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Vol. 5, No. 4
Apr., 1996

The Prayer of Faith

by Glenn Conjurske

“The prayer of faith,” says James, “shall save the sick.” Yet we have all known of many who have died in spite of many prayers. Evidently not every prayer is “the prayer of faith.” And it is evidently not always possible to pray the prayer of faith, for no amount of praying can make man in the flesh immortal, nor prolong his natural life beyond a rather brief limit. The ninety-first Psalm contains abundant inspiration for the prayer of faith, saying, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.” Yet we can have no perpetual tenure here, but rather, as the Psalm closes, “With long life will I satisfy thee.” And we need only turn back a page, to Psalm 90:10, to learn that there can be no limitless duration to such promises, for there we read, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” This is the almost universal experience of the human race, prayer or no prayer. The tombstone of a man who died at just “fourscore years” in 1819 bears this eloquent testimony to the general truth:

Our age to seventy years is set,
How short the time, how frail the state,
And if to eighty we arrive,
We rather sigh & groan than live.

Some few, by reason, perhaps, of surpassing strength, may live beyond even the “fourscore years,” but their tenure cannot be extended indefinitely. I recently heard of a woman who is 120 years old. When asked, “How does the future appear?” she replied “Very brief.” And this is the simple matter of fact, which no prayer or faith can alter. I take it as an established fact, then, that the prayer of faith cannot be prayed in every instance, and there are other things which prevent it besides the irreversible process of aging and the inevitable fact of death. I suppose that lukewarmness may be the most common thing which prevents it. The prayer of faith is certainly prevailing prayer----for “the prayer of faith shall save the sick”----and lukewarmness certainly stands in the way of prevailing prayer.

I will not pretend to define dogmatically what “the prayer of faith” is or is not, yet I believe it is safe to say that the prayer of assurance is the prayer of faith. The Lord has said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24). This is certainly “the prayer of faith,” whatever else the prayer of faith may be. The apostle John speaks in a similar vein, saying, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have desired of him.” (I John 5:14-15). This, of course, means that we “know that we have” those things before we actually receive them, precisely as in the Lord's words, “believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them”----at a future day. The possession of this assurance is certainly a mark of “the prayer of faith,” though I will not venture to say that the absence of such assurance indicates the reverse.

Unfortunately, this doctrine which is so plainly taught by Christ and by John, is never taught by Paul. It therefore must not belong to the church. And to clinch the matter, Paul left Trophimus at Miletum sick. All of this makes it indubitably plain to certain minds that the sick cannot be healed by the prayer of faith today. Nothing miraculous is possible today. Miracles have ceased. They belonged only to the apostles, and the apostolic age. A little independent Baptist paper, recently received, contains an article entitled 20th Century Healing Frauds, by Raymond A. Waugh, Sr., of Midland, Texas. This article categorically asserts, “The `signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds' were the `Marks' or `Signs' of the Apostles. When the Apostles departed from this earthly scene, the Apostolic `signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds' were forever ended.” And therefore, “All of those who have experienced fatal sicknesses and diseases during the last 1,900 years that could not be healed by some medical means have gone ahead and died, and that without exception. All of those who have had physical disabilities that were beyond the capability of Medical science to remedy likewise have continued on in their disability until God has brought an end to their mortality.”

But these reckless assertions as thoroughly overturn the Bible doctrines of prayer and faith as they do modern healing frauds. When the doctors have told Mr. Waugh that there is nothing more that they can do for his wife, or his daughter, or himself, will he then cease to pray, and “go ahead and die”? To this his doctrine shuts him up, and he really has no business to lay such burdens upon others if he will not bear them himself.

But against all of this modern unbelief, and all the modern doctrines which are urged in support of such unbelief, I urge some simple facts of history. I could indeed fill up this magazine with accounts of “signs” and “wonders” wrought in answer to prayer, but that is not my purpose, and most of them I leave alone, limiting myself in this article to accounts of “the prayer of faith.” By this I refer to accounts of prayers which have exemplified the Lord's words, “believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them”----prayers in which those who prayed knew that they had the things which they had desired of the Lord.

Such assurance in praying neither began nor closed with the apostolic era. The Old Testament saints possessed it as well as we. In the sixth Psalm David cries to the Lord with great earnestness, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed, but thou, O Lord, how long?” He continues in this strain for some time, and when his praying to God is finished, he turns to men, and says, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication. The Lord will receive my prayer.” This is that faith of which the Lord speaks, possessed before the answer is given. We have no record of the answer in David's case, but I offer a number of accounts which recount the prayer, the certainty of faith, and the answer.

The reader will note that in the instances which I am about to relate, the prayer was followed by the full assurance of the answer, and that of course before the answer came. Such assurance, I suppose, marks that prayer as “the prayer of faith.” I would not contend, however, that where no such assurance exists, there is no prayer of faith. It would be an easy thing to fill this magazine with examples of signal answers to prayer where no such assurance existed, or at least where it was not mentioned. There must have been something of faith in those prayers, for they obtained their answer, though there was no previous assurance of it. To this we may add, it is certainly a mark of faith to say, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Nevertheless, such praying is not to be confused with that which the Lord speaks of in Mark 11:24, and which John speaks of in I John 5. John speaks of knowing that we have the petitions which we have desired of him. This is assurance. And it should be pointed out that John speaks this concerning “if we ask any thing according to his will.” That is, he speaks of praying when we know that our petition is in accordance with his will. In such a case we may pray with “the full assurance of faith,” and this, certainly, is “the prayer of faith,” whatever else may be worthy of the name.

Martin Luther was known as a man of prayer, and a man of faith. At one point he found his friend and coadjutor Melancthon sick unto death, and very dejected in mind. Melancthon had written his will, and was expecting to die. “When Luther arrived he found Melancthon apparently dying. His eyes were dim, his understanding almost gone, his tongue faultering, his learning imperfect, his countenance fallen, incapable of distinguishing anyone, and indisposed to all nourishment. At such a sight Luther was in the most terrible consternation, and turning to those who had accompanied him in his journey, exclaimed, `Alas, that the devil should have thus unstrung so fine an instrument!'----Then in a supplicating posture he devoutly prayed, `We implore thee, O Lord our God, we cast all our burdens on thee and WILL CRY TILL THOU HEAREST US, pleading all the promises which can be found in the Holy Scripture respecting thy hearing prayer, so that THOU MUST INDEED HEAR US to preserve at all future periods our entire confidence in thine own promises.' After this he seized hold of Melancthon's hand, and well knowing the extreme anxiety of his mind and the troubled state of his conscience, said, `Be of good courage, Philip, YOU SHALL NOT DIE. . . . Do not therefore give way to this miserable dejection and destroy thyself, but trust in the Lord who can remove it and impart new life.' While he thus spake, Melancthon began visibly to revive, as though his spirit came again, and was shortly restored to his usual health.”

C. H. Spurgeon thus describes his own prayer of faith: “When, some months ago, I was racked with pain to an extreme degree, so that I could no longer bear it without crying out, I asked all to go from the room, and leave me alone: and then I had nothing I could say to God but this, `Thou art my Father, and I am Thy child; and Thou, as a Father, art tender and full of mercy. I could not bear to see my child suffer as Thou makest me suffer; and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him, and put my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt Thou hide Thy face from me, my Father? Wilt Thou still lay on me Thy heavy hand, and not give me a smile from Thy countenance?' I talked to the Lord as Luther would have done, and pleaded His Fatherhood in real earnest. `Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.' If He be a Father, let Him show Himself a Father,----so I pleaded; and I ventured to say, when they came back who watched me, `I shall never have such agony again from this moment, for God has heard my prayer.' I bless God that ease came, and the racking pain never returned. Faith mastered it by laying hold upon God in His own revealed character,----that character in which, in our darkest hour, we are best able to appreciate Him.”

I have remarked above that I do not believe it is always possible to pray the prayer of faith, and also that lukewarmness is one of the great impediments to it. Now the two incidents which I have just related may afford a clue as to when it is possible to pray the prayer of faith. It was in his “darkest hour” that Spurgeon prayed so. Luther prayed so when he was in “the most terrible consternation.” At such times men cannot be lukewarm, and therefore they can pray in such a way as to prevail with God. And do not the very terms which we have quoted at the head of this article, from the book of James, bear this out? “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.” This is not praying for coughs and colds, or minor headaches or backaches. It is when the sick is in desperate straits----when he is in deep distress or danger----that the prayer of faith is said to save him. When our plight is desperate, it becomes necessary, it becomes natural, to pray the prayer of faith----not that we cannot do so at other times also.

Charles M. Alexander----who was song leader for the gospel campaigns of both R. A. Torrey and J. Wilbur Chapman----says something to the purpose in this regard. Says he, “The night on which my father died is the one to which I look back definitely as the date of my conversion. I had to cross the city on foot at a late hour, and as I trudged along, the thought kept recurring again and again to my mind----`Is my father's soul safe in heaven?'

“Of course I knew he had been a professing Christian, an elder in the church, and all that sort of thing. Still the thought would not down----`Is my father safe in heaven?' In the travail of my spirit I turned to God, and as I walked along the streets of Atlanta, I prayed: `O God, if by token, or vision, or impression there is any way whereby Thou canst vouchsafe assurances to the creatures Thy hands hath made, give me, I pray Thee, to realize the certainty of my father's being safe at home with Thee.' I prayed, [note +] as men generally do, when forced into desperate straits----in faith, believing. And the answer came, as clearly and distinctly as any answer ever came, to myself or any one else: `Your father is safe with Me.'

“The load of doubt lifted immediately from my heart. I looked up towards the stars, and right there, under the open sky, pledged myself and life to the service of my Master and Lord.”

I do not quote this as an example to follow. No doubt a hundred thousand others have prayed such prayers at such times, and the wish is likely to be the father of the answer. I quote it for the connection which Alexander makes between the “desperate straits” and the prayer of faith.

“Desperate straits,” of course, do not concern only the health of the body. George Whitefield relates the following: “You know how I was threatened to be arrested, soon after my arrival, for above three hundred pounds, due on account of the Orphan-house in Georgia, and I do not know but a writ was actually taken out. This drove me to my knees. GOD gave me to wrestle, with strong cryings and many tears, both before and after I went to rest----I could plead with him that it was not for myself but his poor. . . . GOD was pleased to give me an answer of peace. Having as I thought a full assurance of immediate help from some quarter or another, I went to sleep most comfortably. Early the next morning a friend came to me to enquire, if I knew where a gentlewoman of his acquaintance might put out three or four hundred pounds. I replied, let her lend it to me, and in a few months, GOD willing, she shall have it again.----Upon being acquainted with my circumstances, she most chearfully sent me the sum I wanted, and thus my enemies were disappointed of their hope.”

Hanserd Knollys and Benjamin Keach were both prominent Baptists in the eighteenth century. Mr. Keach “was at one time so ill, in 1689, as to be given over by the physicians, and several of the ministers and his relations had taken leave of him, as a dying man past all hopes of recovery.” Knowing nothing of the refinements of modern theology, he did not have sense enough to “go ahead and die,” or at any rate his ministerial brethren did not have sense enough to let him. “But (says Crosby) the Rev. Mr. Hansard Knollys seeing his dying friend and brother in the gospel near to all appearance expiring; betook himself to prayer, and in an earnest and very extraordinary manner, begged that God would spare him and add unto his days the time he granted to his servant Hezekiah. As soon as he had ended his prayer, he said, `Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you,' and quickly after left him. So remarkable was the answer of God to this good man's prayer, that I cannot omit it, though it may be discredited by some, there are yet living incontestable evidences of the fact. For Mr. Keach recovered of that illness and lived just fifteen years afterwards.”

Jabez Swan, a prominent Baptist evangelist in America during the nineteenth century, relates the following: “The next day I was summoned home to my family in Norwich, New York. All four of my children were sick, some of them not expected to live. I sought before I left the sympathy of a neighboring pastor with whom my old friend Chamberlain was at work in the city. He and pastor Bellamy prayed for my family. When prayer was over, Brother B. said, `I don't know who is dead at your house, but no more will die now.' At the moment of prayer my youngest son lay, the doctor said, dying, in a most distressing manner. His fever gave way so suddenly that he came near dying before anything could be given to rally him.” The prayer of faith had prevailed, and his children were all spared.

Another instance comes from the life of Valentine Cook, an American Methodist preacher. A woman who was present supplied this account to Cook's biographer. “At one time, she said, their class-leader----T. G.----was taken very ill. Her husband was with him most of the time, and was greatly distressed on his account. The case at length was pronounced hopeless by his physicians. Mr. Cook coming into the room when it was supposed the sick man was actually dying, approached his bed, and said to him in a distinct tone of voice, `Brother G----------, do you know me?' `O yes,' was the reply. `Do you desire,' said he, `that we continue to pray for your recovery?' `I leave that,' said the afflicted man, `to you and them.' He then walked into the room where the physicians were in consultation. `What,' said he, `is the conclusion? Must Brother G---------- die at this time?' `He must without the intervention of Almighty power,' was the reply. `Well, then,' said Mr. Cook, `I'll go to Him in whose hands are the issues of life and death. I shall file two pleas for his restoration: the one on account of his family, and the other on behalf of the Church.' He then retired to the woods. In less than an hour he returned, and was told that there was no change for the better. He again retired, and did not return till some time after dark. When he entered the sick man's room, he exclaimed, `Brother G----------, the Lord has heard our prayers: your life will be prolonged, for the sake of the Church and your family.' He immediately left for home, declining to exchange a single word with any one as he retired. In less than a week Brother G---------- was walking about his room, and is living to this day, though evidently on the margin of eternity.”

William M'Kendree was another Methodist preacher, and one of the early bishops in the American Methodist church. He was a man of great power and great influence. These old Methodists did not lightly take upon themselves the office of preaching, and many of them went through long and deep turmoil of heart before doing so. When M'Kendree was in the midst of those exercises, the following occurred: “On a certain day, as I sat at a table, my father stepped in and addressed me thus: `William, has not the Lord called you to preach the gospel?' I answered, `I cannot tell: I do not know what a call to preach the gospel implies.' He added, `I believe he has, and I charge you not to quench the Spirit.' For a moment I was as one thunder-struck. We both shed tears. I asked him why he thought the Lord had called me to preach the gospel. He answered, `While you lay sick of the fever...when the doctor and all your friends had given you up for lost, I was greatly afflicted at the thought of your dying in your sins. I applied myself to the throne of grace, and prayed incessantly. While I was on my knees, the Lord manifested himself to me in an uncommon manner, and gave me an assurance that you should live to preach the gospel, and I have never lost my confidence, although you have been too careless.' He then repeated his caution not to quench the Spirit.”

A similar account (and yet others could be given) concerns another Methodist preacher, Ashley Hewitt. “He was expiring in great Christian triumph in one room, and a lovely daughter was expiring in another room of the same building. His only remaining earthly anxiety was for the conversion of that daughter. She was a member of the Church, but had never professed a change of heart. In the triumph of all-conquering faith, he had embraced the conversion of that child. His oft-repeated inquiry, `Is she yet converted?' was as often answered in the negative; but she was an earnest seeker. At length her friends saw her draw her last breath as they supposed, and felt the pulse stand still. These sad tidings were carried to the father. `Did she give any evidence of conversion before she expired?' was the anxious question of the father. The answer, `No,' did not appal his heart or shake his confidence. `Then she is not dead!' was the answer of unwavering faith. Soon a noise was heard in the chamber of the supposed dead girl. She was alive in more than one sense. She proclaimed to all the full assurance of faith, and soon expired, shouting the praises of God.”

R. A. Torrey was a man of prayer and faith, and a firm believer in the prayer of faith, though he affirms also that “it is not always possible to pray `the prayer of faith.”' He relates, “In my first pastorate, after I had been there a little while, a member of my congregation, not a member of my church, was taken very ill with typhoid fever, and went down to the gates of death; he was entirely unconscious. When I went down to call at the home I found the physician there sitting by his bed. The physician, who was a friend of mine, said, `He cannot live; recovery is absolutely impossible. He will die in a short time.' I knelt down to pray, and as I began to pray I was led to pray that God would raise up this man----he was absolutely unconscious; had been unconscious for a long time----and perfectly restore him to health. As I prayed there came into my heart a confidence that that man would get well. I knew it. When I rose from my knees I turned to the physician and said, `Dr L., Eddy Clarke'----that was the man's name----`will get well.' `No,' he said, `Mr Torrey, he can't get well.' I said, `Doctor, he will get well.' He said, `Mr Torrey, he can't get well. It is an impossibility.' I said, `That may be; but he will get well.' The physician was himself a backslider. He said, `Oh, well, that is all right from your standpoint, but he can't get well.' I said, `I know he will get well.' Then I went home. After a time they came up to my house and said, `Eddy is dying.' “No,” I said, he is not dying.” “Oh,” they said, “he is,” and they told me just what he was doing----going through the stages of death. I said, `He is not dying. What is more, he won't die and can't die.' But they said, `He will die.' I said, `He can't.' He didn't. He is living yet, or at least he was the last I knew.”

Surely this is a clear instance of “believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” R. A. Torrey, though he was the greatest of the Fundamentalists, was evidently ignorant that that scripture belonged to another dispensation, but if the Lord condescends to answer the ignorant according to their faith, then surely ignorance is bliss. May God deliver us all from that knowledge which deprives us of our faith. Let us by all means “add to our faith knowledge,” but how can knowledge which shrinks and dwarfs our faith be said to be added to it?

The prayer of faith is our unfailing resource when all other resources fail, and that not only for the healing of the body, but in all other exigencies as well. “Man's extremity is God's opportunity,” and in every such extremity into which the Lord may place us, he looks for faith, and for the prayer of faith. Some, I am well aware, will fault me for making the prayer of faith our unfailing resource, as though I were thus robbing God of his glory, for God (they will say) is himself our unfailing resource. Suffice it to say, I know that as well as they do, but I have not one grain of sympathy with the hyperspirituality which thus discards the plain declarations of Scripture, for it is God who says, “Ye have not because ye ask not,” and it is God who says of the man who lacks faith, “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” The prayer of faith is our unfailing resource, and the lukewarm and unbelieving, who cannot pray the prayer of faith, will do well to consider the fact that they have no resource at all----except in repentance, for that door is always open.

William Bramwell, a prominent English Methodist, was no stranger to the prayer of faith, and I give the following from his biography:

“Another instance of Mr. Bramwell's faith, was at the time when a general alarm agitated our body respecting a bill which M. A. Taylor, Esq. was about to bring into the house of commons, to abridge the religious liberties of Dissenters. Many at that season were led to plead mightily to God, that our privileges might be continued; and, among others, Mr. Bramwell did not forget to offer up his fervent supplications. At the evening service, one Lord's day, before a very crowded congregation, he got into an agony of prayer; and, after wrestling for some time, he said, `Lord! thou hast now told me that this bill shall never pass into a law.' Adding, `It is out of the power of any man, or any set of men, to bring it to pass!' Several of the congregation thought he was going too far; but in about a week afterward the bill was quashed.”

Bramwell was known for such praying. On one occasion Thomas Riley----a powerful preacher among the Methodists, and also an officer in the army----was ordered to the front in Spain. Bramwell went to prayer for him. “After many applications from day to day, he met the soldier and his wife at the house of a friend. It was the last night of Riley's stay; the next morning his regiment was to march, and the next month his corpse might probably be stretched on some of the bloody battle-fields of the Peninsula. Mr. Bramwell sat abstractedly for a while, struggling apparently with some inward perplexity. He could obtain no satisfactory answer to his entreaties. `But after supper was over,' says the gallant soldier, `he suddenly pulled his hand out of his bosom, laid it on my knee, looked me in the face, and said, “Brother Riley, mark what I am about to say: You are not to go to Spain!” “But the marching orders?” “Never mind: remember, I tell you, you are not; for I have been wrestling with God on your behalf, and when my Heavenly Father condescends in mercy to bless me with power to lay hold on Himself, I do not easily let Him go; no, not until I am favoured with an answer. Therefore, depend upon it, that the next time I hear from you, you will be settled in quarters.”' The next morning, however, Riley's regiment left Sheffield, with Spain for its prescribed destination; but he had not proceded far before he learned that the order had been countermanded; it was not to go to Spain! The next time Mr. Bramwell heard from the soldier, it was to say, that the latter was settled in quarters on English ground, as predicted.”

There is room in such praying, certainly, for a great deal of presumption, as there is in everything which concerns faith. I would grant----yea, contend----that a great deal of what goes under the name of “faith” in the church is nothing other than presumption. This may make us all humble and diffident, but it does nothing to discourage real faith. God knows how to confound presumption, but he that believeth shall never be confounded.



by Glenn Conjurske

The word “if” is not much appreciated by most modern Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. The reason for this is plain enough. It cuts across the grain of modern theology. The word “if” implies contingency or uncertainty. That contingency is unwelcome to people whose theology stands all on the side of grace and security, and slights or denies human responsibility. Yet the word “if” is used hundreds of times in the Bible. What are these one-sided theologians of grace to do with all of these? The usual, of course. Ignore them if they can, or explain them away any way they can.

One of the most common means by which “if” is explained away is to affirm that, at least in certain cases, “if” does not mean if. It rather means since. So we are often told, and it is very common to see the word actually translated “since” by the unsound scholarship of our day. But I am bold to say that, whatever modern scholarship may say, it is never legitimate to translate “if” as “since.” In some few cases it may be apparently harmless to do so, but it is certainly never necessary, and never legitimate. I intend to prove that ere I am finished, and prove it to the satisfaction of simple souls who know nothing of Greek. This is not nearly so much a question of Greek grammar as it is of common sense, and common honesty. I shall refer to some Greek, to be sure, but I entreat the unlearned reader not to be turned back by that, for I shall make all abundantly plain to anyone who knows English.

I must point out at the outset that there are two different words for “if” in the Greek New Testament. One of these is j (ei), used (usually) with a verb in the indicative mode. The other is j (ean), used with a verb in the subjunctive mode. Speaking in very broad terms, the difference between these may be said to lie in the degree or kind of contingency which each represents. That difference may be sharply delineated as follows:

“If he is” would represent j with the indicative.

“If he should happen to be” would represent j with the subjunctive.

In some instances there is very little practical difference between the two, and sometimes apparently none at all, for the two words are sometimes used interchangeably----as in parallel passages in the gospels. “If ye love them which love you” is j with the indicative in Luke 6:32, but the same expression, in the same context, is j with the subjunctive in Matthew 5:46. And whatever difference there may be between the two, it plainly appears that contingency----uncertainty, that is----belongs to both of them. Neither of them implies or asserts the certainty of the condition proposed, but just the reverse. The very purpose and genius of the word “if” is to present a thing as a possibility or a contingency. This is the fact----but it is a fact which does not suit modern theology. It is the determination, therefore, of many modern Evangelicals to rid the word “if” (when it is j with the indicative) of any idea of contingency at all. They would have us to believe that this “if” does not contain any uncertainty----that instead of indicating a bare possibility, it indicates a certain fact. Thus, where the Bible says, “If ye then be risen with Christ,” this must be turned into “Since ye then are risen with Christ.” Where the Bible says, “if ye are Christ's,” this is turned into “since ye are Christ's.” This alteration they think themselves free to make wherever they please----which happens to be wherever their theology dictates it. And the worst of it is, many of them do not even trouble themselves to learn whether the English “if” which they thus dispense with is j or j in the Greek, but think themselves at liberty to turn every English “if” into “since,” just as its suits their fancy, or just as their theology requires.

But this----whichever Greek word lies behind the English “if”----directly overturns the real meaning of the word. Its province is to indicate some kind of dependence of one thing upon another. It simply indicates the dependence of the conclusion, or the result, upon the condition----and it implies nothing whatsoever as to whether the conditional clause is true or not. So Liddell and Scott's Lexicon says of j with the indicative, “with the present, perfect, and past tenses, to state simply a present or past condition, WITH NOTHING IMPLIED AS TO ITS FULFILMENT.”1 The conditional clause (introduced by “if”) may state something which is certainly true, it may state something which is certainly false, or it may state something which may be either true or false. I mean directly to illustrate all three cases by plain examples from the New Testament, but I must first apprise the reader of the fact that in looking through the New Testament for such examples----directly contrary to modern notions on the subject----I find almost none in which the condition stated is certainly true, while there are very many in which it is certainly false, and very many also in which it may be either true or false.

First, then, in the following examples the condition stated is certainly true----at any rate these are the nearest thing I can find to examples of that sort----and of course in all of them I limit myself to j with the indicative:

Matt. 6:30----“if God so clothe the grass of the field.”

John 15:20----“if they have persecuted me.”

I Peter 4:18----“if the righteous scarcely be saved.”

Some might wish to put things like “if thou be the Son of God” into this category, but in that case, while the condition stated is certainly true, the very purpose of the word “if”----whether in the mouth of the devil or the impenitent thief----is to challenge its truth, and to cast doubt upon it.

Much more common are the examples in which the condition is certainly false (again, of course, limiting myself to j with the indicative):

Matt. 12:26----“if Satan cast out Satan.”

Matt. 12:27----“if I by Beelzebub cast out devils.”

Rom. 4:2----“if Abraham were justified by works.”

Rom. 4:14----“if they which are of the law be heirs.”

I Cor. 12:17----“if the whole body were an eye.”

I Cor. 12:17----“if the whole were hearing.”

I Cor. 12:19----“if they were all one member.”

I Cor. 15:13----“if there be no resurrection of the dead.”

I Cor. 15:14----“if Christ be not risen.”

I Cor. 15:16----“if the dead rise not.”

I Cor. 15:19----“if in this life only we have hope.”

Gal. 2:21----“if righteousness come by the law.”

Gal. 3:18----“if the inheritance be of the law.”

Gal. 5:11----“if I yet preach circumcision.”

Now if the tomfoolery of the modern teachers of the church is indeed the truth, we ought to render these, “since Satan casts out Satan”----“since Abraham was justified by works”----“since there is no resurrection of the dead”----“since Christ is not risen”----“since in this life only we have hope”----“since righteousness comes by the law”----“since I yet preach circumcision”----and so forth, for all of these are j with the indicative.

But the most common usage of j with the indicative is to state a condition which, from the speaker's viewpoint, may be either true or false----either because the speaker does not know whether it is true or false, or because it may in fact be either. Examples of this abound:

Matt. 5:29----“if thy right eye offend thee.”

Matt. 17:14----“If thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles.”

Mark 11:26----“if ye do not forgive.”

Luke 6:32----“if ye love those who love you.”

Acts 16:15----“if ye have judged me to be faithful.”

Rom. 8:9----“if any man have not the Spirit of Christ.”

Rom. 12:18----“if it be possible, as much as lieth in you.”

Rom. 14:15----“if thy brother be grieved with thy meat.”

I Cor. 7:9----“if they cannot contain, let them marry.”

I Cor. 8:3----“if any man love God.”

I Cor. 11:34----“if any man hunger.”

I Cor. 14:35----“if they will learn anything.”

I Cor. 14:38----“if any man be ignorant.”

II Cor. 13:5----“examine yourselves, if ye be in the faith.”

Gal. 5:15----“if ye bite and devour one another.”

Gal. 5:18----“if ye are led of the Spirit.”

II Thes. 3:14----“if any man obey not our word by this epistle.”

I Tim. 3:5----“if a man know not how to rule his own house.”

I. Tim. 5:4----“if any widow have children.”

James 2:11----“if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill.”

James 3:14----“if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts.”

Now in all of these instances, the condition mentioned is assumed by the speaker to be either true or false. In some few cases this may be so merely because of the ignorance of the speaker, as in “If thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles.” But in the great majority of the cases, the condition may be either true or false. It is true in some cases, and false in others. This is too obvious to admit of doubt. “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts.” “If thou commit no adultery.” “If any man be ignorant.” “If ye bite and devour one another.” In all of these, the condition is true of some, and not true of others.

And I observe here that even in the few places where the condition stated is unquestionably true, it remains unwarranted to substitute “since” for “if.” The substitution will often destroy good English, or introduce ambiguity. “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you” is good English, and perfectly clear, but “Since they have persecuted me, they will persecute you” destroys that clarity, for “since” is liable to be taken in the sense of “because,” which introduces a false meaning.

But I turn to that class of texts in which our modern teachers are accustomed to substitute “since” for “if.” Some will no doubt press us to render “if ye are led of the Spirit” in Gal. 5:18 as “since ye are led of the Spirit,” but will they then consent to render II Cor. 13:5, “examine yourselves, since ye are in the faith”? Will they render I Cor. 7:9, “since they cannot contain, let them marry”? Such renderings require us to assume the very point which is at issue. Other texts in which “since” is commonly inserted are:

Rom. 5:10----“if...we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

Rom. 6:8----“if we be dead with Christ.”

Rom. 8:31----“if God be for us.”

Gal. 3:29----“if ye are Christ's.”

Gal. 4:7----“if a son, then an heir of God.”

Col. 3:1----“if ye then be risen with Christ.”

Is it legitimate to replace “if” with “since” in these texts? Absolutely not. Why should such an alteration be made in these texts, and not in a hundred others, where the Greek is precisely the same? It is theology alone----and bad theology at that----which calls for such a change. Greek grammar has nothing to do with it. Greek grammar is only dragged in by the tail, directly against its nature----like a hare dragged into the kennel with the hounds. But the hare's tail is too short for the purpose----and if we should happen to get him in, it will be at the expense of his life. We have abundantly proved above that the use of the word “if” has nothing whatsoever to say to the question of whether the condition stated is true or false. Except in such cases as II Cor. 13:5, where it introduces a pure contingency, its sole province is to establish the connection between the condition stated, and the conclusion drawn from it. “If a son, then an heir.” Of course, then, if not a son, not an heir. The word “if” establishes the connection between the condition and the conclusion, and that is all that it does. If this text is applied to the true saint, then the condition is true. If it is applied to the hypocrite, the deceived, the man who has a dead faith which is without works, then it is certainly not true. He is neither son nor heir. To put “since” into texts like these is but one more plank in the platform of antinomianism----but one more means by which to calm the legitimate fears and squelch the conscience-begotten doubts of false professors, and thus to give assurance and security to those who have no business with it. But have it your way. “Since you are a son,” you are an heir. This is no doubt strictly true----“if you are a son,” which is what Paul said in the first place.

But some will tell us, “We may say `since' here, for Paul is speaking to true saints.” Is he indeed? Then go thou and do likewise. Be sure that when you have “since” in your mouth, you have none but true saints in your congregation, who indeed “are Christ's,” and so “have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts,”----who are in fact new creatures in Christ Jesus. Then your “since” may do little damage to souls, though it will yet make havoc of Greek and English.

“If God is for us, who can be against us” is a most precious pearl, “IF God is for us,” but God is not for everyone. Peter says, “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” To preach, therefore, to those who profess faith in Christ, and yet “do evil,” that “since God is for them,” none can be against them, is to corrupt the word of God, and confirm the wicked in his wicked way. God said “if,” not “since,” and the two are not the same thing. It is certainly true that God is for those who are for him, but it is just as certainly true that he is against them that do evil, and at any rate the substitution of “since” for “if” is absolutely illegitimate. Kenneth Wuest translates Gal. 3:29, “since ye are Christ's.”2 Why then does he not translate Gal. 3:18, “since the inheritance is of the law”?----for the construction is exactly the same in both verses. Again, Wuest translates Gal. 4:7, “since (you are) a son.”3 Why does he not translate Gal. 5:11, “since I yet preach circumcision”?----for they are both j with the indicative. There is no more justification in the Greek for the one than there is for the other. It is not Greek, but doctrine, which dictates this change, and whether the doctrine is good or bad is immaterial. If the doctrine is good, it will stand secure without any such change, for the change itself is no way legitimate.

I think I have abundantly proved that already, but consider further that the word “if” ( j with the indicative) is often used to state two things in succession which are directly contrary to each other, so that if the one is true, the other must of necessity be false----yet they are both introduced with the same “if.” Consider these:

Matt. 12:27-28 { if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, ...
but if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God.
John 15:20 { If they have persecuted me, ...
If they have kept my saying.

John 18:23


If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil,
but if well, why smitest thou me?

Romans 8:13 { If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,
But if ye...mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
Romans 11:6 { And if by grace, then is it no more of works, ...
But if it be of works, then is it no more grace.
II Tim. 2:11-12 { If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
If we deny him, he also will deny us.
Heb. 12:7-8 {

If ye endure chastening, ...
But if ye be without chastisement.


To thrust in “since” here must be to thrust out sense, for it is perfectly plain that in every one of these examples, if the one condition is true, the other is false. The “if” involved has nothing to do with the matter. Its only function is to indicate the relationship between the condition and the conclusion. “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you----if they have kept my word, they will keep yours.” “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die----if ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” If the condition is true, the conclusion is true. If the condition is false, so is the conclusion. The “if,” that is, is a real and true “if,” which denotes real contingency. It does not mean since----never has, and never can. To translate it “since” is to destroy it----and usually to destroy sound doctrine also, and it may be to destroy the souls of men in the process.

But I trust the reader will pardon me if I press the application of these things a little further, for I surely hope that my readers may learn more from these pages than the bare fact that “if” means if. It seems we have come to a rather sad state of affairs in the church of God when a man must seriously teach----and contend----that “if” means if. I have sometimes been asked, “Why should I learn Greek?” and my response has been, “To protect yourself from being imposed upon by modern preachers.” My observation has been, when our modern preachers affirm that the Greek means this or that, perhaps as often as not they are entirely astray in what they affirm. But, not to be too hard on anybody, it must be understood that most of the teachers of those impositions are themselves the victims of them. They only repeat what they have been taught. But this is a serious mistake, and not an altogether innocent one. Is it too much to expect that the teachers of the church should think for themselves----and study for themselves? When men hear it affirmed that “if” means since, is it too much to hope that they might think, that if “if” means since in one place, or a dozen, then it must mean so elsewhere also? Is it too much to expect them to open a concordance, to see whether these things be so, before they teach them to the world?

Alas, there is more involved here than lukewarmness and laziness and shallow thinking. Men grasp too eagerly at the vagary that “if” means since, for it too well suits their theology. It is commonly when the plain meaning of the plain English does not suit their doctrine that preachers resort to the supposed meaning of the Greek. But in most cases the Greek says precisely the same thing as the English. They resort to the Greek only to set aside the plain sense of Scripture, and the Greek will no more bear them out than the English. Observe, however, I have nothing at all to say against the sincere and honest use of the Greek, by competent and spiritual men, to correct or supplement the English version where it is needed. What I object to is coupling together bad Greek with shallow thinking, in order to support bad doctrine. Such is the modern notion that “if” means since.


Parental Softness

by Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached Oct. 18, 1989----Recorded, Transcribed, & Revised.

I want to speak to you again tonight on the subject of the discipline of children. I plan to cover a lot of ground that we've covered before, but also probably some we have never talked about before. But let's pray: God, we do pray that you might give us your wisdom and your help tonight, as we look into this subject which is so necessary to the well-being of our children, and so near to our own hearts. Give us a single eye, Father. And give us wisdom, understanding, and grace to act according to your word. Amen.

The verse that I'm going to start with is in First Kings chapter one----a verse that I have spoken on a number of times before here, but I really think that it is perhaps the most important verse on this subject in the Bible. Certainly one of the most important. First Kings, chapter one. I'll read beginning with verse 5. “Then Adonijah, the son of Haggith, exalted himself saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man, ” and so forth.

Now the key word here is “displeased.” If you are ever going to do anything with your children, or for them, you must displease them. The reason for that is very simple: they are depraved. They're sinners. They are inclined to do the wrong things, and they need to be taught, and disciplined to do the right things. Now, our love for our children will very often lead us not to displease them. We don't want to displease somebody that we love. That's human nature. It goes without saying. It is a difficult thing to have to do it. But it must be done. You'll notice that the result here of David's failing to displease his son was (in verse 5, which I read), “Adonijah exalted himself.” He became very proud. Pride is the natural result of parental softness. There are two things which are, as far as I can tell, the root of all sins. Those two things are lust and pride. And both of them will grow to fruition under parental softness. And David's son Adonijah is a perfect example of this.

Now love may be the thing that's at the root of the softness, but it's foolish love. We might make ourselves a proverb which says, “He that is soft on his son hates his son”----as the scripture says, “He that spares the rod hates his son.” Sparing the rod is one kind of softness, but there are three kinds that I want to talk about tonight. I'm not necessarily going to give you these in the order of their importance, because I'm not sure if I can say what that order is. But I want to talk about three kinds of softness.

There is a softness in speech in dealing with our children.

There is a softness in requirement.

And there's a softness in enforcement.

Now all three of them are bad, and lead to bad consequences. One of the most obvious ways in which softness manifests itself is in our speech. God does not speak softly to the human race. God speaks roughly, if you please. He speaks authoritatively. He spoke that way to Adam before he ever sinned. When Adam had none of those inclinations to evil within him which are in our children, God still did not use soft language when he spoke to Adam. He didn't come to Adam and say (softly and sweetly), “Now Adam-honey, I really don't want you to eat of that tree.” Nothing of the sort. That kind of speech is a sure sign of parental weakness. Mothers especially are guilty of this, but I tell you that any mother who has to sweet-talk and soft-talk her children to try to secure obedience is on the road to ruining them. God did not sweet-talk Adam. He did not adopt any pleading or pathetic tones, as though he were asking Adam for a favor. He didn't say, “Now Adam-honey, you know it will make me feel very bad if you eat of that tree.” And Adam was not a sinner. He had no inclination in him to do wrong at that time. Nevertheless, God spoke with authority, and said, “Thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This soft and syrupy speech that a lot of mothers use----and some fathers, too----is the first contribution towards ruining their children. It is, in fact, a pretty good indication that they are half ruined already. You ought to be addressing them as their superior----from a place of authority over them. But many parents address their children from a position of equality, giving them reasons instead of requirements, and many others address them from a position of inferiority, pleading, and sweet-talking, and bribing, and pacifying. This is wrong, and it will be the ruin of your children.

You say, “Well, doesn't love express itself in soft terms, and a soft tone?” And I say, “Yes, it does.” But love is not the only business you have with your children. God has committed to you a place of authority, and authority does not plead and sweet-talk. I don't mean that we ought never to speak gently and tenderly to our children. I don't mean that, because love certainly ought to be expressed in soft and gentle tones and words, but authority has another manner of expression, and we ought to be expressing both to our children. There is a time to use soft speech----when my child needs love. And there is a time to use authoritative speech----when he needs authority. Softness of speech tends to the ruin of a child. When you sweet-talk him, he has the upper hand, and he knows it. If God spoke in tough terms to Adam before ever Adam had any evil inclination within him, if God threatened him with death when he was pure and innocent, then it's our business to use tough language----not hard and harsh, but authoritative language----to our children, who definitely are sinners and are inclined to do what is wrong.

But by speaking with authoritative language, I do not mean raising the voice and adopting a threatening tone. Threatening language generally raises the voice. Authoritative language may lower it. I'm not talking about volume. I'm talking about spirit, manner, intonation. A threatening tone indicates weakness in the person speaking. Authoritative language indicates strength. Threatening language implies, “Johnny, I really don't expect you to obey me, so therefore I must put a threatening tone in my voice.” And it doesn't work.

A threatening tone does not get results. And you'll find----now you listen for this: it might be a little difficult to listen for it in yourself, but listen for it in folks around you----the person who uses a threatening tone of voice is usually speaking over and over and over. Repeating their child's name over and over and over. The person who speaks with an authoritative tone needs only say the name once. An authoritative tone is spoken from a position of strength which expects a response. A threatening tone is used from a position of weakness, which doesn't expect a response. That's all communicated to your child by the tone of your voice. When you speak threateningly, he understands. I don't know how kids are so smart, but they know these things intuitively. He understands that you are speaking from a position of weakness. He knows that he's got the upper hand with you. You ought never to use a threatening tone, and it should never be necessary. We ought to speak in such a way as that the child understands that we mean business----we're not going to speak again. When my father used to lay down the law to us, he would finish with “I have spoken”----spoken slowly and deliberately and authoritatively. We knew what that meant, and no one moved a wing, or peeped, or chirped.

But there is a time to speak softly. And by this I mean softness of tone, not volume, because I don't believe we ought ever to have to raise our volume in speaking to our children. If your child is subject to you, you may speak to him in a whisper, and get exactly the same results that you'll get when you're yelling full volume. If you speak authoritatively, you don't ever have to speak loudly. As a matter of fact, if your child is subject to you, an authoritative look will do as well as an authoritative word. Just a glance of the eye. An authoritative glance of the eye. If you have to raise your voice to get results----or try to get them----this is the absolute proof that you have already failed altogether to maintain your place of authority. It is the proof that your child is not subject to you. When I speak of speaking authoritatively, I certainly do not mean raising the voice, yelling, speaking reproachfully, or threateningly. Such things are only resorted to when parents have lost their authority over their children.

When I talk about speaking softly now, I mean gently and tenderly. There is a time when we need to speak softly. Soft and tender tones to express love. There's a time to be tender with your children. But that time is not when you are giving them orders. And that time is certainly not when they are disobeying your orders. Then it's time to be tough, and to speak authoritatively. None of this, “Johnny-honey” or “Janie-honey, I really don't want you to do this. Johnny, Mommy doesn't think that you should do that.” Such language, on the very face of it, proves that you have abdicated your place of authority. You are a lobbyist, not a legislator.

So much for the first point, softness in speech.

Another kind of softness, which is just as serious, or perhaps more serious, is softness in requirement----not requiring enough from my child. Now I don't want this to be misunderstood. I'm not talking about requiring things of them which are more likely to puff them up with pride than anything else. The largest portion of our requirements of our children should be negative ones. They should be restraints. You read God's commandments in the Old Testament, and you'll find a great deal of “Thou shalt not”----restraining us from doing what we ought not to do. This is not requiring us to do great things, or to assume responsibility, or anything of that sort. The biggest share of God's commandments are negative ones. “Thou shalt not.” And our commandments to our children, especially little children, ought to be of the same character. I'm talking about restraint. This is what children need. This is what the human race needs----restraint.

But I have known mothers enough who are actually afraid to restrain their children, or to require anything of them. Little Johnny is a little angel until his will is crossed, and then he is transformed into a bear and a tyrant. So mother dutifully refrains from requiring anything of him. When she must, she knows she will have a scene and a confrontation. Then she resorts to sweet-talking and bribing. But I have talked a great deal about restraining children before.*

I pass on to the next one, which I think is perhaps the most serious. This is softness in enforcement. It may be a serious thing if I don't require enough of my children, but it's a much more serious thing if I don't enforce what I do require. If I don't require enough of them, or don't restrain them enough, they will likely grow up with a character which is unrestrained, and, of course, proud. This is the thing that you see in David's son. David didn't displease him, and the natural result of that was, he exalted himself. But if I do require, and don't enforce, I make him a rebel. Every time you command and fail to enforce, you teach your child to despise your authority, and so you teach him to despise God's authority, for your authority is derived from God, and a child who is not subject to his parents cannot be subject to God. And I want you to understand that in all of this dealing with children, we are not merely regulating their conduct. We are forming their character.

Now the enforcement which I am speaking of is to require immediate, exact, and cheerful obedience. It is the business of authority to enforce its dictates, to require submission. God does not give suggestions to the human race, but commandments.

Now listen, I understand completely that it is love on the part of parents that leads to softness. I know that by my own experience, but it's the worst thing for the child. It's like the father of a wild sixteen-year-old who loves his son, and therefore gives him a motorcycle. He might just as well give him a ticket to the grave yard. He thinks he's giving his son a motorcycle because he loves him, and he no doubt does love him, but love is dangerous and destructive where it isn't controlled by holiness. David no doubt loved Adonijah, and there is no doubt he loved Absalom, but he ruined both of them by his softness. And ruined them for eternity. Parental softness ruins a child's character, and it ruins his present happiness also. A child who does not submit immediately, and exactly, and cheerfully to his parents' commands cannot be happy. He can't be----and he isn't. You will observe that the children who are disobedient are always the same children who are fussing and crying and pouting. They are unhappy children. A child who is not subject to his parents can never be happy. Is that what you love him for, to make him unhappy?

Children need authority for security. They need parents that they can't manipulate. They need parents that they can't push around. They need parents that speak authoritatively to them, and require things of them, and enforce their requirements. That will give them security. But more important, it will give them character. I don't mean authority without love. You've got to have both, and you can have both. The one certainly does not exclude or any way qualify the other.

Now we want immediate obedience. I think it should go without saying that this implies that you ought to speak once only when you tell your children to do something. Some parents have to tell their children the same thing over and over, and threaten besides, before they get any response. I've never been imp enough to count how many times some of you repeat yourselves, but I know it's too many. Why is it that you have to repeat yourself when you've already told your child what you want? There's only one reason: because he didn't obey the first time. Why didn't he obey the first time? Because he knows he doesn't have to. He knows you have no intention of enforcing your command the first time. You have taught him that. He's waiting for you to say it again. He probably knows exactly how many times he can push you to say it, before you start getting serious, or before you intend to enforce it. If it's six, he'll push for six every time. Actually he'll push for seven. The six he has already. He knows how many times you will speak before you enforce----or he knows when the tone of your voice changes----knows when you mean business and when you don't. And the more you speak without enforcing, the more you teach him to despise your authority. This is the most destructive kind of parental softness. Obedience ought to be immediate, and it is your business to require that and enforce it.

Next, a child should be required to obey without answering back. A child who is generally subject might be dealt with in a different manner from a child who is generally insubordinate, but a child who is generally insubordinate should always be required to obey without speaking at all. When you give your child an order, he has only one reason to speak, and that is to challenge your authority, and push you as far as he can. There are two words that you should especially watch for, and never allow. Those are the words “why” and “but.” You get a child that's insubordinate----and I heard an example of this just this evening before the meeting----you have a child that's insubordinate, and you say, “do such and such,” and his first word will be “but.” What he's saying is, “But Mother, but Father, I don't want to do what you're saying.” He will make some excuse, of course, but the sum of all those excuses is, he does not want to obey you. And I will insist on this: you ought to spank that child every time he uses the word “but,” when he's given a command. Never allow that word “but” to come out of his mouth, but spank him every time. And I'll be bold on this: if you don't do it, you're ruining your child. You're allowing him to challenge your authority, and push you every time you give him a command. There's no reason for a child to say “but” when he's told to do something.

And there is no reason for him to say “why?”----and I would never allow either one of those words to proceed out of the mouth of my child. Now if you give him a command, and he cheerfully obeys you, and then comes back and says, “Daddy, why did I have to do that?”----that's a different story altogether. He wants to know why. But when you tell him to do something, and he says, “Why?” he doesn't want to know why. He only wants to challenge your authority. I had one child that used to try that on me, and when she would say, “Why?” I would say, “You tell me why”----and her proper response was, “Because you said so.” But after a while she learned to say, “I have to do it because you said so, but I want to know your reason.” Now it may be legitimate for a child to want to know your reason, so long as he understands that he is to obey whether you give him a reason or not. God does not require children to submit to your reason, but to your authority. They may have no capacity to understand your reason. A fourteen-year-old girl may have no ability at all to understand why you forbid her to wear tight clothes, and an explanation of it may do her more harm than good. Her business is to submit to your authority. To demand a reason for submission is to undermine the essence of authority, and reduce it to a non-entity. God gave Adam a reason when he gave him a command, but that reason was, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”----that is, because I have commanded you, and I mean to enforce it. This is the proper exercise of authority, and it is perfectly effectual where it is exercised in an atmosphere of love and trust.

Now if you're a tyrant, and if you lay foolish, unreasonable, irksome, or humiliating requirements upon your children, you should not be surprised if they demand a reason. If you exercise authority without love, you forfeit their respect, and your ability to rule them. But if you exercise your authority with reason and love, for children to demand a reason is generally to challenge your right to command, and you cannot allow it. If you have a child that is generally insubordinate, he will regard every requirement as irksome, and I would consider it one of the most important things you can do for such a child, to require him every time without exception to obey you without speaking----for whatever he says will likely be a challenge to your authority.

Next, obedience should be exact. If you say, “Johnny, come here,” and he walks up within ten feet of you, he knows very well you want him to come farther than that. That's just pushing you, challenging your authority. What should you do then? Say it again? Say, “come all the way here”? No, you should spank him, and send him back where he was, and call him again. And by the way, if you don't believe in spanking, you don't believe the Bible. Throw the old Bible away, and found your own religion, with some modern psychology book for your Bible, and some liberal educator for your pastor. I believe in spanking, but I'll tell you, I have seven children, and the whole seven of them, all put together, don't get a grand total of one spanking in a year. They would if they needed it, but you raise children the way you ought, and they will soon cease to need any spanking.

The next thing is, obedience should be cheerful. Turn to First John, chapter five. We read in the third verse, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” Now God requires some pretty hard things of us. But it says, “his commandments are not grievous.” We have submitted to his authority. We trust in his wisdom and his love, and therefore his commandments are not grievous. The same ought to be true of a child. If your child finds your commandments grievous to him, if, in plain English, he doesn't want to obey, I can tell you absolutely that your child is not happy. A child cannot be happy unless he obeys cheerfully. You want your children to be happy? Get them right, and they will be happy. But a child who is insubordinate, or who obeys reluctantly and grudgingly, can never be happy. He can never be secure, either. And if all you secure by your discipline is the reluctant and grudging submission of your children, you haven't secured anything at all. You may as well spare yourself the trouble, and let them go their own way----for they will as soon as they can.

But I want to talk about character. Your discipline of your children is not merely to regulate their conduct, but to form their character. It's to train them up in the way they should go----which is the way of godliness----that when they are old they may not depart from it. Your softness will absolutely destroy your child's character. Softness will produce both pride and lust in a child. He'll become proud, self-important, and accustomed to having his own way----and not accustomed to self-denial. I had a little conversation with one of you on this subject, and was asked, “What can I do about pride in a child?” And I said then, just as a suggestion, which I had never thought of before, the way to deal with pride in a child is to get him to submit to his parents. And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it was divine wisdom given to me at that moment, and it is, in fact, the truth. The way to deal with pride in a child is to get him in subjection to his parents. It is naturally humbling to submit to somebody, and obey somebody. You may be pretty sure that these big-shottish, self-important children are as insubordinate as they are proud. Pride and insubordination go together. They're twin sisters. Humility and submission go together.

There's another thing involved also: parental softness will foster lying in children. Lying is one of the most difficult things to deal with in a child----but also one of the most necessary things to deal with. The Scripture says, “outside are liars”----everyone that loves and makes a lie. A liar is not saved. He's not going to get saved until he repents of his lying. Now it's one of the most difficult things to deal with because very often you don't know when your child is lying, and when he isn't. You say, “Johnny, did you do that?” (when you're almost certain that he did), and he says, “No, Daddy, not me.” And because you're not absolutely sure he did, you can't discipline him. So he gets away with whatever else he did, and with lying also. What do you do? Well, I think a little wisdom will enable you to set him up and find him out, by asking him questions when you know what the truth is. And you've got to make it your business to know. A child that is suspected of lying should be kept under your eye. You can't let him run loose as he pleases, and then ask him what he's been doing. He knows he has the upper hand on that plan. The Bible says, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother shame.” One reason for parental softness is parental laziness.

But love is another source of softness, and I think one of the difficulties that parents have in dealing with lying is that they're not inclined to believe that their children are liars. I understand that. But you can be pretty sure that every child who is insubordinate is also a liar. They go together. C. H. Spurgeon says, “Every liar has some other latent vice”----in other words, some other evil in him. That's why he lies, to cover it up, or to get away with it. Children will lie just for pride's sake, because they don't want to be exposed as being wrong. That's pride. They will lie to avoid embarrassment. That's pride. They will also lie to avoid getting a spanking.

Now you can very often get a pretty good idea if your child is lying by the simple fact that he won't look you in the eye. If your child will look you directly in the eye, and say what he has to say, that's probably an indication that he's telling you the truth. Not necessarily, though, because I've seen the contrary, and I've seen it in three year olds, who have become such habitual liars that they can look their parents in the eye, never bat an eye, never wink, and speak calmly, and cooly, and deliberately, the most far-fetched lie on earth. But if you catch them at a stage when they're just learning to lie, they won't look you in the eye when they lie. You will say, “Look at me,” and say, “Did you do this?” and they'll avoid eye contact, look at the floor, and say, “No.” Or they'll look at your forehead, or your nose, or anything but your eyes. That's a pretty good indication that they're lying. But I've seen some three year olds that can look their mother right in the eye and lie, when I know they are lying. When you've got one like that to deal with, you've got a job on your hands. But I really think that lying can be dealt with the same way as pride and everything else. You get that child subject to his parents. A child that's subject to his parents doesn't have much occasion to lie. That's a fact. He's humble. He knows how to take “No” for an answer----cheerfully subject. He has nothing to hide. He isn't trying to get away with anything. He has little or no occasion to lie.

But the parental softness that allows insubordination, foments and fosters pride and lust and lying. Your authority is given you by God to put your children in the right way and keep them there. If you use it properly, it will accomplish that. It will curb lust and pride. It will teach them self-denial, which is the grand essential of discipleship to Christ. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.” A child cannot follow Christ without self-denial, and a child who does not know how to deny himself is in a bad way. I have known a child of Christian parents, who time after time apparently wept her way to the cross of Christ, but never could manage to stay there. And it was as plain as day to me that parental softness was the real problem. The poor girl grew up manipulating her parents, getting her own way, knowing nothing of self-denial----and oh, what a struggle she had to try to submit that wayward will to Christ. I have given great offence to the parents of “strong-willed children” by affirming it, but I believe it to be the very truth: strong-willed children are made, not born. They are made by parental softness. I have watched some of them being manufactured----observed the whole process----and I know whereof I speak.

But God says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” And that implies that he didn't depart from it when he was young. You can train up a child in the way he should go, and one of the main ingredients in that training is your authority. Curb his lusts and his pride. Conquer his insubordination. You do that by requiring him to do as he ought, and enforcing your requirements.

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï
by the Editor

They Who Separate Themselves

Of the mockers of the last times we read in the common English Bible, “These be they who separate themselves.” (Jude 19). This is usually understood to mean those who “separate themselves” from the people of God, but this hardly seems possible, unless he is here speaking of some different persons from those he has been speaking of throughout the epistle. But it would really seem he is speaking of the same persons. For observe:

Verse 8----“These dreamers defile the flesh,” etc.

Verse 10----“These speak evil of those things which they know not.”

Verse 12----“These are spots in your feasts of charity.”

Verse 14----“Enoch also...prophesied of these.”

Verse 16----“These are murmurers, complainers.”

Verse 19----“These are they who separate themselves.”

But it is plain that “these” of whom he has spoken throughout the epistle do not separate themselves. For observe further:

Verse 4----“For there are certain men crept in unawares”----sneakretly, as my little boy used to say, but “crept in.”

Verse 12----“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you.”

If “these,” then, are the same as those mentioned in verse 19, clearly they do not separate themselves. And it may interest the reader to know that (with one exception, to be noted shortly) the King James Version is the only early Protestant version in English which ever affirmed that they did. William Tyndale's New Testament (1526) rendered this clause “These are makers off sectes,” and “makers of sects” was the reading of all of his revisions. It was the reading also of Coverdale, of Matthew, of Taverner, of the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Bishops' Bible. The only exception to this was in Coverdale's Latin-English New Testament, published in 1538. In this New Testament Coverdale printed an English version in parallel columns with the Latin Vulgate, and purposely conformed the English to the Latin, in order to remove one common objection of the papists to the Bible in English. Coverdale's Latin-English Testament has “These are they that separate them selues,” after the Vulgate, Hi sunt qui segregant semetipsos, as Coverdale prints it.

Now it will be observed that the difference between “makers of sects” and “they who separate themselves” is not a difference in translation. The two are rendered from two different texts. Semetipsos (“themselves”) is not found in all the Vulgate manuscripts, nor is its counterpart J v found in most Greek manuscripts. Nor was it found in the printed Greek New Testaments from which the early English Bibles were translated. But the makers of the King James Version had it in Beza's Greek text, and on the strength of that departed from the text of the earlier English Bibles.

Yet besides introducing a manifest difficulty into the book of Jude, J v is but weakly supported by textual evidence, and the majority of printed editions of the Greek Testament----whether Textus Receptus, critical editions, or majority text----have not contained it.

Tyndale's “makers of sects” may be a little too strong. “Makers of divisions” may be more suitable. The reader will note that those who made divisions at Corinth did not separate themselves, but remained in the church. So, apparently, did “these” of whom Jude speaks.


Martin Luther on Evangelical Ecumenicalism

I understand that you have undertaken a notable mission----that of reconciling Luther and the pope. But the pope will not be reconciled, and Luther refuses. Be mindful how you sacrifice both time and trouble. If you succeed, in order that your example may not be lost, I promise you to reconcile Jesus Christ and Belial.

----The Life of Luther. Written by himself. Collected and Arranged by M. Michelet, Translated by William Hazlitt; London: David Bogue, 1846, pg. 223. (Letter to Spalatin, a fellow-Reformer, Aug. 26, 1530.)

Editorial Policies

OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise, and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.