Thursday, December 11, 2014

How does one become a member of a church? Does church membership matter?

Before this question can be answered, some terms need to be clarified and defined. 

What does the word “church” mean?

The word “church” in its most simple and literal sense means “assembly or gathering”.  Often times people will say “I am going to church”, when they are talking about attending the assembly. The word church is at times in reference to a local body of believers like the churches mentioned in the beginning of the book of Revelation (such as  “the church of Ephesus”). 

The word “church” may also be in reference to the universal body of Christians in all locations. This is what is being referred to in passages like (Ephesians 5:25) where Jesus is said to have died for the church, or in (Colossians 1:18) where Jesus is called the “head of the church”. 

When does one become a member of the church?

Once you believe in Jesus (John 8:24), change your life/Repent (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), God saves you by His grace and adds you to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:41,47).
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A person does not “join” the church, but instead, at the moment of their salvation, God adds them to the church. For a person to say they are a Christian, but not a member of the church, would be an impossibility. 

What about local church membership?

The Bible does not specifically outline how a person becomes part of a local congregation. It would be assumed that one would assemble regularly with the people who brought him or her to Christ. It is important for an individual to be part of a local congregation in order to be spiritually shepherded and encouraged.

What if you move to a new town? Can one choose to not be a member of any church?

The Bible is full of examples of how local churches are to function. You do not have Christians ever mentioned as living in a specific locale and refusing to gather with other Christians (except for those “forsaking the assembly” in Hebrews 10:25). 

Elders are to help shepherd a local flock of Christians. How could this happen if one is not part of a local congregation? The Bible mentions a church gathering together and trying a restore a lost brother (Matthew 18). This could not happen if one is not part of a local church. The church is to raise up elders from its membership. If a local church had no members, this would be impossible (1 Timothy 3). A local congregation is to reach out and meet the needs of widows (1 Timothy 5). This would not be possible without local church members working together as one. The church functions because each member depends on one another. 


There is not set way that a person “places membership” in a congregation, however, it is needed for a person to let a congregation know that they desire to be at that location full-time. Some congregations have you fill out a “getting to know you” type form, others have you stand and introduce yourself to the congregation, while others just list your name in the directory. However it is done, the leadership of a church does need to know who they should expect at services. It is important for ministry coordinators to know who they can call on to staff programs. Being an active member of a local congregation of the Lord’s church is very important to one’s spiritual growth.

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday? Is Christmas a religious or a secular holiday?

This post will attempt to present a Biblical view of the Christmas holiday as well as answer many of the questions that believers have this time of year.

Is December 25th Jesus’ Birthday?
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not give a date for the Nativity. This author is of the conclusion that the time of the Savior's birth is more likely to have occurred in Spring instead of the Winter. Luke 2:8 reads:
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8)
Most scholars note that shepherds guarded their flocks day and night only at lambing time, which would be in the spring. In winter the animals were kept in corrals unwatched. In the early years of the church you do not have any mention of a celebration in relation to the birth of the Messiah. 

What is the origin of the Christmas holiday?
When “Christmas” was first celebrated is up for debate as well as when was December 25th first designated as the date of the Nativity. Concerning this point Dan Graves at Christianity.com writes:
No one knows for sure on what day Christ was born. Dionysus Exiguus, a sixth century monk, who was the first to date all of history from December 25th, the year of our Lord. Other traditions gave dates as early as mid-November or as late as March. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on December 25th? Cultures around the Mediterranean and across Europe observed feasts on or around December 25th, marking the winter solstice. The Jews had a festival of lights. Germans had a yule festival. Celtic legends connected the solstice with Balder, the Scandinavian sun god who was struck down by a mistletoe arrow. At the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. Drinking was closely connected with these pagan feasts. At some point, a Christian bishop may have adopted the day to keep his people from indulging in the old pagan festival.
There is good evidence that the Christmas holiday was formed in order to serve as a “Christian” alternative to pagan celebrations.

Does God require us to celebrate Christmas? 

*POINT: There are NO set days in Christianity that God Requires us to Observe other than Sunday.

Multiple passages (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10) teach that Sunday is a holiday for the Lord. During Bible times there were individuals who were trying to coerce Christians into celebrating holidays brought over from Judaism but Paul rebukes them for trying to require something that God does not and tells the Christians to not allow these individuals to pass judgment on them.
“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” -  (Col. 2:16-17)
Some Christians choose to not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday or not even at all. They should not feel “pressured” into celebrating a certain day. No one has the right to religiously bind on others any special day carried over either from pagan practice, or an expired divine religion (i.e. Judaism).  Christians should not let themselves be pressured to conform. Do not feel pressured to keep any “day” just because someone says you should.

Is it ok to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday? What about keeping secular  Christmas traditions?

The Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable for Christians emphasize certain days (for religious reasons or not) as long as they do not violate two rules. 
  • #1 - Nothing sinful is done during the celebration (such as worshiping an idol - Galatians 4:8-11).
  • #2 - That the day is not bound upon nor required of others (Romans 14:5-6)

One may choose to make up there own special days or even utilize ones that were left over from religious practices (As is the case in Romans 14). According to Romans 14, it would be wrong for me to demand that others celebrate the day with me, but it would also be wrong if brethren condemned me for celebrating such a day. An individual may even choose to take a certain day and use it to remember an event in Scripture (as many do with the birth of Jesus in December). 

Many Christians understand that there are a lot of false ideas about Jesus presented during Christmas time. Because of this, some choose to just celebrate Christmas as a “national” or “secular” holiday. Celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday and not a religious one would also be Biblically acceptable.  As a Christian I have the Scriptural right to celebrate secular events and days as well as long as the celebration does not cause me to engage in sinful behavior.

Some individuals have a problem with certain holiday traditions that have their origin in pagan practices (if it violates their conscious, they should not do it). There is nothing wrong with engaging in behavior that had its origins in a false practice as long as you yourself are not engaging in any sinful behavior. The name of our day of the week “Thursday” comes from the word “Thor” (the Norse God of Thunder). In fact the name “Thursday” means “Day of Thor”. To use that name today is not an endorsement of pagan religion. (The same would go for Easter Eggs or Christmas Trees). 

Conclusion:
  • If a Christian chooses to engage in the traditional Christmas activities, that is his or her right.
  • If a Christian chooses not to, because it violates their conscience (because of its Religious or Pagan roots) that is his or her Scriptural right.
  • Even if a Christian chooses personally to remember the birth of Jesus on December 25th without teaching something the Scriptures do not teach, that is his or her choice
  • No one has the right to condemn either person because of them choosing to or to not esteem certain days.
Final Thoughts:
  • It may be wise to not do certain things that give the impression that you believe that December 25th is Jesus Birthday. 
  • One should also use caution with “Christmas Songs”. Some teach things that are false and offer worship that God is not pleased with.
  • Don’t get overly preoccupied with correcting everybody who does believe that December 25th is the exact day Jesus was born, their interest in Jesus may serve as an opportunity for sharing the Gospel.
Jesus is the Reason for Every Season:
Jesus birth was a miraculous event no matter what day it happened. It fulfilled many prophecies and proved His Deity. It is a marvelous event because Jesus would ultimately “…save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus was born, lived, and died to save mankind. 


By Cliff Sabroe - Citations from NASB and http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/the-1st-recorded-celebration-of-christmas-11629658.html

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB Bible)

Friday, November 7, 2014

What is Gossip? Is it a Sin?

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

Gossip

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

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

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

3 Categories of Gossip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Wesley Walker

Read the original article and other great posts at:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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

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

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

By Cliff Sabroe

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

The Angel of the Lord accepted Worship

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

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

The Angel of the Lord addressed the entire nation

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

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

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


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

By Cliff Sabroe

Who was Mary Magdalene? Was she the Woman Caught in Adultery in (John 8)? Was she the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in (Luke 7)?

Throughout history there has been speculation about the woman called “Mary Magdalene”. Sadly, because of the different theories, many have formed false ideas about this Biblical character. Here is what the Bible teaches us about Mary Magdalene.

She is from Magdala (Luke 8:2)
The term Magdalene means “one from Magdala”. Magdala was a fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. 

Jesus cured her of evil spirits 
“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:1-2). 
“Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons” (Mark 16:9)
She witnessed the crucifixion 
“Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:55-56)
She stayed by the tomb after the crucifixion
“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb” (Matthew 27:61).
An Angel appeared to her after the resurrection
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen...” (Matthew 28:1-6)
She was one of the first to see the risen Jesus
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,b “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
Conclusion
Besides a few other parallel passages, this is all the Bible reveals about Mary. She should not be supposed to be the Woman caught in adultery in John 8, nor the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in John 7. She was one of the earliest followers of Jesus, her dedication is admirable and legacy lives on through Scripture. 

Quotes from NASB and ESV Bibles
By Cliff Sabroe

Who is Lucifer?

“Lucifier” is a term that is often applied to the Devil. Is “Lucifer” Satan? Why doesn’t my Bible use the term “Lucifer”?

“Lucifer” in our English Bibles
The word “Lucifer” is found only in the King James Version of the Bible in (Isaiah 14:12). The passage reads,
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:12 KJV).
As mentioned, the King James Version is the only English translation that uses this term, in other translations it is rendered “morning star, son of the dawn!” (NIV), “O Day Star, son of Dawn!” (ESV), “O star of the morning, son of the dawn!” (NASB) and “O day-star, son of the morning!” (ASV).

Background and Definition
The word used in this passage is the Hebrew term “helel”, which literally means “star of the morning” as translated by the NASB. When the King James Bible was formed in the 1600’s, the translators employed the Latin term “Lucifer”  which also means “light bearer” or “morning star” which is most likely in reference to the planet Venus.

The word “Lucifer” is not a good translation, nor even a transliteration of the Hebrew term. All of the more accurate versions of the Bible since the KJV have corrected this error.

Who is “Lucifer” or “The Morning Star”?
The idea that “Lucifer” is the name of the Devil in (Isaiah 14:12), comes from a misunderstanding of what the prophet Isaiah is discussing. In (14:4) the reader will note that the audience of this declaration is “the King of Babylon” (possibly Nebuchadnezzar). The Babylonian Kings thought very highly of themselves. They would have thought they were great like the “star of the morning”, but they were no match for the power of God. God who is above all the stars and the heavens has the power to destroy even the most powerful kings. For Isaiah writes in verses 22-23 of the same chapter,
“I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and survivors, offspring and posterity,” declares the LORD. I will also make it a possession for the hedgehog and swamps of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of hosts:” 
Answer
Lucifer is the Latin word for “morning star” which in the context of Isaiah 14 is in reference to the King of Babylon and not the Devil.

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

May a Woman lead a prayer in a public assembly of the church?

Women often have a very dedicated and active prayer life. Throughout Scripture you have numerous examples of women praying. God expects women to pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The church would be in a dire situation if women stopped praying. 

What about in a mixed assembly of the church? Although, men and women often have roles that overlap, in the assembly, God wants men to step up and take the lead. Notice what the Apostle Paul writes the young preacher Timothy in (1 Timothy 2:8-12),
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (NASB).
Also, in the letter to the Corinthians, the Scriptures state
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)
This is not to say that a woman may not talk in the church. Women are to sing, say “amen” and actively participate, but they are not to be the ones who we would commonly refer to as “the speaker” in the assembly of the church.

Answer
In the church God has outlined distinctive gender roles for men and women. One role is not superior to another. When it comes to leading in the assembly and addressing the audience through teaching and prayer, God’s plan is for men to take the lead.

By Cliff Sabroe
Scripture Quotes from NASB95

Do I have to say “In Jesus’ Name” at the end of my prayers?

I was always taught that at the end of my prayers I need to say “in the name of Jesus” or some other equivalent statement. If you do a quick internet search, you will find that others were taught the same. The question needs to be asked, “Does the Bible teach it is a requirement to say ‘in Christ’s name’ at the end of our prayers?

What does “in the name of Jesus” mean?
This phrase is not a magic formula, instead it is a statement of authority. When we engage in Christian behavior, it is not by our own authority but Christ’s. A police officer may say “Stop in the name of the law!”. The officer is saying that by the authority of the law, an individual needs to obey him. Does an officer always need to say “in the name of the law”? No, it is understood that the authority of a Policeman comes from the law, whether they say it or not.

Stanley Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School articulates it in this way,
"Christians always pray in Jesus' name, because that's the only way we pray. That is to say, from a biblical perspective, to pray in Jesus' name is to pray in his authority seeking his agenda and purpose. That doesn't have anything to do with whether we say the words 'in Jesus' name' at the end of our prayer or not. In fact, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, in what we call the Lord's prayer, he didn't teach us to pray saying 'in Jesus' name' or 'in my name' at the end of the prayer. That's a fine tradition for us, because it reminds us that we are in fact praying in Jesus name, but whether or not we say those words has nothing to do with whether we're actually praying in Jesus' name or not." (1)
Many things we do are said to be in Jesus’ name.
  • In (Matthew 18:2) Jesus speaks of being gathered “in My name”. 
  • In (Mark 9:37) He said to receive a child “in My name”. 
  • In (Mark 9:41) He speaks of giving a cup of cold water “in My name”. 
  • (John 1:12) says that we have the right to become children of God when we believe “in His name”. 
  • (John 20:31) says that by believing we “have life in His name”.
In fact, Colossians 3:17 states that “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus...”. No one would assume that you have state “In Jesus name” before you give someone a cup of cold water or that every time you receive a child you must do it “in His name”. 

Answer
It is a biblical practice to say “In Jesus name” while praying, however, it is not a requirement. At times our prayers may be a simple “thank you” or “help me”. Just because one does not actually state “in Jesus name I pray”, does not mean that their prayers are without the authority or support of Jesus.

By Cliff Sabroe
(1) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/8.18.html?start=2 
Image from http://upliftingchrist.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/in-jesus-name-960x540.jpg

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Did Jesus have a wife? Was He ever married? What about the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”?

In 2012, Harvard Divinity School historian Karen L. King unveiled a fragment of papyrus she called the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. The fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...,'" and the rest of the sentence is cut off. Another segment says, "As for me, I dwell with her in order to…" but the speaker is not named. (Christianity Today - Emmert).
It seems that every few years a theory about the life of Jesus rises in popularity. Some of these ideas are new and others are rooted in antiquity. Recently an idea has resurfaced that Jesus (The Son of God) was married.

Was Jesus married?

All trustworthy documents from the time of Jesus do not ever show Him as being married. There have always been those who speculated that He was married to Mary, Martha or Mary Magdalene, but what do the Scriptures state?

Ultimately, Scriptures never give even a hint to the idea that our Lord, while on Earth, was married. Just because a papyrus fragment from centuries later says that a person named Jesus mentions a wife, does not give any evidence to the theory that He was married. 

If Jesus was married, the Bible would have eluded to it. The Bible mentions, friends, Father, Mother, and siblings of Jesus, but never a wife. Jesus was never in one place for a long period of time and was dedicated to His ministry. It would not have been practical for him to be married. Even when on the cross, He asked John to take care of His mother....but never mentions a wife.


It may make for entertaining movies and interesting story-lines, but there is nothing historically and Biblically that give any credence to the thought that Jesus was married. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Are Saints real? What is a “Saint” in the Bible?

The term “saint” comes from the same family of words that “holy” and “sanctified” come from. In its most basic sense, the word “saint” means “one who is holy or sanctified”. In Christian tradition (not Scripture), certain individuals throughout history have been identified as saints, such as Saint James or Saint Mother Theresa. It is because of this misidentification, that some have become confused when looking at the Bible and observing how the word “saint” is actually used.

Who is a saint?
A saint is one who is “holy”. The New Testament mentions “saints” often. In (Acts 9:13) the “saints in Jerusalem” are mentioned. (Romans 1:7) mentions those “called as saints” and (8:27) says the Holy Spirit “intercedes for the saints”. 2nd Corinthians and other New Testament letters are addressed to “the saints”. Ultimately, a saint, is a Christian. When one is saved, they are made holy, thus they are made a “saint” by God.

All Christians are saints, not just church leaders, Bishops or preachers. Just because a person is called a “saint” does not mean that they intercede for us in prayer or have the ability to perform miracles. When God washes away our sins at baptism, He makes us “saints”.

Conclusion
The true meaning of the word “saint” is often misunderstood. Saint is a synonym for “holy ones”, “the sanctified”, and “the saved”.

By Cliff Sabroe

Did people in the Bible have last names?

Answer:

My name is Cliff Sabroe. My first name is “Cliff” and my last name (also known as my family name is “Sabroe”). During Bible times names were not said in the same way. You will instead see names like “Cliff, son of Robert” or “Cliff the Preacher”. The way an individual was distinguished from another of the same name during Bible times was usually by their occupation or who their father was. Other times you have a person being designated by the place they are from like “Jesus of Nazareth”.

So although individuals in the Bible did not have “last names” as we do, they still had ways to identify and differentiate between people of the same name. An example would be the two disciples called Simon. Simon Peter is called “Simon Son of Jonah” while the other is referred to as “Simon the Zealot”.
By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

The Passage

In Matthew 12:22-32 Jesus is a presented a man that is demon possessed, blind and mute. Jesus heals this man and the crowds are impressed. The Pharisees hear the praises of the crowd and declare concerning Jesus, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” (Matt.12:24). Jesus spends time in verses 25-29 showing them the absurdity and contradictory nature of such a claim, as well as declaring to them it is the “Spirit of God” working in Him to preform such a feat.

After presenting His argumentation against the Pharisees, Jesus makes this powerful declaration:
 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt. 12:31-32).
May people, including Christians, look at this passage and its parallel in Mark 3:22-30 and conclude that if anyone says anything against the Holy Spirit, they are eternally doomed to Hell.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Explained

In this passage, the Pharisees clearly observed the Spirit of God working in Jesus and enabling Him to heal this man. There was no doubt to any open-minded person that what Jesus was doing had to have come from God. The Pharisees were so closed minded, that instead of affirming the power of God working in Christ they they declared that the power of the Holy Spirit working in Him was actually the power of the Devil. They committed “blasphemy of the Holy Spirt”.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in its most basic form is witnessing the Holy Spirit perform a miraculous action and then attributing that action to the Devil. The Pharisees hearts were so calloused that even though they witnessed the power of God with their own eyes, they were so hardened that they refused to admit it. In fact, they instead said that the miracle was done by Satan. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is seeing a miracle performed by the very hands of Jesus and then claiming that it was Satan that preformed that miracle. Once a person is that hardened in their heart, there is no turning back to God.

Can this “Unpardonable Sin” be Recreated

Jesus is no longer walking on this earth in human form and performing miracles with His own hands in front of large crowds. It is true that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are working in the world, but not in the same was as they did during Christ’s time on earth. Thus, no one is witnessing today with their own eyes the power of the Holy Spirit displayed through the actions of the incarnate Christ. If no one is witnessing with their own eyes this power, then they cannot commit this sin (ie. attribute a miracle of Jesus to the Devil).

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from New American Standard Bible 1995

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is it wrong to eat Pork?

The Israelites (The Jews) were given very strict dietary restrictions by God. The most well-known is Leviticus 11:7-8 which states,
...and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.
Those who are not very familiar with the different covenants in Scripture often find these restrictions confusing. One who is used to eating Pork may read this passage and even feel guilty thinking they have committed a sin.

Answer:
No, it is not wrong to eat Pork today. This restriction along with many others was given only to the nation of Israel. It is not a command for us today. As has been discussed in another post all the laws given in Leviticus (and other books of law) were given specifically to the Israelites, for a specific purpose at a specific time. The specific purpose is found in (Leviticus 20:22-26).
‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.‘Hence I have said to you, “You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
God wanted Israel to be holy and pure. He wanted them to be completely different from the extremely evil pagan nations around them. Some of the laws promoted good health, some kept them from immoral practices, others taught lessons about holiness and others prevented them from doing anything that even resembled an idolatrous practice. There are some laws that are hard to understand, but remember that the reason a particular law was given, was to keep them “set apart” as God’s holy people.

It appears that during the time of the New Testament there was still confusion over whether or not some foods were unclean. In Acts 10 Peter has a vision in which God shows him all different types of animals, both “clean” and “unclean”. He tells Peter to eat these animals and Peter says he can’t because they are “unclean”. God then tells him, “What God has cleansed, do not consider unholy” (Acts 10:15).

Later, in his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes, 
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 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 pray.
Conclusion:

It is wrong to forbid people from eating certain foods because all food is to be accepted with gratitude. The laws concerning clean and unclean foods are no longer in affect for the believer today.

By Cliff Sabroe
(Quotes from NASB95 Emp Mine)

Was there forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant?

Jesus Christ came to Earth in the flesh and died on the cross so that man could be saved. Galatians 4:4-5 reads,
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Also, in the book of Hebrews it states,
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).
Some have observed these passages along with others and have come to the conclusion that those in the Old Testament were never forgiven of their sins until Jesus died. This post will attempt to answer the question “Was there forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant?” and show how one can reconcile this with New Testament teaching.

Answer:
Yes, there was forgiveness of sins in the Old Testament. Just in the book of Leviticus alone, the word for “forgiveness” is used 10 times! Note a few of these occurrences:
  •  He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20)
  • All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)
  • Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat was removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31)
  • Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offerings, and the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar, on the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin which he has committed, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)
How is this possible?
If forgiveness is based upon Christ’s work on the cross, how could people have been forgiven before Jesus came to earth? This question can be answered by the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 3:23-26:
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Those in the Old Testament who were followers of God were forgiven just as the book of Leviticus and others state. However, their forgiveness was based upon the future work of Jesus on the cross. God in his infinite knowledge knew Jesus would die on the cross for all sins and thus offered pardon before the debt was even paid.

God is a loving God and wants all to be recipients of his mercy. Those under the Old Law had the opportunity to be forgiven as do those under the New.

By Cliff Sabroe (Scripture Quotes from NASB95)
Image from Sampson-Design.org 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Does Psalm 127:3-5 teach that I should have a lot of Children? What is a full quiver?

Children are a blessing! I have 5 children and thank the Lord for them constantly. Since I am a Christian, and have what can be considered today as a “large family”, some may assume that I align myself with what has become known as the “Quiverfull” movement. This movement is made up of a large number of believers who hold to the idea that a married couple should not plan on when to reproduce, nor use any form of birth control. Instead, you should just allow the “Lord to decide”, when or if you have children, and how many.

Proponents of this idea often quote (Psalm 127:3-5) as support for their position. The text reads,
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
In this Psalm, Solomon is declaring that true success comes from God. He is the source of true prosperity. In vs. 1 of this Psalm, Solomon teaches that whatever is built (most likely in reference to the temple or the city of Jerusalem), without God guarding it, will fall! 

In vs. 2, it is taught that even through our most tedious labor, the results of our work cannot compare with the blessings of God. Again, without God, our achievements are worthless.

Verse 3 then gives an example of one of the many blessings of God (ie. Children). No matter what work we may do in this life, the results of that work cannot compare with the blessing of Children. Why? Because no matter how hard we work to fortify our city, or even how skilled our archers might be, it is in shear numbers that a city is often protected from its enemies. Our work to fortify our location cannot compare with the benefits of a great number of children that God blesses one with.

When the enemies gather at the gate, the one who has a great deal of supporters (in this case it would be his children) will often prevail. It is for this reason that that a quiver (the bag in which arrows were stored) full of children provided by God, would be better than a quiver full of arrows provided by men. Blessings from God are more powerful than the accomplishments of men.

Answer
Psalm 127 is not a command for people to have as many children as possible, but instead it is a passage that shows that blessings of God are always more powerful than the works of men (even in the case of protection from one's enemies).

Yes, children are a wonderful blessing. I feel I am blessed by my large family. However, I don’t believe this passage or others teach that trying to plan when to start a family, or when to stop having children is necessarily against God’s will.

One Final Thought
God blesses us with many things. I feel God blesses me with food. Yet, God will allow me to eat more food than what is good for me. God will not keep me from becoming obese. God blesses us with food and expects us to handle that blessing in a responsible way.  Likewise, God blesses mankind with the ability to reproduce. This blessing, as the blessing of food, can be used in a way that is responsible and also irresponsible. 


By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB95 Bible)