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Showing posts from June, 2018

1 John 2:12: Writing To You, Little Children

1 John 2:12 [12] I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. (ESV) Family is a powerful word. To some of us the word family is a word that brings thoughts of comfort, support, encouragement and joy.  To others the word family is almost a foreign word.  It is something that we may long for but have never experienced in a positive way.  The wonderful truth is that no matter what your earthly family experience you can belong to God's family.  The benefits are amazing. John writes that he is writing to those whom he calls little children.  They are clearly children of God, because their sins are forgiven.  The Greek word that John uses in this verse refers to children of any age, even though he uses the term "little children." The term little children is a more affectionate term.  Those who are in God's family experience his wonderful love.  It is an intimate relationship that we have with God the Father because of

1 John 2:11 Blinded Eyes

1 John 2:11 [11] But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (ESV) The other day I had my eyes examined.  The eye doctor had a bunch of normal questions that she asks every patient.  One of them was, "Do you have any problems with night vision."  I responded that I did not.  And by my answer I meant that I do not have any more problems with night vision than anyone else would.  The fact is we all struggle with night vision. The darker it is the harder it is to see.  I am no scientist, but I think you can agree with me on this one.  Most of us do not encounter real darkness.  Total absence of light is not something that we get very close to.  We may turn out the lights and go to bed yet still have star/moonlight outside of our window giving some light. If we had to live in complete darkness it would be extremely difficult to function. The Apostle John is ve

1 John 2:10: Whoever Loves His Brother

1 John 2:10 [10] Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (ESV) We are living in very tense times.  Several days ago the Press Secretary for the President of the United States went to the Red Hen, a restaurant, with her family for dinner. Instead of being able to enjoy dinner with her family, the owner of the restaurant told her that she and her entire family were not welcome in the restaurant because she worked for the President.  One reporter writes the following: "The owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia missed a prime opportunity to live out the framed words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that are on display in the restaurant's window: "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." - Lauren Green, I raise this story for one reason.  It is one thing to say that you believe in the force of loving your enemy.  It is quite another thing to accompl

1 John 2:9: Whoever Hates his Brother

1 John 2:9 [9] Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (ESV) I always find it interesting when people suggest that America is a Christian nation.  Don't get me wrong.  I am very thankful for the foundation of this country.  Biblical principles can be seen influencing the founding fathers and the writing of the Declaration of Independence and also our Constitution.  But, here we are in 1 John and are confronted with a harsh reality.  You are not Christian if you hate your brother!  Sadly, our nation displays a lot of hatred. It seems that we have bought into the lie that it is ok to hate certain people.  If people have hurt us, we have a right to hate them.  And there are lists of people that have committed such heinous crimes that we absolutely have a right to hate them.  Murderers, child molesters, communist dictators, and anyone who disagrees with our perfect opinions! John would have remembered Jesus' words as he wrote this lette

1 John 2:8: A New Commandment

1 John 2:8 [8] At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. (ESV) It is interesting that the false teachers that had infiltrated the church claimed to have "new" and "special" knowledge.   Their so-called new teaching was age old lies from the enemy that denied the deity of Christ and negated their need to love their neighbor which had long been taught in the Scriptures in the Old Testament. John reminds the church that the teaching that would be new would actually be the old commandment with a new look.  Let's look at this a little more closely.  In the Old Testament Law the Jews were commanded to love their neighbor.  But, their practice of loving their neighbor tended to only involve loving those whom they felt like loving, while ignoring others.  In Jesus, we find a new understanding of love, both in what he taught and w

1 John 2:7: An Old Commandment

1 John 2:7 [7] Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. (ESV) The Apostle John is writing this letter to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers who were teaching that they had "new knowledge" that was superior to the Gospel taught by John.  This so-called new knowledge taught that the spirit was everything and the body did not matter.  Therefore, they felt that they did not need to worry about how they acted in their body toward one another.  But, John reminds believers that a commandment to love one another is an old commandment that has not been discarded. The Christian faith is all about what Christ has accomplished for us by his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus' perfect life included completely fulfilling the Old Testament Law. Remember, that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  Part of the Law that the Apostle Jo

1 John 2:6: Walk In The Same Way

1 John 2:6 [6] whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (ESV) Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not always easy.  The ones who truly know Him know that being identified with Jesus can attract persecution.  Not everyone is thrilled to know that you belong to the Savior.  Not everyone enjoys being around you when your lifestyle is so very different from the world.  Those who belong to the world feel conspicuous when they around you.  And this is not because you are trying to make them feel conspicuous, but when darkness is around light it is exposed. John tells us that those who say that they abide in Christ ought to walk in the same way that Jesus walked.  How are you walking?  We are going to look at just two of the characteristics of a walk that looks the same as a Jesus walk.  The Apostle Paul is going to help us with the two characteristics.  Take a look at how he describes the Savior in Philippians 2: Philippians 2:5–8 [5] Have th

1 John 2:4-5: Whoever Says, "I Know Him."

1 John 2:4-5 [4] Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, [5] but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (ESV) "A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten The red light by accelerating through the intersection. The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After

1 John 2:3: If We Keep His Commandments

1 John 2:3 [3] And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (ESV) Most people like to think that they know God.  Yes, of course, there are those who claim to be atheists and they do not want to be known as those who know God.  But, even in our current culture in America, most people claim to know God. Every time someone passes away the family want to convince themselves that their loved one knew God.  I am not trying to be insensitive, but the fact is people want to believe that they know God and that their family knows God. What if there was a test?  What if there was a way that we could know that we have come to know God? Wouldn't that be incredibly helpful?  The Apostle John comes to the rescue.  He has given us a test. "By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments."  Now, I know that we need to be careful here. John is not suggesting that we are saved by works.  He is not saying that keeping the

1 John 2:2: He is the Propitiation

1 John 2:2 [2] He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV) We tend to struggle with the idea that God is at times a wrathful, vengeful God.  We want to delete those portions of Scripture that speak of his judgment and focus on the passages that talk of his mercy and love.  And as a result we have a very unhealthy and inaccurate view of who God is.  Many times I have heard people say that God is mean in the Old Testament, and nice in the New Testament. As we look at this word propitiation in 1 John 2:2 it will help us come to a more balanced understanding of just who God is.  We will go to the great late Dr. R.C. Sproul for a little help on this one: "The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him. In a certain sense, propit

1 John 2:1: That You May Not Sin

1 John 2:1 [1] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV) As a pastor I have often been asked to perform weddings.  I only do Christian weddings, and so one would think that those who come to me to be married would have strong Christian ideals and would want their marriage to reflect their godly values.  As I get to know a couple I sit down with them and ask them for a lot of information about their relationship.  One of the things that used to surprise me is how many couples have the same address!  Sadly, it is almost the norm.  The world espouses a view of sex outside of marriage being normal and expected.  What is sad is when the church begins to espouse the same worldly views of the unbelieving community around them. How do you view sin?  Is it something that we just accept and embrace?  Is that what God has called us to?  I love what the Apostle

1 John 1:10: If We Say We Have Not Sinned

1 John 1:10 [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV) "The Vedanta recognizes no sin it only recognizes error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power and you cannot do this and that." - Swami Vivekananda The Vedanta may recognize no sin, but the Bible does!  The Apostle John reminds us that those who say that they have not sinned make God to be a liar.  And the tragic end result of such a belief is that God's Word is not in us.  According to the Vedanta saying that you are weak, and that you are a sinner, is the greatest error.  According to the Word of God the greatest error is to refuse to acknowledge your sinfulness and weakness. This Eastern teaching that I quoted seems quite ridiculous to those who truly know the Word of God, but I wonder how many people that we have talked to who essentially believe this nons

1 John 1:9: If We Confess Our Sins

1 John 1:9 [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV) All of humanity has one thing in common.  We are all sinners.  Unfortunately, not all of humanity has come to a recognition of this reality.  The Apostle John has written this letter to those in the church who had been infiltrated by false teaching that declared that they did not need to confess sin  Rather, they believed that they were not sinners.  They deceived themselves, and were not true believers. Sadly, there are many today who make all kinds of rationalizations and excuses for their sinful nature and proudly refuse to confess their sin. The great Martin Luther said, "The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation."  The wonderful truth is that once we recognize our sin, we then can recognize our Savior.  He came to forgive us of our sin.  As John tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive

1 John 1:8: If We Say We Have No Sin

1 John 1:8 [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (ESV) The woman was in her eighties. She had been a proud school teacher for many years and was a respected person in her community.  She had been a longtime member of the church in the center of town and served in many leadership capacities.  Christian?  You bet.  Or so she would say.  But, there was a problem.  In a conversation she declared defiantly, "I do not sin.  I have never sinned." Does this sound like a far-fetched story?  I wish it was.  Sadly, there are many people who will not enter heaven because they cannot admit their need of a savior! John says that those who claim to have no sin are self-deceived.  The fact is that all of us know inherently that something is wrong about our actions.  We know that we are prone to be selfish and to be prideful.  Those who choose to deny such reality willfully deceive themselves.  Those who choose to acknowledge their sin are abl

1 John 1:7: If We Walk in the Light

1 John 1:7 [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (ESV) Light and darkness.  These are used by John to compare and contrast righteousness and sinfulness.  Therefore, walking in the light would be walking in righteousness.  It is important to note that this ability to walk in the light is something that can only happen to those who have been transformed by the saving blood of Jesus Christ.  In our own ability all that we desire and all that we do is to walk in darkness. 2 Corinthians 5:17 [17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV) These false teachers that had infiltrated the church were claiming to walk in the light, but they had not become a new creation in Christ.  They could not even know Christ because they denied his deity and were looking to "special knowledge" for their sour

1 John 1:6: If We Say We Have Fellowship

1 John 1:6 [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (ESV) One of the worst kinds of people we can meet are people who are phonies.  They talk one way, but act another.  I remember as a little kid there was an older man who would come around every now and again.  He seemed to be very nice.  And every time he saw me he promised me he would bring me ice cream. He came by many more times.  No ice cream. Forty years later I am still waiting for the ice cream. He probably now has some lame excuse that he cannot give me ice cream because he is no longer living. Ok, I wandered into silliness for a moment, but you get my point.  We do not like phonies. In fact, the Apostle John is dealing with the very issue of phoniness in this verse today.  In 1 John 1:5 he told us that God is light. Now, in verse 6 he tells us that if we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness we are liars. Phonies! The fal

1 John 1:5: God is Light

1 John 1:5 [5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (ESV) There seems to always be someone who claims that they have a new word, a new truth, a new theology.  Somehow, whatever was believed in the past was inferior to what we now know.  While there are aspects of new methods and styles that can be employed in helpful ways the one thing about Biblical truth is that it is unchanging.  Do we need a new theology?  No.  We actually need to follow what the Bible has always said. Hebrews 13:8 [8] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (ESV) The Apostle John is writing this epistle as an old man.  After Paul's teaching helped to liberate the church from the Law, now the Apostle John writes to liberate the church from the false teaching of Gnostic heretics.  It did not take long for people to infiltrate the church that promoted a new word, a new truth, a new theology. The problem wa

1 John 1:4: That Our Joy May Be Complete

1 John 1:4 [4] And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (ESV) Joy is truly a concept that this world does not understand.  Most people mistake the concept of joy with happiness.  Happiness is circumstantial.  People pursue things, events, and even people in the hopes that they will be the recipients of happiness.  What we discover in these pursuits as that any happiness that is obtained is temporary.  None of the things, events, or people that we encounter can provide for us eternal happiness.  And the other thing to note is that this pursuit of happiness is based on what we can receive, what we can take. In our text in 1 John 1:4 we find a very different principle here.  The Apostle John is writing the things he is writing for the purpose of giving the recipients joy!  Two things are very important to note.  First of all, we discover that John cares about others receiving joy. He is concerned about giving, not taking.  Secondly, he is giving something f

1 John 1:3: Fellowship with Jesus Christ

1 John 1:3 [3] that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (ESV) Imagine for a moment that you have discovered a cure for cancer. And imagine that you your body was riddled with this terrible disease.  After you applied the cure to yourself I can imagine that you would want other cancer victims to find the same triumph over the awful disease that you discovered. At least I hope that you are that kind of person! Consider what the Apostle John has experienced. He walked with Jesus.  He knew him more intimately than anyone else.  He is referred to as the "disciple that Jesus loved." His life was transformed by Jesus Christ.  He has forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  You may remember that it was this same Apostle who wrote these words: John 3:16 [16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in h

1 John 1:2: Eternal Life Made Manifest

1 John 1:2 [2] the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— (ESV) John had a tall order on his hands.  He is refuting wrong teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ. In this verse he re-states what is the truth about Jesus Christ.  His life was made manifest, it was revealed. This life of Jesus was seen and testified to by real men, including John himself! But John makes very clear that this life was both eternal, and yet made manifest. He is saying that Christ is both eternally God, and yet he became man. This is a hard concept.  Although truth does not cease to be truth because it is difficult.  The Jews are asked to believe that God came down to earth and was born of a virgin, Mary.  That's a lot to ask.  However, if the Jews had read their own prophecies about the Messiah they would have seen that Jesus' coming to earth was the very fulfillment of all

1 John 1:1: From the Beginning

1 John 1:1 [1] That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— (ESV) For as long as God's truth has been revealed, the enemy of our souls has been trying to distort it.  In the Garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent, possessed by Satan himself questioned the truth of God.  He said, "Did God really say?" The words and circumstances have changed throughout the centuries, but one thing remains. The enemy of our souls desires to undermine, distort, and twist the truth. The Apostle John is writing this letter to counter the false doctrines that had already begun to infiltrate the church toward the end of the first century.  At stake is the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.  John wanted to remind the recipients of this letter that Jesus was fully man and fully God.  What we b

Ephesians 6:24: Grace and Love

Ephesians 6:24 [24] Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (ESV) Grace and love.  Beautiful words.  Final words in this magnificent letter from the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus and to us, followers of Jesus Christ today.  Let's talk more about these words.  These are words that he has spoken of all through this letter.  Perhaps this is why Ephesians is my favorite book of the Bible.  The themes of God's grace and love are so encouraging. Grace.  In the famous verse from Ephesians 2:8 we learn that it is by grace that we have been saved, and not by our own works.  Is there anything more wonderful than that?  None of the so-called good works that we could ever attempt can even come close to providing for our salvation from our sinful nature. God looks at our sinful state, and in love, pours out his grace to us. Love. This word is used a lot in our culture.  And very rarely is it used properly.  Most of the time that we use the

Ephesians 6:23: Peace, and Love

Ephesians 6:23 [23] Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV) These are the closing words from the Apostle Paul to his brothers and sisters in Christ at Ephesus. He gives this beautiful benediction that we are going to look at more closely. Paul has already given Tychicus, as a messenger, to tell them all of the personal details and greetings from the Apostle Paul. Tychicus would share how Paul was being provided for in prison and how much Paul missed all of the people at Ephesus.  But, now, in verse 23 and 24 he gives them words of blessing from God. Peace to the brothers.  Where does this peace come from? The end of the verse tells us that it is from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul has been talking about the peace that comes from God, through Jesus Christ, for the last six chapters of this letter.  In the first three chapters Paul expounded on how we receive this peace from God.  It is by faith, through

Ephesians 6:22: Sent For This Very Purpose

Ephesians 6:22 [22] I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. (ESV) In this verse Paul is talking about Tychicus, his faithful friend.  Tychicus was with Paul in Rome, where Paul was imprisoned.  Now Tychicus is being sent to the church at Ephesus.  He brings with him this very letter that we are reading.  When we read the Epistles in the New Testament we are actually reading letters.  Paul has written this letter to the church at Ephesus, and Tychicus is the one who is delivering the letter. Paul is sending Tychicus.  This had to be bittersweet for Paul.  He valued Tychicus as a faithful brother.  And he also needed companionship as well as provisions while he was in prison.  The Roman prison system did not include food, cable tv and a work out room.  If you had no friends you would die fairly quickly in a Roman prison.  As difficult as it would be for Paul to say goodbye to Tychicus, it is evident that

Ephesians 6:21: Tychicus the Beloved Brother

Ephesians 6:21 [21] So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. (ESV) So, be honest.  Before you just read that verse were you aware of the man Tychicus?  Can you even pronounce that name?  When we think of the celebrities of the faith Tychicus is not on the top of anyone's list.  If you read the famous Hall of Faith chapter, Hebrews 11, you will find names like David, Gideon, and Abraham, but no mention of Tychicus.  And yet, to the great Apostle Paul Tychicus was very valuable. Why was Tychicus so valuable to Paul?  He was with him in prison.  Paul is sending Tychicus to the church at Ephesus from Paul's imprisonment in Rome.  There is something very valuable about being with someone in their time of great need.  In fact, Jesus told a parable about the sheep and the goats about the value of being with others in their time of need: Matthew 25:34–36 [34] Then the King

Ephesians 6:20: Ambassador In Chains

Ephesians 6:20 [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (ESV) Paul is talking here about the mystery of the Gospel for which he is an ambassador in chains.  He is asking for prayer that he would declare that mystery boldly, as he ought to. We talked already about Paul's priorities and how he is willing to lay his life down for the Gospel, which is literally what he was called to do. But, I want to focus on this idea of how declaring this mystery of the Gospel causes him to be in chains. The Jews had stirred up trouble every where Paul went. Because Paul was a Jew he so desperately wanted to see his fellow countrymen come to faith in Christ.  In every city he would share the Gospel to the Jews first, and then the Gentiles.  In every city the Jews attacked him and the reason he was in jail was because of the attacks of the Jews.  Why were the Jews so opposed to the mystery of the Gospel?  Think of it for a moment.  The

Ephesians 6:19: Pray Also for Me

Ephesians 6:19 [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, (ESV) In the previous verse Paul admonished the Ephesian believers to pray.  Pray at all times.  Pray in the Spirit.  Now, in verse 19 he makes an appeal for himself.  He asks that they would pray for him.  Before we go any further let's think about the kind of prayer request that the Apostle Paul would have. Imagine for a moment that your church is taking prayer requests on a Sunday morning, and somehow you get a prayer request from the Apostle Paul. What is he asking prayer for? First and foremost, one would think that Paul would be praying that God would release him from prison. Unlike the somewhat sanitary conditions of our modern American prisons, the Apostle Paul would have been in a very unpleasant place.  He would be in literal chains.  His meals and provisions were only provided by friends of his because the prison provided nothing fo

Ephesians 6:18: Praying At All Times in the Spirit

Ephesians 6:18 [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (ESV) Paul has been describing for us in the preceding verses all about our spiritual armor.  Yesterday we talked about our mighty weapon, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  In verse 18 he now talks about prayer.  Is prayer related to spiritual warfare?  Absolutely!  It is so much of a part of warfare that Paul says we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. Now, we should have a proper understanding of this phrase "praying in the Spirit."  There are some of my Pentecostal brothers and sisters who take this to mean speaking in tongues.  But there is nothing here in the context to suggest that Paul is speaking of a different language.  Rather, we are admonished to pray all kinds of prayer and at all times, in the Spirit. Let's think of it this way.  We are in battle.  We need direc

Ephesians 6:17: The Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:17 [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (ESV) As we consider all of the spiritual armor that is needed to protect ourselves from the enemy of our souls, we may very well wonder what we are supposed to use to attack.  All of the things we have looked at so far are defensive in nature, and designed to protect us.  We now come to our only weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Friends, the Word of God is your only weapon.  It is the only one you will ever need.  It will never become dull, although your understanding might grow dull. Many people make the foolish mistake of trying to rely on their own abilities to defeat the enemy.  As a result, there are wounded Christians, who should have used the Word of God as their weapon. The writer of Hebrews gives a vivid description of just how effective this weapon is: Hebrews 4:12 [12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two

Ephesians 6:17: The Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 6:17 [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (ESV) We are going to look at the helmet of salvation today.  As we begin we need to remember who the Apostle Paul is writing to.  This is a letter to the saints at Ephesus.  These are believers in Jesus Christ.  So, as we look at this helmet of salvation that we are to use as spiritual armor we recognize that this is not a magical helmet that gives us salvation.  Rather, it is used to protect our understanding of our salvation.  Now, how would our understanding of our salvation be under attack?  Satan wants to attack the assurance of our salvation.  If he can have us doubting who we belong to he can make us weak and ineffective in the battle.  The head is one of the most strategic parts of a body to attack.  Satan is not unaware of this.  I believe that we need to spend far more time making sure that are thinking is sound so as to be protected from the doubts that are f