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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do you have to pray for your food every time you eat?


There are numerous examples in the New Testament of Jesus and others praying or “giving thanks” for their food before they ate.

When Jesus fed the 5000, He blessed the meal:
  • “Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Matthew 14:19).

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper the Bible says He “Gave thanks”:
  • “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

The Apostle Paul gave thanks for food while on board a ship:
  • “Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat”. (Acts 27:35)

Paul wrote by inspiration when discussing how some false teachers were forbidding people to eat certain foods:
  • “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer”  (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Answer: 
  • I do not believe that every time a person puts food in their mouth they are required by God to pray/give thanks for it. (As I type this post, I am eating some mints that I did not pray over, but I am thankful that I have). 
  • I do however think that their are enough passages to prove that it should at least be a habit in our lives to do so often. It is not that difficult to take a moment before we eat and give thanks to God. (This could be done out loud when with a group, or under your breath or even in your heart when by yourself.) The more time we spend in prayer the better our life will be (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • The model prayer in (Matthew 6:11) gives us the example of praying to God and asking Him to “give us this day our daily bread”. The Bible lets us know that all we have is a blessing from God and if our daily bread is a blessing from God, it would do us good to take the time to say “thank you”. 
  • Even when there are times in which we do not pray before we eat, we should at least have an attitude of gratitude for the blessings we have received. 
  • I teach my children to always say “thank you” when a person gives them something or does something for them. When counting our blessings I am sure we will find numerous times to say “thank you God!”, and even when we do not say it, hopefully our actions will show it.
CS

Jesus said we should not pray to be "seen by others". Does this mean it is a sin to pray in restaurants before you eat?

The passage that the questionnaire referenced is (Matthew 6:5-6). In this passage Jesus taught:
  • “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you".
This particular passage is an example given by Jesus to show the sin of hypocrisy. A few verses before in (Matthew 6:1) Jesus said “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven".
  • Some of the religious leaders among the Jews in the first century would pray for the purpose of being seen by others. 
  • They didn't really care about praying to God, they just wanted people to notice them and think they were holy. They looked good on the outside, but were sinful on the inside. 
  • Jesus would later go on to say to people like this "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).
Answer:
  • There is nothing wrong with praying in public places as long as your intent is to talk to God and not to show off how religious you are. I will often pray before eating in a public place. When I do pray in public (like with a friend at a restaurant), I do not do it in a loud or disruptive way.  
  • This principle would apply when praying in many different places (such as leading a prayer in church or at a Bible study). If a person is praying in a way that that takes the attention away from God and puts it on themselves, they are sinning.
  • If one is praying in public and they happen to be heard (unintentionally), they have done nothing to be ashamed of.


by Cliff Sabroe

Does God have a "Dress Code" in church?

This question was asked recently of me. It is a very common question from those visiting a congregation (like the West Visalia Church of Christ) for the first time.

First off, there is no dress code in the Bible when it comes to requiring certain types of clothing for church services. Although the Bible does not have a "church dress code", here are some points to consider.
  • God expects men and women to dress "modestly", but beyond that, it is up to the individual. 
    • It is common to see Christians in the USA "dress-up" somewhat when coming to church services. This varies between different locations and cultures.
    • Those who choose to dress more formal usually feel it is more "respectful" to the occasion. This decision, however, is very much a personal choice and not a "requirement" in the Bible. 
  • Christians are commanded to "not give preference" to a rich person in fine clothes at church verses a poor man in dirty clothes. (Note the following passage).
    • My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (James 2:1-4 NASB).
Basically, when one asks me, "What should I wear to church?" I tell them "Make sure you are not going to dress in a way that distracts you or others from worshiping God".

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What is modest dress?

The Bible does make it clear that a Christian should dress "modestly". 

What is modesty?
  • There are certain parts of our bodies that are arousing to the opposite sex (The book of Song of Solomon makes this very clear). These parts of our body should not be uncovered or emphasized because we may be enticing one to lust by our type of clothing or lack there of. 
  • We should never dress in a way that may cause someone else to stumble and sin. 
  • We should not dress in away that would attract attention toward ourselves that is unsavory or unneeded. In fact, we should catch peoples attention by our godly character and not our ungodly dress.
Wesley Walker @ studyyourbibleonline.com presents this advise for one trying to be "modest".
  • "Don’t let the world set your standards.  If your definition of thinking through modesty issues is to go to the store and buy whatever they sell, then you have a problem.  A lot of stuff that are sold in stores should not be in the closet of the Christian.  Stores are trying to make money. They are not attempting to honor God with their purchases.  Christians, though, should be".
  •  "Ask: what does how I dress say about me?" 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 both show that Christians (specifically Christian women in the context), need to make sure that they dress modestly. They should want to be known by their godly character and their quiet spirits.  Immodest dress that unduly draws attention to a woman hinders this. Whether this dress is to show off wealth, or sexuality, women need to consider what they are saying with their dress".
  • "Consider others.  The verses in Scripture that speak of offending others have often times been misused.  However, in this case it is appropriate to take them into consideration.  Offended, or being a stumbling block, in these sections, means doing something that causes your brother to sin.   Clothing has the ability to do this.  Seductive clothing can cause people to stumble.  So if you are wearing clothing to draw attention to your sexuality, then you need to consider what that will do to others."
Be cautious about what you wear. I think it is easy to subconsciously dress in a way that causes people to "check us out" as opposed to "Seeking Christ".

By Cliff Sabroe  - Citations from http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com/culture/christian-modesty/

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What English Translation/Version of the Bible should I use?

This question was asked of me recently by one seeking to learn more about God and His word. 

If you were not aware, the Bible was originally written primarily in Hebrew and Greek. We live in an English speaking society, thus we are dependent upon the work of translators.

A quick google search for a "Bible Version Chart" will give one a basic understanding of the different versions and their philosophy of translation (some philosophies of translation are better than others for study).

When seeking out an English translation for personal study, I recommend a version that is accurate (preferably a word for word translation) and readable (preferably in modern English).

You have basically 3 different types of translations (In order from most accurate to least). 
  • 1. Word for Word
  • 2. Thought for Thought 
  • 3. Paraphrase. 
I only recommend "Word for Word" translations. "Thought for thought" and "paraphrased" Bibles are great for comparisons, but not for deep study of the Word. The most popular Bible in America is The New International Version. The NIV claims to strive for "a balance between word for word and thought for thought". Although a very popular translation, one would be better served using a "Word for Word" translation as their primary study Bible and save the others for casual or personal devotional type reading.

The most common "Word for Word" translations in use today are the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). One would not be doing themselves a disservice in choosing any of these translations. 

Of the "Word for Word" translations available, the three I recommend (in this order) are: 
  • #1 The New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 Update). 
  • #2 The English Standard Version (ESV).
  • #3 The New King James Version (NKJV).
  • (These 3 versions successfully balance accuracy with readability).

Due to its older English, I do not usually recommend the King James Version to new Bible students and I have not spent enough time in the Holman Christian Standard Bible to offer a recommendation as of yet.

My primary study and preaching Bible is the New American Standard Bible, which I will often cross reference with the English Standard Version. - These versions are the ones I will usually give to a new Christian or recommend for a person to purchase (The New King James in a very close 3rd).

Side Note: I recommend that you also familiarize yourself with the many free electronic tools available today. You can download many great Bible apps for your smartphone (this way you can study wherever you go). I have an ESV app on my iPhone by Crossway publishers that is free and very easy to use. There are many other apps that contain multiple versions.  When on my computer I will often use www.bible.cc or blueletterbible.org. These sites are free and contain all of the common English versions plus dictionaries and more.

Remember the best Bible is the one you read! Spend time in the Word of God... it will change your life. 

Why Did God Create Man?

This is not an easy question to answer nor is it a topic that I fully grasp. Here are some thoughts from Scripture that may help in answering this question.

 In Some way God created us for His pleasure.
  • "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." (Rev. 4:11).
  • “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him”. (Col. 1:16).
What does this mean?
  •  Being created for God’s pleasure does not mean humanity was made to entertain God or just provide Him with amusement. 
  • God is a creative Being, and it gives Him pleasure to create. 
  • God is a personal Being, and it gives Him pleasure to have other beings He can have a genuine relationship with.
  • It is similar to why parents choose to have children.

    • The natural growth of a loving marriage is into parenthood. Children are an expression of their parents love.
    • God is love - thus, God created mankind to express this love to.
I know this answer does not satisfy all the questions we have about why God created man, but hopefully it provided some insight and points for contemplation.

By Cliff Sabroe

Do we Worship Jesus or just God the Father?

Yes we should worship Jesus too.

Christ Welcomed and Received Worship
  • Only God is deserving of worship. 
    • In the Ten Commandments it reads “You shall have no other Gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). 
      • Jesus told Satan Matthew 4:10 saying “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve”. 
      • God is the only one worthy of being worshiped, so if anywhere in Scripture we find Jesus being worshiped, then He is either a sinner (which violates Heb. 4:15) or He is God.

  • In several places in the Bible Jesus openly receives worship from His followers.
    • After His Resurrection: 
      • Matthew 28:9 “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him”.
    • After His Ascension:
      • Luke 24:51-53 “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God”.
  •  There are instances outside of the gospel accounts where Jesus is worshiped as well.  
    • These records show that worship of Jesus transcends the physical realm and even take place in the spiritual. 
    • Hebrews 1:6 states: “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’”. 
    • (Revelation 5:12-15) - Jesus is worshiped in heaven.

Conclusion:
    • Jesus is Deity.
    • Only Deity Can Be Worshiped.
    • Jesus is openly welcomed and received worship.
    • We should worship Jesus too.
  
Post By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from New American Standard Bible 95

Do Children Have Guardian Angels?

This question arises from a passage in Matthew chapter 18. In verse 10 the text reads "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven”.  There is a preliminary question that needs to be answered before dealing with the question about angels.

Who are "these little ones"?
  •  This writer is of the persuasion that the "little ones" in this passage is not in reference to children at all, but new disciples. Here is why:
    • In 18:2 Jesus calls a "child to Himself". The New Testament was originally penned in Greek, and the Greek for for child here is "padia" defined as "little child" which would make sense in the context. 
    • In verses 3-5 Jesus makes the point that one needs to be like a Child (ie. humble) if he wants to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Note: In verse 1 Jesus was asked about who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven).
    • Then in verse 6 Jesus uses a different term, not the word "padia/child" but "mikros/little or less ones" to describe the ones whom were being lead astray by these disciples who were concerned about being "great".
    • After spending some time talking about the sin of causing one to stumble he mentions the "little ones" again in verse 10. This time saying "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven”.
    • It would seem true to the text that Jesus is drawing correlation between the humble attitude of a child and the humble attitude of a new disciple as opposed to the prideful attitude of the veteran disciples who were concerned about being the "greatest in the kingdom of heaven".  The newer disciples are the "little ones" that we need to be careful to not cause to stumble.
    • Gill in his commentary explains it this way:
      • That is, one of those little ones that believed in Christ; for he is not speaking of infants in age, but of those who might be compared to such, for their humility and modesty; who were little in their own eyes, and mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, as well as appeared but little in the eyes of their fellow disciples and brethren; for our Lord returns and addresses himself to his disciples, who had been contending among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and so were striving to lessen one another, each looking upon himself as the greater, and every other as little. Wherefore Christ cautions them against such a spirit, and bids them beware of despising their fellow disciples, as little, and below them; especially since so much notice and care were taken of them, both in heaven, and in earth: 
  • With these thoughts in mind, may we word the question differently:
Does a Disciple Have a Guardian Angel?
  • God does employ angels often to accomplish His will.
    • God used them to protect His followers (Daniel 6:20-23).
    • To reveal information (Luke 1:11-20).
    • To guide (Matthew 1:20-21).
    • To provide for (Genesis 21:17-20).
    •  and to minister to believers in general (Hebrews 1:14).

  • Scripture nowhere states that an angel is “assigned” to an individual (angels were sometimes sent to individuals, but there is no mention of permanent assignment). 
    • Some early church writers believed that each person had not only a good angel assigned to him/her, but a demon as well. 
    • The belief in guardian angels has been around for a long time, but there is no explicit scriptural basis for it.
  • Note: In Matthew 18:10 it states "their angels"
    •  “Their” is probably a collective pronoun.
      • This would refer to the fact that believers are served by angels in general. 
      • These angels are pictured as “always” watching the face of God so as to hear His command to them to help a believer when it is needed. 
      • God sees every believer at every moment, and He alone knows when one of us needs the intervention of an angel. 
      • Because they are continually seeing His face, the angels are at His disposal to help one of His “little ones.”

Conclusion: 
  • It cannot be emphatically answered from Scripture whether or not each believer has a guardian angel assigned to him/her. 
  • As stated earlier, God does use angels in ministering to us. 
  • It is scriptural to say that He uses them as He uses us; to accomplish His divine will.
  • If we have an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God with us, does it really matter whether or not there is a finite guardian angel protecting us?

By Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotations from NASB95 - Materials by Dr. Denny Petrillo and Gill's Exposition of Scripture contributed to the content of this post as well as gotquestions.org.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Can a Christian Get a Tattoo?

A Common Question - "Is it a sin to get a tattoo?"
"Please read entire post before forming a conclusion"

Introductory Matters:
There are a few questions that must be answered when dealing with a question like this. We must be careful to not create laws that God has not created or ignore laws that God has established. Some question to consider are as follows: 1. Does the New Testament specifically forbid Christians from getting a tattoo? 2. Are certain moral principles violated through getting a tattoo? 3. Is there any situation where a tattoo would be sinful?

Arguments Reviewed:
There are many arguments that people use against tattoos. Some of these arguments are more valid than others. These arguments will be reviewed here:

Argument #1 - Leviticus 19:28 forbids Christians from getting tattoos! --- Does it really??
First off, this section of Scripture also forbids trimming the sides of ones hair and shaping a beard. To be consistent one would have to follow all of these commands. (However, just because one is inconsistent, does not always negate their argument).

Second, the Christian is not under the Old Law. The Old Law was given to Israel for a specific purpose. The Old Law was designed to lead one to Christ and once Jesus came, it was no longer needed.Note Galatians 3:23-25:
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.  
Trying to prove that tattoos are a sin from this Old Testament law would be as incorrect as requiring one to perform animal sacrifice. This was a God ordained law for a specific purpose at one time, but the Christian is not under that law today.

Argument #2 - 1 Corinthians 6:19 says our bodies are a temple, thus getting a tattoo would be defiling the temple of God! --- Is this true?
The context of 1 Corinthians 6:19 is a command for the Christian to not participate in sexual immorality. Note the surrounding verses (16-20):
Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.  
The point of the section is "don't commit sexual sin". The motivation for not committing sexual sin is the reality of the Christian being a temple of the Spirit. When one "joins himself with prostitute" it is as if he is defiling the very temple of God. 

Our bodies are designed to glorify God and not participate in sin. This passage does not apply to tattoos, piercings, eating fatty foods, not exercising or the many other points people try to make from it. It is, however, a great passage for proving the importance of not committing sexual sin.

Argument #3 - Your influence will be affected.There is some validity to this argument. Obviously a person who has a cuss word tattooed on their forehead is going to be looked down upon by many in society.  This author knew a man who had several "White Pride" tattoos on his back. This man since left that type of lifestyle, but anyone who caught a glimpse of those tattoos would think less of him.

We should never do anything that would harm our influence on others. My task is to lead people to Christ and my appearance should not get in the way. In some circles having my arms sleeved with tattoos would not hurt my influence, in other circles it would. These are some legitimate thoughts to consider.

Argument #4 - The tattoo parlors are a negative environment.
This is another argument that may have some validity. Often times tattoo studios have a lot of images that are pornographic or promote sinful behavior like drug use or satanism. Immodesty is very common due to the location of many tattoos on one's body. Not all places where one can get a tattoo promote sinful behaviors, but many do. This too is something to consider, why is it that so often people get tattoos of negative things (like skulls or other items associated with death).

Final Answer - Can a Christian get a tattoo?
  1. Although NOT implicitly wrong there are some times when getting a tattoo would be sinful. Getting a tattoo would be sinful if:
  2. If the tattoo promoted something immoral or ungodly (nude person, foul language, the Devil, etc.).
  3. If it was done for vain reasons. (To make you look tough/cool etc. Or to try to just get people to look at you).
  4. If it severely harmed your influence. This is a judgement call that each individual will have to make, it may be best to exercise extra caution in this area.
  5. If it was placed in a location that allowed the tattoo artist to look at parts of your body that only your spouse should see or caused people to focus on certain parts of your body.
Conclusion:
Tattoos are pretty much permanent. Use wisdom and seek advice before making such a choice. You do not want to do something that you will regret later. One cannot prove from the Bible that tattoos are always sinful, but just because something is not always sinful does not always mean it is a good idea. I know of faithful Christians who have tattoos and their tattoos have not be done in a way that I would think is sinful, at the same time I know of others who got tattoos at one point in their life and now they regret it because of the stigma associated with them.
 Post by Cliff Sabroe
Image from True Artists Blog "Tattoos in the Workplace"

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in Our Life today?

Points to Consider Before Trying to Answer This Question:  
  • 1. The Holy Spirit is deity as part of the Godhead. Thus He is all knowing and all powerful.
  • 2. We have no reason to doubt that the Holy Spirit is working in the world in the same way that we do not doubt that the Father is working.
  • 3. Often we spend all of our time debating and trying to figure out how God and the Holy Spirit work as opposed to just trusting that they are working.
The Spirit's Role in the Life of the Christian:
  • He is the seal of our salvation, the pledge of the believer's inheritance (Eph. 1:13).
  • He will raise us when we die (Romans 8:9-11).
  • The Spirit sanctifies and regenerates the Christian in some way through baptism (1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5).
  • The Spirit leads through the revelation of the the Apostles and Prophets and when we follow His lead we will produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Romans 8, Galatians 5).
  • The Spirit intercedes when we pray (Romans 8:26).
  • The Spirit strengthens us somehow (Ephesians 3:16).
Question Submitted at the West Visalia Youth Forum
Post By Cliff Sabroe

Elders are to be “husbands of one wife” and “not a drunkard”. Does this mean that non-elders can get drunk and have more than one wife?

Here are some points to note when studying the qualifications of Elders:
  • 1. Some of the qualifications listed cannot be met by all people. (“having a household”).
  • 2. Some are only commands given to those desiring to be an elder (“having children that believe”).
  • 3. Some of the qualifications are just a reiteration of previous commands given to all.
    • (ie. "Not violent, not a lover of money, hospitable:).
    • It seems that point #3 would apply to the question of polygamy and drunkenness. The command of not being a drunkard not being a polygamist or a womanizer is a command for all, but is reemphasized when discussing the qualification of elders, for they need to be "above reproach".
Question submitted at the West Visalia Church of Christ Youth Forum
Post By Cliff Sabroe

Does the New Testament teach that Polygamy is a Sin?

What is Polygamy?
  • Polygamy : “The practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time.” (Dictionary.com)
    • Certain belief systems and cultures support this practice as being acceptable.
    • There was even a time in the Bible when God apparently tolerated this kind of behavior.
      (ie. David and Solomon both had multiple wives).
    • Matthew 19:8,  Acts 17:30 show that there has been times in the past where God “overlooked” certain practices that He did not approve of.
What Does the New Testament Teach?
  • (Matthew 19:3-6)
    • Marriage is “one man and one woman for life”.
  • (Romans 7:1-3) 
    • If a women is “joined” to another man while her “husband” (singular) is alive, she is an sinning.
  • (1 Corinthians 7:2) 
    • “Husband” and “Wife” are both singular.
After examining these passages it appears to be very clear from the New Testament that God wants marriage to be between only one man and one woman.  

Question Submitted at the West Visalia Church of Christ Youth Forum
Post By Cliff Sabroe

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20) Are we using this verse wrong? Is this verse talking about worship?

During my childhood I attended a very small church and I have frequently preached for congregations that were small in number. It is a common in smaller assemblies for the preacher or song leader to make a statement such as this “All though we may be small in number today, we can be assured that God is here with us because Matthew 18:20 tells us that ‘where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them’”.

I will be the first to tell you that there was a time in my ministry where I used this verse in this way. However, after sitting down and studying this passage, I came to the conclusion that I was not using the Word of God properly, if I used this verse to enforce the point that God is in a small assembly of believers. Do not get me wrong, I 100% believe that God is pleased with and is present in a worship gathering of any size, but I also believe that this is not what the aforementioned verse is in reference to.

The Context of the Passage

Beginning in Matthew 18:10 Jesus addresses the desire of God for sinners to be restored. He informs the listeners that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than the “ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matt. 18:13). Following the discussion of the lost sheep, Jesus illustrates how an individual or church can aid in restoring a lost brother.

The Text Explained
  • (Matthew 18:15) “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
The first step in restoring a brother in sin is going to him in private and trying to get him to repent. If he repents, rejoice because you have gained your brother back.

  • (Matthew 18:16-17) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
In these two verses we have the 2nd and 3rd steps that are to be taken in attempt to restore a brother in sin (a lost sheep).

If this brother did not listen to reason when you talked to him as an individual, it is now time to involve a few other Christians. Jesus said that you should take one or two others with you, so they can witness this brother’s behavior and encourage him to repent.

The final step in this process is to come about the if brother in sin refuses to repent after you and others have both talked to him and encouraged him to. Sadly, now this brother’s sinful life must be made public, it is to be taken before the church and the church needs to withdraw themselves from this lost sheep until he returns.

  • (Matthew 18:18-20) Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed  in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus now tells his followers that they have the authority to make a decision to withdraw from a brother in sin. They can “bind” and “loose” in regards to this situation.

Jesus assures them that if the 2 or 3 witnesses affirm that this individual refuses to repent, that God supports them in their decision to withdraw from this unrepentant brother.

Christians can be assured that if they are following the steps in this passage that God is with them. The 2 or 3 people gathered with the support of God to encourage a lost brother can know that God is with them, because in this situation Jesus states “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Conclusion

Although it is true that God is in the midst of 2 or 3 people in worship, this is not what Jesus had in mind when He preached these words in Matthew 18. Often times Christians will make correct statements, but then try to give validity to their statements with verses that do not apply. Bible verses are more than just little sayings to be thrown around without any regard for the context in which they lie. Is using this verse in an incorrect context some sort of grievous sin?, of course not!. We should, however, as we grow and mature in Christ, strive to use the Bible correctly.

By Cliff Sabroe