The Alleged Contradiction between Acts 9:7 and 22:9

One of the more common arguments against the inerrancy of Scripture is the supposed contradiction between Acts 9:7 and 22:9. The King James Version translates 9:7 as: “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” But 22:9 says, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” Acts 9:7 says that they heard a voice but 22:9 says they did not hear the voice. But this contradiction only exists in the King James Version of the Bible. The English Standard Version translates 22:9 as: “Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.” They heard a voice, but did not understand it. Critics will argue that modern translations are changing the meaning of the Bible to avoid this contradiction. So which translation is right?

Acts 22:9 is better translated as “understand the voice” because of the difference in the Greek case of “voice” between the two verses with regard to Paul’s companions. In Acts 9:4, the “voice” Paul hears is in the accusative case while in 9:7 it is in the genitive case with regard to those with Paul. In Acts 22:9, the “voice” they do not hear is in the accusative case. When the object of the verb “to hear” is in the accusative case, the sense of the verb is often “to hear with understanding.” One example of this is Galatians 4:21 where the verb “to hear” is translated as “listen” or “understand” because “the law” is in the accusative case. Since “the voice” is in the genitive case in Acts 9:7 while it is in the accusative in 22:9, the meaning of the passage is that while those with Paul heard a voice, they did not understand what it meant as Paul did. They heard the sound but could not make out the words.

The King James translators did not accurately translate the verb “to hear” in 22:9 because they did not understand that its meaning is often determined by the case of the object it is modifying. But Greek scholarship has advanced by leaps and bounds since then. A lesson to be learned from this alleged contradiction is that we need to look at more than just individual words when studying a passage of Scripture. Instead, we need to understand how the words relate to one another to see how the author is using them. Messages are communicated in phrases, not just words. Word studies can be helpful, but how a word is used always depends on the context.

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Sunday Meditation – Our Eternal God

“If God is eternal, how bold and foolish it is for a mortal to question his counsels and actions. How can we who are so weak creatures that we cannot understand yesterday, presume to measure the motions of eternity by our scanty intellects? We are not able to foresee an unexpected accident that falls to blast a well-laid plan. If we cannot understand the motions of the sea or the nature of light, how shall we dare to censure the actions of an eternal God that is so infinitely beyond our reach? The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm that breathes but a few minutes in the world. How can eternity be judged by a creature of time? Whenever, therefore, any unworthy notion of the counsels and works of God is suggested to us by Satan or our own corrupt hearts, let us look backward to God’s eternal existence and our own short duration, and silence ourselves as did Job.”

Stephen Charnock

Why I Am a Baptist

A Baptist is a Christian who believes that the only fit subjects for Christian baptism are professing Christians. This is in contrast to the belief in infant baptism which intentionally allows those who are not Christians into the membership of the church. It is also in contrast to the belief that a person cannot be a Christian until he or she has been baptized. Rather, Baptists believe that it is only those who are already professing believers in Christ who are allowed to be baptized. This conclusion flows from the New Testament’s teaching on the nature of the church as a body of regenerate believers. Since the infant children of believers are not regenerate or members of the new covenant, they cannot receive the sign of the new covenant. Only those who are members of the new covenant may receive the signs of the new covenant. This excludes all of those who are unregenerate.

Baptism is the immersion of the believer in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is how Christians publicly profess their faith in Christ to the world. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and affirms that we were united with him in his death and resurrection. Baptism pictures the death of our old self and the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit who has made us new creations in Christ. It is the sign of the new covenant and the public proclamation of our allegiance to King Jesus. When we are baptized, we are made members of the local church and enter into all the benefits of membership in a church including the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:41-42). Baptism is also a public act of repentance signifying our turning from sin to Christ. Only believers may partake of the ordinances of Christ because the signs of the new covenant are limited to those who are in the new covenant (Heb 8:6-13; 9:15; 10:15-18; 12:24). Since Christ intercedes on behalf of all those in the new covenant, all of them must be saved.

In contrast to credobaptism, the practice of infant baptism is without biblical warrant. It has neither command nor example in Scripture to support it. The English word “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma instead of an actual translation. This Greek word is always used to refer to dipping or immersion when used literally and never to describe the act of pouring or sprinkling. The practice of baptism as pouring or sprinkling developed over time in response to the need to baptize those who converted to Christ on their deathbed. It is also much easier to pour or sprinkle water on an infant instead of immersing them. Pragmatism eventually triumphed over fidelity to Scripture in Latin Christianity.

The most cited verse of Scripture to argue for the necessity of baptism in order to be saved is Acts 2:38: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Peter demanded that they be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins because baptism itself is an act of repentance. If those Peter was speaking to had refused to be baptized, it would have demonstrated that their repentance was not genuine. Baptism would have meant being kicked out of the synagogue (John 9:22). The costliness of baptism in the first century decreased the likelihood of false converts. There are no “secret agent” Christians who do not profess their faith publicly. Repentance and baptism are not two different requirements for salvation any more than repentance and turning are two different requirements for forgiveness in Acts 3:19. Baptism is the outward expression of repentance, not something separate from it. Repentance can only come from a heart that has been regenerated by God through the gospel (Jam 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23). The gospel, not the act of baptism, is the instrument of regeneration. Those who are in the flesh cannot do anything pleasing to God (Rom 8:7-9). But faith, repentance, and baptism are pleasing to God which means regeneration must occur before them (1 John 5:1).

Sunday Meditation – God Our Sustainer

“When we come to God for fresh benefits of grace, it is always good to remember his former benefits. Our current needs should stir us up to pay the interest of thanksgiving on past blessings. We are unworthy of new mercies when we do not acknowledge the mercies we have already received. The greater the danger, the more we should call to mind God’s former kindness. As we look beyond creation, we lose ourselves in the abyss of eternity. As for man, he passes through the world in a few days, and returns to dust in the grave. But God is our dwelling place. He bestowed upon us the strength of his power, and the riches of his love. There is no reason to doubt that he will continue to do so. The vast mountains were created by his hand, and much less of his power is needed to sustain us in our need.”

Stephen Charnock

The Character of Thomas Brooks

I am currently working my way through the first volume of the writings of the Puritan Thomas Brooks. His writings have had a wonderful impact on my understanding of prayer, temptation, suffering, and trusting in God. I would like to share with you some of the character traits that made him the excellent pastor he was. Alexander Grosart writes in his memoir of Brooks that he was, “A person of a very sweet nature and temper: so affable, and courteous, and cheerful.” He was not a man who fit the caricature of the Puritans so common in English classrooms and the media. His trust in God resulted in joy before others. “He feared nothing of himself or others, knowing the promise and oath of God would stand firm.” This trust in God gave him confidence before others.

He was a humble man who ascribed all the power of his ministry to Christ instead of himself. “Pride and moroseness are bad qualities of a man of his employ, and make men afraid of the ways of God, for fear they should never enjoy a good day after.” The godly life is the blessed life because true happiness only comes through the gospel. If we are called to imitate our pastors, they should be men who are worthy of imitating and people we would want to be like. There is something infectious about a Christian who loves God and wants to share God’s love for him with others.

Brooks was a man of deep patience who could endure sickness and infirmities because he always knew God would take care of him body and soul. “Sense of pardon took away sense of sickness.” Because his future was secure, he did not mind when his body was failing. “He had a body of Divinity in his head, and the power of it upon his heart.” He knew the truth and lived it out. Christian theology was not a mere exercise for him, but his very life. And this theology impacted every aspect of his life and he wanted to show others how to apply it to theirs. He was eager in his writings to share his great knowledge of Scripture, not for his own sake, but for the good of his readers who were engaged in combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Labor was “his meat and drink.” He took great delight in his work as a pastor. After college, he served as a Navy chaplain at sea and on land before entering the pastorate. He said that he would not exchange his years at sea for all the riches of England. Through his time at sea, I am certain that he grew in his dependence on God as his life was in the hands of the raging sea. Living among sailors would have enlightened him to the sinfulness and vanity of the world. Knowing the depths of the sins of others helps us to appreciate the greatness of God’s grace in saving us from our own sinfulness. Ministering to sinners teaches us how to speak to their heart and convey the gospel in language they can understand. May God raise up more men like Thomas Brooks.

Sunday Meditation – Arms Open Wide

“He was nailed to the cross with his arms open wide to show the freeness his merit would be bestowed upon us if we come. O how heartily He will receive us into his arms! He offers all freely; yea, He comes in the word of the gospel with the blood running down his face, tears upon his cheeks, fresh wounds in his hands and feet, and blood still flowing from his side, to entreat you to accept his gracious offer of reconciliation. Will you love sin more than grace, and darkness more than light? Will you shut your eyes to Him but open them wide for the pleasures of the flesh? Will you run the hazard of death in the day of judgment? Will you despise Him and reject his grace? Will you abide in sin until the day of judgment?”

John Bunyan

Apostasy in Hebrews 6:4-6

Is it possible for a Christian to lose his or her salvation? The most quoted passage in the Bible to argue for conditional security instead of eternal security is Hebrews 6:4-6: “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” These apostates who left the Christian faith and returned to Judaism are described as those who once: 1. repented; 2. had been enlightened; 3. tasted the heavenly gift; 4. shared in the Holy Spirit; 5. tasted the goodness of the word of God; and 6. tasted the powers of the age to come. I will argue in this article that these individuals were never true Christians who were part of the bride of Christ.

That these apostates were never regenerate and justified believers is evident from the distinction the author of Hebrews draws between them and the bride of Christ who does persevere to the end in verses 9-11: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” The author of Hebrews is sure that those who are among the beloved will not fall away. These are the members of the bride of Christ, the elect for whom he died (2 Cor 7:1; Eph 5:1-2). It is a term of endearment to describe Christians as those who are loved by God with the unique love that Christ has for his church. That means these apostates were never among the beloved since it is certain that the bride of Christ will endure to the end. And the proof that a person is among the beloved is his good works which are the fruit which prove he is not among those who are lost (Matt 7:17-19; 13:21; Heb 6:8).

The problem with those who use this passage to argue against eternal security is that they don’t actually believe in what the text says. Verse four says, “It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened.” But those who believe this passage teaches that a true Christian can lose his salvation also believe that salvation can be regained after it is lost. A literal reading of the text is not consistent with conditional security, especially in its Roman Catholic form which teaches that salvation can be restored through the sacrament of penance. The reason why repentance is impossible for them is because they have committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to say that the power by which Christ performed miracles is that of Satan rather than the Holy Spirit. In order to be accepted back into the Jewish community, these apostates would have to agree with the opinions of the Jewish leaders about Jesus which included believing that his miracles were performed by the power of Satan instead of God (Matt 12:24, 32). Such a person will never be saved because the Spirit will never grant him regeneration.

Those who had fallen away had at one time repented because they had been baptized which is an act of repentance (Mark 1:4-5). But the act of baptism does not save. In order to be readmitted into the Christian community, they would have to be baptized again since Christ commands all disciples to be baptized as disciples regardless if they have been baptized before (Matt 28:19; Acts 19:1-6). Every true Christian must be baptized upon profession of his faith because the only valid baptism is the baptism of disciples or true Christians. If a person was not a Christian when he was baptized, he was never truly baptized and needs to be baptized because Christian baptism is a baptism of disciples alone. But since those who commit the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never desire to join the church, it is impossible to restore them again to this repentance which is required for all professing believers. But not all who partake of this repentance are saved because not everyone who professes faith in Christ and is baptized is saved (Acts 8:13, 20-23).

They had also been enlightened because they had heard about and believed in the truths of the Christian faith. The term describes the initial conversion experience into the Christian religion as their minds are illuminated concerning that which is true. But James 2 reminds us that mere intellectual assent to the truth does not save. A person is not saved by believing certain truths about Christ, joining a church, or being baptized. Rather, a person is saved by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel message that results in true saving faith which is trusting in Christ alone for salvation and submitting to him as Lord. It is not merely accepting truths about Jesus which saves, but actually trusting in the true gospel and Jesus of the Bible which is demonstrated by being willing to follow Christ no matter the cost.

They had tasted the heavenly gift who is the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (Luke 11:13). But their experience of the Spirit was but a taste, not a permanent indwelling. They may have cast out demons (Matt 7:22), experienced miracles, and witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in the church (Acts 8:18), but these things do not save. Balaam, Saul, and Caiaphas experienced the prophetic work of the Spirit, yet the Bible gives no indication that they were ever saved (Num 24:15-17; 1 Sam 10:11; John 11:49-52). They temporarily shared in the Spirit because they participated in some of the benefits that the Holy Spirit gives to the local church. As a member of the church, they tasted the Word of God in the preaching of the Word and may have themselves preached the Word or done evangelism. They at one time believed the truths concerning the gospel, but there was no inner renewal of the Holy Spirit. They witnessed miracles or the powers of the age to come which prove the truthfulness of Christianity (Heb 2:4). But for all of this, they turned away and eventually concluded that these miracles were done by the power of Satan instead of the power of God.

Rather than proving that a regenerate and justified believer can lose his salvation, Hebrews 6:4-6 shows how close a person can come to salvation and yet remain lost. Judas was a man who fit all the descriptions listed here, yet he was never saved to begin with (John 6:64-65, 70-71; 13:11). Judas had experienced the repentance of baptism, had his mind enlightened to the truth, witnessed the miracles of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, was part of the visible church in which the Holy Spirit dwells, preached the gospel, and casted out demons (Matt 7:21-23). But because these people did not endure to the end, this demonstrates that they had never come to share in Christ (Heb 3:14). If those who are in the new covenant could ever be lost, that would overturn the perfection of the new covenant (Heb 8:6-12; 9:15; 12:24). Christ would be unable to save those he died for and intercedes on behalf of just as the priests of the old covenant could not save those they mediated for (Heb 10:1-18). For a more detailed study of Hebrews 6, I recommend Wayne Grudem’s article on the passage.