Thursday, November 20, 2014

During the time of the Old Testament, did the Gentiles have to become Jews in order to be saved?

It was possible for a Gentile to become what is called a “Proselyte Jew” (a convert to Judaism). If a Gentile wanted to partake in the actions of the Jewish nation they would need to keep all the requirements of the covenant. In the book of Exodus it reads,
But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exodus 12:48-49)
Was Gentile conversion to Judaism necessary for salvation?

No... although a Gentile could convert (in part) to Judaism, it was not a necessity. The Jewish nation was a family that could trace its roots back to Abraham. A Gentile could never do that. God made a special covenant, with a special family, in order to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. 

The Jews were never commanded to convert the nations (ie. the Gentiles). Nothing in the Old Testament speaks of Jewish evangelistic outreach toward the Gentiles. Also, the Gentiles were never commanded to become Jews in order to be saved. Before the formation of the Israelite people there were opportunities for people (non-Jews) to be saved. One would assume that such a policy would remain until the time of Christ.

Jonah was a Hebrew prophet. He was told to go to Nineveh (a Gentile city) and tell them to repent. They repented and were spared. There is nothing said about the citizens of Nineveh becoming Proselyte Jews. 

Also, in the letter to the Romans, Paul makes this statement,
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16).
The Gentiles had a law written on their conscience that God held them accountable to. It was not the law of Moses, although parts of it were in alignment with it. 

Now, all people (Jew or Gentile) are accountable to the same message (the Gospel). Under the New Covenant, all people must follow Christ in order to be saved. This is what Paul declares in (Romans 1:16).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB. Image from Overstock.com 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is it ok to question my preacher or pastor? Should I just trust they are teaching the Truth?

Christians are to love all people, be kind to all and it is true that “love hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This does not, however, mean that we should be naive, gullible or immediately believe everything we are taught. The New Testament makes it very clear that we are hold ourselves accountable to the Word and not just take a preacher’s word for it. If we are not careful it would be easy to be misled and end up being “...children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

We should question and examine!
Several passages of Scripture teach us to examine what we are being taught.
(Acts 17:10-11) “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” 
The Christians in Berea were being taught by the Apostle Paul, yet they still examined the Scriptures.
(1 John 4:1-3) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God...”
Some teach things that are false, John makes it clear that it is up to us to “test” what is being taught. He warns that there are “false prophets”.
(1 Thessalonians 5:20-22) “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”.
At the end of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul by inspiration tells them to not “despise” prophecies, but instead “test” them. If the message is good (ie. true to God’s will), “hold fast” to it. If a teaching is evil, “abstain” from it.

Conclusion
It is VERY biblical to question what you are being taught. This does not mean we assume that everyone is teaching something false, but instead we analyze everything we are being taught in light of Scripture. If what we are being taught by our teachers is biblical, then we should hold fast to it. If it is contrary to Scripture, we should reject it.

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from ESV Bible) (Image from Zazzle.com)

What does Philippians 4:13 mean? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

A prizefighter is getting ready to step into the ring, a football team is about to take the field and a soldier is about to cross into battle. When asked if they are going to prevail, they all reply “Yes, because Philippians 4:13 states ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!’”.

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most quoted verses of the New Testament. In fact, many would say it is their favorite verse of the Bible. Because of its popularity, it is often misapplied accidentally by those who have never considered the context of the passage where it is contained. 

The Text
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. (Philippians 4:10-13)
The Context of Philippians 4:13
Paul is very thankful for the Philippians’ support of his ministry. He wants to assure them he is grateful and content with his circumstances. He tells them he knows how to live in poverty as well as in prosperity while continuing to find joy. What is the secret to such a positive attitude? Answer: Understanding that Jesus can see you through. Paul gets strength to endure hardship in his ministry through Jesus. 

Paul is expressing his thanksgiving for their continued gifts and is informing them of his strength of character in the midst of hardship. He let’s them know that he is very content in whatever situation he is in, because the Lord provides him strength.

Conclusion
Philippians 4:13 is not designed to give a football player hope that his team will win, but instead, it shows that a good minister like Paul can be content with lowly means as long as he understands that Jesus will see him through. Whether you have a lot or a little, the secret to happiness is to get your strength from the Lord!

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB Bible)

Friday, November 7, 2014

What is Gossip? Is it a Sin?

This post is brought to you by Wesley Walker at studyyourbibleonline.com (Please check out his site and read the many great articles he posts on a regular basis). Wesley is the preacher for the Woodson Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville TN.

Gossip

We all know gossip is bad.  In Romans 1, Paul lists a variety of sins that condemn people. In this list with sexual sins, murder, and others, he also includes gossip. But what exactly is gossip?

Not everything you say negative about someone else is gossip. There are times when it is okay to warn someone of another person’s character, or to go to others for advice on how to help someone.  We recognize that Jesus warned his disciples of certain people.  For instance, he told them to avoid the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mark 8:15).  Paul names Alexander the coppersmith as someone who did him much harm (2 Timothy 4:14). So how do we define gossip? The truth is it is not easy to define.

Therefore, rather than giving a definition of gossip, I want share with you three categories. These categories are the ones I find in Scripture that help us better understand what is meant by gossip. I hope you will use these categories as an intellectual grid.

3 Categories of Gossip

The first category is gossip includes slandering someone.  To slander means to attack or harm someone’s character with something that is either untrue, or you do not know if it is true. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the word translated gossip (or some have whisperings) means to slander someone in secret, or slandering with whisper. If what you are saying about someone is untrue, or you do not know whether it is true or not, then when you share it with others you could be gossiping.

The second category is to betray a confidence. There are things that friends or family tell you with the hopes that it will stay between you and them. They do not want others to know, but they have decided to share it with you.   Two different Proverbs come to mind. First, we have Proverbs 11:13 that says a “Gossip betrays a confidence, while a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Also Proverbs 20:19 says a “gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid someone who talks too much.”  If someone tells you something, believing it will be kept between you and them, then to betray that confidence is gossip.

The final category is connected with the person who is a busybody. The person who simply wants to know everyone’s business and then desires to share it with anyone they can. In 1 Timothy 5:13 Paul uses the phrase “house-to-house.” The imagery is someone finds out something “juicy” about a person, and then decides to make the rounds letting everyone know about it.  The person has idle time on his/her hands and instead of using that time to serve the Lord, uses it to share the latest “important” news.

Effects of Gossip
So why is this bad? Two reasons come to mind.  We are told in Proverbs 16:28 that gossip divides close friends. If someone tells you something that you share, or if you slander a friend behind their back, then eventually you will no longer have that friendship. Proverbs 26:20 states that just like wood adds fuel to a fire, gossip intensifies a fight. Gossip is a relationship destroyer.

Gossip is also a reputation destroyer. Gossip can make others feel differently about a person. It can forever hurt someone.  Once it is out, it can have a life of its own.

A Word of Warning
Let me end with a warning. Gossip is not easy to overcome. We are warned three times in Proverbs that gossip is like a tasty morsel.  When you eat delicious food, your immediate response is to want more. Gossip elicits that same desire within us.  Social scientists state we want more because when we gossip we feel powerful. We have information no one else has and therefore people have to listen to us. We want more because we feel included. It makes us feel like we are part of a group if we are sharing and hearing gossip. And it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can talk about how bad someone else is, we don’t have to examine our own weaknesses.

Since we know the temptation to gossip is so strong we need to be aware of it and battle against it.  Before you share information about someone else with another person, check your heart, make sure you are not slandering, make sure you are not sharing something you were supposed to keep private, and avoid always being in others private affairs. If we did this we would go a long way in avoiding gossip.

By Wesley Walker

Read the original article and other great posts at:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How does "Inspiration" work? What does it mean?

In (2 Timothy 3:16-17) the Apostle Paul makes a huge claim regarding the importance of Scripture. He states, 
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”.
Inspiration Defined
The New Testament was a originally written in the Greek language. The Greek word for “inspired” in this passage is the√≥pneustos. The√≥pneustos is a compound word that contains theos (the word for God) and pneo (the word for breath). The simplest way to define this term is that inspiration means “God breathed”. This is the way the NIV and the ESV translate this passage. 

When one is reading the Bible they can trust that what they are reading is not the words of men, but the words of God through men. This is what Peter means in (1 Peter 1:20-21).
“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”
This does not mean that God restricted human activity in order to have them pen exactly what He wanted, but instead He utilized their own styles, abilities and personalities to create Scripture as He saw fit. God enabled and empowered in order to have written exactly what He wanted. Geisler and Nix in their book A General Introduction to the Bible, articulated it this way,
Inspiration is that mysterious process by which the divine causality worked through the human prophets without destroying their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings (39).
Answer
Although some use the word “inspired” in reference to motivation to paint or write, (such as a singer being inspired by a life event to write a particular song), in the biblical sense,  inspiration means “God breathed”. Inspiration is how God was able to use people to create HIS message for mankind. Inspiration is the important link in the chain from God to man.

By Cliff Sabroe

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who is “The Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament?

For many generations people have pondered the identity of “The Angel of the Lord (sometimes referred to as “The Angel of God”). We are first introduced to this person in Genesis 16:7-14.
“Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. “He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered”.
Immediately after being introduced to “The Angel of the Lord” one finds that he is strikingly different from most angels. He tells Hagar “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count”. Angels do not usually have the ability to multiply one’s descendants. It is possible that he is just bringing a message from God, but he presents the message as if it is his own. 

If he is the Lord, he may be speaking of himself in third person, but it would seem odd if he was. Hagar calls him “Lord” and “God”, and believes that she should be dead for seeing Him. She then said to the One who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”.

This writer is of the conclusion that “The Angel of the Lord” is Deity and possibly the pre-incarnate Jesus.

The Angel of the Lord possesses the characteristics of Deity. “The Angel of the Lord” spoke as God.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15-18).
“Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ “He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. ‘I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’” (Genesis 31:11-13).

The Angel of the Lord accepted Worship

Throughout Scripture, one is taught that they should not worship men or angels, but only God. In fact, angels usually refuse worship as in (Revelation 22:8-9).
 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.” 
The command is always to only “worship God”. Even Jesus said “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”. It is very clear from Scripture that only God is deserving of worship.

Although the “Angel of the Lord” is called an “angel”, he accepted and received worship. The Angel of the Lord is worshiped in (Joshua 5:13-6:2), and in (Judges 6:19-27).

The Angel of the Lord addressed the entire nation

Usually in the Bible, angels will speak to groups or individuals, but it is God who speaks to nations. There are a few occasions where “The Angel of the Lord” addressed the entire nation.
“Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? “Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’” When the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the LORD”. (Judges 2:1-5).
In this passage “The Angel of the Lord” rebukes the ENTIRE Nation of Israel. Angels often bring messages, but never one’s of this magnitude to all of Israel. What is also striking about this passage is the fact that he claims to be the creator of the covenant and the one who brought them out of Egypt. If that is not “God”, who is?

Conclusion
The overwhelming evidence is that “The Angel of the Lord” is Deity. What part of the Godhead is up for debate, but there seems to be evidence to the idea that “The Angel of the Lord” is actually the pre-incarnate, pre-existing Christ. Especially when one considers that all the appearances of The Angel of the Lord cease after the incarnation.

1Corinthians 10:4 states “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ”. If the spiritual rock in the wilderness was Christ prior to when He came in the flesh, there is a good possibility that “The Angel of the Lord” is Christ too.


Ultimately, the word “angel” simply means “messenger”. A messenger that brings a message from God, speaks as God, and is worshipped like God, must be God.

By Cliff Sabroe

What is gluttony? Why is it a sin? How should we view food?

In this post questions about overeating and gluttony will be answered as we examine the topic of “The Bible and Food”.

Food is a Blessing
  • (Matthew 6:11) “Give us today our daily bread”.
  • (Matthew 6:31) “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”.
  • (Exodus 16) - Manna was from Heaven.
  • (James 1:17) “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above”.
  • (1 Timothy 4:3-4)“...foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving ... For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”.

Food Can Be a Curse
We were all created with a physical appetite. Our appetite is a good thing, but like any “natural desire” it is a problem if we are controlled by it. (2 Peter 1:6-7) states, 
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control...”
What is Gluttony? (The Sin Nobody wants to Talk About)
Gluttony is "the habitual gorging of food and drink”. It is characterized by overeating with a complete lack of self-control. 

What does the Bible say about Gluttony?
“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Pro. 23:20-21)
“He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” (Pro. 28:7)
“One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12).
Gluttony is not being overweight. (You can be skinny and enslaved to food or overweight and not). It is not eating a big meal (like thanksgiving), for even Jesus participated in feasts. It is not eating certain types of food (like junk food or fast food). Gluttony is being controlled by your appetite, to the point where you no longer have self-control when it comes to your food.

Conclusion:
Food is a great blessing from God, but it can also be a curse if we allow it to lead us to the sin of gluttony. Let us make sure we are the ones in control and not our appetites.
Do a self-evaluation. Could you give up food if needed? Do you find your life enslaved to constant (not occasional) food cravings? There are no verses that state it is a sin to not have a certain BMI, to enjoy food or even eat big meals or junk food. Christians, however, should be characterized by self-control in all areas of their lives.

By Cliff Sabroe