#STRask: April 18, 2016

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Published on 04/18/2016

Greg discusses how to apply Matt 5:10-12, if Agabus was a false prophet, what it means to “pray on it”, and what the best Bible translation is.


  • Can you reflect on how we can apply Matthew 5:10-12 - rejoice and be glad when we’re reviled and persecuted for Jesus’ sake - given how the culture is becoming more hostile to Christians?
  • Was Agabus a false prophet since Acts 21:11 didn’t come true as he prophesied? Does this say anything about false prophets today?
  • When we “pray on it”, what are we expecting to happen? How long do we wait before we do something in our own power?
  • What do you think is the best Bible translation?


Melinda: Hi there. This is STRask and this is Melinda the Enforcer with our short podcast. Greg Koukl is laughing for some reason already.

Greg: It’s just what...

Melinda: Why does the show strike you as so funny?

Greg: No, it’s because I pretend like I’m going to poke you in the ribs and you jump right out of your seat because you’re quite sensitive.

Melinda: Because I’m very ticklish.

Greg: It’s like a...

Melinda: Stay away from me.

Greg: ...big brother, little sister thing. I’m harassing and tormenting you. Okay.

Melinda: Great. This is STRask, STR’s short podcast. I just want to remind everybody, we’ve been talking about this for a couple weeks now, starting next week, there’s going to be 2 episodes a week. Why do you look surprised? We’ve been talking about this for a couple weeks now.

Greg: Two episodes of what?

Melinda: We’re going to do 2 episodes of STRask a week.

Greg: You mean we’re doing an extra half hour in addition to what we’re already doing?

Melinda: We’ve talked about this on the other shows. Haven’t you been listening? We’re going to do 2 20-minute episodes per week.

Greg: Is that so that when I’m out of town coming up?

Melinda: No, on a regular basis, we’re going to be posting 2 episodes a week. You’re acting like this is the first time you’ve heard it.

Greg: Have I heard this before, Brooke? I have?

Melinda: No, you haven’t. April Fool’s, just late. This is Brooke’s idea. It’s true. We’re going to start doing 2 episodes a week, but it’s not true that we’ve talked about this before because we just decided about an hour ago while you were doing the other show.

Greg: I’m stupid, but I’m not dumb, so you could...

Melinda: Oh, you’re gullible.

Greg: See, that’s because I trust people that ought to be trustworthy. Nothing happened on April 1st.

Melinda: I was going to...

Greg: Nothing happened and I figured okay, I just escaped. I didn’t think that you would do the lowbrow thing of delaying for a couple of weeks and trying an April Fool’s then.

Melinda: It’s not like I’ve been laying in wait for 2 weeks. When we were talking about announcing it, we came up with the idea.

Greg: Okay, so I’m not senile, right?

Melinda: Not for this reason. I’m not saying overall you’re not senile, but you have not heard of this before, so neither has anybody else outside our office.

Greg: Within a couple of weeks, we will be doubling up, but that’s because I’m going out of town and we don’t want people to...

Melinda: No, I’m making a big announcement here. Due to popular demand, starting next week, we’re going to do 2 episodes a week and they’re going to be posted on...

Greg: That’s not part of the April Fool’s thing?

Melinda: No. I wouldn’t do a joke on the audience. That would be a joke on the audience. I wouldn’t do that. I’m just trying to play a trick on you. No, the good part of this... See, I’ve told you before, a good practical joke always has an element of truth to it, so this is the element of truth to it.

Greg: That is, it’s not really a joke. We are doing it.

Melinda: Yes. Starting next week, we’re going to do 2 episodes a week. We’re going to make them even just a little bit shorter, like 20 minutes apiece, and we’re going to do 2 a week. We’ll have overall more time and post 2 episodes. Some people have asked for more than 1 episode a week and so we discussed how to do that. We think this will be a good plan, so it’ll be posted on Mondays and Thursdays. The exciting thing is every week there will be 4 episodes of STR to listen to, the 2 longs and 2 short ones. You look stunned.

Greg: People just wonder who’s in charge around here. Now you know. Okay.

Melinda: Yeah, everybody else except Greg.

Greg: So let it be written, so let it be done, right?

Melinda: You’re sitting here. What do you care, 10 more minutes sitting here?

Greg: Alrighty.

Melinda: Yeah, lots of questions.

Greg: I am glad to serve my wonderful organization.

Melinda: Of course you are and the wonderful people who listen and support us. Then the other thing I thought I’d mentioned is just to let people know is they post questions on Twitter. That’s how people submit their questions to STRask, #STRask on Twitter. I go there on Tuesdays and retrieve the questions. I just want to let people know because we’ve had a couple questions, once you’ve posted your question on Twitter, you don’t have to post it again. I keep a list and every week there are some questions we don’t take, but generally, we take all the questions. I keep them on the list and we get to them. Usually, it’s probably a couple weeks before we tape it and then there’s another week before it gets posted, so we generally get around to all the questions. If you’ve posted a question, just keep listening and you’ll most likely hear your question and Greg’s answer in 4 minutes or less.

Greg: Wait, this raises another question. It’s not a joke, though, because I will be gone a lot in May and a lot in June and in early July, so that means that we will be doing 4 sessions a week, not 2 sessions a week, to catch up for the days that I’ll be gone, right?

Melinda: Yeah, just so the audience knows, when Greg came in earlier today, he was suggesting that while Greg’s gone on vacation and...

Greg: I’ll be in Europe and in Oslo.

Melinda: No, you’re back for Oslo. You’re only going to Oslo for the weekend. You’re going to Norway for the weekend.

Greg: I am doing a show on either end of that.

Melinda: Yes.

Greg: Okay. The general point is I know...

Melinda: When you go to London in July, you’ll miss it.

Greg: Right.

Melinda: Then other than that, it’s just your vacation that you’re taking off and disappointing everybody who listens. I have, where we could, during those weeks we’ve got Brett or Alan or Jay Warner Wallace sitting in. When they do the program for the regular podcast, then they’ll do the STRask.

Greg: Okay, great.

Melinda: We are... Sorry, popped everybody’s heads out, ears out, but we are going to, for the weeks that you’re not here and that I couldn’t get anybody to fill in, we are going to do some extra episodes those weeks, so we still have fresh episodes coming out.

Greg: Okay. Those will be double doubles then, right?

Melinda: Yes, we’re going to have to work extra hard. Yes, double doubles, animal style. Here we go. You ready?

Greg: As ever.

Melinda: Which means not much. Actually, I’m going to use my prerogative as host and ask you a question of my own.

Greg: Your own?

Melinda: Yes. I do have a question. It’s not so much understanding the passage, but I just wanted to hear you reflect a little bit on its application. I was reading Matthew 5:10-12, Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus says to rejoice and be glad when we’re reviled and persecuted for His sake. I was just thinking about the... Of course, many people across the world have been reviled and persecuted for Jesus’ sake for a long time. Obviously, the US culture is changing. Canadian culture is changing, Western Europe and increasingly, we’re getting a lot more pushback and, I think, some genuine persecution and reviling is happening and coming up. I think, understandably, as humans, we tend to want to fight back or feel sorry for ourselves or complain, and I was just struck by what Jesus says is He says, “No, rejoice and be glad when you’re reviled for My sake.” I just thought I’d hear... Reflect a little bit on how we’re going to have more chances to apply this.

Greg: I think Jesus is right.

Melinda: That’s a good position.

Greg: Rejoice and be glad when your colleagues revile you.

Melinda: Make fun of you.

Greg: I remember maybe 3 or 4 years ago I was in Poland with the European Leadership Forum and Bill Craig was speaking, giving a session on debates. Somebody asked him, “How is it that you comport yourself or manage when you get so much negative pushback from people and hostile reactions?” He has been in some debates in the last couple years – even though I think most of them are genial – where he got quite a bit of abuse. Bill’s immediate response was from this passage. He said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in Heaven is great.”

It was so refreshing to hear that, though it’s pretty basic. Sermon on the Mount, it’s basic Christianity, but it’s so different from our impulse. I think my impulse is to try to think of a quick-on-my-feet, clever retort. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily inappropriate with answering charges when there is something valuable or fruitful you might say. When you think of Jesus, for example, at His own trial... This is an ironic observation in light of His advice to turn the other cheek when someone strikes you. He actually didn’t turn the other cheek when He was struck at His trial, which then suggests that maybe Jesus meant something different than a lot of people think he meant in this same account, the Sermon on the Mount. At His trial, He said, “If I said something wrong, testify to the wrong and if not, then why did you strike Me?” It’s so Jesus in a certain sense. It’s just precisely the kind of thing that it fits Him so well, His voice, everything, the whole thing. It also shows that there is an appropriateness to answering, but even so, we still do not lash back inappropriately.

Melinda: The Apostles, in the Book of Acts, when they were dragged before the authorities, would very often answer and usually use it to witness, but they never did it in a hostile or angry way. They wouldn’t tell.

Greg: Yeah, and Jesus before Pilate was the same way. He was utterly silent before Herod because Herod, there was no reason to give any answer to Herod at all. Pilate was different and he conversed with Pilate. I think the takeaway of this is just that we have to remind ourselves what an appropriate response is, which is why Jesus is saying it. If this happens to you, then respond this way, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in Heaven is great.” If we think to ourselves wow, that just happened and I don’t like it, but you know what? Jesus said that that’s going to result in a reward for me because I am being persecuted for His name’s sake, that’s not so bad. All right. I guess I can live with that because I got something really good coming on down the line.

There’s a certain sense in which we need to instruct ourselves about these things. Last night, I was laying in bed at 3 o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t get to sleep. Lately, what I’ve been trying to do is instead of letting my mind flit off in a bunch of things that are not that productive, will keep me awake, I’ve started to just recite passages that I’m familiar with, but to just do it slowly and that gives me something to focus in on. Then my mind isn’t racing and eventually, I’ll fall back to sleep.

The verse I was thinking about yesterday was in James 1, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” For some reason, I just was chewing on the “various” thing. “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result, that you’ll be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Here is another case and there’s a parallel here with the passage that you’re bringing up is that there are times when we have to approach the circumstance that is, in itself, unpleasant, whether it’s the trials in James 1, various trials, or whether it’s the persecution in Matthew 5. Then we have to instruct ourselves about what’s going on.

This is something that will build me stronger, this “various trials,” so that I can reach my final end that he lost, the perfect lacking in nothing. This other thing, the persecution without warrant for Christ’s sake will also take me to another end that is appealing and so we then focus in on those things. They are disciplines. It is too easy just to go oh me, oh my, poor me, oh my and get mad at the person who’s causing the trouble instead of seeing the good thing that would or could work out if we allowed it to do so.

Melinda: Right. I just read it and I thought boy, this is something we all need to, I think, counsel ourselves on to not think oh, poor me, to not be angry about what’s going on, but to be joyful and that that’s our demeanor in our general posture and attitude.

Greg: I’m angry about what’s going on, but when I look at those things, it just reinforces in my own mind that I cannot put my stock in this world and I am so glad that I’m a Christian and God knows and that my well-being and happiness and fullness and satisfaction, my ultimate goal in life is not to make this the best world it could possibly be. I should make a contribution for the sake of honoring God, but this world is never going to be the end all.

Melinda: Right. Okay. We’ve gone way over time. Next question comes from GeoJono on Twitter. Was Agabus a false prophet since Acts 21:11 didn’t come true as he prophesied? Does this say anything about false prophets today?

Greg: No, nothing. I know about this passage because it has been used to characterize prophecy in the New Testament as being prophecy different from the Old Testament because the Old Testament you had to have complete accuracy. In the New Testament, gee, apparently, that wasn’t the case because look at Agabus. This is chapter 22 and what was our verse, 21?

Melinda: 11, 21:11.

Greg: 21:11, okay. “And coming to us, he,” Agabus, “took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ’This is what the Holy Spirit says. In this way, the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Now here is the concern. The Jews never bound Paul. It was the Gentiles that bound Paul, right? Isn’t that what the question is, so his prophecy didn’t come true, but he’s still honored as a prophet even though he didn’t get it all right. Here, I think people are just misunderstanding the point of this kind of colorful language and so to make my point differently, I am going to argue that the Bible is not inerrant based on something that Peter said in Acts, earlier in the chapter in the Book of Acts, at the sermon on Pentecost.

Here he is speaking to the Jews and the spirit has been given. There’s this big commotion, so he takes a stand among the 12 and the Disciples and he preaches. Among his preaching, verse 22, he says, “Men of Israel,” the Jews, right, “Men of Israel, listen to these words. Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs, which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this man delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross.” Did the Jews nail Him to the cross? No, it was the Gentiles who nailed Him to the cross. He actually makes this a little more clear. He says, “You nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death,” but God raised Him up again.

As a matter of fact, the Jews didn’t nail Jesus to the cross, but they essentially did by having Him put to death through the Romans, who did the dirty work. Okay. Now if we can say that about the Acts passage without questioning inerrancy, why can’t we say the same thing about the Acts 21 passage when, in fact, it wasn’t the Jews that bound him, but He was bound because of the Jews and He was bound by the Romans. To me, it’s virtually a perfect parallel. Since there’s no reason to be suspect of the first Acts 2, there’s no reason to be suspect of the second Acts 21. The substance of this prophecy was fulfilled. That would be the way I’d respond to that.

Melinda: Okay. He’s not a false prophet?

Greg: Not a false prophet and there is no reason, then, to speculate about whether the definition of a prophet has been changed in the New Testament versus the Old Testament. That’s really the material concern here because that has ramifications for other discussions. I just don’t see that here at all. The statement in Deuteronomy 18 is so powerful and it makes sense if a person says he’s talking for God, then he better get it all right or else he’s not talking for God. I see no reason whatsoever except for vague references like this in the Book of Acts that in the New Testament time that principle would be abrogated.

Melinda: I was going to move on since we took so much time for the first one, but I actually have a question. That requirement for prophets is mentioned in Deuteronomy, which is the Second Giving of the Law, which is what was given to the nation of Israel as their national...

Greg: Code.

Melinda: code. Why pluck that verse out of its historical context for Israel and say that that was a principle for all time for prophets?

Greg: Because this particular...

Melinda: Maybe because they relied so much on prophets for the nation of Israel, God had an extra higher standard during that time?

Greg: Yeah, but keep in mind though what the rationale was. This is what I was hinting at just a moment ago. This is not just some kind of functional feature of the theocracy. This is an office among God’s people that has a particular role of communicating God’s word to His people. Now we have prophets under this dispensation and we have prophets under the New Testament dispensation. We have prophets in both particular cases. Prophets, it seems, are the ones who speak for God. That’s what Agabus was doing. He was foretelling the future. Here’s what’s going to happen down the line. He’s functioning in the same way and he’s functioning for God. It was a supernatural information that was being given.

The reason that we ought to trust a prophet speaking for God is because if indeed God is speaking, He is not going to make any mistakes. It reminds me of an earlier show. We talked about the Bible is the word of God and if God can’t err, then His word can’t err. If a prophet is speaking the words of God, then they are the words of God. God can’t err, then the prophet can’t err. If he does, then he’s not speaking the words of God. The same logic would apply in the New Testament circumstance.

Melinda: Okay. Good. We’re 20 minutes in and only 2 questions. This is starting to seem too much like the other podcast. Sorry.

Greg: Let’s just take 1 more and we’ll save the rest.

Melinda: No, we’re okay. Question 3, from welch_64. When we pray on it, what are we expecting to happen and how long do we wait before we do something in our own power?

Greg: That depends on a whole lot of things. It depends on the nature of the issue and the circumstances. Also, there’s a little bit of a suggestion that if God doesn’t answer the prayer, then we take over from then and then we’re doing it in our power, not His power. I think that’s a false dichotomy. If you’re facing, for example, a troubled relationship and you take it to prayer, you probably are going to keep praying about it until either the prayer gets answered one way or another or you get weary and figure I’ve prayed enough about this. I don’t have anything more to say. I’m just going to trust it to God now. In a certain sense, those are subjectively answered, those questions. If the issue is a decision that has to be made in a day or 2 about something at work or a relationship or something you want to do, then you pray about it. That’s going to be a shorter-term thing because you have to have an answer fairly shortly.

I was praying about I’m going to Wisconsin fishing. My brother bailed out on me. He wasn’t able to make it and I usually do that as a twosome, so I’m heading out by myself in the end of May or mid-May. I have another buddy that’s an experienced fisherman and I’m thinking do I want to ask him to come with me for a week, so I prayed about it for a while. Finally, I just got a sense that okay, I guess I’ve covered that. I don’t know what else I have to say. I’m just going to call him or send him a note. I sent him a note and invited him. Then he turned me down because he had conflict in his schedule, but there’s an example of that. I’m going to commit it to prayer. I’m not just going to go about and do it without at least committing it to the Lord and waiting and seeing if there’s anything else that comes up, any wisdom that I get, somebody tells me something. There’s a process there.

Melinda: I think God slammed the door in your face.

Greg: Yeah, but then I moved when I simply felt that I did what needed to be done and I don’t know what else to say about that. It’s a subjective assessment. Other things that are much more weighty you probably will need to spend more time and reflection in prayer and in talking to other people. There’s no right answer about that. I just want to disabuse our questioner of the idea that you either pray and get an answer from God or you move on in your own power. I think that that maybe didn’t actually mean it quite that way, but I think put that way is a false dichotomy. We ultimately are going to have to make our decisions and move forward. If we have delivered the issue to the Lord as per Proverbs 3, we have committed it to the Lord, then...

Melinda: You will direct yourself.

Greg: You just entrust it to Him and then you move forward. It’s not fleshly to do it that way.

Melinda: Right. James talks about not making plans without acknowledging the Lord.

Greg: The sovereignty of God, right.

Melinda: It doesn’t mean that you wait for a specific direction or an answer or something, but it means that you put your decisions before the Lord and you do things before Him and trust His sovereignty.

Greg: Sometimes, when you’re praying about things, things just happen. Circumstances present themselves, doors close, doors open. I don’t take these as divine signs, although closed doors are still closed doors. That pretty much settles the issue in that case.

Melinda: For the time being, Paul kept praying even though he had a closed door, Macedonia.

Greg: Yes, that’s true. In the Book of Romans, he talks about that, as well. Yeah, so we have a number of occasions like that. Anyway, the point is we lay things before the Lord. We give it a season that is appropriate to the circumstances. Then we do the best we can with what we have when the time comes.

Melinda: 100% God, 100% man. Okay, last question. We’ll do this 2 minutes. Comes from fixyoureyes on Twitter. What’s the best Bible translation, in your opinion?

Greg: I like the New American Standard Bible. I think it is a very high-quality translation because there are 2 different versions, 2 different approaches. One is called dynamic equivalence and the other one is called, I get these terms mixed up sometimes, it’s called direct correspondence, I think. Direct correspondence is just more direct. Dynamic equivalent is a little bit more equivalent and not as direct. The New American Standard is more of a direct correspondence.

Melinda: I just love it because you’re using the same words to define these.

Greg: What, direct correspondence or divine equivalent, dynamic equivalent?

Melinda: Yeah, dynamic equivalent is dynamic.

Greg: Yeah, that’s right.

Melinda: Direct is more direct. Okay. That helps a lot.

Greg: They choose the words for a good reason, so if you take the New American Standard is more like a direct correspondence. Some think because of that it reads a little stiffer. I don’t, frankly. I like the way it reads, maybe because I’m used to it. If you take the NIV, the New International Version, this is more of a dynamic equivalent, so it seems to read smoother. I think it suffers for accuracy in some places and that troubles me. They’re all good translations except for if you take so-called free translations like the New Living and stuff like that. These are not... I actually don’t think people should use them at all, frankly, unless they’re children.

I don’t think regular translations are difficult and I think they are certainly a lot more precise as God’s word than something like the Living Bible or something like that. Occasionally you might use it just to, if you don’t understand what you’re reading and then you read a looser or freer translation and they might give you an insight into something, but for the most part, I’d stick with a more rigorous translation, so NASB. The ESV I have high regard for, but it’s not my Bible. My girls read that one.

Melinda: That’s the one I use.

Greg: It’s a reform favorite, but I’m 40 years in this one. I’m going to stick with it.

Melinda: For regular reading, for accuracy, we want to stick with an accurate translation. Would you suggest any other translations for different purposes?

Greg: Maybe. As a general rule, no. Like I said, sometimes, when you’re looking at a passage and you’re not quite sure what it means, there’s an ambiguity in it, if you go to another translation or to a freer translation, you will sometimes maybe gain an insight, at least as to what that author thought the text was getting at. I think, for example, the Phillips translation in Philippians 2, where it talks about Jesus humbling himself and becoming a man and not regarding your quality with God a thing to be grasped, but He humbled Himself as a servant, and even to the point of death and death on a cross, the Phillips translation says even to the point of the death of a common criminal. Now I like that because I think it accentuates the point the writer has in mind when he’s saying death on the cross because those people would’ve understood what death on the cross was. We have, what’s the word, it’s become so popular or so well-known to us, the phrase death on a cross, that we lose the impact of it.

Melinda: The ignominy of it.

Greg: Yeah, right, and the ugliness and so that translation captures it and I like that. Once in a while, a free translation is going to help you that way, but as a rule, and I mean this quite aggressively, stick with straight up translations. I think the best is New American Standard or the ESV and things like the New International Version, okay.

Melinda: You know what you should do in the commentary on the longer podcast sometime is to go through a few of the key tools for people to look up to get more insight into some of the words, concordance and the book that gives you the Greek and all that stuff.

Greg: Wigram’s.

Melinda: I can’t think of it all right now. Anyways...

Greg: Wigram’s Greek Concordance.

Melinda: Of course, people can get all this stuff digitally now, but they still don’t know about them. There’s just a few books like that that can actually help you dig into the Greek or the Hebrew and understand it.

Greg: They can get Logos.

Melinda: It’s in Logos software, yeah, but you have to know it’s in there to use it. Okay. That’s it for this week, folks. Really and truly, starting next week, we’re going to do 2 episodes a week posted on Mondays and Thursdays. For this week, it’s still just one on Monday. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask, the name of the podcast. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason. Bye.