Question: Was King Saul a believer?

Was King Saul a believer?

There are many who question whether King Saul was a believer.  They have to, not because of Scripture, but because their theology demands it.  Their theology says that if a person continues in sin, then he really was not a believer.  Saul would be a good example, because after David’s killing of Goliath and the ensuing jealousy, King Saul purposefully and intentionally spent years chasing after that rascal David to kill him.  How could Saul possibly be a believer and want that?  After all, Saul died a miserable death at the attack of the Philistines.  Certainly, he had to be an unbeliever!  That is not true, because that is not what Scripture teaches.

In 1 Samuel 10, there are nine clear indications that Saul was a believer.  This is the passage in question,

·         Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance1?
·         2 “When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you,`The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”‘
·         3 “Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine.
·         4 “And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands.
·         5 “After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying.
·         6 “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.
·         7 “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.
·         8 “You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
·         9 So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.
·         10 When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
·         11 And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
·         12 Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”(1 Sam. 10:1-12)

In the beginning of the chapter ten, Samuel, a judge in Israel, had been commanded by God to anoint Saul as commander over His people. The Lord had told Samuel, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to me.” (1 Sam. 9:16) This does not say that Saul was a believer, but he was chosen by God as the first king of Israel. As Samuel stood with Saul, he took the flask and anointed Saul as commander over Israel (1 Sam. 10:1).  Let us note nine reasons why Saul was clearly a believer.

First, Samuel tells precisely what Saul will do as he is joined with a group of prophets from Israel (1 Sam. 10:3-5). These prophets were not just coincidently connecting with Saul.  They were on a mission from God prophesying from the Lord.  That would be absurd if Saul was an unbeliever, because an unbeliever cannot understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14).  There would be no reason for any connection from any further messages from God.  If he were an unbeliever, he would be anointed and then he would do his own works and ignore any messages from God.

Secondly, God’s Spirit came upon Saul, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you and you will prophesy with them…” (1 Sam. 10:6a). The Spirit of God does not come upon unbelievers to do God’s work. However, God’s Spirit will convict the unbelieving world (John 16:8-11) and judge the world, but not come upon the unbeliever for prophesying.

Thirdly, Saul was turned into another man, “…and be turned into another man.”(1 Sam. 10:6b) This is the transformation process of regeneration.  Paul uses the term, “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). 

Fourthly, God was with him, “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.” (1 Sam. 10:7) This is a clear sign that Saul had trusted in God’s provision and God was with him to lead the people.

Fifthly, Samuel offered burnt and peace offerings for and on behalf of Saul, “You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. (1 Sam. 10:8a) There is absolutely no reason to offering sacrifices for or on behalf of an unbeliever.  God is concerned with the heart.  After the heart is right, then sacrifices are made to honor the Lord.

Sixthly, God gave Saul another heart, “So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.” (1 Sam. 10:9)  Changing of the heart is a clear sign that Saul was a believer and the signs that came to pass affirm God’s blessing on Saul at that time.

Seventhly, God’s Spirit came upon Saul a second time, “…then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” (1 Sam. 10:10) In the Jewish Age, the Spirit did not indwell the believer, but did endue the believer for special purposes (In the Church Age, the Spirit indwells all believers {Rom. 8:9}). The special enduement allowed Saul to prophesy for the Lord.

Eighthly, the people recognized God’s ministry through Saul, “…when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:11)  There was evidence that was witnessed by other prophets of God as being from God.  God may have spoken through a donkey and He can use any mouthpiece He wants, but the prophets recognized a transformation in Saul.

Ninthly, a proverb was named after Saul, “Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:12)  In other words, the father (or the source) is the same source as the rest of the prophets of God.  Saul is from the Lord.  He is a believer.

Someone may be able to pick apart one or more of these reasons.  When you put them together, there is clear evidence that Saul was a believer in the Lord.

Now why is Saul questioned?  He is questioned about being a believer, because his actions are not “fitting” of that of a believer.  Really? See the article on the believer’s Downward Spiral.1 People who question if Saul was a believer never seem to provide a good answer to the question, “How many sins can I commit, before I need to question whether I’m a believer?”  A believer can act just like an unbeliever as Paul warns in Ephesians 4:17.  That is why the Lord disciplines His children, because they sin and refuse to repent (Heb. 12:5-6). 


1Check this link to read about the believer’s Downward Spiral:

Question: Can a Christian not sin?

Can a Christian not sin?


Jesus did not sin. John writes, “ And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (1 Jn. 3:5)  Peter is more specific,

  • 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
  • 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; (1 Pet 2:21-22)

The Lord Jesus Christ did not sin in His humanity, or any other time, but what about you and me? Can a Christian not sin?

An interesting passage is the second account of sin.  Abel and Cain made offerings to God and God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  The purpose of this article is not to analyze why God did not accept Cain’s offering, but to note that He did not accept it and to look at the Lord’s counsel to Cain.

  • 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
  • 7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen. 4:6-7)

Notice that God does not rebuke Cain on the specifics of the offering, but challenges him to reflect on what he should now do. 

Cain had not repented or realized he was thinking independently from God. So God asks Cain the questions, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” not because God does not know the answers, but to help Cain consider his actions.  God did not accept his offering, but Cain also did not approach God and ask God why he did not accept the offering.  Cain was acting independently from God and God’s questions were designed to reveal to Cain his failure to humble himself and submit to the Lord.

Then God changes the course of the questions.  God asks, “If you do well…” That is the key in life – to do well.  To do well is to please God.  It doesn’t matter what we do or not in our own eyes, but doing well in God’s eyes does matter.  Then God explains what must happen for Cain to do well – to be accepted by God. In order to do well, you must recognize there is an enemy.  God says, “Sin lies at the door.”  The door is Cain’s heart.  Sin is personified as having a desire to control Cain.  That is always the desire of sin.  It wants to control and not just a little or in just a few areas, but all the time and in every area. 

Sin has one focus – it wants to control you.  It will look for your weaknesses and start out small.  It will often gain a foothold in your life in small things, for example in doubt or worry, or about whether you will be accepted or rejected.  It may start in small secret areas of life like pornography or material lusts in desiring more clothes or maybe in seeking the status of having a boyfriend.  It starts small and then seeks to gain ground.  Sin is like a fire, it is never satisfied, until it controls every area.  Sin is like a grave that is always looking for its next victim.  Sin is like a parched desert that never gets enough water. It’s stated best in Proverbs,

  • 15 The leech has two daughters– Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!”:
  • 16 The grave, The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water– And the fire never says, “Enough!” (Pro. 30:15-16)

Sin desires to control, so God clarifies to Cain, “…but you must rule over it.”  With that admonishment and challenge, Cain leaves the presence of the Lord.  The question is, “Will he rule over his sin, so that sin does not control him?”  What does the next verse say? “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Gen. 4:8)  Can you believe it? In the very next verse, God shows that Cain does not control sin. In the very next verse, Cain is not just tempted, but he falls headlong into sin and murders his brother.  Maybe Cain thinks he needs to remove the competition, so that God would “have” to accept what Cain did.  

Cain cannot control sin, because he was not completely dependent on the Lord.  Cain does not control sin, because God never intended that we could control sin apart from His presence in our lives.  Cain does not control sin, because only God’s work in our lives through His power, the Holy Spirit, can a believer successfully rule over sin.

Can a believer not sin?  NO and YES.  A believer cannot control sin in his own power.  He will succumb to temptation every time and reveal the ineptness of his flesh to function in dependency upon the Lord. He will fail just as Cain failed.  Yet, the believer can control sin, when he is dependent on the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Is that important to understand?  Absolutely, because it reveals that a believer will be fleshly, except when he is dependent on the Lord.

Question: Can a Christian be a carnal Christian?

Can a Christian be a carnal Christian?

Recently, I had a discussion with a fellow-believer, who said that Christians cannot be carnal Christians. Said in another way, a Christian cannot be considered carnal or act carnal, because he is spiritual.  He said that a carnal person is really just an unbeliever.  A Christian is one who may sin, but would not live in carnality.  Is he right?

Unfortunately, while this believer knows the Scriptures well, he doesn’t interpret them well.  He imposes his theology on the Scripture and interprets it according to his theology rather than according to correct rules of interpretation.  If you approach Scripture with presuppositions (statements that imply a truth taken for granted), you will tend to read meaning into the Scripture.  For example, if I say, “I no longer drive Chevy trucks.” The presupposition is that I used to drive Chevy trucks. That is a true statement.  If I approach Scripture with presuppositions, I will work the Scriptures to mean what I want them to mean.

When someone says that a Christian cannot be carnal, they try to explain away a very easy-to-understand passage of Scripture. The passage is 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul writes,

·       And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
·       2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
·       3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

Some try to explain this away by taking the culture of the church today and inserting that back into the culture of the church in Corinth. That is called eisegesis, which means to “read the interpretation into Scripture.”  Today, there are unbelievers who attend church.  In Paul’s day, those who were not believers did not identify or attend church. What does Paul say in his letter to Corinth?

·       To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Cor. 1:2)

Paul is writing to the believers in Corinth and they were saints.  The culture in Paul’s day was far different than today.  Churches were house churches, because Christians were not welcomed.  They were hated because they did not give allegiance to Caesar.  They were used by Nero as torches for his garden parties.  They eventually hid and met in catacombs, because they were so despised.  Those who were not believers did not identify or attend church.  Christians didn’t invite friends to church to hear the gospel.  They gave the gospel to their friends and those who believed looked for a church family to identify with for nurture and growth.  Paul’s letter was intended to be delivered to those were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” and therefore believers.

Then notice in the first passage of 1 Corinthians 3 how Paul describes them.  What does he say?  He calls them “brethren.”  In other words, they were believers.  Now in that context, what follows describes Paul’s audience of believers. 

Paul writes he could not speak to them as spiritual people.  That phrase does not define a Christian, but rather one who is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit.  Paul uses similar phraseology in Galatians 6:1,

·       Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)

Paul is writing to those who are “spiritual” that is those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit, not merely Christians.  If you are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, you will create more division in your admonishment and correction, because you will not examine yourself.  In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul describes them as not “spiritual,” but rather “carnal.” Both words, “spiritual” and “carnal” are adjectives. The word for “carnal” means one who is characterized by the flesh.  He is a fleshly-like person.  At that moment, he is living according to the flesh instead of the Spirit.  He is a carnal person.

Paul continues by writing, they are babes in Christ.  This is a common expression for someone who is a new Christian and has not grown up.  A spiritual baby does not know how to fulfill God’s plan and is concerned more for self, than for others.  He is a Christian, but he acts very fleshly or carnal.  He has not learned spiritual disciplines.  He is not very concerned about others.  He is focused on himself. God doesn’t condemn spiritual babes for being fleshly.  They just need to be discipled so they can grow up to be a spiritual child, a spiritual young adult and then a spiritual parent.

Can a Christian be carnal?  Of course, he can act very fleshly.  He can and is carnal, that is, he acts according to the flesh, rather than according to the Spirit.  He is fleshly, because he has a sin nature inside of him, which he acquired at birth from his father (Rom. 5:12).  That sin nature stays with the believer until it is removed at death.  Paul says it best,

·       23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
·       24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:23-24)

Paul is describing the sin nature that still can control him, if he chooses to let it.  As long as he remains filled, or controlled by the Holy Spirit, He will not be acting according to the sin nature.  The challenge is that in this lifetime, it is impossible apart from humble submission to the sovereign will of God.

Always take the natural interpretation and develop your theology from that, rather than choose a theology and then interpret Scripture.  That can easily result in spiritual pride.