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Wordwise Insight, Issue #045
September 14, 2008

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): How Did Satan Become Evil? What Does It Mean to Be Justified?

MEDIATIONS ON OUR HYMNS: Gold Out of the Furnace; From Greenland's Icy Mountains

MORE ARTICLES: Exploring Christianity (10 Studies); Eternal Security for Christians



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LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION? On a Bible topic or passage of Scripture? Or one about a hymn or gospel song? Click on Questions from You.


How Did Satan Become Evil?

Question: Rose asks, "Can you please explain where [Satan's] propensity to sin came from? We know his pride was his downfall, but, being a created being, and a beautiful one at that, how was it that sin was there in the first place?

Answer: The short answer is we simply don't know. But let me review a few things the Bible has to say about this fallen angel. I cannot cover the entire biblical record on the subject, but we need to see several things to at least approach some kind of answer to your question.

1. Satan at the Beginning of the World
The devil first steps into human history shortly after creation. In the guise of a "serpent" he appears in Eden. And his wicked character is immediately evident in the temptation of Eve. The first words out of his mouth constitute an attempt to cast doubt on the Word of God ("Has God indeed said...?" Gen. 3:1). This quickly progresses to an outright denial of God's earlier warning. The Lord had told our first parents of the penalty for disobedience: "You shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). But Satan brazenly stated, "You will not surely die," (Gen. 3:4).

The Lord Jesus did not mince words in describing this evil angel, saying, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (Jn. 8:44). The book of Revelation identifies him with a number of revealing titles, "The great dragon...that serpent of old, called the Devil [meaning false accuser, or slanderer] and Satan [meaning adversary], who deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).

By studying the Scriptures we learn how he operates. "We are not ignorant of...

To see the full article, click on Satan Becomes Evil

What Does It Mean to Be "Justified"?

Question: Richard asks, "How do we 'reconcile' Paul's statement in Romans 2:13 (and James in 1:22) with those of Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16, 3:2,5,10?"

Answer: Greetings, Richard. Thanks for the challenging question. I read over the verses you referenced (plus a few more). I don't really see much difficulty in reconciling what they teach–but then, maybe I'm missing something you have seen. Let me quote the verses, and comment a bit on the meaning (adding one more of my own–about James's discussion of "justification"–that I rather expected you might include).

To state it briefly (points I will develop in a moment: The Apostle Paul uses the word justified in a legal sense to refer to our position before God. We are pronounced righteous (justified) by a holy God. The Apostle James uses the term in a practical sense to refer to our condition before men. We demonstrate (justify our claim) that we are believers by our behaviour.

It should not be surprising that "justified" is used in a couple of senses in the Bible. We have many words in English that can be used in two different ways as well. For example, the word box. That word can describe a thing or an action. We could say, "The gift is in a box." Or, we could say, "Will you box the gift for me?"

Now, let's consider some passages of Scripture.

Romans 2:13. "For not the hearers of the law are justified in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified." The Jewish Law was faithfully read in the synagogues, week by week. But more than just hearing it was needed. Did they obey it? This is Paul's expression of the Law principle (do –>> and be blessed), as opposed to the Grace principle (be blessed –>> and do). It is stated several...

To see the full article, click on Christians Justified


Gold Out of the Furnace

It is astonishing to discover how many authors of our hymns were handicapped in some way. Here is a sampling, listing a few of the hymns they have given us.

Annie Johnson Flint (He Giveth More Grace, God Hath Not Promised) was confined to her room with crippling arthritis most of her life. So was Lydia Baxter (Take the Name of Jesus with You). Fanny Crosby (To God Be the Glory, All the Way My Saviour Leads Me) was blind. So was John Milton (Let Us With a Gladsome Mind), and George Matheson (O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go), and William Walford (Sweet Hour of Prayer), and, later in life, Lelia Morris (What If It Were Today? Nearer, Still Nearer).

Charlotte Elliot was a bedridden invalid when she wrote the great invitation hymn, "Just As I Am." Catherine Hankey (I Love to Tell the Story, Tell Me the Old, Old Story) wrote her hymns while confined to bed to recover from a serious illness. Frances Ridley Havergal (Take My Life and Let It Be, Who Is on the Lord's Side?) was in poor health all her life, and she died at the age of 43. Eliza Hewitt (More About Jesus, When We All Get to Heaven) developed a severe spinal condition and was confined to bed.

Thomas Chisholm (Great Is Thy Faithfulness) served as a pastor for a short time, but frail health forced him to resign. Major Daniel Whittle (Showers of Blessing, Have You Any Room for Jesus?) was a Civil War amputee. William Cowper [pronounced Cooper] (God Moves in a Mysterious Way, There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood) suffered from bouts of suicidal depression. Joseph Scriven (What a Friend We Have in Jesus) seems to have suffered from depression as well.

These are just a few examples. And even when there was not a prolonged disability...

To see the full article, click on Gold out of the Furnace

From Greenland's Icy Mountains

The Unfinished Song

Reginald Heber (1783-1826) was one of the great figures in the Anglican Church during the early 19th century. His passion for world missions caused him to take an active interest in the spread of the gospel of God's grace to other lands. Eventually, he was appointed bishop of Calcutta, where he served faithfully until his untimely death three years later. He is credited with giving new impetus to hymn-singing in the church, writing many new songs himself. One of his hymns, "Holy, Holy, Holy," is sung weekly by some congregations.

On one occasion in 1819, Heber was visiting his father-in-law's home on a Saturday evening. A service with a missionary theme was planned for the next day. His father-in-law (the vicar) wondered if he could write something for them to sing. Reginald Heber went to the other side of the room, away from the buzz of conversation, and in minutes returned with the first three verses. "That will do nicely," said the vicar, who disliked long hymns. Others present expressed their enthusiasm too. But the author was not satisfied.

"No, no," responded Heber, "the sense is incomplete." He wanted to carry his theme beyond the present time, and on to the glorious return of Christ. His insistence on this prevailed, and he sat down and wrote a fourth verse. The hymn, entitled "From Greenland's Icy Mountains," was eventually published in the Evangelical Magazine in July of 1821.

In spite of its Victorian perspective, it is still considered one of the finest missionary hymns in the English language. The author expresses the desperate plight of earth's remotest tribes where, "In vain with lavish kindness / The gifts of God are strown; / The heathen in his blindness / Bows down to wood and stone."

The last verse of the song--finishing the theme--presents the ultimate end and goal of world missions. The message of...

For the remainder of this hymn story, see From Greenland's Icy Mountains


What does it mean to be a "Christian"? Here are a series of studies that will take you through the basics with a Q&A format. Excellent material for a seeker of truth, or as a review for one who has put his faith in Christ.

The second item listed is an article outlining why we believe that a Christian can never lose his salvation and become a lost, hell-bound sinner again. Christians do sin, but that does not cancel their eternal relationship with God.

Exploring Christianity

Eternal Security for Christians

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