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God works all things after the counsel of his own will? Eph. 1:11

secret willGod’s will is that man should use his free will and seek him (see Acts 17)

God has a sovereign freedom to accomplish whatever he chooses, like guaranteeing the proper inheritance to the children of God (which are those who are following Jesus). The promise is to those and no one else.

The following verse is a popular Calvinistic proof text, often quoted (by itself) to support the idea that everything under the sun occurs precisely according to God’s plans, down to every single detail:

Eph. 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel  of his own will

The verse of course say no such thing (that God’s will always happens), unless we are talking about his will to give man free will and make man responsible for his own actions. Note that it says ”works” all things and not ”cause” all things … The verse does not say that all thoughts, words and deeds are predestined by God, but it rather explains what God does, in terms of providing wonderful promises through Christ.

Councel in Eph. 1:11 is a translation from the Greek noun βουλή (boulé, Strong’s 1012) and could also be translated deliberate wisdom. This noun derives from the verb βούλομαι (boulomai, Strong’s 1014) and means will, intend, desire or wish. 

Some theologians claim that it is also about God planning and arranging all physical circumstances in order to achieve his exact plans which always take place down to the finest detail. This is something the Bible does not say.

The noun boulé occurs 12 times in the KJV Bible. Examples:

Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

Quite clearly God’s counsel can be rejected.

Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 

If God caused and scripted Calvary in all details, why does the text not say so? Instead we can read that his foreknowledge was involved. Knowing about future events is not the same as causing future events.

Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Paul is clearly not a Calvinist since he does not relax and trust that God’s will always happens and that the elect will remain elect (and the non-elect remain non-elect). He warns people with tears night and day because disciples will be drawn away from the gospel. Why does he do that if nothing can go wrong but always turn out as God wants? Paul rather believes the scriptures, and understands that prayers can make a difference!

Acts 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. — 41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

1 Cor. 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.  

Unfortunately Calvinists usually believe that God decrees ”whatsover comes to pass” and are keen to interpret “work all things after the counsel of His will” as though everything pans out exactly as God wills it, both good and bad. That would include God deterministically scripting every murder, rape and abortion that will ever take place! The text, however, must not be read in this sweeping and all-inclusive way. The “all things” refers to all things that God accomplishes in Christ (in a general sense) because this is what the previous verses talk about.

Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ

Paul provides examples of the above mentioned blessings and promises, which are only meant for those who are IN CHRIST which is the condition for salvation. The eternal purpose is that God’s children, his church will be able to look forward to a guaranteed inheritance waiting for them in the heavenly places. Again, the condition is to be IN CHRIST, and if someone does not endure to the end that person is no longer IN CHRIST and the promises are therefore not tied to him. The ”salvation bus” is predestined to go to heaven and guaranteed to be blessed, but who is in and who remains to the end? That is totally up to us and we know the conditions which are presented to us. Those who are in Christ are considered to be his holy children. The text does not say that the promises are provided with no conditions.

It might be a help to ask oneself what is predestined according to His purpose. In order to get the answer one must of course go back to the previous verses, because a verse can never be read in a vacuum. The answer is again ”the inheritance in Christ! The verse right (v. 12) after says ”That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ”, and v. 13 continues to talk about ”trusting” and ”believing”. It is possible that Paul includes the very first belivers in this sentence, and we should note that ”trusted” is an action that people might choose to do. God will not ”trust” for us or instaed of us. It is rather a condition for salvation. V. 19 says ”the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. The believers are in Christ – again, the condition.

If I would tell someone about my work and say that ”all things” worked out perfectly fine – maybe even after the counsel of my will – the listener would not assume that I just claimed that every single thing in the entire world worked out absolutely great, and that I have solved all the world’s problems. Neither would the listener assume that I claimed to be the cause of all things that I said took place.

Compare:

Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Paul is here talking about being content no matter what state he is in (in both good and bad circumstances) and to be able to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Paul is not including everything under the sun in ”all things”, but the term must of course be understood in its context. The verse certainly does not say that byall things” you can do all forms of evil and wickedness through God who strengthens you. Similarly, Eph. 1:11 does not say that the “all things” would include evil and wickedness.

All things work out for good for all people  -more than in a general term?free will 3

Paul promises us in Rom. 8 that all things work out together for good to them that LOVE GOD, which of course is a condition for salvation. If Paul had meant that all things work out for good for all people everywhere, including all details from God’s perspective, then he could have skipped the condition of having to love God.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 

In the same chapter Paul explains which conditions that apply for escaping condemnation: 1) You must be IN JESUS, and 2) you must not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. This is something that WE must make sure to do, and God will not do it for us:

Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. — 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

He goes on to explain, that if we live according to the flesh (not an obligation), we cannot please God. The solution to the problem is of course to NOT live according to the flesh but after the Spirit:

Rom. 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul explains that we definitely do not have to live after the flesh. The choice is clear; if you live after the flesh you will die, and if you live after the Spirit you will live. Who are the sons of God? Those who have chosen to be led by the Spirit of God. If someone lives after the flesh, he can certainly not blame God for it but only himself. The better option is always to live by the Spirit in order to get life:

Rom. 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Paul tells us about the same wonderful promises of glorification just as in Eph. 1, but again, only for those who are God’s children who live after the Spirit:

Rom. 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Paul repeats again that all things work together for good to them that love God. The ”calling” is widespread because we know from the parable of the King’s wedding feast (Matt. 22) that many of those who were called to participate in the feast (they were even on the guest list) declined to go. One person who actually did go to the feast was still thrown out because he had neglected to wear appropriate clothes (his own responsibility). We are justified when we are cleansed from our past sins, and after this point our goal is to be conformed into the image of Jesus which is something to look forward to. We have an assurance in the hope of salvation while on earth, as long as we abide in Jesus of course. Rom. 8:29 is referring to those in v. 28, who love God. Do read about Rom 8:28-30 here.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

God provides provisions and works all things after the counsel of his will, but he does not cause people to act according to some predestined plans. If God forces people to think and act in a certain way, what is the point of judging them for things they cannot possibly avoid?:

1 Cor.10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He would prefer that they would repent in order to live:

Ez. 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

If someone ends up with an interpretation which makes God the greatest culprit and a lover of sin, this is clearly an erroneous understanding. A religion that blames the sin of all mankind on God is clearly incorrect. We should rather use this verse as a filter:

Ja. 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, NEITHER TEMPTETH HE ANY MAN 

We are requested to not excuse our sin by suggesting ”God made me do it”. God does not tempt anyone, much less causes anyone to sin, but in order to save the philosophy of Calvinism God must be blamed for the sin of all mankind even though it is blasphemy? Calvinists might try to solve the problem with ”it’s a miracle” or ”God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but in that case anyone can introduce contradictions into the Bible and excuse them by saying ”God’s ways are higher than our ways” and ”who are we to question God?”. 

It is a lot safer to agree with the Bible which says that God’s will does not always happen. Yet, he is still in control (does not mean micro management) and all things work out wonderfully for those who love him.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked? Jer. 17:9

heart 2The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9 KJV

The book of Jeremiah, just like Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc, contains portions of poetic expressions, parables, hyperboles, prophesies, etc, so we must be careful to not read every verse in a literal way. Some Christians often quote Jer. 17:9 in order to support the idea that we are born in sin (which the verse does not say) and that we are constantly sinning in thoughts, words and deeds. Possibly also that God must separately ”enable” a person to do good or else he is not able to do so. (Many reformed believers think that God for some reason does not enable all people to repent and do good). Nevertheless, it is rather clear that the same chapter (just like many other chapters in the book of Jeremiah) contains a good portion of poetic expressions. If those should not be read in a literal way, why should Jer. 17:9?

Let us read the rest of the same chapter – Jeremiah 17:

17:1 The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

Is the above literally true? Is the sin of Judah written with a pen of iron and diamond, and literally graven on people’s hearts? Upon the horns of altars?

3 O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

Through poetic expressions we can read above that God is angry due to his own people (Judah) departing from him. This is not the first time they do so and seems to be a recurrent problem in the Old Testament (which makes us understand the description of their heart in Jer. 17:9). As a consequence of Judah’s heart departing from him, God will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not”. The better option would of course have been to be obedient to God in order to avoid this unfortunate disaster. The chapter continues to explain what a dreadful future those who depart from him will get:

6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Notice the poetic language and illustrations which make an important point. The chapter continues to explain why it is a much better option to trust in the Lord.

7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Notice the poetic language above. Then comes Jer. 17:9:

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

The claim that the heart is ”deceitful” and ”desperately wicked”, is a general claim stated right after explaining how Judah had departed from God yet again. It is not hard to watch the TV news and naturally feel like exclaming that ”people are deceitful and desperately wicked”, after seeing constant examples of war, rape, gang rape, pedophilia, Satanism, censorship from the elite, etc. This does not mean that every single person in all parts of the world is always deceitful and wicked – around the clock – and not being able to be anything else but think and do evil.

The answer to the question ”who can know it?” (the heart), is God can! Just like James says in Ja. 2:24 – we are justified by works and not by faith alone – God says here that he will give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”. The fruit is important for our salvation. See in John 15 where Jesus explains how important it is to remain in him, as a branch in the vine, in order to provide fruit. If the branch no longer produces fruit, it will be broken off and thrown in the fire. If a person does not produce fruit, it is his own fault and God should not be blamed. 

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

Notice the poetic language. A more modern English would be: Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools” (NIV). Naturally God warns against it. Still, people end up as fools (naturally against God’s will) by taking things of value not belong to them. There are consequences for bad behavior. 

12 A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.

Again, we can see here that it is not a good idea to forsake God and depart from him. They shall be ashamed due to their choice to act against God’s will. However, they shall not literally be ”written in the earth”. 

14 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now.16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.

Jeremiah is saying ”I have not run away from being your shepherd” (NIV). Good choice.

18 Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.

Since Jeremiah is faithful to God, it is not right for people to persecute him. Yet, some did and Jeremiah is concerned about it and pray to his Lord.

19 Thus said the Lord unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;20 And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:21 Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;

God gives instructions to Jeremiah and since Jeremiah is a good man, he is likely to obey them. Unlike many of his forefathers!:

22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.

Above we can see how some of Jeremiah’s forefathers did not obey God. ”they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline” (NIV). This is clear proof that God’s will does not always happen, because he prefers to give man free will and thus make him responsible for his own actions. God is not the one making people stiff-necked so that they cannot obey him. They are doing this to themselves, to the dismay of God.

24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;

25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord.

So IF Jeremiah will diligently listen to God, many things will turn to the better for the city. It is up to Jeremiah.

27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

If Jeremiah will NOT listen to God and obey him (which clearly is an option since God warns against it), then there will be consequences for the city of Jerusalem. Hopefully Jeremiah will make the better choice.

Harden not your hearts!

In the same book – Jeremiah – we can read:

Jer. 4:4 Circumcise YOURSELVES to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

We should make sure to not harden our hearts:

Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness

Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

We are wonderfully madeheart

It is clear that we are born wonderfully made (see this article), and we are neither born with deceitful hearts or forced to have deceitful/wicked hearts due to any ”nature” forced upon us against our will:

Ecclesiastes 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that GOD HATH MADE MAN UPRIGHT; but THEY they have sought out many inventions.

Isaiah 7:16 For BEFORE THE CHILD SHALL KNOW TO REFUSE THE EVIL, AND CHOOSE THE GOOD, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet bornNEITHER HAVING DONE ANY GOOD OR EVIL, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Isaiah 44:24 Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that FORMED THEE FROM THE WOMB, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself

Zecharia 12:1  The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and FORMETH THE SPIRIT OF MAN WITHIN HIM.

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.—31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Put on the whole armor of God, because we do not fight against flesh and blood

armor3Take unto you the whole armour of God! – Eph. 6:13

Paul provides some good advice for us which would be beneficial for us to remember in order to be fully equipped to withstand the devil’s many attacks. We are the ones who are responsible for taking on the whole armor of God, and if we do we will be victorious in each battle against us. God will certainly not force us to take on his armor against our will, but due to his love for us he has made these powerful tools available for us.

The reason why we need the armor of God is so that we will be prepared also on the day of evil and able to stand upright on the last day. If we choose to live our Christian lives without parts of this armor, or if we choose to put on the armor only occasionally, we automatically give Satan more power to overcome us. Satan knows our Achilles heals and where we are most vulnerable in the event of an attack. This means that it is not wise to stand partly unprotected when his attacks are coming.

Eph. 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (KJV)

Here are all the six pieces of advice (NKJV). We can read about ingredients such as truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, salvation, Spirit and God’s word. 

  1. 14 Stand therefore, having GIRDED your waist with TRUTH
  2. … having put on the BREASTPLATE of RIGHTEOUSNESS
  3. 15 having SHOD YOUR FEET with the preparation of the GOSPEL of peace
  4. 16 taking the SHIELD OF FAITH with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one
  5. 17 Take the HELMET of SALVATION,
  6. … and the SWORD of the SPIRIT, which is the WORD OF GOD.

1) It is essential that we stick to the truth and avoid lying, which includes spreading false rumors and slander. It is also a lie to purposely ascribe views to people that they might not have, which means that we must be careful how we express ourselves in order to be good examples to others.

2) We have to live righteous lives, which means that we must obey God’s commandments and keep ourselves from sin. Remember no one will save your soul by living a righteous life for you and instead of you so that you will not have to do it yourself – not even Jesus. The Bible says that it is the one who DOES righteousness who is righteous and will inherit the kingdom of God (1 John 3:7, Hebr. 5:9). Moreover, it is not legalism to be totally faithful to God and his commandments which he expects us to follow. We will not be transferred another person’s righteousness (Jesus righteousness) into us and be regarded as righteous even though we live unrighteous lives. We cannot fool God. Titus 2:11-12 tells us that the grace of God helps us to live righteous lives here and now. and we can do this by the help of the holy Spirit. Fortunately, we get more than once chance!

3) We must always be ready to spread the word of God, answer people’s queries about why we have chosen to be believers in Jesus Christ and help them overcome their hurdles which might prevent them from taking the step to become Christians themselves. Apologetics are often very helpful. We can be fishers of men in numerous ways and we can be blessed and encouraged when we take on the shoes of evangelizing through spreading the Christian faith to others. This is essentially what our brief life on earth is all about, because our real home is the permanent one in the new Jerusalem. We can learn to tune in to God’s voice in order to hear and understand how he wants to lead us in our daily lives in order to become useful tools in his hands.

4) We can move mountains with the help of our faith. If we obey the above mentioned points, it will be easier for us to believe and even expect signs and wonders in our every day life. We can see in the Bible that people’s faith is often strongly connected to their chances of getting healed from various illnesses when others place their hands on them and pray for them. (Naturally all people do not get healed from illnesses at all times, or else they would be immortal and live forever.) We can make our faith increase by living near God and communicate with him, and we are risking to become lukewarm if we seldom or never spend time with prayers, songs and Bible reading.

5) The helmet protects the head as well as the brain which contains our thoughts and dreams. Spiritually speaking, we are able to protect the brain from being exposed to bad influences and various temptations which might request our attention. We can avoid harmful TV programs (and actually avoid the TV all together if necessary), and we can also avoid having  destructive music ringing in our ears through headphones. We can also avoid various environments and situations which we know are far from being uplifting for our souls. Sometimes we are not the ones who decide which circumstances to live in, but at other times we can control our intake of bad influences. What we see and hear might affect what we feel and how we express ourselves to others, which means that it is a good idea to control our thoughts by not welcoming all sorts of rubbish into our brains.

6) Jesus won the battle against the devil in the desert by leaning on the word of God in its proper context. Satan can quote the Bible alright, but if one ignores certain verses and highlight others, he/she might end up with all sorts of heresies. The devil finally gave up when he realized that Jesus was fully equipped to withstand his temptations. We have to train ourselves to be corrected by the word of God and to not be too proud to change our course if we realize that we have misunderstood the Bible text. Heresies can be avoided by being faithful to the word of God rather than automatically following the crowd (that may or may not be on the right track). Satan will get a smaller area to attack if we show him that we prefer to obey the true word of God rather than Satan’s twisted interpretations. Unfortunately, there are Christians who end up following traditions of men because they are impressed by their grandeur.  armor2

Last but not least, Paul tells us to do all this during continuous praying and supplication in the Spirit. We should always pray in the Spirit, and watching out for all the saints (Christians) who keep spreading the gospel to the lost hearts. It is also a good way to a personal relationship with the Master.

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (KJV)

The gifts of the holy Spirit are for today. Do not be fooled by those who claim the gifts have ceased and are no longer in use. This is exactly what Satan wants us to believe, because he wants to disarm us the best way he can!

Eating blood is a sin, but a blood transfusion is not – Jehovah’s Witnesses

blod 1Eating/drinking blood is one thing, and injecting blood something else

I have RH0 Negative blood, which is rather rare – with only about 6-7% of the European population (see possible traits here). I would therefore benefit greatly if other people with this particular blood type would donate blood, in case someone like me needed it. Would it hypothetically be a sin for me to withdraw blood from myself and inject it later on, despite that it is the very same blood which ran through my veins moments ago? Or would it only be a sin if I inject someone else’s blood?

We can share blood with each other if we only belong to the same blood group. Our blood can be traced back to Adam and Eve, and they were created very good.

Jehovah’s witnesses are known for making a parallel between blood transfusions and eating blood, and they view both alternatives as a sin. The Bible clearly prohibits us from eating blood (Acts 15:28-29), but the JW’s wrongly assume that it is therefore also wrong to donate blood and receive blood transfusions, despite that the latter does not entail eating or drinking. We already have blood in our bodies, and that is not a sin. Why would it be a sin to add more blood into our veins, particularly if our blood runs low? In a blood transfusion the blood is lead directly into the cardiovascular system (the circulatory system), which means that it is never led through the digestive system the way food does. The prohibition of blood intake is in relation to food and drink in the Bible!

But there is some light:

”A blood transfusion is no more eating blood than a skin graft is cannibalism” (James D. BalesJehovah’s Witnesses, p. 30).

In the past, also vaccinations were prohibited among Jehovah’s Witnesses (up until the 1970’s) as well as organ transplants (up until the 1980’s). It would be better for the witnesses to avoid certain vaccinations (which indeed could be harmful), rather than blood which can literally save lives.

Below we can see that ”abstaining from blood” concerns food situations.

Apg. 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. .28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Acts 21:24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

The Bible encourages us to save lives (Mark 2.23–28), and the story shows that the law was never meant to hinder us from taking logical actions – like saving innocent lives if we have this opportunity.

Mark. 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Also Luke 13.10–17; 14.1–6, and Matt. 12.9–14 show that God does not prohibit us from saving lives even on a Sabbath, but that he rather expects us to. We should not add to Scriptures by suggesting that God would prohibit us also from blood transfusions if such thing was known during Biblical times. It is a huge leap to believe that God would not like if we saved people’s lives through blood transfusions. It makes sense to have blood in our veins and we cannot live without it, but we can definitely live without eating blood and getting blood into our digestive system.

Unborn children have once been nourished and stayed alive through their pregnant mothers’ blood system through the cord, so why would it be a sin if the same children hypothetically would get blood transfusions from their mothers when they are born? Blood will circulate in our veins even if we abstain from eating blood.

Sinning is transgressing the commandments of God, but there are no laws in the Bible prohibiting us from giving or receiving blood transfusions. God knows that we know that blood transfusions can save lives, and that we would therefore be motivated to do it (and there are no Biblical laws against it). It would be unreasonable to think that we would risk losing our souls based on a misunderstanding.

The Old Testament about eating blood blood

The Old Testament does not say anything else but that we should not eat (or drink) blood from either animals or human beings. The reason for this is that the life is in the blood – which of course is a factor also today (the fact has not changed). This could explain why blood indeed runs in our veins as long as we are alive. When we die, blood no longer runs in our veins. The blood certainly makes the difference between life and death. Eating something/someone with the blood would be comparable with eating someone’s life, which would be an abomination before the Lord.

Gen. 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. 

Lev. 17:10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you,– and will cut him off from among his people.11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

Deut. 12:16 Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.—  22 Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.24 Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. 

1 Chron. 11:18 And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: but David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord.19 And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.

1 Sam. 14: 32 And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.33 Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the Lord, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.34 And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the Lord in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there.

If we sin, we have an advocate in Jesus so we are constantly forgiven? – 1 John 2:1

1 john 2.jpgMy little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1)

”Advocate” is a translation from the Greek noun Παράκλητον (Strong’s 3875), and apart from the above verse we can find this word also in John 14:15; 26, John 15:26 and John 16:7, with the meaning of either Comforter or Helper – which the holy Spirit is often called.

John writes his letter to advise the recipients to avoid sinning (among other things), suggesting that they can avoid it (which also Titus 2:11-12 confirms). Unfortunately it is quite common that Christians with the reformed theology view understand this verse to mean that we really should not sin but if we do sin we still have no reason to worry because we always have an advocate in Jesus Christ who always forgives his elect no matter what they do.

That would be another way of saying that we have a license to sin, which of course the Bible does not teach. Just like in a secular court it is not certain that we will get an acquittal just because we have a defense attorney, or perhaps we should compare it with the idea that we will not even get a defense attorney unless we meet certain requirements (such as requesting one in the first place, and avoid making further crimes in the meantime). We will not be forgiven unless we REPENT. We will never be forgiven in the midst of our sins or if we have no intention of leaving the old man behind and live a new kind of life. For those who are in Christ (those who believe in him, follow him and obey him) can rest assured they have an advocate in Jesus Christ and that their past sins are forgiven. Their future sins are certainly not forgiven (that would be a license to sin) but they do not need to take an oath to never ever sin again.

1 John 2: 1-2 Being a propitiation for the sins of the whole world

Two verses after 1 John 2:1 (1 John 2:3) we can read how we can know that we know Jesus Christ. The answer is: ”if we keep his commandments”. If anyone claims to know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. This is not legalism but the word of God. The teaching that we can successfully be faithful to God should never be labelled as legalism and something ugly. V. 5 mentions people who do keep his word, which means they truly exist and are not mere fantasies. We should walk as Jesus walked (v. 6), rather than hiding behind Jesus and pretend that our Father does not see our sins. We cannot fool God. The darkness should be in our past once the light has come into our life.

When reading 1 John 1-2 we can see that Jesus is the propitiation (an ”offer”) not only for a select group of people (like ”the elect), but he is the propitiation for the whole world. To be an offer for the sins of the whole world does not mean that the sins of the whole world will automatically be forgiven and forgotten (like the very minute that Jesus died on the cross). Just like in the old testament, during the animal sacrifice system, it was a requirement for the Israelites to confess their sins and repent for them while the priest offered up animals as a propitiation for their sins. Merely killing animals on an altar will not remove any sins – unless people also repent and understand the meaning of this process. We all have the opportunity to get all our sins erased, even the sins of the most vicious criminals, so it is a universal offer – albeit tied to conditions.

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.3 And HEREBY WE DO KNOW THAT WE KNOW HIM, IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.– 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 14 — I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. —17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOR EVER. —24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that EVERY ONE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS is born of him.

1 John 1:8 – the famous ”sin verse”

In the previous chapter (1 John 1) we find the famous 1 John 1:8, so commonly quoted by those who would like to normalize sins also among Christians, but 1 John 1:6 and 1:9 are sadly not quoted just as often. The whole context is important: We have all sinned. IF we confess our sins and start walking in the light (notice the conditions) Jesus Christ will cleanse us from our sins and we will be forgiven. 

1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Rom. 8:26 and Rom. 8:27 – intercessionrom. 8.jpg

Also Rom. 8:26 and 27 are often used as an attempt to support the idea that we can be saved in our sins, but such promise cannot be found there either. The holy Spirit is given to those who believe in Jesus and who have repented for their sins, and the focus of Rom. 8:26 is the content of our prayers and the holy Spirit as our Helper. Note that there are two different Greek words for ”make intercession” in Rom. 26 and 27.

Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

”Maketh intercession” above is a translation from the Greek verb συναντιλαμβάνομαι (Strong’s 4878) with the meaning of lend a hand along with, assist jointly to perform some task, cooperate with, help, etc. Apart from the above verse you will only find this word in Luke 10:40 (Martha’s desire to get cooperation from her sister when it comes to serving).

Rom. 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

”Makes intercession” above is a translation from the Greek verb ἐντυγχάνω (Strong’s 1793), and apart from the above two verses you can find this word also in Acts 25:24, Rom. 11:2 and Hebrews 7:25 – with the meaning of making a petition for something. Does Christ do this only when it comes to the saints? Well, yes, since the saints are those who have chosen to follow Christ and repented for their sins.

Read what else Rom. 8 says below. There is life to get IF we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (those who live this way are in Jesus Christ). Otherwise we must expect death, and that warning goes for Christians as well. We have a great Helper to accomplish this, and thankfully we get more than one chance to do what we successfully can be doing.

Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his..13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God

A new heart which will cause us to perfectly walk in God’s statutes? Ezekiel 36:26-27

Ja 4

Ez. 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Calvinists normally love the idea that God randomly chooses some individuals out of a crowd of people and give the former a new heart, a new Spirit, which will enable them to have faith in God and to be able to follow him. (Who cares about the rest, right?) Unfortunately they run into problems within the same verse when we can read about being caused to walk in God’s statutes. In NIV it reads ”move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. So if Calvinists are among those who have been given a new heart as per Ez. 36:26-27, does this mean that they always obey God’s decrees without failing even once? Have they completely stopped sinning? It is a relevant question because Calvinists are usually more keen than others to teach that all men ”always sin in thoughts, words and deeds”.  Or can we conclude that God fails at times when he tries to cause his elect to walk in his statutes, knowing that also Calvinists can choose to sin at times?

I think the better solution is to side with the Free-will option which suggests that it is the holy Spirit which is referred to here as the great Helper which can guide us (move us) on the right path, but not necessarily unconditionally or without our participation. Hebr. 10 phrases it as ”I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them”. ”Causing” could signify ”forcing” but it could also mean ”influencing” which would here make a lot more sense. That would also help the Calvinists who must try to explain why God fails to ”force” people to always obey him, as they suggest the verse says. On the other hand, loads of Calvinists confess that they believe God also causes people to sin (since nothing happens against his will) so whether people avoid sin or not, God would still be the one who makes them behave the way they do. This leads to another question:

If some people are given a particular heart that suddenly makes them obey God and walk in his statutes (which would here include sin), does this mean that prior to this moment they were not forced to walk in his statutes and in whatever way God wants them to walk? If they were forced to obey God also prior to the new heart, what difference did the new heart really make? If God chooses some people (his elect) to always walk in his statutes, will the rest (the non-elect) be able to deviate from God’s preferred path and walk their own ways?

The promise of a new heart is by faith, and concerns the holy Spirit in our heartsBlood of Jesus

The promise of a new purified heart is by faith as can be seen in the verses below and it can be cleansed in the blood of Jesus. The new heart is in reference to a heart that is dedicated to God and the holy Spirit indwelling in our hearts as well as through participation of a the covenant which Paul describes in Rom. 8. It is through the power of the Spirit that the believer can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh and live according to the Spirit. This is the fulfillment of the promise given in Ezekiel 36:26-27, but we can also read about other prophesies in the same chapter (concerning the promise that the dispersed Israel will be able to come home). The passage is in harmony with the Bible’s teaching that the promises and benefits of the new covenant are by faith (not being born as a Jew under the law of Moses) and include a new heart and the holy Spirit which we will get in response to our true repentance.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. How do we get a true heart? By having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. How can this be achieved? By repenting of our sins which God expects us all to do (Acts. 17:30):

Hebr. 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;21 And having an high priest over the house of God;22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

The covenant referred to above is the one mentioned in Jer. 31. Here we can read about a former covenant which Israel broke:

Jer. 31:30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.35 Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name:36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

We are also asked to cleanse our hands and purify our own hearts

Ja. 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. CLEANSE your hands, ye sinners; and PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, ye double minded.

So how our WE going to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts? By standing on faith and by confessing sins, repenting and thus become cleansed in the blood of Jesus. We do not have the authority to forgive ourselves for breaking God’s law, but it is up to us to repent and start living a holy life with the help of the holy Spirit given to us after our conversion.

Peter speaks about the heathens and their possibility to also receive the Holy Ghost (without having to go through a circumcision of the flesh) and explains that our hearts are purified BY FAITH:

Acts 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts BY FAITH.10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Through the mercy of Christ we can be forgiven for our past iniquities and thus be cleansed from our sins and be complete. Sinning will always cause spiritual death, but we can be quickened (becoming spiritually alive) if we decide to repent from our sins. We can be risen with him ”through faith”!:

Col. 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

repent 4The order of salvation: pursuing faith, confessing sins, repenting, being cleansed (regeneration), being born again, getting the holy Spirit and becoming a child of God

Peter makes it clear that the order of salvation is 1) having faith, 2) repenting, 3) resulting in cleansing/washing (=regeneration), 4) resulting in being born again, 5) resulting in getting the holy Ghost and becoming a child of God. God will certainly not declare us cleansed and righteous while we are still living in sin:

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

Also John says that we must confess our sins (repent) in order to be cleansed from them:

1 John 1:9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And below we can read that his own received him not (strange if people are chosen to be chosen elect from the foundation of the world) but that those who a) received him were given the power to b) become the sons of God (those who believe in his name). It does not say the other way around that the sons of God were given the power to believe and receive him:

John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Below we can read about Paul’s disappointment concerning some Galatians (for whom Jesus was crucified) who risked to believe in vain despite having begun in the Spirit. He asks ”who has bewitched you?”, and if Paul was a Calvinist he should have known that the answer must be ”God did, because he directs all of our steps” if nothing happens against God’s will. Paul also asks if they received the Spirit by works of the law (the law of Moses) or by the hearing of FAITH, indicating that they were not first given the Spirit and afterwards given faith. No, naturally faith is first and then we are provided with the Spirit:

Gal. 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Other information in the same chapter – Ez. 36

Hes. 36:5 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.

What would be the reason for God’s jealousy if all things turn out God’s way?

17 Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.18 Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it:19 And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land.21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

Wow, above we read about Israel (God’s elect) defiling land, worshiping false gods, profaning God’s name, and this naturally cause God’s fury. Why would God be furious about things that turned out the way God wanted? We can read ”according to their way and according to their doings I judged them”. I thought it was always God’s doing if nothing ever happens against his will? And why judge people who constantly obey God whether they avoid sin or not?

25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Also above we can read about Israel turning to filthiness and idols which they must be cleansed from. After the washing of sins, the holy Spirit is the great Helper.

31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.33 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.

Above we can read about ”your own evil ways” and their doings that were ”not good”. Why were they not good if God made them act the way they did? No, here we can once again read about people who have walked on their own ways, against God’s will. They have been guilty of iniquities and abominations before God, and obviously a righteous God would not cause anyone (must less Israel) to perform wicked abominations. Why does God suggest they should be ashamed and confounded for their own ways, if their ways always lined up with God’s way?

Examples of hardening of a heartlove4

Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward

Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness

Ps 95:7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORDhis God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

Deut 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

Deut 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Notice that God will circumcise their hearts AFTER they return to Him which is a condition.)

1 King. 8:58 That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.—61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.

2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

Read about Pharao’s rebellious heart here.

Abraham did not necessarily SIN by claiming his wife Sarah was his sister

Abraham 2Sarah – Abraham’s niece, sister and wife

The Hebrew word translated ”sister” in for instance Gen. 12:13 is ‘achowth (Strong’s 269), which based on Blue Letter Bible could mean sister (same parents), half-sister (same father), relative (of Israel’s and Judah’s relationship), beloved (bride), of intimate connection or another. It could mean sister either literally or figuratively.

According to Gen. 20:12 Abraham claims that Sarah is the daughter of his father (who is Terah) but not of his mother, which would mean that Sarah was Abraham’s half sister. Yet, in Gen. 11:31 Sarah is also called Terah’s daughter-in-law. This does not have to be a contradiction. The information that Abraham’s mother is not the mother of Sarah is clear from the Bible, but is Terah Sarah’s father or is it is oldest brother Haran as The book of Jasher suggests?

Terah could of course have had Sarah through another wife (even the wife of his son Haran), but if the aim is to be consistent with both Gen. 20:12 and Gen. 11:31, as well as the information in Jasher, then perhaps the simplest solution is that Sarah was the grand-daughter of Terah, i.e. the daughter of Haran, and this has been maintained by for instance Josephus. Sarah could then have been adopted into Terah’s household after the tragic death by fire of her father Haran (see The book of Jasher). As the daughter of Haran, Sarah would be Abraham’s niece. If she was also adopted by Terah, then Sarah would also be Abraham’s sister. When Sarah later married Abraham, she became his wife.

abraham 2

According to The book of Jasher Abraham was 10 years old when Sarah was born and it is quite possible that they at some point in time shared the same household and grew up as brother and sister. Terah and his sons Haran, Nahor and Abraham could have lived close together and we can for instance read in Jasher 12:16 that Terah, out of fear for king Nimrod, blamed his son Haran for being responsible for a certain cover up that angered the king who had wanted Abraham to be killed at birth. In the same way as Sarah could be called Abraham’s sister, also Lot could be called Abraham’s brother despite being Abraham’s nephew. Sarah and Lot were siblings.

Note also that this occurred many years before the Law of Moses was established, where it was prohibited to marry a sibling. Adam and Eve did not have any genetic defects to pass on to their children (which means they could marry each other and have children with no risks involved) but later on in time, through genetic bottle necks like the Ark and the Exodus, genetic defects had accumulated.

Deception?

It is possible to not volunteering with information in order to perhaps gain possessions or wrongful advantages that a person did not previously have. In that case not volunteering with information would be a sin even though no lies were uttered. Abraham did nothing of the sort. He did not withhold information in order to gain something that he did not already have, but he wanted to continue keeping what he already had – a family member. On top of this he offered to PART with ALL of his possessions if he could only keep this family member!

Abraham was actually afraid that the Egyptians would take Sarah away, because he had heard of their evil behavior in advance. Pharaoh is of course an Egyptian, but he would not be the one standing at the city gate to control the goods and the people entering the city. The only way for him to get the news about Sarah would be if someone thought it would be worth while telling him, and the Egyptian guards who were placed to check on the arriving travelers knew they would be getting rewards if they would bring Pharaoh something they knew he would appreciate. Perhaps the Egyptian guards reasoned in this way: 1) If Abraham would only be a brother (or a father) of Sarah, then he would not be an obstacle at all and would not need to be killed, 2) Pharaoh could be presented Sarah who would be a free woman, 3) the Egyptian guards would get great rewards for their discovery, and 4) Abraham would likely be treated really well and receive possessions from Pharaoh in order to smoothly ”buy” Sarah over and take her as a wife. However, Abraham did no travel to Egypt to acquire more possessions (apart from food) and he was willing to part with ALL that he had if the Egyptian workers would only forget about Sarah (Jasher 15:11-12). The question that later arose ”Why did you say she was your sister?”, could be answered with ”Because she is my sister. And who gave you the right to take her due to us being siblings when I urged you not to?”.

A man should be innocent until proven guilty, and if someone wants to charge Abraham of lying, that person has the burden of proof. It is of course an option that Abraham sinned by not trusting God to sort out this problem, but 1) we are not always supposed to sit back and do nothing while God sorts things out, and 2) Abraham presented Sarah as his sister twice in similar occasions – which might suggest that he felt free to repeat his actions due to his realization that he spoke nothing but the truth with no evil intentions in his heart.

Even if we would view Abraham and Sarah’s deed as a sin, it would still not turn Abraham into the monster as some liberal scholars describe him to be. Even king David, a man of God’s own heart, sinned by murder and adultery and did not repent until Nathan made him realize his severe sin. Righteous people can also choose to sin and if they do, the same requirement applies to them – repentance and turning away from sin. Evangelical christians do not believe that a sinful person is a role model, but Abraham was far from being a sinful man. He proved to be an extremely righteous man throughout his entire life. Also a righteous person can choose to sin once and get his spiritual life back by repenting.

Let us check the two stories where Abraham thought it would be best to present Sarah as his ”sister” in order to save his life as well as the quality of life for Sarah. He seems to have made just the right choice based on the outcome!

Abraham 1The case with Pharaoh and Sarah

Gen. 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

If Abraham would present his beautiful wife Sarah as his wife instead of his sister, then there might be a risk that Pharaoh would kill Abraham in order to get hold of Sarah and make her his wife. As a brother Abraham would not pose the same threat. If a brother and a sister would be travelling together, the brother is the one responsible for his sister’s protection. If she does not belong to her Father’s household, then she belongs to her brother’s household and he is the one to negotiate with if someone wants to marry his sister. This would be understood also by Pharaoh even if it was a risk that his way of negotiating might be very harsh. Abraham of course had no intention to present his wife as a sister and try to marry her off, but it is possible that Abraham tried to estimate what kind of behavior he could expect from Pharaoh and decided to go for the safest bet. The problem was Sarah’s extraordinary beauty, so presenting himself as a husband might be the worse option with the greatest risks involved. Maybe Pharaoh would use his power and simply eliminate him entirely to make Sarah available and dependent on another household – like Pharaoh’s household. The best option would be if Pharaoh would not be interested in Sarah at all, but then it was imperative to avoid causing any reports about her beauty. To be on the safer side Abraham even put Sarah in a chest during a critical situation (The book of Jasher), but to no avail since she was discovered and the news about her beauty reached Pharaoh.

It certainly looks like Abraham’s reasoned rather wisely in a delicate situation. The alternative to not travel to Egypt at all would risk their lives through starving, so a travel to Egypt still seemed like a good option despite the risks.

Gen. 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.17 And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Here is the same story according to The book of Jasher:

Jasher 9:1 And Haran, the son of Terah, Abram’s oldest brother, took a wife in those days.2 Haran was thirty-nine years old when he took her; and the wife of Haran conceived and bare a son, and he called his name Lot.3 And she conceived again and bare a daughter, and she called her name Milca; and she again conceived and bare a daughter, and she called her name Sarai.4 Haran was forty-two years old when he begat Sarai, which was in the tenth year of the life of Abram; and in those days Abram and his mother and nurse went out from the cave, as the king and his subjects had forgotten the affair of Abram.

Jasher 12:37 And Haran was eighty-two years old when he died in the fire of Casdim. And the king, princes, and inhabitants of the land, seeing that Abram was delivered from the fire, they came and bowed down to Abram.—44 And at that time Nahor and Abram took unto themselves wives, the daughters of their brother Haran; the wife of Nahor was Milca and the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai. And Sarai, wife of Abram, was barren; she had no offspring in those days.

Jasher 15:1 And in that year there was a heavy famine throughout the land of Canaan, and the inhabitants of the land could not remain on account of the famine for it was very grievous.2 And Abram and all belonging to him rose and went down to Egypt on account of the famine, and when they were at the brook Mitzraim they remained there some time to rest from the fatigue of the road.3 And Abram and Sarai were walking at the border of the brook Mitzraim, and Abram beheld his wife Sarai that she was very beautiful.4 And Abram said to his wife Sarai, Since God has created thee with such a beautiful countenance, I am afraid of the Egyptians lest they should slay me and take thee away, for the fear of God is not in these places.5 Surely then thou shalt do this, Say thou art my sister to all that may ask thee, in order that it may be well with me, and that WE may live and not be put to death.6 And Abram commanded the same to all those that came with him to Egypt on account of the famine; also his nephew Lot he commanded, saying, If the Egyptians ask thee concerning Sarai say she is the sister of Abram.7 And yet with all these orders Abram did not put confidence in them, but he took Sarai and placed her in a chest and concealed it amongst their vessels, for Abram was greatly concerned about Sarai on account of the wickedness of the Egyptians.8 And Abram and all belonging to him rose up from the brook Mitzraim and came to Egypt; and they had scarcely entered the gates of the city when the guards stood up to them saying, Give tithe to the king from what you have, and then you may come into the town; and Abram and those that were with him did so.—11 And Abram said, This chest I will not open, but all you demand upon it I will give. And Pharaoh’s officers answered Abram, saying, It is a chest of precious stones, give us the tenth thereof.12 Abram said, All that you desire I will give, but you must not open the chest.13 And the king’s officers pressed Abram, and they reached the chest and opened it with force, and they saw, and behold a beautiful woman was in the chest.14 And when the officers of the king beheld Sarai they were struck with admiration at her beauty, and all the princes and servants of Pharaoh assembled to see Sarai, for she was very beautiful. And the king’s officers ran and told Pharaoh all that they had seen, and they praised Sarai to the king; and Pharaoh ordered her to be brought, and the woman came before the king.15 And Pharaoh beheld Sarai and she pleased him exceedingly, and he was struck with her beauty, and the king rejoiced greatly on her account, and made presents to those who brought him the tidings concerning her.16 And the woman was then brought to Pharaoh’s house, and Abram grieved on account of his wife, and he prayed to the Lord to deliver her from the hands of Pharaoh.17 And Sarai also prayed at that time and said, O Lord God thou didst tell my Lord Abram to go from his land and from his father’s house to the land of Canaan, and thou didst promise to do well with him if he would perform thy commands; now behold we have done that which thou didst command us, and we left our land and our families, and we went to a strange land and to a people whom we have not known before.18 And we came to this land to avoid the famine, and this evil accident has befallen me; now therefore, O Lord God, deliver us and save us from the hand of this oppressor, and do well with me for the sake of thy mercy.19 And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Sarai, and the Lord sent an angel to deliver Sarai from the power of Pharaoh.20 And the king came and sat before Sarai and behold an angel of the Lord was standing over them, and he appeared to Sarai and said to her, Do not fear, for the Lord has heard thy prayer.21 And the king approached Sarai and said to her, What is that man to thee who brought thee hither? and she said, He is my brother.22 And the king said, It is incumbent upon us to make him great, to elevate him and to do unto him all the good which thou shalt command us; and at that time the king sent to Abram silver and gold and precious stones in abundance, together with cattle, men servants and maid servants; and the king ordered Abram to be brought, and he sat in the court of the king’s house, and the king greatly exalted Abram on that night.23 And the king approached to speak to Sarai, and he reached out his hand to touch her, when the angel smote him heavily, and he was terrified and he refrained from reaching to her.24 And when the king came near to Sarai, the angel smote him to the ground, and acted thus to him the whole night, and the king was terrified.25 And the angel on that night smote heavily all the servants of the king, and his whole household, on account of Sarai, and there was a great lamentation that night amongst the people of Pharaoh’s house.26 And Pharaoh, seeing the evil that befell him, said, Surely on account of this woman has this thing happened to me, and he removed himself at some distance from her and spoke pleasing words to her.27 And the king said to Sarai, Tell me I pray thee concerning the man with whom thou camest here; and Sarai said, This man is my husband, and I said to thee that he was my brother for I was afraid, lest thou shouldst put him to death through wickedness.28 And the king kept away from Sarai, and the plagues of the angel of the Lord ceased from him and his household; and Pharaoh knew that he was smitten on account of Sarai, and the king was greatly astonished at this.29 And in the morning the king called for Abram and said to him, What is this thou hast done to me? Why didst thou say, She is my sister, owing to which I took her unto me for a wife, and this heavy plague has therefore come upon me and my household.30 Now therefore here is thy wife, take her and go from our land lest we all die on her account. And Pharaoh took more cattle, men servants and maid servants, and silver and gold, to give to Abram, and he returned unto him Sarai his wife.31 And the king took a maiden whom he begat by his concubines, and he gave her to Sarai for a handmaid.32 And the king said to his daughter, It is better for thee my daughter to be a handmaid in this man’s house than to be mistress in my house, after we have beheld the evil that befell us on account of this woman.33 And Abram arose, and he and all belonging to him went away from Egypt; and Pharaoh ordered some of his men to accompany him and all that went with him.34 And Abram returned to the land of Canaan, to the place where he had made the altar, where he at first had pitched his tent.

If you react on the information that innocent people seemed to have died due to the curse that surrounded Sarah, the truth is that we are all going to die one day. Based on the Bible and The book of Jasher, the people close to Pharaoh and Abimelech were considered evil but even if they were righteous physical death still awaits every single one of us. It is eternal spiritual death which would be a disaster, but it seems like what had befallen Pharaoh and his household could almost be seen as a wake up call for them. It is hard to know if this disaster caused some of them to repent, but the story eventually ends with Pharaoh letting Abraham and Sarah go – with many new valuable possessions. However, Abraham and Sarah did not travel to Egypt to get possessions but rather to acquire food. They were likely given much food along with their many gifts – and even a handmaid (Hagar) for Sarah.

Considering the circumstances, the story ended rather well but Abraham and Sarah influenced the outcome by praying to their Lord who heard them. Naturally also Pharaoh and his people had the chance to do the same, and to live righteous lives just like Abraham and Sarah. Maybe we would react in a similar way? If I were a Swedish Jew in nazi Germany I would not volunteer with the information that I was a Jew but rather present myself as a Swede. If on the other hand a nazi officer would ask me directly if I was a Jew, believed in God, etc, then it would certainly be a lie to deny it. The same would apply if Abraham or Sarah would deny the truth.

The case with king Abimelech and Sarahabimelech

A similar story occurred in relation to Abimelech. Also this story ended well ”Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee”.

Gen. 20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.18 For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

The same story according to Jasher.:

Jasher 20 1 And at that time Abraham journeyed from the plain of Mamre, and he went to the land of the Philistines, and he dwelt in Gerar; it was in the twenty-fifth year of Abraham’s being in the land of Canaan, and the hundredth year of the life of Abraham, that he came to Gerar in the land of the Philistines.2 And when they entered the land he said to Sarah his wife, Say thou art my sister, to any one that shall ask thee, in order that we may escape the evil of the inhabitants of the land.3 And as Abraham was dwelling in the land of the Philistines, the servants of Abimelech, king of the Philistines, saw that Sarah was exceedingly beautiful, and they asked Abraham concerning her, and he said, She is my sister.4 And the servants of Abimelech went to Abimelech, saying, A man from the land of Canaan is come to dwell in the land, and he has a sister that is exceeding fair.5 And Abimelech heard the words of his servants who praised Sarah to him, and Abimelech sent his officers, and they brought Sarah to the king.6 And Sarah came to the house of Abimelech, and the king saw that Sarah was beautiful, and she pleased him exceedingly.7 And he approached her and said to her, What is that man to thee with whom thou didst come to our land? and Sarah answered and said He is my brother, and we came from the land of Canaan to dwell wherever we could find a place.8 And Abimelech said to Sarah, Behold my land is before thee, place thy brother in any part of this land that pleases thee, and it will be our duty to exalt and elevate him above all the people of the land since he is thy brother.9 And Abimelech sent for Abraham, and Abraham came to Abimelech.10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, Behold I have given orders that thou shalt be honored as thou desirest on account of thy sister Sarah.11 And Abraham went forth from the king, and the king’s present followed him.12 As at evening time, before men lie down to rest, the king was sitting upon his throne, and a deep sleep fell upon him, and he lay upon the throne and slept till morning.13 And he dreamed that an angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword in his hand, and the angel stood over Abimelech, and wished to slay him with the sword, and the king was terrified in his dream, and said to the angel, In what have I sinned against thee that thou comest to slay me with thy sword?14 And the angel answered and said to Abimelech, Behold thou diest on account of the woman which thou didst yesternight bring to thy house, for she is a married woman, the wife of Abraham who came to thy house; now therefore return that man his wife, for she is his wife; and shouldst thou not return her, know that thou wilt surely die, thou and all belonging to thee.15 And on that night there was a great outcry in the land of the Philistines, and the inhabitants of the land saw the figure of a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand, and he smote the inhabitants of the land with the sword, yea he continued to smite them.16 And the angel of the Lord smote the whole land of the Philistines on that night, and there was a great confusion on that night and on the following morning.17 And every womb was closed, and all their issues, and the hand of the Lord was upon them on account of Sarah, wife of Abraham, whom Abimelech had taken.18 And in the morning Abimelech rose with terror and confusion and with a great dread, and he sent and had his servants called in, and he related his dream to them, and the people were greatly afraid.19 And one man standing amongst the servants of the king answered the king, saying, O sovereign king, restore this woman to her husband, for he is her husband, for the like happened to the king of Egypt when this man came to Egypt.20 And he said concerning his wife, She is my sister, for such is his manner of doing when he cometh to dwell in the land in which he is a stranger.21 And Pharaoh sent and took this woman for a wife and the Lord brought upon him grievous plagues until he returned the woman to her husband.22 Now therefore, O sovereign king, know what happened yesternight to the whole land, for there was a very great consternation and great pain and lamentation, and we know that it was on account of the woman which thou didst take.23 Now, therefore, restore this woman to her husband, lest it should befall us as it did to Pharaoh king of Egypt and his subjects, and that we may not die; and Abimelech hastened and called and had Sarah called for, and she came before him, and he had Abraham called for, and he came before him.24 And Abimelech said to them, What is this work you have been doing in saying you are brother and sister, and I took this woman for a wife?25 And Abraham said, Because I thought I should suffer death on account of my wife; and Abimelech took flocks and herds, and men servants and maid servants, and a thousand pieces of silver, and he gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah to him.26 And Abimelech said to Abraham, Behold the whole land is before thee, dwell in it wherever thou shalt choose.27 And Abraham and Sarah, his wife, went forth from the king’s presence with honor and respect, and they dwelt in the land, even in Gerar.28 And all the inhabitants of the land of the Philistines and the king’s servants were still in pain, through the plague which the angel had inflicted upon them the whole night on account of Sarah.29 And Abimelech sent for Abraham, saying, Pray now for thy servants to the Lord thy God, that he may put away this mortality from amongst us.30 And Abraham prayed on account of Abimelech and his subjects, and the Lord heard the prayer of Abraham, and he healed Abimelech and all his subjects.