Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Are Saints real? What is a “Saint” in the Bible?

The term “saint” comes from the same family of words that “holy” and “sanctified” come from. In its most basic sense, the word “saint” means “one who is holy or sanctified”. In Christian tradition (not Scripture), certain individuals throughout history have been identified as saints, such as Saint James or Saint Mother Theresa. It is because of this misidentification, that some have become confused when looking at the Bible and observing how the word “saint” is actually used.

Who is a saint?
A saint is one who is “holy”. The New Testament mentions “saints” often. In (Acts 9:13) the “saints in Jerusalem” are mentioned. (Romans 1:7) mentions those “called as saints” and (8:27) says the Holy Spirit “intercedes for the saints”. 2nd Corinthians and other New Testament letters are addressed to “the saints”. Ultimately, a saint, is a Christian. When one is saved, they are made holy, thus they are made a “saint” by God.

All Christians are saints, not just church leaders, Bishops or preachers. Just because a person is called a “saint” does not mean that they intercede for us in prayer or have the ability to perform miracles. When God washes away our sins at baptism, He makes us “saints”.

Conclusion
The true meaning of the word “saint” is often misunderstood. Saint is a synonym for “holy ones”, “the sanctified”, and “the saved”.

By Cliff Sabroe

Did people in the Bible have last names?

Answer:

My name is Cliff Sabroe. My first name is “Cliff” and my last name (also known as my family name is “Sabroe”). During Bible times names were not said in the same way. You will instead see names like “Cliff, son of Robert” or “Cliff the Preacher”. The way an individual was distinguished from another of the same name during Bible times was usually by their occupation or who their father was. Other times you have a person being designated by the place they are from like “Jesus of Nazareth”.

So although individuals in the Bible did not have “last names” as we do, they still had ways to identify and differentiate between people of the same name. An example would be the two disciples called Simon. Simon Peter is called “Simon Son of Jonah” while the other is referred to as “Simon the Zealot”.
By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

The Passage

In Matthew 12:22-32 Jesus is a presented a man that is demon possessed, blind and mute. Jesus heals this man and the crowds are impressed. The Pharisees hear the praises of the crowd and declare concerning Jesus, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” (Matt.12:24). Jesus spends time in verses 25-29 showing them the absurdity and contradictory nature of such a claim, as well as declaring to them it is the “Spirit of God” working in Him to preform such a feat.

After presenting His argumentation against the Pharisees, Jesus makes this powerful declaration:
 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt. 12:31-32).
May people, including Christians, look at this passage and its parallel in Mark 3:22-30 and conclude that if anyone says anything against the Holy Spirit, they are eternally doomed to Hell.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Explained

In this passage, the Pharisees clearly observed the Spirit of God working in Jesus and enabling Him to heal this man. There was no doubt to any open-minded person that what Jesus was doing had to have come from God. The Pharisees were so closed minded, that instead of affirming the power of God working in Christ they they declared that the power of the Holy Spirit working in Him was actually the power of the Devil. They committed “blasphemy of the Holy Spirt”.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in its most basic form is witnessing the Holy Spirit perform a miraculous action and then attributing that action to the Devil. The Pharisees hearts were so calloused that even though they witnessed the power of God with their own eyes, they were so hardened that they refused to admit it. In fact, they instead said that the miracle was done by Satan. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is seeing a miracle performed by the very hands of Jesus and then claiming that it was Satan that preformed that miracle. Once a person is that hardened in their heart, there is no turning back to God.

Can this “Unpardonable Sin” be Recreated

Jesus is no longer walking on this earth in human form and performing miracles with His own hands in front of large crowds. It is true that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are working in the world, but not in the same was as they did during Christ’s time on earth. Thus, no one is witnessing today with their own eyes the power of the Holy Spirit displayed through the actions of the incarnate Christ. If no one is witnessing with their own eyes this power, then they cannot commit this sin (ie. attribute a miracle of Jesus to the Devil).

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from New American Standard Bible 1995

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is it wrong to eat Pork?

The Israelites (The Jews) were given very strict dietary restrictions by God. The most well-known is Leviticus 11:7-8 which states,
...and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.
Those who are not very familiar with the different covenants in Scripture often find these restrictions confusing. One who is used to eating Pork may read this passage and even feel guilty thinking they have committed a sin.

Answer:
No, it is not wrong to eat Pork today. This restriction along with many others was given only to the nation of Israel. It is not a command for us today. As has been discussed in another post all the laws given in Leviticus (and other books of law) were given specifically to the Israelites, for a specific purpose at a specific time. The specific purpose is found in (Leviticus 20:22-26).
‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.‘Hence I have said to you, “You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
God wanted Israel to be holy and pure. He wanted them to be completely different from the extremely evil pagan nations around them. Some of the laws promoted good health, some kept them from immoral practices, others taught lessons about holiness and others prevented them from doing anything that even resembled an idolatrous practice. There are some laws that are hard to understand, but remember that the reason a particular law was given, was to keep them “set apart” as God’s holy people.

It appears that during the time of the New Testament there was still confusion over whether or not some foods were unclean. In Acts 10 Peter has a vision in which God shows him all different types of animals, both “clean” and “unclean”. He tells Peter to eat these animals and Peter says he can’t because they are “unclean”. God then tells him, “What God has cleansed, do not consider unholy” (Acts 10:15).

Later, in his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes, 
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and pray.
Conclusion:

It is wrong to forbid people from eating certain foods because all food is to be accepted with gratitude. The laws concerning clean and unclean foods are no longer in affect for the believer today.

By Cliff Sabroe
(Quotes from NASB95 Emp Mine)

Was there forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant?

Jesus Christ came to Earth in the flesh and died on the cross so that man could be saved. Galatians 4:4-5 reads,
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Also, in the book of Hebrews it states,
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).
Some have observed these passages along with others and have come to the conclusion that those in the Old Testament were never forgiven of their sins until Jesus died. This post will attempt to answer the question “Was there forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant?” and show how one can reconcile this with New Testament teaching.

Answer:
Yes, there was forgiveness of sins in the Old Testament. Just in the book of Leviticus alone, the word for “forgiveness” is used 10 times! Note a few of these occurrences:
  •  He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20)
  • All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)
  • Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat was removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31)
  • Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offerings, and the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar, on the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin which he has committed, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)
How is this possible?
If forgiveness is based upon Christ’s work on the cross, how could people have been forgiven before Jesus came to earth? This question can be answered by the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 3:23-26:
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Those in the Old Testament who were followers of God were forgiven just as the book of Leviticus and others state. However, their forgiveness was based upon the future work of Jesus on the cross. God in his infinite knowledge knew Jesus would die on the cross for all sins and thus offered pardon before the debt was even paid.

God is a loving God and wants all to be recipients of his mercy. Those under the Old Law had the opportunity to be forgiven as do those under the New.

By Cliff Sabroe (Scripture Quotes from NASB95)
Image from Sampson-Design.org 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Does Psalm 127:3-5 teach that I should have a lot of Children? What is a full quiver?

Children are a blessing! I have 5 children and thank the Lord for them constantly. Since I am a Christian, and have what can be considered today as a “large family”, some may assume that I align myself with what has become known as the “Quiverfull” movement. This movement is made up of a large number of believers who hold to the idea that a married couple should not plan on when to reproduce, nor use any form of birth control. Instead, you should just allow the “Lord to decide”, when or if you have children, and how many.

Proponents of this idea often quote (Psalm 127:3-5) as support for their position. The text reads,
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
In this Psalm, Solomon is declaring that true success comes from God. He is the source of true prosperity. In vs. 1 of this Psalm, Solomon teaches that whatever is built (most likely in reference to the temple or the city of Jerusalem), without God guarding it, will fall! 

In vs. 2, it is taught that even through our most tedious labor, the results of our work cannot compare with the blessings of God. Again, without God, our achievements are worthless.

Verse 3 then gives an example of one of the many blessings of God (ie. Children). No matter what work we may do in this life, the results of that work cannot compare with the blessing of Children. Why? Because no matter how hard we work to fortify our city, or even how skilled our archers might be, it is in shear numbers that a city is often protected from its enemies. Our work to fortify our location cannot compare with the benefits of a great number of children that God blesses one with.

When the enemies gather at the gate, the one who has a great deal of supporters (in this case it would be his children) will often prevail. It is for this reason that that a quiver (the bag in which arrows were stored) full of children provided by God, would be better than a quiver full of arrows provided by men. Blessings from God are more powerful than the accomplishments of men.

Answer
Psalm 127 is not a command for people to have as many children as possible, but instead it is a passage that shows that blessings of God are always more powerful than the works of men (even in the case of protection from one's enemies).

Yes, children are a wonderful blessing. I feel I am blessed by my large family. However, I don’t believe this passage or others teach that trying to plan when to start a family, or when to stop having children is necessarily against God’s will.

One Final Thought
God blesses us with many things. I feel God blesses me with food. Yet, God will allow me to eat more food than what is good for me. God will not keep me from becoming obese. God blesses us with food and expects us to handle that blessing in a responsible way.  Likewise, God blesses mankind with the ability to reproduce. This blessing, as the blessing of food, can be used in a way that is responsible and also irresponsible. 


By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB95 Bible)

What is the book of Revelation about?

When observing the book of Revelation, one needs to understand that although this book is often shrouded in mystery, its main purpose is to bring encouragement to its First Century readers. The Christians at this time were dealing with great persecution and the book of Revelation exhorts them to “be faithful unto death” so they will “overcome”.

There are a lot of visions and symbols in the book of Revelation. At times these symbols can be quite confusing. Understand that most of the visions happened in the past. Remember that in the introduction of the book (Revelation 1:1) it reads,
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John”.
One would assume then, that the visions given through the opening of each one of the seals would be something that was going to happen relatively soon to the time of the writing. Remember, seven churches in the region of Asia Minor are receiving this letter. 

These 7 churches are corrected and then encouraged to stay faithful during what is about to happen. The readers at that time would be able to identify what these visions were of and then make adequate preparations to “overcome”. These visions were for them, not for us today. Although the encouragement to faithfulness stays the same.

Conclusion
The book of Revelation is about staying faithful. It is a book that shows that Christians will overcome. 
“God’s bondservants might know that in spite of tribulation at the hands of the kings of the earth, they will overcome if they remain faithful to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus unto death, because of the blood of the Lamb” (Walker 215)
By Cliff Sabroe
 “From God’s Mind to Man’s Pen”. “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature” by Wesley Walker. West Visalia Church of Christ Lectures 
Image from Christian Worldview Institute Website