Friday, May 8, 2015

Does “Do you not have houses to eat in drink in?” (1 Corinthians 11:22) teach that it is wrong to eat inside a church building?

The Passage Explained
There were some problems associated with the Communion (ie. The Lord’s Supper) in Corinth. Paul spend time in 1 Corinthians 11 attempting to correct these issues.  The main problem he addresses is “Division”.

The church is to be an united group, a body and a family. The Communion meal is supposed to be a time of mutual fellowship between the members of a local congregation with God, and with each other . The Corinthians, instead, had turned it into a time to selfishly fill their stomachs.

This divisive, selfish environment is condemned by the Apostle Paul. In (1 Corinthians 11:18-21), he states:
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
The purpose of this part of worship was to eat Lord Supper together, but instead, they were not even waiting for everyone to get there! In fact, it appears that some members were eating up ALL the food and drinking down all the wine before everyone could commune! This was a blatant corruption of what the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be!

After, explaining that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is “remembrance” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), the Apostle gets back to his corrective rebuke in verses (33-34). The passage reads:
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment...
The Communion meal is different from other meals the church may eat together. The communion is a time of remembrance, sharing, celebration, praise and fellowship. The entire congregation is to participate in this weekly observance. It is a shame that there were some brethren in Corinth who turned it into an opportunity to quickly stuff their faces before everyone could participate.

Answer:
With the context of this passage in mind, let us examine verse 22. It reads:
What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
The point of the passage is not to forbid eating in a church building (in fact, church buildings were probably not on the Apostle’s mind at all). Instead, this passage is saying, “if you are hungry, eat at home”, “if you are thirsty, be sure to get a drink beforehand”, because when it is time to take the Lord’s Supper, it is not to fill your belly, but a time to remember Jesus with your Christian family.

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB95 Bible. Picture courtesy of cofchrist.org

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Is God going to save all the Jews? Does Romans 11:26 really teach that “all Israel” is going to be saved? Is this passage figurative? How can I interpret Romans 11 correctly?

Due to the fact that this is a very challenging question, this post will be longer and more in depth than others. I encourage you to not just skip to the conclusion, but instead, read through it with an open mind, an open Bible and a desire to understand the book of Romans.

Introduction to Romans 11
A main turning point in the book of Romans is chapter 11.  In chapter 11 Paul directs his attention from the Jews to the Gentiles. 11:13 states “But I speak to you that are Gentiles” (ASV).  Chapter 11 does not stand alone, as it relates to the underlining theme of the book of Romans.  The book of Romans is a book about unity, and in chapter 11 Paul again tries to unite the Jews and Gentiles on common ground. Please note how the theme of unity flows through the previous chapters. 

Overview of  Chapters 1-10
The book of Romans begins in chapter one with the unifying theme as found in (1:16), which declares to the reader that Jew and Gentile can be made just by faith in the gospel “as it is written ‘but the righteous will live by faith” (1:17).  

Chapter 1:18 – 3:31 unifies its readers by teaching that all have sinned, all need to be justified and that none can justify themselves by keeping law.  

Chapter 4 unifies the Jews and Gentiles on the basis of justification by faith, this is illustrated by the account of Abraham and how it was reckoned to him as righteousness when he believed. Righteousness on the basis of the faith of Abraham makes him the father of “all” (Jew or Gentile). This means that all who believe may also be reckoned as righteous. 

Chapter 5 again unites the Jew and Gentile by illustrating from the account of Adam that all are subject to death and that all need Christ. In chapter 6 we learn that if one is in Christ, they will be dead to sin, and in chapter 7, the struggle to die to sin is illustrated. 


Chapter 8 shows the blessings that come from being united in Christ on the basis of justification by faith, and chapter 9 confirms that it has always been God’s plan. Chapter 10 brings the final argument for justification by faith and not the keeping of law, and the end of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11 remind Israel that God has not rejected them.

The Context of Romans 11
In this section the Apostle Paul is painting an exquisite picture of God’s unwavering love for Israel.  A Jew reading this epistle may have come to the conclusion that they could not ever be just, they may be thinking that they had been wasting their time and that God has neglected them for the Gentiles.  Paul in 11:1 answers the Jewish question about God rejecting them, Paul declares “may it never be”.  Paul does say that although God never rejected Israel, many of Israel have rejected God. He shows that one of the reasons that the gospel was given to the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy and move them to draw closer to God (11:11).

In (11:13) the chapter takes a turn and the intended audience goes from the Jews to the Gentiles. As he did with the Jews, Paul exhorts the Gentiles to not be arrogant, but instead have an attitude of humility. This is illustrated with an example of an Olive Tree. 

In (vs.17-25) Paul identifies God’s people as being a tree. The Jews were part of this tree, but some Jews rejected Christ and were broken off. Where the Jews broke off the Gentiles were allowed to be grafted in.  At this point in the text the Gentiles may be feeling superior to the Jews, but again Paul reminds them in (vs.21) “for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee”. If the Gentiles continued in their boasting they would be broken off in the same way the unbelieving Jews were broken off.  If the Jews believe, they likewise will be grafted back into the tree in the same manner as the Gentiles (11:23-24). The point about not being conceited is driven home in (vs.25) in which he declare to them to “not be wise in their own understanding”. 

What is the meaning of “all Israel” (11:26)?
Without a doubt, the most difficult passage in this chapter is the first part of (11:26) which states “and so all Israel will be saved”. The question of who “all Israel” is and reference to is a challenging one.

This writer is of the persuasion that the most likely interpretation of (11:26), is that “all of Israel” is referring to the physical nation of Israel. The Gentiles were assuming that the “hardening” of the Jews was eternal, but Paul is correcting them by proclaiming that “all of Israel shall be saved”. “All Israel” in the context of Romans 11 must be seen as literal. In (Romans 11:1,2,7 and 25) the Israel being referred to is literal Israel. It is poor exegesis to take one verse out of five and make the word mean something different than the definition of the word in the preceding verses. 

One should note, the word hutosand so” in verse 26 could be better translated “in this manner” (Bauer 602). Thus, what Paul is saying, is in the same manner of being grafted in as the Gentiles were, the unbelieving Jews can be grafted in also if they believe.  100% “all” of Israel has the chance of being saved if they believe and are grafted in as the Gentiles were.

Continuing in verse 26 the quotes Isaiah 59:20-21 to reiterate the point that God has always wanted to offer salvation to the Jews, as chapter 11 continues this is made wonderfully clear. God wants Jew and Gentile to be saved! 

The passage shows there was a time where both groups rejected God but now they can both be united together as they are grafted into the tree of salvation the same way.  In (11:32) it states “For God hath shut up all in disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all”. God’s plan is not always a plan that all can understand (11:33). Even though all the nuances of God’s plan cannot be understood, the point of this passage is clear.  God wants both Jew and Gentile to be saved, both Jew and Gentile were separated from God at one time, both Jews and Gentile are saved in the same way, and thus, neither Jew or Gentile has reason to boast!

Conclusion
The book of Romans proclaims justification on the basis of faith. Paul wants the readers (both Jew and Gentile) to be united upon this truth. Rome was a church divided, the Jews and Gentiles were in opposition to one another.  In chapters 1-11 Paul beautifully illustrates numerous reasons on why Jew and Gentile are one in the same in the eyes of God. Chapter 11 brings to an end the doctrinal unity that the Jews and Gentiles must embrace. In chapter 12 the book takes a turn to the practical application of the previous eleven chapters. Chapter 11 is the conclusion of Paul’s doctrinal discourse for unity, chapter 11 shows that no matter what race you are, whether you rejected God in the past or in the present, there is room for all in God’s tree. You can be grafted in, if you have faith, and come to Him. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ASV and NASB95 Bible 
Work Cited - Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  2nd E.d. Edited By. W.F Arndt and F.W Gingrich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Should I “tithe”? How much should I give?

What does it mean to “tithe”?
While under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of what they earned back to God. The term “tithe” means “tenth”. The text of Leviticus reads:
 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30-32 ESV).
Should a Christian “tithe” today?
The commandment to give a tenth was for Israel for a specific purpose. This command falls under a law/covenant that we are not under today. The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26 NAS).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.

Are Christians supposed to give?
Yes! Several passages show that giving should be part of the Christian’s life and part of the activity of the assembled Church. In 1 Corinthians 16 the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give every Sunday.
 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper... (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Although the command in this passage is specifically for one church to gather funds to help Christians in another region, it seems that a pattern is being established for the church to give when they meet. Notice, he says that he also “directed the churches of Galatia” to do this.

How much should I give?
No where in the New Testament is an amount or percentage specified. God wants us to be generous givers and God knows our hearts. If we are pushing ourselves to greater generosity all the time, God will be pleased. The second letter to the church in Corinth reads:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,  (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NAS). 
Paul complemented the giving of the Macedonian Christians, because they gave “beyond their means”, this is a great example for us as well.

How should I give?
Oftentimes it is hard for us to give. We selfishly want everything for ourselves and have a hard time sharing. God never wants us to give with a bitter heart.  We must give cheerfully and plan ahead on how much we are going to give. God does not wants our “leftovers”.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV).
Conclusion:
God has given us so much! Let’s always be generous people who cheerfully give to others and back to Him.


By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should a Christian "Fast"?

What is Fasting?
The word “fast” or “to fast” or be “fasting” in its Scriptural usage means to go without food for a spiritual purpose. Although people sometimes fast for medical reasons, this is not what the Biblical practice is in reference to.  The Jewish people would often voluntarily fast for many different reasons.

When one examines the New Testament, they will notice there are no passages which command the Christian to fast, but it seems to be understood that one will fast occasionally. Note: The following verses:
(Luke 5:33-35)And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them,“You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”  
(Matthew 6:16) - Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” 
Right Reasons for Fasting
Although strictly a voluntary matter, there are some occasions in Scripture where fasting is assumed to be beneficial. 
  • David and his men mourned and fasted when Saul died (2 Samuel 1:12). 
  • Nehemiah fasted when sorrowful over the condition of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4)
  • When David’s child was sick he “fasted” (2 Sam. 12:16).
  • (1 Samuel 7:6) - “and they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah”
  • (Jonah 3:5) - “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them”. 
  • Moses fasted when God was giving him the law (Exodus 34:28).
  • Jesus fasted before being tempted by The Devil (Matthew 4:2).
  • The church fasted before sending Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3). (Jackson)
Wrong Reasons for Fasting
It is wrong for a person to fast for the purpose of being noticed or to show off how "spiritual" they are.
(Matthew 6:16-18) - “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Conclusion
It appears from Scripture that there are benefits to one fasting. Whether to fast or not, is a personal choice. When one chooses to fast, they should not use it as an opportunity to brag or boast in their own spirituality. If you have never taken the time to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, it may be good to set aside time to engage in this biblical activity.

Bibliography For further reading, see article by Wayne Jackson in the Christian Courier - http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/231-is-fasting-for-christians-today - This article is referenced in the above post.Image from - bonappetit.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Will I still go to heaven if I am cremated? Is it a sin? What does the Bible say?


End of life decisions are often difficult to make. This is especially true when it comes to one's final resting place and funeral. This question is a common one and although the Bible does not specifically mention cremation, I believe that one can conclude that there would be nothing wrong with the practice.

God is a powerful God! The Bible teaches that “the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). At the time of the resurrection, our mortal bodies will change. (1 Corinthians 15:50-55) describes this amazing transformation.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
When Jesus comes again, the dead Christians (in whatever form they are in) will be raised to life eternal with God. God does not require a body to be whole for Him to resurrect it. During the early years of the church, Christians were often fed to lions as a punishment for their faith. Although it is a morbid thought, one would imagine that their bodies were no longer intact. What about one who was burned at the stake? God has the power to transform these mangled corpses in the same way that He could one who has be cremated. 

It is illogical to believe that one would not go to heaven if they are cremated. What about one who donates their organs to another? What about one who donates their body to science when they die? This physical body will be changed during the final resurrection into an immortal body. If God could form man from the dust of the Earth He can also raise up an individual from their cremated remains.

By Cliff Sabroe (References from the English Standard Version Bible)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Is Satan Omnipresent?


Omnipresence is defined as “being present everywhere at the same time”.

Satan is powerful and influential, but he is not omnipresent. Omnipresence is a characteristic of the Divine only. At times, one may think the Devil is omnipresent because of passages like (1 Peter 5:8) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. 

It is true that the Devil influences many people to sin, this might not always be him directly, but instead, an indirect result of his already established work in the world.

The Devil is limited by time and space, God is not, for He is omnipresent. 
How, biblically, should we think of God's omnipresence? The word means that God knows exhaustively, and upholds and touches continually, every single item in the universe he has made, from the tiniest genes and electrons to the most massive stars in the expanding universe to the most complex mind-body interactions in the psyche of over 6 billion people. God is here, there, and everywhere, and his mind and hand are on everything. We are never out of his sight (Psalm 139), and we cannot get away from him (John 1). Wherever we are, he is there too. This is not simply a matter of transcending spatial confines. Strictly speaking, God has no spatial location at all, for space belongs to the created order and exists in him rather than he in it. Such is the omnipresence of God. (Packer, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/september4/36.115.html)
The Devil cannot be everywhere at the same time like God can. Notice the following passages.
  • (Job 1:6-7) “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 
  • (Matthew 4:3) “And the tempter came and said to Him...”
In these two passages, it is clear that the Devil is not everywhere at once. The Devil “roams” and “walks”. If he was omnipresent, he would not have to “move”, because he would already be there. If the Devil is a fallen angel (as the Scriptures describe him), then the same limitations of an angel are the same limitations of the Devil. An angel cannot be everywhere at the same time, nor is an angel “all knowing”. 
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). 
Only God can be omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. The Devil is not God, he cannot (as a created being) have power equal to the creator. He is a created being with limited power who decided to not follow God. It is this willful rebellion that will result in eternal punishment for him and his followers. 
"And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 6-7).
Although Satan is not omnipresent, we should still be on guard and prepared to stand against him. The Devil wants Christians to be lost, and this writer believes he focuses much of his attention on attacking believers. The Devil’s work is well established in the world and the results of it are far reaching. The Devil is powerful, but He is not as powerful as God and faith in Jesus. We can overcome the Devil, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

By Cliff Sabroe (Scripture references from NASB95).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What if I sin after being saved?...am I lost?


Church leaders are often afraid to speak on topics such as grace and continual forgiveness do to a fear that those hearing the lesson may misunderstand grace as a license to sin. Such an idea is clearly against scripture, in fact Paul once wrote to the church in Rome “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid!” (Romans 6:1). We know we should not sin, but the reality is, that even after becoming a Christian we will sin.

What about when we do sin after we becoming a child of God, is there still hope? 
So often it is easy for a faithful child of God to become so saddled with guilt over sin in their life that they quite trying. This too, is not the attitude that one should have. Christians should abhor and avoid sin, but not give up trying when they do continue to sin.

In his letter to some troubled Christians, the apostle John writes:
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)
This passage presents two very important teachings. 

#1 Grace and forgiveness should never be viewed as a license to sin. 
Yes, it is true we are forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice and not our own perfection. However, the forgiveness that we have received motivates us to try to live perfect. We will fall short time and time again, but the ultimate goal of every Christian according to John is to “not sin”.

#2 There is hope for us when we do sin
I have talked to several Christians who have lost the hope of salvation because of their continual struggle with sin. To that John would say, don’t worry, hang in there, help is available and His name is Jesus. It is true that we are unrighteous at times, but Jesus is always righteous and He is our advocate and our propitiation. Jesus makes it possible for us in our sinfulness to still be declared sinless and pure. John would later write to these same brethren that he wants them to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Conclusion: 
Christians should never approve of sin in their lives. God wants us to stay in the light by constantly turning away from sin. When we do sin, we can still feel confident in our salvation by placing our trust in Jesus as our Advocate and our propitiation.

CS- Scripture quotes from the NASB