How Was Paul All Things to All People? + Are Ghosts Real, According to the Bible?! #252
It’s Friday – another weekend is upon us, and Labor Day is coming Monday. How fast this year seems to be flying by, and yet how excruciatingly slow. Time is such a weird thing these days. Once again we have a fantastically weird and interesting 1st Samuel chapter to deal with – a chapter where we will see the appearance of a real, live ghost. Actually, I guess a ghost wouldn’t be really alive, would they? Anyway – we see something exceedingly curious in 1st Samuel 28 that I can’t help but talk about, but first and foremost, I want to discuss a spiritual truth that is almost infinitely more important. Today’s Bible passages include 1st Samuel 28, Psalms 45, Ezekiel 7 and 1 Corinthians 9. Today we split our focus between two different chapters -radically different, as it turns out. Our first focus comes from 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul declares his strategy of becoming, “all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” This is an important and powerful discipleship/ministry/evangelism strategy, and the verse I just quoted is one of the more well known verses in the Bible. There’s a verse that precedes it that is not nearly as well known, but I actually believe it should be: “Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.” (1 Corinthians 9:19) This is an incredibly humble and powerful approach to ministry, and I wish more pastors, bishops, Cardinals, Popes, Arch-deacons, Prelates, and whatever other fancy church person title you can come up with would actually live by this principle. Jesus says the key to greatness is to SERVE, and Paul, one of the greatest evangelists ever, says his method of reaching people for Jesus is to make himself a slave to everyone in order to win more people. May we Christians have more and more a heart like that to reach a lost and dying world. Here are some fantastic words from Spurgeon on what Paul meant by being all things to all people:
Paul went to his work always with an intense sympathy for those he dealt with, a sympathy which made him adapt himself to each case. If he talked to a Jew, he did not begin at once blurting out that he was the apostle of the Gentiles, but he said he was a Jew, as Jew he was. He raised no questions about nationalities or ceremonies. He wanted to tell the Jew of Him of whom Isaiah said, “He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” in order that he might believe in Jesus and so be saved. If he met a Gentile, the apostle of the Gentiles never showed any of the squeamishness which might have been expected to cling to him on account of his Jewish education. He ate as the Gentile ate, and drank as he did, sat with him, and talked with him; was, as it were, a Gentile with him; never raising any question about circumcision or uncircumcision, but solely wishing to tell him of Christ, who came into the world to save both Jew and Gentile, and to make them one. If Paul met with a Scythian, he spoke to him in the Barbarian tongue, and not in classic Greek. If he met a Greek, he spoke to him as he did at the Areopagus, with language that was fitted for the polished Athenian. He was all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.
So let it be with you, Christian people; your one business in life is to lead men to believe in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and every other thing should be made subservient to this one object; if you can but get them saved, everything else will come right in due time. Mr. Hudson Taylor, a dear man of God, who has laboured much in Inland China, finds it helpful to dress as a Chinaman, and wear a pigtail. He always mingles with the people, and as far as possible lives as they do. This seems to me to be a truly wise policy. I can understand that we shall win upon a congregation of Chinese by becoming as Chinese as possible; and if this be the case, we are bound to be Chinese to the Chinese to save the Chinese. It would not be amiss to become a Zulu to save the Zulus, though we must mind that we do it in another sense than Colenso did. If we can put ourselves on a level with those whose good we seek, we shall be more likely to effect our purpose than if we remain aliens and foreigners, and then talk of love and unity. To sink myself to save others is the idea of the apostle. To throw overboard all peculiarities, and yield a thousand indifferent points, in order to bring men to Jesus, is our wisdom if we would extend our Master’s kingdom. Never may any whim or conventionality of ours keep a soul from considering the gospel—that were horrible indeed. Better far to be personally inconvenienced by compliance with things indifferent, than to retard a sinner’s coming by quarrelling about trifles.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner: How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1895), 267–268.
By the way, if you are wondering who the Colenso referred to here, it is John Colenso, an British churchman and friend/missionary to the Zulus. Colenso had much to commend him in his life, but he was a universalist, in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus, and believed the Bible contained mistakes. Spurgeon here is seemingly applauding Colenso’s heart for the Zulus and cautioning against his theological convictions.
Next, we turn our attention to ghosts, a subject that Spurgeon himself discussed on multiple occasions, believe it or not. Here’s a couple of Spurgeon ghostly quotes to prove it. In one instance, Spurgeon is writing about the ridiculous things written on tombstones and says:
And whoever was the foolish creature at Ockham, one of the prettiest spots in these parts, who wrote these outrageous lines?
“The Lord saw good, I was topping off wood,
And down fell from the tree;
I met with a check, and I broke my blessed neck,
And so death topped off me.”
Here’s proof positive that some fools are left alive to write on the monuments of those who are buried. Well may there be ghosts about. No wonder the sleepers get out of bed when they are so badly tucked in
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Talk: Plain Advice for Plain People (Redding, CA: Pleasant Places Press, 2005), 159.
Here’s one more:
We do not affirm that ghosts have never been seen, for no one has any right to hazard so broad a statement, but all spirits, as such, must be invisible, and the two sorts of human spirits which we know of are both by far too seriously occupied to go roaming about this earth rapping on tables or frightening simpletons into fits.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 172.
Let us then read our 1st Samuel 28 passage, and make sure you have a light on in your room if you are listening at night.
So- there it is. I have heard more than one preacher and scholar suggest that there is no way that this was Samuel, returned from the dead. An example of these takes:
This witch of Endor conjured up an apparition, but it was certainly not Samuel. Instead, it was a demon. Again, you might ask, how do you know it was a demon? A study of the whole Bible will reveal that it could not have been anything else but a demon.
The whole point had been missed! It was not Samuel, only perceived by Saul to be him. It was a familiar spirit (or demon) that had been raised up by the conjuring of the Witch of Endor. It could not be Samuel because he was just a mortal man that had died, and the familiar spirit was only impersonating him.
Bishop Patrick observes, “It is not in the power of witches, to disturb the rest of good men, or bring them back into the world when they please; nor would the true Samuel have acknowledged such a power in magical hearts, but to Saul this was a proper device of Satan, to draw veneration from him, to possess him with an opinion of the divination, and so to rivet him in the Devil’s interests.”
Mr. Brown, in his Self-interpreting Bible, says, “And when the woman saw Samuel, that is, the Devil in his likeness. Satan hath no power over the souls of glorified saints. God would never give him any to countenance consulting of Devils. Samuel’s soul had not to come out of the earth, nor would he have said that Saul should be with him to-morrow, for it is not probable the battle was fought on that day”.
Dr. Gill observes, on the 15th verse, “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? This makes it a clear case that this was not the true Samuel—his soul was at rest in Abraham’s bosom, and it was not in the power of men or devils to disquiet it
So – it couldn’t be Samuel brought back, could it? Actually, I believe it 100% was Samuel, and I believe that because the text makes it pretty explicitly clear. In order for this to not be Samuel, then the Bible itself has to be misleading us here, and I don’t believe that for a second. Here are some reasons from my book Angels, Ghosts and Other Bible Mysteries, Which is available on Amazon, but sadly does not come with a proton pack, ecto goggles, ghost trap, nor Ecto-1 Cadillac GM giant station wagon.
A most fascinating, and troubling passage. If you are wondering whether the prophecy of Samuel came true, then the answer is that it absolutely happened just as it was foretold. Saul and his sons, including the faithful Jonathan, did indeed meet their end the very next day. Was the Witch of Endor genuinely able to call up Samuel from the dead? Here are four difficult to argue reasons why we should believe that the spirit in this text is indeed Samuel, returned from the dead:
1. The Bible grammatically indicates that ‘Samuel’ is the one speaking in vs. 15 and vs. 16 – “Samuel asked Saul,” and “Samuel answered.” For those who are skeptical that the Witch of Endor called up the real Samuel, this argument is the most difficult to overcome, because it is a grammatical argument, and calling it into question seems to be calling into question the integrity of the Bible. If the Bible says that Samuel said something – I believe it!
2. Vs. 20 indicates that it was Samuel speaking, and not a hoax. “Saul fell flat on the ground. He was terrified by Samuel’s words.” Once again – this seems to be an airtight reason to believe that the Bible is portraying the spirit called up to be literally Samuel.
3. Samuel speaks words that are faithful to God and conform to the words of Samuel when he was alive. It would be difficult to imagine how a Canaanite pagan woman might know how to give such Godly counsel.
4. The prophecy of Samuel comes true exactly as it was foretold, and precisely as we would expect of the prophet of the Lord. (cf. 1 Samuel 3:19-20, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. 21
Does that prove the case? I believe it does, but leave a comment on the blog or Youtube page or wherever if you aren’t fully convinced!