Friday, December 21, 2012

Does the Bible Support the Death Penalty?

Post courtesy of Wesley Walker at www.studyyourbibleonline.com. SYBO is a wonderful site that deals with a wide range of religious subjects.

The question of the Death Penalty is an emotional question.  It is not only emotional, but it is also multifaceted.  Periodically, the question of the death penalty comes to the forefront.  This has happened this particular week as people have paid attention to the appeals and ultimate rejection of the appeals and then execution of a man in Georgia.  This post is not about this case at all.  I do not know the facts of the case and have not followed the news story.

This post is simply answering the question: Is the death penalty ever appropriate?

As we follow the theme throughout the Bible we begin with the dignity of human life.  Humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). This fact makes us different from the animal world in a significant way.  It makes our life more precious than animals.

Man being made in the image of God means that when one person murders another,  it is a serious offense to God.  In fact Genesis 9:6 makes it clear that if one person murders another, the murderer should be put to death, because they have killed someone who is made in the image of God.  This death penalty is to be done at the hands of another man.  Thus, it is wrong to murder someone made in the image of God, but no guilt is given to someone who administers the punishment of death to the murderer.

In the Mosaic Code the death penalty is expanded to other offenses as well.  It is not within the scope of this article to deal with all of the occurences, but it suffices to say that God sanctioned the death penalty under that covenantal law code.

The question for us, though, is whether or not today the death penalty can be administered.  Romans 13 indicates that such is the case.  Government has the right to “use the sword.”  This use of the sword is a means to administer punishment.  It is a way that God administers in-time judgment.  Again the text indicates that the death penalty is allowed by God even in our present situation.

The argument made by many is that we are to no longer under the instructions, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” but instead we are to love our enemies.  Both of these statements are made by Jesus.  However, I think we need to dig a little deeper before we blindly apply them to the death penalty situation.

In the Sermon on the Mountain (or gospel of the kingdom), Jesus is dealing with how those who want to live in the kingdom of God are to live.  In doing so he spends some time correcting/expanding certain teaching that the people had heard.  One such teaching is “eye for an eye.”  This teaching is found in the OT, but it was given as a judicial requirement, not as a means for interpersonal conflict resolution.  What had happened is that people began to take matters into their own hands.  The belief was that if someone harms me then I can immediately harm them back equally, or more likely worse than they harmed me.  Jesus speaks out against this use of the passage.  It was never meant to be administered interpersonally.  However, Jesus is not giving this as a law to be followed by governments.  Thus, the death penalty would not be precluded in this case.

“Love your enemies” is also used against the death penalty.  The point is if you punish someone you do not love them.  I think when you think through this you see the problem.  This would not only preclude the death penalty, but any type of punishment.  “Love you enemies” means we pray and bless them as individuals, again it does not deal with how the government is to function as a servant of God in promoting good and hindering evil.

The point of this post was to simply make the claim that the death penalty is not disallowed by Scripture. Rather Scripture teaches that if one person murders another person, than the murderer should be put to death (btw this precedes the Law).

We can debate whether or not the practice as seen today is right.  We can also debate whether we need to reexamine the evidential requirements for someone to be put to death.  But, it seems clear that the Bible is not inherently against the death penalty, but rather sanctions and assumes it.
(By Wesley Walker)
Original Article Available here - http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com/culture/the-death-penalty/

Should a Christian Boycott Companies that Endorse Sinful Behaviors?

Post courtesy of Wesley Walker at www.studyyourbibleonline.com. SYBO is a wonderful site that deals with a wide range of religious subjects.
I have never participated in a boycott.  I have friends who have .  For instance I had friends who for a while refused to watch or buy anything Disney. They wouldn’t go to the Theater to watch the lastest release, their kids did not watch the channel on television, and even if they had already purchased a movie and had it as a part of their collection, they did not watch it (not sure how not watching a movie you already paid for affected the company, but for them it was a matter of principle).  Eventually, Disney changed a policy or people could no longer resist missing out on Toy Story 2, and the boycott ended.

Then, I remember Christians boycotting Ford Motor Company.  Again, I’m not sure why, but I do remember Christians refusing to buy a new Ford.  In fact some where even trying to sale the ones they had already bought in order to make sure no one even thought that they were supportive of the companies policies.  This is not something I understood.  When I saw someone drive a Ford I never thought to myself that person fully supports everything the Ford Company supports, but some could not in good conscience keep driving the vehicle.  Again that boycott has passed.

However, it seems there is always a new boycott to begin.  The American Family Association regularly has a new company that is promoting or supporting a form of immorality and calls people to stop buying the product or service.  Facebook and Twitter have people who speak of the companies they are boycotting and why.

Right now people are boycotting several companies supporting a new law in Washington with regards to Same-Sex Marriage.  Starbucks and Microsoft are the biggest two names.  This, again, has led to boycotting.

But, should Christian’s boycott? Let me share my thoughts.

First, I think there is nothing morally wrong with a Christian person following their conscience and not buying a product sold by a certain company.  If when you take a drink of your coffee you can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt each time, then I would suggest not drinking the coffee.

Second, I think it is absolutely wrong for a Christian to bind their choice to boycott on another Christian.  Boycotting and knowing what to boycott is not an easy issue.  There are numerous questions that must be asked and consistency in boycotting is very difficult.  Therefore it is possible for two Christians to look at the same company and for one to decide not to buy and for another to decide to buy.  One might not buy because they reason that the money will eventually go to a cause they are uncomfortable with.  The other might choose to buy, because they reason they are buying the product and have no control on what happens to the money beyond the initial purchase.  To me this is Romans 14 applied today, “let each one decide and let no one judge.”

Third, I think we need to realize that no matter how hard we try we are in a fallen world and sadly some of our money will go to support actions and morals that we would not give to directly. For instance, you will boycott one place for promoting homosexuality, while going to another place to buy gas that also sells pornography.  Or you support a mom and pop store that do not make big donations to a movement you disagree with, but who do use their money in ways you would not approve.

Fourth, there is the issue of the message a boycott sends.  Are we saying that morality is simply a power issue?  Meaning that right is right based upon who has the power to make it right.  When a company changes its position on supporting immorality due to a boycott is it not that it changed its position because of economic pressure. Thus right is determined by who has the power to enforce it.

Boycotting is a complex issue that Christians need to think through and then determine for themselves what action to take, while also giving other Christians the freedom to do the same. 
(By Wesley Walker)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What should I pray for? What should I ask God?


The words “Pray”, “Prayer” and their forms are used at least 100 times in the New Testament. Almost every book of the New Testament mentions the topic of prayer. Jesus was recorded as praying frequently. Paul told the Thessalonians church to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Christians want to pray. They know they should pray. Many pray often, but yet feel like there is something lacking. Often prayers become a repetitive pattern because the person saying the prayer does not know what to pray for. This post will give insight into some items one should pray for.
  • Pray For Those Who Harm You
    • “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28).
  • Pray For Children
    • "Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them" (Matthew 19:13).
  • Pray to Overcome Temptation
    • "When He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40).
  • Pray For More Harvesters
    • "And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2).
  • Pray that God will Provide Your Daily Needs
    • “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
  • Pray For Opportunities to Evangelize 
    • “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison” (Col. 4:3).
  • Pray for Wisdom
    • "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him". (James 1:5)
  • Pray for Earthly Leaders
    • "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
  • Pray to Get Through Hard Times
    • "Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray" (James 5:13).
  • Pray About God's Glory
    • “Pray, then, in this way ‘Our Father who is in heaven,  Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).
  • Pray Specifically for Your Fellow Christians
    • "Brothers, pray for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
  • Pray that God will Forgive Penitent Sinners
    • "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that" (1 John 5:16).
  • Pray that Christ will be Glorified Through You
    • "To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
  • Pray for Healing
    • "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:14-15).
  • Pray to Be Delivered from Evil People
    • "Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith" (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
  • Pray that God Will Forgive You
    • "Pray then like this .... and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).
  • Pray for General Prosperity
    • "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3rd John 2).
  • Pray for Boldness
    • "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness" (Acts 4:29).
  • Pray a Prayer of Thanksgiving
    • "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (Philippians 1:4-5).
Prayer is a wonderful blessing in which a Child of God communicates with his or her Heavenly Father.

CS - Quotes from NASB

Is it a sin to smoke or to use tabacco?

Question: Does the Bible say anything about smoking or using tobacco?

Answer: Not specifically, but here are some thoughts to consider.

  • It is not good for you!
    • Cancer, Heart Attack, etc.
    • God gave us our bodies, as with any blessing from God, we should be good stewards.
    • You will not find a verse that says you cannot do things that harm your body, but good common sense says you shouldn’t.
  • It is addictive.
    • The bible tells us to have self-control. 
    • We should try not have any addictions, because by being addicted, we are demonstrating a lack of self-control.
  • What causes nicotine addiction?
    • Nicotine is an addictive drug. 
    • It causes changes in the brain that make people want to use it more and more. In addition, addictive drugs cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. 
    • The good feelings that result when an addictive drug is present — and the bad feelings when it's absent — make breaking any addiction very difficult. 
    • Nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest addictions to break. (American Heart Association).
  • The 1988 Surgeon General's Report, "Nicotine Addiction," concluded that:
    • Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting.
    • Nicotine is the drug that causes addiction.
    • Pharmacologic and behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
  • Costs lots of money.
  • Secondhand smoke causes other people harm:
    • It may stimulate addictive behavior in other people.
  • It might cause you to die prematurely.

Question: Is it inherently sinful to ever use any tobacco at all?
Answer: No, but it is not that good of an idea.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Will the world end on May 21st 2012? Did the Mayans know something we don't?


The Mayans had a couple of different calendars. One of these calendars is called the “long calendar”. This long calendar ends on December 21st, 2012. Many people believe that the Mayans must have known that the world was going to end on that day so they stopped their calendar on that date. There are all sorts of theories on what might happen on this date, like a shift in the magnetic poles and some sort of galactic alignment that would cause the destruction of the world. It is thought that somehow the Mayans knew or predicted that this was going to happen.

The Mayans did have an amazing way of keeping track of time and dates in relation to lunar cycles. It is possible that the cyclical nature of the Mayan calendar corresponds with cyclical nature of their belief in the creation. In these creation accounts "the present world and the humans in it were preceded by other worlds (one to five others, depending on the tradition) which were fashioned in various forms by the gods, but subsequently destroyed" (Wikipedia _Mayan Calendar).

End times predictions and theories are nothing new. Even during modern times, there have been different people who have claimed to have predicted when the end of the world the is going to occur and every time they are proven to be wrong. William Miller (Adventist Movement), Joseph Smith (Mormon Faith), C.T Russell (The Jehovah's Witnesses) and many others have all been shown to be false prophets when it comes to predicting the future return of Jesus. 

Does the Bible say when the world is going to end?
  • “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36). 
  • "Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
One of the points that Scripture is very clear on is that no one can predict the exact date and time of the 2nd Coming and Judgment Day. Instead of guessing when it is going to occur, we should instead live in a constant state of preparedness or readiness.

If one is prepared for the 2nd Coming by being "in Christ" (Galatians 3:27), Judgment Day is not a event to fear, but an occasion for rejoicing for at that moment we will go on to be with the Lord forever.

Notice what a glorious day the Judgment will be for those who are prepared.
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
No matter what the latest so called prophet says, no one knows when Jesus will come again. The Mayans, Nostradamus  or anyone else in history didn’t know. Christians should inform those who are easily mislead that there is no reason to spend time picking arbitrary dates, trying to find a supposed secret mysterious formula from the pages of Scripture or applying ancient Biblical symbolism to modern events. The believer, instead, should teach others the gospel so they too may obey and have life when He does come again.

Answer:
Maybe the world will end on December 21st. It might also end on December 22nd, 23rd, 24th etc... It might happen in 2012 and it might happen 6000 years from now. We do not know when the world will end and we do not know when Judgment Day will occur. One day it will happen, and if we are “in Christ”, we are ready! There is no way the Mayans would have known when the end of the world would come. If it does occur on December 21st, they just got lucky. (That's even if they were predicting the end of the world in the first place).

By CS - Quotes from NASB95 and Wikipedia. Image from zmescience.com

Friday, December 14, 2012

If you commit suicide will you automatically go to hell? Is suicide an unforgivable sin?

First of all. If you are having suicidal thoughts please talk to someone immediately. God wants you alive! He needs you to make a difference in this world for good! He needs you to help others follow Him!

It is common to hear well meaning Christians say that “suicide is an unforgivable sin”. The reason people take this view is that #1killing is a sin (Exodus 20:13), #2 Any sin that is not repented of will not be forgiven (Luke 13:3), #3 Since you killed yourself, you cannot repent and ask God to forgive you. This writer believes this line of thinking is flawed in a few different ways.

There is no verse in the bible that says that suicide is an “unforgivable sin”. I would NOT ever say that 100% of the time when a person commits suicide that they cannot be forgiven. There are many variables in the the suicide equation. What if the person had some sort of mental breakdown and was not sane anymore? I do not believe that  person whose brain is not working right is entirely accountable for their actions. Also, what if it is a Christian who commits suicide? They may have always been following God, but had a momentary lapse of good judgment (maybe due to some sort of tragedy) and decided to make the horrible decision to take their own life. In this situation grace may come in and they may be forgiven. Although it may be morbid to think about, a person may commit the suicidal act, and before they die regret the decision, and pray to God for forgiveness.

Answer:
Ultimately it is not our place to make statements like "suicide is a sin that can never be forgiven". We need to leave those kind of decisions to God and try to reach out to those who are contemplating such actions and let them know that God loves them and wants them to live.
CS

Do Children and Babies go to Heaven when they die?

Answer: Yes they do. 

God does require a person to “believe and be baptized to be saved” (Mark 16:16), however, children are incapable of true belief in the Lordship of Christ. I do not believe that a loving God who wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), would punish a child for not doing something they are incapable of doing. 


Sin is what keeps a person out of heaven. It is not possible for a child to truly sin. Sin is a willful transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sin is knowing the right thing to do but choosing to do wrong (James 4:17). A child may do bad things, but a child cannot yet commit sin that would separate them from God for all eternity.


Jesus emphasized the pure state of a child in (Matthew 18:1-5).

  • At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me
Some will try to make the accusation that a child is accountable for the sins of his or her parents or even the sins of Adam and Eve. This idea is not supported by Scripture. Notice (Ezekiel 18:20):
  • "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
It is extremely sad when a child dies. As a parent, I could not fathom loosing one of my kids whether during childhood or even in the womb. A parent who has lost a child can find some comfort in knowing that their child has gone on to spend eternity with a loving Heavenly Father in the most wonderful place imaginable.
  • and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4)
Children will go to heaven. Although in this life they may cry, face pain and sadness, in heaven they will never have to shed a tear again. 
- By CS - Quotes from NASB95

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is a Christian Supposed to Follow the Old Testament?

Yes and No.  Allow me to explain...

The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to sperate 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).
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.

There are many complicated requirements in the Law (See the book of Leviticus). Because of man’s imperfections, he could not keep this Law completely. Thus, man was a transgressor. When Jesus died on the cross, He ended the requirements of the Law and the sin that disobedience toward it’s ordinances brought. 
  • When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 3:13-17).
The Old Testament Law was a perfect law and it fulfilled its purpose. It was not abolished (as if it were not good), but instead it was fulfilled by Jesus.
  • "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
In the current Christian age, we are not subject to the requirements of the Old Law. The Old Law was only for a specific people (The Jews) for a specific purpose (To prepare the way for Jesus). Now, all people (Jew are Gentile) are accountable to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
  • God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  • "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. (John 12:28)
Although the Christian today, will not be judged by the Old Testament, it still should be studied. The Old Testament is full of wisdom on how to live life, it teaches us about the nature of God and of man. The Old Testament shows the blessings the come from following God and the trouble that comes when giving into sin. The Old Testament shows us how the world was made and how powerful God is. The Old Testament even gives evidence for the inspiration of Scripture through the fulfillment of prophecy. The Old Testament should be studied and taught.
  • (Romans 15:4)For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
For Further Reading: See Romans 7:1-13. In this section of Scripture, the Apostle Paul illustrates being free from the Law with being free from the marriage bond when your spouse dies. God’s people were bound to the Old Law (including the 10 commandments vs. 7), but now that a death has occurred (the death of Christ and our death to sin vs. 6), the Christian is free to be joined to another (ie. The Gospel of Christ).
by Cliff Sabroe - quotations from the NASB Bible

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is Francis Chan right about baptism saving us?

There is a popular video floating around the internet in which the well-known preacher Francis Chan speaks on the topic of Baptism.  (You can view that video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXuIvievIA0).

Francis Chan founded the very large Cornerstone Church (he has since stepped down as minister) and has authored multiple books. The most well known of all his books is “Crazy Love” which has sold many copies.

NOTE: I do not know all there is to know about Francis Chan. I have not heard many of his sermons nor have I read any of his books. This answer is not about Francis Chan the man, nor is it a review of any other of his teachings. Instead I will just review whether or not was he right in the video linked above on the topic of Baptism.

Answer:
  • Yes, in this video he is 100% right, God has NOT prescribed raising a hand or saying a prayer as the means by which one gets "in Christ", has their sins washed away and receives the Holy Spirit. 
  • The only way one has their sins forgiven (as he states in his sermon) is through “repentance and baptism”.
  • Most in the evangelical world ignore or misrepresent the Bible’s teaching on Baptism. I hope that Mr. Chan’s boldness to speak the truth on this topic will cause others to do the same.
  • The Bible makes it very clear that one must be baptized to be saved. 
  • The verse that Mr. Chan referenced is (1 Peter 3:21) which states:
    • "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ".
  • Other verses that show the necessity of Baptism are:
    • (Acts 22:16) 'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
    • (Mark 16:16) "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”.
  • Francis Chan begins in this clip by asking the question “Does baptism save you?”.
    • He replies to this question in a very direct way, he states:
      • “I’ll just answer it biblically...even though I feel like ‘why is it even a question?’...you know, just do it, then you won’t have to worry about it...that’s my philosophy!” 
  • This sounds like a good philosophy to this writer as well. 
  • If there is one topic that is very clear in Bible is the necessity of Baptism. 
    • Since it says to do it; we should do it!
Please read our other posts on the topic of baptism.
Post By Cliff Sabroe - Quotations from NASB and a sermon by Francis Chan segments of which are available on youtube and other internet sites. 

Do you just have to believe in Jesus to be saved or is there more you have to do?

Answer:
  • First of all, I think that our understanding of “belief” today is different than what most of the Bible writers had in mind. 
    • We often think of belief as being “accepting that something is real” (such as a child believing in Santa Claus). 
      • This is not the kind of belief that is talked about in most places in Scripture.
  • This question can be answered very clearly with John 3:36 which states:
    •  “"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.".
  • In the book of John, “belief” is more than just “accepting that Jesus is real”. It involves “obedience”. 
    • In fact the word in this verse for “does not obey” is a word that means “being subject to”.  To truly believe, one must subject themselves to the authority and rule of Jesus.
  • Just believing that “Jesus is real” will not get you to heaven. James 2:19 states “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder”
    • True belief also involves obedience and subjection.
  • With this understanding of the word “belief”, John 3:16 has a much deeper meaning.
    • "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

Friday, November 30, 2012

What is the difference between a Sinner and a Christian?

This post is by Tyler Kirkpatrick. Tyler is currently interning as the Associate Minister with the West Visalia Church of Christ.

There is a stark contrast between a sinner and a Christian. The Bible paints this picture clearly within the New Testament.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:17,18 - “Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” - This New Testament passage is a quotation of Isaiah 52:11 and Hosea 1:10. The passage demonstrates the distinction that ought to be made between the world of darkness and light. Separation is to be apparent between the world and the follower of Christ. God wants to have a familial relationship with mankind. If we separate ourselves from that world of sin, then He can properly be our Father. 
  • 1 John 3:7,8 - “My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous: he that doeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” - One can be righteous in the eyes of God. The individual who does that which is righteous is considered to be righteous by God. Just as that is the case, the individual who sins is a sinner. The life of the christian and that of a sinner should be so different from one another because they do different things in their lives. One practices righteousness while the other practices sin. 
  • 1 John 1:7 - “but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” - To have fellowship with God and fellow brethren, an individual must walk in the light. When an individual does this the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses that individual. A christian is without sin. A sinner lives a life of sin. A christian walks in the light. A sinner walks in darkness. 
  • 1 John 1:8 - “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” - The follower of Christ readily admits that they have sin that has plagued them. They know that they would be a liar if they did not readily admit such. The christian has moved though from the point of acknowledgement to the point of forgiveness. This point is important. Both the sinner and the Christian readily admit that they have dealt with sin. What have they done about that though?
  • 1 John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” - The christian that brings their faults before God and confesses them to Him is promised forgiveness. That individual is promised to made clean in the eyes of God. They are literally made clean from the unrighteousness that they have done. The sinner still needs to be baptized in order to contact the blood of Christ and have the privilege to ask the Father for forgiveness.
  • Philippians 2:14,15 - “Do all things without murmurings and questionings: that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world,” -  The christian seeks purity. The world around them is chaos and full of travail. The christian stands as an example of peace and innocence. 
The differences between these two groups of individuals is very apparent. One represents righteousness, purity, innocence, forgiveness, and even Christ Himself. The other represents unrighteousness, sin, and Satan.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is it a sin for a widow to marry a non-Christian because of (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)?


The Passage in Question: 
  • A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:39-40).
The Question:
  • The question about widows not marrying Christians usually arises with the phrase “only in the Lord” in verse 39.
  • We do need to consider the context in which this passage falls before we make any application.
What interpretation does this context dictate? What is "Only in the Lord" in reference to?
  • Note (1 Corinthians 7:22) "For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave".
    • Context seems to demand that we interpret the phrase “in the Lord” as “being a Christian”.
Answer:
  • Now that we have determined what the phrase “in the Lord” is in reference to (marrying a Christian), we must determine if it is a command for today. 
  • Note: (7:26) The context of this passage is “the present distress”. See post here for explanation on the context of this section of Scripture.
    • This passage is still in the context of Practical Inspired Apostolic Advice to Aid the Christian in persevering through persecution. 
    • Paul is advising this church and specifically widows in this passage that it would be unwise to marry a non-Christian in the midst of severe persecution.
    • Being married to a non-Christian would make it difficult to still serve God in these circumstances.
Conclusion: This passage presents good practical advice for Christian widows living in the “present distress” of vs. 22 ("present distress" = severe persecution in the 1st Century). It is not a sin for a widow to marry a non-Christian, although it may not be wise even today.

Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

What does (1 Corinthians 7:25-38) mean? Why all the discussion about not getting married?

Answer:
  • There are 3 verses in this section that help one interpret this passage
    • Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy (1 Corinthians 7:25).
    • I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. (1 Corinthians 7:26).
    • This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:35).
  • It appears that this section of Scripture is Inspired Practical Advice from an Apostle on how to better endure and persevere through the severe persecution that they were going through.
  • Example: In the midst of persecution why would you get married or give your daughter be married? 
    • Paul thinks they should be more focused on not getting killed.
  • This section of Scripture is not as applicable in a culture where physical persecution is not taking place.
Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

What does “not under bondage” in 1 Corinthians 7:15 mean?

The Text:
  • "But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:12-15)
The Question: 
  • What does Paul mean when he states “the brother or sister is not under bondage”?
Answer:
  • The word bondage is “Douloo”- defined as enslaved.
    • Used in 8 verses in the New Testament.
    • Every time it is in reference to being enslaved to something or someone.
    • IT NEVER is used to refer to the marriage bond.
    • “Deo” used in vs. 27, does mean the marriage bond, but it is not the word Paul employs in verse 15.
  • What Paul is saying is, if an unbelieving spouse leaves(du to persecution etc..) the believing partner is not enslaved to them and should not feel obligated to track them down and be with them.
    • These would be encouraging words during a period of intense persecution. A unbelieving spouse may not have tolerated the potential persecution that would befall him for being married to a Christian.
    • It may be the case, that at this time, the non-Christian spouse might give the Christian an ultimatum like, "Either you leave Christ or I leave you!". Paul is saying that in this case you can let them leave and keep your faith in Jesus...you are not your spouses slave. If your spouse tells you to leave Jesus, you DO NOT have to listen.
  • NOTE: The passage never implies or mentions remarriage after allowing the unbeliever to leave. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus says the only allowable occasion for a remarriage after a divorce is if the divorce was due to the sexual unfaithfulness of one's spouse.
Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

Was Paul preaching opinion in 1 Corinthians 7:12 when he said “To the rest I say, not the Lord”? What about the phrase in 1 Corinthians 7:10?


Answer:
  • When Paul states “not I but the Lord”, he is appealing to previous teachings of Jesus for authority (such as those in Matt. 5:32, Matt. 19:9).
  • In verse 12, he is NOT stating that he is about to give an opinion, but that he is going to give inspired instruction on a topic that Jesus never preached on (marriage of a believer to an unbeliever). Jesus never dealt with this topic, thus Paul could not reference a previous teaching of Jesus to support what he was about to say.
  • Paul was an inspired Apostle. Previously in this chapter he did give opinion (1 Corinthians 7:6), but vs.12 is more than just apostolic opinion, it is inspired doctrine on a topic Jesus never preached on.

Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How is a Christian to interpret Revelation? Is a Christian to worry about certain prophesies from Revelation that are seeming to come to pass like strange weather, earthquakes, rampant immorality, certain World Wars, etc.

This question was received through email. We encourage everyone to ask questions by click here

In 2012 The West Visalia church of Christ published a 2 volume set of books titled “From God’s Mind to Man’s Pen”. This answer contains a great deal of information from the chapter on “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature” by Wesley Walker. These books are $10 a set + S&H and may be purchased by emailing wvcoc@yahoo.com. The West Visalia Church of Christ is the sole sponsor of The Bible Answer Show.

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” and they will “overcome”.

Revelation is Apocalyptic Literature
The book of Revelation falls into a genre of literature known as apocalyptic. This type of literature is noted for using various symbols and visions to portray meaning. This form of writing was used often during times of persecution and was common among the Jews during this time.

Ways to Interpret Revelation
Different people throughout the ages have come up with different ways of interpreting this book. Here are summaries of the most popular.
  • The Futurist Method
    • This method of interpretation views most of the visions in Revelation as not yet taking place.
  • The Preterist Method
    • This method views the visions of Revelation as something(s) that have already taken place. There are various subsets of this method, but overall the idea of the visions being of things that have already taken place is the same.
  • The Idealist Method
    • This method teaches that nothing in the visions can be tied to one specific historical incident, but instead is full of ideals that can fit any time in which persecution is taking place.
  • The Continuous History Method
    • This school of thought teaches that the Revelation letter has prophesies that were fulfilled during the Roman Empire, but also after. This method views many prophesies as relating to the Catholic Church.
This writer would probably be labeled as taking a Preterist type approach to the book.(Because I believe that most of the visions are symbols of historical actions in the past). However, I take a vary conservative approach to interpreting Biblical prophecy and imagery. That is, I wholeheartedly believe that the Bible is it’s own best interpreter. This means, that unless an inspired writer tells me how or when a prophecy is being fulfilled, I will not make a definitive conclusion on when it was. I may come to a educated conclusion about the fulfillment of various visions in Revelation, but alas, without direct Biblical support they are only speculative. 

(POINT) 
  •  This writer strongly believes that even before trying to interpret the various visions of the book, one needs to first exegete the book and come to a conclusion on what is the overriding theme. After determining the primary message of the book, one can then speculate regarding the various visions. (Because without an inspired writer confirming what a particular vision is regarding, it is nothing more than a educated conclusion on the interpreter’s part,
An exegetical approach to the book seeks to glean from the Revelation what the author intended. One does this by looking at key words and repeated thoughts throughout the book. When doing this, one tries to get a feel for the whole book, before attempting to interpret any vision within the book. Without even attempting to interpret the visions in Revelation, one can clearly see that it is a book designed to correct and encourage persecuted Christians to be faithful.

What about the Visions, Signs Etc..?
As was stated earlier, this author leans toward more of a Preterist (that most of the visions have already happened in the past) type approach to the book. The reason this position is held is because of (Revelation 1:1) which states:
  • “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. One would assume that 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.

If this writer were to provide an educated guess on what the visions were regarding, his view would be as follows.
  • The book is referring to the history of the church during the age of martyrs and fierce persecution, which happened during the reign of Domitian and continued to about 311 AD.
  • This view is a-millennial in stance believing that the thousand-year reign of Revelation 20 is simply a long period of peace and triumph for Christianity.
  • This view holds the Revelation as not a series of literal events, but instead of symbols that represent historical actions. (pg 211)
Conclusion:
  • Always remember that the book of Revelation was written to a specific people for a specific purpose. (ie. To encourage faithfulness in the midst of severe persecution).
  • Although it is easy to make the visions in this book fit many different events in the past and in the present, the best interpretation would be one that the early Christians would have needed to hear, not what Americans in 2012 would want to hear.
  • Remember (Revelation 1:1) - the events of this book “must soon take place” after the time of its writing. This would mean that the signs, earthquakes etc, do not really apply to us today.
  • This author personally believes that we are currently living during the 1000 years of  Revelation 20:6 (term for complete amount of time not a literal 1000 years).
  • Overall the events prior to 20:6 would have taken place most likely during the fall of the Roman empire. 
  • No matter what the visions are about, the overriding theme of the book is quite clear when noting the key words in Revelation
    • Theme: “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” (pg 215).
Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stay Tuned: More questions to be answered soon?

Here is a sampling of some questions that are going to be answered soon. Check back often and keep sending in questions.  We would much rather receive questions than anticipate potential ones. Remember, what God says still matters!
Questions recently received and soon to be answered:
  • How is a Christian to interpret Revelation? Is a Christian to worry about certain prophesies from Revelation that are seeming to come to pass like strange weather, earthquakes, rampant immorality, certain World Wars, etc.
  • Based on Daniel 10:13, 12:1 and Ephesians 6:12 (world forces) does God have angels and Satan demons (princes) over certain countries?
Questions anticipated to be answered soon:
  • Do I have to go to church?
  • Can I trust my English Bible?
  • Is Francis Chan right about Baptism?
Keep the questions coming and be sure to bookmark The Bible Answer Show.  We will be on the air starting December 8th 2012.


Click Here to Ask a Question





Sunday, November 18, 2012

What does the Bible say about preaching as worship?

Just as we worship by talking to God through prayer, we worship by listening to God through His Word.  By hearing the teaching of God’s Word we commune with Deity. In the same way that we are amazed by the thought that God is listening to our praise and pleas in prayer, it is just as awesome to think that God is speaking His will through the Words of the Bible.

Preaching Is Part of the Worship of the Church
  • (Act 20:7) "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight".
  • (1Ti 4:13) "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching". 
  • (Rom 15:16) "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit".
    • (Sermons are like the sacrifices of the Old Testament Priests)
Where Can This Action of Worship take Place?
  • Preaching is most often thought of in the public assembly, but it can also be done in a private setting.
    • (Acts 5:42) "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ".
  • The Act of Preaching is an area of Worship that ALL are to participate in. (Acts 17:11)
    • (1Co 14:16) “Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?” 
What Should Preaching in the Assembly Contain?
  • (2 Tim 4:2)
    • God’s Word
    • Corrective Teaching
    • Encouraging Teaching
    • Patient in Nature
    • Not Man’s Teaching
We Need To Have Reverence and Respect Toward The Word of God
  • It is not about the Preacher. (Although the Preacher can stand in the way of a Good Message).
  • The Sermon is not time to get passive and become a spectator.
  • We need to be active learners.
    • Follow along.
    • Take Notes
    • Make logical conclusions.
    • Think of questions to ask later.
    • Find opportunities to respond “amen”.
    • Give the Word the respect it deserves (Neh. 8:4-11).
Conclusion
  • Worship in hearing a lesson from God’s Word is an act of receiving into our hearts the desires of God’s heart.
  • The hearer is not passive. 
  • We open our ears to hear, our mind to understand and our hearts to believe.
    • In this process worship takes place.
By Cliff Sabroe

Friday, November 16, 2012

Should a Christian give money to the Salvation Army?


This question was submitted by email. 

Should a Christian give money to the Salvation Army? 

Are they really “doing the most good”?

Go to any shopping mall during the Christmas season, and without a doubt you will hear the ringing of a bell and see a friendly individual standing by a red pail. This person will be volunteer bell ringer for the Salvation Army. It is hard to past by a kind person collecting funds and not feel compelled to donate. 

All the blessings that we have are from God. Our money is given to us by God and He expects us to be be good stewards of it. This would include using it to His glory by supporting good works, feeding the hungry, helping the needy and caring for orphans and widows (Matthew 25:41-46, James 1:27).

In order to be good stewards of our wealth, we sometimes have to do a little research to make sure that the works we are supporting are truly “good”.

What is the Salvation Army?
  • The Salvation Army does more than just feed the hungry and meet the physical needs of the poor, it also attempts to meet peoples spiritual needs with Bible teaching. It is more than just a charity, it is a church. This requires a person to do a little more research before giving money. Not only do we need to make sure that our money actually goes to help the poor, we also have to make sure this church is teaching the Truth.
  • If one desires, they can read the entire Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine here.
  • This post will not attempt to examine all of the doctrines of the Salvation Army. In fact, there are many points in their Handbook that agree wholeheartedly with Scripture. At the same time, however, there are many that don't.
  • This post will highlight a few areas in which the one will see a contradiction between Bible teaching and the Salvation Army.

  • The Salvation Army is adamant that Baptism is not essential. 
  • This belief of theirs, could not be further from the Truth. 
  • In numerous places in Scripture baptism is commanded. (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21 and more). Click here for more information on the necessity of Baptism.

On the Lord’s Supper  (See Salvation Army Handbook 271)
  • Just like their views on Baptism, the Salvation Army strongly opposes the belief that one is to participate in the Lord’s Supper/Communion. 
  • The Bible, however, teaches that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in (Matthew 26:26-30). 
  • Paul recounted the necessity of taking it in (1 Corinthians 11:23-34). 
  • In fact, we read of Christians taking it “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). 
  • Although there are those who make the Lord’s Supper into something more than what it is, (like the Catholic Eucharist), this does not lessen its importance in the church today.

  • When describing its own worship practices, they state: 
    • “Salvationists (church members) regard their whole life and being as an act of worship, but, of course, they meet regularly for worship...Music may be provided by the local Salvation Army band or by the choir (who are called the 'Songsters')...Music has been important to the Army from its early days, when it was a powerful evangelical tool; not just to attract a crowd to hear the preacher, but as a way of helping people to experience faith in a more embracing way than words could on their own.” (www.salvationarmy.usaeast.org).
  • The New Testament gives no examples of 1st Century Christians worshipping God this way. Instead (Ephesians 5:19) states "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord".
It’s Organization (See Christian Courier Article Here)
  • Concerning its organization, Wayne Jackson at Christian Courier writes:
    • “The organizational structure of the Salvation Army bears not the slightest resemblance to that of the church revealed in the New Testament. Rather, it is more akin to the hierarchical system of Roman Catholicism. The international headquarters is in London and is under the authority of the international “General.” The General operates through a “Chief of Staff” into various overseas departments where limited administrative decisions are made”. 
      • “In the United States, the Army is divided into four Territories, with headquarters in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. Each has its own commander with rank of Commissioner or Lieutenant-Commissioner. There is also a National Commander with headquarters in New York. . .” (What is the Salvation Army?, p. 10).
One could examine many more of the practices and beliefs of the Salvation Army, but these should suffice in showing that although the Salvation Army is made up of good-hearted individuals who care about the poor, they do not teach the complete truth. In fact, in many cases they are probably giving people who are searching for Truth a false hope.

Answer:
  • I could not in good conscience give money to the Salvation Army to distribute to the poor. Although they are genuinely concerned about people, as a Christian, I would not want my money to go to a church that blatantly taught people ideas that the Bible did not support. 
  • If the Salvation Army was just a secular charity concerned for the poor, there would be nothing wrong with an individual Christian giving money toward them. They are not just a “charity”, but a church. 
  • Since they are a church not promoting New Testament Christianity, they should not be supported. Instead, their members should be taught the truth.
  • Christians should be generous people  We should support and meet the needs of the needy, but the Salvation Army would not be a good way to go about doing it.

Note: This question is NOT the same as a Christian buying goods from a business that was associated with something ungodly. (1 Corinthians 8) says that is a judgment call one has to make. Instead, one should view placing money in the Salvation Army pails, as being equal to putting money in the collection plate of a church that taught false doctrine.

For More Info please see- “An Analysis of the “Salvation Army” (Wayne Jackson) - Christian Courier.

By Cliff Sabroe