Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What about dancing? Is it a sin? Are some dances sinful and some not? Can I dance? Does the Bible talk about dancing?

For an answer to this question we are going to share an excerpt from a post by Wesley
Walker at Study Your Bible Online.

Should Christians Dance?

For some churches the subject of whether or not Christians should dance is a discussion in their past.  It went the way of women not wearing pants and the forbidding of playing cards. For other churches it seems that every year the preacher dusts off the sermon on dancing at some point around Prom season.

The sermons I have heard on dancing at times come off too simplistic.  I still remember a teenage Bible class on the subject where the teacher point blankly said that all dancing is wrong, because all dancing causes us to lust. I didn’t say anything in the class, but in my mind I was thinking of all sorts of scenarios where people danced and no one was lusting. As I got older I also began to think to myself what if a husband and wife danced in their living room alone, would that be sinful?

Now I’m sure if pressed the teacher would have also had a few exceptions, but instead all was said was the face value claim: Dancing is Wrong!

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who snidely comment about the people who preach such sermons.  They talk to themselves about how backwards and out of touch such people are.  Names are called and laughs are had at their expense.

As I have studied the Bible more I have come to what I believe is a better answer to the question of dancing. The answer actually comes from the study 2 Peter.... It is based off the study of the word lasciviousness.  It is not a word we use often, but part of its definition is to use your body in a way to promote sensual desires.

I think we can see how from a proper understanding of lasciviousness one could draw the conclusion that some forms of dancing are wrong.  There are forms of dancing that are geared directly to erousing lust in the hearts of those involved.  What is interesting is that many school districts have understood this as well, which have led some to ban certain forms of dancing or School Dances completely.

This is also prevalent in the atmosphere at most dance and night clubs.  The music played, dress worn, and type of dance engage in are all used to lift up sensual desire.  Peter tells us that Christian should not be involved in such activities.

So let me give you my view on whether Christians should dance.  I think we all would agree that there are certain scenarios where dancing would not be wrong and therefore to make a blanket statement that all dancing is sin is to go too far.  However,  I hope that we recognize that not all dancing is correct and in fact some, and maybe better stated most, modern dancing is promoting lust and therefore violates Peter’s admonition against lasciviousness. To put it simply:  Christian should not be involved in any dancing that causes one to inappropriately lust.

Image from: npr.org

Friday, July 26, 2013

Was Mary a perpetual virgin? Did she have other children besides Jesus?

There are certain religious groups that teach Mary was always a virgin even in the years following the birth of Jesus. On the Catholic Answers website, the authors make the following statement, “The faithful knew, through the witness of Scripture and Tradition, that Jesus was Mary’s only child and that she remained a lifelong virgin” (catholic.com).

This post is not concerned with religious tradition or opinion. Instead, we will be asking “what does the Bible teach”?

Mary was a virgin when pregnant with Jesus.
Although some would deny the reality of this miracle, the Scriptures attest to this fact. In Matthew chapter 1 an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that Mary (his fiancĂ©) would give birth to a child “conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). 

Following this encounter, the inspired author Matthew informs the reader that this occasion was to fulfill the prophecy of (Isaiah 7:14) which states:
“Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means “God with Us.” (Matthew 1:23).
The text further enforces this immaculate conception in the following two verses.
“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus”. (Matthew 1:24-25 emp mine)
It is clear from the gospel accounts that Mary was a virgin at the time of the conception and birth of Jesus. 

Mary had other children after Jesus
Although Catholicism teaches that Mary was a virgin her whole life, Scriptures teach that Mary had other children after Jesus was born. (Thus, proving she was not a perpetual virgin). Note the following passages:
“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” (Matt. 12:46-47).
When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these [ac]miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:53-56)
These two passages and others teach that Jesus had brothers and sisters. One would not be wrong in saying that they were His “half-siblings”, since Joseph was not His real father, but nevertheless, these passages prove that Mary was not a perpetual virgin.

Mary was a wonderful godly woman. The Father chose her to be the means by which the Messiah would enter the world. She was a virgin at the time of Christ's conception and birth, but later had other children through her marriage to Joseph. 

This article will conclude with Wayne Jackson’s thoughts from Christian Courier. He wrote concerning the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity:

“The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is bereft of any reasonable evidence. It is an ancient superstition that has been thrust upon sincere souls who have been taught to never question the voice of the Church. Many of these good people, however, are now reviewing their faith with a more critical eye. May their tribe increase”. (Jackson).

By Cliff Sabroe -Quotes from NASB95.  
Image from - http://klarchdiocese.blogspot.com/ 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Do I have to confess my sins to be forgiven? Am I supposed to confess to a Priest, a fellow Christian or to God?

Confession Matters:
Admitting you are a sinner is necessary in order to receive forgiveness. A person that will never admit they are wrong is too prideful and arrogant to receive the forgiveness God offers the humble. In the New Testament you will find two different outlets for the confession of our sins.

Confession to God:
The Apostle John wrote by inspiration: 
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10)
God will not forgive the person who does not admit his need for forgiveness. On the other hand, if we are honest with ourselves, identify the sins in our life and confess our sinfulness to self and to God, we can be forgiven. This passage is not a legalistic demand to list every sin we ever commit in prayer before God, but an general attitude of humility in which we often identify and confess our own sinfulness to God. When a Christian goes to God admitting they are a sinner and asking for forgiveness, their merciful God will forgive them.

Confession to Others:
You will not find a passage of Scripture that requires an individual to confess sins to a Pastor, Priest or Preacher, however, there are passages of Scripture that encourage Christians to confess their sins to each other. James 5:16 states:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”.
It is good to have close Christians friends that you can lean upon. Oftentimes an individual hides their struggles, but James encourages us to share our struggles with one another so that we can pray for each other and strengthen each other.

Paul wrote to the Galatians:
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
Not only is it important to confess sins and struggles to others, it is a requirement of the Christian to help bear the burdens of each other. By placing our struggles out in the open, it helps us be more accountable for our actions and it allows others to help us out.


There is power in confession. We must humbly confess our sinfulness before God in order to receive forgiveness, and there is also great power in confessing our sins to a close Christian confidant. It is not smart to hide your sins from everyone. Remember, there are people who have gone through similar struggles and they can help you. It is also very foolish to try to hide your sins from God.

Post By Cliff Sabroe - Quotations from NASB95 Bible, Graphic from EpicToons. com 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who were the Pharisees? What about the Sadducees? I read about these people a lot in the New Testament...who are they?

Jesus life and ministry is predominately associated with the region of Judea (modern day Israel). The Jewish people populated this area as did Gentiles (non-Jews). “Jew” or “Hebrew” was a nationality while “Judaism” is in reference to the belief system of the Jews (as founded in the teachings of Moses in the Old Testament). 

During the time known as the “Maccabean Period” (400 B.C - 0 A.D) Judaism became very fragmented. Six different groups or Jewish sects arose to popularity during this time. Five of these groups are mentioned in the New Testament. 

The Pharisees
The Pharisees were a very powerful and influential group. They were able to dictate public opinion. The Pharisees were also the chief interpreters of the Law. They were strict literalists. They held to the entire Old Testament (Pentateuch, Writings and Prophets) as binding.

Although the Pharisees were strict law-keepers, they also bound Rabbinical tradition as “Oral Law”. Often you will find the Pharisees rebuked by Jesus or one of the Apostles for their binding of tradition. In (Mark 7:9) Jesus says: 
“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”.
The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee before he became a follower of Christ (Phil. 3:4-7). Unlike some of the other groups in Judaism, the Pharisees DID believe in a coming judgement and the resurrection of the dead.

The Scribes
Often associated with the Pharisees you have another group known as “the Scribes”. A Scribe’s job was to copy the Old Testament. They did this by hand. Because of their occupation they were viewed as authorities of the Law. Like the Pharisees, they were sternly rebuked often in Scripture. Jesus once said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24).
The Herodians
This was more of a political movement. These Jews supported Herod (Antipas). There is not much said of them in Scripture, although you do find them working with the Pharisees in conspiring against Jesus.
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:6).
The Zealots
The Zealots were a “zealous” patriotic group that wanted to overthrow the Romans. They were looking for a warrior Messiah. One of the Disciples named Simon was a Zealot. Dr. Denny Petrillo writes concerning the Zealots in his class notes on Matthew and Mark: 
“In 66 A.D., (the Zealots) organized a revolt against Rome. This was suicide for the Jewish nation, because they provoked the Romans to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Even after Jerusalem had been captured they shut themselves in the Temple and forced the Romans to destroy it (Petrillo 19, emp mine).
The Sadducees
This was another powerful sect in Judaism. The Sadducees were usually wealthy, they controlled the temple, the Priesthood and the Sanhedrin. They are said to have adopted more Hellenistic (Roman) customs. 

Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch (First five books of the Bible) as law. They are recorded in the Bible as rejecting the belief of a resurrection.  They also denied the existence of spiritual beings and the final judgment.

Petrillo writes: 
“Their close association with the Temple spelled their doom. When the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. they were reduced to insignificance. (The Pharisees became the founders of Judaism) (ibid).
The Essenes
The Essenes are not mentioned in Scripture, however, they are still well-known. They inhabited the region around the Dead Sea in an area called Qumran. They were strict ascetics and monastics and lived with other Essenes in a desert commune. They meditated and copied the Scriptures. The famous “Dead Sea Scrolls” are some of these copies that are still preserved to this day. They practiced ritual washings (ie. baptisms), they believed and trained for the coming of the Messiah who they called “The Teacher of Righteousness” (ibid). 

Once can be sure than not every Jew belonged to one of these subgroups in Judaism, however many of these groups prove to be an ongoing problem for Jesus and the Apostles. Thus, a great deal of Scripture is spent rebuking them and their false ways. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Citations from ESV Bible and Petrillo Class Notes on Matthew and Mark provided in syllabi at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How Can I better Interpret and Understand the Book of Proverbs?

Proverbs is a wonderful book! It is full of timeless statements of wisdom that are applicable even today. Proverbs is one of those books that no matter when you pick it up, you will always find a jewel or a nugget of wisdom that will help you through your day.

Because of the nature of wisdom literature (like the book of Proverbs or Psalms), you will find statements that seem contradictory, impossible, incorrect or even absurd. I will often be asked questions about the book of Proverbs that could have been eliminated by a better understanding of how this type of literature is designed to function. 

While I was a student at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Dr. Denny Petrillo taught a class on the book of Proverbs (notes available through wvbs.org). This post will  share some of the different rules and thoughts I have been taught that I feel will help one to better understand this wonderful book. 

Points to Understand when Studying the Book of Proverbs
  • Preliminary Matters:
    • The Proverbs are Inspired By God.
    • The main idea of the Proverbs is to give God’s children direction in life.
    • The Proverbs are general commands and statements of truth.
    • The Proverbs are part of what is called “Wisdom Literature” and should be interpreted differently than other genres.
  • Principles of Interpretation:
    • 1. There are many statements made that should not be taken literally.
      • “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway” (15:19)
      • And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite” (23:2).
    • 2. There are statements made that might not always be true.
      • “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6).
    • 3. Some statements are merely suggesting some forethought before one acts and are not giving a hard and fast rule of action.
      • “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes” (26:4-5).
  • 9 Rules to Remember when Reading the Proverbs:
    • 1. Proverbs are often parabolic, i.e. figurative, pointing beyond themselves.
    • 2. Proverbs are intensely practical, not theoretically theological.
    • 3. Proverbs are worded to be memorable, not technically precise.
    • 4. Proverbs are not designed to support selfish behavior - just the opposite!
    • 5. Proverbs strongly reflecting ancient culture may need sensible "translation" so as not to lose their meaning.
    • 6. Proverbs are not guarantees from God, but poetic guidelines for good behavior.
    • 7. Proverbs may use highly specific language, exaggeration, or any of a variety of literary techniques to make their point.
    • 8. Proverbs give good advice for wise approaches to certain aspects of life, but are not exhaustive in their coverage.
    • 9. Wrongly used, Proverbs might justify a crass, materialistic lifestyle. Rightly used, Proverbs will provide practical advice for daily living.
  • The Purpose of the Proverbs
    • 1. For the reader to know wisdom and instruction.
    • 2. To help the reader discern sayings with understanding.
    • 3. To give instruction in wise behavior, righteousness and justice. 

By: Cliff Sabroe (Citations from Class Materials provided to author while a student of Dr. Denny Petrillo. Also cited: Petrillo Class notes of Proverbs from World Video Bible School)