The Real Meaning of Biblical Words
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1993
Transcribed and edited by David Sielaff, February 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for February 2004
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The Holy Bible is a very large book. It contains thousands of sentences made up of words. Those words are very important because they give meaning. They give the meaning of God’s intention for us and how we can know His will, His way, and His plan. 1
You could not know what God’s plan of salvation is for humanity without the words of the Bible, and especially without knowing the meaning of those words. In this lecture I will give you the essential keys to understand the principles governing the real meaning of biblical words that make up our sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and in fact the books of all the Holy Scriptures.
This is an awesome assignment. And it may appear to some as patently arrogant and dictatorial at first. But why should it be? Jesus told His disciples (who later became the apostles), the statement in John 16:13–15 of which we are all familiar. And it was quite arrogant as far as that statement was concerned. He said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth is come. He will guide you into all truth.” He was talking to those 11 apostles (Judas left by this time), on the eve of His crucifixion, when He gave final teachings before He went through His ordeal. There is a definite article there in the original. He actually said to them,
“He, the Spirit of truth [the Holy Spirit], is come, he will guide you [you apostles] into all the truth [all of it]; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”
“Things to come” means prophecies. We have prophecies in the New Testament; indeed we have one book entirely devoted to prophecy. That is the last book called the Book of Revelation. Jesus said that the Spirit would guide these apostles “into all truth” and,
“... show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father has are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.”
After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His appearance to them again, we find more truth was given. Finally He returned to heaven after 40 days of seeing them after His resurrection. Since that time the Spirit of God has come to reveal what the truths of the Scripture are. And they were to be given to all mankind.
Ten days after His return to heaven, on Pentecost day in 30 C.E. the apostles assembled in the house at Jerusalem and there the Holy Spirit came and filled all of them and they began to speak, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. From then on, step by step, the Spirit of God revealed new knowledge, new understanding. The teaching of God to govern mankind was given to those apostles and to the apostle Paul who came later. All of them together were to be given “the truth.” So I am not making an arrogant statement. I am saying that the real meaning of biblical words can be understood, and can be understood absolutely if the Spirit of God is there guiding individuals into the understanding of those truths.
The apostle Paul also comprehended that teaching. He spoke of it at the beginning of his First Corinthian letter. He wanted them to understand how the spirit of truth can be and was given, to him and to others, so that the Corinthians and all of us might understand the real meanings of words of the message of salvation.
He stated in 1 Corinthians 2:10 how that “God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit ...” He is talking here about various principles and wisdom and teachings. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” We ourselves must have a spiritual understanding one from another if we will really comprehend what another person is talking about. “Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” You must have the Spirit of God to comprehend the real meaning of the words of Scripture.
“Now we have received [so Paul says], not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God [meaning the mind of God]; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
1 Corinthians 2:12–13
At the end of verse 13, the word “spiritual” is plural and actually means “comparing spiritual things with spiritual [things].” That is how we will get to the real meaning of the biblical words and the sentences and the paragraphs that make up the Bible. Paul goes on in the next verse:
“But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2:14
Paul is not saying that man cannot read what the Bible says. You can study Scripture from a translation, such as the King James Bible. It starts with Genesis and goes to Revelation. Mine is in English. The Bible could be in French or German. The original is in Hebrew or Aramaic in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. If you know Aramaic and Hebrew or Greek, you can learn and read the words easily in the original languages. Many scholars in the world who would not claim to have the Spirit of God can read these words just like anybody can. They see the sentences. They can analyze the words and tell you where the nouns are, the prepositions, the verbs. They can tell you all about the grammatical structure of the Greek and the Hebrew and the Aramaic. In fact, any of us who are just grade school graduates can basically get the meanings of words, of sentences, and even put together whole chapters.
The apostle Paul knew that, but he still says in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man ...” That is the ordinary man on the street like you and me. Each of us fits the category “the natural man.” We are like anyone else by nature. “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him ...” How many people on the street, when you start to discuss spiritual matters or matters dealing with the Holy Scriptures, think they are foolish? Yet they think that they themselves are intelligent. But Paul says that such “things” are not only considered to be foolishness by such a person, but, “... neither can he know them [why?], because they are spiritually discerned.”
First Corinthians 2:15: “But he that is spiritual judges [or examines] all things.” If you are spiritual and if you want to apply spiritual principles, which means to be guided by the Spirit of God in these things, these words will begin to make sense to you because God’s Spirit has been given to you. That is what the apostle Paul is saying, “... yet he himself is judged of no man.” The spiritual person cannot be judged by the natural teachings of men, by what men themselves may get from the Scripture. You must be judged by spiritual teachings, spiritually understood, because the Spirit of God spiritually motivates you. To get to the real meaning of the biblical words, you must have the Spirit of God to guide you. 2
From what I have given you so far, you can read the Scripture and still not understand it. That is what Jesus Himself is saying. And that is what the apostle Paul is saying. In Ephesians 4:11–16 the apostle Paul continues this theme, that it is essential to have the Spirit of God to guide us so we might understand the real meaning behind the words of the Scripture. It says God “gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists and some, pastors and teachers.” He said that God gave these offices for a purpose.
What was that purpose? It was “for the perfecting of the saints.” Saints means “holy ones.” He was talking about you. He was talking about the Ephesian Gentiles of course, but it has come down to you. These teachings are given for you: “... for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry [the service of God] for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). The word “edifying” means building it up, stabilizing it, making it strong.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God unto a perfect man [in Greek, a mature individual] unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors of old were brought up by God, by Christ, to perfect the saints, to perfect you, to perfect me, to build you up, to build me up. God intends to build all of us up until we come to the unity of the faith of the knowledge of the Son of God. That means a full and perfect knowledge. It says “unto a perfect man,” the fully adult, mature, spiritual man, “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” We can truly approach His own understanding of the truth. We can reach the very dimension of being equal to none other than our elder brother Christ Jesus. Once we have reached that stature:
“Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine [teaching] ...; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him [into Christ] in all things, which is the head [who is the head], even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted ... according to the effectual working in the measure of every part [of this body] making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
He means that we should become exactly like Jesus Christ in knowledge, in understanding, in wisdom, in morality, and eventually in power and glory. That comes, finally, by the resurrection from the dead.
So Paul is being quite arrogant here when you think about it. He is saying that we have the capacity of knowing the real meaning of the teaching of the Gospel, and if we do not have it, we ought to continue until we get it. We should continue to be built up and edified until we come to the full stature of Jesus Christ our elder brother Himself. That is what the word of God was given to do. We cannot do it on our own.
I will show in a few moments that in all this growing in grace and in knowledge — though we must supply a lot of elbow grease, work and effort ourselves — it is really God Himself who gives us the capacity and the ability, and I might also say the will, to perform what He tells us to do. It is up to Him. You are called by Him at this time to have this knowledge of the Gospel. It is a tremendous privilege which has been given to you. You have nothing to say about it. We have been given the knowledge of Christ supernaturally.
When I look at people that I know, including myself, who believe in the Scriptures, we are the most unusual and unlikely people I can imagine to succumb to the teachings of the Gospel. But we do. Do you know the reason? It is because God has selected us to do so at this time and there is no way out of it. It is irresistible. It is irrevocable. In no way can you possibly get out from understanding the truth of God if God chooses to open your mind. He has done it for all of you who are considering this lecture at the present time.
Go to 1 John chapter 2. This principle is found throughout the Scriptures, that it is God’s Holy Spirit that guides us. But let me emphasize that God guides us. He guides us through His Spirit to be able to understand the words of the Bible. That understanding comes through the words of Scripture.
“But you have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One [Jesus Christ], and you know all things.”
1 John 2:20
This is an amazing Scripture tucked away, you might say, in a corner of this small epistle. First John has 5 short chapters. But with verse 20 I could take the rest of this lecture and still not exhaust teaching what that one little verse means; it is so powerful. Slow down and read what John is actually saying.
“But you ...”, John is writing to his audience in the 1st century C.E., but it has come down to you and me. He is writing these things down, but not just for the people at that time. He says they already knew them. He was writing them down for us today so that we might be aware of them, we who live in the 20th [now the 21st] century, just at the period at the close of this age.
[an anointing] from the Holy One [Christ] and you know all things. I have not written unto you because you know not the truth, but because you know it [the truth], and that no lie is of the truth.” 3
“But you have an unction
1 John 2:20–21
That is quite an arrogant statement for John to make. Writing to those people back there, he said they know “the truth.” He did not say part of the truth. He says you know all the truth. Of course, what he meant were those truths essential for salvation.
[this “unction” in v.20] which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, that is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.”
“But the anointing
1 John 2:27
This anointing given to those people back there had such a profound impact that they understood what the words of God already were. They knew the truth already. John says, because you know it already and because you know all of it, why do you have any man teaching you? He is not saying that they do not need to learn more about God. He is talking about the revelation of the truth being given. He is talking about the basics of the Gospel.
John also had a very powerful verse in John 17:17 which further defines what he means by the truth and how to come to a knowledge of the truth. This is again Jesus Himself, on the eve of His crucifixion, teaching these last principles for His apostles to keep in mind. Thankfully, through the Holy Spirit they have been written down and preserved for us. You and I can read them clearly and plainly.
Jesus said in His last prayer to God the Father to“Sanctify them [the apostles, and through them all of us] through thy truth: your word is truth.” There it is. Truth means the Word of God.
John at the beginning of his Gospel starts out by saying,“In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God,” “Logos” is a Greek term, 4 and it means “word.” In the King James Version it says, “In the beginning was the Word.” It more appropriately means “saying” or “statement” or something of that nature. It means that when God makes a statement (and that statement can be written down, it has a noun, a verb form, it has everything to make up sentences and so on) that statement is so powerful that will be brought to pass, because God said it. That is why, “In the beginning ... Logos,” or “the saying,” was with God, and was God as a matter of fact. John identifies the Logos with Jesus Christ.
Go back to Genesis chapter 1 and notice the power of the Logos, the power of the Word. It says that God created the heavens and the earth.“And God said ...” That is all He did; He said, He spoke. He said, “Let there be light.” Light did not evolve, it came on the scene when God told it to. He knows the means by which He can do those things. They are in these statements, in these words.
The words of the Holy Scripture, or any words uttered by God, uttered by Christ Jesus, are powerful words. If you want to know the truth, you must know the words of God. The words of God can be spoken audibly (as it was to the prophets, apostles and to the early church), that is quite true; but the words we find in the New Testament were uttered by the apostles. Christ told these apostles just before His crucifixion, that He was leaving it for them to tell others what the truths of God are. Write them down and put them in a book. That book happens to be the Holy Scriptures. You should not have any man, any more, try to tell you exactly what the Word of God says if you have all the truth at your fingertips. If you have it.
I will show you how you can know all the truth and the real meaning of the biblical words. It is simple. But I will tell you this, it means that you have to study the Word and understand the Word in a proper way, because the truth is resident in God’s Word.“Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).
Isaiah says that in the Old Testament. It does not matter what mankind tells you. It does not matter if they claim to be religious people or wise people. Read the entire context of Isaiah chapter 8, because the 6 chapters (chapter 7 on through chapters 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12) speak in prophecy about Jesus Christ coming on the earth, about Him raising up some apostles, about the books being written, so that we might have the Word of God in written form. You must understand the context. Isaiah writes:
[anybody], speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
“To the law and to the testimony: if they
That is the standard that you must go by. But how do you gain the knowledge of God’s word? Obviously through having God open your mind through the Holy Spirit. Even when the Holy Spirit opens your mind, even when you have a basic understanding, you might be able to say that you have all the truth relative to salvation. You could say that, but you may not know all of the intricacies, all the details, all the factors that make up the truth in all its dimensions. Yet you can know all the truth as far as has been given.
I will give you later some doctrines found in the Scripture that if you know these doctrines alone, you will know all the truth. You will see what I am saying is the truth, because I will give it to you directly from the Word of God.
Do you realize there is a Christian Creed in the Bible? It is in the New Testament, written by an apostle. In that creed are all of the essentials of the Gospel, all of the needful teachings which will allow you to get the real meaning of every single biblical word. You can know the practicality of it and be able to get all of the intricate details if you just stay with it the way the Bible says. Yes, the details may take some time, but as far as the basic understanding is concerned, you can know that if God begins to open your mind — and He will, and He has for all of you — you can know all the essential truth relative to salvation. And, you will know the real meaning of the biblical words.
To really get to the details, to the intricacies, requires effort on your part. It also requires God to open your mind more, and more, and more. As time goes on God says He will let us know more and more of His truth based upon the basic teachings which He has given us from the very beginning. To know that truth read what the apostle Paul said was essential to understand the intricacies of the Word of God.
“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [cutting or apportioning] the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
The word of truth is in the Scripture. But if you really want to know it in its fullness, and not be ashamed when someone asks you a question, you must expend some effort. You have to study. Each one of us should set aside at least once a week, if not every day, to study the Word of God. You will find answers that will back up the essential truths known from the very beginning.
The very last thing Peter said was that we were to,“grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). That means fully committing yourself to a plan of study so that you know all of the basic truths of the Scripture. Then you should go and continue to study to get the intricate details. I will show you a bit more about that in a moment.
Look at the first principle for finding the real meaning of biblical words, sentences and paragraphs, books, and really the message of the whole Bible. This is an amazing principle, because most people when they find it out are not pleased with it. They do not like the way God has written the Scriptures. That is because the natural mind that is educated can read the words in the Scripture, but sometimes those words may not have the real meaning behind them that God intends. People normally do not like that. But if you want to really grow in grace and knowledge, then you must deal with this principle.
That Principle is this: Though you can read the words which are in the Scriptures (and even if you could read in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, and understand those languages perfectly), it still does not mean that you will understand the real sense behind those words. God has told us in the Old and New Testaments that you cannot understand or comprehend the meaning of those words unless you have, as I pointed out earlier, the Holy Spirit to open your mind to know what they actually mean.
You can know what the words say. You can analyze the grammar perfectly but you cannot know their meaning of the words unless you have some other ingredient. That ingredient is the Holy Spirit of God. This principle is found throughout the Scripture. Let me sum it up very quickly then I will give you some details.
What God has done by writing His Bible in the fashion that He has, is to give clear, plain, simple Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words, which can be translated into simple and plain English words, simple and plain Italian words, simple and plain Russian words, or German, or French, or whatever. But even when you have the words simply put in the languages that you can understand, so far as the natural man is concerned, you will still lack a knowledge of the spiritual teaching behind those words unless God opens your mind. That is the first principle.
This principle is clearly defined in Scripture. You know what God does? God says in effect: I am giving you in these (in the King James Bible) some 1356 pages, I am giving you My Word. It is something that you can read, but you know what? I will hide it. I will hide the real meaning in section after section after section; and I will hide it in the open. I will hide the real meaning from people in the world who can read the words but they will not be able to understand them.
The first thing that God does is to tell you how He is doing it. God does not hide the fact that He is hiding the meaning. In fact, He says this: I will give you words that you can comprehend, but you cannot necessarily get the meaning out of those words that is intended by Me.
You will need something else. You need the Holy Spirit to enable you, or me, or anyone to see what those words actually convey to us who are His children. In a sense the Bible is written for the initiated, those who are initiated into an understanding of what God’s principles are in the first place. He has given you understanding how to interpret these words that He has not given to the world. God stated openly in the Bible that that is how He wrote His Word. That is how He intends it to be understood. He said it time and time and time again.
If the natural man wants to really understand God, he should first read those Scriptures about how God is hiding the real meaning. If you want to know the real meaning behind the words of Scripture, you must get the meaning from God’s point of view. You will not get it from man. You will not get it from yourself or your own experiences, though they are helpful. You must have the understanding of the knowledge of God given to you from the outside. It must come from somewhere else.
It comes from God. It comes from our Elder Brother through the Holy Spirit uniting with our minds, our spirit, so we can extract the real meaning behind those words in the Holy Scriptures. The way you do that is to be selected by God to be able to understand these words — supernaturally.
God created everyone from Adam down to today. There are almost 6 billion souls on this earth here today. And only very, very few understand the real meaning behind the Scriptures. Several billion people (1½ to 2 billion) call themselves Christian. That is a large number of people who have the Bible in their midst which they claim to live by.
At the same time they can read and even argue about what the words say, but they do not understand or comprehend the real meaning behind these words they read, because they are not in touch with God in the way that He wants them to be, because He has not yet called them to His truth.
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in the Gospel of John chapter 6. Those Pharisees were made up of Jews, of the Abrahamic race, from Jacob, from the 12 tribes. They had privileges that others did not have concerning the knowledge of God. Those Pharisees disputed with Christ time and again. Finally He was crucified because the people did not agree with Him that He was the very Son of God bringing the Father’s message to them. If they had understood who He was, they would not have killed Him (1 Corinthians 2:8).
They killed Him because they did not know who He was. They did not comprehend His words. They heard His words and were quite capable of putting the sentences together and the paragraphs, but they were unable to get the full meaning of the message of Christ or His reason for coming here on this earth.
Christ understood that. Those people back at Christ’s time could not help themselves. How can you be guilty of something when God has not given it to you yet? Jesus said to those people back there in John 6:44:“No man can come to Me except the Father, which has sent me, draw him and I will raise him up at the last day.” That statement shows that God gives certain people an understanding of Himself and draws them to Him, while He does not do so for others at the present time. You may call that discriminatory — and it is — but God has stated that this is the way He operates.
Christ Jesus later restated the same principle. He knew why most of the people were not accepting Him and His teachings at the time. It was because God had not opened their minds to it. He gave a reason why in John 6:65:“And he said, ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.’” There you are again.
The very fact that you believe the Scripture, that you know the Scripture (as I will show) allows you to realize the full meaning of the Scripture. You are able to do that and know that because God the Father has supernaturally opened your mind to see it. It is not something of your own making. The Father has done it.
John 8:43 says virtually the same thing. Pay close attention to these short verses tucked away in longer passages of Scripture.“Why do you not understand my speech? [After He had given a long discourse to these people, He answers His own question.] because you cannot hear my word” (John 8:43).
They heard the words, but they did not “hear” the Word. They knew what He said in Greek (or Hebrew if He was speaking that language). They knew the sentences, the words and all the components of speech, but they were not able to put them together correctly. Why not? Because they were not called of God — yet. We see the same thing later in John:
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, when he spoke, ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe, Jesus said, because that Isaiah said again, ‘he has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.’ These things said Isaiah when he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
So you see, God has the ability to hide the meaning of His truth from people even when the words are plain. He has done it and He continues to do it.
Jesus Himself told people He was teaching that even though many miracles were done before them, that they would not accept His teachings, and they would not believe on Him. That was not their fault! He goes on to say by quoting Isaiah chapter 42:19–20 that it was the Lord, YHVH, who blinded their eyes.5
The difficulty most people have with this is that they say, “God seems to be discriminating. Why does He do it this way?” We will get to that later. The fact is, this is the way that He does it. He actually puts down His words from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Book of Revelation, gives it to everyone on earth. Then He tells them this, “This is My Word. What you need to do is to search out its meaning. Because it is hidden from the world.” These words, in themselves, must be sought out for their real meaning.
Read Matthew chapter 13 where Christ told the common people the method of His teaching. You would be surprised at the number of people today who believe that Christ gave the parables as illustrations to make the meaning of His message clear and plain. That was not the reason Christ said He gave the parables.
There was a prophecy in the book of Isaiah that parables would be given by the Messiah when He would come. Christ absolutely fulfilled that prophecy by giving His parables. However, the teachings found in the parables were not given so that people could understand the truth, but so that they would not understand the truth. Those of us who have been initiated into the final Mystery of God, the great secret of God,6 can go back to these parables. Read them and they make perfectly good sense when you have the keys to comprehend them. However, if you take these parables the way that Christ gave them to the people in the 1st century without the teaching of the Mystery that God later gave to us, you will not comprehend them, just like the people back then did not comprehend what Christ was talking about. These teachings given by Christ were designed so that they would not understand. Believe it or not.
[you apostles] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.’”
“And the disciples came and said unto him, ‘Why speak you unto them in parables?’ He answered and said unto them, ‘Because it is given unto you
All people will come to a knowledge of the truth one of these days. But Christ did not want the majority of the people to come to the knowledge of the truth at that time. But He is giving you open teaching, while He is giving the parables. They were given as mysteries that you can understand. When the apostles first heard those parables, they were as confused as the people were. You know why? Because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to them. Christ even said that when the Spirit of truth is come he would lead them into all the truth. Then these parables will make sense. You must have the Holy Spirit of God. You must have the Word of God with it, because the Word of God is the truth that the Holy Spirit will allow you to understand what God’s message actually is. Jesus answered and said to the apostles,
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but to them it is not given. For whosoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has.”
In the 1st century the Jews had the 22 books of the Old Testament. They already had made up their minds what it taught. When Christ came along and fulfilled the prophecies they were so confused about on what they thought the prophecies said, that they lost even some knowledge they thought they had. That is what Christ is talking about. They did not know who He was, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
[the people] in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says, ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes [He says to the apostles], for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.”
“Therefore speak I to them
Note the distinctions between the people and the apostles. He spoke to the people in parables. He explained the parables to the apostles who did not fully understand until the later revelation of the Mystery.
“All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets saying, ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.’”
The parables — when properly understood — reveal things that had been secret from the foundation of the world. When the apostle Paul in 63 C.E. received the revelation of the great Mystery, the great secret, he said (Ephesians 1:4, 9) how long had it been kept secret, from“before the foundation of the world.” The finality of the great secret was made known some 33 years after Christ made these statements. The understanding of these mysteries was given to the apostles, but the Holy Spirit had to come first and lead them step-by-step so they would finally have all the truth. Read John chapter 16 with this in mind.
Knowing the truth is all in how God dispenses it. God must turn the screw in your head, so to speak, so that you can see the truth. God must open people’s minds to it. Most people today do not have the truth of God. They have the truth of God as far as the words are concerned, and the Bible is the most popular book published today. But even though the words of God are there, people cannot comprehend their meaning unless God begins to open the minds of people. Then they will see the real meaning of biblical words.
This teaching is found throughout the Bible. In Ephesians 2:8–9 the apostle Paul told the Ephesians,“By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” I have written much in past years to show that people must do certain things to come in contact with God. But in doing those things they will find it is God doing those things for them. They may think they are doing them, but everything has been given by grace. The fact that you come to the knowledge of Christ and accept Him is not because of something that you did, it is something God the Father has done.
Philippians 1:29 is a very important Scripture where Paul says,“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” You could not even believe on Him unless God granted that privilege to you. Each one of you appreciates the words of God not because Ernest Martin gives them, but because God gave them. Read the words of God for yourself without me. But once you read them, once you understand them, once you believe them, know that God the Father gives you that privilege. Others can read the same words and not see what they mean at all, nor can they understand.
In Philippians 2:13,“For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The fact that you will to study the Bible, that you set your mind to do it, you might say you are the one doing it. That is correct, you are. But ultimately who is the one responsible for the willpower to do that? Who gives you the willpower if someone stands up against the teachings of God and you stand firm in them and express your will to stand firm? God’s Holy Spirit gives you that ability. He not only gives you the will to do right, or the will to accept Christ, or the will to teach the Gospel, but it says He gives you the will to do the things that are necessary, and the ability to perform has all been given by God. And it says by God’s “good pleasure,” not your pleasure, but God’s good pleasure. In Second Timothy Paul continues this theme that it is God who gives us the things we need just to be Christians.
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
2 Timothy 2:25–26
Paul speaks here about people who have gone astray from the truth. He says that we should show meekness, but keep instructing them, and if we do, then God — perhaps —“will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth.” It is up to God to turn that screw in their heads, so to speak, so they will respond.
Many of us have relatives that we want to know the truth. Maybe they responded and maybe they have not. What you have to do in meekness and instruction is to keep giving them truth with wisdom. If God wishes them to understand the truth, He will turn the screw and they will accept and understand these truths. In the epistle to Titus we find Paul saying,
“For we ourselves were also sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”
Does that sound like human nature? Paul says we will continue to experience those things.
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal
Paul says that we were doing all of those things but a kindness suddenly came, not by any works of righteousness which we have done, but because of God and His mercy toward us. He turned that switch in our minds and we had a renewing of the Holy Spirit. God felt it was time to wake us up and He did it. He poured out His Holy Spirit on us“abundantly.” He justified us by His grace, by His gift.
The apostle Paul continually tells us that even our expressions of faith are a gift from God, not something we work up. Oh no! It is the faith of Jesus Christ that saves us. Do you know what He does? He supernaturally gives us faith so that we can express it on our own.
The very fact of belief is not something you concocted in your own mind. Belief is the supernatural ability given by God through grace. The fact that you confess Jesus Christ as Lord, as your master, as your elder brother, as the One who has done all the things to get you saved, the fact that you believe and confess those things, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:3, is not because you decided to do so in cooperation with God. God gave you the ability and He gave the orders to change your mind whether you want to or not.
His grace is irresistible. His Spirit is irrevocable, and powerful enough to change your mind to the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. You cannot get out of it. When God wants to turn you into one of His children who has knowledge and understanding and wisdom, He gives you these factors of salvation. Faith, confession, repentance are all given to you as a gift. You do not suddenly read Scripture, say “I’ve been wrong” and make up your own mind to repent. That superficial repentance would not work. It must be a repentance motivated, charged by, energized by the working of God’s Holy Spirit.7
In Hebrews 12:2 the apostle Paul wrote,“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …” That is all I need to give you in that verse. Read the rest to get the whole context. He is saying that the faith you have is contained in and derived from Jesus. Who is the author of your faith? You? No, Jesus was. Who is the finisher of it? You? No. Jesus is. You do not have faith of a mustard seed. If you had that much faith, it would grow and grow like a mustard seed, and a large plant full of faith would result.
That is the kind of faith that God gives to you through grace. That is the kind of faith that will save. The faith to believe in Christ, and in the Father, and in the message of the Gospel is not something that you have authored. It is not something that you have finished. Jesus is the author of it and finisher of it. God the Father initiated the whole thing in the first place. We find James, the brother of Jesus, telling people not to err on some important cardinal principles of the Gospel. He said,
[that we might have] is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
“Do not err, my beloved brethren, every good gift and every perfect gift
Whose will is it that we will know the word of truth? Whose will is it that we should become a kind of firstfruits? It is the Father’s will. It is God the Father who gives every good gift.
You want the gift of salvation? It comes from Him. You want the gift of knowledge? Ask Him for it. Do what He says though — study, study, study. He will open up more and more to you. You want the perfect gift? It will come from God from above. Verse 18:“Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth ...” You have that because God has placed that truth in you. 8
At the present time we are, as His children, in a learning process. Step by step, we can know all the truth of the principles of the Bible, what makes God the Father tick and know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven. We can also know the mysteries of salvation. I will show you shortly how simple it is to know them. There are three major points you must know for you to comprehend the real meaning of virtually every word in the Scripture, every verse in the Bible, every chapter, every book.
But God must open our minds to understand these truths. And at the end of the age, as He said in Daniel 12:4, 9, He will open up the understanding of prophecy as never before. People will begin to see what the truth is. In Acts 3:21 when the apostle Peter was teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem just after Pentecost, and he said to the people that God was about to restore all things. Before the end of the age, the restitution, the full knowledge of the truth, will be given to the world. There is no doubt that that is the case.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew chapter 17 that a man would come in the spirit of Elijah the prophet and that He would restore all things to the knowledge of the people, and give them understanding of what Moses was all about, what the fathers were all about, and be able to show messages and teachings that will be clear and plain. All of this is prophesied to occur just before the Second Coming of Christ back to this earth.
God gave the words of Scripture to the world to read, and those who are literate can read them. But only those of us who have, so to speak, that screw turned in your mind supernaturally by God can really understand the meaning. Christ talked about the time just prior to His Second Coming. He said in Matthew 24 that as far as the Gospel was concerned, many people would superficially believe it, but not many would comprehend it. This is important.
The first principle is: God hides the meaning of the words of Scripture. The second principle is: People who read Scripture, though the meaning is hidden, in most cases do not think it is hidden from them. They think they have the truth. But people who are deceived believe they have the truth.
Just prior to the Second Coming of Christ, the words of the Bible will be made known to such an extent that many, many people will admit that Jesus is the Christ. But will they understand the real teaching of the Scripture? No. It will be given only to those few who God picks by His wisdom to understand the truth.
I do not understand why you have been picked right now. I do not understand why I was given a certain understanding of the Scripture. I know I have it. You know you have it too. God has not told me why except He said that we are given it by lot before the foundation of the world when a great lottery took place and certain ones were to be given knowledge of the truth and others were not. But why me? Why you? The apostle Paul admitted that he was known before he was in the womb, even before the foundation of the world. So was each of you. That is knowledge others do not have.
The apostles were given a message by Christ concerning His Second Coming not two days before His crucifixion. They were told that at the end of the age many in the world would correctly believe that Jesus was the Christ, but they would not understand the real meaning of salvation or the message of the Gospel.
[Jesus] sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? [talking about the destruction of the Temple] and what shall be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age [“world” in the KJV]?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. [talking about deception:] For many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.’” 9
“And as He
“Many” will say or admit that Jesus is the Christ but in so doing they“shall deceive many.” When will this occur? Just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The apostles were asking when these things would be and when would the sign of your coming take place. Jesus responded that from that time many would start accepting Him. Within 3 centuries the entire Roman Empire accepted Jesus as the Christ, and they perverted the Gospel in a way that we have been subjected to ever since with Constantinian Christianity. 10
This is the result of the second principle: If the many say Jesus is the Christ, and begin to prove it, you could almost be assured that their denominational teachings are likely wrong simply because they are there to deceive and just as Christ said would happen prior to His Second Coming.“For many shall come in my name saying I am the Christ and shall deceive many.” What it means is this: Establishment Christianity in existence presently, with its 20,000 different types of beliefs all admitting that Jesus is the Christ, are there to deceive. You can almost be certain of it. You cannot be certain on every single doctrine. But in general know that established Christianity is basically wrong according to the prophecies. Christ said, “Many shall come ... and deceive many.” He goes on to say that a change is coming near the end of the age (before the abomination of desolation set up in a Jerusalem Temple), and the Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the world as a witness to all nations. Then shall the end come.
In other words, the real Gospel will go forth as prophesied. An Elijah will come out of the Middle East who will preach the Kingdom of God throughout the world. It will be very different from what is taught by traditional Christianity today. This is one thing all of us need to understand.
If people then have the Bible in their midst, read about Jesus and say they like Jesus, they begin to accept Him. Yet it says,“Many shall come ... saying I am the Christ and shall deceive many.” It must mean they are not getting the real meaning of the biblical words. They read the words, but God has not turned the screw in their minds to see the real meaning behind the words, which you and I are privileged to know.
You might say, Ernest, what gives you the arrogance to say that we know and they do not? Good question. What is it that gives us the truth? How can we be assured that we have the basic truths such as John says, that we have all the truth? What is it that puts us in the category of saints to comprehend the basic truth when others do not? This question is answered by the apostle Paul in a way that if you will read it, you will find the means by which you can know the central doctrines that will open the whole mystery of the Gospel of Christ and of God the Father. You can get it from the Scripture yourself if you pay close attention.
Do you realize that there is a Christian Creed given in the Bible? It is almost like the creeds of various denominations or church councils, but the apostle Paul gave it to us. Where is it? It is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, basically in the first 28 verses. The first 8 verses are a prelude. From 1 Corinthians 15:29 to the end of the chapter Paul gives a commentary based on that creed. But if you accept the basics of 1 Corinthians 15:3–28, analyze its factors, you will get out of it three principle doctrines. If you accept these three, everything fits perfectly from the Old Testament and the New so that you can now know what the meanings of the words and the verses are, from beginning to end. Let us begin in 1 Corinthians 15:1:
[Paul says to the Corinthians:] I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received and wherein you stand; [He sums up the Gospel:] by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received ...”
1 Corinthians 15:1–3
The creed starts in verse 3. Here is what you must believe to be able to understand the real Gospel:
Point 1: “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” You must believe that (v.3). Point 2: “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” You must believe that He was buried and rose again the 3rd day (v 4). Point 3: “That he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some have fallen sleep.” You must believe the witness of those who saw Jesus alive from the dead (not from some disembodied state). “After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles [again]. And last of all he was seen of me also, as one born out of due time.” (vv. 5–8)
Paul put himself in there. You must believe what Paul says, not just the others but what Paul says. Why?
[the ekklesia] of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: [than all the other apostles] yet not I but the grace of God which was with me.”
“For I am the least of the Apostles and that I am not fit, or meet, to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church
1 Corinthians 15:9–10
Do you see that God is the one who opens the mind? God gave this teaching to the apostle Paul.
“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so you believed. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some of you that there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there be no resurrection from the dead, then is Christ not risen: But if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:11–14
He goes on to give the statement that Christ is now resurrected from the dead and in a glorified state. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:20:“For now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Enoch and Elijah and all the others that died and supposedly went to heaven, did not receive the resurrection that Christ received. The firstfruit was Christ. Paul relates Christ’s experience to mankind’s experience with the following doctrines and conclusions:
“For since by man came death,
by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15:21–22
That is what you must know — those basic teachings. First, that Jesus really died. He was a mortal being while He was here; He died on the tree. That is Doctrine 1. Jesus was resurrected from the dead (not the living) as the Christ, the Messiah. Paul emphasizes that for the rest of the chapter. That is Doctrine 2. Finally, you must believe that all will be made alive, that all will be saved. That is Doctrine 3.
What happens after we all are“made alive”? Paul goes on to say: “Then comes the end” (1 Corinthians 15:24). This occurs when the last resurrection takes place and the last enemy, death, is subdued (v. 26). Jesus hands over all power to God the Father once He has conquered all enemies in v. 28, this all takes place “that God may be all and in all.”
These basic doctrines are “the truth” that will open up the totality of the Scriptures for you. They are what Paul preached and believed (v. 11). So should you. Once you know and believe each of these doctrines in the Creed of 1 Corinthians 15, then “The Real Meaning of Biblical Words” will begin to be clearer and clearer as you ask God to open your mind more and more to the full knowledge of His Grace and to His Word, all to the glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ernest L. Martin, 1993
Edited by David Sielaff, February 2004
1 This material is derived from a 1993 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge audio lecture tape. DWS
2 We must be able to read; we must be literate. Those not able to read can understand, that is quite true, but they can have no confidence except in man, regarding the Scripture. They cannot read for themselves or come to conclusions of what is right or wrong. They must depend on man to vocally tell them what the text says and cannot determine themselves what God is saying. Only literate people can do that. That is why in Christian society the first thing a parent should do is to teach their children to be literate. Then they will be able, with God’s Holy Spirit, to determine on their own what the teachings of God are. That is why educational systems are very important when it comes to understanding the Gospel. In my professional experience I have had the opportunity and privilege to teach people and help make them literate, to make myself literate, to make you literate so that you can make others literate. That is one of the finest things we can do for mankind. That is why education is so important. Literate people are people who are free. They can read Scripture on their own and determine on their own what it means.
3 John was not talking about all the truths of nature and how God formed through His own creative powers the heavens and the earth. He did not say that, but resident within, those words also include that. It includes even the understanding of the natural things. That will come in the future when we are given the mind power and ability to comprehend all of that. ELM
5 Note also Jeremiah 5:20–21:“Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” DWS
6 By the way,
the greatest of the secrets of God was not revealed to the apostles at first
until about 63 C.E. when it was revealed to the apostle Paul finally and
others and is recorded in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and books of
that nature. ELM
See Dr. Martin’s article “The History of the Revelation of the Mystery” at www.askelm.com/doctrine/d040101.htm. Search on the ASK Website “Site Quick Search” and type in “Mystery.” There is a wealth of information there. Also the fullest explanation of the Mystery is found throughout Dr. Martin’s book The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine. DWS
7 When the Holy Spirit begins to do that, then you will open this Bible and be able to read and understand it at last, little by little. You will get the real meaning of the biblical words. You will find out how simple it is to know all the central truth of the Gospel in an utterly simplistic way. Yet if you want to know the intricacies of the Gospel, all of its ins and outs and every particular factor of it, you will need to study to be able to see what the truth is. But you can know all the truth of the basics easily if God opens your mind to see the principles guiding the teachings of these words of Scripture.
8 God can cause people to believe falsehoods if He wants too, even people who read this scripture. In 2 Thessalonians 2:8–12 we read about the end time when antichrist will be on the earth. Paul calls him“the wicked [one].” At that time the whole world will go over to believe the lie that this man is the Christ. Why? Because God shall send them strong delusion. God hides the meaning of things from people if He wishes to do so. He does it time and time again. I could give many verses to show that God sometimes deceives people into believing mis-truths if they are prone to do so and want to perpetuate them. He will give them deception. He has hidden the meaning of many things from you and from me. Though we have the Spirit of God there are many things that God would like to tell us that we are incapable of knowing at present because of our being in this flesh. But we do not have, at present, enough education to put together and productively use the words He would give us. That is promised in the future. We will know everything about God. We will know Him as a Father and Christ as an elder brother. We will know the very essence of God.
9 It does not mean many people would come saying that they themselves are the Christ, as we hear occasionally. That will happen, yes, but that is not what Jesus is talking about. Regarding this illustration of coming in His name and saying Jesus is Christ, go back to Jeremiah 14:13–16 and Jeremiah 23:25–32 where you find illustrations of the early heretical prophets coming in the name of YHVH but deceiving the people. They did not call themselves YHVH, but they came in His name, by His authority. That is what Jesus meant.
10 Instead of Sabbath it is Sunday. Instead of Passover it is Easter. Instead of Tabernacles (or something of the Old Testament) it is Christmas. Instead of the mortality of the soul, it is the immorality of the soul. Instead of Christ we have a long-haired Zeus called Christ being worshipped. All these things are Constantinian Christianity and every one of those people called themselves Christian. Exactly as Christ said would happen, many people will claim to be Christian, but they are coming to deceive.
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