecarta Bible App). Egypt paid a terrible price for Israel’s freedom. Because God redeemed His people, they were to fear and revere Him through willful obedience.

It is important to notice that the middle of the verse states that God commands His covenant forever. The next phrase, “Holy and reverend is his name” relates to this. The Holman KJV Study Bible explains: “The phrase reverend (lit ‘to be feared’) is his name implies a covenantal relationship (68:35; 89:7; 99:3; Exodus 34:10; Deuteronomy 7:21; 28:58)” (Tecarta Bible App).  Because God’s people are in covenant with Him, they owe Him the glory due to His name and should shudder at the thought of treating this relationship disrespectfully in any way.

To conclude our brief study on this word, we should consider how this may apply to us today. Multiple nations lack a deep reverence for the Almighty God. Their plunge into demeaning vulgarity and debauchery seems to have no bottom. How may it be restored? The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, edited by Sir W. Robertson Nicoll and Jane T. Stoddart, asserts: “Now it is plain is it not? it is needless to labour the point, that there can be no great future for any nation which is lacking in the sense of reverence. In the case of the people, as in the case of men, we can only rise if we can dare to stoop; we can only rise in character if at some point we bow in reverence. It is forgetfulness of God that is accountable for the spread of impudence and irreverence. It is the fear of God that alone can restore it” (e-Sword 13.0). This is the only way to make a nation great again (Deuteronomy 4:5-6; Psalm 33:12).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: How to Pray When You Are Discouraged

Do you find it difficult to pray when you are discouraged or depressed? It is ironic that just when we need God’s help the most, we may have our greatest difficulty in reaching out to Him for the help that we so desperately need. Why is this?

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

Digging Deeper: Are you a Christian?

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min. 42 sec.

Did you know that the designation Christian, or its plural form, appears in our Bible only three times?

Today, these words are frequently repeated about those who are disciples of Jesus Christ. Is it not surprising that these words appear so few times in our Bible? As might be expected, they only appear in our New Testament; but they never appear in the gospels. Jesus did not give His followers this name. This naturally raises questions about the meaning and use of these words today. This Digging Deeper searches these questions from the New Testament to come to grips with the origin of these commonly used names.

And the disciples were called Christians…

The first appearance of either word is: “And when he [Barnabas] had found him [Saul-Paul], he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26 KJV throughout). In this section of Acts, Luke describes the beginning of the church in Syrian Antioch, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, in the 40s AD. Notice that God’s people were first called Christians outside the Holy Land!

The early disciples did not originate the name nor choose it for themselves. Rather, Smith’s Bible Dictionary reports: “They were known to each other as, and were among themselves called, brethren, Acts 15:1; 23; 1 Corinthians 7:12, disciples, Acts 9:26; 11:29, believers, Acts 5:14, saints, Romans 8:27; 15:25″ (e-Sword 13.0). Its origin is explained by The ESV Study Bible: “The fact that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch probably reflects a label applied by the unbelieving public in Antioch and shows that the disciples were beginning to have an identity of their own apart from other Jews. Cf. also 26:28 and 1 Pet. 4:16” (Tecarta Bible App). The name would not have originated with Jews, as the KJV Study Bible asserts: “The Jews would never label them as Christians, because that would be tantamount to saying that these were the people of the Messiah” (Tecarta Bible App).

The Church of God by then was rapidly growing among several ethnic communities. The Word in Life Bible (CEV) provides a probable scenario: “For the most part, people of the Lord’s Way had been Jewish believers. But in Antioch there was an infusion of other ethnic groups, and observers were perplexed as to what to call the multicultural body. The new reality required a new name. Standard ethnic designations – Jew, Greek, Roman, Gentile – no longer fit. So the Antiochians seized on the one factor that united the diverse community – Christ” (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998, p. 1703). This name was probably intended to mean “belonging to Christ” or “followers of Christ.”            

The meaning of “Christian”

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains its language derivation: “In its form it was essentially Latin, after the pattern of the Pompeiani, Sullani, and other party-names; and so far it would seem to have grown out of the contact of the new society with the Romans stationed at Antioch, who, learning that its members acknowledged the Christos as their head, gave them the name of Christiani” (e-Sword 13.0). David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary answers this question: “How did the name Christian ever become associated with the followers of Jesus?

i. The ending ian meant ‘the party of.’ A Christ-ian was ‘of the party of Jesus.’ Christians is sort of like saying ‘Jesus-ites,’ or ‘Jesus People,’ those of the group associated with Jesus Christ.

ii. Also, soldiers under particular generals in the Roman army would identify themselves by their general’s name by adding ian to the end. A soldier under Caesar would call himself a Caesarian. Soldiers under Jesus Christ could be called Christians.

iii. In Antioch, they probably first used the term Christians to mock the followers of Jesus. ‘Antioch was famous for its readiness to jeer and call names; it was known by its witty epigrams.’ (Gaebelein) But as the people of Antioch called the followers of Jesus the ‘Jesus People,’ the believers appreciated the title so much that it stuck” (e-Sword 13.0).

The NKJ Study Bible provides later historical recognition of these people by this term: “The believers were called Christians because they worshiped Christ, the Messiah. The historian Josephus called them ‘that tribe of Christians.’ Tacitus, the Roman historian, referred to them as ‘Christians, a name derived from Christ'” (Tecarta Bible App). The name continued to spread throughout the Roman Empire. J.R. Dummelow’s A Commentary on the Holy Bible notes: “In 64 a.d. Tacitus mentions that the name was in use among the common people at Rome” (e-Sword 13.0).

Even though its earthly origin may appear to have been pagan, The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series declares this name may unknowingly have had a divine origin: “Isaiah prophesied that God’s people would be called by ‘another name’ and a ‘new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name.’ (Isaiah 65:15; 62:1-2.) The name Christian is the only one that is new, for in the Old Testament we have Godly people called saints (Psalm 16:3), brethren (Psalm 133:1), and disciples (Isaiah 8:16). I therefore believe this name was given to us by God, and not by the heathens or Gentiles” (e-Sword 13.0). God may have worked behind the scenes to give His people an appropriate moniker by the unbelieving community of Antioch.

To suffer as a Christian

The second appearance of either word is: “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28 KJV). For the background and explanation of this verse, please read my Digging Deeper article Almostfrom June 23, 2021. The third appearance of either word is: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16 KJV). To understand this verse better, The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series provides essential context for Peter’s admonition from within this same book: “The phrase ‘suffer as a Christian’ is here equivalent to ‘when ye do well’ (1 Peter 2:20), ‘zealous for that which is good’ (1 Peter 3:13), and ‘for righteousness’ sake’” (1 Peter 3:14)” (e-Sword 13.0). Their suffering from the unbelieving world was evidence they were doing the right things.

Even though the brethren had not chosen this term for themselves, Peter exhorts that brethren who are persecuted by unbelievers are to accept it gracefully. Peter admonishes them to not be ashamed if they suffer for Christ. The culture of the time was based on honor and shame. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible reports: “Greek and Roman male society craved honor, but, as here, many Greek sages noted that it was genuinely honorable to suffer scorn for doing what was right” (Tecarta Bible App).

The price of following Christ

Nonetheless, being called Christian could be a serious charge. Lange’s Commentary of the New Testament explains: “In the opinion of their enemies, the name was infamous, and so we must understand it here, cf. 1 Peter 4:14. With the Jews it was tantamount to sectary, renegade and rebel; with the heathen it was equal to atheist” (e-Sword 13.0). The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds this chilling note: “The title seems a political nickname (resembling Pompeiians—members of Pompey’s party—and other titles of political parties). Those who believed that Christ was king could be accused of treason, and the title ‘Christians’ became a legal charge (1 Peter 4:16), though it was soon embraced by Jesus’ followers as a welcome title. Here it was probably merely ridicule; Antiochans developed a reputation for mocking people” (Tecarta Bible App).

Christians were soon being seen as separate from Judaism, which was recognized as a legal religion of the Roman Empire. Jews began to expel Christians from their synagogues. This opened up Christians to life-threatening persecution from the Roman state. James Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels makes this alarming comment: “To ‘suffer as a Christian’ i.e. (for being a Christian) covers a wide range of experience, from molestation to official and even capital punishment. The latter extreme, however, is not prominent in this passage, although the term ἀπολογία certainly suggests it. But the vague outline of 1 Peter 4:14-17 is filled out and vividly coloured by the later evidence of Pliny and of the 2nd cent. martyrs’ literature, which shows how Christianity was treated as a forbidden or illicit religion, hostile to the national cult, and therefore exposing any of its adherents, without further question, to the punishment of death” (e-Sword 13.0).

The word Christian is used so commonly and casually today in all sorts of contexts. In surveys, many profess Christianity but seldom adhere to its tenets. Kingcomments challenges professing Christians: “This name is still used, but unfortunately it no longer only includes true believers. The world no longer knows who is a real and not a real Christian. Unfortunately the world gets a false impression of the Lord Jesus by the wrong behavior of the nominal Christians and even more unfortunately also of true Christians” (BP Bible App). Few understand its significant and potentially dangerous connotation from the first century. To identify oneself as a Christian then could mean death (John 16:2). This is a sobering thought for those who profess to be Christ’s disciples at this end of the age. One way or another, there is a price to pay for following Jesus of Nazareth. Let every Christian count the cost (Luke 14:28).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: The Holy Spirit

On the night of His final Passover, Jesus Christ told His disciples that He was going to return to the Father. “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18 KJV). He went on to explain, He would send them another Comforter or Helper. In what way could the Holy Spirit be considered as a helper or advocate?

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 2) The Letters of John and Jude

Digging Deeper: Who Were Concubines?

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 7 min. 26 sec.

Did you know that the word concubine as used in the Old Testament does not bear the same connotation as in modern English?

Today it has a rather negative meaning of a mistress or paramour outside of marriage. However, that was not the meaning of this family institution in Old Testament times. This Digging Deeper investigates the times of the patriarchs, judges, and kings of Israel to better understand who concubines were and what their place in the family was.

The meaning of “concubine”

The words concubine or concubines appear 39 times in 37 verses in the King James Bible – all in the Old Testament. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains the derivation of our English word: “We borrow this word from the Latin compound concubina, from con, together, and cubo, to lie, and apply it solely to a woman cohabiting with a man without being legally married” (e-Sword 13.0). However, that is how the word is understood and used now. The first appearance of this English word in our Bible is the mention of Reumah, the concubine of Abraham’s brother, Nahor: “And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah” (Genesis 22:24 KJV throughout).  Understanding the customs of the times will redirect our understanding of this institution from what seems so strange to our Western minds.

The Hebrew word for concubine is pilegesh (pee-leh’-ghesh). The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature by John McClintock and James Strong provides its definition and derivation: “(פִּילֶגֶשׁ, pile’gesh, deriv. uncertain, but apparently connected with the Gr. πάλλαξ [fully in the plur. נָשִׁים פִּילִגְשִׁים, 2 Samuel 15:16; 20:3]; Chald. לְהֵנָה lechenah’, Daniel 5:2-3, 23), denotes in the Bible not a paramour (Gr. παλλακή), but only a female conjugally united to a man in a relation inferior to that of the regular wife (אִשָּׁה)” (e-Sword 13.0). Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible adds: “The Hebrew word is פילגש  pilegesh, which is also a compound term, contracted, according to Parkhurst, from פלג  palag, to divide or share, and נגש  nagash, to approach; because the husband, in the delicate phrase of the Hebrew tongue, approaches the concubine, and shares the bed, etc., of the real wife with her” (Ibid.).

An issue of status

In Western culture, concubine describes a woman who is not a man’s wife but yet lives with him in a sexual relationship. This was not the case in ancient times. A concubine was a culturally lawful wife of lower rank who was not wedded with matrimonial ceremonies and solemnities, being inferior to the first wife who was mistress of the house. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible explains that she was: “Not an harlot, but a secondary wife, who was under the proper and lawful wife, and a sort of a head servant in the family, and chiefly kept for the procreation of children; which was not thought either unlawful or dishonourable in those times such as was Hagar in Abraham’s family” (e-Sword 13.0). Being servants, concubines had no authority in the family.

Social status was well-defined in ancient times compared to our egalitarian western culture. Dave Miller in his Apologetics Press article Concubines? recently wrote: “In a country where social status and barriers are of minimal concern, it is difficult for us to grasp the magnitude of the chasm that existed between classes in ancient cultures, a chasm that stayed with a person throughout life regardless of advancements along the way.”

What led to the institution of concubinage is explained by Fausset’s Bible Dictionary: “The desire of offspring in the Jew [Israelite] was associated with the hope of the promised Redeemer. This raised concubinage from the character of gross sensuality which ordinarily it represents, especially when a wife was barren. This in some degree palliates, though it does not justify, the concubinage of Nahor, Abraham, and Jacob. The concubine’s children were adopted, as if they were the wife’s own offspring; and the suggestion to the husband often came from the wife herself (Genesis 30). The children were regarded, not as illegitimate, but as a supplementary family to that of the wife.” (e-Sword 13.0). However, The Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools’ note on Genesis 22:24 states: “The children of the concubine denote a less intimate tribal relationship than the children of the legal wife” (e-Sword 13.0). These children did not inherit their father’s fortune, though he might provide for them with gifts.

The laws concerning concubines

Polygyny was customary in the east and was tolerated in Old Testament times. The Fausset Bible Dictionary explains: “From the beginning, when man was sinless it was not so; for God made male and female that in marriage ‘they TWAIN should be one flesh’ Matthew 19:4-5, 8)” (e-Sword 13.0). Polygyny was not God’s original intention for humankind. However, the first couple sinned and as Fausset elaborates further: ” … in the course of developing corruption, strayed more and more from the original law, God provisionally sanctioned a code which imposed some checks on the prevalent licentiousness, and exercised His divine prerogative of overruling man’s evil to ultimate good. Such a provisional state was not the best absolutely, but the best under existing circumstances. The enactment was not a license to sin, but a restraint upon existing sin, and a witness against the hardness of man’s heart” (Ibid.).

Smith’s Bible Dictionary comments on who could become a concubine: “A concubine would generally be either

(1) a Hebrew girl bought of her father;

(2) a Gentile captive taken in war;

(3) a foreign slave bought; or

(4) a Canaanitish woman, bond or free.

The rights of the first two were protected by the law, Exodus 21:7; Deuteronomy 21:10-14, but the third was unrecognized and the fourth prohibited. Free Hebrew women also might become concubines” (e-Sword 13.0).

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary notes that concubines were given some protection by law: “The bondmaid or captive was not to be cast away arbitrarily after lust had been gratified (Exodus 21:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:10-11); she was protected by legal restraints whereby she had a kind of secondary marriage relationship to the man. Thus, limits were set within which concubinage was tolerated until ‘the times of this ignorance’ which ‘God winked at’ (Acts 17:30) passed by, and Christ restored the original pure code” (e-Sword 13.0).

In His mercy, God worked with this less-than-ideal situation to mitigate sin. Don Fleming’s Bridgeway Bible Dictionary explains: “Moses introduced laws to protect concubines for much the same reason as he introduced laws to protect slaves. Both slavery and concubinage were wrong, but the practices were so deeply rooted that they could not be removed immediately. However, laws could control them and so start a movement that would lead to their eventual removal (Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; see also SLAVERY)” (Ibid.).

Not so from the beginning

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3)! The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary explains their relevance in the age of the Israelite kings: “God warned Israelite kings against glorifying themselves through building large harems, but most kings ignored his warnings (Deuteronomy 17:15-17; 2 Samuel 15:16; 1 Kings 11:3; 2 Chronicles 11:21; cf. Esther 2:14). People considered the harem to be such a symbol of kingly power, that a new king established his claim to the throne by claiming the former king’s harem (2 Samuel 3:7-8; 12:7-8; 16:20-22; 1 Kings 2:21-22)” (e-Sword 13.0). The People’s Dictionary of the Bible by Edwin W. Rice details succession: ” …the right over those of one monarch, accrued to his successor; so that to seize on any of them was regarded as an overt act of rebellion. 2 Samuel 3:7; 12:8; 1 Kings 2:22; 1 Kings 11:3″ (Ibid.).

Solomon’s wives, which included his secondary wives (concubines), turned his heart away from God by their importation of paganism when he married them to cement alliances with nearby peoples. The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary describes the resulting family discord: “Yet concubines proved to be a source of trouble to Israel’s kings. The presence of so many wives and children in the palace created family conflicts (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 13:20-22; cf. Genesis 21:8-10; Judges 8:31; 9:2-5), and the idols that foreign concubines brought into the palace led believers away from God (1 Kings 11:4)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Dave Miller in his Apologetics Press article, Concubines?, provides us a fitting summary of concubinage: “Nevertheless, awareness of the biblical meaning assigned to the word ‘concubine’ enables the English reader to understand that Bible characters who possessed concubines were not guilty of taking ‘mistresses,’ but were, in fact, married to them—and not merely engaging in extra-marital intimate relations. In any case, the Bible does not sanction the practice of unmarried sexual partners.”

Since Christ’s first coming, concubinage has become illicit. Easton’s Bible Dictionary affirms: “Christianity has restored the sacred institution of marriage to its original character, and concubinage is ranked with the sins of fornication and adultery (Matthew 19:5-9; 1 Corinthians 7:2)” (e-Sword 13.0). God’s ideal marriage remains one man united to one woman as it was in the beginning (Matthew 19:4-5).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: The Great Commission

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). How does His church have an impact in fulfilling this commission?

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 4) Passover to the Resurrection

Digging Deeper: Almost

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min. 36 sec.

Did you know that the apostle Paul made such a convincing case for Jesus as Messiah through His resurrection from the dead that a Jewish king who heard him said Paul almost convinced him to become a Christian?

The facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection in AD 31 were evident, as this king was aware. Now about AD 59, Paul appealed to Roman and Jewish officials to consider what these things meant. This king nearly surrendered. Today’s Digging Deeper explores this engaging account in the Book of Acts to consider why some veer away from choosing to accept Christ’s offer of salvation.

Here is some essential background to the text in the Book of Acts that we will consider in this study. Following Paul’s three evangelistic journeys throughout the Greco-Roman world, Luke in this section of Acts describes the various hearings Paul had with Roman governors Felix and Festus and the Jewish king Herod Agrippa II. Paul had been falsely accused by Jerusalem Jews who tried to tear him apart in the temple. Roman officials came to his rescue but insisted that he explain himself. For his safety, the Romans moved him to Caesarea Maritima along the coast where he could be kept in state custody until his case could be properly heard. This process went on for about two years. Our primary text describes Paul’s exchange with the Roman governor Festus and Jewish King Herod Agrippa II before he was shipped to Rome to present his case to the Roman emperor.

A compelling exposition

Our primary text records the words of Paul to Agrippa: “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:26-29 KJV throughout). Dake’s Annotated Bible explains this encounter: “This is to be taken literally, that he [Agrippa] was almost persuaded to embrace Christianity. At least, this is the way that Paul understood it and so answered it in Acts 26:29” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1 22).

There is a textual matter to consider. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible provides this background: “Some expositors, because of certain variations in the Greek text here, regard this as a question, or as a sarcastic remark, as though Paul was presumptuous in trying to persuade in a short time such an important man as King Agrippa to become a Christian. However, the majority text, as well as the context, favors the Authorized Version here. If Paul’s exposition could make the Roman governor Felix tremble (Acts 24:25) with terror (literal meaning), he could certainly bring strong persuasion to a man such as Agrippa who was much better instructed than Festus in the Scriptures” (e-Sword 13.0). The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary adds further: “But the apostle’s reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since” (Ibid.).

Paul was determined to spread the gospel far and wide, high and low. When he was ordained, Christ prophesied that Paul would stand before kings (Acts 9:15). Herod was one such king. What drove Paul to preach so urgently? He explains in one of his epistles: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Who was Agrippa?

Knowing a little about King Agrippa will help us understand this conversation in historical context. The ESV Study Bible in its note for Acts 25:13 writes of him: “Agrippa the king was Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I (see notes on 12:1; 24:24), and great-grandson of Herod the Great (see note on Matt. 2:1). He ruled over several minor, primarily Gentile territories. The emperor Claudius had conferred on Agrippa II rule over the temple in Jerusalem and the right to appoint the high priest (see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.222, 223) (Tecarta Bible App). Herod necessarily had an interest in the charges that Paul desecrated the temple.

The NKJ Study Bible for Acts 26:28 offers a probable explanation for Agrippa’s lack of response: “Agrippa realized that Paul was doing more than just defending his faith; he was actually trying to persuade Agrippa to become a follower of Jesus Christ. If Agrippa had told those gathered that he did not believe the prophets, he would have angered the Jews. If he had acknowledged that he did believe the prophets, he would have had to give weight to Paul’s words. Agrippa avoided being maneuvered into an embarrassing corner by sidestepping the issue. The interview was becoming too personal for Agrippa’s comfort, so he ended the dialogue” (Tecarta Bible App). Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds this additional point: “He had no particular hostility to Christians; he knew that they were not justly charged with sedition and crime; and he saw the conclusion to which a belief of the prophets inevitably tended. Yet, as in thousands of other cases, he was not quite persuaded to be a Christian” (e-Sword 13.0).

Failing to respond

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 suggests this explanation for people who do not take action: “Like Agrippa, those who are under deep conviction oftentimes speak and act in an indifferent way, particularly in the presence of unbelieving associates. Though under deep conviction, Agrippa perhaps wished to give those assembled in the procurator’s [Festus’] audience chamber the impression that he thought Paul naive to think a prisoner could convert a king in so short a time, or with so brief an explanation” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980, p. 441).

What keeps people from surrendering to Christ when intellectually they know they must to be saved? Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible suggests several causes for failing to respond:

“Such persons are deterred from being altogether Christians by the following, among other causes:

  • (a) By the love of sin – the love of sin in general, or some particular sin which they are not willing to abandon;
  • (b) By the fear of shame, persecution, or contempt, if they become Christians;
  • (c) By the temptations of the world – its cares, vanities, and allurements- which are often presented most strongly in just this state of mind;
  • (d) By the love of office, the pride of rank and power, as in the case of Agrippa” (e-Sword 13.0).

Ezekiel faced a similar lack of response in his own day: “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezekiel 33:31 KJV). James adds another sobering conclusion: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:23-24 KJV).

What Agrippa gave up

What had Agrippa almost become? David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary explains: “Acts 26:18 describes five things that happened to Paul when he became a Christian. A Christian has their eyes opened. A Christian has turned from darkness to light. A Christian has turned from the power of Satan to God. A Christian has received forgiveness of sins. And a Christian has an inheritance among those set apart to God” (e-Sword 13.0). How much Agrippa missed!

When Paul said he wished Agrippa was like himself except for his bonds (chains), The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers this dramatic scene: “A speech’s conclusion often included an emotionally rousing climax, here probably including Paul gesturing with his unjust chains. Given ancient analogies, Paul’s right hand may have been chained to a guard’s left hand, with an iron shackle weighing 10 or 15 pounds (4.5 or 6.8 kilograms)” (Tecarta Bible App). We can imagine the emotional appeal Paul made to Agrippa and yet Agrippa did not respond to Paul’s challenge to repent to and turn to Christ in obedient repentance.

A challenging thought for our conclusion comes from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “There is no reason to believe that Agrippa ever became fully persuaded to become a Christian. To be almost persuaded to do a thing which we ought to do, and yet not to do it, is the very position of guilt and danger. And it is no wonder that many are brought to this point – the turning-point, the crisis of life – and then lose their anxiety, and die in their sins. May the God of grace keep us from resting in being almost persuaded to be Christians” (e-Sword 13.0)!

If you sense your need to repent before Christ and accept His sacrifice for your sins, we urge you to contact our church office for personal counseling with one of our ministers. Do not be an almost Christian.

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Men’s Training Camp – Delavan, Wisconsin

51 men, ranging in age from 16 to 91, from congregations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri, assembled June 11–13 for the Upper Midwest Men’s Training Camp in Delavan, Wisconsin. Presentations, workshops, interactive breakout sessions and split sermons addressed the societal challenges facing adult and young men, fulfilling our Creators’ intent, making a contribution to the Body, defending the truth, organization and time management, building a strong marriage, understanding the challenges our children are being exposed to, and mentoring the next generation. Meals and free time provided plenty of opportunities for the men to mix, build bonds, support and encourage each other. The men left reinforced in their roles, armed and ready to apply what they learned, and to be the kind of men, husbands, fathers and Christians God wants them to be.—Bob Rodzaj

Digging Deeper: The Flood in the New Testament

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min. 40 sec.

Did you know that Jesus referenced the great flood of Noah’s day to describe the world’s unrepentant state before His Second Coming?

There are vital lessons for our day from Jesus’ relating this story. Skeptics today question whether this flood ever occurred, stating it was legendary or merely symbolic. Others may accept its reality but challenge whether the flood was universal or only local. There is a direct and conclusive way for Christians to verify the details of this Genesis account: by closely reading the New Testament. This Digging Deeper delves into the New Testament’s reference to this dramatic story to motivate humanity to heed Jesus’ warnings about world conditions before His return.

The first passage that mentions the flood in NT

The great flood of Noah’s day (sometimes referred to as the “Genesis Flood” or “Noah’s Flood”) is mentioned in six New Testament passages. The first is: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:36-39 KJV throughout).

Notice that Jesus affirms that such a flood actually occurred and that it took them all away. This story was quite familiar to His listeners since He did not have to recount the entire drama. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that the Greek word translated flood is: “kataklusmos (G2627), ‘a deluge’ (Eng., ‘cataclysm’), akin to katakluzo, ‘to inundate,’ 2 Peter 3:6, is used of the ‘flood’ in Noah’s time, Matthew 24:38, 39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5” (e-Sword 13.0). Noah’s Flood was a cataclysmic deluge of the entire planet. Many Jews of the time thought the flood prefigured the day of judgment to come.

The King James Study Bible comments on these verses: ” … we are given a comparison to the days of Noe (Noah and the Flood), which illustrate and prefigure the condition of humanity at the time of Christ’s return. The last generation, like the one of Noah’s day, is pleasure-oriented and self-gratifying by eating and drinking. The reference to marrying and giving in marriage may refer to carrying on the normal course of life without heeding the impending judgment” (Tecarta Bible App).

As in Noah’s day, people will be unprepared for the destruction to come due to neglecting God’s warnings. R.C.H. Lenski in his Commentary on the New Testament wrote: “In the days preceding the deluge men were wholly unconcerned (ἦσαν with an indefinite subject). They spent the 120 years which God had fixed as the limit of his grace ‘eating (πρώγειν, “to munch,” audible eating, used in John 6:54–58) and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ as though no judgment were impending. These are neutral actions that are not sinful in themselves; but they obtain a sinister significance when the total disregard of God’s warnings is observed which underlies this conduct. These men should have repented in sackcloth and in ashes” (Bible Analyzer

The second passage is:

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 7:26-27). When He said it “destroyed them all,” Jesus considered it a universal flood since He used it as a historical precedent for massive destruction of the world’s population at His return resulting from open sin. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes: “Ancient Jewish sources depicted Noah’s generation (Ge 6:11–13) and Sodom (Ge 18:20; 19:4–9), sometimes together, as the epitome of evil. The point here is that they thought only of life as usual, and sudden judgment took them by surprise (Ge 7:21–23; 19:24–25)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Sudden destruction will catch most people unprepared at Jesus’ return. R.C.H. Lenski in his Commentary on the New Testament described the people of Noah’s day: “They disregarded absolutely all warning and lived on as though the warnings meant nothing. The four verbs which are without connectives are dramatic, all are imperfect tenses to express customary actions. It is a masterly description of that blind, secure, unbelieving, ungodly generation of Noah’s day, whose successors are with us now and shall fill the world when the Son of man comes” (Bible Analyzer

The third passage is:

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). The KJV Study Bible notes: “Noah was asked by God to do in faith things that were incongruous with his former experience. He had never seen rain (Genesis 2:5), and yet God told him to build an ark because of a coming flood (Genesis 6:13–17)” (Tecarta Bible App). The NKJ Study Bible adds further: “Noah had never seen (v. 1) the flood God revealed to him. Yet he believed God in spite of this and heeded His warnings. His faith not only saved him from the deluge but also from God’s judgment, for He became an heir of righteousness” (Ibid.).

The fourth passage is:

“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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” (1 Peter 3:20-21). The Holman KJV Study Bible explains: “Noah and his family were saved by water, or brought safely through the floodwaters, whereas the wicked were destroyed (Genesis 7:22-23). Baptism in the NT corresponds to this OT event in that both involve breaks from past lives and a fresh start and entrance into new life” (Tecarta Bible App).

The fifth passage is:

“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). The NKJ Study Bible comments: “Noah is called a preacher of righteousness because his righteous life put to shame the immoral lives of his neighbors. Noah’s building of the ark would certainly have given him the opportunity to explain the coming judgment and to invite people to repent and believe in God. But his entreaties fell on deaf ears, just as the truth of Christ’s atonement fell on the deaf ears of the false teachers of Peter’s day. Such indifference and unbelief brought the ungodly of Noah’s world to certain destruction” (Tecarta Bible App).

The sixth and final passage is:

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6). In his Days of Praise article for February 5, 2018, John Morris wrote, “Peter uses extraordinary language. The word ‘overflowed’ in today’s verse translates the mighty Greek word katakluzo, from which we get our word ‘cataclysm’ …In the Greek New Testament, this word is only used to refer to Noah’s Flood (see Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5) …” This is the word described earlier in this article. The NKJ Study Bible additionally notes: “The scoffing teachers would choose to overlook events such as creation and the Flood. The people of Noah’s time did not believe in Noah’s warning because they had never experienced a flood.” (Tecarta Bible App).

To summarize the importance of the words of Jesus and the New Testament apostles, Henry Morris in his Days of Praise article for January 30, 2018 wrote: “This is what Jesus said, and what He believed, and therefore, those who are truly His disciples must also believe this. The destructive effects of the Flood can still be seen today not only in the biblical record, but also in the abundant evidences of cataclysmic destruction in the rocks and fossil graveyards all over the world. To refuse this evidence, as do many modern intellectuals, can only be because they ‘willingly are ignorant,’ as Peter said in referring to this testimony (2 Peter 3:5).”

Christians need only go back to the New Testament’s affirmation in the first century that the flood was real and globally destructive. Contrary to what some claim, there is ample biblical and geological evidence of a global flood. Faith in the words of Christ Who inspired the New Testament settles the matter satisfactorily for those who claim to be His disciples. Jesus referenced the flood account to warn people not to avoid His call for repentance as people did in the time of Noah. Believers who heed God’s word and respond like Noah will find ” … grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.