ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY, CONQUERING DOUBT PART 2‬9








07/04/19

Question: "Why was Jesus baptized? Why was Jesus' baptism important?"


Answer:At first glance, it seems that Jesus’ baptism has no purpose at all. John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), but Jesus was sinless and had no need of repentance. Even John was taken aback at Jesus’ coming to him. John recognized his own sin and was aware that he, a sinful man in need of repentance himself, was unfit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).


There are several reasons why it was fitting for John to baptize Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was about to embark on His great work, and it was appropriate that He be recognized publicly by His forerunner. John was the “voice crying in the wilderness” prophesied by Isaiah, calling people to repentance in preparation for their Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). By baptizing Him, John was declaring to all that here was the One they had been waiting for, the Son of God, the One he had predicted would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).


Jesus’ baptism by John takes on an added dimension when we consider that John was of the tribe of Levi and a direct descendant of Aaron. Luke specifies that both of John’s parents were of the Aaronic priestly line (Luke 1:5). One of the duties of the priests in the Old Testament was to present the sacrifices before the Lord. John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus could be seen as a priestly presentation of the Ultimate Sacrifice. John’s words the day after the baptism have a decidedly priestly air: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).


Jesus’ baptism also showed that He identified with sinners. His baptism symbolized the sinners’ baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with Him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life. His perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own. When John hesitated to baptize the sinless Son of God, Jesus replied that it was proper to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). By this He alluded to the righteousness that He provides to all who come to Him to exchange their sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). 


In addition, Jesus’ coming to John showed His approval of John's baptism, bearing witness to it, that it was from heaven and approved by God. This would be important in the future when others would begin to doubt John’s authority, particularly after his arrest by Herod (Matthew 14:3-11). 


Perhaps most importantly, the occasion of the public baptism recorded for all future generations the perfect embodiment of the triune God revealed in glory from heaven. The testimony directly from heaven of the Father’s pleasure with the Son and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17) is a beautiful picture of the trinitarian nature of God. It also depicts the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the salvation of those Jesus came to save. The Father loves the elect from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); He sends His Son to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); and the Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8) and draws the believer to the Father through the Son. All the glorious truth of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ is on display at His baptism.


PART II

Question: "Could Jesus have sinned? If He was not capable of sinning, how could He truly be able to 'sympathize with our weaknesses' (Hebrews 4:15)? If He could not sin, what was the point of the temptation?"


Answer:There are two sides to this interesting question. It is important to remember that this is not a question of whether Jesus sinned. Both sides agree, as the Bible clearly says, that Jesus did not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). The question is whether Jesus could have sinned. Those who hold to "impeccability" believe that Jesus could not have sinned. Those who hold to "peccability" believe that Jesus could have sinned, but did not. Which view is correct? The clear teaching of Scripture is that Jesus was impeccable"Jesus could not have sinned. If He could have sinned, He would still be able to sin today because He retains the same essence He did while living on earth. He is the God-Man and will forever remain so, having full deity and full humanity so united in one person as to be indivisible. To believe that Jesus could sin is to believe that God could sin. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" (Colossians 1:19). Colossians 2:9 adds, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."


Although Jesus is fully human, He was not born with the same sinful nature that we are born with. He certainly was tempted in the same way we are, in that temptations were put before Him by Satan, yet He remained sinless because God is incapable of sinning. It is against His very nature (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 2:18, 4:15; James 1:13). Sin is by definition a trespass of the Law. God created the Law, and the Law is by nature what God would or would not do; therefore, sin is anything that God would not do by His very nature.


To be tempted is not, in and of itself, sinful. A person could tempt you with something you have no desire to do, such as committing murder or participating in sexual perversions. You probably have no desire whatsoever to take part in these actions, but you were still tempted because someone placed the possibility before you. There are at least two definitions for the word "tempted":


1) To have a sinful proposition suggested to you by someone or something outside yourself or by your own sin nature.


2) To consider actually participating in a sinful act and the possible pleasures and consequences of such an act to the degree that the act is already taking place in your mind.


The first definition does not describe a sinful act/thought; the second does. When you dwell upon a sinful act and consider how you might be able to bring it to pass, you have crossed the line of sin. Jesus was tempted in the fashion of definition one except that He was never tempted by a sin nature because it did not exist within Him. Satan proposed certain sinful acts to Jesus, but He had no inner desire to participate in the sin. Therefore, He was tempted like we are but remained sinless.


Those who hold to peccability believe that, if Jesus could not have sinned, He could not have truly experienced temptation, and therefore could not truly empathize with our struggles and temptations against sin. We have to remember that one does not have to experience something in order to understand it. God knows everything about everything. While God has never had the desire to sin, and has most definitely never sinned, God knows and understands what sin is. God knows and understands what it is like to be tempted. Jesus can empathize with our temptations because He knows, not because He has "experienced" all the same things we have.


Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, but He does not know what it is like to sin. This does not prevent Him from assisting us. We are tempted with sins that are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). These sins generally can be boiled down to three different types: "the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16 NKJV). Examine the temptation and sin of Eve, as well as the temptation of Jesus, and you will find that the temptations for each came from these three categories. Jesus was tempted in every way and in every area that we are, but remained perfectly holy. Although our corrupt natures will have the inner desire to participate in some sins, we have the ability, through Christ, to overcome sin because we are no longer slaves to sin but rather slaves of God (Romans 6, especially verses 2 and 16-22).


PART III 

Question: "Where does the Old Testament predict the coming of Jesus Christ?"


Answer:There are many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ. Some interpreters place the number of Messianic prophecies in the hundreds. The following are those that are considered the clearest and most important. 


Regarding Jesus' birth"Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Micah 5:2: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."


Concerning Jesus' ministry and death"Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Psalm 22:16-18: "Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."


Likely the clearest prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."


The "seventy sevens" prophecy in Daniel chapter 9 predicted the precise date that Jesus, the Messiah, would be "cut off." Isaiah 50:6 accurately describes the beating that Jesus endured. Zechariah 12:10 predicts the "piercing" of the Messiah, which occurred after Jesus died on the cross. Many more examples could be provided, but these will suffice. The Old Testament most definitely prophesies the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.


PART IV

Question: "What happened during Jesus' childhood?"


Answer:Other than Luke 2:41-52, the Bible does not tell us anything about Jesus’ youth. From this incident we do know certain things about Jesus’ childhood. First, He was the son of parents*who were devout in their religious observances. As required by their faith, Joseph and Mary made the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. In addition, they brought their 12-year-old son to celebrate His first Feast in preparation for His bar mitzvah at age 13, when Jewish boys commemorate their passage into adulthood. Here we see a typical boy in a typical family of that day.


We see also in this story that Jesus’ lingering in the temple was neither mischievous nor disobedient, but a natural result of His knowledge that He must be about His Father’s business. That He was astonishing the temple teachers with His wisdom and knowledge speaks to His extraordinary abilities, while His listening and asking questions of His elders shows that He was utterly respectful, taking the role of a student as was fitting for a child of His age.


From this incident to His baptism at age 30, all we know of Jesus’ youth was that He left Jerusalem and returned to Nazareth with His parents and “was obedient to them” Luke 2:51. He fulfilled His duty to His earthly parents in submission to the 5th commandment, an essential part of the perfect obedience to the law of Moses which He rendered on our behalf. Beyond that, all we know is that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52).


Evidently, this is all God determined that we needed to know. There are some extra-Biblical writings which contain stories of Jesus’ youth (the Gospel of Thomas, for example). But we have no way of knowing whether any of these stories are true and reliable. God chose not to tell us much about Jesus’ childhood – so we have to just trust Him that nothing occurred which we need to know about.


*While we believe it is accurate to describe Joseph and Mary as Jesus' parents, it is very important to remember that Mary was Jesus' biological mother with Joseph being Jesus' adoptive father.


PART V

Question: "When did Jesus know that He was God?"


Answer:Jesus was always God. From eternity past He has been the second Person of the Trinity, and He always will be. The question of when, after the Incarnation, the human Jesus knew that He was God is interesting, but it is not addressed in Scripture. We know that, as an adult, Jesus fully realized who He was, expressing it this way: “Very truly I tell you, . . . before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). And when He prayed, “Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5).


It also seems that, as a child, Jesus was already aware of His nature and work. When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary took the family to Jerusalem. On their way home, they were concerned about Jesus’ being missing from their caravan. They returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). His mother asked Jesus why He would disappear and worry them so. Jesus asked in return, “Why were you searching for me? . . . . Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49). Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’ words (verse 50). Whatever those around Him did not grasp, it seems that Jesus, at a very young age, did know that He was the Son of God and that the Father had foreordained the work He was to do.


After the incident in the temple, Luke says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). If at this point in Jesus’ human experience He knew everything, He would not need to “grow in wisdom.” We emphasize that this was Jesus’ humanexperience. Jesus never ceased being God, but in some matters He veiled His divinity in accordance with the Father’s will. Thus, the Son subjected Himself to physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual growth. The Son of God voluntarily put Himself in the position of needing to assimilate knowledge as a man.


When did Jesus know that He was God? From the heavenly perspective, the Son knew from eternity past who He was and what His earthly work was to be. From the earthly perspective, the incarnate Jesus came to that realization at some point early in life. Just when that point was, we cannot know for sure.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


07/03/19

Question: "What did Jesus look like?"


Answer:The Bible nowhere gives a physical description of what Jesus looked like during His incarnation. The closest thing we get to a description is in Isaiah 53:2b, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” All this tells us is that Jesus’ appearance was just like any other man's – He was ordinary-looking. Isaiah was here prophesying that the coming suffering Servant would arise in lowly conditions and wear none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eye of faith.


Isaiah further describes the appearance of Christ as He would appear as He was being scourged prior to His crucifixion. “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). These words describe the inhuman cruelty He suffered to the point that He no longer looked like a human being (Matthew 26:67; 27:30; John 19:3). His appearance was so awful that people looked at Him in astonishment.


Most of the images we have of Jesus today are probably not accurate. Jesus was a Jew, so He likely had dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. This is a far cry from the European/Caucasian Jesus in most modern portrayals. One thing is clear: if it were important for us to know what He really did look like, Matthew, Peter and John, who spent three years with Him, would certainly be able to give us an accurate description, as would His own brothers, James and Jude. Yet, these New Testament writers offer no details about His physical attributes.


PART II 

Question: "Why is the Virgin Birth so important?"


Answer:The doctrine of the virgin birth is crucially important (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27, 34). First, let's look at how Scripture describes the event. In response to Mary's question, "How will this be?" (Luke 1:34), Gabriel says, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). The angel encourages Joseph to not fear marrying Mary with these words: "What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). Matthew states that the virgin "was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). Galatians 4:4 also teaches the Virgin Birth: "God sent His Son, born of a woman."


From these passages, it is certainly clear that Jesus' birth was the result of the Holy Spirit working within Mary's body. The immaterial (the Spirit) and the material (Mary's womb) were both involved. Mary, of course, could not impregnate herself, and in that sense she was simply a "vessel." Only God could perform the miracle of the Incarnation.


However, denying a physical connection between Mary and Jesus would imply that Jesus was not truly human. Scripture teaches that Jesus was fully human, with a physical body like ours. This He received from Mary. At the same time, Jesus was fully God, with an eternal, sinless nature (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14-17.)


Jesus was not born in sin; that is, He had no sin nature (Hebrews 7:26). It would seem that the sin nature is passed down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12, 17, 19). The Virgin Birth circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.


PART III 

Question: "Did Jesus have brothers and sisters (siblings)?"


Answer:Jesus' brothers are mentioned in several Bible verses. Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31 say that Jesus' mother and brothers came to see Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56). In John 7:1-10, His brothers go on to the festival while Jesus stays behind. In Acts 1:14, His brothers and mother are described as praying with the disciples. Galatians 1:19 mentions that James was Jesus' brother. The most natural conclusion of these passages is to interpret that Jesus had actual blood half-siblings.


Some Roman Catholics claim that these "brothers" were actually Jesus' cousins. However, in each instance, the specific Greek word for "brother" is used. While the word can refer to other relatives, its normal and literal meaning is a physical brother. There was a Greek word for "cousin," and it was not used. Further, if they were Jesus' cousins, why would they so often be described as being with Mary, Jesus' mother? There is nothing in the context of His mother and brothers coming to see Him that even hints that they were anyone other than His literal, blood-related, half-brothers.


A second Roman Catholic argument is that Jesus' brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. An entire theory of Joseph's being significantly older than Mary, having been previously married, having multiple children, and then being widowed before marrying Mary is invented without any biblical basis. The problem with this is that the Bible does not even hint that Joseph was married or had children before he married Mary. If Joseph had at least six children before he married Mary, why are they not mentioned in Joseph and Mary's trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) or their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) or their trip back to Nazareth (Matthew 2:20-23)?


There is no biblical reason to believe that these siblings are anything other than the actual children of Joseph and Mary. Those who oppose the idea that Jesus had half-brothers and half-sisters do so, not from a reading of Scripture, but from a preconceived concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is itself clearly unbiblical: "But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus' (Matthew 1:25). Jesus had half-siblings, half-brothers and half-sisters, who were the children of Joseph and Mary. That is the clear and unambiguous teaching of God's Word.


PART IV

Question: "How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?"


Answer:The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Many Christians are understandably confused when it comes to understanding how Jesus can be God and man at the same time. How could our divine Creator become a human? Could a first-century Jewish man really be God? While a certain amount of mystery will always accompany this issue, both Scripture and, to a lesser extent, church tradition provide for us important distinctions to help us make sense of this matter.


While previous church councils had deliberated over issues pertaining to the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Father, it was the Council of Chalcedon (AD 481) that affirmed that Christ is “the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man.” This statement is not true simply because the council taught it. Rather, the council’s declaration was authoritative only insofar as it aligned with what the Bible teaches on the subject. Scripture is clear that Jesus is God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8), and it is equally clear that He is truly human (Romans 1:2–4; 1 John 4:2–3). Jesus claimed the divine name (John 8:58) and did things that only God can do (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 7:48–50). But Jesus also displayed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities common to humanity (Luke 19:41; John 19:28).


The belief that Jesus is both God and man is of fundamental importance. The apostle Paul wrote that an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus is required to be saved (Romans 10:9), and the apostle John provided a sober warning that those who deny Christ’s true humanity are promoting the doctrine of antichrist (2 John 1:7).


The Triune God of the Bible has existed and reigned from all eternity, and the second Person of the Trinity, the Son, took on human flesh at a particular point in time (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 1:5). God the Son added a sinless human nature to His eternally existent divine nature. The result was the Incarnation. God the Son became a man (John 1:1, 14). Hebrews 2:17 gives the reason that Jesus had to be both God and man: “He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” The Son of God took on human flesh to provide redemption to those under the law (Galatians 4:4–5).


At no time did Jesus ever cease to be God. Although He was made fully human, there was never a point when He abrogated His divine nature (see Luke 6:5, 8). It is equally true that, after becoming incarnate, the Son has never ceased to be human. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manChrist Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, emphasis added). Jesus is not half-human and half-divine. Rather, He is Theanthropos, the God-man. The Lord Jesus Christ is one eternally divine Person who will forever possess two distinct yet inseparable natures: one divine and one human.


PART V

Question: "What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?"


Answer:The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man.


Jesus' two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person. Jesus' humanity and divinity are not mixed, but are united without loss of separate identity. Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity (John 4:6, 19:28) and other times in the power of His deity (John 11:43; Matthew 14:18-21). In both, Jesus' actions were from His one Person. Jesus had two natures, but only one personality.


The doctrine of the hypostatic union is an attempt to explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time. It is ultimately, though, a doctrine we are incapable of fully understanding. It is impossible for us to fully understand how God works. We, as human beings with finite minds, should not expect to totally comprehend an infinite God. Jesus is God's Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But that does not mean Jesus did not exist before He was conceived. Jesus has always existed (John 8:58, 10:30). When Jesus was conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14).


Jesus is both God and man. Jesus has always been God, but He did not become a human being until He was conceived in Mary. Jesus became a human being in order to identify with us in our struggles (Hebrews 2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11). In summary, the hypostatic union teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!


07/02/19

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?"

Answer:Jesus is referred to as the "Son of Man" 88 times in the New Testament. A first meaning of the phrase "Son of Man" is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." The description "Son of Man" was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

A second meaning of the phrase "Son of Man" is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel "son of man" 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. A son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but He was also a human being (John 1:14). First John 4:2 tells us, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God." Yes, Jesus was the Son of God"He was in His essence God. Yes, Jesus was also the Son of Man"He was in His essence a human being. In summary, the phrase "Son of Man" indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is truly a human being.


PART II 

Question: "What happened during Jesus' childhood?"

Answer:Other than Luke 2:41-52, the Bible does not tell us anything about Jesus’ youth. From this incident we do know certain things about Jesus’ childhood. First, He was the son of parents*who were devout in their religious observances. As required by their faith, Joseph and Mary made the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. In addition, they brought their 12-year-old son to celebrate His first Feast in preparation for His bar mitzvah at age 13, when Jewish boys commemorate their passage into adulthood. Here we see a typical boy in a typical family of that day.

We see also in this story that Jesus’ lingering in the temple was neither mischievous nor disobedient, but a natural result of His knowledge that He must be about His Father’s business. That He was astonishing the temple teachers with His wisdom and knowledge speaks to His extraordinary abilities, while His listening and asking questions of His elders shows that He was utterly respectful, taking the role of a student as was fitting for a child of His age.

From this incident to His baptism at age 30, all we know of Jesus’ youth was that He left Jerusalem and returned to Nazareth with His parents and “was obedient to them” Luke 2:51. He fulfilled His duty to His earthly parents in submission to the 5th commandment, an essential part of the perfect obedience to the law of Moses which He rendered on our behalf. Beyond that, all we know is that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52).

Evidently, this is all God determined that we needed to know. There are some extra-Biblical writings which contain stories of Jesus’ youth (the Gospel of Thomas, for example). But we have no way of knowing whether any of these stories are true and reliable. God chose not to tell us much about Jesus’ childhood – so we have to just trust Him that nothing occurred which we need to know about.

*While we believe it is accurate to describe Joseph and Mary as Jesus' parents, it is very important to remember that Mary was Jesus' biological mother with Joseph being Jesus' adoptive father.


PART III 

Question: "Could Jesus have sinned? If He was not capable of sinning, how could He truly be able to 'sympathize with our weaknesses' (Hebrews 4:15)? If He could not sin, what was the point of the temptation?"

Answer:There are two sides to this interesting question. It is important to remember that this is not a question of whether Jesus sinned. Both sides agree, as the Bible clearly says, that Jesus did not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). The question is whether Jesus could have sinned. Those who hold to "impeccability" believe that Jesus could not have sinned. Those who hold to "peccability" believe that Jesus could have sinned, but did not. Which view is correct? The clear teaching of Scripture is that Jesus was impeccable"Jesus could not have sinned. If He could have sinned, He would still be able to sin today because He retains the same essence He did while living on earth. He is the God-Man and will forever remain so, having full deity and full humanity so united in one person as to be indivisible. To believe that Jesus could sin is to believe that God could sin. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" (Colossians 1:19). Colossians 2:9 adds, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."

Although Jesus is fully human, He was not born with the same sinful nature that we are born with. He certainly was tempted in the same way we are, in that temptations were put before Him by Satan, yet He remained sinless because God is incapable of sinning. It is against His very nature (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 2:18, 4:15; James 1:13). Sin is by definition a trespass of the Law. God created the Law, and the Law is by nature what God would or would not do; therefore, sin is anything that God would not do by His very nature.

To be tempted is not, in and of itself, sinful. A person could tempt you with something you have no desire to do, such as committing murder or participating in sexual perversions. You probably have no desire whatsoever to take part in these actions, but you were still tempted because someone placed the possibility before you. There are at least two definitions for the word "tempted":

1) To have a sinful proposition suggested to you by someone or something outside yourself or by your own sin nature.

2) To consider actually participating in a sinful act and the possible pleasures and consequences of such an act to the degree that the act is already taking place in your mind.

The first definition does not describe a sinful act/thought; the second does. When you dwell upon a sinful act and consider how you might be able to bring it to pass, you have crossed the line of sin. Jesus was tempted in the fashion of definition one except that He was never tempted by a sin nature because it did not exist within Him. Satan proposed certain sinful acts to Jesus, but He had no inner desire to participate in the sin. Therefore, He was tempted like we are but remained sinless.

Those who hold to peccability believe that, if Jesus could not have sinned, He could not have truly experienced temptation, and therefore could not truly empathize with our struggles and temptations against sin. We have to remember that one does not have to experience something in order to understand it. God knows everything about everything. While God has never had the desire to sin, and has most definitely never sinned, God knows and understands what sin is. God knows and understands what it is like to be tempted. Jesus can empathize with our temptations because He knows, not because He has "experienced" all the same things we have.

Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, but He does not know what it is like to sin. This does not prevent Him from assisting us. We are tempted with sins that are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). These sins generally can be boiled down to three different types: "the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16 NKJV). Examine the temptation and sin of Eve, as well as the temptation of Jesus, and you will find that the temptations for each came from these three categories. Jesus was tempted in every way and in every area that we are, but remained perfectly holy. Although our corrupt natures will have the inner desire to participate in some sins, we have the ability, through Christ, to overcome sin because we are no longer slaves to sin but rather slaves of God (Romans 6, especially verses 2 and 16-22).


PART IV

Question: "Why was Jesus baptized? Why was Jesus' baptism important?"

Answer:At first glance, it seems that Jesus’ baptism has no purpose at all. John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), but Jesus was sinless and had no need of repentance. Even John was taken aback at Jesus’ coming to him. John recognized his own sin and was aware that he, a sinful man in need of repentance himself, was unfit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

There are several reasons why it was fitting for John to baptize Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was about to embark on His great work, and it was appropriate that He be recognized publicly by His forerunner. John was the “voice crying in the wilderness” prophesied by Isaiah, calling people to repentance in preparation for their Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). By baptizing Him, John was declaring to all that here was the One they had been waiting for, the Son of God, the One he had predicted would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Jesus’ baptism by John takes on an added dimension when we consider that John was of the tribe of Levi and a direct descendant of Aaron. Luke specifies that both of John’s parents were of the Aaronic priestly line (Luke 1:5). One of the duties of the priests in the Old Testament was to present the sacrifices before the Lord. John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus could be seen as a priestly presentation of the Ultimate Sacrifice. John’s words the day after the baptism have a decidedly priestly air: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Jesus’ baptism also showed that He identified with sinners. His baptism symbolized the sinners’ baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with Him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life. His perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own. When John hesitated to baptize the sinless Son of God, Jesus replied that it was proper to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). By this He alluded to the righteousness that He provides to all who come to Him to exchange their sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

In addition, Jesus’ coming to John showed His approval of John's baptism, bearing witness to it, that it was from heaven and approved by God. This would be important in the future when others would begin to doubt John’s authority, particularly after his arrest by Herod (Matthew 14:3-11). 

Perhaps most importantly, the occasion of the public baptism recorded for all future generations the perfect embodiment of the triune God revealed in glory from heaven. The testimony directly from heaven of the Father’s pleasure with the Son and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17) is a beautiful picture of the trinitarian nature of God. It also depicts the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the salvation of those Jesus came to save. The Father loves the elect from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); He sends His Son to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); and the Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8) and draws the believer to the Father through the Son. All the glorious truth of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ is on display at His baptism.


PART V

Question: "Why are Jesus' genealogies in Matthew and Luke so different?"

Answer:Jesus' genealogy is given in two places in Scripture: Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38. Matthew traces the genealogy from Jesus to Abraham. Luke traces the genealogy from Jesus to Adam. However, there is good reason to believe that Matthew and Luke are in fact tracing entirely different genealogies. For example, Matthew gives Joseph's father as Jacob (Matthew 1:16), while Luke gives Joseph's father as Heli (Luke 3:23). Matthew traces the line through David's son Solomon (Matthew 1:6), while Luke traces the line through David's son Nathan (Luke 3:31). In fact, between David and Jesus, the only names the genealogies have in common are Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27). 

Some point to these differences as evidence of errors in the Bible. However, the Jews were meticulous record keepers, especially in regard to genealogies. It is inconceivable that Matthew and Luke could build two entirely contradictory genealogies of the same lineage. Again, from David through Jesus, the genealogies are completely different. Even the reference to Shealtiel and Zerubbabel likely refer to different individuals of the same names. Matthew gives Shealtiel's father as Jeconiah while Luke gives Shealtiel's father as Neri. It would be normal for a man named Shealtiel to name his son Zerubbabel in light of the famous individuals of those names (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah).

One explanation, held by the church historian Eusebius, is that Matthew is tracing the primary, or biological, lineage while Luke is taking into account an occurrence of “levirate marriage.” If a man died without having any sons, it was tradition for the man’s brother to marry the widow and have a son who would carry on the deceased man’s name. According to Eusebius’s theory, Melchi (Luke 3:24) and Matthan (Matthew 1:15) were married at different times to the same woman (tradition names her Estha). This would make Heli (Luke 3:23) and Jacob (Matthew 1:15) half-brothers. Heli then died without a son, and so his (half-)brother Jacob married Heli’s widow, who gave birth to Joseph. This would make Joseph the “son of Heli” legally andthe “son of Jacob” biologically. Thus, Matthew and Luke are both recording the same genealogy (Joseph’s), but Luke follows the legal lineage while Matthew follows the biological.

Most conservative Bible scholars today take a different view, namely, that Luke is recording Mary’s genealogy and Matthew is recording Joseph’s. Matthew is following the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father), through David’s son Solomon, while Luke is following the line of Mary (Jesus’ blood relative), through David’s son Nathan. Since there was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” Joseph was called the “son of Heli” by marriage to Mary, Heli’s daughter. Through either Mary’s or Joseph’s line, Jesus is a descendant of David and therefore eligible to be the Messiah. Tracing a genealogy through the mother’s side is unusual, but so was the virgin birth. Luke’s explanation is that Jesus was the son of Joseph, “so it was thought” (Luke 3:23).

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!


07/01/19

Question: "Where does the Old Testament predict the coming of Jesus Christ?"

Answer:There are many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ. Some interpreters place the number of Messianic prophecies in the hundreds. The following are those that are considered the clearest and most important. 

Yes Regarding Jesus' birth"Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Micah 5:2: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

Concerning Jesus' ministry and death"Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Psalm 22:16-18: "Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."

Likely the clearest prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."

The "seventy sevens" prophecy in Daniel chapter 9 predicted the precise date that Jesus, the Messiah, would be "cut off." Isaiah 50:6 accurately describes the beating that Jesus endured. Zechariah 12:10 predicts the "piercing" of the Messiah, which occurred after Jesus died on the cross. Many more examples could be provided, but these will suffice. The Old Testament most definitely prophesies the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.


PART II 

Question: "When did Jesus know that He was God?"

Answer:Jesus was always God. From eternity past He has been the second Person of the Trinity, and He always will be. The question of when, after the Incarnation, the human Jesus knew that He was God is interesting, but it is not addressed in Scripture. We know that, as an adult, Jesus fully realized who He was, expressing it this way: “Very truly I tell you, . . . before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). And when He prayed, “Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5).

It also seems that, as a child, Jesus was already aware of His nature and work. When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary took the family to Jerusalem. On their way home, they were concerned about Jesus’ being missing from their caravan. They returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). His mother asked Jesus why He would disappear and worry them so. Jesus asked in return, “Why were you searching for me? . . . . Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49). Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’ words (verse 50). Whatever those around Him did not grasp, it seems that Jesus, at a very young age, did know that He was the Son of God and that the Father had foreordained the work He was to do.

After the incident in the temple, Luke says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). If at this point in Jesus’ human experience He knew everything, He would not need to “grow in wisdom.” We emphasize that this was Jesus’ humanexperience. Jesus never ceased being God, but in some matters He veiled His divinity in accordance with the Father’s will. Thus, the Son subjected Himself to physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual growth. The Son of God voluntarily put Himself in the position of needing to assimilate knowledge as a man.

When did Jesus know that He was God? From the heavenly perspective, the Son knew from eternity past who He was and what His earthly work was to be. From the earthly perspective, the incarnate Jesus came to that realization at some point early in life. Just when that point was, we cannot know for sure


PART III 

Question: "What did Jesus look like?"

Answer:The Bible nowhere gives a physical description of what Jesus looked like during His incarnation. The closest thing we get to a description is in Isaiah 53:2b, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” All this tells us is that Jesus’ appearance was just like any other man's – He was ordinary-looking. Isaiah was here prophesying that the coming suffering Servant would arise in lowly conditions and wear none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eye of faith.

Isaiah further describes the appearance of Christ as He would appear as He was being scourged prior to His crucifixion. “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). These words describe the inhuman cruelty He suffered to the point that He no longer looked like a human being (Matthew 26:67; 27:30; John 19:3). His appearance was so awful that people looked at Him in astonishment.

Most of the images we have of Jesus today are probably not accurate. Jesus was a Jew, so He likely had dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. This is a far cry from the European/Caucasian Jesus in most modern portrayals. One thing is clear: if it were important for us to know what He really did look like, Matthew, Peter and John, who spent three years with Him, would certainly be able to give us an accurate description, as would His own brothers, James and Jude. Yet, these New Testament writers offer no details about His physical attributes.


PART IV

Question: "On what day was Jesus crucified?"

Answer:The Bible does not explicitly state on which day of the week Jesus was crucified. The two most widely held views are Friday and Wednesday. Some, however, using a synthesis of both the Friday and Wednesday arguments, argue for Thursday as the day.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Those who argue for a Friday crucifixion say that there is still a valid way in which He could have been considered in the grave for three days. In the Jewish mind of the first century, a part of day was considered as a full day. Since Jesus was in the grave for part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday—He could be considered to have been in the grave for three days. One of the principal arguments for Friday is found in Mark 15:42, which notes that Jesus was crucified “the day before the Sabbath.” If that was the weekly Sabbath, i.e. Saturday, then that fact leads to a Friday crucifixion. Another argument for Friday says that verses such as Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 teach that Jesus would rise on the third day; therefore, He would not need to be in the grave a full three days and nights. But while some translations use “on the third day” for these verses, not all do, and not everyone agrees that “on the third day” is the best way to translate these verses. Furthermore, Mark 8:31 says that Jesus will be raised “after” three days.

The Thursday argument expands on the Friday view and argues mainly that there are too many events (some count as many as twenty) happening between Christ's burial and Sunday morning to occur from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Proponents of the Thursday view point out that this is especially a problem when the only full day between Friday and Sunday was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. An extra day or two eliminates that problem. The Thursday advocates could reason thus: suppose you haven't seen a friend since Monday evening. The next time you see him it is Thursday morning and you say, “I haven’t seen you in three days” even though it had technically only been 60 hours (2.5 days). If Jesus was crucified on Thursday, this example shows how it could be considered three days.

The Wednesday opinion states that there were two Sabbaths that week. After the first one (the one that occurred on the evening of the crucifixion [Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54]), the women purchased spices—note that they made their purchase after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1). The Wednesday view holds that this “Sabbath” was the Passover (see Leviticus 16:29-31, 23:24-32, 39, where high holy days that are not necessarily the seventh day of the week are referred to as the Sabbath). The second Sabbath that week was the normal weekly Sabbath. Note that in Luke 23:56 the women who had purchased spices after the first Sabbath returned and prepared the spices, then “rested on the Sabbath.” The argument states that they could not purchase the spices after the Sabbath, yet prepare those spices before the Sabbath—unless there were two Sabbaths. With the two-Sabbath view, if Christ was crucified on Thursday, then the high holy Sabbath (the Passover) would have begun Thursday at sundown and ended at Friday sundown—at the beginning of the weekly Sabbath or Saturday. Purchasing the spices after the first Sabbath (Passover) would have meant they purchased them on Saturday and were breaking the Sabbath.

Therefore, according to the Wednesday viewpoint, the only explanation that does not violate the biblical account of the women and the spices and holds to a literal understanding of Matthew 12:40 is that Christ was crucified on Wednesday. The Sabbath that was a high holy day (Passover) occurred on Thursday, the women purchased spices (after that) on Friday and returned and prepared the spices on the same day, they rested on Saturday which was the weekly Sabbath, then brought the spices to the tomb early Sunday. Jesus was buried near sundown on Wednesday, which began Thursday in the Jewish calendar. Using a Jewish calendar, you have Thursday night (night one), Thursday day (day one), Friday night (night two), Friday day (day two), Saturday night (night three), Saturday day (day three). We do not know exactly what time He rose, but we do know that it was before sunrise on Sunday. He could have risen as early as just after sunset Saturday evening, which began the first day of the week to the Jews. The discovery of the empty tomb was made just at sunrise (Mark 16:2), before it was fully light (John 20:1).

A possible problem with the Wednesday view is that the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did so on “the same day” of His resurrection (Luke 24:13). The disciples, who do not recognize Jesus, tell Him of Jesus' crucifixion (24:21) and say that “today is the third day since these things happened” (24:22). Wednesday to Sunday is four days. A possible explanation is that they may have been counting since Wednesday evening at Christ's burial, which begins the Jewish Thursday, and Thursday to Sunday could be counted as three days.

In the grand scheme of things, it is not all that important to know what day of the week Christ was crucified. If it were very important, then God's Word would have clearly communicated the day and timeframe. What is important is that He did die and that He physically, bodily rose from the dead. What is equally important is the reason He died—to take the punishment that all sinners deserve. John 3:16 and 3:36 both proclaim that putting your trust in Him results in eternal life! This is equally true whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!


06/30/19

Question: "What were the key events in the life of Jesus Christ? (part 1)"

Answer:The following are the key events in the life of Christ and the Bible books where each is described (Part 1):

Birth:(Matthew 1—2; Luke 2) – Within these passages are all the elements of the well-known Christmas story, the beginning of the earthly life of Christ. Mary and Joseph, no room at the inn, the babe in the manger, the shepherds with their flocks, a multitude of angels rejoicing. We also see wise men from the East following the star to Bethlehem and bearing gifts for the Christ child, and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus escape to Egypt and later return to Nazareth. These passages also include Jesus being presented at the temple at eight days old and, at twelve years old, remaining behind at the temple speaking with the teachers there. The story of the birth of the Savior two thousand years ago is amazing, filled with exquisite and meaningful details treasured by those present as well as believers millennia after. But the story of God coming to earth as a man began thousands of years earlier with the prophecies of the coming Messiah. God spoke of a Savior in Genesis 3:15. Centuries later, Isaiah foretold of a virgin who would conceive and bear a son and call His name Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). The first of the key events in the life of Christ is the humble beginning in a stable, when God came to be with us, born to set His people free and to save us from our sins. 

Baptism:(Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23) – Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan River is the first act of His public ministry. John’s was a baptism of repentance, and although Jesus did not need such a baptism, He consented to it in order to identify Himself with sinners. In fact, when John balked that Jesus wanted to be baptized by him, saying that it was he, John, who should be baptized by Jesus, Jesus insisted. Jesus said, "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness," so John did as requested (Matthew 3:13-15). In His baptism, Jesus identified with the sinners whose sins He would soon bear on the cross where He would exchange His righteousness for their sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). The baptism of Christ symbolized His death and resurrection, prefigured and lent importance to Christian baptism, and publicly identified Christ with those for whom He would die. In addition, His identity as the long-awaited Messiah was confirmed by God Himself who spoke from heaven: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Finally, Jesus’ baptism was the scene of the very first appearance of the Trinity to man. The Son was baptized, the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. The Father’s command, the Son’s obedience, and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment present a beautiful picture of the ministry and life of Christ. 

First miracle:(John 2:1-11) – It is fitting that John’s Gospel is the only one that records Jesus’ first miracle. John’s account of the life of Christ has as its theme and purpose to reveal the deity of Christ. This event, where Jesus turns water into wine, shows His divine power over the elements of the earth, the same power that would be revealed again in many more miracles of healing and the control of the elements such as wind and the sea. John goes on to tell us that this first miracle had two outcomes—the glory of Christ was manifest and the disciples believed in Him (John 2:11). The divine, glorified nature of Christ was hidden when He assumed human form, but in instances such as this miracle, His true nature burst forth and was made manifest to all who had eyes to see (Matthew 13:16). The disciples always believed in Jesus, but the miracles helped to strengthen their faith and prepare them for the difficult times that lay ahead of them.

Sermon on the Mount:(Matthew 5:1-7:29) – Perhaps the most famous sermon of all time was preached by Jesus to His disciples early in His public ministry. Many memorable phrases that we know today came from this sermon, including “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” “salt of the earth,” “an eye for an eye,” “the lilies of the field,” “ask and you will receive,” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” as well as the concepts of going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Also in the sermon is the Lord’s Prayer. Most importantly, though, the Sermon on the Mount dealt a devastating blow to the Pharisees and their religion of works-righteousness. By expounding the spirit of the Law and not just the letter of it, Jesus left no doubt that legalism is of no avail for salvation and that, in fact, the demands of the Law are humanly impossible to meet. He ends the sermon with a call to true faith for salvation and a warning that the way to that salvation is narrow and few find it. Jesus compares those who hear His words and put them into practice to wise builders who build their houses on a solid foundation; when storms come, their houses withstand.

PART II

Question: "What is Christology?"

Answer:The word "Christology" comes from two Greek words meaning "Christ / Messiah" and "word" - which combine to mean "the study of Christ." Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the words "I am God," He made many other statements that can't be properly interpreted to mean anything else.

What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Why is the virgin birth so important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.

What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God's Son in the sense of how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God's Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ. It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die - and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well.

An in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer's daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in Him.


PART III 

Question: "How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?"

Answer:The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Many Christians are understandably confused when it comes to understanding how Jesus can be God and man at the same time. How could our divine Creator become a human? Could a first-century Jewish man really be God? While a certain amount of mystery will always accompany this issue, both Scripture and, to a lesser extent, church tradition provide for us important distinctions to help us make sense of this matter.

While previous church councils had deliberated over issues pertaining to the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Father, it was the Council of Chalcedon (AD 481) that affirmed that Christ is “the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man.” This statement is not true simply because the council taught it. Rather, the council’s declaration was authoritative only insofar as it aligned with what the Bible teaches on the subject. Scripture is clear that Jesus is God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8), and it is equally clear that He is truly human (Romans 1:2–4; 1 John 4:2–3). Jesus claimed the divine name (John 8:58) and did things that only God can do (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 7:48–50). But Jesus also displayed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities common to humanity (Luke 19:41; John 19:28).

The belief that Jesus is both God and man is of fundamental importance. The apostle Paul wrote that an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus is required to be saved (Romans 10:9), and the apostle John provided a sober warning that those who deny Christ’s true humanity are promoting the doctrine of antichrist (2 John 1:7).

The Triune God of the Bible has existed and reigned from all eternity, and the second Person of the Trinity, the Son, took on human flesh at a particular point in time (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 1:5). God the Son added a sinless human nature to His eternally existent divine nature. The result was the Incarnation. God the Son became a man (John 1:1, 14). Hebrews 2:17 gives the reason that Jesus had to be both God and man: “He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” The Son of God took on human flesh to provide redemption to those under the law (Galatians 4:4–5).

At no time did Jesus ever cease to be God. Although He was made fully human, there was never a point when He abrogated His divine nature (see Luke 6:5, 8). It is equally true that, after becoming incarnate, the Son has never ceased to be human. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manChrist Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, emphasis added). Jesus is not half-human and half-divine. Rather, He is Theanthropos, the God-man. The Lord Jesus Christ is one eternally divine Person who will forever possess two distinct yet inseparable natures: one divine and one human.


PART IV

Question: "What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?"

Answer:The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man.

Jesus' two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person. Jesus' humanity and divinity are not mixed, but are united without loss of separate identity. Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity (John 4:6, 19:28) and other times in the power of His deity (John 11:43; Matthew 14:18-21). In both, Jesus' actions were from His one Person. Jesus had two natures, but only one personality.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is an attempt to explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time. It is ultimately, though, a doctrine we are incapable of fully understanding. It is impossible for us to fully understand how God works. We, as human beings with finite minds, should not expect to totally comprehend an infinite God. Jesus is God's Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But that does not mean Jesus did not exist before He was conceived. Jesus has always existed (John 8:58, 10:30). When Jesus was conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus is both God and man. Jesus has always been God, but He did not become a human being until He was conceived in Mary. Jesus became a human being in order to identify with us in our struggles (Hebrews 2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11). In summary, the hypostatic union teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


06/29/19

Question: "Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?"

Answer:The Bible never records Jesus saying the precise words, “I am God.” That does not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Take for example Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming—deity. When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence. John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!” Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Leviticus 24:16).

John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “The Word [Jesus] was God” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). These verses clearly indicate that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. And this same verse declares that God purchased His church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!

Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (see also 2 Peter 1:1). In Hebrews 1:8, the Father declares of Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” The Father refers to Jesus as “O God,” indicating that Jesus is indeed God.

In Revelation, an angel instructed the apostle John to only worship God (Revelation 19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation did. There are many other passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.

The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that, if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). A created being, which Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death.


PART II 

Question: "Is the deity of Christ biblical?"

Answer:In addition to Jesus' specific claims about Himself, His disciples also acknowledged the deity of Christ. They claimed that Jesus had the right to forgive sins'something only God can do"as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; Psalm 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the one who will "judge the living and the dead" (2 Timothy 4:1). Thomas cried out to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus "great God and Savior" (Titus 2:13) and points out that prior to His incarnation Jesus existed in the "form of God" (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Father says regarding Jesus: "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8). John states that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God" (John 1:1). Examples of Scriptures that teach the deity of Christ are many (see Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Psalm 18:2, 95:1; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20), but even one of these is enough to show that Christ was considered to be God by His followers.

Jesus is also given titles that are unique to YHWH (the formal name of God) in the Old Testament. The Old Testament title "redeemer" (Psalm 130:7; Hosea 13:14) is used of Jesus in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; Revelation 5:9). Jesus is called Immanuel""God with us""in Matthew 1. In Zechariah 12:10, it is YHWH who says, "They will look on me, the one they have pierced." But the New Testament applies this to Jesus' crucifixion (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). If it is YHWH who is pierced and looked upon, and Jesus was the one pierced and looked upon, then Jesus is YHWH. Paul interprets Isaiah 45:22-23 as applying to Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11. Further, Jesus' name is used alongside God's in prayer "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2). This would be blasphemy if Christ were not deity. The name of Jesus appears with God's in Jesus' commanded to baptize "in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19; see also 2 Corinthians 13:14).

Actions that can be accomplished only by God are credited to Jesus. Jesus not only raised the dead (John 5:21, 11:38-44) and forgave sins (Acts 5:31, 13:38), He created and sustains the universe (John 1:2; Colossians 1:16-17). This becomes even clearer when one considers YHWH said He was alone during creation (Isaiah 44:24). Further, Christ possesses attributes that only deity can have: eternality (John 8:58), omnipresence (Matthew 18:20, 28:20), omniscience (Matthew 16:21), and omnipotence (John 11:38-44).

Now, it is one thing to claim to be God or to fool someone into believing it is true, and something else entirely to prove it to be so. Christ offered many miracles as proof of His claim to deity. Just a few of Jesus' miracles include turning water to wine (John 2:7), walking on water (Matthew 14:25), multiplying physical objects (John 6:11), healing the blind (John 9:7), the lame (Mark 2:3), and the sick (Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:40-42), and even raising people from the dead (John 11:43-44; Luke 7:11-15; Mark 5:35). Moreover, Christ Himself rose from the dead. Far from the so-called dying and rising gods of pagan mythology, nothing like the resurrection is seriously claimed by other religions, and no other claim has as much extra-scriptural confirmation.

There are at least twelve historical facts about Jesus that even non-Christian critical scholars will admit:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

2. He was buried.

3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

4. Jesus' tomb was discovered (or was claimed to be discovered) to be empty a few days later.

5. The disciples believed they experienced appearances of the risen Jesus.

6. After this, the disciples were transformed from doubters into bold believers.

7. This message was the center of preaching in the early Church.

8. This message was preached in Jerusalem.

9. As a result of this preaching, the Church was born and it grew.

10. Resurrection day, Sunday, replaced the Sabbath (Saturday) as the primary day of worship.

11. James, a skeptic, was converted when he also believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus.

12. Paul, an enemy of Christianity, was converted by an experience which he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Even if someone were to object to this specific list, only a few are needed to prove the resurrection and establish the gospel: Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). While there may be some theories to explain one or two of the above facts, only the resurrection explains and accounts for them all. Critics admit that the disciples claimed they saw the risen Jesus. Neither lies nor hallucinations can transform people the way the resurrection did. First, what would they have had to gain? Christianity was not popular and it certainly did not make them any money. Second, liars do not make good martyrs. There is no better explanation than the resurrection for the disciples" willingness to die horrible deaths for their faith. Yes, many people die for lies that they think are true, but people do not die for what they know is untrue.

In conclusion, Christ claimed He was YHWH, that He was deity (not just "a god" but the one true God); His followers (Jews who would have been terrified of idolatry) believed Him and referred to Him as God. Christ proved His claims to deity through miracles, including the world-altering resurrection. No other hypothesis can explain these facts. Yes, the deity of Christ is biblical.


PART III 

Question: "What are the strongest biblical arguments for the divinity of Christ?"

Answer:That the New Testament is full of references to the divinity of Christ is difficult to deny. From the four canonical Gospels through the book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles, Jesus is not only seen as the Messiah (or Christ) but also equated with God Himself. The apostle Paul refers to the divinity of Christ when he calls Jesus our "great God and Savior" (Titus 2:13) and even says that Jesus existed in the "form of God" prior to His incarnation (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Father says regarding Jesus, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8). Jesus is directly referred to as the Creator Himself (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). Other biblical passages teach Christ's deity (Revelation 1:7; 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 5:4). 

While these direct citations are sufficient to establish that the Bible claims Jesus is divine, a more indirect approach may prove to be more powerful. Jesus repeatedly placed Himself in the place of Yahweh by assuming the Father’s divine prerogatives. He was often doing and saying things that only God has a right to do and say. Jesus also referred to Himself in ways that hinted at His deity. Some of these instances provide us with the strongest proof of Jesus' divine self-understanding. 

In Mark 14, Jesus stands accused at His trial before the High Priest. “Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61-62). Here, Jesus is referring to the Old Testament book of Daniel where the prophet Daniel states, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14). 

In this reference to Daniel's vision, Jesus is identifying Himself as the Son of Man, a person who was given “dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.” The Son of Man has a dominion that is everlasting and will not pass away. One immediately wonders what kind of person has a dominion that is everlasting. What kind of a person is given a kingdom and will have all men serve Him? The High Priest, who immediately recognized Jesus’ claim to divinity, tore his robe and declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy. 

Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" has surprisingly strong apologetic value. A skeptic of Christ's deity cannot easily dismiss this particular self-designation of Jesus. That Christ referred to Himself in this manner enjoys multiple attestations, as it is found in all of the Gospel sources. The phrase "Son of Man" is used of Jesus only a few times outside of the Gospels themselves (Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13; 14:14). Given its scarce usage by the early apostolic church, it is unlikely that this title would have been read back into the lips of Jesus if, in fact, He had not used this particular self-designation. And yet, if it is established that Jesus really did use this title of Himself, it becomes apparent that Jesus considered Himself to have everlasting power and a unique authority beyond that of a mere human being. 

Sometimes, it was Jesus’ actions that revealed His identity. Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Mark 2 was done to demonstrate His authority and ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:3-12). In the minds of His Jewish audience, such abilities were reserved for God alone. Jesus also receives worship several times in the Gospels (Matthew 2:11; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 20:28). Never did Jesus reject such adoration. Rather, He regarded their worship as well placed. Elsewhere, Jesus taught that the Son of Man will ultimately judge humanity (Matthew 25:31-46) and taught that our eternal destinies depend on our response to Him (Mark 8:34-38). Such behavior is further indication of Jesus' divine self-understanding. 

Jesus also stated that His forthcoming resurrection from the dead would vindicate the very special claims that He made for Himself (Matthew 12:38-40). After having been crucified and buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead, establishing His claims to deity.

The evidence for this miraculous event is very powerful. Numerous contemporary sources report Jesus’ post-crucifixion appearances to both individuals and groups under various circumstances (1 Corinthians 15:3-7; Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:26-30, 21:1-14; Acts 1:3-6). Many of these witnesses were willing to die for this belief, and several of them did! Clement of Rome and the Jewish historian Josephus provide us with first-century reports of several of their martyrdoms. All of the theories used to explain away the evidence for the resurrection (such as the Hallucination Theory) have failed to explain all of the known data. The resurrection of Jesus is an established fact of history, and this is the strongest evidence for Jesus’ divinity.


PART IV

Question: "Is Jesus God in the flesh? Why is it important that Jesus is God in the flesh?"

Answer:Since Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), the real identity of Jesus Christ has always been questioned by skeptics. It began with Mary's fiancé, Joseph, who was afraid to marry her when she revealed that she was pregnant (Matthew 1:18-24). He took her as his wife only after the angel confirmed to him that the child she carried was the Son of God.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of God's Son: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). When the angel spoke to Joseph and announced the impending birth of Jesus, he alluded to Isaiah’s prophecy: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)" (Matthew 1:23). This did not mean they were to name the baby Immanuel; it meant that "God with us" was the baby’s identity. Jesus was God coming in the flesh to dwell with man.

Jesus Himself understood the speculation about His identity. He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27). The answers varied, as they do today. Then Jesus asked a more pressing question: "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Peter gave the right answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Jesus affirmed the truth of Peter’s answer and promised that, upon that truth, He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).

The true nature and identity of Jesus Christ has eternal significance. Every person must answer the question Jesus asked His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?"

He gave us the correct answer in many ways. In John 14:9-10, Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

The Bible is clear about the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 1:1-14). Philippians 2:6-7 says that, although Jesus was "in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Colossians 2:9 says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

Jesus is fully God and fully man, and the fact of His incarnation is of utmost importance. He lived a human life but did not possess a sin nature as we do. He was tempted but never sinned (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15). Sin entered the world through Adam, and Adam’s sinful nature has been transferred to every baby born into the world (Romans 5:12)—except for Jesus. Because Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit a sin nature. He possessed the divine nature from His Heavenly Father.

Jesus had to meet all the requirements of a holy God before He could be an acceptable sacrifice for our sin (John 8:29; Hebrews 9:14). He had to fulfill over three hundred prophecies about the Messiah that God, through the prophets, had foretold (Matthew 4:13-14; Luke 22:37; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2).

Since the fall of man (Genesis 3:21-23), the only way to be made right with God has been the blood of an innocent sacrifice (Leviticus 9:2; Numbers 28:19; Deuteronomy 15:21; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was the final, perfect sacrifice that satisfied forever God's wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:14). His divine nature made Him fit for the work of Redeemer; His human body allowed Him to shed the blood necessary to redeem. No human being with a sin nature could pay such a debt. No one else could meet the requirements to become the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (Matthew 26:28; 1 John 2:2). If Jesus were merely a good man as some claim, then He had a sin nature and was not perfect. In that case, His death and resurrection would have no power to save anyone.

Because Jesus was God in the flesh, He alone could pay the debt we owed to God. His victory over death and the grave won the victory for everyone who puts their trust in Him (John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17).


PART V

Question: "What does it mean that the Word became flesh (John 1:14)?"

Answer:The term wordis used in different ways in the Bible. In the New Testament, there are two Greek words translated "word": rhemaand logos. They have slightly different meanings. Rhema usually means “a spoken word.” For example, in Luke 1:38, when the angel told Mary that she would be the mother of God's Son, Mary replied, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word [rhema].”

Logos, however, has a broader, more philosophical meaning. This is the term used in John 1. It usually implies a total message, and is used mostly in reference to God's message to mankind. For example, Luke 4:32 says that, when Jesus taught the people, "they were amazed at his teaching, because his words [logos] had authority." The people were amazed not merely by the particular words Jesus chose but by His total message.

"The Word" (Logos) in John 1 is referring to Jesus. Jesus is the total Message—everything that God wants to communicate to man. The first chapter of John gives us a glimpse inside the Father/Son relationship before Jesus came to earth in human form. He preexisted with the Father (verse 1), He was involved in the creation of everything (verse 3), and He is the "light of all mankind" (verse 4). The Word (Jesus) is the full embodiment of all that is God (Colossians 1:19; 2:9; John 14:9). But God the Father is Spirit. He is invisible to the human eye. The message of love and redemption that God spoke through the prophets had gone unheeded for centuries (Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 23:37). People found it easy to disregard the message of an invisible God and continued in their sin and rebellion. So the Message became flesh, took on human form, and came to dwell among us (Matthew 1:23; Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:5–11).

The Greeks used the word logosto refer to one’s “mind,” “reason,” or “wisdom.” John used this Greek concept to communicate the fact that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the self-expression of God to the world. In the Old Testament, the word of God brought the universe into existence (Psalm 33:6) and saved the needy (Psalm 107:20). In chapter 1 of his Gospel, John is appealing to both Jew and Gentile to receive the eternal Christ.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 20:9–16 to explain why the Word had to become flesh. “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

In this parable, Jesus was reminding the Jewish leaders that they had rejected the prophets and were now rejecting the Son. The Logos, the Word of God, was now going to be offered to everyone, not just the Jews (John 10:16; Galatians 2:28; Colossians 3:11). Because the Word became flesh, we have a high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!!


06/28/19

Question: "Who is Jesus Christ?"

Answer:Unlike the question "Does God exist?" very few people question whether Jesus Christ existed. It is generally accepted that Jesus was truly a man who walked on the earth in Israel 2000 years ago. The debate begins when the subject of Jesus' full identity is discussed. Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet or a good teacher or a godly man. The problem is that the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianitywrites the following: "I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic"on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg"or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to."

So, who did Jesus claim to be? Who does the Bible say He is? First, let's look at Jesus' words in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one." At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God. However, look at the Jews" reaction to His statement, ""We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God"" (John 10:33). The Jews understood Jesus' statement as a claim to be God. In the following verses, Jesus never corrects the Jews by saying, "I did not claim to be God." That indicates Jesus was truly saying He was God by declaring, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). John 8:58 is another example: ""I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"" Again, in response, the Jews took up stones in an attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59). Jesus' announcing His identity as "I am" is a direct application of the Old Testament name for God (Exodus 3:14). Why would the Jews again want to stone Jesus if He had not said something they believed to be blasphemous, namely, a claim to be God?

John 1:1 says "the Word was God." John 1:14 says "the Word became flesh." This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh. Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. The apostle Paul describes Him as, ""our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). The apostle Peter says the same, ""our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). God the Father is witness of Jesus' full identity as well, "But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."" Old Testament prophecies of Christ announce His deity, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

So, as C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be only a good teacher is not an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If He is not God, then He is a liar, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. In attempts to explain away the words of Jesus, modern "scholars" claim the "true historical Jesus' did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to Him. Who are we to argue with God's Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can a "scholar" two thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus Himself (John 14:26)?

Why is the question over Jesus' true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God? The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Only God could pay such an infinite penalty (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus' deity is why He is the only way of salvation. Jesus' deity is why He proclaimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).


PART II 

Question: "Is Jesus the Messiah?"

Answer:Jesus is called the Messiah in Matthew 1:16. In fact, every time someone says, “Jesus Christ,” he is referring to Jesus as the Messiah, since Christ means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” The Old Testament predicts the Messiah, and the New Testament reveals the Messiah to be Jesus of Nazareth.

There are several things that the Jewish people who anticipated the Messiah expected Him to be, based on Old Testament prophecies. The Messiah would be a Hebrew man (Isaiah 9:6) born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), a prophet akin to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), a king (Isaiah 11:1–4), and the Son of David (Matthew 22:42) who suffered before entering His glory (Isaiah 53). Jesus met each of these messianic requirements.

Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Messiah in that He was a Hebrew of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:30), and He was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4–7) to a virgin (Luke 1:26–27).

Another proof that Jesus was the Messiah is the fact that He was a prophet like Moses. Both Moses and Jesus were prophets “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10; cf. John 8:38). But Jesus is an even greater prophet than Moses in that, while Moses delivered Israel from slavery, Jesus frees us from the bondage of death and sin. Unlike Moses, Jesus didn’t just represent God—He is God (John 10:30). Jesus doesn’t just lead us to the Promised Land; He takes us up to heaven for eternity (John 14:1–3). For these and many more reasons, Jesus is a prophet greater than Moses.

The Messiah was to have priestly duties; Jesus was not a Levite, and only Levites were allowed to be priests. So how could Jesus qualify? Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20). Melchizedek predated the Jewish temple, and his very name means “King of Righteousness.” Melchizedek was also called the “King of Salem,” which means “King of Peace” (Hebrews 7:2). Melchizedek blessed Abraham (the greater blesses the lesser, Hebrews 7:7), and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe. Thus, as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus is greater than Abraham (see John 8:58) and the Levitical priesthood. He is a heavenly priest who offered a sacrifice that removes sin permanently, not just temporarily covers it.

Jesus must also be a king in order to be the Messiah. Jesus was from Judah, the kingly tribe. When Jesus was born, wise men from the East came looking for the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1–2). Jesus taught that He would one day sit on a glorious throne (Matthew 19:28; 25:31). Many people in Israel saw Jesus as their long-awaited king and expected Him to set up His rule immediately (Luke 19:11), although Jesus’ kingdom is currently not of this world (John 18:36). At the end of Jesus’ life, during His trial before Pilate, Jesus did not defend Himself except to answer affirmatively when Pilate asked if He was the King of the Jews (Mark 15:2).

Another way Jesus fits the Old Testament description of the Messiah is that He was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. On the cross Jesus was “despised” and “held . . . in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). He was “pierced” (verse 5) and “oppressed and afflicted” (verse 7). He died with thieves yet was buried in a rich man’s tomb (verse 9; cf. Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:57–60). After His suffering and death, Jesus the Messiah was resurrected (Isaiah 53:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4) and glorified (Isaiah 53:12). Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest prophecies identifying Jesus as the Messiah; it is the very passage that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Philip met him and explained to him about Jesus (Acts 8:26–35).

There are other ways in which Jesus is shown to be the Messiah. Each of the feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament is related to and fulfilled by Jesus. When Jesus came the first time, He was our Passover Lamb (John 1:29), our Unleavened Bread (John 6:35), and our First Fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). The pouring out of Christ’s Spirit happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). When Jesus the Messiah returns, we will hear the shout of the archangel and the trumpet of God. It is no coincidence that the first fall festival day is Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. After Jesus returns, He will judge the earth. This is the fulfillment of the next fall festival, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Then Jesus will set up His millennial kingdom and reign from the throne of David for 1,000 years; that will complete the final fall festival, Sukkotor the Feast of Tabernacles, when God dwells with us.

To those of us who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, the proof that He is the Jewish Messiah seems overwhelming. How is it that, generally speaking, the Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah? Both Isaiah and Jesus prophesied a spiritual blindness upon Israel as a judgment for their lack of faith (Isaiah 6:9–10; Matthew 13:13–15). Also, most of the Jews of Jesus’ time were looking for a political and cultural savior, not a Savior from sin. They wanted Jesus to throw off the yoke of Rome and establish Zion as the capital of the world (see Acts 1:6). They could not see how the meek and lowly Jesus could possibly do that.

The story of Joseph provides an interesting parallel to the Jews’ missing their Messiah. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and after many ups and downs he was made prime minister of all of Egypt. When a famine hit both Egypt and Israel, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt to get food, and they met with Joseph—but they did not recognize him. Their own brother, standing right in front of them, yet they were oblivious. They did not recognize Joseph for a very simple reason: he did not look as they expected him to look. Joseph was dressed as an Egyptian; he spoke as an Egyptian; he lived as an Egyptian. The thought that he might be their long-lost brother never crossed their minds—Joseph was a Hebrew shepherd, after all, not Egyptian royalty. In a similar way, most Jewish people did not (and do not) recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They were looking for an earthly king, not the ruler of a spiritual kingdom. (Many rabbis interpret the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the Jewish people who have suffered at the hands of the world.) Their blindness was so great that no amount of miracles made a difference (Matthew 11:20).

Still, there were many in Jesus’ day who saw the truth about Jesus. The Bethlehem shepherds saw (Luke 2:16–17). Simeon in the temple saw (verse 34). Anna saw and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (verse 38). Peter and the other disciples saw (Matthew 16:16). May many more continue to see that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).


PART III 

Question: "Did Jesus really exist? Is there any historical evidence of Jesus Christ?"

Answer:Typically, when this question is asked, the person asking qualifies the question with "outside of the Bible." We do not grant this idea that the Bible cannot be considered a source of evidence for the existence of Jesus. The New Testament contains hundreds of references to Jesus Christ. There are those who date the writing of the Gospels to the second century A.D., more than 100 years after Jesus' death. Even if this were the case (which we strongly dispute), in terms of ancient evidences, writings less than 200 years after events took place are considered very reliable evidences. Further, the vast majority of scholars (Christian and non-Christian) will grant that the Epistles of Paul (at least some of them) were in fact written by Paul in the middle of the first century A.D., less than 40 years after Jesus' death. In terms of ancient manuscript evidence, this is extraordinarily strong proof of the existence of a man named Jesus in Israel in the early first century A.D.

It is also important to recognize that in A.D. 70, the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and most of Israel, slaughtering its inhabitants. Entire cities were literally burned to the ground. We should not be surprised, then, if much evidence of Jesus' existence was destroyed. Many of the eyewitnesses of Jesus would have been killed. These facts likely limited the amount of surviving eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

Considering that Jesus' ministry was largely confined to a relatively unimportant area in a small corner of the Roman Empire, a surprising amount of information about Jesus can be drawn from secular historical sources. Some of the more important historical evidences of Jesus include the following:

The first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentioned superstitious "Christians" (from Christus, which is Latin for Christ), who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, wrote that there was a man named Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century (Annals15.44).

Flavius Josephus is the most famous Jewish historian. In his Antiquitieshe refers to James, "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ." There is a controversial verse (18:3) that says, "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats....He was [the] Christ...he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him." One version reads, "At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

Julius Africanus quotes the historian Thallus in a discussion of the darkness that followed the crucifixion of Christ (Extant Writings, 18).

Pliny the Younger, in Letters10:96, recorded early Christian worship practices including the fact that Christians worshiped Jesus as God and were very ethical, and he includes a reference to the love feast and Lord's Supper.

The Babylonian Talmud(Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus' crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who admits that Jesus was worshiped by Christians, introduced new teachings, and was crucified for them. He said that Jesus' teachings included the brotherhood of believers, the importance of conversion, and the importance of denying other gods. Christians lived according to Jesus' laws, believed themselves to be immortal, and were characterized by contempt for death, voluntary self-devotion, and renunciation of material goods.

Mara Bar-Serapion confirms that Jesus was thought to be a wise and virtuous man, was considered by many to be the king of Israel, was put to death by the Jews, and lived on in the teachings of His followers.

Then we have all the Gnostic writings (The Gospel of Truth, The Apocryphon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, The Treatise on Resurrection,etc.) that all mention Jesus.

In fact, we can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources: Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus), did "magic," led Israel into new teachings, and was hanged on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus), but claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed, worshipping Him as God (Pliny the Younger).

There is overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, both in secular and biblical history. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Jesus did exist is the fact that literally thousands of Christians in the first century AD, including the twelve apostles, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ. People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.


PART IV

Question: "Is Jesus real?"

Answer:Jesus is a real person. He is one of the most complicated, discussed, and revered of historical figures. Most scholars, Christian, non-Christian, and secular alike, believe that there was a historical Jesus. The evidence is overwhelming. Jesus was written about by ancient historians, including Josephus and Tacitus. From an historical standpoint, there is hardly any question: there really was a man named Jesus who lived in first-century Israel.

The Old Testament predicted the Messiah, a real person who would deliver Israel from their enemies. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), of the tribe of David (Genesis 49:10). He was to be a prophet akin to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), a herald of good news (Isaiah 61:1), and a healer of maladies (Isaiah 35:5–6). The Messiah would be a godly Servant who suffered before entering His glory (Isaiah 53). Jesus is the real person who really fulfilled these prophecies.

The New Testament contains hundreds of references to Jesus Christ as a real person. The earliest gospel may have been written within 10 years of Jesus’ death, and the earliest of Paul’s epistles was written about 25 years after Jesus’ death. This is important because it means that, as the gospels were circulating, there were plenty of eyewitnesses still alive who could verify the truth of the gospel accounts (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).

The manuscript evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament is overwhelming: there are about 25,000 early manuscripts of the New Testament. In comparison, the Gallic Warswritten by Caesar in the first century BC, only has 10 early manuscripts existing—and the earliest one of those was written 1,000 years after the original. Similarly, Aristotle’s Poeticsonly has five early manuscripts in existence, dating to 1,400 years after the original. Those who doubt that Jesus is real must also question the existence of Julius Caesar and Aristotle.

Outside of the Bible, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran and in the writings of Judaism, Gnosticism, and Hinduism. Early historians considered Jesus to be real. The first-century Roman historian Tacitus mentioned the followers of Christ. Flavius Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, refers to Christ in his Antiquities of the Jews. Other references to Jesus exist in the writings of Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian; Julius Africanus, quoting the historian Thallus; Lucian of Samosata, a second-century Greek writer; Pliny the Younger; and Mara Bar-Serapion.

No other historical figure has had as much impact on the world as Jesus Christ. Whether one uses BC (Before Christ) or BCE (Before Common Era), the whole Western dating system is measured from one event: the birth of Jesus, a real person. In the name of Jesus have been founded countless orphanages, hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, homeless shelters, emergency relief agencies, and other charitable organizations. Millions of people can give personal testimonies of Jesus’ continuing work in their own lives.

There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus is real, both in secular and biblical history. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Jesus existed and that He did what the Bible says He did is the testimony of the early church. Literally thousands of Christians in the first century, including the twelve apostles, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for the gospel of Jesus Christ. People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

We are called to have faith—not a blind faith in a make-believe story—but genuine faith in a real Person who lived in a real place in a real time in history. This Man, who proved His divine origin through the signs He performed and the prophecies He fulfilled, died on a Roman cross, was buried in a Jewish tomb, and rose again for our justification. Jesus is real. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).


PART V

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus saves?"

Answer:“Jesus saves” is a popular slogan on bumper stickers, signs at athletic events, and even banners being pulled across the sky by small airplanes. Sadly, few who see the phrase “Jesus saves” truly and fully understand what it means. There is a tremendous amount of power and truth packed into those two words.

Jesus saves, but who is Jesus?

Most people understand that Jesus was a man who lived in Israel approximately 2,000 years ago. Virtually every religion in the world views Jesus as a good teacher and/or a prophet. And while those things are most definitely true of Jesus, they do not capture who Jesus truly is, nor do they explain how or why Jesus saves. Jesus is God in human form (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God, come to Earth, as a true human being (1 John 4:2). God became a human being in the person of Jesus in order to save us. That brings up the next question: why do we need to be saved?

Jesus saves, but why do we need to be saved?

The Bible declares that every human being who has ever lived has sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). To sin is to do something, whether in thought, word, or deed, that contradicts God’s perfect and holy character. Because of our sin, we all deserve judgment from God (John 3:18, 36). God is perfectly just, so He cannot allow sin and evil to go unpunished. Since God is infinite and eternal, and since all sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4), only an infinite and eternal punishment is sufficient. Eternal death is the only just punishment for sin. That is why we need to be saved.

Jesus saves, but how does He save?

Because we have sinned against an infinite God, either a finite person (us) must pay for our sins for an infinite amount of time, or an infinite Person (Jesus) must pay for our sins one time. There is no other option. Jesus saves us by dying in our place. In the person of Jesus Christ, God sacrificed Himself on our behalf, paying the infinite and eternal penalty only He could pay (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). Jesus took the punishment that we deserve in order to save us from a horrible eternal destiny, the just consequence of our sin. Because of His great love for us, Jesus laid down His life (John 15:13), paying the penalty that we had earned, but could not pay. Jesus was then resurrected, demonstrating that His death was indeed sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Corinthians 15).

Jesus saves, but whom does He save?

Jesus saves all who will receive His gift of salvation. Jesus saves all those who fully trust in His sacrifice alone as the payment for sin (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). While Jesus’ sacrifice was perfectly sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity, Jesus only saves those who personally receive His most precious of gifts (John 1:12).

If you now understand what it means that Jesus saves, and you want to trust in Him as your personal Savior, make sure you understand and believe the following, and as an act of faith, communicate the following to God: “God, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that because of my sin I deserve to be eternally separated from you. Even though I do not deserve it, thank you for loving me and providing the sacrifice for my sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I trust in Him alone to save me. From this point forward, help me to live my life for you instead of for sin. Help me to live the rest of my life in gratitude for the wonderful salvation you have provided. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me!”

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!


06/27/19

Question: "What is the importance of the empty tomb?"

Answer:From the earliest apostolic period, the reality of the empty tomb—the biblical truth that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty by His disciples—has been at the center of the Christian proclamation. All four Gospels describe, to varying degrees, the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1–6; Mark 16:1–7; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–12). But are there any good reasons to think that these claims are historically accurate? Could a fair-minded investigator conclude that, in all probability, Jesus’ tomb was found empty on that first Easter morning? There are several arguments that have convinced a good many historians that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was indeed found empty on the Sunday following His crucifixion.

First, the location of Jesus’ tomb would have been known to Christians and non-Christians alike. While it is true that most victims of crucifixion were either thrown in a graveyard reserved for common criminals or simply left on the cross for birds and other scavengers to feed upon, the case of Jesus was different. The historical record indicates that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the very group that had orchestrated Jesus’ execution. Many skeptical New Testament scholars have been convinced that Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to have been a Christian fabrication. Given the understandable hostility of the earliest Christians toward the Sanhedrin, whom they felt were largely responsible for their Master’s death, it is unlikely that Jesus’ followers would have invented a tradition about a member of the Sanhedrin using his own tomb to provide Jesus with a respectable burial.

In addition, recent archaeological discoveries have demonstrated that the style of tomb described in the burial accounts in the Gospels (an acrosoliaor bench tomb) was largely used by the wealthy and other people of prominence. Such a description fits nicely with what we know of Joseph of Arimathea. Moreover, when we couple these considerations with the fact that Arimathea was a town of little importance that lacked any type of scriptural symbolism and that no competing burial tradition exists, any serious doubt that Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb is eliminated.

The significance of these facts should not be overlooked as the Sanhedrin would then have certainly known the location of Joseph’s tomb, and thus, where Jesus had been interred. And if the location of Jesus’ tomb was known to the Jewish authorities, it would have been nearly impossible for the Christian movement to have gained any traction in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus was known to have been buried. Would not any of the Jewish religious leaders have taken the short walk to Joseph’s tomb to verify this claim? Did not the Sanhedrin have every motivation to produce Jesus’ corpse (if it were available) and put an end to these rumors of a resurrected Jesus once and for all? The fact that Christianity began to gain converts in Jerusalem tells us that no corpse had been produced despite the Jewish religious leadership having every motivation to produce one. If Jesus’ crucified body had been produced, the Christian movement, with its emphasis on a resurrected Jesus, would have been dealt a lethal blow.

Second, the empty tomb is implied in the early oral formula quoted by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. While all four Gospels attest to the vacancy of Jesus’ tomb, our earliest hint at the empty tomb comes from the Apostle Paul. Writing to the church at Corinth in approximately AD 55, Paul quotes an oral formula (or creed) that most scholars believe he received from the apostles Peter and James just five years after Jesus’ crucifixion (Galatians 1:18–19). Paul states, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3–5). When Paul writes “…that he was buried, that he was raised…” it is strongly implied (given Paul’s Pharisaical background) that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was empty. As a former Pharisee, Paul would have naturally understood that what goes down in burial comes up in resurrection; he accepted the idea of physical resurrection even before his encounter with Christ. Given that Paul’s source for this creed was most likely the Jerusalem apostles and their proximity to the events in question, Paul’s citation of this oral formula provides strong evidence that Jesus’ tomb had been found empty and that this fact was widely known in the early Christian community. The oft-repeated objection that Paul was unaware of an empty tomb is answered when we see that elsewhere Paul taught that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily in nature (Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:21). For Paul, a resurrection that did not produce a vacant tomb would have been a contradiction in terms.

Third, there appears to be strong enemy attestation of the existence of an empty tomb. The first of these comes from within the pages of the Gospel of Matthew itself where Matthew reports that there was an acknowledgment of the empty tomb by the Jewish leaders themselves (Matthew 28:13–15). They were claiming that the disciples had come and stolen away Jesus’ body. Given the proximity of the writing of Matthew’s Gospel to the event in question, such a claim would have been easy to disprove if untrue. For if Matthew were lying, his report of the Jewish response to the empty tomb proclamation could have easily been discredited as many of the contemporaries of the events in question would still have been alive when Matthew’s Gospel was initially circulating. But why would they accuse the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body if the tomb still contained the dead body of Jesus? The counter-accusation made by the Jews presupposes that the tomb was empty.

That the Jews accused the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body is corroborated by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century (Dialogue with Trypho, 108) and then again around AD 200 by the church father Tertullian (De Spectaculis, 30). Both Justin and Tertullian were interacting with the Jewish debaters of their day and were in a position to know what it was their Jewish opponents were saying. They were not simply relying on Matthew’s Gospel for their information. For both Justin and Tertullian mention specific details not found in the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, all three of these writers cite details not mentioned by the others. Based on these considerations, it appears that there was an early Jewish acknowledgement of an empty tomb.

Fourth, all four Gospels report that the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty by women. This point is especially significant given the patriarchal nature of first-century Palestine. While it is true that, under very limited circumstances, women were allowed to testify in a court of law, it is also the case that, in first-century Jewish society, a woman’s testimony was worth far less than that of a man. If you were making up a story in an attempt to persuade others that Jesus had been resurrected, you would never have used women as your primary witnesses. Any made-up story would have featured male disciples like Peter, John, or Andrew as the discoverers of the empty tomb, as the testimony of men would have provided much-needed credibility to the story.

Yet the Gospels report that, while Jesus’ male disciples were cowering in fear, hiding from the authorities, it was women who were the earliest witnesses of the empty tomb. There would simply be no reason for the early church to concoct such a scenario unless it was true. Why would the early Christians portray their male leadership as cowards and place females in the role of primary witnesses? One of these named female witnesses (Mary Magdalene) was said to have been possessed of seven devils earlier in her life, thus making her an even less reliable witness in the eyes of many. And yet, despite these evidential handicaps, the earliest Christians insisted that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were, in fact, women. The most likely explanation of this insistence is that these women were the initial witness of the empty tomb and that the earliest Christians were unwilling to lie about it despite its potentially embarrassing nature.

All four of these arguments help to provide cumulative proof that the tomb of Jesus Christ was empty on the first Easter. Particularly telling is the conclusion of historian Michael Grant, himself a skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, “…if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was, indeed, found empty.”

Of course, there is more to the story than merely an empty tomb. The reason the tomb was found empty was that the man who was buried there had risen from the dead. Jesus would not only vacate His grave but appear to numerous people individually (Luke 24:34) and in groups (Matthew 28:9; John 20:26–30; 21:1–14; Acts 1:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:3–7). And His resurrection from the dead would be the sure proof that He was who He claimed to be (Matthew 12:38–40; 16:1–4)—the risen Son of God, our only hope of salvation.


PART II 

Question: "What happens after death?"

Answer:Within the Christian faith, there is a significant amount of confusion regarding what happens after death. Some hold that after death, everyone "sleeps" until the final judgment, after which everyone will be sent to heaven or hell. Others believe that at the moment of death, people are instantly judged and sent to their eternal destinations. Still others claim that when people die, their souls/spirits are sent to a "temporary" heaven or hell, to await the final resurrection, the final judgment, and then the finality of their eternal destination. So, what exactly does the Bible say happens after death?

First, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that after death believers" souls/spirits are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describe believers being resurrected and given glorified bodies. If believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, what is the purpose of this resurrection? It seems that while the souls/spirits of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave "sleeping." At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body-soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).

Second, for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. However, similar to the destiny of believers, unbelievers also seem to be sent immediately to a temporary holding place, to await their final resurrection, judgment, and eternal destiny. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation. However, even though unbelievers are not instantly sent to the lake of fire, their immediate fate after death is not a pleasant one. The rich man cried out, "I am in agony in this fire" (Luke 16:24).

Therefore, after death, a person resides in a "temporary" heaven or hell. After this temporary realm, at the final resurrection, a person's eternal destiny will not change. The precise "location" of that eternal destiny is what changes. Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Unbelievers will ultimately be sent to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people"based entirely on whether or not they had trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36)


PART III 

Question: "Where does the saying 'He is risen; He is risen, indeed' come from?"

Answer: A traditional Easter greeting in the Western church is the exclamation “He is risen!” and the traditional response is “He is risen, indeed!” The words are sometimes accompanied by the exchange of three kisses on alternate cheeks, depending on the church. In the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the greeting is called the “Paschal greeting” and is a very old custom.

The greeting is ultimately based on Luke 24:34. Translations throughout church history, from the Latin Vulgate (c. AD 400) to the ESV (2001) have translated this verse nearly identically: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (ESV). Exactly how the saying became a standard greeting in the church is not known, although there are various theories regarding how it came into common usage.

We do know that, at first, the greeting was more common in Eastern and Byzantine liturgies than in the Western church. There is a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church that the saying was made popular by Mary Magdalene when she supposedly addressed Emperor Tiberius in Rome with the words “Christ is risen.”

Using this address should be more than an empty tradition. The words “He is risen!” remind us of the joyous news we celebrate at Easter, that Jesus’ death was not in vain, and that He has the power to overcome death. Saying “He is risen!” allows us to share this incredible truth with each other. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope for salvation and for our own resurrection and eternal life.


PART IV

Question: "What are the different Jewish festivals in the Bible?"

Answer:There are seven Jewish festivals or feasts outlined in the Bible. While they are mentioned throughout Scripture, we find instructions for all seven laid out in Leviticus 23. Leviticus 23:2 refers to the seven Jewish festivals, literally “appointed times,” also called “holy convocations.” These were days appointed and ordained by God to be kept to the honor of His name. These times of celebration are important not only to Israel, but also to the overall message of the Bible, because each one foreshadows or symbolizes an aspect of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The book of Leviticus contains God’s instructions to His chosen nation, Israel, on how they were to worship Him. It contains detailed instructions about the duties of the priests as well as instructions on observing and obeying God’s Law and the sacrificial system. God designated seven specific feasts that Israel was to celebrate each year. Each one of these Jewish festivals is significant both in regards to the Lord’s provision for His people and in regards to the foreshadowing of the coming Messiah and His work in redeeming people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. While Christians are no longer under any obligation to observe any of the Old Testament feasts (Colossians 2:16), we should understand their significance and importance, nonetheless.

The feasts often began and ended with a “Sabbath rest,” and the Jews were commanded to not do any customary work on those days. Both the normal weekly Sabbath and the special Sabbaths that were to be observed as part of the Jewish feasts point us to the ultimate Sabbath rest, which is found only in Jesus Christ. It is a rest that Christians experience through faith in the finished work of Christ upon the cross.

Beginning in the spring, the seven Jewish feasts are Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jewish feasts are closely related to Israel’s spring and fall harvests and agricultural seasons. They were to remind the Israelites each year of God’s ongoing protection and provision. But, even more importantly, they foreshadowed the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Not only did they play significant roles in Christ’s earthly ministry but they also symbolize the complete redemptive story of Christ, beginning with His death on the cross as the Passover Lamb and ending with His second coming after which He will “tabernacle” or dwell with His people forever.

Here is a brief summary of the spiritual significance of each of the seven Jewish festivals or feasts. It is interesting to note that the first three occur back to back, almost simultaneously. The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts the very day after Passover is celebrated. Then, on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits begins.

Passoverreminds us of redemption from sin. It was the time when Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was offered as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is on that basis alone that God can justify the ungodly sinner. Just as the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorpost of Jewish homes caused the Spirit of the Lord to pass over those homes during the last plague on Egypt (Exodus 12), so those covered by the blood of the Lamb will escape the spiritual death and judgment God will visit upon all who reject Him. Of all the Jewish festivals, Passover is of the greatest importance because the Lord’s Supper was a Passover meal (Matthew 26:17–27). In passing the elements and telling the disciples to eat of His body, Jesus was presenting Himself as the ultimate Passover Lamb.

The Feast of Unleavened Breadfollowed immediately after Passover and lasted one week, during which time the Israelites ate no bread with yeast in remembrance of their haste in preparing for their exodus from Egypt. In the New Testament, yeast is often associated with evil (1 Corinthians 5:6–8; Galatians 5:9), and, just as Israel was to remove yeast from their bread, so are Christians to purge evil from their lives and live a new life in godliness and righteousness. Christ as our Passover Lamb cleanses us from sin and evil, and by His power and that of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are freed from sin to leave our old lives behind, just as the Israelites did.

The Feast of Firstfruitstook place at the beginning of the harvest and signified Israel’s gratitude to and dependence upon God. According to Leviticus 23:9–14, an Israelite would bring a sheaf of the first grain of the harvest to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord as an offering. Deuteronomy 26:1–11 states that, when the Israelites brought the firstfuits of their harvest before the priest, they were to acknowledge that God had delivered them from Egypt and had given them the Promised Land. This reminds us of Christ’s resurrection as He was the “firstfuits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Just as Christ was the first to rise from the dead and receive a glorified body, so shall all those who are born again follow Him, being resurrected to inherit an “incorruptible body” (1 Corinthians 15:35–49).

The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)occurred 50 days after the Firstfruits festival and celebrated the end of the grain harvest (the Greek word Pentecostmeans “fiftieth”). The primary focus of the festival was gratitude to God for the harvest. This feast reminds us of the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send “another helper” (John 14:16) who would indwell believers and empower them for ministry. The coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection was the guarantee (Ephesians 1:13–14) that the promise of salvation and future resurrection will come to pass. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in every born-again believer is what seals us in Christ and bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed “joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17).

After the spring feasts conclude with the Feast of Weeks, there is a period of time before the fall feasts begin. This time is spiritually symbolic of the church age in which we live today. Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection are past, we have received the promised Holy Spirit, and now we await His second coming. Just as the spring feasts pointed toward the Messiah’s ministry at His first coming, the fall feasts point toward what will happen at His second coming.

The Feast of Trumpetswas commanded to be held on the first day of the seventh month and was to be a “day of trumpet blast” (Numbers 29:1) to commemorate the end of the agricultural and festival year. The trumpet blasts were meant to signal to Israel that they were entering a sacred season. The agricultural year was coming to a close; there was to be a reckoning with the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets signifies Christ’s second coming. We see trumpets associated with the second coming in verses like 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” Of course, the sounding of the trumpet also indicates the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth in the book of Revelation. Certainly, this feast points toward the coming Day of the Lord.

The Day of Atonementoccurs just ten days after the Feast of Trumpets. The Day of Atonement was the day the high priest went into the Holy of Holies each year to make an offering for the sins of Israel. This feast is symbolic of the time when God will again turn His attention back to the nation of Israel after “the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and . . . all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25–26). The Jewish remnant who survive the Great Tribulation will recognize Jesus as their Messiah as God releases them from their spiritual blindness and they come to faith in Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths)is the seventh and final feast of the Lord and took place five days after the Day of Atonement. For seven days, the Israelites presented offerings to the Lord, during which time they lived in huts made from palm branches. Living in the booths recalled the sojourn of the Israelites prior to their taking the land of Canaan (Leviticus 23:43). This feast signifies the future time when Christ rules and reigns on earth. For the rest of eternity, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will “tabernacle” or dwell with Christ in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9–27).

While the four spring feasts look back at what Christ accomplished at His first coming, the three fall feasts point us toward the glory of His second coming. The first is the source of our hope in Christ—His finished work of atonement for sins—and the second is the promise of what is to come—eternity with Christ. Understanding the significance of these God-appointed Jewish festivals helps us to better see and understand the complete picture and plan of redemption found in Scripture.


PART V

Question: "What is evidential apologetics?"

Answer:Evidential apologetics is a method of Christian apologetics that emphasizes positive evidences in favor of the truth of Christianity. The distinctive feature of evidential apologetics is its one-step approach to establishing Christian theism. Evidentialists will utilize evidence and arguments from several areas including archeology, fulfilled messianic prophecy, and especially from miracles.

In distinction from classical apologetics, the evidential apologist believes that the occurrence of miracles acts as an evidence for God's very existence. In this way, the evidential apologist does not believe that the philosophical and scientific arguments for God's existence must logically precede arguments from miracles to establish biblical Christianity. However, the evidential apologist is not opposed to the use of natural theology to help to confirm God's existence. These arguments are an important weapon in the arsenal of the evidentialist as they help to undergird the case for Christianity by giving further confirmation that God exists and has created and designed our universe. Evidentialists simply do not believe such arguments must be presented prior to moving on to evidence from miracles. In this way, the evidential apologist can argue for theism and Christian theism at the same time without having to first establish God's existence. Such an approach can be beneficial in personal evangelism where time can be at a minimum.

Evidential apologists characteristically place a heavy emphasis on evidence from miracles, especially the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evidentialists will appeal to numerous lines of evidence to establish the historicity of the post-mortem appearances of the risen Jesus, as well as the discovery of His empty tomb. Additional emphasis is often placed on refuting naturalistic theories that attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Once the resurrection has been established, Jesus' (and His apostles’) own understanding of this event then becomes the proper interpretive framework through which we understand its significance. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus said that His forthcoming resurrection would validate His claims (Matthew 12:38-40, 16:1-4). The Apostle Paul declared that the resurrection of Christ was God's vindication of Christ's deity (Romans 1:3-4). In the book of Acts, the Apostle Peter claimed that Jesus' bodily resurrection was God's endorsement of Jesus' public ministry (Acts 2:23-32). When taken in this context, the bodily resurrection becomes the primary validation of Jesus' own radical claims about Himself and the vindication of Jesus’ message of salvation.


PART VI 

Question: "What is demythologization? Does the Bible need to be demythologized?"

Answer:The concept of demythologization comes from Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent theologian and New Testament scholar in the 20th century. Bultmann believed that the New Testament was simply the human account of the writers’ divine encounter with God in Christ. According to Bultmann, the Gospel writers used the only terms and concepts they had available to them at the time, and those terms and concepts were inextricably bound to the miraculous and supernatural, which Bultmann saw as myth.

Bultmann suggested that, in order to make the gospel acceptable and relevant to the modern thinker, the New Testament must be demythologized. In other words, the mythical (i.e., miraculous) components must be removed, and the universal truth underlying the stories can then be seen. For Bultmann, the universal truth was that, in Christ, God had acted for the good of humanity. However, the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth, walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, giving sight to the blind, and even Jesus’ resurrection must be removed as mythical additions to the essential message. Today, there are many expressions of Christianity that follow this line of thinking, whether they attribute it to Bultmann or not. What may be called “mainline liberalism” relies on a demythologized Bible. Liberalism teaches a vague goodness of God and brotherhood of man with an emphasis on following the example of Christ while downplaying or denying the miraculous.

What Bultmann failed to realize is that the miraculous (what he called mythical) element is at the heart of the gospel. Furthermore, it is not as though people in the 1st century were merely gullible and easily led to believe the miraculous whereas “modern man” now knows better. When the angel announced to the virgin Mary that she was going to have a baby, she knew very well that such an occurrence was not normal (Luke 1:34). Joseph likewise had to be convinced (Matthew 1:18–21). Thomas knew that a resurrection was not usual after crucifixion and demanded firsthand evidence before he would believe (John 20:24–25).

Paul had to counter a teaching that had shaken the believers in Corinth. In defending the doctrine of the resurrection, Paul explains that a demythologized gospel is not good news at all. Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:4), and it is historical and verifiable (verse 5). “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (verses 14–19).

In summary, the New Testament does not need to be demythologized. What Bultmann called myth is really the miraculous, and the miraculous is at the heart of the New Testament—from the virgin birth, to the resurrection of Jesus, to His return, to the resurrection of the believer. If anything, the “modern thinker” needs to be reintroduced to the “pre-modern mindset” that was at least open to supernatural intervention.

HAPPY BLESSED DAY, AND BLESSINGS FOR GOD. 


06/2619

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus rose 'again'?"

Answer:In a few Bible verses, such as 2 Corinthians 5:15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (depending on the translation), and many of the popular and ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, the phrase rose againis used in reference to Jesus’ resurrection. As a result, rose againhas become commonly used terminology when referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This can be confusing, since againoften means “an additional time” or “once more.” Jesus “rising again” sounds like Jesus rose from the dead more than once.

While againcan mean “an additional time” or refer to a further instance of an event, it can also mean “anew” or “afresh.” Againcan also be defined as “in return” or “to a previous place or condition.” For example, in The Merchant of Venice, Portia speaks of one who “swore he would pay him again when he was able” (I:ii). In describing a business transaction, Portia uses the word againto mean “in return.” Similarly, when used in reference to the resurrection of Jesus, rose againdoes not mean “arose a second time.” Rather, it means Jesus rose anew. He returned to life. He came back to His previous condition. Jesus was alive before; then for a while He was dead; now He is back.

Similarly, the English word resurrectcomes from the Latin word resurrexit. Notice the prefix re-in both the English and Latin words. Normally, when the prefix re-is attached to a word, it means the action is occurring an additional time, i.e., repeated. But, just like the word again, the prefix re-can also mean “anew” or “back.” When we say that Jesus was “resurrected,” we do not mean that Jesus was “surrected” a second time. We mean that Jesus returned to life. He has life anew. What is being repeated is not the act of coming back to life but the state of being alive.

Saying, “Jesus rose again,” is simply a way of referring to the resurrection of Jesus. Any confusion over the word againshould be dispelled by the knowledge that words often have multiple definitions. The key point is this: “Jesus rose again” does not mean Jesus rose from the dead more than once. Rather, it means Jesus returned to life. Jesus was, for a time, dead but now is alive again


PART II 

Question: "What is the Hallucination Theory?"

Answer:For almost two thousand years, opponents of the Christian faith have proposed various theories in an attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the “stolen body theory” proposed by the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew’s Gospel to the “swoon theory” advanced by the 19th-century critic Friedrich Schleiermacher, skeptics have stopped at nothing to explain the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus without recourse to the supernatural.

While most of these naturalistic explanations have been rejected as implausible by contemporary critics of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, one particular theory has begun to gain traction in skeptical circles. This hypothesis is known as the “hallucination theory.” The hallucination theory attempts to account for the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus by claiming both auditory and visual hallucinations on the part of Jesus’ disciples. Proponents of this view claim that Jesus’ disciples really did “see” Jesus, but that these sightings were merely hallucinations in the minds of Christ’s followers, not genuine encounters with a resurrected man. The hallucinations, or sightings, are claimed to have happened repeatedly and are said to have been so vivid as to convince Christ’s followers that Jesus actually had risen from the dead.

The advantage of this proposal is two-fold. First, the proponents of this theory need not engage the impressive evidence for the life-changing transformation of the disciples based on their newfound belief in the Christ’s resurrection. Rather, the skeptic can grant that there were “appearances” of some sort without conceding the occurrence of a miracle. The second move is to then explain these “appearances” as subjective hallucinations, events that took place only in the minds of the disciples. 

From the outset, the hallucination theory is beset with problems. First, we now know that anticipation and expectation play a crucial role in the occurrence of hallucinations. This, by itself, makes the disciples poor candidates for such experiences. The disciples were understandably depressed, sorrowful, and deeply grieved as their beloved leader had been violently taken from them and executed. All four Gospels describe the disciples as not expecting to see Jesus resurrected. In fact, some doubted even after Jesus appeared to them (Matthew 28:16–17)! It does not seem that any of Jesus' disciples were in the proper mindset to be likely candidates for hallucinations.

Second, the diversity of the appearances makes hallucinations an unlikely explanation. Jesus appeared to numerous individuals under various circumstances and locales. He appeared both indoors and outdoors. He appeared not just on one particular day but over a period of weeks. He appeared to people of different backgrounds and personality types.

Probably the most formidable obstacle for the hallucination theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people. As clinical psychologist Gary A. Sibcy has commented, “I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.” Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren't something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.” And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals but to groups, as well—and on numerous occasions (Luke 24:36–43, Matthew 28:9, John 20:26–30; 21:1–14, Acts 1:3–6, 1 Corinthians 15:5–7)!

Still more problems remain. Jesus not only appeared to His disciples but to His skeptical brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), as well as to Saul of Tarsus (later to become the apostle Paul), a self-professed enemy of the Christian faith. How likely is it that these two would also have individual hallucinations of a resurrected Jesus to whom they had no previous commitment?

Even if all of these obstacles could be overcome, a further problem remains for the hallucination theory: the empty tomb. If all of the disciples of Jesus had simply been the victims of numerous individual and group hallucinations, the body of Jesus of Nazareth would have remained where it was, interred in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. How likely is it for the disciples of Jesus to have gained converts—after preaching a bodily resurrection in the very area where Jesus was buried—if His tomb were in fact occupied with a recently crucified man? The critic who appeals to hallucinations must then combine this theory with another hypothesis to explain why Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Hallucinations, by themselves, cannot begin to explain all the data. When all of these factors are taken into account, the hallucination theory crumbles under the weight of the facts. The Christian can remain confident that Christ has risen!


PART III 

Question: "What was the significance of Jesus being dead for three days?"

Answer:There are several reasons it is significant Jesus was dead for three days before His resurrection. First, resurrection after three days of death proved to Jesus’ opponents that He truly rose from the dead. Why? According to Jewish tradition, a person’s soul/spirit remained with his/her dead body for three days. After three days, the soul/spirit departed. If Jesus’ resurrection had occurred on the same day or even the next day, it would have been easier for His enemies to argue He had never truly died. Significantly, Jesus waited several days after Lazarus had died before He came to resurrect Lazarus so that no one could deny the miracle (John 11:38–44).

A second reason it was important for Jesus to be dead for three days was to fulfill biblical prophecy. Jesus personally claimed He would be dead three days (Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 27:63; John 2:19). Also, some point to Hosea 6:1–3 as a prophecy of the Messiah’s resurrection after three days: “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” This may also be the passage Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:4 that Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The three days were significant in other ways as well. Jesus died on a Friday, Nisan 14, the day when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. His death represents the death of a perfect, unblemished sacrifice on our behalf. His resurrection on the third day took place on the first day of the week, illustrating a new beginning and new life to all who trust in Him.

So, why was it important for Jesus to be dead for three days before His resurrection? (1) So the unbelieving Jews could not deny that Jesus had truly been dead. (2) Because three days is what Jesus Himself prophesied. Aside from these two reasons, the Word of God does not explicitly state the reason for the necessity of three days between Jesus’ death and resurrection.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!


06/25/19

Question: "I am a Hindu, why should I consider becoming a Christian?"

Answer:Comparing Hinduism and Christianity is difficult, in part, because Hinduism is a slippery religion for Westerners to grasp. It represents limitless depths of profundity, a rich history, and an elaborate theology. There is perhaps no religion in the world that is more variegated or ornate. 

Comparing Hinduism and Christianity can easily overwhelm the novice of comparative religions. So, the proposed question should be considered carefully and humbly. The answer given here does not pretend to be comprehensive or assume even an "in-depth" understanding of Hinduism at any particular point. This answer merely compares a few points between the two religions in effort to show how Christianity is deserving of special consideration.

First, Christianity should be considered for its historical viability. Christianity has historically rooted characters and events within its schema which are identifiable through forensic sciences like archeology and textual criticism. Hinduism certainly has a history, but its theology, mythology, and history are so often blurred together that it becomes difficult to identify where one stops and the other begins. Mythology is openly admitted within Hinduism, which possesses elaborate myths used to explain the personalities and natures of the gods. Hinduism has a certain flexibility and adaptability through its historical ambiguity. But, where a religion is not historical, it is that much less testable. It may not be falsifiable at that point, but neither is it verifiable. It is the literal history of the Jewish and eventually Christian tradition that justifies the theology of Christianity. If Adam and Eve did not exist, if Israel did not have an exodus out of Egypt, if Jonah was just an allegory, or if Jesus did not walk the earth then the entire Christian religion can potentially crumble at those points. For Christianity, a fallacious history would mean a porous theology. Such historical rootedness could be a weakness of Christianity except that the historically testable parts of the Christian tradition are so often validated that the weakness becomes a strength.

Second, while both Christianity and Hinduism have key historical figures, only Jesus is shown to have risen bodily from the dead. Many people in history have been wise teachers or have started religious movements. Hinduism has its share of wise teachers and earthly leaders. But Jesus stands out. His spiritual teachings are confirmed with a test that only divine power could pass: death and bodily resurrection, which He prophesied and fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 16:21; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31, 1 Luke 9:22; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians 15).

Moreover, the Christian doctrine of resurrection stands apart from the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation. These two ideas are not the same. And it is only the resurrection which can be deduced convincingly from historical and evidential study. The resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular has considerable justification through secular and religious scholarship alike. Its verification does nothing to verify the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation. Consider the following differences:

Resurrection involves one death, one life, one mortal body, and one new and immortally glorified body. Resurrection happens by divine intervention, is monotheistic, is a deliverance from sin, and ultimately occurs only in the end times. Reincarnation, on the contrary, involves multiple deaths, multiple lives, multiple mortal bodies, and no immortal body. Furthermore, reincarnation happens by natural law, is usually pantheistic (God is all), operates on the basis of karma, and is always operative. Of course, listing the differences does not prove the truth of either account. However, if the resurrection is historically demonstrable, then distinguishing these two after-life options separates the justified account from the unjustified account. The resurrection of Christ and the larger Christian doctrine of resurrection are both deserving of consideration.

Third, the Christian Scriptures are historically outstanding, deserving serious consideration. In several tests the Bible surpasses the Hindu Vedas, and all other books of antiquity, for that matter. One could even say that the history of the Bible is so compelling that to doubt the Bible is to doubt history itself, since it is the most historically verifiable book of all antiquity. The only book more historically verifiable than the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is the New Testament. Consider the following:

1) More manuscripts exist for the New Testament than for any other of antiquity—5,000 ancient Greek manuscripts, 24,000 in all including other languages. The multiplicity of manuscripts allows for a tremendous research base by which we can test the texts against each other and identify what the originals said.

2) The manuscripts of the New Testament are closer in age to the originals than are any other document of antiquity. All of the originals were written within the time of the contemporaries (eyewitnesses), in the first century A.D., and we currently have parts of manuscript as old as A.D. 125. Whole book copies surface by A.D. 200, and the complete New Testament can be found dating back to A.D. 250. Having all the books of the New Testament initially written within the times of eyewitnesses means that they did not have time to devolve into myth and folklore. Plus, their truth claims were held accountable by members of the church who, as personal witnesses to the events, could check the facts.

3) The New Testament documents are more accurate than any other of antiquity. John R. Robinson in Honest to Godreports that the New Testament documents are 99.9% accurate (most accurate of any complete antique book). Bruce Metzger, an expert in the Greek New Testament, suggests a more modest 99.5%.

Fourth, Christian monotheism has advantages over pantheism and polytheism. It would not be fair to characterize Hinduism as only pantheistic ("God is all") or only polytheistic (having many gods). Depending on the stream of Hinduism to which one ascribes, one may be pantheistic, polytheistic, monistic ("all is one"), monotheistic, or a number of other options. However, two strong streams within Hinduism are polytheism and pantheism. Christian monotheism has marked advantages over both of these. Due to space considerations, these three world views are compared here in regards to only one point, ethics.

Polytheism and pantheism both have a questionable basis for their ethics. With polytheism, if there are many gods, then which god has the more ultimate standard of ethics for humans to keep? When there are multiple gods, then their ethical systems do not conflict, do conflict, or do not exist. If they do not exist, then ethics are invented and baseless. The weakness of that position is self-evident. If the ethical systems do not conflict, then on what principle do they align? Whatever that aligning principle is would be more ultimate than the gods. The gods are not ultimate since they answer to some other authority. Therefore, there is a higher reality to which one should adhere. This fact makes polytheism seem shallow if not empty. On the third option, if the gods conflict in their standards of right and wrong, then to obey one god is to risk disobeying another, incurring punishment. Ethics would be relative. Good for one god would not necessarily be "good" in an objective and universal sense. For example, sacrificing one's child to Kali would be commendable to one stream of Hinduism but reprehensible to many others. But surely, child sacrifice, as such, is objectionable regardless. Some things by all reason and appearance are right or wrong, regardless.

Pantheism does not fare much better than polytheism since it asserts that ultimately there is only one thing—one divine reality—thus disallowing any ultimate distinctions of "good" and "evil." If "good" and "evil" were really distinct, then there would not be one single, indivisible reality. Pantheism ultimately does not allow for moral distinctions of "good" and "evil." Good and evil dissolve into the same indivisible reality. And even if such distinctions as "good" and "evil" could be made, the context of karma voids the moral context of that distinction. Karma is an impersonal principle much like a natural law such as gravity or inertia. When karma comes calling on some sinful soul, it is not a divine policing that brings judgment. Rather, it is an impersonal reaction of nature. But morality requires personality, personality which karma cannot lend. For example, we do not blame a stick for being used in a beating. The stick is an object with no moral capacity or duty. Rather, we blame the person who used the stick abusively. That person has a moral capacity and a moral duty. Likewise, if karma is merely impersonal nature, then it is amoral ("without morality") and is not an adequate basis for ethics.

Christian monotheism, however, roots its ethics in the person of God. God's character is good, and, therefore, what conforms to Him and His will is good. What departs from God and His will is evil. Therefore, the one God serves as the absolute basis for ethics, allowing a personal basis for morality and justifying objective knowledge about good and evil.

Fifth, the question remains "What do you do with your sin?" Christianity has the strongest answer to this problem. Hinduism, like Buddhism, has at least two ideas of sin. Sin is sometimes understood as ignorance. It is sinful if one does not see or understand reality as Hinduism defines it. But there remains an idea of moral error termed "sin." To do something deliberately evil, to break a spiritual or earthly law, or to desire wrong things, these would be sins. But that moral definition of sin points to a kind of moral error that requires real atonement. From where can atonement rise? Can atonement come by adherence to karmic principles? Karma is impersonal and amoral. One could do good works to "even the balance," but one cannot ever dispose of sin. Karma does not even provide a context whereby moral error is even moral. Whom have we offended if we sin in private, for example? Karma does not care one way or the other because karma is not a person. For example, suppose one man kills another man's son. He may offer money, property, or his own son to the offended party. But he cannot un-kill the young man. No amount of compensation can make up for that sin. Can atonement come by prayer or devotion to Shiva or Vishnu? Even if those characters offer forgiveness, it seems like sin would still be an unpaid debt. They would forgive sin as if it were excusable, no big deal, and then wave people on through the gates of bliss.

Christianity, however, treats sin as moral error against a single, ultimate, and personal God. Ever since Adam, humans have been sinful creatures. Sin is real, and it sets an infinite gap between man and bliss. Sin demands justice. Yet it cannot be "balanced out" with an equal or greater number of good works. If someone has ten times more good works than bad works, then that person still has evil on his or her conscience. What happens to these remaining bad works? Are they just forgiven as if they were not a big deal in the first place? Are they permitted into bliss? Are they mere illusions, thus leaving no problem whatsoever? None of these options are suitable. Concerning illusion, sin is too real to us to be explained away as illusion. Concerning sinfulness, when we are honest with ourselves we all know we have sinned. Concerning forgiveness, to simply forgive sin at no cost treats sin like it is not of much consequence. We know that to be false. Concerning bliss, bliss is not much good if sin keeps getting smuggled in. It seems that the scales of karma leave us with sin on our hearts and a sneaking suspicion that we have violated some ultimately personal standard of right and wrong. And bliss either cannot tolerate us, or it must cease being perfect so that we can come in.

With Christianity, however, all sin is punished though that punishment has already been satisfied in Christ's personal sacrifice on the cross. God become man, lived a perfect life, and died the death that we deserved. He was crucified on our behalf, a substitute for us, and a covering, or atonement, for our sins. And He was resurrected proving that not even death could conquer Him. Furthermore, He promises the same resurrection to eternal life for all who have faith in Him as their only Lord and Savior (Romans 3:1023, 6:23; 8:12; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:21).

Finally, in Christianity we can know that we are saved. We do not have to rely on some fleeting experience, nor do we rely on our own good works or fervent meditation, nor do we put our faith in a false god whom we are trying to "believe into existence." We have a living and true God, a historically anchored faith, an abiding and testable revelation of God (Scripture), a theologically satisfying basis for ethical living, and a guaranteed home in heaven with God.

So, what does this mean for you? Jesus is the ultimate reality! Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. God offers all of us forgiveness and salvation if we will simply receive His gift to us (John 1:12), believing Jesus to be the Savior who laid down His life for us – His friends. If you place your trust in Jesus as your only Savior, you will have absolute assurance of eternal bliss in heaven. God will forgive your sins, cleanse your soul, renew your spirit, and give you abundant life in this world and eternal bliss in the next world. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?

If you are unsure about what you believe, we invite you to say the following prayer to God; “God, help me to know what is true. Help me to discern what is error. Help me to know what is the correct path to salvation.” God will always honor such a prayer.

If you want to receive Jesus as your Savior, simply speak to God, verbally or silently, and tell Him that you receive the gift of salvation through Jesus. If you want a prayer to say, here is an example: “God, thank you for your love for me. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me. Thank you for providing for my forgiveness and salvation. I accept the gift of salvation through Jesus. I receive Jesus as my Savior. Amen!”

Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART II 

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus Christ conquered death?"

Answer:Most obviously, the statement that Christ has conquered death refers to His resurrection. He who was dead is now alive (see Revelation 1:18). These three words—Christ conquered death—define the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions. No other religious leader ever predicted his own death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21), based his claims about himself and his teaching on that prediction (John 2:18 –22; Matthew 27:40), and then kept that promise (Luke 24:6).

Jesus’ resurrection marks the first time in history that someone rose from the dead never to die again. Others who were resurrected eventually died a second time (see 1 Kings 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:32–37; Mark 5:39–42; John 11:38–44). Jesus’ resurrection was a true and total defeat of death. As the Holy Son of God, Jesus overcame death once and for all, as Peter explained: “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). The triumphant, risen Christ said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). Keys are a symbol of authority. Jesus is sovereign over death. Christ’s conquest of death was permanent and eternal.

Christ conquered death because He was sinless. The curse upon mankind in the Garden of Eden, brought about by their sin, was plainly stated: “You will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Ever since, we have seen the truth of Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” But Jesus Christ had no sin (1 Peter 2:22); therefore, death had no power over Him. Jesus’ death was a voluntary sacrifice for oursin, and, given His sinless perfection, His resurrection logically followed. “I lay down my life,” Jesus said, “only to take it up again” (John 10:17).

The fact that Christ has conquered death has eternal consequences for us. The good news—the gospel—is grounded in Christ’s victory over death. Without the resurrection, there is no gospel; indeed, there is no hope for us at all: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:7). But Christ hasrisen, and, as fellow conquerors with Him, Christians “have passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14). Christ “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

The fact that Christ has conquered death means that believers have also been granted victory over death. We are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), which means that Jesus’ resurrection is the first of many: believers who have “fallen asleep” (died) will be likewise resurrected. Jesus promised His followers, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).

The fact that Christ has conquered death is a fulfillment of prophecy. The psalmist predicted the Messiah would overcome death: “You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay” (Psalm 16:10). Other prophets filled God’s people with the hope that the Lord would one day abolish death: “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8), and “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54–55).

Death is the devil’s most powerful, terrifying weapon against us. At the cross, Christ defeated Satan on behalf of us helpless sinners: “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31; cf. Colossians 2:15). With the empty tomb, Christ destroyed the devil’s most powerful weapon, death. Satan, our accuser, is now powerless to condemn Christians. We will not share his fate (Revelation 12:9–11; 20:10, 14).

When Christ conquered death for us, He removed the “sting of death,” sin (1 Corinthians 15:56)—that is, we will not be judged by God according to our sins; rather, we will stand before God robed in Christ’s own perfect righteousness. That is why believers in Christ “will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11), and “the second death has no power over them” (Revelation 20:6). Christ has received our death penalty for sin and, through His death, has conquered death (Revelation 20:14).

Believers “are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). What can separate us from the love of God in Christ? “Neither death nor life” (verse 38). Christ has conquered death, and believers stand firm on Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26, BSB).


PART III 

Question: "What is the Jesus Family Tomb? Has the lost tomb of Jesus Christ been discovered?"

Answer:In 1980, in Talpiot (a suburb of Jerusalem), Israel, a construction crew unearthed an ancient tomb. Inside the tomb was discovered ten (or nine) ossuaries (burial bone boxes). Inscribed on these bone boxes were names. The discovery of the ossuaries was not unusual, as thousands of ancient ossuaries have been discovered in ancient tombs in and around Jerusalem. What was somewhat unusual were the names that were inscribed on the ossuaries: Jesus son of Joseph, Maria, Mariamene, Matthew, Judas son of Jesus, and Jose (likely an abbreviation of Joseph). The similarities of these names to those of the biblical Jesus and His family have led TV director Simcha Jacobovici and movie producer James Cameron to produce “The Jesus Family Tomb” in book form and "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" as a movie/documentary. Jacobovici and Cameron are making the claims that the Jesus Family Tomb is indeed the family burial place of Jesus and His family, and that the presence of Jesus’ bones disproves His resurrection. Is there any validity to the claims of the Jesus Family Tomb?

First, before we examine the question biblically, it is important to understand that no influential archaeologist has come forward in agreement with the Jesus Family Tomb project. The curator for anthropology and archeology at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem from 1972 to 1997, Joe Zias, states that the project “makes a mockery of the archaeological profession.” Second, there is evidence that the tomb had been disturbed and vandalized. It cannot be verified what was, or what was not, vandalized or stolen. On an archaeological basis alone, there is serious reason to doubt the authenticity of the Jesus Family Tomb project.

Historically and culturally speaking, there is further reasoning to reject the ideas of the Jesus Family Tomb project. The names “Jesus, Maria, Matthew, Judas, and Joseph” were all very common names in 1st-century Israel. Some cultural historians estimate that as many as 25 percent of 1st-century Jewish women were named Mary (Miriam). The New Testament confirms this by mentioning six different women named Mary, including three who were prominent in Jesus’ life (Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany). It would not be uncommon for a 1st-century Jewish family to have the names Jesus (Yeshua), Mary (Miriam), Joseph, and Judas (Judah) – as all were very popular Jewish names (due to their background in the Hebrew Scriptures).

Biblically speaking, there are numerous reasons to reject the idea of the Jesus Family Tomb. First, the New Testament consistently states that Jesus’ family was from Nazareth (Matthew 2:13; Luke 2:4, 39, 51; John 1:45-46). If Jesus’ family had a tomb, it would have very likely been in Nazareth. Second, the Bible describes Jesus and his adopted father Joseph as carpenters (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), likely making them financially poor and of a lower social status. The tomb discovered in Talpiot is the tomb of a wealthy family. Third, the New Testament states that Jesus’ body was buried in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, and that there were witnesses as to where Jesus was buried (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:43-47; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42).

The "Lost Tomb of Jesus" documentary advocates the concept that Jesus' disciples stole His body from the tomb, and then buried it in His family tomb. If the disciples were going to steal Jesus' body in an attempt to argue for a resurrection, why would they then bury Jesus' body in His own family's tomb, and even inscribe Jesus' name on His ossuary? That does not make any sense whatsoever. If the disciples wanted to fake a resurrection, the last thing they would do would be to bury Jesus in His family tomb (which other people could easily examine) and write Jesus' name on His ossuary (providing undeniable evidence that Jesus was not resurrected). 

Now, let’s get to the crux of the matter. The true motivation of the Jesus Family Tomb project is to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The subtitle of the book is “The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History.” Cameron, Jacobovici, and co-author Pellegrino have a clear agenda. They do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, that Jesus was God incarnate, or that Jesus was resurrected after His crucifixion. The discovery of the “Jesus Family Tomb” is simply a convenient basis for their argument, due to the similarities of the names on the ossuaries to the names of Jesus and His family. If it could be proved that the “Jesus Family Tomb” was indeed the tomb of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth and His family, the resurrection would be disproved, thus destroying the very foundation of the Christian faith (see 1 Corinthians chapter 15).

None of the suppositions of the Jesus Family Tomb project can be proved. In fact, the archaeological community is nearly unanimous in condemning the Jesus Family Tomb as a hoax, with no basis in history or archaeology. There is every reason to doubt the claims of the Jesus Family Tomb – archaeologically, historically, and biblically. The Christian faith has nothing to fear from honest and scientific archaeology.

In regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the true heart of this issue, there is much to be considered. Please examine our articles on “Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?,” “Biblical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus,” and “Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important?”

HAPPY BLESSED DAY!!!


06/24/19

Question: "What is the meaning of those who were raised to life at Jesus' death (Matthew 27:52-53)?"

Answer:Matthew 27:50-53 records, "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many."

This event occurred as a testimony to the immortal power ascribed to Jesus Christ alone (1 Timothy 6:14-16). Only God has the power of life and death (1 Samuel 2:6; Deuteronomy 32:29). Therefore, the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. All other religions and their respective leaders do not serve a risen Lord. By overcoming death, Jesus Christ immediately receives precedence because He came back to life when everyone else did not. The resurrection has given us a reason to tell others about Him and place trust in God (1 Corinthians 15:14). The resurrection has given us assurance that our sins are forgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17). Paul clearly says in this verse that no resurrection equals zero forgiveness of our sins. And, finally, the resurrection has given us a reason to have hope today (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). If Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christians would be no better off spiritually than non-Christians. But the fact is that God did raise "Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:24-25).

The raising of the saints fits into the overall rhetorical devices and strategies used by Matthew in his gospel. Examining Ezekiel 37 and the bones raised to life in connection with this story reveals that an Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in the raising of these saints. Additionally, the raising of the saints relates directly to the coming kingdom. The raising of a few and not all of the saints shows that Jesus has power to resurrect, but also points forward to the second coming and judgment of Jesus Christ, which will include all those whose names are written in the Book Life by faith in the grace of God. Knowing that Jesus has died and conquered death through His resurrection ought to hasten our desire to repent and trust Him alone for salvation so we too can one day be resurrected "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52).


PART II 

Question: "What is the living hope in 1 Peter 1:3?"

Answer:First Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (CSB).

The apostle Peter opens his letter with words of praise for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, reminding readers that salvation is a gift of God’s mercy. Then Peter states that believers are given “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” What exactly does Peter mean when he speaks of “a living hope”?

Peter states that it is the “new birth” that provides our living hope, affirming that salvation is a gift from God. Just as an infant does nothing to be born, we experience rebirth not because of who we are or anything we have done. We are born of God (John 1:13) through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Salvation changes who we are (2 Corinthians 5:17), making us dead to sin and alive to righteousness in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5). This new birth serves as our reason for hope—the assurance of salvation.

Bible commentators often call Peter the apostle of hope. In this passage, Peter links our new birth—our salvation—with the idea of “a living hope.” The hope Peter speaks of is not the wishful thinking usually associated with the word hopetoday. We might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain,” or “I hope I pass the test.” But this is not the kind of hope Peter has in mind.

The Greek term for “hope” in the passage means “an eager, confident expectation.” This hope of the believer is not only “living” but “lively.” The CEV translates the phrase as “a hope that lives on.” Unlike the empty, dead hope of this world, this “living hope” is energizing, alive, and active in the soul of the believer. “We live with great expectation,” as the NLT puts it. Our living hope originates from a living, resurrected Savior. Peter’s living hope is Jesus Christ.

The apostle is speaking to Christians who were suffering persecution in Asia Minor. His words were meant to encourage them in their troubles. Their future was secure because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their hope was in His victory over death and His resurrection life. Whatever the persecuted believers would face in this world could not compare to the blessings of the future resurrection and the life to come in eternity.

Living hope is anchored in the past—Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6). It continues in the present—Jesus is alive (Colossians 3:1). And it endures throughout the future—Jesus promises eternal, resurrection life (John 3:16; 4:14; 5:24; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 15:23). Living hope also enables us to live without despair as we encounter suffering and trials in this present life: “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, CSB).

The object of our living hope is described in 1 Peter 1:4 as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (CSB). We have an inheritance that will never be touched by death, stained by evil, or faded with time; it is death-proof, sin-proof, and age-proof. This inheritance is also fail-proof because God guards and preserves it in heaven for us. It is wholly secure. Absolutely nothing can undermine the certainty of our future inheritance.

People cannot survive long without hope. Hope keeps us going through painful experiences and fear of what the future may hold. In a fallen world where people face poverty, disease, hunger, injustice, disaster, war, and terrorism, we need a living hope. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:12 that those who don’t have Jesus Christ do not have hope. Believers are blessed with real and substantial hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By the power of God’s Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this living hope quickens our minds and souls (Hebrews 4:12). It changes our thoughts, words, and actions. Once dead in our sins, we now live with the hope of our own resurrection.

The believer’s living hope is solid and secure: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19–20, CSB). Jesus Christ is our Savior, our salvation, our Living Hope.


PART III 

Question: "Why does it matter that Jesus rose from the dead?"

Answer:The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the foundations upon which Christianity is built (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). The virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18, 25; Luke 1:27), the deity of Christ (1 John 4:15, 5:5; John 10:30), Jesus’ atonement for sin (Romans 5:10–11; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and His crucifixion are non-negotiable truths, without which Christianity could not exist. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the crowning achievement that forever separates Him from any other religious leader who has ever been or will ever live. No other religious figure in history has ever prophesied His own death and resurrection—and then accomplished it.

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is important because it fulfilled prophecy. Jesus prophesied His resurrection (Mark 8:31), and so did the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10–11; Isaiah 53:12). Roman rule brought crucifixion as a particularly heinous form of capital punishment. Many people were crucified for their crimes and for insulting Caesar. So the facts of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial are not necessarily outstanding, as many suffered the same fate. However, the bodies of those other people are still in their graves. Jesus’ tomb is empty (Luke 24:24). If Jesus never rose from the dead, there would be no compelling reason to believe that He is who He said He is. But the fact is that He did rise again, confirming His claim to be God (Matthew 27:63; 28:6).

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is also important because our justification hinges on it. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). A dead Savior cannot save, but we have a living Savior who justifies us and makes intercession for us (see Hebrews 7:25).

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is fundamental to our faith. First Corinthians 15 is a detailed explanation of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. Verse 14 states, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In fact, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (verse 17), and believers who have died are “lost” (verse 18).

Jesus rose from the dead, and Paul presents that event as the only thing that gives us hope in this life. Christ was the first to permanently rise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20), clearing the way for a future resurrection for all who believe (verses 22–23). Jesus’ claim that He has the power to grant eternal life is to be trusted because He Himself conquered death (Romans 8:11; John 3:16–18; 10:28).

GOD BLESSED YOU!


06/23/19

Question: "What is the significance of the folded napkin in Christ's tomb after the resurrection?"

Answer:The detail of the folded napkin is found in the account of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20:7, “And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (KJV). Different respected translations of the Bible handle this verse differently. Three of them translate the verse with the word napkin(KJV, AS, RSV). Others translate it with “burial cloth” (NIV), “handkerchief” (NKJV), or “face-cloth” (NASB). The Greek word is saudarion, which comes from a Latin word for “sweat.” It can refer to a towel for wiping sweat from one’s face. It is used in the Greek to denote a towel or cloth, but not specifically a table napkin.

The other key word is folded. Was the burial cloth or napkin left folded in the tomb? Two of the translations use the word folded(NIV, NKJV). Others translate the word as “rolled up” (NASB, ASV, RSV) or “wrapped together” (KJV). The Greek word is entulisso, which is from words that may mean “to twist” or “to entwine.” The bottom line is that there is no agreement that it was a table napkin and no agreement that it was neatly folded in any meaningful way. The primary meaning of John 20:7 is that the cloth, which was placed over Jesus’ head or face at burial, was separate from the rest of His grave clothes. The significance of that, if there is any, is unknown.

It has been rumored that folding the napkin at the table is a Jewish custom that means the person folding the napkin intends to return. Numerous Bible study sources have been checked, but there is nothing about this alleged Jewish custom of the folded napkins. The only references to this story seem to be from internet postings and emails that appear to have originated in 2007.

Many Bible commentators and authors have used this creative illustration to make specific application to the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ. The truth is that table napkins, such as we use today, were not used in Jesus’ day. Jews would do an after-meal hand washing as part of the eating ritual. Washing of the hands before a meal was mandatory according to rabbinic injunction, but after washing their hands, did people dry them with a cloth? Apparently, there is no early rabbinic source that discusses how the hands were dried after washing them. The folding of the napkin as a sign that a dinner guest was finished may be good European custom, but it appears this custom was unknown in the land of Israel in the time of Jesus.


PART II 

Question: "How many people were raised from the dead in the Bible?"

Answer:The Bible records several accounts of resurrection. Every time a person is raised from the dead, it is a stupendous miracle, showing that the God who is Himself the Source of Life has the ability to give life to whom He will—even after death. The following people were raised from the dead in the Bible:

The widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17–24).Elijah the prophet raised the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead. Elijah was staying in an upper room of the widow’s house during a severe drought in the land. While he was there, the widow’s son became ill and died. In her grief, the woman brought the body of her son to Elijah with the assumption that his presence in her household had brought about the death of her boy as a judgment on her past sin. Elijah took the dead boy from her arms, went to the upper room, and prayed, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” (verse 21). Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times as he prayed, and “the Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (verse 22). The prophet brought the boy to his mother, who was filled with faith in the power of God through Elijah: “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (verse 24).

The Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:18–37).The prophet Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead. Elisha regularly stayed in Shunem in an upper room prepared for him by this woman and her husband. One day, while Elisha was at Mount Carmel, the couple’s young son died. The woman carried the body of her son to Elisha’s room and laid it on the bed (verse 21). Then, without even telling her husband the news, she departed for Carmel to find Elisha (verses 22–25). When she found Elisha, she pleaded with him to come to Shunem. Elisha sent his servant, Gehazi, ahead of them with instructions to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy’s face (verse 31). As soon as Elisha and the Shunammite woman arrived back home, Elisha went to the upper room, shut the door, and prayed. Then he stretched out on top of the boy’s body, and the body began to warm (verse 34). Elisha arose, walked about the room, and stretched himself out on the body again. The boy then sneezed seven times and awoke from death (verse 35). Elisha then delivered the boy, alive again, to his grateful mother (verses 36–37).

The man raised out of Elisha’s grave (2 Kings 13:20–21).Elisha is connected with another resurrection that occurred afterhis death. Sometime after Elisha had died and was buried, some men were burying another body in the same area. The grave diggers saw a band of Moabite raiders approaching, and, rather than risk an encounter with the Moabites, they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s grave. Scripture records that, “when the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet” (verse 21).

The widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11–17).This is the first of the resurrections that Jesus performed. As the Lord approached the town of Nain, He met a funeral procession leaving the city. In the coffin was a young man, the only son of a widow. When Jesus saw the procession, “his heart went out to [the woman] and he said, ‘Don’t cry’” (verse 13). Jesus came close and touched the coffin and spoke to the dead man: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (verse 14). Obeying the divine order, “the dead man sat up and began to talk” (verse 15). And thus Jesus turned the funeral into a praise and worship service: “God has come to help his people,” the people said (verse 16).

Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:52–56).Jesus also showed His power over death by raising the young daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader. The Lord was surrounded by crowds when Jairus came to Him, begging Him to visit his house and heal his dying twelve-year-old daughter (verses 41–42). Jesus began to follow Jarius home, but on the way a member of Jarius’ household approached them with the sad news that Jairus’ daughter had died. Jesus turned to Jarius with words of hope: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (verse 50). Upon arriving at Jarius’ house, Jesus took the girl’s parents, Peter, James, and John and entered the room where the body lay. There, “he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up” (verses 54–55). Jesus and His disciples then left the resurrected girl with her astonished parents.

Lazarus of Bethany (John 11).The third person that Jesus raised from the dead was His friend Lazarus. Word had come to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, but Jesus did not go to Bethany to heal him. Instead, He told His disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (verse 4). A couple days later, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had died, but He promised a resurrection: “I am going there to wake him up” (verse 11). When Jesus reached Bethany, four days after Lazarus’ death, Lazarus’ grieving sisters both greeted Jesus with the same words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verses 21 and 32). Jesus, speaking to Martha, promised to raise Lazarus from the dead (verse 23) and proclaimed Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” (verse 25). Jesus asked to see the grave. When He got to the place, He commanded the stone to be rolled away from the tomb (verse 39), and He prayed (verses 41–42) and “called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” (verse 43). Just as Jesus had promised, “the dead man came out” (verse 44). The result of this miracle was that God was glorified and “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him” (verse 45). Others, however, refused to believe in Jesus and plotted to destroy both Jesus and Lazarus (John 11:53; 12:10).

Various saints in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50–53).The Bible mentions some resurrections that occurred en masse at the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus died, “the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open” (verses 51–52). Those open tombs remained open until the third day. At that time, “the bodies of many holy people . . . were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (verses 52–53). On the day that Jesus was raised to life, these saints were also raised and became witnesses in Jerusalem of the life that only Jesus can give.

Tabitha (Acts 9:36–43).Tabitha, whose Greek name was Dorcas, was a believer who lived in the coastal city of Joppa. Her resurrection was performed by the apostle Peter. Dorcas was known for “always doing good and helping the poor” (verse 36). When she died, the believers in Joppa were filled with sadness. They laid the body in an upper room and sent for Peter, who was in the nearby town of Lydda (verses 37–38). Peter came at once and met with the disciples in Joppa, who showed him the clothing that Dorcas had made for the widows there (verse 39). Peter sent them all out of the room and prayed. Then “turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet” (verses 40–41). The overjoyed believers received their resurrected friend, and the news spread quickly throughout the city. “Many people believed in the Lord” as a result (verse 42).

Eutychus (Acts 20:7–12).Eutychus was a young man who lived (and died and lived again) in Troas. He was raised from the dead by the apostle Paul. The believers in Troas were gathered in an upper room to hear the apostle speak. Since Paul was leaving town the next day, he spoke late into the night. One of his audience members was Eutychus, who sat in a window and, unfortunately, fell asleep. Eutychus slipped out of the window and fell three stories to his death (verse 9). Paul went down and “threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him” (verse 10). Eutychus came back to life, went upstairs, and ate a meal with the others. When the meeting finally broke up at daylight, “the people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (verse 12).

Jesus (Mark 16:1–8).Of course, any list of resurrections in the Bible must include the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection are the focal point of Scripture and the most important events in the history of the world. The resurrection of Jesus is different from the Bible’s other resurrections in a very notable way: Jesus’ resurrection is the first “permanent” resurrection; all the other resurrections in the Bible were “temporary” in that those raised to life died again. Lazarus died twice; Jesus rose, nevermore to die. In this way, He is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus’ resurrection justifies us (Romans 4:25) and ensures our eternal life: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).


PART III 

Question: "After His resurrection, why did Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, but later tell Thomas to touch Him?"

Answer:Jesus tells Mary, "Touch Me not" (John 20:17, KJV); but then later, speaking to Thomas, He says, "Reach hither thy finger and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side" (verse 27). The seeming incongruity of Jesus' statements is resolved when we examine the language Jesus employed and consider the basic difference between the two situations.

In John 20:17, the word translated "touch" is a Greek word which means "to cling to, to lay hold of." This wasn't just a touch; it was a grip. Obviously, when Mary recognized Jesus, she immediately clung to Him. Matthew 28:9 records the other women doing the same thing when they saw the resurrected Christ.

Mary's reaction was motivated, possibly, by several things. One is simply her loving devotion to the Lord. Mary is overwhelmed by the events of the morning, and as her grief turns to joy, she naturally embraces Jesus. Another motivation is Mary's desire to restore the fellowship that death had broken. She had lost Him once, and she was going to make sure she didn't lose Him again. She wanted to keep Jesus with her always. Also, Mary may have been thinking that this was the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to return (John 14:3), in which case He would take her (and all believers) with Him to heaven.

However, it was not Jesus' plan to stay in this world always, and His resurrection was not to be seen as His promised return. That is why He tells Mary of the ascension. His plan was to ascend to the Father and then send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7; 20:22; Acts 2:1-4). Fellowship with Jesus would continue, but it would be a spiritual communion, not a physical presence.

In loosening Mary's hold on Him, Jesus was, in effect, saying this: "I know you desire to keep Me here, always present with you. I know you want everything to be just the same as before I died. But our relationship is about to change. I"m going to heaven, and you will have the Comforter in My place. You need to start walking by faith, Mary, not by sight."

When Jesus spoke to Thomas, it was not to counter a misplaced desire but to rebuke a lack of faith. Thomas had said he would not believe until he had touched the living body of Jesus (John 20:25). Jesus, knowing all about Thomas's declaration, offered His body as living proof of His resurrection. This was something He did on another occasion as well (Luke 24:39-40).

So, both Mary and Thomas needed more faith. Mary needed faith enough to let Jesus go. Thomas needed faith enough to believe without empirical proof. Mary needed to loosen her grip; Thomas needed to strengthen his. The resurrected Christ gave both of them the faith they needed.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


06/22/19

Question: "Why didn't the disciples always recognize Jesus after His resurrection?"

Answer:The Bible does not specifically tell us why the followers of Christ did not always recognize Jesus after His resurrection. As a result, some of the following is speculation. Keeping this in mind, there are a few things that might have contributed to the disciples not recognizing Jesus immediately when He first appeared to them after His resurrection. First, even though Jesus had predicted that He would rise again on the third day, the disciples did not fully understand (Mark 9:32), because clearly they were not looking for Him to be resurrected. This can account for some of their surprise and shock at seeing Him.

One of the instances where Jesus was not recognized was Mary Magdalene’s coming to the tomb early in the morning (John 20:15). Instead of recognizing Jesus, she first mistook Him for the gardener. One thing that is important to remember is that we do not know how far Mary was from Jesus when she misidentified Him. It could be that she was simply too far to clearly recognize who He was until He spoke to her. Second, we must remember that since it was very early in the morning, the light would not have been very bright which could also have made it more difficult for her to see Him clearly. When we couple that with the fact that she was not expecting to see Him alive, it is easy to see why she did not recognize Him from a distance until He spoke to her.

A second instance in which Jesus was not immediately recognized was when the disciples did not recognize Him when they were out fishing (John 21:4). This could also be related to the distance Jesus might have been from them. A third instance is when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) did not recognize Jesus until He broke bread. How could these two disciples have walked, talked, and eaten with Jesus without recognizing Him? In this instance, it seems that they were supernaturally prevented from recognizing Jesus. Jesus perhaps had taken on a different appearance to keep Himself from being recognized. Why would Jesus have done this? The Bible does not say. Perhaps Jesus “veiled” His identity so the two disciples would truly think through the things Jesus was saying, rather than accepting the teaching blindly, as they likely would have if they had known it was Jesus.

What we can know for certain is that it was Jesus Himself who appeared to them because of all the testimony of those who saw the resurrected Christ. In addition, there was the witness of the remarkable change that took place in the lives of the disciples. Immediately before and after the crucifixion, the eleven apostles were in hiding in fear, yet after spending considerable time with the resurrected Christ, they became fearless evangelists proclaiming the gospel boldly no matter how strong the opposition. In addition, all eventually gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. Only witnessing the resurrected Jesus Christ can account for such a radical change.


PART II 

Question: "How will our resurrection body be different from our current body?"

Answer:In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul discusses the great differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrected bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54). Contrasting our earthly bodies with the splendor of our heavenly (resurrected) bodies, Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (vv. 42-44, emphasis added). In short, our resurrected bodies are spiritual, imperishable, and raised in glory and power.

Through the first Adam, we received our natural bodies, perfectly suited to an earthly environment. However, they became perishable as a consequence of the Fall. Due to disobedience, mankind became mortal. Aging, deterioration, and eventual death now affect all of us. From dust we came, and to dust shall we return (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). Our resurrection bodies, on the other hand, will be “raised imperishable.” They will never experience sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. And “when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable… then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

As a result of the Fall, we are “sown in dishonor.” We were originally made perfect and in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but sin has brought dishonor. Yet believers have the promise that our imperfect and dishonored bodies will one day be raised in glory. Freed from the restrictions imposed by sin, our resurrected bodies will be honorable and perfectly suited for pleasing and praising our Creator throughout eternity.

Our current bodies are also characterized by weakness and debility. Our earthly “temples” are undeniably fragile and susceptible to the plethora of diseases that ravage mankind. We are also weakened by sin and temptation. One day, though, our bodies will be raised in power and glory, and we will no longer be subject to the flaws and fragility that pervade life today.

Last, the resurrected body will be a spiritual one. Our natural bodies are suited for living in this world, but this is the only realm in which we can live. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). After the resurrection we will have a “spiritual body,” perfectly suited for living in heaven. This does not mean that we will be onlyspirits—spirits do not have bodies—but that our resurrected bodies will not need physical sustenance or depend on natural means of supporting life.

We get a glimpse of what our resurrection bodies will be like when we recall Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He still had visible wounds, and His disciples could physically touch Him, yet He was able to travel effortlessly and appear and disappear at will. He could go through walls and doors yet could also eat and drink and sit and talk. Scripture informs us that our “lowly bodies” will be just “like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Indeed, the physical limitations imposed by sin that hinder our ability to fully serve Him on earth will be forever gone, freeing us to praise and serve and glorify Him for eternity.


PART III 

Where was Jesus between His death and resurrection?

The "where was Jesus?" question understandably becomes very common around Easter. The death and resurrection of Christ being celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday raise the questions: What happened in between? Where was Jesus and what was He doing for those three days? Why three days? Did Jesus go to hell in between His death and resurrection? etc., etc. Answering the questions is difficult because the Bible does not say much about where Jesus was and what He was doing between His death and resurrection. The Bible gives a few details, but even the interpretation of those details is difficult.

The first thing that should be made clear is that when we ask "Where was Jesus?", the question is referring to Jesus' soul/spirit. Jesus' body was in the tomb from the time it was placed there until the resurrection. Jesus' soul/spirit, however, was not in the tomb. The question really is: "Where was Jesus, spiritually/immaterially, between His death and resurrection?"

There are three primary Bible passages that give us hints to the "Where was Jesus?" question. First, Acts 2:31(see also Psalm 16:10-11), says that Jesus was not abandoned to Hades. Hades is the realm of the dead. Jesus was in the realm of the dead, but He did not remain there. Why was Jesus sent to the realm of the dead? The second passage, 1 Peter 3:18-19, likely answers the question. Jesus went to Hades in order to preach to the spirits in prison. Who were the spirits in prison? According to 1 Peter 3:20, they were those "who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built." This is referring back to the Genesis 6account. But, that does not answer the question either, as there is disagreement over that passage as well. Were the sons of God who married the daughters of men fallen angels or human beings? If the answer is fallen angels, were the spirits in prison those fallen angels that God judged for their sin in Genesis 6, or were they the spirits of the people who had been destroyed by the flood? The most interesting and frustrating part of the "where was Jesus?" discussion is that every disagreement leads to other disagreements.

The third passage is Ephesians 4:8-10, which refers to Jesus leading "captivity captive" (KJV) or leading "a host of captives." What in the world does this refer to? Most Bible scholars believe it refers to Jesus taking all of the righteous dead, who were held "captive" in the paradise compartment of Sheol/Hades, and taking them to heaven. Prior to the death of Christ, the righteous dead were saved, but since their sins had not been atoned for, they were not allowed in heaven. Once Jesus' sacrifice had been applied to them, they were allowed entrance into heaven, and Jesus took them there. That is sure a lot to read into "taking captivity captive," but that is how most Bible scholars interpret the text.

So, where was Jesus for the three days in between His death and resurrection? For a time, He was in Hades, preaching to the spirits in prison (whoever they were). Then, He released all of the righteous dead of Sheol/Hades and took them with Him to heaven. But, again, there is controversy on virtually every point.

Ultimately, it seems that the Bible does not go into great detail on the "Where was Jesus?" question because in comparison to His death and resurrection, it is not nearly as important what went on in between. And, maybe that should be our lesson. Let's spend less time debating the side issues and instead celebrate the core issues. Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave, demonstrating that His death was sufficient. Because of His perfect and complete sacrifice, demonstrated by His resurrection, we can be saved if we trust in Him (John 3:16Acts 16:31).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


06/21/19

Question: "Did Jesus go to hell between His death and resurrection?"

Answer:There is a great deal of confusion in regards to this question. The concept that Jesus went to hell after His death on the cross comes primarily from the Apostles’ Creed, which states, “He descended into hell.” There are also a few Scriptures which, depending on how they are translated, describe Jesus going to “hell.” In studying this issue, it is important to first understand what the Bible teaches about the realm of the dead.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheolis hades, which also refers to “the place of the dead.” Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicate that sheol/hades is a temporary place, where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection and judgment. Revelation 20:11–15 gives a clear distinction between hades and the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades, then, is a temporary place. Many people refer to both hades and the lake of fire as “hell,” and this causes confusion. Jesus did not go to a place of torment after His death, but He did go to hades.

Sheol/hades was a realm with two divisions—a place of blessing and a place of judgment (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27–31). The abodes of the saved and the lost are both generally called “hades” in the Bible. The abode of the saved is also called “Abraham’s bosom” (KJV) or “Abraham’s side” (NIV) in Luke 16:22 and “paradise” in Luke 23:43. The abode of the unsaved is called “hell” (KJV) or “Hades” (NIV) in Luke 16:23. The abodes of the saved and the lost are separated by a “great chasm” (Luke 16:26). When Jesus died, He went to the blessed side of sheol and, from there, took the believers with Him to heaven (Ephesians 4:8–10). The judgment side of sheol/hades has remained unchanged. All unbelieving dead go there awaiting their final judgment in the future. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes, according to Ephesians 4:8–10 and 1 Peter 3:18–20.

Some of the confusion has arisen from such passages as Psalm 16:10–11 as translated in the King James Version: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . Thou wilt show me the path of life.” “Hell” is not a correct translation in this verse. A correct reading would be “the grave” or “sheol.” Jesus said to the thief beside Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43); He did not say, “I will see you in hell.” Jesus’ body was in the tomb; His soul/spirit went to be with the blessed in sheol/hades. Unfortunately, in many versions of the Bible, translators are not consistent, or correct, in how they translate the Hebrew and Greek words for “sheol,” “hades,” and “hell.”

Some have the viewpoint that Jesus went to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol/hades in order to further be punished for our sins. This idea is completely unbiblical. It was the death of Jesus on the cross that sufficiently provided for our redemption. It was His shed blood that effected our own cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7–9). As He hung there on the cross, He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This imputation of sin helps us understand Christ’s struggle in the garden of Gethsemane with the cup of sin which would be poured out upon Him on the cross.

As Jesus neared death, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to hades (the place of the dead). Jesus did not go to “hell” or the suffering side of hades; He went to “Abraham’s side” or the blessed side of hades. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension. Did Jesus go to hell? No. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes.


PART II 

Question: "Where do the Hebrew Scriptures prophesy the death and resurrection of the Messiah?"

Answer:Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the promise of a Messiah is clearly given. These messianic prophecies were made hundreds, sometimes thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born, and clearly Jesus Christ is the only person who has ever walked this earth to fulfill them. In fact, from Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of this Anointed One. In addition to prophecies detailing His virgin birth, His birth in Bethlehem, His birth from the tribe of Judah, His lineage from King David, His sinless life, and His atoning work for the sins of His people,the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah was, likewise, well documented in the Hebrew prophetic Scriptures long before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred in history.

Of the best-known prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the death of Messiah, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 certainly stand out. Psalm 22 is especially amazing since it predicted numerous separate elements about Jesus’ crucifixion a thousand years before Jesus was crucified. Here are some examples. Messiah will have His hands and His feet “pierced” through (Psalm 22:16; John 20:25). The Messiah’s bones will not be broken (a person’s legs were usually broken after being crucified to speed up their death) (Psalm 22:17; John 19:33). Men will cast lots for Messiah’s clothing (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35).

Isaiah 53, the classic messianic prophecy known as the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, also details the death of Messiah for the sins of His people. More than 700 years before Jesus was even born, Isaiah provides details of His life and death. The Messiah will be rejected (Isaiah 53:3; Luke 13:34). The Messiah will be killed as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of His people (Isaiah 53:5–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Messiah will be silent in front of His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). The Messiah will be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57–60). The Messiah will be with criminals in His death (Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27).

In addition to the death of the Jewish Messiah, His resurrection from the dead is also foretold. The clearest and best known of the resurrection prophecies is the one penned by Israel’s King David in Psalm 16:10, also written a millennium before the birth of Jesus: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”

On the Jewish feast day of Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), when Peter preached the first gospel sermon, he boldly asserted that God had raised Jesus the Jewish Messiah from the dead (Acts 2:24). He then explained that God had performed this miraculous deed in fulfillment of David's prophecy in Psalm 16. In fact, Peter quoted the words of David in detail as contained in Psalm 16:8–11. Some years later, Paul did the same thing when he spoke to the Jewish community in Antioch. Like Peter, Paul declared that God had raised Messiah Jesus from the dead in fulfillment of Psalm 16:10 (Acts 13:33–35).

The resurrection of the Messiah is strongly implied in another Davidic psalm. Again, this is Psalm 22. In verses 19–21, the suffering Savior prays for deliverance “from the lion’s mouth” (a metaphor for Satan). This desperate prayer is then followed immediately in verses 22–24 by a hymn of praise in which the Messiah thanks God for hearing His prayer and delivering Him. The resurrection of the Messiah is clearly implied between the ending of the prayer in verse 21 and the beginning of the praise song in verse 22.

And back again to Isaiah 53: after prophesying that the Suffering Servant of God would suffer for the sins of His people, the prophet says He would then be “cut off out of the land of the living.” But Isaiah then states that He (Messiah) “will see His offspring” and that God the Father will “prolong His days” (Isaiah 53:5, 8, 10). Isaiah proceeds to reaffirm the promise of the resurrection in different words: “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see light and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

Every aspect of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah had been prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures long before the events ever unfolded in the timeline of human history. No wonder that Jesus the Messiah would say to the Jewish religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).


PART III 

Question: "Where was Jesus for the three days between His death and resurrection?"

Answer:A key passage in the discussion on where Jesus was for the three days in between His death and resurrection is 1 Peter 3:18–19, which says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison” (ESV). The word spiritrefers to Christ’s spirit. The contrast is between His flesh and spirit, and not between Christ’s flesh and the Holy Spirit. Christ’s flesh died, but His spirit remained alive. Jesus’ body was in the tomb, of course, but His spirit, having departed at His death (Matthew 27:50), was elsewhere for those three days.

Peter gives a little bit of specific information about what happened in those three days between Jesus’ death and resurrection. The KJV says that Jesus “preached” to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19). The Greek word used simply means that Jesus “heralded a message”; the NIV translates it as “made proclamation.” Jesus suffered and died on the cross, His body being put to death. But His spirit was still alive, and He yielded it to the Father (Luke 23:46). According to Peter, sometime between Jesus’ death and His resurrection Jesus made a special proclamation to some imprisoned spirits.

Where were these imprisoned spirits to whom Jesus spoke between His death and resurrection? Nowhere in the Bible are we told that Jesus visited hell. The idea that Jesus went to hell in order to continue His suffering is unbiblical; His suffering ended when He said, “It is finished” upon the cross (John 19:30). The New American Standard Bible says that Jesus went to “Hades” (Acts 2:31), but Hades is not hell. Hadesis a term that refers, broadly, to the realm of the dead, a temporary place where the dead await resurrection. Revelation 20:11–15 in the NASB and the NIV makes a clear distinction between Hades and the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the permanent, final place of judgment for the lost. Hades is a temporary place for both the lost and the Old Testament saints.

Our Lord Jesus yielded His spirit to the Father, died physically, and entered paradise, as He had promised the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). At some time between His death and resurrection, Jesus also visited a place where He delivered a message to spirit beings—probably fallen angels (see Jude 1:6); these spirits were probably imprisoned because they were somehow involved in a grievous sin before the flood in Noah’s time (1 Peter 3:20). Peter does not tell us what Jesus proclaimed to the imprisoned spirits, but it could not have been a message of redemption, since angels cannot be saved (Hebrews 2:16). What Jesus proclaimed was probably a declaration of His victory over Satan and his hosts (1 Peter 3:22; Colossians 2:15).

Ephesians 4:8–10 may give another clue regarding Jesus’ activities in the three days between His death and resurrection. Quoting Psalm 68:18, Paul says about Christ, “When he ascended on high, he took many captives” (Ephesians 4:8). The ESV puts it that Christ “led a host of captives.” This could refer to an event not elsewhere described in Scripture, namely, that Jesus gathered all the redeemed who were in paradise and took them to their permanent dwelling in heaven. That is, after securing their salvation on the cross, Jesus brought Abraham, David, Joshua, Daniel, the beggar Lazarus, the thief on the cross, and everyone else who had previously been justified by faith, and led them from Hades to their new spiritual home.

All of this is to say that the Bible isn’t entirely clear what exactly Christ did for the three days between His death and resurrection. From what we can tell, though, He did two things: He comforted the departed saints and brought them to their eternal home, and He proclaimed His victory over the fallen angels who are kept in prison. What we can know for sure is that Jesus was not giving anyone a second chance for salvation; we face judgment after death (Hebrews 9:27), not a second chance. Also, Jesus was not suffering in hell; His work of redemption was finished on the cross.

GOD BLESSED YOU!!!


06/20/19

Question: "What did Jesus mean when He said, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life' (John 11:25)?"

Answer:“I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25) is the fifth of the seven ”I am” statements of Jesus. Lazarus was dead. Earlier, Jesus had heard that His good friend was sick, but instead of going to visit Lazarus, Jesus “stayed where he was for two more days” (John 11:6). He explained to His puzzled disciples that the sickness was “for God’s glory, that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v. 4). After Lazarus died, Jesus began a journey to Bethany, Lazarus’s home. Significantly, when Jesus informed His disciples that Lazarus was dead, He simply said His friend was “asleep, but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). 

Outside Bethany, Lazarus’s sister Martha went out to meet Jesus. “If you had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died.” Such was her faith in Jesus’ power to heal. Jesus replied by assuring Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha responded again in faith: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” At this point, Jesus makes His fifth “I Am” statement in John’s gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and He follows it with a call to faith: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:21-24). 

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He islife, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, it is impossible for death to defeat them (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).

The grieving Martha wished that Jesus had arrived earlier so He could have healed her brother. And when Jesus spoke of resurrection, Martha assumed He was speaking of “the resurrection at the last day.” In both statements, Martha reveals that she considered Time an insurmountable obstacle. In effect, Martha was saying, “It’s too late to help Lazarus (the time is past), so now we must wait (allow more time).”

Jesus shows that neither Death nor time is an obstacle to Him. Outside the tomb, “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43). It’s one thing to <i>claim</i> to be the resurrection and the life, but Jesus proved it by raising Lazarus, who was four days dead. Truly, with Christ, death is but “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Death has no dominion over Him who is Life itself, nor does death have dominion over those who are in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally.

Jesus’ statement that He is the resurrection and the life provides a godly perspective on several spiritual matters. Martha believed that the resurrection is an event; Jesus showed her (and us) that the resurrection is a Person. Martha’s knowledge of eternal life was an abstract idea; Jesus proved that knowledge of eternal life is a personal relationship. Martha thought victory over death was a future expectation; Jesus corrects her, showing that victory is a present reality.

After presenting Himself as the resurrection and the life, Jesus asks Martha an all-important question: “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). May Martha’s answer be ours as well: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world” (verse 27).


PART II 

Question: "Can the various resurrection accounts from the four Gospels be harmonized?"

Answer:The events surrounding Jesus' resurrection can be difficult to piece together. We must remember two things: first, the news of Jesus' resurrection produced much excitement in Jerusalem, and in the ensuing chaos many people were going many different directions. Groups were separated, and several different groups paid visits to the tomb, possibly more than once. Second, the writers of the Gospels did not attempt an exhaustive narrative; in other words, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had no intention of telling us every detail of the resurrection or every event in the order that it happened.

In the battle with skeptics regarding Jesus' resurrection, Christians are in a "no-win" situation. If the resurrection accounts harmonize perfectly, skeptics will claim that the writers of the Gospels conspired together. If the resurrection accounts have some differences, skeptics will claim that the Gospels contradict each other and therefore cannot be trusted. It is our contention that the resurrection accounts can be harmonized and do not contradict each other.

However, even if the resurrection accounts cannot be perfectly harmonized, that does not make them untrustworthy. By any reasonable evaluation, the resurrection accounts from the four Gospels are superbly consistent eyewitness testimonies. The central truths - that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that the resurrected Jesus appeared to many people - are clearly taught in each of the four Gospels. The apparent inconsistencies are in "side issues." How many angels did they see in the tomb, one or two? (Perhaps one person only saw one angel, while the other person saw two angels.) To how many women did Jesus appear, and to whom did He appear first? (While each Gospel has a slightly different sequence to the appearances, none of them claims to be giving the precise chronological order.) So, while the resurrection accounts may seem to be inconsistent, it cannot be proven that the accounts are contradictory.

Here is a possible harmony of the narratives of the resurrection of Christ and His post-resurrection appearances, in chronological order:

Jesus is buried, as several women watch (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42).

The tomb is sealed and a guard is set (Matthew 27:62-66).

At least 3 women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, prepare spices to go to the tomb (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1).

An angel descends from heaven, rolls the stone away, and sits on it. There is an earthquake, and the guards faint (Matthew 28:2-4).

The women arrive at the tomb and find it empty. Mary Magdalene leaves the other women there and runs to tell the disciples (John 20:1-2).

The women still at the tomb see two angels who tell them that Jesus is risen and who instruct them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).

The women leave to bring the news to the disciples (Matthew 28:8).

The guards, having roused themselves, report the empty tomb to the authorities, who bribe the guards to say the body was stolen (Matthew 28:11-15).

Mary the mother of James and the other women, on their way to find the disciples, see Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10). 

The women relate what they have seen and heard to the disciples (Luke 24:9-11).

Peter and John run to the tomb, see that it is empty, and find the grave clothes (Luke 24:12; John 20:2-10).

Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb. She sees the angels, and then she sees Jesus (John 20:11-18).

Later the same day, Jesus appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).

Still on the same day, Jesus appears to Cleopas and another disciple on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13:32).

That evening, the two disciples report the event to the Eleven in Jerusalem (Luke 24:32-35).

Jesus appears to ten disciples"Thomas is missing (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).

Jesus appears to all eleven disciples"Thomas included (John 20:26-31).

Jesus appears to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25).

Jesus appears to about 500 disciples in Galilee (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Jesus appears to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7).

Jesus commissions His disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus teaches His disciples the Scriptures and promises to send the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5).

Jesus ascends into heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-12).


PART III 

Question: "What is more important, the death of Christ or His resurrection?"

Answer:The death and resurrection of Christ are equally important. Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish separate but necessarily related things. The death and resurrection of our Lord are really inseparable, like the warp and weft of cloth.

The cross of Christ won for us the victory that we could never have won for ourselves. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). On the cross God piled our sins on Jesus, and He bore the punishment due us (Isaiah 53:4–8). In His death, Jesus took upon Himself the curse introduced by Adam (see Galatians 3:13).

With the death of Christ, our sins became powerless to rule over us (Romans 6). By His death, Jesus destroyed the works of the devil (John 12:31; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), condemned Satan (John 16:11), and crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

Without the sacrificial death of Christ, we would still be in our sins, unforgiven, unredeemed, unsaved, and unloved. The cross of Christ is vital to our salvation and was thus a main theme of the apostles’ preaching (Acts 2:23, 36; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

But the story of Jesus Christ did not end with His death. The resurrection of Christ is also foundational to the gospel message. Our salvation stands or falls based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19. If Christ is not physically risen from the dead, then we ourselves have no hope of resurrection, the apostles’ preaching was in vain, and believers are all to be pitied. Without the resurrection, we are still sitting “in darkness and in the shadow of death” waiting for the sunrise (Luke 1:78–79).

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, His promise holds true for us: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Our great enemy, death, will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26, 54–55). Jesus’ resurrection is also important because it is through that event that God declares us righteous: Jesus “was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The gift of the Holy Spirit was sent from the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus (John 16:7).

At least three times in His earthly ministry, Jesus predicted that He would die and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead, He would have failed in His prophecies—He would have been yet another false prophet to be ignored. As it is, however, we have a living Lord, faithful to His Word. The angel at Jesus’ empty tomb was able to point to fulfilled prophecy: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

Scripture links the death and resurrection of Christ, and we must maintain that link. Jesus’ entrance into the tomb is as equally important as His exit from the tomb. In 1 Corinthians 15:3–5, Paul defines the gospel as the dual truth that Jesus died for our sins (proved by His burial) and that He rose again the third day (proved by His appearances to many witnesses). This gospel truth is “of first importance” (verse 3).

It is impossible to separate the death of Christ from His resurrection. To believe in one without the other is to believe in a false gospel that cannot save. In order for Jesus to have truly arisen from the dead, He must have truly died. And in order for His death to have a true meaning for us, He must have a true resurrection. We cannot have one without the other.

GOD BLESSED YOU!


06/19/19

Question: "Is the resurrection of Jesus Christ true?"

Answer:Scripture presents conclusive evidence that Jesus Christ was in fact resurrected from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is recorded in Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; and John 20:1–21:25. The resurrected Christ also appeared in the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1-11). From these passages you can gain several “proofs” of Christ’s resurrection. First is the dramatic change in the disciples. They went from a group of men frightened and in hiding to strong, courageous witnesses sharing the gospel throughout the world. What else could explain this dramatic change other than the risen Christ appearing to them?

Second is the life of the apostle Paul. What changed him from being a persecutor of the church into an apostle for the church? It was when the risen Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). A third convincing proof is the empty tomb. If Christ were not raised, then where is His body? The disciples and others saw the tomb where He was buried. When they returned, His body was not there. Angels declared that He had been raised from the dead as He had promised (Matthew 28:5-7). Fourth, additional evidence of His resurrection is the many people He appeared to (Matthew 28:5, 9, 16-17; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:19, 24, 26-29, 21:1-14; Acts 1:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:5-7).

Another proof of the resurrection of Jesus is the great amount of weight the apostles gave to Jesus' resurrection. A key passage on Christ’s resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, the apostle Paul explains why it is crucial to understand and believe in Christ’s resurrection. The resurrection is important for the following reasons: 1) If Christ was not raised from the dead, believers will not be either (1 Corinthians 15:12-15). 2) If Christ was not raised from the dead, His sacrifice for sin was not sufficient (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Jesus’ resurrection proved that His death was accepted by God as the atonement for our sins. If He had simply died and stayed dead, that would indicate His sacrifice was not sufficient. As a result, believers would not be forgiven for their sins, and they would remain dead after they die (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). There would be no such thing as eternal life (John 3:16). “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20 NAS). 

Finally, Scripture is clear that all those who believe in Jesus Christ will be raised to eternal life just as He was (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). First Corinthians 15 goes on to describe how Christ’s resurrection proves His victory over sin and provides us the power to live victoriously over sin (1 Corinthians 15:24-34). It describes the glorious nature of the resurrection body we will receive (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). It proclaims that, as a result of Christ’s resurrection, all who believe in Him have ultimate victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

What a glorious truth the resurrection of Christ is! “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). According to the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is most definitely true. The Bible records Christ's resurrection, records that over 500 people witnessed the resurrected Christ, and proceeds to build crucial Christian doctrine on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection.


PART II 

Question: "What is the first resurrection? What is the second resurrection?"

Answer:Daniel 12:2 summarizes the two very different fates facing mankind: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Everyone will be raised from the dead, but not everyone will share the same destiny. The New Testament reveals the further detail of separate resurrections for the just and the unjust.

Revelation 20:4-6 mentions a "first resurrection" and identifies those involved as "blessed and holy." The second death (the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14) has no power over these individuals. The first resurrection, then, is the raising of all believers. It corresponds with Jesus' teaching of the "resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14) and the "resurrection of life" (John 5:29).

The first resurrection takes place in various stages. Jesus Christ Himself (the "first fruits," 1 Corinthians 15:20), paved the way for the resurrection of all who believe in Him. There was a resurrection of the Jerusalem saints (Matthew 27:52-53) which should be included in our consideration of the first resurrection. Still to come are the resurrection of "the dead in Christ" at the Lord's return (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and the resurrection of the martyrs at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).

Revelation 20:12-13 identifies those comprising the second resurrection as the wicked judged by God at the great white throne judgment prior to being cast into the lake of fire. The second resurrection, then, is the raising of all unbelievers; the second resurrection is connected to the second death. It corresponds with Jesus' teaching of the "resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29).

The event which divides the first and second resurrections seems to be the millennial kingdom. The last of the righteous are raised to reign "with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4), but the "rest of the dead [that is, the wicked] lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5).

What great rejoicing will attend the first resurrection! What great anguish at the second! What a responsibility we have to share the Gospel! "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire" (Jude 23).


PART III 

Question: "When will the Resurrection take place?"

Answer:The Bible is clear that resurrection is a reality and this life is not all that there is. While death is the end of physical life, it is not the end of human existence. Many erroneously believe that there is one general resurrection at the end of the age, but the Bible teaches that there will be not one resurrection, but a series of resurrections, some to eternal life in heaven and some to eternal damnation (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29).

The first great resurrection was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is documented in each of the four Gospels (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20), cited several times in Acts (Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 26:23), and mentioned repeatedly in the letters to the churches (Romans 1:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:3). Much is made of the importance of Christ's resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, which records that over five hundred people saw Him at one of His post-resurrection appearances. Christ's resurrection is the "first fruits" or guarantee to every Christian that he will also be resurrected. Christ's resurrection is also the basis of the Christian's certainty that all people who have died will one day be raised to face fair and even-handed judgment by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31). The resurrection to eternal life is described as "the first resurrection" (Revelation 20:5-6); the resurrection to judgment and torment is described as "the second death" (Revelation 20:6, 13-15).

The first great resurrection of the Church will occur at the time of the rapture. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ during the Church Age, and have died before Jesus returns, will be resurrected at the rapture. The Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost and will end when Christ returns to take believers back to heaven with Him (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Apostle Paul explained that not all Christians will die, but all will be changed, i.e., given resurrection-type bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-58), some without having to die! Christians who are alive, and those who have already died, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him always!

Another great resurrection will occur when Christ returns to earth (His Second Coming) at the end of the Tribulation period. After the rapture, the Tribulation is the next event after the Church Age in God's chronology. This will be a time of terrible judgment upon the world, described in great detail in Revelation chapters 6-18. Though all Church Age believers will be gone, millions of people left behind on earth will come to their senses during this time and will trust in Jesus as their Savior. Tragically, most of them will pay for their faith in Jesus by losing their lives (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 13:7, 15-17; 17:6; 19:1-2). These believers in Jesus who die during the Tribulation will be resurrected at Christ's return and will reign with Him for a thousand years during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4, 6). Old Testament believers such as Job, Noah, Abraham, David and even John the Baptist (who was assassinated before the Church began) will be resurrected at this time also. Several passages in the Old Testament mention this event (Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-2; Hosea 13:14). Ezekiel 37:1-14 describes primarily the regathering of the Nation of Israel using the symbolism of dead corpses coming back to life. But from the language used, a physical resurrection of dead Israelis cannot be excluded from the passage. Again, all believers in God (in the Old Testament era) and all believers in Jesus (in the New Testament era) participate in the first resurrection, a resurrection to life (Revelation 20:4, 6).

There may be another resurrection at the end of the Millennium, one which is implied, but never explicitly stated in Scripture. It is possible that some believers will die a physical death during the Millennium. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed" (Isaiah 65:20). On the other hand, it is also possible that death in the Millennium will only come to the disobedient. In either event, some kind of transformation will be required to fit believers in their natural bodies in the Millennium for pristine existence throughout eternity. Each believer will need to have a "resurrected" type of body.

It is clear from Scripture that God will destroy the entire universe, including the earth, with fire (2 Peter 3:7-12). This will be necessary to purge God's creation of its endemic evil and decay brought upon it by man's sin. In its place God will create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4). But what will happen to those believers who survived the Tribulation and entered the Millennium in their natural bodies? And what will happen to those who were born during the Millennium, trusted in Jesus, and continued to live in their natural bodies? Paul has made it clear that flesh and blood, which is mortal and able to decay, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. That eternal kingdom is inhabitable only by those with resurrected, glorified bodies that are no longer mortal and are not able to decay (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). Presumably, these believers will be given resurrection bodies without having to die. Precisely when this happens is not explained, but theologically, it must happen somewhere in the transition from the old earth and universe to the new earth and new heaven (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4).

There is a final resurrection, apparently of all the unbelieving dead of all ages. Jesus Christ will raise them from the dead (John 5:25-29) after the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:5), and after the destruction of the present earth and universe (2 Peter 3:7-12; Revelation 20:11). This is the resurrection described by Daniel as an awakening "from the dust of the ground ... to disgrace and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2). It is described by Jesus as a "resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).

The Apostle John saw something that would happen in the future. He saw a "great white throne" (Revelation 20:11). Heaven and earth "fled away" from the One sitting on it. This is evidently a description of the dissolution by fire of all matter, including the entire universe and earth itself (2 Peter 3:7-12). All the (godless) dead will stand before the throne. This means they have been resurrected after the thousand years (Revelation 20:5). They will possess bodies that can feel pain but will never cease to exist (Mark 9:43-48). They will be judged, and their punishment will be commensurate with their works. But there is another book opened"the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 21:27). Those whose names are not written in the book of life are cast into the "lake of fire," which amounts to "the second death" (Revelation 20:11-15). No indication is given of any who appear at this judgment that their names are found in the book of life. Rather, those whose names appear in the book of life were among those who are blessed, for they received forgiveness and partook of the first resurrection, the resurrection to life (Revelation 20:6).

GOD BLESSED YOU!!!


06/18/19

Question: "Why is the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?"


Answer:The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event in history, providing irrefutable evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be – the Son of God. The resurrection was not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validated the Scriptures, which foretold His coming and resurrection. Moreover, it authenticated Christ’s claims that He would be raised on the third day (John 2:19-21; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Christ’s body was not resurrected, we have no hope that ours will be (1 Corinthians 15:13, 16). In fact, apart from Christ’s bodily resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As the apostle Paul said, our faith would be “useless” and the life-giving power of the gospel would be altogether eliminated. 


Because our eternal destinies ride on the truth of this historical event, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. Accordingly, the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection has been examined and investigated from every angle and studied endlessly by countless scholars, theologians, professors, and others over the centuries. And even though a number of theories have been postulated that attempt to disprove this momentous event, no credible historical evidence exists which would validate anything other than His literal bodily resurrection. On the other hand, the clear and convincing evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. 


Nonetheless, from the Christians in ancient Corinth to many today, misunderstandings persist relative to certain aspects of our Savior’s resurrection. Why, some ask, is it important that Christ’s body was resurrected? Couldn’t His resurrection have just been spiritual? Why and how does the resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantee the bodily resurrection of believers? Will our resurrected bodies be the same as our earthly bodies? If not, what will they be like? The answers to these questions are found in the fifteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, a church that he established several years earlier during his second missionary journey.


In addition to growing factions in the young Corinthian church, there was rampant misunderstanding of some key Christian doctrines, including the resurrection. Although many of the Corinthians accepted that Christ has been resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1, 11), they had difficulty believing others could or would be resurrected. The continuing influence of Gnostic philosophy, which held that everything spiritual was good whereas everything physical, such as our bodies, was intrinsically evil, was essentially responsible for their confusion regarding their own resurrection. The idea of a detestable corpse being eternally resurrected was, therefore, strongly opposed by some and certainly by the Greek philosophers of the day (Acts 17:32).


Yet, most of the Corinthians understood that Christ’s resurrection was bodily and not spiritual. After all, resurrectionmeans “a rising from the dead”; something comes back to life. They understood that all souls were immortal and at death immediately went to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Thus, a “spiritual” resurrection would make no sense, as the spirit doesn’t die and therefore cannot be resurrected. Additionally, they were aware that the Scriptures, as well as Christ Himself, stated that His body would rise again on the third day. Scripture also made it clear that Christ’s body would see no decay (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), a charge that would make no sense if His body was not resurrected. Lastly, Christ emphatically told His disciples it was His body that was resurrected: “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). 


Again, however, the Corinthians’ concern was regarding their personal resurrection. Accordingly, Paul tried to convince the Corinthians that because Christ rose from the dead, they also would rise from the dead some day, and that the two resurrections – Christ’s and ours – must stand or fall together, for “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:13).


“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). 


When Jesus Christ was resurrected, He became the “first fruits” of all who would be raised (see also Colossians 1:18). The Israelites could not fully harvest their crops until they brought a representative sampling (first fruits) to the priests as an offering to the Lord (Leviticus 23:10). This is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Christ’s own resurrection was the “first fruits” of the resurrection “harvest” of the believing dead. The “first fruits” language Paul uses indicates something to follow, and that something would be His followers – the rest of the “crop.” This is how Christ’s resurrection guarantees ours. Indeed, His resurrection requires our resurrection.


And to allay their concerns regarding connecting the spirit to what was deemed an undesirable body, Paul explained to them the nature of our resurrected bodies and how they would differ from our earthly bodies. Paul likened our deceased earthly bodies to a “seed,” and God would ultimately provide another body (1 Corinthians 15:37-38) that would be like Christ’s glorious resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21). Indeed, just as with our Lord, our bodies which are now perishable, dishonored, weak, and natural will one day be raised into bodies that are imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Our spiritual bodies will be perfectly equipped for heavenly, supernatural living.


PART II

Question: "Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important?"


Answer:The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.


Another reason the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important is that it proves His sinless character and divine nature. The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died (see Acts 13:32–37). It was on the basis of the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached, “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin” (Acts 13:38–39).


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).


Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, no eternal life. Jesus does more than givelife; He islife, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).


Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike other religions, Christianity possesses a Founder who transcends death and promises that His followers will do the same. Every other religion was founded by men or prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we know that God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 10:12).


The Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His church at the rapture. Such assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (cf. Hosea 13:14).


The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now. Paul ends his discourse on resurrection with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can endure persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (verses 30–32), just as our Lord did. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of Christian martyrs through history have willingly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life and the promise of resurrection.


The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? It proves who Jesus is. It demonstrates that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It shows that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that the bodies of those who believe in Christ will not remain dead but will be resurrected unto eternal life.


PART III 

Question: "Why should I believe in Christ's resurrection?"


Answer:It is a fairly well-established fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ. 


As for His resurrection, there are several lines of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”


The secular community’s response to the same evidence has been predictably apathetic in accordance with their steadfast commitment to methodological naturalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, methodological naturalism is the human endeavor of explaining everything in terms of natural causes and natural causes only. If an alleged historical event defies natural explanation (e.g., a miraculous resurrection), secular scholars generally treat it with overwhelming skepticism, regardless of the evidence, no matter how favorable and compelling it may be.


In our view, such an unwavering allegiance to natural causes regardless of substantive evidence to the contrary is not conducive to an impartial (and therefore adequate) investigation of the evidence. We agree with Dr. Wernher von Braun and numerous others who still believe that forcing a popular philosophical predisposition upon the evidence hinders objectivity. Or in the words of Dr. von Braun, “To be forced to believe only one conclusion… would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”


Having said that, let us now examine several lines of evidence for Christ's resurrection.


The First Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection


To begin with, we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences. Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their sincerity, ruling out deception on their part. According to the historical record (The Book of Acts 4:1-17; Pliny’s Letters to Trajan X, 97, etc) most Christians could end their suffering simply by renouncing the faith. Instead, it seems that most opted to endure the suffering and proclaim Christ’s resurrection unto death.


Granted, while martyrdom is remarkable, it is not necessarily compelling. It does not validate a belief so much as it authenticates a believer (by demonstrating his or her sincerity in a tangible way). What makes the earliest Christian martyrs remarkable is that they knew whether or not what they were professing was true. They either saw Jesus Christ alive-and-well after His death or they did not. This is extraordinary. If it was all just a lie, why would so many perpetuate it given their circumstances? Why would they all knowingly cling to such an unprofitable lie in the face of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death?


While the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers undoubtedly believed what they professed (as evidenced by their willingness to die for it), they could not and did not know if it was true. They put their faith in traditions passed down to them over many generations. In contrast, the early Christian martyrs were the first generation. Either they saw what they claimed to see, or they did not.


Among the most illustrious of the professed eyewitnesses were the Apostles. They collectively underwent an undeniable change following the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Immediately following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic change? It certainly was not financial gain. The Apostles gave up everything they had to preach the resurrection, including their lives.


The Second Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection


A second line of evidence concerns the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul and James. Paul was of his own admission a violent persecutor of the early Church. After what he described as an encounter with the resurrected Christ, Paul underwent an immediate and drastic change from a vicious persecutor of the Church to one of its most prolific and selfless defenders. Like many early Christians, Paul suffered impoverishment, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and execution for his steadfast commitment to Christ’s resurrection.


James was skeptical, though not as hostile as Paul. A purported post-resurrection encounter with Christ turned him into an inimitable believer, a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. We still have what scholars generally accept to be one of his letters to the early Church. Like Paul, James willingly suffered and died for his testimony, a fact which attests to the sincerity of his belief (see The Book of Acts and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews XX, ix, 1).


The Third and Fourth Lines of Evidence for Christ's resurrection


A third line and fourth line of evidence concern enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the fact that faith in the resurrection took root in Jerusalem. Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem. It would have been impossible for faith in His resurrection to take root in Jerusalem while His body was still in the tomb where the Sanhedrin could exhume it, put it on public display, and thereby expose the hoax. Instead, the Sanhedrin accused the disciples of stealing the body, apparently in an effort to explain its disappearance (and therefore an empty tomb). How do we explain the fact of the empty tomb? Here are the three most common explanations:


First, the disciples stole the body. If this were the case, they would have known the resurrection was a hoax. They would not therefore have been so willing to suffer and die for it. (See the first line of evidence concerning demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony.) All of the professed eyewitnesses would have known that they hadn’t really seen Christ and were therefore lying. With so many conspirators, surely someone would have confessed, if not to end his own suffering then at least to end the suffering of his friends and family. The first generation of Christians were absolutely brutalized, especially following the conflagration in Rome in A.D. 64 (a fire which Nero allegedly ordered to make room for the expansion of his palace, but which he blamed on the Christians in Rome in an effort to exculpate himself). As the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recounted in his Annals of Imperial Rome (published just a generation after the fire):


“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Annals, XV, 44)


Nero illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. Surely someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain. The fact is, however, we have no record of any early Christian denouncing the faith to end his suffering. Instead, we have multiple accounts of post-resurrection appearances and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and die for it.


If the disciples didn’t steal the body, how else do we explain the empty tomb? Some have suggested that Christ faked His death and later escaped from the tomb. This is patently absurd. According to the eyewitness testimony, Christ was beaten, tortured, lacerated, and stabbed. He suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through His heart. There is no good reason to believe that Jesus Christ (or any other man for that matter) could survive such an ordeal, fake His death, sit in a tomb for three days and nights without medical attention, food or water, remove the massive stone which sealed His tomb, escape undetected (without leaving behind a trail of blood), convince hundreds of eyewitnesses that He was resurrected from the death and in good health, and then disappear without a trace. Such a notion is ridiculous.


The Fifth Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection


Finally, a fifth line of evidence concerns a peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses. This would be an odd invention since in both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women were severely disesteemed. Their testimony was regarded as insubstantial and dismissible. Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that any perpetrators of a hoax in 1st Century Judea would elect women to be their primary witnesses. Of all the male disciples who claimed to see Jesus resurrected, if they all were lying and the resurrection was a scam, why did they pick the most ill-perceived, distrusted witnesses they could find?


Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what's really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, 'Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women' and 'blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.' Women's testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren't even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it's absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women... Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb - Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that - like it or not - they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status." (Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 293)


In Summary


These lines of evidence: the demonstrable sincerity of the eyewitnesses (and in the Apostles’ case, compelling, inexplicable change), the conversion and demonstrable sincerity of key antagonists- and skeptics-turned-martyrs, the fact of the empty tomb, enemy attestation to the empty tomb, the fact that all of this took place in Jerusalem where faith in the resurrection began and thrived, the testimony of the women, the significance of such testimony given the historical context; all of these strongly attest to the historicity of the resurrection. We encourage our readers to thoughtfully consider these evidences. What do they suggest to you? Having pondered them ourselves, we resolutely affirm Sir Lionel’s declaration:


“The evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!!

MAXIMILIANO 


06/17/19

Forgiving Others

“‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).

As Jesus forgave others (including us), we should extend forgiveness to those who wrong us. 

Jesus had a forgiving heart right up to the end, even after He had experienced a lifetime of mankind’s worst treatment.

He came down to a world He had created, but that world rebuffed Him. Its inhabitants’ eyes were blinded by sin, and they could not see any beauty in Jesus. Almost immediately after His humble birth in a stable, King Herod sought to have Him killed (Matt. 2:1316-18). 

And the Jewish leaders on various occasions contested Christ’s teachings and looked for opportunities to seize Him and kill Him. The cross was just the culmination of a lifetime of persecution against Jesus.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion was one of the most humiliating, painful forms of execution the world has ever known. 

From a human perspective, we would have expected Him to plead with God the Father for mercy or to be enraged at God and denounce Him for allowing Him to be crucified. If we had written the original script for Jesus’ crucifixion scene, we probably would have had Him screaming threats of retaliation at His killers. But our Savior did none of those things. Instead, He asked His Father to forgive His enemies.

The Lord Jesus prayed for the most important need His executioners would ever have. They would never be able to enter the presence of a holy God if their sins were not forgiven. Christ was concerned that His opponents, who were ignorantly putting Him to death, have an opportunity to be forgiven rather than endure God’s vengeance.

Such an attitude of love and mercy should also be ours. We, unlike Jesus, are sinners ourselves who need constant forgiveness. Therefore, when we are wronged, our primary concern ought to be that God would forgive the one who has sinned against us. An excellent model of this attitude is Stephen, who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).

He followed Christ’s own example of love and forgiveness, and so should we.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you may have a more consistently forgiving attitude toward others who wrong or offend you.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:21-35.

  • What is implied in Jesus’ figurative expression “seventy times seven” (v. 22) regarding forgiving others?
  • Ultimately, how much does it matter that we maintain a forgiving attitude (vv. 32-35)?


PART II

Following Christ's Example

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is compassion in action.

Mercy is not a human attribute. It is God's gift to those who seek Him. Psalm 103:11says, "As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (KJV).

The verb form of "merciful" appears many times in Scripture and means "to have mercy on," "aid the afflicted," "give help to the wretched," or "rescue the miserable." In general it refers to anything you do to benefit someone in need. The noun form is used only twice: here in Matthew 5:7and in Hebrews 2:17, which reads, "[Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." Christ Himself is both the source and illustration of mercy.

Christ modeled mercy throughout His earthly ministry. He healed the sick and enabled the crippled to walk. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. His redeeming love embraced sinners of all kinds. He wept with those in sorrow and comforted the lonely. He embraced little children and the elderly alike. His mercy was compassion in action!

Despite His abundant mercy, Jesus received no mercy from His enemies. They hated Him without cause, accused Him falsely, beat Him, nailed Him to a cross, spat upon Him, and cursed Him. Even then He sought mercy for them, praying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Some have paraphrased Matthew 5:7to say that if you show mercy to others, they will show mercy to you. Now that might happen in some isolated incidences, but in this jaded world that's not often the case—as Jesus' life clearly demonstrates. Many Christians have incurred slander, rebuke, lawsuits, and even death for their noble efforts. Jesus didn't guarantee merciful treatment from others. His emphasis was that Godshows mercy toward those who show mercy to others.

Don't ever be reluctant to show mercy to others—even when they misunderstand or mistreat you. God will use your kindness for His glory and reward you accordingly.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise Jesus for being willing to suffer death that you might receive mercy.
  • Is there someone you might show mercy to today in some tangible way?

For Further Study

Read John 5:1-18.

  • How did Christ demonstrate mercy to the sick man?
  • How did the Jewish religious leaders react?


PART III

Selfish Anger Equals Murder

“‘Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court’” (Matthew 5:22).

From Jesus’ own life we know He does not forbid every form of anger. In righteous indignation He twice cleansed the temple of its defiling, profaning influences (Matt. 21:12–13John 2:14–15). The apostle Paul instructs Christians to “be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). 

Faithfulness to Christ sometimes demands that we exercise a righteous anger. Many of the current cultural trends, the surges of violence and grossly dishonest and immoral practices, and the unbiblical ideas promoted even within supposedly evangelical circles need to be opposed with righteous anger. That’s because such things undermine the kingdom and glory of God. The psalmist wrote, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11).

In His sermon, Jesus did not speak against legitimate, righteous indignation, but against a selfish anger toward someone for doing something against us, someone who’s just rubbed us the wrong way. The word the Lord used for “angry” indicates a simmering anger that a person nurtures and refuses to let die. Examples of such anger are the long-standing grudge or the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive someone. This kind of anger does not want reconciliation and can become so profound as to be a “root of bitterness springing up” (Heb. 12:15).

Jesus says anyone who harbors such severe anger against another person is the same as guilty before the civil court of murder and deserving of the death penalty in God’s eyes.

Ask Yourself

So are there names and faces that come to mind when confronted with this stark reminder from Scripture? Is there personal anger that needs instant removal from your heart?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Joshua17:12–18 children of Manasseh. Tribesmen of Manasseh complained that Joshua did not allot them land sufficient to their numbers and that the Canaanites were too tough for them to drive out altogether. He permitted them extra land in forested hills that they could clear. Joshua told them that they could drive out the Canaanites for God had promised to be with them in victory against chariots (Deut. 20:1).

Psalm45:6, 7 Your throne, O God. Since this king-groom was likely a member of the Davidic dynasty (e.g., 2 Sam. 7), there was a near and immediate application (see 1 Chr. 28:529:23). Through progressive revelation (i.e., Heb. 1:89), we learn of the ultimate application to “a greater than Solomon” who is God—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke12:11 do not worry. I.e., do not be anxious. This does not suggest that ministers and teachers should forego preparation in their normal spiritual duties. To cite this passage and others like it (21:12–15; Matt. 10:19) to justify the neglect of study and meditation is to twist the meaning of Scripture. This verse is meant as a comfort for those under life-threatening persecution, not as an excuse for laziness in ministry. The exact same expression is used in v. 22, speaking of concern for one’s material necessities. In neither context was Jesus condemning legitimate toil and preparation. He was promising the Holy Spirit’s aid for times of persecution when there can be no preparation.

What passages in Luke are unique to his Gospel?

Luke included 12 events or major passages not found in the other Gospels:

1. Events preceding the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (1:5–80).

2. Scenes from Jesus’ childhood (2:1–52).

3. Herod imprisons John the Baptist (3:19, 20).

4. The people of Nazareth reject Jesus (4:16–30).

5. The first disciples are called (5:1–11).

6. A widow’s son is raised (7:11–17).

7. A woman anoints Jesus’ feet (7:36–50).

8. Certain women minister to Christ (8:1–3).

9. Events, teaching, and miracles during the months leading up to Christ’s death (10:1–18:14).

10. Christ abides with Zacchaeus (19:1–27).

11. Herod tries Christ (23:6–12).

12. Some of Jesus’ final words before His ascension (24:44–49).

LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family

LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY

MAXIMILIANO


06/16/19

Integrity Endures Criticism

“For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. . . . ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12). 

Expect spiritual opposition.

Have you noticed that whenever you take a public stand for righteousness you feel the reaction of the world more strongly? Even something as noble as doing your work with integrity and diligence can bring ridicule, rejection, or even open hostility. But that shouldn’t surprise you.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul warns that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were well-acquainted with spiritual opposition, and in today’s passage they are targets of envious Chaldeans who want to see them put to death. The accusations brought against them were not entirely true because they had not disregarded the king. On the contrary, they were model citizens and exemplary leaders. They had attended the king’s ceremony and fulfilled all their other civil duties insofar as those duties did not violate their responsibility to God.

Their accusers weren’t motivated by loyalty to the king or by their personal allegiance to his religious views. They were jealous and resentful because they hated having Jewish captives ruling over them (see Dan. 2:49).

Sometimes Christians today will do their work excellently and be promoted over their peers, only to incur the displeasure of jealous workmates who criticize or bring false and discrediting accusations against them. If ever you are in that situation, you need to be especially diligent to do your work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), to guard your own attitude, and to let the Lord be your defender.

Suggestions for Prayer

In obedience to the Lord, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

  • What parallels do you see between Daniel’s situation and our current passage?
  • How did God prove Himself faithful in each?


PART II

Defining True Religion

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

True religion produces holiness and sacrificial love.

In this verse James continues his practical and penetrating assessment of true faith. So far he has said in effect, "Don't just study the Bible—obey it! Don't just dabble in external religion—have pure speech!" Now he adds, "Don't just say you're religious—demonstrate sacrificial love! Don't just claim to love God—live a pure life!" Shallow claims to Christianity meant nothing to him. He wanted to see godly attitudes and righteous deeds.

The apostle John used the same approach when he wrote, "The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. . . . The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:610-11). "Light" in that passage represents truth and righteousness; "darkness" speaks of error and sin. If you are truly saved, you are in the light and show it by your love for others.

In our society, the definition of religion is very broad. Almost any belief system qualifies. But to God, any religion that doesn't produce holiness and sacrificial love is not true religion. That narrows the field considerably because anyone who isn't saved through faith in Jesus Christ remains in bondage to sin and has no capacity to live a holy and selfless life.

How about you? Do you flee from sin and reach out to those in need? If so, you have true religion. If not, receive Christ now. He alone is the source of holiness and love.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are a believer, God's love is already shed abroad in your heart through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Ask God to increase your capacity to love others as Christ loves you.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 3:10-18, noting John's comparison of the children of God with the children of the devil.


PART III

Don’t Worry about Tomorrow

“‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrowwill care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34).

Making reasonable provisions for the future is sensible, but to “worry about tomorrow” is foolish and unfaithful. God is the God of tomorrowas well as the God of today and eternity. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).

People are so committed to worrying that, if they can’t find anything in the present to worry about, they think about possible problems in the future. So Jesus assures us, “Tomorrowwill care for itself.” This is not the careless philosophy of the hedonist who lives only for his present enjoyment. It is the conviction of the child of God who knows tomorrowwill care for itself because it is in his heavenly Father’s hands.

“Each day has enough trouble of its own” is not a call to worry about that trouble—it’s an invitation to concentrate on meeting the temptations, trials, opportunities, and struggles we have today, relying on our Father to protect and provide as we have need. There is enough trouble in each day without adding the distress of worry to it.

God promises His grace for tomorrowand for every day thereafter and through eternity. But He does not give us grace for tomorrownow—He gives His grace only a day at a time as it is needed, not as it may be anticipated.

So begin today to focus on the issues of today. Don’t start dwelling on tomorrow until it becomes today.

Ask Yourself

What else might Jesus have in mind by commanding us to maintain our full attention on the day, the hour, the moment we’re currently living in? What do we lose by living in either the past or the future?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

2 Kings 16:3walked in the way of the kings of Israel. This does not necessarily mean that Ahaz participated in the calf worship introduced by Jeroboam I at Bethel and Dan, but that he increasingly brought pagan, idolatrous practices into the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. These are specified in vv.10–16 and parallel those of Jeroboam I in the northern kingdom. This included idols to Baal (2 Chr. 28:2). made his son pass through the fire. As a part of the ritual worship of Molech, the god of the Moabites, children were sacrificed by fire (3:27). This horrific practice was continually condemned in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:2120:2–5;Deut. 18:10Jer. 7:3119:532:35).

2 Kings 16:10the altar. When Ahaz traveled to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser III, he saw a large altar (v. 15) which was most likely Assyrian. Ahaz sent a sketch of this altar to Urijah the high priest in Jerusalem, and Urijah built an altar just like it. The serious iniquity in this was meddling with and changing, according to personal taste, the furnishings of the temple, the design for which had been given by God (Ex. 25:4026:3027:1–81 Chr. 28:19). This was like building an idol in the temple, done to please the pagan Assyrian king, whom Ahaz served instead of God.

Proverbs 18:21Death and life. The greatest good and the greatest harm are in the power of the tongue (James 3:6–10).

John 21:18,19A prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. Jesus’ call of devotion to Him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death (Matt. 10:37–39).Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die (Matt. 16:24–26). Peter lived 3 decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him (2 Pet. 1:12–15), but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God (1 Pet. 4:14–16). Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (ca. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.

How does Jesus deal with Peter’s denial of Him during the trial?

In John 21:15–17, the meaning of this section hinges upon the usage of two synonyms for love. In terms of interpretation, when two synonyms are placed in close proximity in context, a difference in meaning, however slight, is emphasized. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used a word for love that signified total commitment. Peter responded with a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment. This was not because he was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past.

He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim. Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved Him supremely. The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from His followers. Their love for Him must place Him above their love for all else. Jesus confronted Peter with love because He wanted Peter to lead the apostles (Matt. 16:18), but in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord.

In v. 15, when Jesus asked him if he loved Him “more than these,” He probably refers to the fish (v. 11) representing Peter’s profession as a fisherman, for he had gone back to it while waiting for Jesus (v. 3). Jesus wanted Peter to love Him so supremely as to forsake all that he was familiar with and be exclusively devoted to being a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19).The phrase may refer to the other disciples, since Peter had claimed he would be more devoted than all the others (Matt. 26:33).“Feed My lambs.” The word “feed” conveys the idea of being devoted to the Lord’s service as an undershepherd who cares for His flock (1 Pet. 5:1–4).The word has the idea of constantly feeding and nourishing the sheep. This served as a reminder that the primary duty of the messenger of Jesus Christ is to teach the word of God (2 Tim. 4:2).Acts 1–13 records Peter’s obedience to this commission.

In v. 17, “Peter was grieved.” The third time Jesus asked Peter, He used Peter’s word for love that signified something less than total devotion, questioning even that level of love Peter thought he was safe in claiming. The lessons driven home to Peter grieved his heart, so that he sought for a proper understanding of his heart, not by what he said or had done, but based on the Lord’s omniscience (2:24, 25).


GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY.

BLESSED BE LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 


MAXIMILIANO


06/15/19

Integrity Resists Intimidation

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Daniel 3:4-7).

The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.

After King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered all his leaders to the dedication of his golden image, he issued a proclamation that at the sound of his orchestra they were to fall down and worship the image. Those leaders were the most influential and respected people in Babylon, so you might expect them to be people of strong convictions and personal integrity. Sadly, that was not the case, and with only three exceptions they all lacked the courage to say no.

Granted, punishment for disobeying the king’s decree would be severe indeed. But even the threat of a fiery death could not intimidate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Instead, it simply revealed the depth of their commitment to God. That’s what makes them such remarkable role models. As young men barely twenty years old, they demonstrated tremendous courage and conviction.

Each day Christians face considerable pressure to compromise spiritual integrity and to adopt standards of thought and behavior that are displeasing to the Lord. Young people especially are vulnerable to negative peer pressure and intimidation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego show us that young people can be spiritual leaders who are strong in their faith and exemplary in their obedience. May that be true of you as well, regardless of your age.

Suggestions for Prayer

Remember to pray often for the young people in your church, and do what you can to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 1:1-9. How did God encourage Joshua as he faced the intimidating task of leading the nation of Israel?


PART II

Speaking from a Pure Heart

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

Your speech reveals the condition of your heart.

In verse 22 James talked about the delusion of hearing the Word without obeying it. Here he talks about the deception of external religious activity without internal purity of heart.

That's a common deception. Many people confuse love of religious activity with love for God. They may go through the mechanics of reading the Bible, attending church, praying, giving money, or singing songs, but in reality their hearts are far from God. That kind of deception can be very subtle. That's why James disregards mere claims to Christianity and confronts our motives and obedience to the Word. Those are the acid tests!

James was selective in the word he used for "religious." Rather than using the common Greek word that speaks of internal godliness, he chose a word that refers to external religious trappings, ceremonies, and rituals— things that are useless for true spirituality.

He focuses on the tongue as a test of true religion because the tongue is a window to the heart. As Jesus said, "The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matt. 12:34). Corrupt speech betrays an unregenerate heart; righteous speech demonstrates a transformed heart. It doesn't matter how evangelical or biblical your theology is, if you can't control your tongue, your religion is useless!

You can learn much about a person's character if you listen long enough to what he says. In the same way, others learn much about you as they listen to what you say. Do your words reveal a pure heart? Remember Paul's admonition to "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). Make that your goal each day so you can know the blessing and grace of disciplined speech!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your tongue from speaking anything that might dishonor Him. Be aware of everything you say.

For Further Study

Read James 3:1-12.

  • What warning does James give?
  • What analogies does he use for the tongue?


PART III

Seeking God’s Kingdom First

“‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’” (Matthew 6:33).

When Christians think like the world and crave things in the world, they will worry like the world, because a mind not focused on God is a mind that has cause to worry. The faithful, trusting, and reasonable Christian is “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [let his] requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

The antidote to worry that results in contentment is to make God and His kingdom your priority. Jesus is saying, “Rather than seeking and worrying about food, drink, and clothing like unbelievers do, focus your attention and hopes on the things of the Lord, and He will take care of all your needs.”

Seeking God’s kingdom means losing ourselves in obedience to the Lord and pouring out our lives in the eternal work of our heavenly Father. To seek God’s kingdom is to seek to win people into that kingdom that they might be saved and God might be glorified.

We are also to seek His righteousness. Instead of longing after the things of this world, we ought to hunger and thirst for the things of the world to come, which are characterized above all else by God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. We not only are to have heavenly expectations but also holy lives: “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11–12).

Ask Yourself

Seeking first the kingdom can be little more than a mental slogan for us until we define what this means in real-life, everyday terms. Spend some time today focusing on what a kingdom priority looks like at home, at work, at church, at the gym, at the market, in all the places your routine takes you.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

2 Kings 14:1–15:38This section quickly surveys the kings and selected events of the northern and southern kingdoms from 796 to 735 B.C. In contrast to the previous 19 chapters (1 Kin. 17:12 Kin. 13:25), which narrated 90 years of history (885–796 B.C.) with a concentration on the ministries of Elijah and Elisha during the final 65 years of that period (860–796 B.C.), 62 years are covered in these two chapters. The previous section concluded with a shadow of hope: officially sanctioned Baal worship had been eradicated in both Israel (10:18–28) and Judah (11:17,18); the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem had been repaired (12:9–15); and the Syrian threat to Israel had been overcome (13:25). However, this section emphasizes that the fundamental problems still remained: the false religion established by Jeroboam I continued in Israel even with the change of royal families (14:24–5:9, 18, 24, 28), and the high places were not removed in Judah even though there were only good kings there during those years (14:4; 15:4, 35).

2 Kings 14:25restored the territory of Israel. Jeroboam II’s greatest accomplishment was the restoration of Israel’s boundaries to approximately their extent in Solomon’s time, excluding the territory belonging to Judah. The northern boundary was the entrance of Hamath, the same as Solomon’s (1 Kin. 8:65) and the southern boundary was the Sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea (Josh. 3:1612:3). Jeroboam II took Hamath, a major city located on the Orontes River, about 160 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. He also controlled Damascus, indicating that the Transjordan territory south to Moab was also under his authority. These victories of Jeroboam II were accomplished because the Syrians had been weakened by attacks from the Assyrians, while Assyria herself was weak at this time, suffering from threats on her northern border, internal dissension, and a series of weak kings. Jonah. The territorial extension of Jeroboam II was in accordance with the will of the Lord as revealed through the prophet Jonah. This was the same Jonah who traveled to Nineveh with God’s message of repentance for the Assyrians.

Proverbs 18:19There are no feuds as difficult to resolve as those with relatives; no barriers are so hard to bring down. Hence, great care should be taken to avoid such conflicts.

John 20:9did not know the Scripture. Neither Peter nor John understood that Scripture said Jesus would rise (Ps. 16:10). This is evident by the reports of Luke (24:25–27, 32, 44–47). Jesus had foretold His resurrection (2:19; Matt. 16:21Mark 8:319:31Luke 9:22), but they would not accept it (Matt. 16:22Luke 9:4445). By the time John wrote this Gospel, the church had developed an understanding of the Old Testament prediction of Messiah’s resurrection.

DAY 14:  Describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus to His followers.

John 20 records the appearances of Jesus to His own followers: 1) the appearance to Mary Magdalene (vv. 1–18); 2) the appearance to the 10 disciples (vv. 19–23); and 3) the appearance to Thomas (vv. 24–29). Jesus did not appear to unbelievers (see 14:19; 16:16, 22) because the evidence of His resurrection would not have convinced them as the miracles had not (Luke 16:31). The god of this world had blinded them and prevented their belief (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus, therefore, appears exclusively to His own in order to confirm their faith in the living Christ. Such appearances were so profound that they transformed the disciples from cowardly men hiding in fear to bold witnesses for Jesus (e.g., Peter; see 18:27; Acts 2:14–39). Once again John’s purpose in recording these resurrection appearances was to demonstrate that Jesus’ physical and bodily resurrection was the crowning proof that He truly is the Messiah and Son of God who laid down His life for His own (10:17, 18; 15:13; Rom. 1:4).

In particular, His appearance to Thomas, who has already been portrayed as loyal but pessimistic, is insightful (vv. 24–26). Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his failure, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of his weakness (2 Tim. 2:13).Thomas’s actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believing in resurrection. The point is they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe even with the evidence they could see.

With the words “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28),Thomas declared his firm belief in the resurrection and, therefore, the deity of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God (Titus 2:13). This is the greatest confession a person can make. Thomas’s confession functions as the fitting capstone of John’s purpose in writing (vv. 30, 31).

GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY.

BLESSED BE LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 


MAXIMILIANO


06/14/19

Integrity Endures Criticism

“For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. . . . ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12).

Expect spiritual opposition.

Have you noticed that whenever you take a public stand for righteousness you feel the reaction of the world more strongly? Even something as noble as doing your work with integrity and diligence can bring ridicule, rejection, or even open hostility. But that shouldn’t surprise you.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul warns that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were well-acquainted with spiritual opposition, and in today’s passage they are targets of envious Chaldeans who want to see them put to death. The accusations brought against them were not entirely true because they had not disregarded the king. On the contrary, they were model citizens and exemplary leaders. They had attended the king’s ceremony and fulfilled all their other civil duties insofar as those duties did not violate their responsibility to God.

Their accusers weren’t motivated by loyalty to the king or by their personal allegiance to his religious views. They were jealous and resentful because they hated having Jewish captives ruling over them (see Dan. 2:49).

Sometimes Christians today will do their work excellently and be promoted over their peers, only to incur the displeasure of jealous workmates who criticize or bring false and discrediting accusations against them. If ever you are in that situation, you need to be especially diligent to do your work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), to guard your own attitude, and to let the Lord be your defender.

Suggestions for Prayer

In obedience to the Lord, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

What parallels do you see between Daniel’s situation and our current passage?

How did God prove Himself faithful in each?


PART II

DEFINING TRUE RELIGION 

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

True religion produces holiness and sacrificial love.

In this verse James continues his practical and penetrating assessment of true faith. So far he has said in effect, "Don't just study the Bible—obey it! Don't just dabble in external religion—have pure speech!" Now he adds, "Don't just say you're religious—demonstrate sacrificial love! Don't just claim to love God—live a pure life!" Shallow claims to Christianity meant nothing to him. He wanted to see godly attitudes and righteous deeds.

The apostle John used the same approach when he wrote, "The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. . . . The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:6, 10-11). "Light" in that passage represents truth and righteousness; "darkness" speaks of error and sin. If you are truly saved, you are in the light and show it by your love for others.

In our society, the definition of religion is very broad. Almost any belief system qualifies. But to God, any religion that doesn't produce holiness and sacrificial love is not true religion. That narrows the field considerably because anyone who isn't saved through faith in Jesus Christ remains in bondage to sin and has no capacity to live a holy and selfless life.

How about you? Do you flee from sin and reach out to those in need? If so, you have true religion. If not, receive Christ now. He alone is the source of holiness and love.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are a believer, God's love is already shed abroad in your heart through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Ask God to increase your capacity to love others as Christ loves you.


PART III

June 14 - Don’t Worry about Tomorrow

“‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34).

Making reasonable provisions for the future is sensible, but to “worry about tomorrow” is foolish and unfaithful. God is the God of tomorrow as well as the God of today and eternity. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).

People are so committed to worrying that, if they can’t find anything in the present to worry about, they think about possible problems in the future. So Jesus assures us, “Tomorrow will care for itself.” This is not the careless philosophy of the hedonist who lives only for his present enjoyment. It is the conviction of the child of God who knows tomorrow will care for itself because it is in his heavenly Father’s hands.

“Each day has enough trouble of its own” is not a call to worry about that trouble—it’s an invitation to concentrate on meeting the temptations, trials, opportunities, and struggles we have today, relying on our Father to protect and provide as we have need. There is enough trouble in each day without adding the distress of worry to it.

God promises His grace for tomorrow and for every day thereafter and through eternity. But He does not give us grace for tomorrow now—He gives His grace only a day at a time as it is needed, not as it may be anticipated.

So begin today to focus on the issues of today. Don’t start dwelling on tomorrow until it becomes today.

Ask Yourself

What else might Jesus have in mind by commanding us to maintain our full attention on the day, the hour, the moment we’re currently living in? What do we lose by living in either the past or the future?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

2 Kings 15:1–16:20

Psalm 73:21-28

Proverbs 18:20-21

John 21:1-25

Notes:

2 Kings 16:3 walked in the way of the kings of Israel. This does not necessarily mean that Ahaz participated in the calf worship introduced by Jeroboam I at Bethel and Dan, but that he increasingly brought pagan, idolatrous practices into the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. These are specified in vv.10–16 and parallel those of Jeroboam I in the northern kingdom. This included idols to Baal (2 Chr. 28:2). made his son pass through the fire. As a part of the ritual worship of Molech, the god of the Moabites, children were sacrificed by fire (3:27). This horrific practice was continually condemned in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:21; 20:2–5;Deut. 18:10; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 32:35).

2 Kings 16:10 the altar. When Ahaz traveled to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser III, he saw a large altar (v. 15) which was most likely Assyrian. Ahaz sent a sketch of this altar to Urijah the high priest in Jerusalem, and Urijah built an altar just like it. The serious iniquity in this was meddling with and changing, according to personal taste, the furnishings of the temple, the design for which had been given by God (Ex. 25:40; 26:30; 27:1–8; 1 Chr. 28:19). This was like building an idol in the temple, done to please the pagan Assyrian king, whom Ahaz served instead of God.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life. The greatest good and the greatest harm are in the power of the tongue (James 3:6–10).

John 21:18,19 A prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. Jesus’ call of devotion to Him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death (Matt. 10:37–39).Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die (Matt. 16:24–26). Peter lived 3 decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him (2 Pet. 1:12–15), but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God (1 Pet. 4:14–16). Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (ca. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.

DAY 15: How does Jesus deal with Peter’s denial of Him during the trial?

In John 21:15–17, the meaning of this section hinges upon the usage of two synonyms for love. In terms of interpretation, when two synonyms are placed in close proximity in context, a difference in meaning, however slight, is emphasized. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used a word for love that signified total commitment. Peter responded with a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment. This was not because he was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past. He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim. Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved Him supremely. The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from His followers. Their love for Him must place Him above their love for all else. Jesus confronted Peter with love because He wanted Peter to lead the apostles (Matt. 16:18), but in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord.

In v. 15, when Jesus asked him if he loved Him “more than these,” He probably refers to the fish (v. 11) representing Peter’s profession as a fisherman, for he had gone back to it while waiting for Jesus (v. 3). Jesus wanted Peter to love Him so supremely as to forsake all that he was familiar with and be exclusively devoted to being a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19).The phrase may refer to the other disciples, since Peter had claimed he would be more devoted than all the others (Matt. 26:33).“Feed My lambs.” The word “feed” conveys the idea of being devoted to the Lord’s service as an undershepherd who cares for His flock (1 Pet. 5:1–4).The word has the idea of constantly feeding and nourishing the sheep. This served as a reminder that the primary duty of the messenger of Jesus Christ is to teach the word of God (2 Tim. 4:2).Acts 1–13 records Peter’s obedience to this commission.

In v. 17, “Peter was grieved.” The third time Jesus asked Peter, He used Peter’s word for love that signified something less than total devotion, questioning even that level of love Peter thought he was safe in claiming. The lessons driven home to Peter grieved his heart, so that he sought for a proper understanding of his heart, not by what he said or had done, but based on the Lord’s omniscience (2:24, 25).

GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 


06/13/19

Integrity Resists Intimidation

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Daniel 3:4-7).

The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.

After King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered all his leaders to the dedication of his golden image, he issued a proclamation that at the sound of his orchestra they were to fall down and worship the image. Those leaders were the most influential and respected people in Babylon, so you might expect them to be people of strong convictions and personal integrity. Sadly, that was not the case, and with only three exceptions they all lacked the courage to say no.

Granted, punishment for disobeying the king’s decree would be severe indeed. But even the threat of a fiery death could not intimidate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Instead, it simply revealed the depth of their commitment to God. That’s what makes them such remarkable role models. As young men barely twenty years old, they demonstrated tremendous courage and conviction.

Each day Christians face considerable pressure to compromise spiritual integrity and to adopt standards of thought and behavior that are displeasing to the Lord. Young people especially are vulnerable to negative peer pressure and intimidation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego show us that young people can be spiritual leaders who are strong in their faith and exemplary in their obedience. May that be true of you as well, regardless of your age.

Suggestions for Prayer

Remember to pray often for the young people in your church, and do what you can to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 1:1-9. How did God encourage Joshua as he faced the intimidating task of leading the nation of Israel?


PART II

Speaking from a Pure Heart

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

Your speech reveals the condition of your heart.

In verse 22 James talked about the delusion of hearing the Word without obeying it. Here he talks about the deception of external religious activity without internal purity of heart.

That's a common deception. Many people confuse love of religious activity with love for God. They may go through the mechanics of reading the Bible, attending church, praying, giving money, or singing songs, but in reality their hearts are far from God. That kind of deception can be very subtle. That's why James disregards mere claims to Christianity and confronts our motives and obedience to the Word. Those are the acid tests!

James was selective in the word he used for "religious." Rather than using the common Greek word that speaks of internal godliness, he chose a word that refers to external religious trappings, ceremonies, and rituals— things that are useless for true spirituality.

He focuses on the tongue as a test of true religion because the tongue is a window to the heart. As Jesus said, "The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matt. 12:34). Corrupt speech betrays an unregenerate heart; righteous speech demonstrates a transformed heart. It doesn't matter how evangelical or biblical your theology is, if you can't control your tongue, your religion is useless!

You can learn much about a person's character if you listen long enough to what he says. In the same way, others learn much about you as they listen to what you say. Do your words reveal a pure heart? Remember Paul's admonition to "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). Make that your goal each day so you can know the blessing and grace of disciplined speech!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your tongue from speaking anything that might dishonor Him. Be aware of everything you say.

For Further Study

Read James 3:1-12.

  • What warning does James give?
  • What analogies does he use for the tongue?


PART III

June 13 - Seeking God’s Kingdom First

“‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’” (Matthew 6:33).

When Christians think like the world and crave things in the world, they will worry like the world, because a mind not focused on God is a mind that has cause to worry. The faithful, trusting, and reasonable Christian is “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [let his] requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

The antidote to worry that results in contentment is to make God and His kingdom your priority. Jesus is saying, “Rather than seeking and worrying about food, drink, and clothing like unbelievers do, focus your attention and hopes on the things of the Lord, and He will take care of all your needs.”

Seeking God’s kingdom means losing ourselves in obedience to the Lord and pouring out our lives in the eternal work of our heavenly Father. To seek God’s kingdom is to seek to win people into that kingdom that they might be saved and God might be glorified.

We are also to seek His righteousness. Instead of longing after the things of this world, we ought to hunger and thirst for the things of the world to come, which are characterized above all else by God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. We not only are to have heavenly expectations but also holy lives: “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11–12).

Ask Yourself

Seeking first the kingdom can be little more than a mental slogan for us until we define what this means in real-life, everyday terms. Spend some time today focusing on what a kingdom priority looks like at home, at work, at church, at the gym, at the market, in all the places your routine takes you.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

2 Kings 14:1–15:38This section quickly surveys the kings and selected events of the northern and southern kingdoms from 796 to 735 B.C. In contrast to the previous 19 chapters (1 Kin. 17:12 Kin. 13:25), which narrated 90 years of history (885–796 B.C.) with a concentration on the ministries of Elijah and Elisha during the final 65 years of that period (860–796 B.C.), 62 years are covered in these two chapters. The previous section concluded with a shadow of hope: officially sanctioned Baal worship had been eradicated in both Israel (10:18–28) and Judah (11:17,18); the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem had been repaired (12:9–15); and the Syrian threat to Israel had been overcome (13:25). However, this section emphasizes that the fundamental problems still remained: the false religion established by Jeroboam I continued in Israel even with the change of royal families (14:24–5:9, 18, 24, 28), and the high places were not removed in Judah even though there were only good kings there during those years (14:4; 15:4, 35).

2 Kings 14:25restored the territory of Israel. Jeroboam II’s greatest accomplishment was the restoration of Israel’s boundaries to approximately their extent in Solomon’s time, excluding the territory belonging to Judah. The northern boundary was the entrance of Hamath, the same as Solomon’s (1 Kin. 8:65) and the southern boundary was the Sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea (Josh. 3:1612:3). Jeroboam II took Hamath, a major city located on the Orontes River, about 160 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. He also controlled Damascus, indicating that the Transjordan territory south to Moab was also under his authority. These victories of Jeroboam II were accomplished because the Syrians had been weakened by attacks from the Assyrians, while Assyria herself was weak at this time, suffering from threats on her northern border, internal dissension, and a series of weak kings. Jonah. The territorial extension of Jeroboam II was in accordance with the will of the Lord as revealed through the prophet Jonah. This was the same Jonah who traveled to Nineveh with God’s message of repentance for the Assyrians.

Proverbs 18:19There are no feuds as difficult to resolve as those with relatives; no barriers are so hard to bring down. Hence, great care should be taken to avoid such conflicts.

John 20:9did not know the Scripture. Neither Peter nor John understood that Scripture said Jesus would rise (Ps. 16:10). This is evident by the reports of Luke (24:25–27, 32, 44–47). Jesus had foretold His resurrection (2:19; Matt. 16:21Mark 8:319:31Luke 9:22), but they would not accept it (Matt. 16:22Luke 9:4445). By the time John wrote this Gospel, the church had developed an understanding of the Old Testament prediction of Messiah’s resurrection.


DAY 13: Describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus to His followers.

John 20 records the appearances of Jesus to His own followers: 1) the appearance to Mary Magdalene (vv. 1–18); 2) the appearance to the 10 disciples (vv. 19–23); and 3) the appearance to Thomas (vv. 24–29). Jesus did not appear to unbelievers (see 14:19; 16:16, 22) because the evidence of His resurrection would not have convinced them as the miracles had not (Luke 16:31). The god of this world had blinded them and prevented their belief (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus, therefore, appears exclusively to His own in order to confirm their faith in the living Christ. Such appearances were so profound that they transformed the disciples from cowardly men hiding in fear to bold witnesses for Jesus (e.g., Peter; see 18:27; Acts 2:14–39). Once again John’s purpose in recording these resurrection appearances was to demonstrate that Jesus’ physical and bodily resurrection was the crowning proof that He truly is the Messiah and Son of God who laid down His life for His own (10:17, 18; 15:13; Rom. 1:4).

In particular, His appearance to Thomas, who has already been portrayed as loyal but pessimistic, is insightful (vv. 24–26). Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his failure, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of his weakness (2 Tim. 2:13).Thomas’s actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believing in resurrection. The point is they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe even with the evidence they could see.

With the words “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28),Thomas declared his firm belief in the resurrection and, therefore, the deity of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God (Titus 2:13). This is the greatest confession a person can make. Thomas’s confession functions as the fitting capstone of John’s purpose in writing (vv. 30, 31).


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 


06/12/19

Integrity Worships the True God

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (Daniel 3:1-3).

People are incurably religious and will worship either the true God or a false substitute.

Scripture teaches that a double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). That certainly was true of King Nebuchadnezzar, who shortly after declaring that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47), erected a huge image of himself and assembled all his leaders for its dedication.

The image was ninety feet tall and was probably constructed of wood overlaid with gold. Because the plain of Dura was flat, the statue would have been visible for a great distance. The gold idol was a magnificent sight as it reflected the bright sunlight of that region.

The king’s plan was to have all his leaders bow down to the image, thereby bringing glory to himself, verifying their loyalty, and unifying the nation under one religion. But he was soon to learn that three young men with spiritual integrity would never abandon worship of the true God, regardless of the consequences.

Worshiping the true God or a false substitute is the choice that everyone must make. Sadly, millions of people who wouldn’t think of bowing to a tangible image nevertheless worship useless gods of their own imaginations. Even Christians can be lured into self-love and covetousness, which are forms of idolatry (Col. 3:5). That’s why you must always guard your heart diligently.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing and worshiping the true God.

For Further Study

According to Romans 1:18-32, what are the spiritual and moral consequences of idolatry?


PART II

Persevering in the Word

"One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).

Doers of the Word are persevering learners.

The phrase "and abides by it" in James 1:25demands our close attention. "Abide" translates a Greek word that means "to stay beside," "remain," or "continue." The idea is that a doer of the Word continually and habitually gazes into God's perfect law. In other words, he is a persevering learner.

When you have that level of commitment to the Word, you will be an effectual doer—one who is in union with God's will and seeks to obey it above all else. As you do, God will bless you. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll be successful in the eyes of the world, but your priorities and perspectives will be right and the Lord will honor what you do.

This verse is a call to carefully examine yourself in light of God's standards. That's not a popular thing in our society because many people have an aversion to serious spiritual thought and self-examination. I believe that's why Christian television, music, and other forms of entertainment are so popular. Escaping reality through entertainment is far more appealing to most people than gazing into the mirror of God's Word and having their spiritual flaws and blemishes exposed. But if you desire to be like Christ, you must see yourself for what you are and make any needed corrections. To do that, you must continually examine your life in the light of Scripture.

Can you imagine what the church would be if every Christian did that? Can you imagine the changes in your own life if you did it more consistently? Only the Holy Spirit can enable you to be a doer of the Word. So yield to His leading through prayer and confession as you continue to study and apply God's Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Whenever you study Scripture, ask the Spirit to illuminate your mind and heart, and to use the Word to transform you more and more into the image of Christ.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:16-17, noting what Paul says about responding to the Word.


PART III

June 12 - Worry Is Not a Trivial Sin

“‘But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!’” (Matthew 6:30).

It seems odd, does it not, that we who have freely put our eternal destiny into Christ’s hands would at times refuse to believe that He will provide what we need to eat, drink, and wear. Faith should extend to the ordinary, just as it extends to the extraordinary.

Worry is not a trivial sin because it strikes a blow both at God’s love and integrity. Worry declares our heavenly Father to be untrustworthy in His Word and His promises. To claim belief in the inerrancy of Scripture yet in the next moment express worry is to deny that very belief. Worry reveals that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspective and understanding rather than God’s Word. Worry is therefore not only debilitating and destructive but also maligns and impugns God.

When a believer is not fresh in the Word every day so that God is in his mind and heart, then Satan moves into the vacuum and plants worry. And worry pushes the Lord even further from our minds.

Paul counsels us as he did the Ephesians, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph. 1:18–19).

Ask Yourself

Have you ever seriously considered the unspoken statement you make when worry defines your reaction to life’s uncertainties? If you understood the root beliefs that fuel the fires of anxiety, what effect would this knowledge have on your level of fretfulness?


PART IV

June 12

A + A - RESET

Reading for Today:

Notes:

2 Kings 11:17a covenant. The renewal of the agreement between the people and the Lord and between the house of David and the people was appropriate because of the disruption under Athaliah. A similar ceremony was held later, during the reign of Josiah (23:1–3).

2 Kings 13:21he revived. A dead man returned to life after touching Elisha’s bones. This miracle was a sign that God’s power continued to work in relationship to Elisha even after his death. What God had promised to Jehoash through Elisha when he was alive would surely come to pass after the prophet’s death (vv. 19,25) in the defeat of the enemy, the recovery of the cities that had been taken, and their restoration to the kingdom of Israel (vv. 22–25).

Proverbs 18:16man’s gift. This is not the word for a bribe (17:23), but rather the word for a present given to someone (Jacob’s gift, Gen. 32:2021; Joseph’s gift, Gen. 43:11; David’s gift, 1 Sam. 17:1718; and Abigail’s gift, 1 Sam. 25:27).

John19:23 His garments...and also the tunic. By custom, the clothes of the condemned person were the property of the executioners. The division of the garments suggests that the execution squad was made up of 4 soldiers (Acts 12:4). The tunic was worn next to the skin. The plural garments probably refers to other clothes, including an outer garment, belt, sandals, and head covering.

John19:24 John cites Psalm 22:18. In the psalm, David, beset by physical distress and mockery by his opponents, used the symbolism of the common practice in an execution scene in which the executioner divided the victim’s clothes to portray the depth of his trouble. It is notable that David precisely described a form of execution that he had never seen. The passage was typologically prophetic of Jesus, David’s heir to the messianic throne (Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34).


DAY 12: Was there any question as to whether Jesus died or not?

In His death on the cross, Jesus finally cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).The verb here carries the idea of fulfilling one’s task and, in religious contexts, has the idea of fulfilling one’s religious obligations. The entire work of redemption had been brought to completion. The single Greek word here (translated “it is finished”) has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning paid in full (Col. 3:13,14).“He gave up His spirit.” The sentence signaled that Jesus handed over His spirit as an act of His will. No one took His life from Him, for He voluntarily and willingly gave it up (10:17, 18).

It was “Preparation Day” (v. 31)This refers to Friday, the day before or the preparation day for the Sabbath. “Bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath.” The normal Roman practice was to leave crucified men and women on the cross until they died (and this could take days) and then leave their rotting bodies hanging there to be devoured by vultures. The Mosaic Law insisted that anyone being impaled (usually after execution) should not remain there overnight (Deut. 21:2223). Such a person was under God’s curse, and to leave him exposed would be to desecrate the land in their minds. So “the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken.” In order to hasten death for certain reasons, soldiers would smash the legs of the victim with an iron mallet. Not only did this action induce shock and additional loss of blood, but it prevented the victim from pushing with his legs to keep breathing, and thus the victim died due to asphyxiation.

However, the soldier’s stabbing of Jesus’ side caused significant penetration because of the sudden flow of blood and water (v. 34). Either the spear pierced Jesus’ heart or the chest cavity was pierced at the bottom. In either event, John mentioned the outflow of blood and water to emphasize that Jesus was unquestionably dead.


GOD BLESS YOU WITH YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING!


MAXIMILIANO 


06/11/19

Question: "What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?"


Answer:All people are accountable to God whether or not they have "heard about Him." The Bible tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem is that the human race is sinful; we all reject this knowledge of God and rebel against Him (Romans 1:21-23). If it were not for God's grace, we would be given over to the sinful desires of our hearts, allowing us to discover how useless and miserable life is apart from Him. He does this for those who continually reject Him (Romans 1:24-32).


In reality, it is not that some people have not heard about God. Rather, the problem is that they have rejected what they have heard and what is readily seen in nature. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." This verse teaches an important principle"everyone who truly seeks after God will find Him. If a person truly desires to know God, God will make Himself known.


The problem is "there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God" (Romans 3:11). People reject the knowledge of God that is present in nature and in their own hearts, and instead decide to worship a "god" of their own creation. It is foolish to debate the fairness of God sending someone to hell who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ. People are responsible to God for what God has already revealed to them. The Bible says that people reject this knowledge, and therefore God is just in condemning them to hell.


Instead of debating the fate of those who have never heard, we, as Christians, should be doing our best to make sure they do hear. We are called to spread the gospel throughout the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We know people reject the knowledge of God revealed in nature, and that must motivate us to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Only by accepting God's grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can people be saved from their sins and rescued from an eternity apart from God.


If we assume that those who never hear the gospel are granted mercy from God, we will run into a terrible problem. If people who never hear the gospel are saved, it is logical that we should make sure no one ever hears the gospel. The worst thing we could do would be to share the gospel with a person and have him or her reject it. If that were to happen, he or she would be condemned. People who do not hear the gospel must be condemned, or else there is no motivation for evangelism. Why run the risk of people possibly rejecting the gospel and condemning themselves when they were previously saved because they had never heard the gospel?


PART II 

Question: "What is Soteriology?"


Answer:Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. Soteriology discusses how Christ's death secures the salvation of those who believe. It helps us to understand the doctrines of redemption, justification, sanctification, propitiation, and the substitutionary atonement. Some common questions in studying Soteriology are:


Once saved always saved? Perhaps the most heart-wrenching fear some believers live with is that we can do something to lose our salvation. But the Bible speaks clearly about the eternality of our salvation and how we are preserved by the One who bought us with His blood.


Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?


Is baptism required for salvation? What is baptismal regeneration? Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. While baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, the Bible is clear that baptism is not a requirement for salvation.


What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.


What does it mean to be a born again Christian? The phrase "born again" literally means "born from above." It is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes—a spiritual transformation.


Other than Christology, Soteriology is the area where Christianity is the most different from the cults and other world religions. Understanding Biblical Soteriology will help us to know why salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. No other religion bases salvation on faith alone. Soteriology helps us to see why. A clear understanding of our salvation will provide a "peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) because we come to know that He who can never fail is the means by which we were saved and the means by which we remain secure in our salvation. If we were responsible to save ourselves and keep ourselves saved, we would fail. Thank God that is not the case!


Titus 3:5-8 is a tremendous summary of Soteriology, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."


PART III 

Question: "How can you believe in salvation by faith alone when the only occurrence of 'faith alone' in the Bible (James 2:24) says that salvation is not by faith alone?"


Answer:It is entirely true that the one verse in the Bible that contains the exact phrase “faith alone” seemsto argue against salvation by faith alone. James 2:24 reads, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (ESV). However, rejecting the doctrine of salvation by faith alone based on this verse has two major problems. First, the context of James 2:24 is not arguing against the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Second, the Bible does not need to contain the precise phrase “faith alone” in order to clearly teach salvation by faith alone.


James 2:14–26, as a whole, and especially verse 24, has been the subject of some confused interpretations. The passage definitely seems to cause serious problems for the “salvation by faith alone” concept. First, we need to clear up a misconception, namely, that James means the same thing by “justified” in James 2:24 that Paul means in Romans 3:28. Paul is using the word justifiedto mean “declared righteous by God.” Paul is speaking of God’s legal declaration of us as righteous as Christ’s righteousness is applied to our account. James is using the word justifiedto mean “being demonstrated and proved.”


The 2011 NIV provides an excellent rendering of James 2:24: “You see that a person is considered righteousby what they do and not by faith alone” (emphasis added). Similarly, the NLT translation of James 2:24 reads, “So you see, we are shown to be right with Godby what we do, not by faith alone” (emphasis added). The entire James 2:14–26 passage is about proving the genuineness of your faith by what you do. A genuine salvation experience by faith in Jesus Christ will inevitably result in good works (cf. Ephesians 2:10). The works are the demonstration and proof of faith (James 2:18). A faith without works is useless (James 2:20) and dead (James 2:17); in other words, it is not true faith at all. Salvation is by faith alone, but that faith will never be alone.


While James 2:24 is the only verse that contains the precise phrase “faith alone,” there are many other verses that do, in fact, teach salvation by faith alone. Any verse that ascribes salvation to faith/belief, with no other requirement mentioned, is a declaration that salvation is by faith alone. John 3:16 declares that salvation is given to “whoever believes in Him.” Acts 16:31 proclaims, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” See also Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:24; Ephesians 1:13; and Philippians 3:9. Many other verses could be referenced in addition to these.


In summary, James 2:24 does not argue against salvation by faith alone. Rather, it argues against a salvation that is alone, a salvation devoid of good works and obedience to God’s Word. James’s point is that we demonstrate our faith by what we do (James 2:18). Regardless of the absence of the precise phrase “faith alone,” the New Testament definitely teaches that salvation is the product of God’s grace in response to our faith. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? . . . On that of faith” (Romans 3:27). There is no other requirement.

THANK LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR HIS BLESSINGS!


06/10/19

Question: "Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"


Answer:This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the "Christian" cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?


The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).


Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.


PART II 

Question: "Is eternal security a 'license' to sin?"


Answer:The most frequent objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it supposedly allows people to live any way that they want and still be saved. While this may be "technically" true, it is not true in reality. A person who has truly been redeemed by Jesus Christ will not live a life characterized by continuous, willful sin. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live and what a person must do in order to receive salvation.


The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6). The moment a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, he or she is saved and secure in that salvation. It is unbiblical to say that salvation is received by faith, but then has to be maintained by works. The apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3 when he asks, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" If we are saved by faith, our salvation is also maintained and secured by faith. We cannot earn our own salvation. Therefore, neither can we earn the maintenance of our salvation. It is God who maintains our salvation (Jude 24). It is God's hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29). It is God's love that nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).


Any denial of eternal security is, in its essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works and efforts. This is completely antithetical to salvation by grace. We are saved because of Christ's merits, not our own (Romans 4:3-8). To claim that we must obey God's Word or live a godly life to maintain our salvation is saying that Jesus' death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus' death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins"past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).


Does this mean that a Christian can live any way he wants to and still be saved? This is essentially a hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live "any way he wants to." Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). First John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin. In response to the accusation that grace promotes sin, the apostle Paul declared, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).


Eternal security is not a license to sin. Rather, it is the security of knowing that God's love is guaranteed for those who trust in Christ. Knowing and understanding God's tremendous gift of salvation accomplishes the opposite of giving a license to sin. How could anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin (Romans 6:15-23)? How could anyone who understands God's unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God's face? Such a person is demonstrating not that eternal security has given him a license to sin, but rather that he or she has not truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6).


PART III 

Question: "Is eternal security biblical?"


Answer:When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their eternal security. Jude 24 declares, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy." God's power is able to keep the believer from falling. It is up to Him, not us, to present us before His glorious presence. Our eternal security is a result of God keeping us, not us maintaining our own salvation.


The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29b). Both Jesus and the Father have us firmly grasped in their hand. Who could possibly separate us from the grip of both the Father and the Son?


Ephesians 4:30 tells us that believers are "sealed for the day of redemption." If believers did not have eternal security, the sealing could not truly be unto the day of redemption, but only to the day of sinning, apostasy, or disbelief. John 3:15-16 tells us that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If a person were to be promised eternal life, but then have it taken away, it was never "eternal" to begin with. If eternal security is not true, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.


The most powerful argument for eternal security is Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our eternal security is based on God's love for those whom He has redeemed. Our eternal security is purchased by Christ, promised by the Father, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.


PART IV

Question: "Got Forgiveness? How do I receive forgiveness from God?"

Answer: Acts 13:38 declares, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you."

What is forgiveness and why do I need it?

The word "forgive" means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek their forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what they have done to you.

The Bible tells us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all committed sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 proclaims, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." 1 John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." All sin is ultimately an act of rebellion against God (Psalm 51:4). As a result, we desperately need God's forgiveness. If our sins are not forgiven, we will spend eternity suffering the consequences of our sins (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).

Forgiveness - How do I get it?

Thankfully, God is loving and merciful " eager to forgive us of our sins! 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, ""He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God desires to forgive us, so He provided for our forgiveness.

The only just penalty for our sins is death. The first half of Romans 6:23 declares, "For the wages of sin is death"" Eternal death is what we have earned for our sins. God, in His perfect plan, became a human being " Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14). Jesus died on the cross, taking the penalty that we deserve " death. 2 Corinthians 5:21 teaches us, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve! As God, Jesus' death provided forgiveness for the sins of the entire world. 1 John 2:2 proclaims, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:1-28). Praise God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second half of Romans 6:23 is true, ""but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you have a nagging feeling of guilt that you can't seem to get to go away? Forgiveness of your sins is available if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Jesus paid our debt for us, so we could be forgiven. All you have to do is ask God to forgive you through Jesus, believing that Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness " and He will forgive you! John 3:16-17 contains this wonderful message, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."

Forgiveness - is it really that easy?

Yes it is that easy! You can’t earn forgiveness from God. You can’t pay for your forgiveness from God. You can only receive it, by faith, through the grace and mercy of God. If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive forgiveness from God, here is a prayer you can pray. Saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Jesus Christ that can provide forgiveness of sins. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and to thank Him for providing for your forgiveness. "God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness! Amen!"

GOD BLESSED YOU WITH MANY BLESSINGS AND PRAYERS. 




06/08/19

Question: "Is once saved, always saved biblical?"


Answer:Once a person is saved are they always saved? Yes, when people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their salvation as eternally secure. To be clear, salvation is more than saying a prayer or “making a decision” for Christ; salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner is washed, renewed, and born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). When salvation occurs, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). The Spirit will cause the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27; James 2:26). Numerous passages of Scripture declare the fact that, as an act of God, salvation is secure:


(a) Romans 8:30 declares, "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified." This verse tells us that from the moment God chooses us, it is as if we are glorified in His presence in heaven. There is nothing that can prevent a believer from one day being glorified because God has already purposed it in heaven. Once a person is justified, his salvation is guaranteed—he is as secure as if he is already glorified in heaven.


(b) Paul asks two crucial questions in Romans 8:33-34 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Who will bring a charge against God's elect? No one will, because Christ is our advocate. Who will condemn us? No one will, because Christ, the One who died for us, is the one who condemns. We have both the advocate and judge as our Savior.


(c) Believers are born again (regenerated) when they believe (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). For a Christian to lose his salvation, he would have to be un-regenerated. The Bible gives no evidence that the new birth can be taken away.


(d) The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 14:17; Romans 8:9) and baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). For a believer to become unsaved, he would have to be "un-indwelt" and detached from the Body of Christ.


(e) John 3:15 states that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never "eternal" at all. Hence, if you lose your salvation, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.


(f) In a conclusive argument, Scripture says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38–39). Remember the same God who saved you is the same God who will keep you. Once we are saved, we are always saved. Our salvation is most definitely eternally secure!


PART II 

Question: "Can a Christian lose salvation?"


Answer:First, the term Christianmust be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).


So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:


A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply an “improved” version of a person; a Christian is an entirely new creature. He is “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be destroyed.


A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). The word redeemedrefers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. We were purchased at the cost of Christ’s death. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase of the individual for whom He paid with the precious blood of Christ.


A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To justify is to declare righteous. All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared. Those absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty. God would have to reverse the sentence handed down from the divine bench.


A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is the promise of spending forever in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal lifewould have to be redefined. The Christian is promised to live forever. Does eternalnot mean “eternal”?


A Christian is marked by God and sealed by the Spirit. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). At the moment of faith, the new Christian is marked and sealed with the Spirit, who was promised to act as a deposit to guaranteethe heavenly inheritance. The end result is that God’s glory is praised. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to erase the mark, withdraw the Spirit, cancel the deposit, break His promise, revoke the guarantee, keep the inheritance, forego the praise, and lessen His glory.


A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). According to Romans 5:1, justification is ours at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification comes with justification. All those whom God justifies are promised to be glorified. This promise will be fulfilled when Christians receive their perfect resurrection bodies in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, then Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.


A Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Christ would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation is the gift of God, and God’s gifts are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). A Christian cannot be un-newly created. The redeemed cannot be unpurchased. Eternal life cannot be temporary. God cannot renege on His Word. Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).


Two common objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation concern these experiential issues: 1) What about Christians who live in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle? 2) What about Christians who reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these objections is the assumption that everyone who calls himself a “Christian” has actually been born again. The Bible declares that a true Christian will notlive a state of continual, unrepentant sin (1 John 3:6). The Bible also says that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he was never truly a Christian (1 John 2:19). He may have been religious, he may have put on a good show, but he was never born again by the power of God. “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). The redeemed of God belong “to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).


Nothing can separate a child of God from the Father’s love (Romans 8:38–39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28–29). God guarantees eternal life and maintains the salvation He has given us. The Good Shepherd searches for the lost sheep, and, “when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:5–6). The lamb is found, and the Shepherd gladly bears the burden; our Lord takes full responsibility for bringing the lost one safely home.


Jude 24–25 further emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of our Savior: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”


PART III 

Question: "What is the true gospel?"


Answer:The true gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. Man is by nature sinful and separated from God with no hope of remedying that situation. But God, by His power, provided the means of man's redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. 


The word "gospel" literally means "good news." But to truly comprehend how good this news is, we must first understand the bad news. As a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), every part of man"his mind, will, emotions and flesh"have been corrupted by sin. Because of man's sinful nature, he does not and cannot seek God. He has no desire to come to God and, in fact, his mind is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7). God has declared that man's sin dooms him to an eternity in hell, separated from God. It is in hell that man pays the penalty of sin against a holy and righteous God. This would be bad news indeed if there were no remedy. 


But in the gospel, God, in His mercy, has provided that remedy, a substitute for us"Jesus Christ"who came to pay the penalty for our sin by His sacrifice on the cross. This is the essence of the gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:2-4, he explains the three elements of the gospel"the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. Our old nature died with Christ on the cross and was buried with Him. Then we were resurrected with Him to a new life (Romans 6:4-8). Paul tells us to "hold firmly" to this true gospel, the only one which saves. Believing in any other gospel is to believe in vain. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul also declares that the true gospel is the "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" by which he means that salvation is not achieved by man's efforts, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).


Because of the gospel, through the power of God, those who believe in Christ (Romans 10:9) are not just saved from hell. We are, in fact, given a completely new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a changed heart and a new desire, will, and attitude that are manifested in good works. This is the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in us by His power. Works are never the means of salvation, but they are the proof of it (Ephesians 2:10). Those who are saved by the power of God will always show the evidence of salvation by a changed life.

GOD BLESSED YOU! 


06/07/19

Question: "What is the gospel?"


Answer:The word gospelliterally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the Bible, exclusively in the New Testament. In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelistevangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation.


The key to understanding the gospel is to know why it’s good news. To do that, we must start with the bad news. The Old Testament Law was given to Israel during the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1). The Law can be thought of as a measuring stick, and sin is anything that falls short of “perfect” according to that standard. The righteous requirement of the Law is so stringent that no human being could possibly follow it perfectly, in letter or in spirit. Despite our “goodness” or “badness” relative to each other, we are all in the same spiritual boat—we have sinned, and the punishment for sin is death, i.e. separation from God, the source of life (Romans 3:23). In order for us to go to heaven, God’s dwelling place and the realm of life and light, sin must be somehow removed or paid for. The Law established the fact that cleansing from sin can only happen through the bloody sacrifice of an innocent life (Hebrews 9:22).


The gospel involves Jesus’ death on the cross as the sin offering to fulfill the Law’s righteous requirement (Romans 8:3–4; Hebrews 10:5–10). Under the Law, animal sacrifices were offered year after year as a reminder of sin and a symbol of the coming sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:3–4). When Christ offered Himself at Calvary, that symbol became a reality for all who would believe (Hebrews 10:11–18). The work of atonement is finished now, and that’s good news.


The gospel also involves Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The fact that Jesus conquered sin and death (sin’s penalty) is good news, indeed. The fact that He offers to share that victory with us is the greatest news of all (John 14:19).


The elements of the gospel are clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3–6, a key passage concerning the good news of God: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Notice, first, that Paul “received” the gospel and then “passed it on”; this is a divine message, not a man-made invention. Second, the gospel is “of first importance.” Everywhere the apostles went, they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Third, the message of the gospel is accompanied by proofs: Christ died for our sins (proved by His burial), and He rose again the third day (proved by the eyewitnesses). Fourth, all this was done “according to the Scriptures”; the theme of the whole Bible is the salvation of mankind through Christ. The Bible is the gospel.


“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is a boldmessage, and we are not ashamed of proclaiming it. It is a powerfulmessage, because it is God’s good news. It is a savingmessage, the only thing that can truly reform the human heart. It is a universalmessage, for Jews and Gentiles both. And the gospel is received by faith; salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).


The gospel is the good news that God loves the world enough to give His only Son to die for our sin (John 3:16). The gospel is good news because our salvation and eternal life and home in heaven are guaranteed through Christ (John 14:1–4). “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4).


The gospel is good news when we understand that we do not (and cannot) earn our salvation; the work of redemption and justification is complete, having been finished on the cross (John 19:30). Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). The gospel is the good news that we, who were once enemies of God, have been reconciled by the blood of Christ and adopted into the family of God (Romans 5:10; John 1:12). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). The gospel is the good news that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).


To reject the gospel is to embrace the bad news. Condemnation before God is the result of a lack of faith in the Son of God, God’s only provision for salvation. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17–18). God has given a doomed world good news: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!


PART II 

Question: "What is the prayer of salvation?"


Answer:Many people ask, “Is there a prayer I can pray that will guarantee my salvation?” It is important to remember that salvation is not received by reciting a prayer or uttering certain words. The Bible nowhere records a person’s receiving salvation by a prayer. Saying a prayer is not the biblical way of salvation.


The biblical method of salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation is gained by faith (Ephesians 2:8), by receiving Jesus as Savior (John 1:12), and by fully trusting Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), not by reciting a prayer.


The biblical message of salvation is simple, clear, and amazing at the same time. We have all committed sin against God (Romans 3:23). Other than Jesus Christ, there is no one who has lived an entire life without sinning (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Because of our sin, we have earned judgment from God—death (Romans 6:23). Because of our sin and its deserved punishment, there is nothing we can do on our own to make ourselves right with God. As a result of His love for us, God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life and always taught the truth. However, humanity rejected Jesus and put Him to death by crucifying Him. Though that horrible act killed the only truly innocent man, our salvation was obtained. Jesus died in our place. He took the burden and judgment of our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was then resurrected (1 Corinthians 15), proving that His payment for sin was sufficient and that He had overcome sin and death. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, God offers us salvation as a gift. God calls us all to repent of our sins (Acts 17:30) and have faith in Christ as the full payment of our sins (1 John 2:2). Salvation is gained by receiving the gift God offers us, not by praying a certain prayer.


Now, that does not mean prayer cannot be involved in receiving salvation. If you understand the gospel, believe it to be true, and have accepted Jesus as your salvation, it is good and appropriate to express that faith to God in prayer. Communicating with God through prayer can be a way to progress from accepting facts about Jesus to fully trusting in Him as Savior. Prayer can be connected to the act of placing your faith in Jesus alone for salvation.


Again, though, it is crucially important that you do not base your salvation on having said a prayer. Reciting a prayer cannot save you! If you want to receive the salvation that is available through Jesus, place your faith in Him. Fully trust His death as the sufficient sacrifice for your sins. Completely rely on Him alone as your Savior. That is the biblical method of salvation. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, by all means, say a prayer to God. Tell God how thankful you are for Jesus. Offer praise to God for His love and sacrifice. Thank Jesus for dying for your sins and providing salvation for you. That is the biblical connection between salvation and prayer.


PART III 

Question: "How can I be saved?"


Answer:This simple, yet profound, question is the most important question that can be asked. "How can I be saved?"deals with where we will spend eternity after our lives in this world are over. There is no more important issue than our eternal destiny. Thankfully, the Bible is abundantly clear on how a person can be saved. The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).


How can I be saved? Why do I need to be saved?

We are all infected with sin (Romans 3:23). We are born with sin (Psalm 51:5), and we all personally choose to sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8). Sin is what makes us unsaved. Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is what has us on the path to eternal destruction.


How can I be saved? Saved from what?

Because of our sin, we all deserve death (Romans 6:23). While the physical consequence of sin is physical death, that is not the only kind of death that results from sin. All sin is ultimately committed against an eternal and infinite God (Psalm 51:4). Because of that, the just penalty for our sin is also eternal and infinite. What we need to be saved from is eternal destruction (Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:15).


How can I be saved? How did God provide salvation?

Because the just penalty for sin is infinite and eternal, only God could pay the penalty, because only He is infinite and eternal. But God, in His divine nature, could not die. So God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. God took on human flesh, lived among us, and taught us. When the people rejected Him and His message, and sought to kill Him, He willingly sacrificed Himself for us, allowing Himself to be crucified (John 10:15). Because Jesus Christ was human, He could die; and because Jesus Christ was God, His death had an eternal and infinite value. Jesus’ death on the cross was the perfect and complete payment for our sin (1 John 2:2). He took the consequences we deserved. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead demonstrated that His death was indeed the perfectly sufficient sacrifice for sin.


How can I be saved? What do I need to do?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). God has already done all of the work. All you must do is receive, in faith, the salvation God offers (Ephesians 2:8-9). Fully trust in Jesus alone as the payment for your sins. Believe in Him, and you will not perish (John 3:16). God is offering you salvation as a gift. All you have to do is accept it. Jesus is the way of salvation (John 14:6).

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


06/06/19

Question: "What is the plan of salvation?"


Answer:Salvation is deliverance. All the world religions teach that we need to be delivered, but each has a different understanding of what we need to be delivered from, why we need to be delivered, and how that deliverance can be received or achieved. The Bible makes it abundantly clear, however, that there is only one plan of salvation.


The most important thing to understand about the plan of salvation is that it is God’s plan, not humanity’s plan. Humanity’s plan of salvation would be observing religious rituals or obeying certain commands or achieving certain levels of spiritual enlightenment. But none of these things are part of God’s plan of salvation.


God’s plan of salvation – The Why

In God’s plan of salvation, first we must understand why we need to be saved. Simply put, we need to be saved because we have sinned. The Bible declares that everyone has sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Sin is rebellion against God. We all choose to actively do things that are wrong. Sin harms others, damages us, and, most importantly, dishonors God. The Bible also teaches that, because God is holy and just, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23) and eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:11–15). Without God’s plan of salvation, eternal death is the destiny of every human being.


God’s plan of salvation – The What

In God’s plan of salvation, God Himself is the only one who can provide for our salvation. We are utterly unable to save ourselves because of our sin and its consequences. God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14). Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5) and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:3; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 10:10). Since Jesus is God, His death was of infinite and eternal value. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross fully paid for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). His resurrection from the dead demonstrated that His sacrifice was indeed sufficient and that salvation is now available.


God’s plan of salvation – The How

In Acts 16:31, a man asked the apostle Paul how to be saved. Paul’s response was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The way to follow God’s plan of salvation is to believe. That is the only requirement (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). God has provided for our salvation through Jesus Christ. All we must do is receive it, by faith, fully trusting in Jesus alone as Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). That is God’s plan of salvation.


God’s plan of salvation – Will you receive it?

If you are ready to follow God’s plan of salvation, place your faith in Jesus as your Savior. Change your mind from embracing sin and rejecting God to rejecting sin and embracing God through Jesus Christ. Fully trust in the sacrifice of Jesus as the perfect and complete payment for your sins. If you do this, God’s Word promises that you will be saved, your sins will be forgiven, and you will spend eternity in heaven. There is no more important decision. Place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior today!


PART II

Question: "What is the way of salvation?"


Answer:Are you hungry? Not physically hungry, but do you have a hunger for something more in life? Is there something deep inside of you that never seems to be satisfied? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).


Are you confused? Can you never seem to find a path or purpose in life? Does it seem like someone has turned out the lights and you cannot find the switch? If so, Jesus is the way of salvation! Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).


Do you ever feel like you are locked out of life? Have you tried so many doors, only to find that what is behind them is empty and meaningless? Are you looking for an entrance into a fulfilling life? If so, Jesus is the way of salvation! Jesus declared, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).


Do other people always let you down? Have your relationships been shallow and empty? Does it seem like everyone is trying to take advantage of you? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:11, 14).


Do you wonder what happens after this life? Are you tired of living your life for things that only rot or rust? Do you sometimes doubt whether life has any meaning? Do you want to live after you die? If so, Jesus is the way of salvation! Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).


What is the way? What is the truth? What is the life? Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).


The hunger that you feel is a spiritual hunger, and can only be filled by Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can lift the darkness. Jesus is the door to a satisfying life. Jesus is the friend and shepherd that you have been looking for. Jesus is the life—in this world and the next. Jesus is the way of salvation!


The reason you feel hungry, the reason you seem to be lost in darkness, the reason you cannot find meaning in life, is that you are separated from God. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and are therefore separated from God (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). The void you feel in your heart is God missing from your life. We were created to have a relationship with God. Because of our sin, we are separated from that relationship. Even worse, our sin will cause us to be separated from God for all of eternity, in this life and the next (Romans 6:23; John 3:36).


How can this problem be solved? Jesus is the way of salvation! Jesus took our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died in our place (Romans 5:8), taking the punishment that we deserve. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, proving His victory over sin and death (Romans 6:4-5). Why did He do it? Jesus answered that question Himself: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus died so that we could live. If we place our faith in Jesus, trusting His death as the payment for our sins, all of our sins are forgiven and washed away. We will then have our spiritual hunger satisfied. The lights will be turned on. We will have access to a fulfilling life. We will know our true best friend and good shepherd. We will know that we will have life after we die—a resurrected life in heaven for eternity with Jesus!


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).


Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART III 

Question: "What is salvation? What is the Christian doctrine of salvation?"


Answer:Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering. To save is to deliver or protect. The word carries the idea of victory, health, or preservation. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words savedor salvationto refer to temporal, physical deliverance, such as Paul's deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19). 


More often, the word "salvation" concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. When Paul told the Philippian jailer what he must do to be saved, he was referring to the jailer's eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31). Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25).


What are we saved from? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from "wrath," that is, from God's judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.


Who does the saving? Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin's penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).


How does God save? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, God has rescued us through Christ (John 3:17). Specifically, it was Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). 


How do we receive salvation? We are saved by faith. First, we must hearthe gospel"the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe"fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13).


A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation would be "The deliverance, by the grace of God, from eternal punishment for sin which is granted to those who accept by faith God's conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus." Salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God alone for provision, assurance, and security.

GOD BLESSED YOU!


06/05/19

Question: "Is the distinction between clergy and laity biblical?"


Answer:Neither the word clergynor the word laityappears in the Bible. These are terms that are commonly used today to refer to “the person in the pulpit” versus “the people in the pews.” While believers have different callings and gifts (Romans 12:6), they are all servants of the Lord (Romans 14:4).


Paul considered himself a “brother” and “fellow servant” with Tychicus (Colossians 4:7). The same was true for Paul and Epaphras (Colossians 1:7). Epaphroditus was Paul’s “brother, co-worker and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25). Paul and Timothy called themselves the “servants” of the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 4:5). Peter viewed Silas as his “faithful brother” (1 Peter 5:12). The apostles never talked in terms of “us” and “them” in the context of serving Christ. They considered themselves to be fellow laborers with all believers in the church.


The distinction between “professional ministry” and “lay ministry” arose when churches stopped identifying leaders out of their own congregations and began “calling” them from other places. During at least the first century of the church’s history, most churches recognized God’s hand on their own members, qualifying and calling them into leadership roles. Almost every New Testament reference to local church leadership, whether “pastor,” “elder,” or “overseer,” reveals this to be so. For one example, compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and 5:17–20 with Acts 20:17–38. Titus 1:5–9 is another example.


Gradually, things changed until, in some parts of the Christian world, the “professional,” full-time ministers began to be identified as representing “The Church,” while the “non-professionals” were seen as adherents or attenders instead of as fellow servants of Jesus Christ. Out of this mindset grew the hierarchical system in which the distance between clergy and laity increased.


Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 through 14, much of Ephesians, and Romans 12 ought to be kept in mind. All of these passages emphasize the real brotherhood of all believers in Jesus Christ and the humility that all need to demonstrate as we exercise our spiritual gifts and offices to bless each other.

Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 through 14, much of Ephesians, and Romans 12 ought to be kept in mind. All of these passages emphasize the real brotherhood of all believers in Jesus Christ and the humility that all need to demonstrate as we exercise our spiritual gifts and offices to bless each other.


PART II 

Question: "What is the Church Age? Where does the Church Age fit in biblical history?"


Answer:An “age” is an historical period of time or an era. Some historians divide human history into many epochs and name them according to their defining characteristics: Middle Ages, Modern Age, Postmodern Age, etc. Biblical history, too, can be divided into different eras. When those divisions emphasize God’s interaction with His creation, we call them dispensations. More broadly, biblical history can be divided into two periods, roughly following the division of Old and New Testaments: the Age of the Law and the Church Age.


The Church Age is the period of time from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the rapture (foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It is called the Church Age because it covers the period in which the Church is on earth. It corresponds with the dispensation of Grace. In prophetic history, it falls between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27; Romans 11). Jesus predicted the Church Age in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “I will build my church.” Jesus has kept His promise, and His Church has now been growing for almost 2,000 years.


The Church is composed of those individuals who have by faith accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord (John 1:12; Acts 9:31). Therefore, the Church is people rather than denominations or buildings. It is the Body of Christ of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Greek word ecclesia, translated “church,” means “a called-out assembly.” The Church is universal in scope but meets locally in smaller bodies.


The Church Age comprises the entire dispensation of Grace. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). For the first time in history, God actually indwells His creatures, permanently and eternally. In other dispensations the Holy Spirit was always present and always at work, but He would come upon people temporarily (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:14). The Church Age is marked by the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling of His people (John 14:16).


Scripture makes a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church (1 Corinthians 10:32). There is some overlap because, individually, many Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah and are therefore part of the Church. But God’s covenants with the nation of Israel have not yet been fulfilled. Those promises await fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom, after the Church Age ends (Ezekiel 34; 37; 45; Jeremiah 30; 33; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19).


The Church Age will end when God’s people are raptured out of the world and taken to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). The rapture will be followed in heaven by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) as the Church, the Bride of Christ, receives her heavenly reward. Until then, the Church carries on in hope, exhorted to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).


PART III 

Question: "What is a chaplain? What do chaplains do?"


Answer:A chaplain is essentially a spiritual representative attached to a secular institution. Chaplains may or may not be certified, have a theological education, or be ordained or commissioned by a particular denomination, though many are. While chaplaincy has traditionally been associated with representatives of the Christian faith, the term is now used for representatives of any faith. Some chaplains are expected to represent multiple faiths, acting as a sort of neutral spiritual resource.


Chaplains are expected to serve the spiritual and emotional needs of others. Some chaplains perform wedding or funeral ceremonies, administer communion, deliver spiritual messages, offer prayer at public meetings, and provide regular counseling. Other chaplains meet the need of the moment, usually through listening and prayer. Chaplains may also function as advocates; hospital chaplains, for example, may make requests of a nurse to help meet a particular patient's needs; military chaplains may provide for marriage enrichment retreats.


Chaplains work in many environments. Most commonly, chaplains are attached to the military, to hospitals, to law enforcement and fire departments, to political bodies (such as the United States Congress and Senate), to sports teams, and to educational institutions. Some corporations, music groups, and even households (historically the nobility, and now certain monarchs), may also employ chaplains.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


06/04/19

Question: "What is a bishop, biblically speaking?"

Answer: In the New Testament, a bishop is a person who functions as a teaching leader among a local group of Christians. The Greek term episkapos has also been translated as “episcopal,” “elder,” “overseer,” or “pastor.” All refer to the same office and are therefore synonyms.

In the earliest churches, their leaders were simply referred to as “elders.” For example, in Acts 20:17 we read, “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” In Philippians 1:1, Paul introduces his letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” Apparently, there were originally only two leadership positions in the church: elders (or bishops) and deacons.

In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul speaks twice regarding the qualifications of elders/bishops, those he considered the leaders of the local church (also notice that these elders generally served as teams rather than as single leaders). In 1 Timothy 3:1–7 we read,

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

From this list, we conclude several things. First, the job of bishop is a noble task. Second, the job is a limited task (male pronouns and references are used throughout). Third, integrity is critical (above reproach, committed to his spouse, clear-thinking, self-controlled, well-respected, friendly, not influenced by alcoholic drinks, not violent or argumentative, not greedy, caring for his children, and having a good reputation among the unchurched). Fourth, he must have the ability to teach. (Deacons, whose requirements are listed in the next verses, are not required to have teaching ability.) Titus 1:5–7 shares a similar list for elders, but it adds the ability to rebuke false teaching. When Peter wrote to this group of church leaders, he called himself a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1).

The earliest writings of the church fathers also seem to confirm this role of bishops as the teaching leaders who served alongside deacons to oversee the church. Both Clement of Rome (c. 95) and the Didache referred to elders and deacons from the late first century to the early second century as the church’s leaders.

Over time, additional layers of leadership were added to the church. Eventually, the term bishop came to be applied to a regional church leader who administered many churches. At the Council of Nicea in AD 325, the church leader of each city or area represented his region’s churches. These leaders were referred to as “bishops.” Many Christian traditions continue to embrace this role of bishops today.

However, the biblical teaching is that elders and deacons lead local churches. The elder was also known as a bishop or pastor and functioned in that role. This does not make additional church leadership roles wrong (to meet important needs for regional or national leadership among groups of churches), but indicates that Scripture points to elders and deacons as the local church leaders

06/03/19

Question: "Can a man who is married to a divorced woman serve in church leadership?"

Answer:As a background, please read our article on the "husband of one wife" phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6. While the qualification "husband of one wife" may, in some instances, disqualify a divorced and remarried man from serving in church leadership, an even more difficult question is a married man who has never been divorced, but is married to a woman who previously had a divorce. There is no Scripture that explicitly deals with this issue, but there are biblical principles that can be applied.

First Timothy 3:11 is an interesting verse in relationship to this issue. It is not clear whether this verse is referring to the wives of deacons or to female deacons (deaconesses). The "wives of deacons" interpretation seems to be more likely, as it would be unusual for Paul to give qualifications for deacons in verses 8-10 and 12-13, with qualifications for deaconesses in between. With this is mind, it is important to note that there is no "wife of one husband" qualification given for deacon's wives. Neither is there a qualification of "blameless" or "above reproach." Rather, the qualifications are "worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, temperate, and trustworthy" (1 Timothy 3:11).

There are all sorts of issues that go into this question. Was the wife the innocent party to an adulterous or abusive husband? Was the wife a believer when the divorce occurred? Is the wife's ex-husband in any sense still "in the picture" of her life, causing problems or conflict? Each of the above questions must be taken into account. Ultimately, though, the issue has to go back to the "above reproach / blameless" qualification required of elders and deacons. Does the fact that the wife is divorced in any sense result in a poor testimony in the community? Can the potential church leader genuinely be viewed as a godly man, worthy of respect, able to be followed as an example?

It does not seem that this question can be answered in a universal sense. There are simply too many factors involved. A church that is faced with this issue must prayerfully examine the situation, and attempt to discern, as much as possible, if the potential leader can be considered "above reproach." If nothing can be discerned that could potentially cause damage to the church's testimony, a man who is married to a divorced woman can be considered for a position in church leadership.


PART II 

Question: "If a person wants to be baptized, but is unable to be immersed into water due to being ill, disabled, elderly...etc. - what should be done?"

Answer:Perhaps the best way to address this question is to start with baptism itself"what it is and what it isn't. Christian baptism, according to the Bible, is the outward testimony of what has occurred inwardly in a believer's life. It is a picture of the believer's identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 6:3-4 describes this act as our old sinful selves being buried with Christ and our newly created selves being resurrected to walk with Him in newness of life.

Baptism is not a requirement for salvation, nor does it have any power to save. Rather, it is a symbol of the salvation that has already occurred. We are baptized in order to display to others that fact, which is why many baptisms are accompanied by an oral testimony given by the person being baptized. It is the testimony that is the most important part of the rite, not the rite itself.


While the Bible is clear that immersion is the proper mode of baptism, it nowhere addresses what to do in a situation where a person needs to be baptized but cannot be immersed in water. Some propose baptism by sprinkling or pouring. While sprinkling and pouring do not match what baptism signifies"the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ"there are clearly some situations where full immersion is impossible. A person who cannot be baptized by immersion should go before a group of believers and publicly declare faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, his commitment to Him, and his identification with Him. That would accomplish what baptism signifies.


PART III 

Question: "What is Landmarkism? What is "


Answer:Landmark theology, or heritage theology, is the belief among some independent Baptist churches that only local, independent Baptist congregations can truly be called “churches” in the New Testament sense. They believe that all other groups, and even most other Baptists, are not true churches because they deviate from the essentials of landmarkism.


Those essentials are 1) church succession—a landmark Baptist church traces its “lineage” back to the time of the New Testament, usually to Jesus’ calling of the disciples in Galilee; 2) a visible church—the only church is a local (Baptist) body of believers; there is no such thing as a universal Body of Christ; 3) opposition to “pedobaptism” (sprinkling of infants) and “alien immersion” (any baptism not performed under the auspices of a landmark Baptist church)—all such baptisms are null and void.


Another corollary belief is that only faithful landmark Baptists will comprise the Bride of Christ. Other Christians (non-Baptists) will either be the guests or the servants at the marriage supper of the Lamb. These other Christians are called the “family of God” or sometimes the “kingdom of God.” So, in heaven will be all the redeemed (the “family of God”), but only those who have been duly baptized by immersion (in an independent Baptist church) will have the special honor of being the Bride of Christ. The landmark Baptists use the story of the choosing of Isaac’s wife to illustrate God’s choosing of Christ’s Bride (Genesis 24).


Landmark Baptists consider church membership one of the highest priorities in life; in fact, being a member of a landmark Baptist church is second in importance only to one’s personal relationship with Christ. Because of their emphasis on local church membership (and their denial of the universal Body of Christ), landmark Baptists hold a closed communion; that is, only official members of their own local church are allowed to share in the ordinance of communion. No one, not even a Baptist, can partake of the Lord’s table away from his or her home church.


Landmarkism had its beginning in 1851, when a group of Southern Baptists met to oppose the liberalism creeping into their denomination. At issue was an “open” pulpit vs. a “closed” pulpit. Was it right to welcome non-baptized preachers from other denominations as guests in their pulpits? “Here are men,” they said, “who are not baptized according to the New Testament model, men ordained by churches that do not teach salvation by grace through faith, yet we are inviting them to preach as if they were true Christian ministers of the gospel.” Out of this meeting came the Cotton Grove Resolutions, the first articulation of the tenets of landmarkism.


The term landmarkism comes from Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (KJV). Landmark Baptists also use Leviticus 25:23-34 as support for their doctrine. Just as the Israelites were not to “remove the ancient landmark” or sell, neglect, or give away their property, Baptists today are not to remove the theological “guideposts” that separate the church from the world. “The faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) is their heritage. Landmark Baptists see themselves as safeguarding the purity of the church, as originally established in the New Testament. It is this purity which will be rewarded with being selected as the Bride.


The landmark Baptists’ original goal—to stem the tide of encroaching liberalism—was admirable. The problem is that landmarkism, in its attempt to fight error, has fallen into error of a different and more egregious kind—the misinterpretation of Scripture. Here are a few points that landmark theology fails to acknowledge:


1) The “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is not a water baptism, but a spiritual one.


2) The church did not begin with John the Baptist but with the Spirit’s baptism on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 11:15-16).


3) The baptism of John is not sufficient for the New Testament church (Acts 18:24-28; also Acts 19:1-7).


4) The church is not just a local body but a worldwide entity comprised of all believers, with Christ as their Head (Ephesians 1:21-22).


5) Scripture lists three categories of people: unsaved Jews, unsaved Gentiles, and the church (1 Corinthians 10:32). The “family of God,” therefore, is not separate from the church.


The “Baptist Bride” churches, with their emphasis on the ordinance of baptism, are surely missing the point of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. There, Paul rebukes the church for the schisms arising over who had baptized whom. Paul goes so far as to say, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Strange words, indeed, if water baptism is what makes one part of the Bride of Christ.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


06/02/19

Question: "Is it wrong to live in nice houses (Haggai 1:4)?"


Answer:Haggai’s prophecy condemned the Jewish people for living in nice homes, asking, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4). Some have understood the prophet’s question as teaching against Christians having nice homes. Is it wrong to live in nice houses?


To answer this, we must look at the original context of Haggai’s condemnation. The Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the temple. Due to Samaritan opposition, the project was abandoned, and after 16 years God’s temple was still not rebuilt. Instead of working on the temple, the Jewish people built themselves “paneled houses”; panels were only used in the temple (1 Kings 6:9) and royal palace (2 Kings 7:3, 7).


The Jews had lost sight of the original plan. The temple was standing unfinished while the people built luxury homes for themselves. God sent Haggai to get the people back on track. At the prophet’s prompting, the people began working on the temple once again. They completed the task in 515 B.C.


The application for us today is that we must place God’s will above our own. In the case of the Jewish people, their self-focus involved neglecting God’s temple (and therefore worship in the temple) while focusing on their own homes. There is nothing wrong with living in a nice home, but there is something wrong with neglecting God’s priorities to pursue our own. First things first, and honoring God is more important than houses or any other material thing.


PART II 

Question: "I was baptized unbiblically. Do I need to be rebaptized?"


Answer:The Bible is very clear about baptism. There are two points we all need to understand. (1) Baptism is to take place after a person has received Jesus Christ as Savior, trusting in Him alone for salvation. (2) Baptism is to be by immersion. The word baptize literally means to "immerse / submerge in water." Baptism by immersion is the only method of baptism that adequately illustrates what baptism symbolizes"believers dying, being buried with Christ, and being raised to newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).


With those two key points in mind, what about those who were baptized unbiblically? For the sake of clarification, let's divide this into two categories as well. First, in the instance of someone who was baptized before he/she became a Christian. Common examples of this are those who were baptized as infants, or those who were baptized later in life, but did not truly know Jesus as Savior when they were baptized. In these instances, yes, such a person definitely needs to be rebaptized. Again, the Bible states that baptism is post-salvation. The symbolism of baptism is lost if a person has not truly experienced salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.


Second, in the instance of those who were baptized after faith in Christ, but in a method other than immersion. This issue is a little more difficult. It would seem to come down to the fact that such a person did not truly receive baptism. If the method was sprinkling or pouring, it does not fit the definition of baptism. Again, the word baptize means "to submerge in water." However, the Bible nowhere specifically addresses those who have been baptized but not immersed. This issue, then, is a matter of a believer's personal relationship with God. A believer who has been baptized unbiblically should ask the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5). If the believer's conscience is unsure, it would be best to go ahead and be rebaptized biblically to put the conscience at ease (Romans 14:23).


PART III 

Question: "Why are so many evangelical Christian leaders caught in scandals?"


Answer:First, it is important to point out that "so many" is not an accurate characterization. It may seem like many evangelical Christian leaders are caught in scandals, but this is due to the vast amount of attention such scandals are given. There are thousands of evangelical Christian leaders, pastors, professors, missionaries, writers, and evangelists who have never participated in anything "scandalous." The vast majority of evangelical Christian leaders are men and women who love God, are faithful to their spouses and families, and handle their activities with the utmost honesty and integrity. The failures of a few should not be used to attack the character of all.


With that said, there is still the problem that scandals do sometimes occur among those claiming to be evangelical Christians. Prominent Christian leaders have been exposed for committing adultery or participating in prostitution. Some evangelical Christians have been convicted of tax fraud and other financial illegalities. Why does this occur? There are at least three primary explanations: 1) Some of those claiming to be evangelical Christians are unbelieving charlatans, 2) some evangelical Christian leaders allow their position to result in pride, and 3) Satan and his demons more aggressively attack and tempt those in Christian leadership because they know that a scandal involving a leader can have devastating results, on both Christians and non-Christians.


1) Some "evangelical Christians" who are caught in scandals are unredeemed charlatans and false prophets. Jesus warned, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves " Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). False prophets pretend to be godly men and women and appear to be solid evangelical leaders. However, their "fruit" (scandals) eventually reveals them to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. In this, they follow the example of Satan, "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).


2) The Bible makes it clear that "pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). James 4:6 reminds us that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." The Bible repeatedly warns against pride. Many Christian leaders begin a ministry in a spirit of humility and reliance upon God, but as the ministry grows and thrives, they are tempted to take some of this glory for themselves. Some evangelical Christian leaders, while paying lip-service to God, actually attempt to manage and build the ministry in their own strength and wisdom. This type of pride leads to a fall. God, through the prophet Hosea, warned, "When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me" (Hosea 13:6).


3) Satan knows that by instigating a scandal with an evangelical Christian leader, he can have a powerful impact. Just as King David's adultery with Bathsheba and arranged murder of Uriah caused great damage to David's family and the entire nation of Israel, so has many a church or ministry been damaged or destroyed by the moral failure of its leader. Many Christians have had their faith weakened as a result of seeing a leader fall. Non-Christians use the failure of "Christian" leaders as a reason to reject Christianity. Satan and his demons know this, and therefore direct more of their attacks against those in leadership roles. The Bible warns us all, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).


How are we to respond when an evangelical Christian leader is accused of or caught in a scandal? 1) Do not listen to or accept baseless and unfounded accusations (Proverbs 18:8, 17; 1 Timothy 5:19). 2) Take appropriate biblical measures to rebuke those who sin (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:20). If the sin is proven and severe, permanent removal from ministry leadership should be enforced (1 Timothy 3:1-13). 3) Forgive those who sin (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13), and when repentance is proven, restore them to fellowship (Galatians 6:1; 1 Peter 4:8) but not to leadership. 4) Be faithful in praying for our leaders. Knowing the problems they deal with, the temptations they suffer, and the stress they must endure, we should be praying for our leaders, asking God to strengthen them, protect them, and encourage them. 5) Most importantly, take the failure of an evangelical Christian leader as a reminder to put your ultimate faith in God and God alone. God never fails, never sins, and never lies. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3).

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


06/01/19

Question: "I have been burned and hurt by the church in the past. How can I overcome this and renew a passion for church and a desire to attend church?"


Answer:The pain caused by a church is a “silent killer.” This doesn’t mean that the words and events that “burned” and hurt your heart are not very ugly and public. It is a “silent killer” because of what it does deep in the fabric of the mind, heart, and soul of the wounded. If not dealt with, it will destroy future happiness, joy, and well-being. The collateral damage negatively affects the ministry and outreach of the church, too, and some churches never recover. Recognize that the behavior that brought such devastation to your heart is not much different than the hurt any of us can encounter in the workplace, marketplace, or home. The difference is we don’t expect God’s people to behave like those without Christ in their lives. The church is the one place almost everyone agrees should be safe, accepting, forgiving, and free from conflict and pain. Yet in most churches at least some elements of strife, conflict, and hatred creep in and tarnish that ideal.


It happens more in some churches than others. The spiritual health of people in a church and the strength of leadership determine how prevalent and to what extent divisive behavior can gain control. Out of control, it has the effect of a termite infiltration that slowly and surely decays the foundation of the spiritual life of a congregation.


It is important to turn your focus away from the people involved and the church itself and identify the root cause of your pain, turmoil, and disillusionment. Honestly identify what you are feeling. If you are like most people, here are some possibilities: anger, sorrow, disappointment, rejection, hurt, jealousy, vulnerability, fear, rebellion, pride, shame, embarrassment, or loss. Find out what is at the core of your hurt—not what someone said or did to you, but what is really causing your pain? Then search the Scriptures to discover what God says about it. Take a Bible concordance and look up each word and read, think, pray, and apply the verse. For example, you may think that you are angry when in reality you feel rejected. What does God say about rejection? He says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5); “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3); and, “Surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20).


When you truly identify the root of your pain, God has a balm of wisdom, compassion, and love to heal your wounds. If you call on Him for help, your focus shifts to Him and off of other people and their actions. You will stop rehearsing the event that caused you harm. You truly may be harmed, injured, or offended. You certainly feel it. Those feelings are byproducts of deeper, more important realities that have derailed your passion for God, His church, and His purpose for your life. If left unattended, those feelings will lead to a root of bitterness that will negatively affect every fiber of your soul and rob you of your abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). You do not want this to happen in your life.


How do we keep hurtful experiences from moving their destruction into our souls? The book of wisdom from the Bible says we must “guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT). We guard our hearts by carefully choosing our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. Guard your heart by refusing to dwell on what happened, refusing to focus on the people who hurt you, and refusing to belabor the weaknesses of the church. Giving up bitterness takes humility, but “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). It takes forgiving attitudes and actions (Matthew 18:22; Mark 11:27; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) with no hint of vengeance (Romans 12:19). Mostly, it takes the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you (Ephesians 3:16).


Don’t blame God for how His children behave. Don’t abandon the church, either. There are many more dedicated, grace-filled, loving, and forgiving people than not in most churches. Seek them out. Spend time with them. If you cannot find them, find another church (it is rare that you cannot find them even in the most difficult church environment). The church is God’s idea, and He protects it faithfully even though He is sometimes pained by its behavior (see Revelation 2–3).


You can have hope because you are seeking healing from the Lord. It is now up to you to do the right thing and turn your focus to the Person who will truly transform your life above and beyond this hurt. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).


PART II 

Question: "How should conflict in the church be handled?"


Answer:There are many areas of a church where conflict can develop. However, most of them tend to fall under one of three categories: conflict due to blatant sin among believers, conflict with leadership, conflict between believers. Admittedly, many issues can cross over and actually involve two or more of these categories.


Believers who blatantly sin pose a conflict for the church as described in 1 Corinthians 5. The church that does not deal with sin among the members will open the door to more problems. The church is not called to be judgmental of unbelievers, but the church is expected to confront and restore believers who are unrepentant of sins such as those listed in 1 Corinthians 5:11: " . . . anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." Such individuals are to not be accepted by the church until they are willing to repent. Matthew 18:15-17 provides a concise procedure for the confrontation and restoration of a believer. Confrontation should be done carefully, meekly, and with the goal of restoration (Galatians 6:1). Churches that lovingly discipline sinning individuals will curtail a great deal of conflict in the church.


At times believers might not be content with the direction or actions of church leaders. This was the case early in the history of the church (Acts 6:1-7). Complaints about the lack of care of a certain group in the church were taken up with the leaders. This was remedied, and the church grew (Acts 6:7). The early church used a conflict to improve the ministry. However, when churches do not have a clear process for dealing with such concerns, people tend to create their own platforms. Individuals may begin polling others in the church, get involved in gossip, or even develop a bloc of "concerned people." Leadership can help avoid this by leading like selfless, loving shepherds that are examples of servants rather than ones that lord over others (1 Peter 5:1-3). Those who are frustrated should respect the leaders (Hebrews 13:7, 17), be slow to accuse them (1 Timothy 5:19), and speak the truth lovingly to them, not to others about them (Ephesians 4:15). On those occasions when it appears the leader is not responding to the concern, an individual should follow the pattern set down in Matthew 18:15-17 to ensure that there is no confusion as to where each stands.


The Bible warns that people in church may have difficulties with conflict. Some conflict is due to pride and selfishness (James 4:1-10). Some conflicts come about because of offenses that have not been forgiven (Matthew 18:15-35). God has told us to press toward peace (Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:12-15). It is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve a conflict. Some basic steps toward resolution include the following:


1. Develop the proper heart attitude - Meek (Galatians 6:1); Humble (James 4:10); Forgiving (Ephesians 4:31,32); Patient (James 1:19,20).


2. Evaluate your part in the conflict - Matthew 7:1-5 (removing the log from your own eye first is necessary before helping others).


3. Go to the individual (not to others) to voice your concern - Matthew 18:15. This is best done in love (Ephesians 4:15) and not to just get something off your chest. Accusing the person tends to encourage a defensiveness. Therefore, attack the problem rather than the person. This gives the person a better opportunity to clarify the situation or to seek forgiveness for the offense.


4. If the first attempt does not accomplish the needed results, continue with another person or persons that can help with mediation (Matthew 18:16). Remember that your goal is not to win an argument; it is to win your fellow believer to reconciliation. Therefore, choose people who can help you resolve the conflict.


Conflict is best handled when individuals prayerfully and humbly focus on loving others, with the intent of restoring relationships. Most issues of conflict should be manageable if the above biblical principles are followed. However, there are times when specific outside counsel may help. We recommend utilizing resources such as the PeaceMaker Ministries - http://peacemaker.net.


PART III 

Question: "What is the purpose of church by-laws (bylaws)?"


Answer:Most churches have a doctrinal statement, a document which condenses and systematizes the church's tenets of faith. A doctrinal statement is valuable in ensuring conformity to the Word of God and preventing the church from being "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). In addition to the articles of faith, most churches also have a set of by-laws (or bylaws), sometimes called rules of order or a constitution. There are several practical reasons to have bylaws.


First, to promote efficiency, a church must have some type of organization. By-laws specify a church's governing structure; define the roles of pastor, elder, deacon, and other leaders; and stipulate the requirements for membership. In other words, bylaws allow "all things [to] be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40).


Second, to provide direction, a church needs to articulate its mission and methodology. The by-laws of a church are useful in setting parameters for fund raising, outreach, ordination, expenditures, and missionary support.


Third, to preserve unity and maintain its testimony, a church should agree on certain issues of Christian living and separation. A "gray area" which the Bible does not specifically address may be covered in a by-law. For example, a church may require its members to refrain from the consumption of alcohol; since this is not a doctrinal issue, per se, it is better dealt with in the by-laws.


Fourth, to protect itself from liability, a church should have written policies on church discipline, screening youth workers, etc. By-laws can be a way of averting calamity in a crisis situation.


PART IV

Question: "What is the emerging / emergent church movement?"


Answer:The emerging, or emergent, church movement takes its name from the idea that as culture changes, a new church should emerge in response. In this case, it is a response by various church leaders to the current era of post-modernism. Although post-modernism began in the 1950s, the church didn't really seek to conform to its tenets until the 1990s. Post-modernism can be thought of as a dissolution of "cold, hard fact" in favor of "warm, fuzzy subjectivity." The emerging / emergent church movement can be thought of the same way.


The emerging / emergent church movement falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking—it is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward, feelings over truth. These are reactions to modernism and are thought to be necessary in order to actively engage contemporary culture. This movement is still fairly new, though, so there is not yet a standard method of "doing" church amongst the groups choosing to take a post-modern mindset. In fact, the emerging church rejects any standard methodology for doing anything. Therefore, there is a huge range of how far groups take a post-modernist approach to Christianity. Some groups go only a little way in order to impact their community for Christ, and remain biblically sound. Most groups, however, embrace post-modernist thinking, which eventually leads to a very liberal, loose translation of the Bible. This, in turn, lends to liberal doctrine and theology.


For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. Relativism opens up all kinds of problems, as it destroys the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, negating the belief that biblical truth can be absolute. If the Bible is not our source for absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ is rendered meaningless.


Another area where the emerging / emergent church movement has become anti-biblical is its focus on ecumenism. Unity among people coming from different religious backgrounds and diversity in the expression of corporate worship are strong focuses of the emergent church movement. Being ecumenical means that compromise is taking place, and this results in a watering down of Scripture in favor of not offending an apostate. This is in direct opposition to passages such as Revelation 2:14-17, Jesus' letter to the church of Pergamum, in which the Church is warned against tolerating those who teach false doctrine.


False doctrine seems to abound within the emerging / emergent church movement, though, as stated previously, not within every group espousing emerging / emergent church beliefs. Because of this, care must be taken when deciding whether or not to become involved with an emergent church group. We all need to take heed of Matthew 7:15-20, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."


While seeking new ways to witness to a changing culture is admirable, utilizing ways which compromise the Truth of the Gospel in any way is nothing more than promoting false doctrine and leading others away from Christ instead of to Him.


PART V

Question: "What is the G12 vision / movement?"


Answer:The G12 vision / movement is a cell-church discipleship strategy pioneered by Cesar Castellanos at International Charismatic Mission of Bogota, Colombia, where he was a pastor. Castellanos believed that God spoke to him in a vision, laying out what He desired the Church do in response to the end times. This vision was the "government of 12" principle, a hierarchal pyramid scheme of discipleship and authority. He proposed that because Israel had 12 tribes, and Christ had 12 disciples, the Church needed to base their structure on this governmental model and become a cell-church.


The G12 model works this way: a pastor trains 12 people to be cell leaders. These cell leaders are each responsible for discipling 12 others in a cell group, usually with a minimum number coming from the community and not from within the church they attend. After a specified time, and after certain strict requirements are met, these cell members then become leaders themselves, and start their own cells. Thus, the membership of the church is multiplied, and the message of the Gospel is taken into the community.


Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong with this cell model. Churches worldwide are constantly seeking to discover the right balance of model and ministry to be effective in their communities, and this is yet another method they can use. However, the teachings that often accompany this model are what need to be questioned.


Consider Cesar Castellanos himself. Castellanos is part of the charismatic New Apostolic Reformation, which is doctrinally unsound. This movement believes that God has raised up present-day apostles to continue the work of the original apostles of Scripture and that these present-day apostles are in charge of overseeing the work of the Church on earth. They are associated with phrases such as "name it and claim it," the "Toronto blessing," "word faith," "signs and wonders," and "health and prosperity," all unbiblical teachings. Castellanos borders on believing that God gives them post-canonical revelation, including the G12 vision.


Leaders of the G12 movement have also made a number of questionable statements, such as, "The model of ministry based on 12 is the most effective means of obeying the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to win disciples and of growing the Church" (from a brochure for a G12 conference being held in India in 2003). Also implied by G12 leaders is that Government of 12 is what God is doing now, and that if you're not on board with G12 you are opposing God. None of this, however, can be supported by Scripture. Dividing a church into cells of 12 cannot even be supported by Scripture. What we do find in Scripture is that the Church is likened unto a body"many parts make up the whole, each part just as necessary as another (1 Corinthians 12). The Church is led by elders, served by deacons, and filled with believers. How each individual church is to govern and organize itself is left open to interpretation and supposition by Scripture.


The G12 vision / movement simply isn't found within the pages of the Bible, nor are many teachings its proponents espouse. This is where the true danger lies. As a church-growth model, G12 seems to have worked for many churches, but its association with doctrinally corrupt teachings leave much to be desired for those intent on retaining Scripture, and not man's teachings, as the sole measure for one's life (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/30/19

Question: "How much authority should a pastor have over a church?"


Answer:The church is called “the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2), “God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3), and “the church of God” (Acts 20:28). Jesus is “the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23) and “the chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). The church rightly belongs to Christ, and He is the authority over it (Matthew 16:18). This is just as true of the local church as of the universal Body of Christ.


God’s blueprint for building His church includes using men in the office of pastor. The pastor is first an elder, and, along with the other elders, the pastor is responsible to do the following:


1) Oversee the church (1 Timothy 3:1). The primary meaning of the word bishopis “overseer.” The general oversight of the ministry and operation of the church is the responsibility of the pastor and the other elders. This would include the handling of finances within the church (Acts 11:30).


2) Rule over the church (1 Timothy 5:17). The word translated “rule” literally means “to stand before.” The idea is to lead or to attend to, with an emphasis on being a diligent caretaker. This would include the responsibility to exercise church discipline and reprove those who err from the faith (Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Corinthians 5:11–13).


3) Feed the church (1 Peter 5:2). Literally, the word pastormeans “shepherd.” The pastor has a duty to “feed the flock” with God’s Word and to lead them in the proper way.


4) Guard the doctrine of the church (Titus 1:9). The teaching of the apostles was to be committed to “faithful men” who would teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). Preserving the integrity of the gospel is one of the pastor’s highest callings.


Some pastors consider the title “overseer” as a command to have their hand in everything. Whether it’s running the sound system or selecting songs for Sunday or picking out drapes for the nursery, some pastors feel it their duty to be involved in every decision. Not only is this exhausting for the pastor, who finds himself in every committee meeting, it’s also hampering others from using their gifts in the church. A pastor can oversee and delegate at the same time. In addition, the biblical model of a plurality of elders, along with deacons appointed to assist the pastor and elders, precludes the pastorate from becoming a “one-man show.”


The command to “rule” the church is sometimes taken to extremes as well. A pastor’s official responsibility is to govern the church along with the elders, and his focus should be primarily spiritual, attending to matters such as edifying believers and equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). We have heard of pastors who seem more dictatorial than shepherd-like, requiring those under their authority to seek their permission before making an investment, going on vacation, etc. Such men, it seems to us, simply desire control and are unfit to rule the church of God (see 3 John 1:9–10).


First Peter 5:3 contains a wonderful description of a balanced pastoral ministry: “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” The pastor’s authority is not something to be “lorded over” the church; rather, a pastor is to be an example of truth, love, and godliness for God’s flock to follow. (See also 1 Timothy 4:12.) A pastor is “the steward of God” (Titus 1:7), and he is answerable to God for his leadership in the church.


PART II 

Question: "Should a church tithe 10% of the offerings it receives?"


Answer:Tithing is given as an example in the Scriptures as how individuals should respond to God's blessings. Many individuals question whether the tithe is still applicable for believers today since we are not "under the law." Despite that distinction, many believers consider it their privilege to give proportionately to the work of the Lord using the tithe as a pattern. Although churches are not given percentages in the New Testament, the principle of proportionate giving is given (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8). The New Testament also records that the believers in the church were collecting to give to other ministries.


Although there may not be a specific verse stating that a church should tithe to other ministries, it seems that churches and other ministries should be generous in supporting other ministries as the Lord prospers them. For some churches, it helps them to keep outwardly focused by setting a certain amount in their budget toward "outside ministries." Therefore, it would not be unusual for a church or ministry to give a tithe (10%) or another percentage to what they consider missions. At the same time, this is not to be a legalistic requirement. Rather, it is to be a joyous celebration in response to the Lord's provision.


PART III 

Question: "What does the Bible say about liturgy? Should a Christian participate in liturgical worship?"


Answer:The American Heritage Dictionary defines "liturgy" as follows: "1. The rite of the Eucharist. 2. The prescribed form for a public religious service; ritual." Looking at Scripture, there is not a "prescribed form for a public religious service" set forth for the church. At the same time, several New Testament passages do give us important ingredients that should be part of a healthy local church. Among these are the following:


True fellowship: treating fellow believers as they are"family, with the associated love, unity of heart, and giving toward others that is common to a good family (Acts 2:44-46).


The observance of the ordinances: baptism of believers and remembrance of the Lord's Supper / Communion (Acts 2:41,42,46; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32).


Steadfast observance of the apostles' doctrine, the reading of the Word of God, and the teaching / preaching of the Word of God (Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:2).


Prayer and praise, with dependence upon the Holy Spirit's direction (Acts 2:42,47; Acts 13:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Ephesians 6:18).


Evangelism and discipleship, with all members of the church using their spiritual gifts to serve Christ as part of the Body of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 4:5; Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:3-8).


While some churches are labeled as "liturgical" because of their very formal and predetermined order and manner of worship, all churches to some degree have a format that they typically follow. The major distinction would be both the degree to which this is true, and the possibility of changing that common format if necessary. It is obvious from Acts 13 that the church in the city of Antioch was flexible in that they were open to the Holy Spirit's leading. If a church is so liturgical that changes according to His leading are not a possibility, liturgy has gone too far. A church that is too structured would never allow for the Spirit's leading"they already have their own "agenda"; they don't need His.


There are two additional possible dangers in relation to liturgical worship: (1) Liturgies designed by men are fallible and thus need to be examined to see whether they are scriptural. But this is true both for so-called liturgical churches as well as for those not given that label. In both cases fallible men set the format of the service. (2) Liturgies that call for the recitation of repetitious prayers, responses, etc., can begin to be done in rote without thought or true worship from the heart. And when this happens they become "vain repetitions." But nonetheless, it is still very possible for one of a sincere heart to worship God with repetitious prayers, etc., as he reflects upon what is being said and thus enters into those prayers from the heart. Besides, even in non-liturgical churches, certain songs and choruses are sung repeatedly over time and carry the same danger of being sung glibly rather than with reflection upon what is being said and sung.


Whether a church is liturgical is not as important as the soundness of the doctrine of the church and the soundness of the pastor doctrinally and spiritually (1 Timothy 4:16; Acts 2:42). I was once a part of a very liturgical denomination. My reasons for leaving that denomination did not involve its being liturgical, but chiefly concerned its doctrine. For although they daily read from three different portions of the Scripture (Old Testament, Gospel account, and an Epistle) as part of their liturgy, the beliefs of this denomination were not in keeping with what was being read. Rather, it differed on a number of essential issues such as how a person gets to heaven, whom prayers should be directed to, whether a person can be secure in his salvation, etc. So, the main issue may not be whether a church is liturgical, since all are to some degree, but whether its teachings and practices are in line with Scripture on core issues. Agreement with Scripture, not liturgy, determines whether a church's practices are compatible with those of a healthy and Biblically-based church.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO Yes 


05/29/19

Question: "When should children be baptized and/or allowed to take the Lord's Supper?"


Answer:While some churches have requirements for children to attend Bible classes for instruction in doctrine and the meaning of the sacraments before being allowed to participate, many others do not, and in these cases, the instruction and preparation for the children must be given in the home.


Before taking communion, the main requirement for all children (as with all adults) is that they have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Even though some children make this salvation decision at an early age, being baptized and partaking of the Lord's Supper should not be rushed into. As a child matures in his faith and it is evident that he is truly born again, the father and/or mother should be perceptive as to when he is ready to receive such teaching. The spiritual maturity level of one child differs from that of another, even in the same family.


Although this is an Old Testament story, the truth is still applicable. In Nehemiah 8:1-8, we read the account of Ezra, the scribe, reading the Law to the people of Israel. He read it to the men and women and all who were able to understand. From 10:28 we learn that these included their sons and daughters. See also 8:8 for the same meaning. And so it must be today. It is most important that our children understand spiritual truths, and only wise Christian parents can discern when that time comes.


In many churches, when the parents of a child make it known to the pastor that he/she is wanting to be baptized, the pastor speaks with the child to decide if he/she is ready. This is a good and wise practice. It is vitally important that a child understands that neither baptism or communion saves him/her, but rather they are steps of obedience and remembrance of what Jesus did for us in providing for our salvation (Luke 22:19).


PART II

Question: "Is baptism required before a person can receive communion?"


Answer:It is not stated in Scripture that a person must be baptized before being able to receive the Lord's Supper. However, the same requirement for both baptism and partaking of the Lord's Supper is salvation through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus with His disciples the evening before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:20-28). In Matthew 28:19, after our Lord's death and resurrection, He gave the Great Commission to His disciples to go into all the world and teach His Gospel, followed with the command to also baptize the new believers. Baptism by water in the name of the Trinity has been practiced by the church from its beginning. The only requirement, as stated above, is that the person has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. In doing so, the person understands that this is a picture of the salvation experience and is a requirement of obedience to our Lord. It is considered by many Bible scholars to be the first step of Christian discipleship.


Perhaps this is the reason some churches require baptism before partaking of the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is to be partaken of only by believers in Jesus Christ. Baptism is intended to be an identifying mark of believers in Christ. Therefore, some churches require water baptism before a person can partake of the Lord's Supper. However, again, Scripture nowhere gives us this instruction.



PART III 

Question: "What is the duty / role of a pastor's wife?"


Answer:The Bible does not address the involvement of the pastor's wife in any ministry. In other words, it depends upon the denomination, the individual church within a denomination, the church board, and the pastor and his wife to determine how active the pastor's wife should be. The main area of responsibility for any wife is to support and be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24). However, if the Lord calls a man into the ministry, He calls the whole man, and that includes the man's wife and his family.


The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3 gives us the qualifications of a "bishop" or what we call a pastor, and in verse 4 we see the following: "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence." "Rules well" is an idiom for being a biblical husband with a submissive wife and children that love and respect him. The pastor who is the head of his home will be more successful as a leader in the church, and of course this means that his wife is his helper in the ministry of the home as well as the church. The ministry is a partnership in all areas of life and not just in the home life.


The wife does not do the work of the pastor, but the pastor and his wife are a team who are yoked together to do God's work. Too few recognize the reality of this and want to put the pastor's wife in a box and relegate her to keeping the home fires burning and prayer support for her husband. That certainly is her responsibility, but quite often the pastor's wife has gifts that can and should be used in the ministry. On the other hand, there are women whose husbands are pastors and they see it as "his" ministry and do not enter in to the work in any way. There should be a good balance between these two ideas with the goal of bringing glory to God in all things. An active, outgoing pastor's wife is a valuable asset to any church in today's climate of apathy to the things of God.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/28/19

Question: "Who is permitted to baptize / perform baptisms?"


Answer:The Bible does not specifically address this question. When one looks through the baptisms recorded in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, it would seem that all that was needed was to be a disciple of either Jesus or John the Baptist (in the four Gospels) or to be a godly Christian (in the Book of Acts), a "godly" Christian being one who was sharing the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross. It was as a result of believing this good news that people were then willing or desiring to be baptized.


Here are a few examples of these godly Christians in the Book of Acts: Peter and the apostles baptized large numbers in Acts 2 as they responded to the message about Christ. Later on, Philip, who was at first selected as one to distribute food to widows in the church in Jerusalem, preached the gospel in Samaria and baptized believers there (Acts 6,8). Still later, Paul baptized some of those who trusted in Christ in the course of his missionary work, but apparently also let others do the baptizing instead of him (Acts 16:33; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.).


The pivotal passage that answers this question indirectly is found in the "Great Commission" passage (Matthew 28:18-20). This passage records Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations and includes baptizing as part of the process of making those disciples. If this commission is given to all Christians (as is commonly held), then it follows that the authority to baptize is also given to all Christians.


The Epistles never discuss who is to baptize. What is discussed is the meaning behind baptism. In both the book of Acts and the Epistles, the proper understanding of how one is saved (Acts 19:1-5) and the symbolism involved in baptism (Romans 6) seem to be more important than who is doing the baptism.


Based on Matthew 28:18-20, as well as on the silence of the remaining portions of Scripture concerning this issue, it would seem that any true believer has authority from God to baptize, even as he has the authority from God to evangelize and teach all that Christ commanded.


PART II 

Question: "Is the priesthood of all believers Biblical?"


Answer:There is one main passage that deals with the priesthood of all believers. It is as follows: "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ " But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:5-9).


Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or "type" of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ--a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ's death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).


Christ our High Priest has made one sacrifice for sin for all time (Hebrews 10:12), and there is no more sacrifice for sin that can be made (Hebrews 10:26). But as priests once offered other kinds of sacrifices in the temple, so it is clear from 1 Peter 2:5,9 that God has chosen Christians "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5-9 speaks of two aspects of the priesthood of the believer. The first is that believers are privileged. To be chosen by God to be a priest was a privilege. All believers have been chosen by God: a "chosen generation...His own special people" (verse 9). In the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, there were places where only the priests could go. Into the Holy of Holies, behind a thick veil, only the High Priest could go, and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement when he made a sin offering on behalf of all of the people. But as mentioned above, because of Jesus' death upon the cross of Calvary, all believers now have direct access to the throne of God through Jesus Christ our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). What a privilege to be able to access the very throne of God directly, not through any earthly priest. When Christ returns and the New Jerusalem comes to earth (Revelation 21), believers will see God face-to-face and will serve Him there (Revelation 22:3-4) Again, what a privilege especially for us who were once "not a people" ... "without hope" ... destined for destruction because of our sin.


The second aspect of the believer's priesthood is that we are chosen for a purpose: to offer up spiritual sacrifices (see Hebrews 13:15-16 for example), and to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Thus, by both life (1 Peter 2:5; Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10) and by word (1 Peter 2:9; 3:15), our purpose is to serve God. As the believer's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so God has called us to serve Him from our hearts by first of all offering our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). One day we will be serving God in eternity (Revelation 22:3-4), but not in any temple, for "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Revelation 21:22). As the Old Testament priesthood was to be free of defilement, as symbolized by being ceremonially clean, so has Christ made us holy positionally before the Father. He calls on us to live holy lives that we might also be a "holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5).


In summary, believers are called "kings and priests" and a "royal priesthood" as a reflection of their privileged status as heirs to the kingdom of the Almighty God and of the Lamb. Because of this privileged closeness with God, no other earthly mediator is necessary. Second, believers are called priests because salvation is not merely "fire insurance," escape from hell. Rather, believers are called by God to serve Him by offering up spiritual sacrifices, i.e., being a people zealous for good works. As priests of the living God, we are all to give praise to the One who has given us the great gift of His Son's sacrifice on our behalf, and in response, to share this wonderful grace with others.


PART III 

Question: "What does the Bible say about Christian confirmation?"


Answer:Confirmation is defined as a sacrament, a ritual or a service performed by man. In some traditions, generally Catholic and Anglican, the sacrament of confirmation is the ritual by which a young person becomes an official member of the Church. This sometimes includes the bestowal of a "confirmation name," generally the name of a saint, which is often used as a second middle name. Those who practice confirmation believe it signals the initiation of the baptized into full church membership and a personal, mature acceptance of the faith. Catholics and Anglicans recognize confirmation as one of seven sacraments.


The Bible, however, is silent on the matter of such a ritual. In fact, the idea that a person can "confirm" to another that he/she is in the faith is denied in Scripture. Each individual must determine the state of his/her soul based on several criteria. First, we are confirmed by the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts. "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans 8:16). When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and gives us assurance that He is present and that we belong to Him, and He also teaches and explains spiritual things to us (1 Corinthians 2:13-14), thereby confirming that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). 


We are also confirmed in the faith by the evidence of our salvation. First John 1:5-10 tells us that the evidence of our salvation is manifested in our lives: we walk in the Light, we do not lie, we confess our sin. James 2 makes it clear that the evidence of faith is the works we do. We are not saved by our works, but our works are the evidence of the saving faith in us. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). The spiritual fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is the confirmation that He lives within us. Therefore, we are told to "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you"unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5). In addition, Peter tells us to "make your calling and election sure" so that we will "receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:10-11).


The final "confirmation" of our salvation is, of course, in the future. Those who are true Christians, the Bible tells us, will persevere to the end, "eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end" (1 Corinthians 1:7-8 NKJV). We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession'to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14). This, then, is the true meaning of confirmation'salvation was purchased by the blood of Christ in whom we have faith, it is evidenced by our walk with Him, and it is confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit within.

GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/27/19

Question: "Is a home church a true biblical church?"

Answer:Churches in the New Testament era were indeed small assemblies that met in homes (Acts 2:46; 20:20). So the practice is certainly biblically allowable. There also seem to be some good reasons to have house churches as opposed to large gatherings: greater intimacy, stronger relationships, more comfortable worship, single-mindedness, etc. The fact that large churches usually have their own small groups that meet in homes speaks to this fact. Several considerations should be made, however, concerning the reasons for creating and/or attending a house church.


First, the fact that first-century Christians did something does not establish it as a pattern for all generations to follow (unless there is also a clear command to do so elsewhere). Simply because Scripture records an event or practice does not, of itself, establish a command (nor, in some cases, even approval!). So, for example, the fact that early Christians often sold all they owned and shared the profits (Acts 2:44-45) among other believers does not mean that we must do so today (although it certainly would be acceptable). So we should not think that home churches are any more "biblical" in this sense.


Second, there was a perfectly practical reason for the early church to meet in homes. Where else would they meet? There were no church buildings, YMCA's, grammar schools, or movie theaters that could hold large groups. Further, even if there was room somewhere, during this time of persecution by the Romans, a public gathering of hundreds or thousands of people would simply not be safe. Thus, it might not have been by design that the early church met in small groups. It is even possible that they would have preferred large meetings (as Jews would have been accustomed to), but they simply could not manage it. So we should also not think that home churches are any more "spiritual" than large churches.


Third, home churches that are started in an effort to counter "the institutional church" could be questionable. While often listing the above reasons to more closely align with the biblical model, the real reason often seems to be displeasure with large church movements. While these complaints are often valid, it can lead to a divisive, "us vs. them" mentality that should be avoided.


In addition to the above considerations regarding motive, one final caution concerns the issue of accountability. For Protestant churches, the Bible alone is the guide in matters of faith and practice. However, few people have the time to gain the skills and knowledge to accurately handle the word of God (2 Timothy 3:14-16). In classical education theology was taught last—for it builds on many other disciplines that cannot be learned from the Bible alone. Therefore, some degree of higher education was usually sought before one became a teacher of the word (James 3:1). The popular view today, however, is that the Holy Spirit teaches believers directly through the Bible. This idea might lead people to believe that whatever the group teaches is from God and is therefore safe from error. But the Bible does not teach that this is the case, and it is clear that most believers disagree on at least some issues, and most simply end up "interpreting" the Bible according to their churches' teaching anyway.


The answer to the interpretation issue requires another article, but the problem it creates becomes more ominous when dealing with home churches. The New Testament is full of warnings against heresies coming from within the church. Since it was written in the first century, these would actually be warnings regarding house churches. While this problem is certainly not limited to house churches, there is clearly no guarantee of protection from false teaching simply because the church changes its meeting format. Further, because home churches function as independent small groups, they need have no accountability to anyone but themselves. This makes it much more difficult to judge their teachings (in fact, the Jehovah's Witnesses cult began in exactly this manner). In contrast, larger congregations benefit from a plurality of elders, spiritually mature men (Titus 1:5-9) who are overseers of the flock, protecting them from false doctrine. 


In conclusion, there is nothing unbiblical about Christians gathering together regularly in houses, or large buildings, or any other appropriate venue. The Bible does not, in fact, give any guidelines as to the proper gathering size or location. What it does do is explain what is to take place at those meetings (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2). So long as biblical teachings (orthodoxy) and practices (orthopraxy) are undertaken by those in assembly, it really does not matter what meeting format one chooses.


PART II 

Question: "What is the five (5) fold ministry?"


Answer:The concept of the five-fold ministry comes from Ephesians 4:11, "It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers." Primarily as a result of this verse, some believe God has restored, or is restoring, the offices of apostle and prophet in the church today. Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that the purpose of the five-fold ministry is, "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." So, since the body of Christ definitely is not built up to unity in the faith and has not attained to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, the thinking goes, the offices of apostle and prophet must still be in effect.


However, Ephesians 2:20 informs us that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." If the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, are we still building the foundation? Hebrews 6:1-3 encourages us to move on from the foundation. Although Jesus Christ is most definitely active in the church today, His role as the cornerstone of the church was completed with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. If the work of the cornerstone is, in that sense, complete, so must the work of the apostles and prophets, who were the foundation, be complete.


What was the role of the apostles and prophets? It was to proclaim God's revelation, to teach the new truth the church would need to grow and thrive. The apostles and prophets completed this mission. How? By giving us the Word of God. The Word of God is the completed revelation of God. The Bible contains everything the church needs to know to grow, thrive, and fulfill God's mission (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The cornerstone work of the apostles and prophets is complete. The ongoing work of the apostles and prophets is manifested in the Holy Spirit speaking through and teaching us God's Word. In that sense, the five-fold ministry is still active.


PART III 

Question: "Should a church participate in fund-raising?"


Answer:First, we must define what we mean by “church fund-raising.” The Bible is clear that the giving of “offerings” is commanded and blessed by God. God loves a “cheerful giver”—one who gives abundantly out of a heart of love for God (2 Corinthians 2:8-9). Paul provides instruction and a great deal of discussion about giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9. He also shows great appreciation to those who gave to him at various times to enable him to continue his ministry (Philippians 4:14-20). You also find records of generous giving in the early church (Acts 4:32-37). Church fund-raising, then, is something other than the normal giving of a congregation toward the work of the Lord.


If a church does decide to raise additional funds for a specific need through church fund-raising, the following cautions are in order:


• Be honest about what the money is for.

• Avoid excessive profit.

• Don’t allow the fund-raising to communicate to others that God’s people are not being obedient, therefore the church is hitting up unbelievers for money.

• Be sure the congregation understands it is in addition to, not in place of, normal giving.

• Be considerate of those who have convictions against fund-raising – you cannot prove biblically that it is OK, so it could be a doubtful thing for some.


On the other hand, there are benefits to depending upon giving rather than fund-raising: (taken from above passages)


• People learn to give because it is a blessing (actual fruit added to their account), not to get something.

• Depending upon gifts of God’s people allows a ministry to learn to work in the framework of contentedness and obedience.

• It is a clear way to give God glory. Fund-raisers can bring glory to products or personalities.

• Depending upon the giving of God’s people can strengthen our faith.


Alternatives to supplement giving:


• Establish special funds with particular goals. Some people will give to special projects above their regular giving. 

• Encourage faith commitments through a banquet (not selling meals – but expressing need – accepting gifts) or other challenges.

• Encourage members to take a certain amount of money and invest it over a particular duration - some might put it in a CD, others might buy ingredients for something and then sell their product; the individuals then would all bring their personal gifts as an offering. This avoids the stigma of the church doing a fund-raiser, incorporates people, and allows them to use a great deal of creativity.


A Scripture account that might be used to discourage church fund-raising would be that of Jesus and the money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17). Some may conclude that the reason He called it a “den of thieves” was that Jesus was against profit being made off ministry. However, the passage could more easily be understood that He was condemning the dishonest practice of the greedy, hypocritical, and corrupt religious leaders. We also need to take into account that we no longer have temples that involve animal sacrifices; therefore, it would be difficult to compare that ministry to that of the current church model described in Acts and the Epistles.


One should not take lightly the degree of anger expressed by Jesus as He chased the profiteers out; however, it doesn’t necessarily provide a solid proof text against what we consider church fund-raising.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/26/19

Question: "What was the first / original church? Is the original / first church the true church?"


Answer:The ability to trace one's church back to the "first church" through apostolic succession is an argument used by a number of different churches to assert that their church is the "one true church." The Roman Catholic Church makes this claim. The Greek Orthodox Church makes this claim. Some Protestant denominations make this claim. Some of the "Christian" cults make this claim. How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is " it does not matter!


The first church—its growth, doctrine, and practices—were recorded for us in the New Testament. Jesus, as well as His apostles, foretold that false teachers would arise, and indeed it is apparent from some of the New Testament epistles that these apostles had to fight against false teachers early on. Having a pedigree of apostolic succession or being able to trace a church's roots back to the "first church" is nowhere in Scripture given as a test for being the true church. What is given is repeated comparisons between what false teachers teach and what the first church taught, as recorded in Scripture. Whether a church is the "true church" or not is determined by comparing its teachings and practices to that of the New Testament church, as recorded in Scripture.


For instance, in Acts 20:17-38, the Apostle Paul has an opportunity to talk to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus one last time face to face. In that passage, he tells them that false teachers will not only come among them but will come FROM them (vv. 29-30). Paul does not set forth the teaching that they were to follow the "first" organized church as a safeguard for the truth. Rather, he commits them to the safekeeping of "God and to the word of His grace" (v. 32). Thus, truth could be determined by depending upon God and "the word of His grace" (i.e., Scripture, see John 10:35).


This dependence upon the Word of God, rather than following certain individual "founders" is seen again in Galatians 1:8-9, in which Paul states, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Thus, the basis for determining truth from error is not based upon even WHO it is that is teaching it, "we or an angel from heaven," but whether it is the same gospel that they had already received " and this gospel is recorded in Scripture.


Another example of this dependence upon the Word of God is found in 2 Peter. In this epistle, the Apostle Peter is fighting against false teachers. In doing so, Peter begins by mentioning that we have a "more sure word" to depend upon than even hearing the voice of God from heaven as they did at Jesus' transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-21). This "more sure word" is the written Word of God. Peter later tells them again to be mindful of "the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior" (2 Peter 3:2). Both the words of the holy prophets and the commandments Jesus gave to the apostles are recorded in Scripture.


How do we determine whether a church is teaching correct doctrine or not? The only infallible standard that Scripture says that we have is the Bible (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 2:25; Galatians 1:6-9). Tradition is a part of every church, and that tradition must be compared to God's Word, lest it go against what is true (Mark 7:1-13). It is true that the cults and sometimes orthodox churches twist the interpretation of Scripture to support their practices; nonetheless, Scripture, when taken in context and faithfully studied, is able to guide one to the truth.


The "first church" is the church that is recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The New Testament church is the "original church" and the "one true church." We can know this because it is described, in great detail, in Scripture. The church, as recorded in the New Testament, is God's pattern and foundation for His church. On this basis, let's examine the Roman Catholic claim that it is the "first church." Nowhere in the New Testament will you find the "one true church" doing any of the following: praying to Mary, praying to the saints, venerating Mary, submitting to a pope, having a select priesthood, baptizing an infant, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper as sacraments, or passing on apostolic authority to successors of the apostles. All of these are core elements of the Roman Catholic faith. If most of the core elements of the Roman Catholic Church were not practiced by the New Testament Church (the first church and one true church), how then can the Roman Catholic Church be the first church? A study of the New Testament will clearly reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is not the same church as the church that is described in the New Testament.


The New Testament records the history of the church from approximately A.D. 30 to approximately A.D. 90. In the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, history records several Roman Catholic doctrines and practices among early Christians. Is it not logical that the earliest Christians would be more likely to understand what the Apostles truly meant? Yes, it is logical, but there is one problem. Christians in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries were not the earliest Christians. Again, the New Testament records the doctrine and practice of the earliest Christians"and, the New Testament does not teach Roman Catholicism. What is the explanation for why the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century church began to exhibit signs of Roman Catholicism?


The answer is simple " the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century (and following) church did not have the complete New Testament. Churches had portions of the New Testament, but the New Testament (and the full Bible) were not commonly available until after the invention of the printing press in A.D. 1440. The early church did its best in passing on the teachings of the apostles through oral tradition, and through extremely limited availability to the Word in written form. At the same time, it is easy to see how false doctrine could creep into a church that only had access to the Book of Galatians, for example. It is very interesting to note that the Protestant Reformation followed very closely after the invention of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people. Once people began to study the Bible for themselves, it became very clear how far the Roman Catholic Church had departed from the church that is described in the New Testament.


Scripture never mentions using "which church came first" as the basis for determining which is the "true" church. What it does teach is that one is to use Scripture as the determining factor as to which church is preaching the truth and thus is true to the first church. It is especially important to compare Scripture with a church's teaching on such core issues as the full deity and humanity of Christ, the atonement for sin through His blood on Calvary, salvation from sin by grace through faith, and the infallibility of the Scriptures. The "first church" and "one true church" is recorded in the New Testament. That is the church that all churches are to follow, emulate, and model themselves after.


PART II 

Question: "Why should I believe in organized religion?"


Answer:A dictionary definition of "religion" would be something similar to "belief in God or gods to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual; any specific system of belief, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics." In light of this definition, the Bible does speak of organized religion, but in many cases the purpose and impact of "organized religion" are not something that God is pleased with. 


In Genesis chapter 11, perhaps the first instance of organized religion, the descendents of Noah organized themselves to build the tower of Babel instead of obeying God's command to fill the entire earth. They believed that their unity was more important than their relationship with God. God stepped in and confused their languages, thus breaking up this organized religion.


In Exodus chapter 6 and following, God "organized" a religion for the nation of Israel. The Ten Commandments, the laws regarding the tabernacle, and the sacrificial system were all instituted by God and were to be followed by the Israelites. Further study of the New Testament clarifies that the intent of this religion was to point to the need for a Savior-Messiah (Galatians 3; Romans 7). However, many have misunderstood this and have worshipped the rules and rituals rather than God.


Throughout Israel's history, many of the conflicts experienced by the Israelites involved conflict with organized religions. Examples include the worship of Baal (Judges 6; 1 Kings 18), Dagon (1 Samuel 5), and Molech (2 Kings 23:10). God defeated the followers of these religions, displaying His sovereignty and omnipotence.


In the Gospels, the Pharisees and Sadducees are depicted as the representatives of organized religion at the time of Christ. Jesus constantly confronted them about their false teachings and hypocritical lifestyles. In the Epistles, there were organized groups that mixed the gospel with certain lists of required works and rituals. They also sought to put pressure on believers to change and accept these "Christianity plus" religions. Galatians and Colossians give warnings about such religions. In the book of Revelation, organized religion will have an impact on the world as the Antichrist sets up a one-world religion.


In many cases, the end result of organized religion is a distraction from the intent of God. However, the Bible does speak of organized believers who are part of His plan. God calls these groups of organized believers "churches." The descriptions from the book of Acts and the Epistles indicate that the church is to be organized and interdependent. The organization leads to protection, productivity, and outreach (Acts 2:41-47). In the case of the church, it could better be called an "organized relationship." 


Religion is man's attempt to have communion with God. The Christian faith is a relationship with God because of what He has done for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is no plan to reach God (He has reached out to us"Romans 5:8). There is no pride (all is received by grace"Ephesians 2:8-9). There should be no conflict over leadership (Christ is the head"Colossians 1:18). There should be no prejudice (we are all one in Christ"Galatians 3:28). Being organized is not the problem. Focusing on the rules and rituals of a religion is the problem.


PART III 

Question: "What was the Protestant Reformation?"


Answer:The Protestant Reformation was a widespread theological revolt in Europe against the abuses and totalitarian control of the Roman Catholic Church. Reformers such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, and John Calvin in France protested various unbiblical practices of the Catholic Church and promoted a return to sound biblical doctrine. The precipitating event of the Protestant Reformation is generally considered to be Luther’s posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517.


As a background to the history of Protestantism and the Reformation, it is important to understand the Catholic claim of apostolic succession. This doctrine says that the line of Roman Catholic popes extends through the centuries all the way from the apostle Peter to the current pope. This unbroken chain of authority makes the Roman Catholic Church the only true church and gives the pope preeminence over all churches everywhere.


Because of their belief in apostolic succession and the infallibility of the pope (when speaking ex cathedra), Catholics place church teaching and tradition on a level equal to Scripture itself. This is one of the major differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants and was one of the foundational issues leading to the Protestant Reformation.


Even prior to the Protestant Reformation, there were pockets of resistance to some of the unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, yet they were relatively small and isolated. The Lollards, the Waldensians, and the Petrobrusians all took a stand against certain Catholic doctrines. Before Luther ever picked up a hammer and headed to Chapel Church, there were men who had stood up for reform and the true gospel. Among them were John Wycliffe, an English theologian and Oxford professor who was condemned as a heretic in 1415; Jan Hus, a priest from Bohemia who was burned at the stake in 1415 for his opposition to the Church of Rome; and Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian friar who was hanged and burned in 1498.


The opposition to the false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church came to a head in the sixteenth century when Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, challenged the authority of the pope and, in particular, the selling of indulgences. Rather than heed the call to reform, the Roman Catholic Church dug in its heels and sought to silence the Reformers. Eventually, new churches emerged from the Reformation, forming four major divisions of Protestantism: Luther’s followers started the Lutheran Church, Calvin’s followers started the Reformed Church, John Knox’s followers started the Presbyterian Church in Scotland (using Calvinistic doctrine), and, later, Reformers in England started the Anglican Church.


At the heart of the Protestant Reformation lay four basic questions: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? In answering these questions, Protestant Reformers developed what would be known as the “Five Solas” (solabeing the Latin word for “alone”). These five essential points of biblical doctrine clearly separate Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. The Reformers resisted the demands placed on them to recant these doctrines, even to the point of death. The five essential doctrines of the Protestant Reformation are as follows:


1 - Sola Scriptura, “Scripture Alone.” The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. Scripture and Scripture alone is the standard by which all teachings and traditions of the church must be measured. As Martin Luther so eloquently stated when told to recant his teachings, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”


2 - Sola Gratia, “Salvation by Grace Alone.” Salvation is proof of God’s undeserved favor; we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone, not by any work we do. God’s blessing in Christ is the sole efficient cause of salvation. This grace is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.


3 - Sola Fide, “Salvation by Faith Alone.” We are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by the works of the Law. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect standard.


4 - Solus Christus, “In Christ Alone.” Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone; no one and nothing else can save. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross is sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to God the Father. The gospel has not been preached if Christ’s redemption is not declared and if faith in His resurrection is not solicited.


5 - Soli Deo Gloria, “For the Glory of God Alone.” Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone. As Christians we must magnify Him always and live our lives in His presence, under His authority, and for His glory.


These five important doctrines are the reason for the Protestant Reformation. They are at the heart of the Reformers’ call for the church to return to biblical teaching. The Five Solasare just as important today in evaluating a church and its teachings as they were in the sixteenth century.

GOD BLESSED YOU!


05/25/19

Question: "Why do we have to dress up nice for church?"


Answer:It is good for us to ponder why we wear what we do. Genesis 35:1-3 may shed some light on the subject. "Then God said to Jacob, 'Go up to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to honor Me. That's where I appeared to you when you were running away from your brother Esau.' So Jacob spoke to his family and to everyone who was with him. He said, 'Get rid of the strange gods you have with you. Make yourselves pure, and change your clothes. Come, let's go up to Bethel. There I'll build an altar to honor God. He answered me when I was in trouble. He's been with me everywhere I've gone.'"


It is possible that as Jacob began this faith-journey to Bethel with God, he recognized how much God had done for him, and how much he needed God! His response was to take everyone with him on this faith-journey, so they could experience God for themselves. "Get rid of the strange gods you have with you. Make yourselves pure" implies the need to be united in "coming clean" before God. "For all have sinned..." (Romans 3:23). Many then had "household idols" with them that they depended on, as well as God. They did not trust God alone. "Change your clothes" implies a change of heart toward sin. It was to be a reflection of what had taken place on the "inside."


We would all benefit from a "spiritual bath" to confess and get rid of sin before we go to church. This is making ourselves pure. For some people, clean is their "best." For others, their heart tells them that wearing their best is showing God His value to them. For still others, there needs to be a caution that their best isn't merely showing off.


It is always the heart God is looking at, rather than the exterior. However, what we wear to worship our holy, pure God may be an indication of where our hearts are. If you have never considered it before, ask yourself, "Does it matter to me how I look when I am going to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? More importantly, does it matter to Him?" We must all be the judge of that for ourselves. It's a personal choice, keeping in mind that having a proper attitude toward God Himself is important preparation for worship at church.


PART II 

Question: "What is koinonia?"


Answer:Koinoniais a Greek word that occurs 20 times in the Bible. Koinonia's primary meaning is "fellowship, sharing in common, communion." The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Christian fellowship is a key aspect of the Christian life. Believers in Christ are to come together in love, faith, and encouragement. That is the essence of koinonia.


Philippians 2:1-2 declares, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Koinonia is being in agreement with one another, being united in purpose, and serving alongside each other. Our koinonia with each other is based on our common koinonia with Jesus Christ. First John 1:6-7 says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."


A powerful example of what koinonia should look like can be found in a study of the phrase "one another" in the Bible. Scripture commands us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12). That is what true biblical koinonia should look like.


PART III 

Question: "What are the qualifications of elders and deacons?"


Answer:The Bible has a clear set of qualifications for a deacon and an elder and their positions in the body of believers. The office of deacon was developed to deal with a practical issue in the church: “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables’” (Acts 6:2). The word translated “wait on” is the Greek word diakonein, which comes from a word meaning “attendant, waiter, or one who ministers to another.” To “deacon” is to serve. The first deacons were a group of seven men in the Jerusalem church who were appointed to work in the daily food distribution. A deacon, therefore, is one who serves others in an official capacity in the church.


The Greek word translated “bishop” is episkopos(the source of our English word episcopal). The bishop is the superintendent, the overseer, or the officer in general charge of the congregation. In the Bible bishops are also called “elders” (1 Timothy 5:19) and “pastors” (Ephesians 4:11).


The qualifications of the bishop/elder/pastor are found in 1 Timothy 3:1–7: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” Paul also instructs Timothy on the things that exemplify the teaching of a good minister. Beginning in 1 Timothy 4:11 and continuing through 6:2, Paul gives Timothy twelve things that he should “command and teach.”


The apostle Paul repeats the qualifications of a bishop/elder/pastor in his letter to Titus. “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:6–9).


The qualifications of a deacon are similar to those of a bishop/elder/pastor. “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:8–13). The word translated “deacon” in this passage is a form of the same Greek word used in Acts 6:2, so we know we are talking about the same office.


These qualifications are simple and straightforward. Both the deacon and the bishop/elder/pastor should be a male, the husband of one wife, of sterling character, and one who rules his own home in a biblical way. These qualifications also presuppose that one seeking such an office is a born-again believer and walks in submission to God’s Word. The only substantial difference between the two sets of qualifications is that the bishop/elder/pastor must be “able to teach,” whereas teaching is not mentioned as necessary for deacons.


The Lord Jesus Himself is called the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). The titles are interesting. The word Shepherdis a translation of the Greek word poimen, translated “pastor” elsewhere (e.g., Ephesians 4:11). This poimenis someone who tends herds or flocks and is used metaphorically of Christian pastors because pastors should guide the “flock” of God and feed them the Word of God. The word translated “Overseer” is the same word, episkopos, used by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy and Titus.


Clearly, the offices of elder and deacon are important in the church. Ministering to God’s people in word and deed is a serious responsibility for a man to take on, and it should never be done lightly. A biblically unqualified individual should not occupy either the office of elder or deacon; the church deserves better.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/24/19

Question: "Should a church be seeker sensitive?"


Answer:In recent years a new movement within the evangelical church has come into vogue, commonly referred to as "seeker sensitive." Generally, this movement has seen a great deal of growth. Many “seeker” churches are now mega-churches with well-known pastors who are riding a wave of popularity in the evangelical world. The seeker-sensitive movement claims millions of conversions, commands vast resources, continues to gain popularity, and seems to be attracting millions of un-churched people into its fold.

So, what is this movement all about? Where does it come from? And, most importantly, is it biblical? Basically, the seeker-sensitive church tries to reach out to the unsaved person by making the church experience as comfortable, inviting, and non-threatening to him as possible. The hope is that the person will believe in the gospel. The idea behind the concept is to get as many unsaved people through the door as possible, and the church leadership are willing to use nearly any means to accomplish that goal. Theatrics and musical entertainment are the norm in the church service to keep the unsaved person from getting bored as he does with traditional churches. State-of-the-art technology in lighting and sound are common components of the seeker-sensitive churches, especially the larger ones.

Expertly run nurseries, day care, adult day care, community programs such as ESL (English as a Second Language), and much more are common fixtures in the larger seeker churches. Short sermons (typically 20 minutes at most) are usually focused on self-improvement. Supporters of this movement will say that the single reason behind all the expense, state-of-the-art tech gear, and theatrics is to reach the unsaved with the gospel; however, rarely are sin, hell, or repentance spoken of, and Jesus Christ as the exclusive way to heaven is rarely mentioned. Such doctrines are considered “divisive.”

The seeker-sensitive church movement has pioneered a new method for founding churches involving demographics studies and community surveys that ask the unsaved what they want in a church. This is a kind of “if you build it they will come” mentality. The reasoning is that if you give the unsaved better entertainment than they can receive elsewhere, or “do church” in a non-threatening way, then they will come, and hopefully, they will accept the gospel. The mindset is to hook the un-churched person with great entertainment, give him a message he can digest, and provide second-to-none services. The focus of the seeker church then is not Christ-centered, but man-centered. The main purpose of the seeker church’s existence is to give people what they want or meet their felt needs. 

Further, the seeker-friendly gospel presentation is based on the idea that if you will believe in Jesus, He will make your life better. Relationships with your wife or husband, coworkers, children, etc., will be better. The message the seeker church sometimes passes on to the unsaved person is that God is a great cosmic genie, and if you stroke Him the right way, you will get what you want. In other words, if you profess to believe in Jesus, God will give you a better life, better relationships and purpose in life. So, for all intents and purposes, the seeker-sensitive movement is a type of system based on giving unbelievers whatever they want. What too often happens in such a system is that people make a profession of faith, but when the circumstances of their lives don’t immediately change for their material good, they forsake Christ, believing He has failed them. 

How are people responding to the “seeker” movement? Many people have responded and begun attending seeker-sensitive churches. Many people, indeed, have come to faith in Christ as a result of a seeker-sensitive church. But the bigger question is, “What does God have to say about all this?” Is it possible for a movement to be successful from a human perspective, but be unacceptable to God?

The basic premise in the seeker-sensitive movement is that there are many people out there who are seeking God and want to know Him, but the concept of the traditional church scares them away from faith in Christ. But is it true that people are truly seeking God? Actually, Scripture teaches the exact opposite! The apostle Paul tells us that “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). This means there is no such thing as an unbeliever who is truly seeking for God on his own. Furthermore, man is dead in his sin (Ephesians 2:1), and he can’t seek God because he doesn’t recognize his need for Him, which is why Paul says that there is no one who understands. Romans 1:20-23 teaches us that all unbelievers reject the true God. They then go on to form a god that is what they want (a god in their image or the image of something else). This is a god they can tame and control. Romans 1:18-20 says they knowingly suppress what they know about God through His creation and that they are subject to God’s wrath, another doctrine studiously avoided by the seeker churches.

God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in creation, but unbelievers take that clear knowledge and revelation God has graciously provided and flatly reject it. This leads to Paul’s statement in Romans 1:20 that they are “without excuse.” What man finds when he seeks on his own is nothing more than a god of his own creation. Man does not seek for God; it is God who seeks for man. Jesus said that plainly in John 15:16, and John 6:44. The idea of thousands or even millions of unbelievers really searching for the true God is an utterly unbiblical notion. Thus, this movement is based on an unbiblical concept of the nature of the unsaved person, which is spiritually dead. A spiritually dead person does not seek God, nor can he. Therefore, there is no such thing as a seeking unbeliever. He does not understand the things of God until he is made alive by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). 

Until the Father draws him (John 6:44) and the Spirit awakens the heart so he can believe and receive the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8), an unsaved person cannot believe. Salvation is completely the act of God whereby He draws and empowers the dead sinner with what is necessary to believe (John 6:37, 39-40). What part do we play in the salvation of others? God has commanded that we are the instrumentality through which the gospel is proclaimed. We share the gospel, but it is not our responsibility to make people believe, or even to try to be persuasive or manipulate them into believing. God has given us the message of the gospel; we are to share it with gentleness and reverence, but we are to share it, offensive parts and all. Nobody believes the gospel because a speaker is persuasive. People believe because of the work of God in their hearts.

God has not been vague on what His church is to be like. He didn’t leave us guessing. He has given us direction on how men are to lead His church (Acts 6:1-6, 14:23; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Ephesians 4:11), the ordinances of the church (1 Corinthians 11; Matthew 28:19), and the worship in the church—it is to be on the “Lord’s Day” (Acts 20:7), and is to consist of preaching and teaching, prayer, fellowship (Acts 2:42) and the taking of an offering (Colossians 3:16). Here, the seeker movement has missed the mark completely with its man-centered focus. When an unsaved person enters church, should our goal be to make him feel as comfortable as possible? When it comes to issues like our kindness, speaking respectfully, or even physical comfort, all who enter the church should be treated well. But the unsaved person should never feel “at home” in church, which is the body of Christ. The preaching and teaching of truth should make him feel very uncomfortable as he, hopefully, realizes the state of his soul, comes to know the existence of hell, and recognizes his need for the Savior. This discomfort is what brings people to Christ, and those who attempt to circumvent discomfort are not being loving. In fact, just the opposite is true. If we love someone, we want him to know the truth about sin, death, and salvation so we can help him avoid an eternity in hell. According to Paul, when an unbeliever enters the church and the Word of God is preached expositionally (taught directly from the Scriptures), he will be convicted and called into account for his sin. The secrets of his heart are disclosed as he confesses and repents of his sin; this leads him to humble himself and worship the God who has provided the sacrifice for his salvation. 

If we apply the standards of the seeker-sensitive movement to evaluate Jesus’ ministry, we get some interesting results. At one time, Jesus was preaching to thousands, and He clearly offends nearly all of those who heard Him. They desert Him, and “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). The Greek words in this verse mean they left and never came back. Jesus warned us that, far from healing our relationships with others, Christians will experience rifts in their closest relationships because of Him (Matthew 10:34-37). It is true that once we are saved life is better because we are reconciled to God and have a right relationship with Him. This provides the deepest peace that can be known. However, the rest of our lives will almost certainly be more difficult than before. God has said that we will experience persecution (Matthew 10:25), the rest of the world will look upon us as fools (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23), and we may even experience deep divisions in our own families all because of Christ (Luke 12:53). Jesus never intended for us to be popular with unbelievers, saying instead that He came to bring not peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). 

The basic philosophy, theology, purpose, and end of the seeker-sensitive movement are entirely man-centered. However, some would say that regardless of the purpose, motive, and outcome of the movement being wrong, we can’t argue with the principle of getting the unsaved through the doors to hear the gospel. Certainly, any exposure we can give the unsaved to the gospel is a great thing. However, the seeker-sensitive movement sometimes doesn’t have the real gospel. Rather, it is a shell of the truth; it is hollow and void of the truths of sin, hell, and the holiness of God.

How is the rest of the body of Christ to respond to the seeker-sensitive movement? We are to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We are to be all the more vigilant to model our churches after the instruction of Scripture. Eventually, this movement, like all others which have come and gone over the years, will run its course and fizzle out. The seeker movement is large and well accepted, but it will eventually give way to the next fad, and in some ways that has already happened with the Emerging Church movement. Oddities within the church come and go, but the biblical church, like her Lord, endures forever.

PART II 

Question: "Are there prophets in the church today?"

Answer:The gift of prophet (Ephesians 4:11) seems to have been a temporary gift given by Christ for the laying of the foundation of the church. Prophets were foundational to the church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord to the early believers. Sometimes a prophet’s message was revelatory (new revelation and truth from God) and sometimes a prophet’s message was predictive (see Acts 11:28 and 21:10). The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people.

Are there true prophets today? If the purpose of a prophet was to reveal truth from God, why would we need prophets if we have the completed revelation from God in the Bible? If prophets were the “foundation” of the early church, are we still building the “foundation” today? Can God give someone a message to deliver to someone else? Absolutely! Does God reveal truth to someone in a supernatural way and enable that person to deliver that message to others? Absolutely! But is this the biblical gift of prophecy? No.

Whatever the case, whenever a person claims to be speaking for God (the essence of prophecy) the key is to compare what is said with what the Bible says. If God were to speak through a person today, it would be in 100% complete agreement with what God has already said in the Bible. God does not contradict Himself. 1 John 4:1 instructs us, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 declares, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” So, whether it is a “word from the Lord” or a supposed prophecy, our response should be the same. Compare what is said to what the Word of God says. If it contradicts the Bible, throw it out. If it agrees with the Bible, pray for wisdom and discernment as to how to apply the message (2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:5).

PART III 

Question: "Can an unmarried man be a deacon or elder?"

Answer:The passages referring to the qualifications for an elder or deacon in the church are 1 Timothy 3:12 "A bishop (elder) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach"; 1 Timothy 3:12 "Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well"; and Titus 1:6-7 ". . . appoint elders in every city as I commanded you"if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination..." These three passages have been interpreted by some to indicate an elder or deacon must be a married man.

The issue is not the elder's or deacon's marital status, but his moral and sexual purity. This qualification heads the lists, because it is in this area that leaders are most prone to fail. Some take the qualification for deacons "a deacon must be the husband of but one wife"" in 1 Timothy 3:12 as meaning that for a man to be a deacon, he must be married. That is not the meaning of "husband of one wife." In the Greek, the phrase "husband of one wife" literally reads "one-woman man." For a man to be considered for a position of church leadership, and he is married, he must be committed to his wife. This qualification is speaking of fidelity in marriage and sexual purity. It is not a requirement of marriage. If it were, a man would have to be married and also have children, because the second half of 1 Timothy 3:12 states, ""and must manage his children and his household well." We should understand this qualification as: If a man is married, he must be faithful to his wife. If a man has children, he must manage them well.

Some think this requirement excludes single men from church leadership. But if that were Paul's intent, he would have disqualified himself (1 Cor. 7:8). A "one-woman man" is one totally devoted to his wife, maintaining singular devotion, affection and sexual purity in both thought and deed. To violate this is to forfeit blamelessness and no longer be "above reproach" (Titus 1:6,7). Being single is praised by the Apostle Paul as enabling more faithful service to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). Why would Paul restrict men from church leadership positions when he believes ""an unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs - how he can please the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32)? In the first nine verses of this chapter, Paul establishes that both marriage and singleness are good and right before the Lord. An elder or deacon may be either married or single, as long as he meets the qualifications of godliness outlined in 1 Timothy and Titus.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/23/19

Question: "What is the meaning of Christian worship?"


Answer:The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated "worship" (proskuneo) is "to fall down before" or "bow down before." Worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit. Since it's an internal, individual action, it could/should be done most of the time (or all the time) in our lives, regardless of place or situation (John 4:21). Therefore, Christians worship all the time, seven days a week. When Christians formally gather together in worship, still the emphasis should be on individually worshiping the Lord. Even in a congregation, participants need to be aware that they are worshiping God fully on an individual basis.


The nature of Christian worship is from the inside out and has two equally important parts. We must worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). Worshiping in the spirit has nothing to do with our physical posture. It has to do with our innermost being and requires several things. First, we must be born again. Without the Holy Spirit residing within us, we cannot respond to God in worship because we do not know Him. "No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11b). The Holy Spirit within us is the one who energizes worship because He is in essence glorifying Himself, and all true worship glorifies God.


Second, worshiping in spirit requires a mind centered on God and renewed by Truth. Paul exhorts us to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:1b, 2b). Only when our minds are changed from being centered on worldly things to being centered on God can we worship in spirit. Distractions of many kinds can flood our minds as we try to praise and glorify God, hindering our true worship.


Third, we can only worship in spirit by having a pure heart, open and repentant. When King David's heart was filled with guilt over his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), he found it impossible to worship. He felt that God was far from him, and he "groaned all day long" feeling God's hand heavy upon him (Psalm 32:3,4). But when he confessed, fellowship with God was restored and worship and praise poured forth from him. He understood that "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17). Praise and worship toward God cannot come from hearts filled with unconfessed sin.


The second part of true worship is worship "in truth." All worship is a response to truth, and that which is truth is contained in the Word of God. Jesus said to His Father, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17b). Psalm 119 says, "Thy law is truth" (v. 142b) and "Thy word is true" (v. 160a). To truly worship God, we must understand who He is and what He has done, and the only place He has fully revealed Himself is in the Bible. Worship is an expression of praise from the depths of our hearts toward a God who is understood through His Word. If we do not have the truth of the Bible, we do not know God and we cannot be truly worshiping.


Since external actions are unimportant in Christian worship, there is no rule regarding whether we should sit, stand, fall down, be quiet, or sing praises loudly while in corporate worship. These things should be decided based on the nature of the congregation. The most important thing is that we worship God in spirit (in our hearts) and in truth (in our minds.)


PART II 

Question: "When is the right time to build a new church building?"


Answer:The bottom line is that only God can clarify what a church should do in all its spending and planning. However, there are a few important things that can be agreed on.


It is reasonable for a church to plan ahead and to be sensitive to the growing needs of the church family. It is also reasonable to imagine what could be accomplished in reaching others for Jesus Christ if the facilities were available. Many church growth experts believe that when a church grows to 70-80% of capacity, it will not sustain any more growth without plans for expansion.


A church can fall into materialism when it begins to value things more than people. If a new building program is for the pride of its membership rather than the effectiveness of its ministry, then the church is in danger of a bad building program. In all things, the church must desire that Christ be lifted up and that the lost are reached and that the saved be discipled to the glory of God.


The church is not a building but the people whom God has ransomed and made a part of His family. Often God sees fit to bless a family with growth in numbers. When a family grows in numbers, it usually considers whether or not there is room in the present facilities. If there is not enough room, an addition is one option, as is a different house altogether. The facilities ought to be designed in such a way to facilitate the needed functions of the household and not just a monument to the family's greatness. For a church to truly be expanding physically in a godly manner, it must be sure its motive is to be used of God to build up the body of Christ and assist in the building up of the universal church of Jesus Christ. In other words, every ministry needs to be "mission" not "market" driven.


The Word of God tells us that the only way to do any building is to base it on our relationship to Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). One of the biggest pitfalls in building bigger is the issue of pride and misplaced priorities (Psalm 127:1). Remember the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16. We should never put our faith in things or believe that somehow what God gives us we have earned or are able to keep for ourselves.


You can be sure that if God wants your church to expand, He will bring leadership, unity, and resources. If those are not present, it is reasonable to take a step back and reconsider the direction. There is nothing in the Bible against a church expanding physically. The question is in the timing, motive, and purpose for the building. God is more glorified in the church being obedient to Him and growing spiritually than He is in the church expanding physically. Remember, that which is not of faith is sin; therefore, only be involved if you have searched for God's will and believe you know what He is asking you to do (Romans 14:23).


PART III 

Question: "What does the Bible say about church growth?"


Answer:Although the Bible does not specifically address church growth, the principle of church growth is the understanding that Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Paul confirmed that the church has its foundation in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus Christ is also the head of the church (Ephesians 1:18-23) and the church’s life (John 10:10). Having said that, it should be remembered that “growth” can be a relative term. There are different kinds of growth, some of which have nothing to do with numbers. 


A church can be alive and growing even though the number of members/attendees is not changing. If those in the church are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, submitting to His will for their lives, both individually and corporately, that is a church that is experiencing true growth. At the same time, a church can be adding to its rolls weekly, have huge numbers, and still be spiritually stagnant. 


Growth of any kind follows a typical pattern. As with a growing organism, the local church has those who plant the seed (evangelists), those who water the seed (pastor/teachers), and others who use their spiritual gifts for the growth of those in the local church. But note that it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). Those who plant and those who water will each receive their own reward according to their labor (1 Corinthians 3:8).


There has to be a balance between planting and watering for a local church to grow, which means that in a healthy church each person must know what his/her spiritual gift is so that he/she can best function within the body of Christ. If the planting and watering get out of balance, the church will not prosper as God intended. Of course, there has to be daily dependence upon and obedience to the Holy Spirit so His power can be released in those who plant and water in order for God's increase to come.


Finally, the description of a living and growing church is found in Acts 2:42-47 where the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They were serving one another and reaching out to those who needed to know the Lord, for the Lord “added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When these things are present, the church will experience spiritual growth, whether or not there is numerical increase.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/22/19

Question: "Why do some churches thrive while others die?"


Answer:The true church is one where Christ is acknowledged as its Head, the Bible is preached and taught, and the way of salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's death and bodily resurrection, the Holy Spirit is obeyed in the leadership and the people, and the Great Commission is being carried out. Churches that don't have these characteristics are dead already because they do not have the Holy Spirit at work in the members through faith in Jesus Christ. There are many such churches today, both small and large, which are, sorry to say, just social clubs. The true Christ is not honored there, and although there may be a lot of form, there is no substance. The supernatural has been sapped from their fellowship. In some instances, churches once preached the gospel of Christ, but then as time went on, they no longer did so. Of course, this is also sad. They have become dead churches as well.


Then there are churches where Christ is honored and the Bible preached, but they are content in themselves just to be that way. They are just existing. Like the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation (2:1-7), they have left their first love. They have good doctrine, but they have lost their passion for Christ to reach out to those needing the Savior. In this sense they are dead. They are content to be Christians, but there is no sign of God at work in their lives. Sometimes a church dies because there is a split in the congregation. Too many people leave, and the church can't continue. This is also a sad state of affairs, and God is not honored. Some churches die because of the area in which they exist. Smaller churches in rural areas have to close due to changes in the population. In some areas, where smaller churches exist, and they have the same beliefs, they have joined together to form a larger congregation.


At the same time, the size of the church is not the issue. What is going on within the fellowship is the key. The characteristics of an alive and growing church are found in Acts 2:42-47 where the believers "were continually devoting themselves to the apostles" teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." They were serving one another, and reaching out to those who needed to know the Lord, and the Lord was "adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." This tells us that the church has five purposes:


1) Worship/Prayer " We were created to give God praise and to have a personal relationship with Him through prayer (Psalm 72:15).


2) Learning " We were designed to become like Christ by seeking Him daily in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


3) Fellowship - We were formed to be part of God's family (Acts 2:44-45).


4) Service " We were shaped to have a ministry within the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).


5) Mission " We are commanded to share God's love and gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).


These five areas describe what the true church of Jesus Christ should be about today. The Holy Spirit must be obeyed in the local church in the leadership and the people. Prayer must be a vital part of the church, for without prayer, a church only operates in the flesh. People need to know and use their spiritual gifts. There must be a ministering to one another in the fellowship, a caring and sharing. There must also be a passion to reach out to those needing the Savior, fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Yes, the church must know why it exists and what it is about.


Any church, large or small, honoring Christ, preaching and teaching the Bible, in tune with the Holy Spirit to minister to the congregation as well as to reach the community and the world, will be a vibrant church for Jesus Christ. A true follower of Christ can't be a pew-warmer or a spectator. Christ came not to be served but to serve. We must do the same.


PART II 

Question: "Why is church membership important?"


Answer:The universal Church—the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5)—is composed of all true believers in Christ, and local churches are to be microcosm of the universal Church. As believers, we have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 20:12), and that is what is most important. However, it is also important to commit to a local church where we can give of our resources, serve others, and be accountable.


The Bible does not directly address the concept of formal church membership, but there are several passages that strongly imply its existence in the early church. “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This verse indicates that salvation was a prerequisite for being “added” to the church. In Acts 2:41, it seems that someone was keeping a numerical record of those who were saved and thus joining the church. Churches today that require salvation before membership are simply following the biblical model. See also 2 Corinthians 6:14–18.


There are other places in the New Testament that show the local church as a well-defined group: in Acts 6:3, the church in Jerusalem is told to hold elections of some kind: “Choose seven men from among you.” The phrase among yousuggests a group of people distinct from others who were not“among” them. Simply put, the deacons were to be church members.


Church membership is important because it helps define the pastor’s responsibility. Hebrews 13:17 instructs, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” Whom will a pastor give an account for, except the members of his own church? He is not responsible for all the Christians in the world, only for those under his care. Likewise, he is not responsible for all the people in his community, only for believers under his leadership—his church members. Membership in a local church is a way of voluntarily placing oneself under the spiritual authority of a pastor.


Church membership is also important because, without it, there can be no accountability or church discipline. First Corinthians 5:1–13 teaches a church how to deal with blatant, unrepentant sin in its midst. In verses 12–13, the words insideand outsideare used in reference to the church body. We only judge those who are “inside” the church—church members. How can we know who is “inside” or “outside” the church without an official membership roll? See also Matthew 18:17.


Although there is no scriptural mandate for official church membership, there is certainly nothing to prohibit it, and it seems the early church was structured in such a way that people clearly knew if someone was “in” or “out” of the church. Church membership is a way of identifying oneself with a local body of believers and of making oneself accountable to proper spiritual leadership. Church membership is a statement of solidarity and like-mindedness (see Philippians 2:2). Church membership is also valuable for organizational purposes. It’s a good way of determining who is allowed to vote on important church decisions and who is eligible for official church positions. Church membership is not required of Christians. It is simply a way of saying, “I am a Christian, and I believe this church is a good church.”


PART III 

Question: "What is biblical separation?"


Answer:Biblical separation is the recognition that God has called believers out of the world and into a personal and corporate purity in the midst of sinful cultures. Biblical separation is usually considered in two areas: personal and ecclesiastical.


Personal separation involves an individual’s commitment to a godly standard of behavior. Daniel practiced personal separatism when he “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (Daniel 1:8). His was a biblical separatism because his standard was based on God’s revelation in the Mosaic law.


A modern example of personal separation could be the decision to decline invitations to parties where alcohol is served. Such a decision might be made in order to circumvent temptation (Romans 13:14), to avoid “every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), or simply to be consistent with a personal conviction (Romans 14:5).


The Bible clearly teaches that the child of God is to be separate from the world. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; see also 1 Peter 1:14-16).


Ecclesiastical separation involves the decisions of a church concerning its ties to other organizations, based on their theology or practices. Separatism is implied in the very word “church,” which comes from the Greek word ekklesiameaning “a called-out assembly.” In Jesus’ letter to the church of Pergamum, He warned against tolerating those who taught false doctrine (Revelation 2:14-15). The church was to be separate, breaking ties with heresy. A modern example of ecclesiastical separation could be a denomination’s stance against ecumenical alliances which would unite the church with apostates.


Biblical separation does not require Christians to have no contact with unbelievers. Like Jesus, we should befriend the sinner without partaking of the sin (Luke 7:34). Paul expresses a balanced view of separatism: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). In other words, we are in the world, but not of it.


We are to be light to the world without allowing the world to diminish our light. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/21/19

Question: "Should pastors be paid a salary?"


Answer:A church should definitely provide for the financial needs of its pastor(s) and any other full-time ministers. First Corinthians 9:14 gives the church clear instruction: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” We pay people to prepare and serve our physical food; shouldn’t we also be willing to pay those who see to our spiritual food? And, honestly, which is more important—physical food or spiritual food—based on Matthew 4:4?


First Timothy 5:17–18 says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” There are several points made in this passage. Church elders should be honored, and this honor includes wages. Those elders who serve the church well—especially teachers and preachers—should receive doublehonor. They have earned it. It would be cruel to work an ox while denying it grain, and we should take care not to treat our pastors cruelly. Let them share in the material blessings of the congregation they serve. Our pastors are worth more than many oxen.


There is nothing spiritual about making a pastor “suffer for the Lord.” Yes, a pastor has been divinely called to his ministry, but it does not follow that a congregation should say, “Let God take care of him.” God says the local church is responsible to take care of him and his family. Caring for the spiritual needs of a congregation is an important work—probably more important than other things we normally spend money on, such as meeting our physical needs, maintaining our vehicles, and entertaining ourselves. See 1 Corinthians 9:7.


It is true that the apostle Paul supported himself as he ministered in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:12). He drew no salary from the Corinthians. But he made it clear that he did this as a voluntary sacrifice on their behalf, “that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel” (verse 18). Paul did take wages from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8). His arrangement in Corinth was the exception, not the rule.


Sometimes a church is just not able to provide sufficient finances for a pastor. The pastor in such cases is forced to be bi-vocational, having no choice but to work outside the church to support his family. This is regrettable but sometimes necessary. It is usually better for a pastor to be paid full-time so he can fully dedicate himself to the Lord’s work of ministering to and shepherding the congregation God has entrusted to him.


PART II 

Question: "How can I know if I am being called to preach?"


Answer:There is no doubt that preaching is a noble calling and one that is far more important to God than it is to most people. Preaching is not simply a time-filler in the worship service, nor is it the sharing of personal experiences, no matter how emotionally stirring. Nor is it a well-organized “talk” complete with a PowerPoint display designed to give a series of steps to a better life. Preaching, as the apostle Paul records, is the vehicle by which the life-giving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is conveyed. The words of the preacher are to be faithful to the Word of God, which is “the power unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Paul’s admonition to the young pastor Timothy stresses the priority of preaching: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus . . . I give you this charge: Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1–2). So there is no doubt the preaching of the Word is of primary importance to God. Anyone considering entering the ministry as a preacher should also view the Word of God as priority number one.


But how can one be sure he is called to preach? First are the subjective indicators. If a man has a burning desire within him to preach—a desire that cannot be denied—that is a good indication of a “calling” by God. The apostle Paul and the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah experienced the same desire to communicate God’s Word. Paul said, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). To be “compelled” to preach means to be driven onward by an irresistible and undeniable compulsion to do so. Jeremiah described the compulsion as a “burning fire” (Jeremiah 20:8–9) that could not be stifled. Trying to hold it back made him weary.


Second are objective indicators of God’s calling to preach. If the response to early efforts at preaching are positive, this is a good indication that the prospective preacher has the gift of didaktikos, the gift of teaching, from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11). Every preacher must be first and foremost a teacher of God’s Word, conveying it in clearly and concisely and making personal application to the hearers. Church leaders are usually the best determiners of whether a man has this gift. If they are agreed that he does, the prospective preacher should then be examined by the leadership as to his character, as outlined in the requirements for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These two affirmations by the church are another indication of God’s calling.


Finally, the whole process should be bathed in prayer every step of the way. If God is truly calling a man to preach, He will confirm it in many ways. If you feel you are being called to preach, seek God’s face and ask that doors are opened to more opportunities and more confirmations, both internal and external. Ask also that doors will close if it is not His will to continue. Take heart in the fact that God is sovereignly in control of all things and will work “all things . . . for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If He has called you to preach, that call will not be denied.


PART III 

Question: "Should we be baptized in Jesus' name (Acts 2:38), or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)?"


Answer:Acts 2:38 records the Apostle Peter's words on the day of Pentecost, "Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."" This was a strong affirmation by Peter that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Being baptized in the name of Jesus indicates an understanding by the person being baptized that Christ is the Savior.


Christian baptism is also in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Being baptized in this manner simply means we are identifying ourselves with the Trinity. We belong to the Father, are saved by the Son, and indwelt by the Spirit. This is similar to how we pray in Jesus' name (John 14:13). If we pray in the name of Jesus, we are praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is being baptized in identification with them and their power over and in our lives. Jesus Himself specifically tells us to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

In the Book of Acts, new believers were baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). It is, however, essentially the same thing"Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one (John 10:30; Acts 16:7). Per Jesus' own instructions, believers should be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but as the book of Acts proves, baptizing in the name of Jesus is also done. The bottom line is that the name/names in which we are baptized is not as important as the recognition that baptism identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, our Savior. We are buried with Him and risen to walk with Him in newness of life.

GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/20/19

Question: "What does the Bible say about selling in church?"


Answer:The first Scriptures that come to mind in regard to selling in the church are Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; and Luke 19:45-46, all of which describe the incidents (there were two) when Jesus "cleansed" the Temple. When He saw the kinds of activities that were being carried on in His Father's house, He became very angry. Clearly, this was not what the Temple was built for.


Jesus regarded both merchants and customers guilty of desecrating the temple. Items being bought and sold included "doves" and other animals for sacrifice (John 2:14). Also present were those who exchanged one currency for another. This was needed because Roman coins and other forms of currency were deemed unacceptable for temple offerings. Evidently, both merchants and money changers were charging such excessive rates that the temple marketplace took on the atmosphere of a thieves" den (vs. 13).


Obviously, selling books, having a raffle, doing fundraising, etc., is different from what was going on in the temple. Jesus was not necessarily angry that they were selling in the temple, but rather that selling was becoming the focus instead of God. Jesus was also angry that the money-changers were taking advantage of people, many of whom were poor, who needed their services. Doves and other animals were required for the offering, and tithes in acceptable currency were also a requirement.


Such is not the case in today's churches. Purchases in a church bookstore, for example, are entirely voluntary. No purchase is necessary to attend worship. If a church does decide to sell something inside the church, it should make sure that the selling does not receive undue attention and does not draw away from worship and the teaching of God's Word. Selling should also never be made "high-pressure."


PART II 

Question: "Are we supposed to obey our pastors?"


Answer:The verse that speaks the most directly to this question is Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."


Pastors are hurt deeply to see people ignore the counsel of God they share in messages or Bible lessons. Some people "blow off" the Word of God, doing so not only to their own hurt but also to the hurt of those who are around them. Young people especially have the tendency to ignore the counsel of those older than they, making the mistake of trusting their own wisdom as well as their own heart. God states that a godly pastor shares precepts from God's Word because he desires not only to serve God but to feed the flock the spiritual food that will result in their experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10b).


On the other end of the spectrum, the Bible gives warning about "false shepherds" who do not have the welfare of the flock at heart but are more interested in maintaining control or exercising lordship over others, or who fail to study the Word of God and end up teaching men's commands instead of God's. The Pharisees were guilty of this during Jesus' time. There are numerous examples of this in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. And there are repeated warnings about this in Acts, the epistles, and Revelation. Because of the unfortunate existence of these self-seeking leaders, there must also come a time when we disobey man in order to obey God (Acts 4:18-20). However, accusations against a church leader are not to be lightly launched and need to be substantiated by more than one witness (1 Timothy 5:19).


Godly pastors are worth their weight in gold. They are usually overworked and underpaid. They bear greater responsibility than medical doctors as Hebrews 13:17 states"they must one day give an account of their ministries before God. First Peter 5:1-4 points out that they are not dictators, but lead by their example and by their teaching (1 Timothy 4:16) in humility of heart. And like Paul, they are like nursing mothers who truly love their "children" and are willing to give themselves for their flock and rule with gentleness (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12; John 10:11). They are characterized by sincere devotion to the Word and to prayer (Acts 6:4) so that they can rule in God's power and wisdom and impart to the flock spiritual meat to make them healthy and vibrant Christians (1 Timothy 5:17). If this is a description of your pastor, or close to it (no man on earth is perfect), he is worthy of double honor and obedience as he declares the plain teachings of God.


So the answer to the question is yes, we should obey our pastors. We are also to pray for them always, asking God to grant them wisdom, humility, a love for the flock, and protection as they protect those in their care.


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?"


Answer:The imagery and symbolism of marriage is applied to Christ and the body of believers known as the church. The church is comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have received eternal life. Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25–27). Just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom during the church age. Her responsibility during the betrothal period is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24). At the rapture, the church will be united with the Bridegroom and the official “wedding ceremony” will take place and, with it, the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1-2).


In the eternal state, believers will have access to the heavenly city known as New Jerusalem, also called “the holy city” in Revelation 21:2 and 10. The New Jerusalem is not the church, but it takes on some of the church’s characteristics. In his vision of the end of the age, the apostle John sees the city coming down from heaven adorned “as a bride,” meaning that the city will be gloriously radiant and the inhabitants of the city, the redeemed of the Lord, will be holy and pure, wearing white garments of holiness and righteousness. Some have misinterpreted verse 9 to mean the holy city is the bride of Christ, but that cannot be because Christ died for His people, not for a city. The city is called the bride because it encompasses all who are the bride, just as all the students of a school are sometimes called “the school.”


Believers in Jesus Christ are the bride of Christ, and we wait with great anticipation for the day when we will be united with our Bridegroom. Until then, we remain faithful to Him and say with all the redeemed of the Lord, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


05/19/19

Question: "What is the difference between the universal church and local church?"


Answer:To understand the difference between the local church and the universal church, one must get a basic definition of each. The local church is a group of professing believers in Jesus Christ who meet in some particular location on a regular basis. The universal church is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ worldwide. The term churchis a translation of a Greek word having to do with a meeting together or an “assembly” (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). This word pertains to the work of God in saving and sanctifying believers as “called-out ones.” Another Greek word that speaks of ownership and literally means “belonging to the Lord” is transliterated as church, but it is only used twice in the New Testament and never in direct reference to the church (1 Corinthians 11:20; Revelation 1:10).


A local church is normally defined as a local assembly of all who profess faith and allegiance to Christ. Most often, the Greek word ekklesiais used in reference to the local assembly (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 11:8). There is not just one specific local church in any one area, necessarily. There are many local churches in larger cities.


The universal church is the name given to the church worldwide. In this case the idea of the church is not so much the assembly itself but those constituting the church. The church is the church even when it is not holding an official meeting. In Acts 8:3, one can see that the church is still the church even when its members are at home. In Acts 9:31, the King James rendering of the plural word churchesshould actually be the singular church, which describes the universal church, not just local churches. Sometimes the universal church is called the “invisible church”—invisible in the sense of having no street address, GPS coordinates, or physical building and in the sense that only God can see who is truly saved. Of course, the church is never described in Scripture as “invisible,” and, as a city set on a hill, it is surely meant to be visible (Matthew 5:14). Here are more verses that talk about the universal church: 1 Corinthians 12:28; 15:9; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18.


PART II 

Question: "Is God restoring the offices of apostle and prophet in the church today?"


Answer:The movement to restore the offices of apostle and prophet bases the claim that apostles and prophets are to be a part of the church on Ephesians 4:11-12. These verses say, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."


During the first century of the church, there was an office of apostle and there was a spiritual gift of apostle. The office or position of apostle was held by the 12 disciples of Jesus plus Matthias, who took Judas" place, and Paul. Those who held the office or position of apostle were chosen specifically by Christ (Mark 3:16-19). The replacement for Judas is seen in Acts 1:20-26. Note in this passage that Judas' position was called an office. It should also be noted that Paul was chosen by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:1; 2:6-9). These men were given the task of setting up the foundation of the church. It should be understood that it was for the universal church that these men were a part of the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the church (universal church) was laid in the first century. This is why the office of apostle is no longer functioning.


There was also a spiritual gift of apostle (this is not to be confused with the office"they are separate). Among those who had the spiritual gift were James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9). This latter group had the gift of apostleship but not the apostolic "office" conferred upon the Twelve and Paul. Those who had the gift of apostle, then, were those who carried the gospel message with God's authority. The word "apostle" means "one sent as an authoritative delegate." This was true of those who held the office of Apostle (like Paul) and those who had the spiritual gift (like Apollos). Though there are men like this today, men who are sent by God to spread the gospel, it is best NOT to refer to them as apostles because of the confusion this causes since many are not aware of the two different uses of the term apostle.


The gift of prophet was a temporary gift given by the Christ for the laying of the foundation of the universal church. Prophets also were foundational to the universal church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord for the believers of the first century. These believers did not have the advantage we have of having a complete Bible. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So the Lord provided gifted men called prophets who proclaimed messages from God to the people until the canon of Scripture was complete.


It should be noted that the current teaching of the restoration of prophet and the office of apostle is far from what Scripture describes of the men who held the gift of prophet and the office of apostle. Those who teach the restoration of the office teach that the men who claim to be apostles and prophets should never be spoken against, should never be questioned, because the person who speaks against them is speaking against God. Yet, the Apostle Paul commended the people of Berea for checking what he said against the Word of God to make sure he spoke the truth (Acts 17:10-11). The Apostle Paul also stated to those in Galatia that if anyone, including himself, should teach another Gospel, that person should be "accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9). In everything, Paul kept pointing people to the Bible as the final authority. The men who claim to be apostles and prophets today make themselves the final authority, something Paul and the Twelve never did.


It should also be noted that Scripture refers to these men in the past tense. 2 Peter 3:2 and also Jude 3-4, state that the people should not stray from the message the apostles gave (past tense). Hebrews 2:3-4 also speaks in the past tense of the those who performed (in the past) signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.


PART III 

Question: "What does the Bible say about the form of church government?"


Answer:The Lord was very clear in His Word about how He wishes His church on earth to be organized and managed. First, Christ is the head of the church and its supreme authority (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18). Second, the local church is to be autonomous, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). Third, the church is to be governed by spiritual leadership consisting of two main offices—elders and deacons. 


“Elders” were a leading body among the Israelites since the time of Moses. We find them making political decisions (2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Samuel 17:4, 15), advising the king in later history (1 Kings 20:7), and representing the people concerning spiritual matters (Exodus 7:17; 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16, 24-25). The early Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, used the Greek word presbuterosfor “elder.” This is the same Greek word used in the New Testament that is also translated “elder.”


The New Testament refers a number of times to elders who served in the role of church leadership (Acts 14:23, 15:2, 20:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14) and apparently each church had more than one, as the word is usually found in the plural. The only exceptions refer to cases in which one elder is being singled out for some reason (1 Timothy 5:1, 19). In the Jerusalem church, elders were part of the leadership along with the apostles (Acts 15:2-16:4).


It seems that the position of elder was equal to the position of episkopos, translated “overseer” or “bishop” (Acts 11:30; 1 Timothy 5:17). The term eldermay refer to the dignity of the office, while the term bishop/overseerdescribes its authority and duties (1 Peter 2:25, 5:1-4). In Philippians 1:1, Paul greets the bishops and deacons but does not mention the elders, presumably because the elders are the same as the bishops. Likewise, 1 Timothy 3:2, 8 gives the qualifications of bishops and deacons but not of elders. Titus 1:5-7 seems also to tie these two terms together.


The position of “deacon,” from diakonos, meaning “through the dirt,” was one of servant leadership to the church. Deacons are separate from elders, while having qualifications that are in many ways similar to those of elders (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Deacons assist the church in whatever is needed, as recorded in Acts chapter 6.


Concerning the word poimen, translated “pastor” in reference to a human leader of a church, it is found only once in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4:11: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” Most associate the two terms “pastors” and “teachers” as referring to a single position, a pastor-teacher. It is likely that a pastor-teacher was the spiritual shepherd of a particular local church.


It would seem from the above passages that there was always a plurality of elders, but this does not negate God’s gifting particular elders with the teaching gifts while gifting others with the gift of administration, prayer, etc. (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11). Nor does it negate God’s calling them into a ministry in which they will use those gifts (Acts 13:1). Thus, one elder may emerge as the “pastor,” another may do the majority of visiting members because he has the gift of compassion, while another may “rule” in the sense of handling the organizational details. Many churches that are organized with a pastor and deacon board perform the functions of a plurality of elders in that they share the ministry load and work together in some decision making. In Scripture there was also much congregational input into decisions. Thus, a “dictator” leader who makes the decisions (whether called elder, or bishop, or pastor) is unscriptural (Acts 1:23, 26; 6:3, 5; 15:22, 30; 2 Corinthians 8:19). So, too, is a congregation-ruled church that does not give weight to the elders’ or church leaders’ input.


In summary, the Bible teaches a leadership consisting of a plurality of elders (bishops/overseers) along with a group of deacons who serve the church. But it is not contrary to this plurality of elders to have one of the elders serving in the major “pastoral” role. God calls some as “pastor/teachers” (even as He called some to be missionaries in Acts 13) and gives them as gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:11). Thus, a church may have many elders, but not all elders are called to serve in the pastoral role. But, as one of the elders, the pastor or “teaching elder” has no more authority in decision making than does any other elder.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/18/19

Question: "What is excommunication in the Bible?"


Answer:First, we should note that the Bible never uses the word excommunication. It’s a word that has been adopted by some religious groups, especially by the Catholic Church, to denote the formal process of removing someone from membership and participation in the church, from relationship with the church community, or, in the Catholic view, even from the family of God.


While the Bible does not teach that a Christian can lose his salvation, it does describe the process of church discipline in several passages. The final step of church discipline is excommunication—a removal from the local church.


In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus teaches His disciples about excommunication. The Lord details a multi-step approach for responding to sinful offenses in the church community:


Step 1: Go to the person privately, tell him how he has sinned against you, and be reconciled if he is willing. If the offending person repents, no more action is required.


Step 2: If he won’t listen, go back with two or three witnesses to have the conversation again, establishing the facts and the evidence.


Step 3: If he still refuses to listen and repent from his sinfulness, bring him before the full church body and make the case against him.


Step 4: If there is still no repentance, the church is to excommunicate the sinner. Jesus’ words are “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17, ESV).


The Jews saw both groups Jesus mentions—Gentiles and tax collectors—as outsiders. Gentiles were pagan idolaters, and tax collectors were in collusion with Rome. In Jesus’ day, religious Israelites would not associate beyond what was strictly necessary with Gentiles or tax collectors. They would not have meals with them, for instance, or invite them to social gatherings. So, when Jesus says to view the unrepentant sinner in the church as “a Gentile and a tax collector,” He is instructing the church to officially and with clear communication stop having close fellowship with the unrepentant sinner; the sinner is to be put out of the close-knit community of Christians. This is excommunication.


What is the purpose of excommunication? The dismissal of an unrepentant, defiant sinner from the community of believers is not about public shaming or judgment. It’s about loving that person enough to do what is best for him or her and about doing what is best for the church as a whole.


We have an example of excommunication and its aftermath in two passages from Paul. A man in the church in Corinth was having sex with his step-mother, a sin so egregious “that even pagans do not tolerate [it]” (1 Corinthians 5:1). Paul rebukes the Christians in Corinth for accepting this man’s incest. Apparently, the Corinthians had misunderstood the grace of God so badly that they had come to believe all sin should be tolerated, maybe even celebrated proudly, as evidence of God’s grace and forgiveness (verse 2).


Paul says, “No way.” Sin in the church must be dealt with. He instructs the Corinthians to come together for the purpose of excommunication. The local body of believers was, under apostolic authority, to turn this man over to Satan for “the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:4–5). Evidently, in this particular case, there was a physical affliction of supernatural origin associated with the excommunication; it was excommunication with an added apostolic curse.


Scripture does not indicate that every excommunication is followed by physical consequences. The general principle, however, is that excommunication lets the sinner experience the full, painful consequences of his sinful choices so that he will repent, submit to God, and be saved from spiritual ruin. The motive for excommunication is not punishment or vengeance but reformation and spiritual health.


Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians deals with the follow-up to excommunication. In 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, Paul seems to be talking about the very same person he had instructed the church to excommunicate. The sinner had repented, and Paul writes, “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him” (verses 6–8). As soon as the excommunicated believer repents, he should be welcomed back into warm relationship with the church community. Once repentance has been established, the excommunication should be fully reversed. The goal has been accomplished.


So, who is eligible for excommunication? The Bible is clear that excommunication is only for church members (not unbelievers) and only in response to obvious and ongoing sin from which a person refuses to repent despite multiple exhortations: “I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).


Five important things to remember about excommunication:


1. The Bible never instructs individual Christians to decide on their own or even in a small group to “excommunicate” another believer. Excommunication is meant to be a formal action taken by the local church as a whole.


2. Excommunication is primarily about relationship. Those in the church are specifically instructed to stop sharing meals with the unrepentant person (1 Corinthians 5:11), to limit their contact with him.


3. This process of excommunication is for believers, for those who declare themselves to have sincerely trusted in Christ for their salvation. Excommunication is the church’s response to one who says, “Yes, I’m a Christian, and, no, I will not turn from this sin.”


4. The process of excommunication is not meant for someone who admits his sin and is repentant but continues to struggle to break free of it. If a believer sins and, when confronted, says, “Yes, that was wrong. I’m sorry. I want to start again,” he is to be forgiven—even if he has sinned in the same way repeatedly (Matthew 18:21–22). In such a case, Scripture doesn’t suggest that person’s sin should be exposed to the full church as a kind of penalty, unless he chooses to reveal it himself.


5. The goal of excommunication is restoration. According to Jesus, the whole process of removing a member from the church is to be gradual, deliberate, and cautious. If at any point in the process the sinning person repents, then “you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15), and the fellowship is restored.


PART II

Question: "Why are there so many Christian denominations?"


Answer:To answer this question, we must first differentiate between denominations within the body of Christ and non-Christian cults and false religions. Presbyterians and Lutherans are examples of Christian denominations. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are examples of cults (groups claiming to be Christian but denying one or more of the essentials of the Christian faith). Islam and Buddhism are entirely separate religions.


The rise of denominations within the Christian faith can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation, the movement to “reform” the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century, out of which four major divisions or traditions of Protestantism would emerge: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican. From these four, other denominations grew over the centuries. 


The Lutheran denomination was named after Martin Luther and was based on his teachings. The Methodists got their name because their founder, John Wesley, was famous for coming up with “methods” for spiritual growth. Presbyterians are named for their view on church leadership—the Greek word for elder is presbyteros. Baptists got their name because they have always emphasized the importance of baptism. Each denomination has a slightly different doctrine or emphasis from the others such as the method of baptism, the availability of the Lord’s Supper to all or just to those whose testimonies can be verified by church leaders, the sovereignty of God vs. free will in the matter of salvation, the future of Israel and the church, pre-tribulation vs. post-tribulation rapture, the existence of the “sign” gifts in the modern era, and so on. The point of these divisions is never Christ as Lord and Savior, but rather honest differences of opinion by godly, albeit flawed, people seeking to honor God and retain doctrinal purity according to their consciences and their understanding of His Word.


Denominations today are many and varied. The original “mainline” denominations mentioned above have spawned numerous offshoots such as Assemblies of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Nazarenes, Evangelical Free, independent Bible churches, and others. Some denominations emphasize slight doctrinal differences, but more often they simply offer different styles of worship to fit the differing tastes and preferences of Christians. But make no mistake: as believers, we must be of one mind on the essentials of the faith, but beyond that there is great deal of latitude in how Christians should worship in a corporate setting. This latitude is what causes so many different “flavors” of Christianity. A Presbyterian church in Uganda will have a style of worship much different from a Presbyterian church in Colorado, but their doctrinal stand will be, for the most part, the same. Diversity is a good thing, but disunity is not. If two churches disagree doctrinally, debate and dialogue over the Word may be called for. This type of “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) is beneficial to all. If they disagree on style and form, however, it is fine for them to remain separate. This separation, though, does not lift the responsibility Christians have to love one another (1 John 4:11-12) and ultimately be united as one in Christ (John 17:21-22).


The Downside of Christian Denominations:


There seems to be at least two major problems with denominationalism. First, nowhere in Scripture is there a mandate for denominationalism; to the contrary the mandate is for union and connectivity. Thus, the second problem is that history tells us that denominationalism is the result of, or caused by, conflict and confrontation which leads to division and separation. Jesus told us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This general principle can and should be applied to the church. We find an example of this in the Corinthian church which was struggling with issues of division and separation. There were those who thought that they should follow Paul and those who thought they should follow the teaching of Apollos, 1 Corinthians 1:12, "What I am saying is this: each of you says, “I’m with Paul,” or “I’m with Apollos,” or “I’m with Cephas,” or “I’m with Christ.” This alone should tell you what Paul thought of denominations or anything else that separates and divides the body. But let’s look further; in verse 13, Paul asks very pointed questions, "Is Christ divided? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name?” This makes clear how Paul feels. He (Paul) is not the Christ. He is not the one crucified, and his message has never been one that divides the church or would lead someone to worship Paul instead of Christ. Obviously, according to Paul, there is only one church and one body of believers and anything that is different weakens and destroys the church (see verse 17). He makes this point stronger in 3:4 by saying that anyone who says they are of Paul or of Apollos is carnal.


Some of the problems we are faced with today as we look at denominationalism and its more recent history:


1. Denominations are based on disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture. An example would be the meaning and purpose of baptism. Is baptism a requirement for salvation or is it symbolic of the salvation process? There are denominations on both sides of this issue. In fact, baptism – its meaning, its mode, who can receive it, etc. – has been a central issue in the separation of churches and forming of new denominations.


2. Disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture are taken personally and become points of contention. This leads to arguments which can and have done much to destroy the witness of the church.


3. The church should be able to resolve its differences inside the body, but once again, history tells us that this doesn’t happen. Today the media uses our differences against us to demonstrate that we are not unified in thought or purpose.


4. Denominations are used by man out of self-interest. There are denominations today that are in a state of self-destruction as they are being led into apostasy by those who are promoting their personal agendas.


5. The value of unity is found in the ability to pool our gifts and resources to promote the Kingdom to a lost world. This runs contrary to divisions caused by denominationalism.


What is a believer to do? Should we ignore denominations? Should we just not go to church and worship on our own at home? The answer to both questions is no. What we should be seeking is a body of believers where the Gospel of Christ is preached, where you as an individual can have a personal relationship with the Lord, where you can join in biblical ministries that are spreading the Gospel and glorifying God. Church is important, and all believers need to belong to a body that fits the above criteria. We need relationships that can only be found in the body of believers, we need the support that only the church can offer, and we need to serve God in community as well as individually. Pick a church on the basis of its relationship to Christ and how well it is serving the community. Pick a church where the pastor is preaching the Gospel without fear and is encouraged to do so. As believers, there are certain basic doctrines that we must believe, but beyond that there is latitude on how we can serve and worship; it is this latitude that is the only good reason for denominations. This is diversity and not disunity. The first allows us to be individuals in Christ; the latter divides and destroys.


PART III 

Question: "When is it right to leave a church?"


Answer:Perhaps the best way to discern whether one has grounds to leave a church is to go back to the basics. What, after all, is the purpose of the church? The Bible is clear that the church is to be the “pillar and ground [foundation] of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Everything in the church structure, teaching, worship, programs, and activities is to be centered upon this fact. In addition, the church should recognize Jesus Christ as its one and only head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18) and submit to Him in all things. Clearly, these things can only be done when the church clings to the Bible as its standard and authority. It’s hard to see how anyone would want to leave a church such as described above, but few churches today fit this description.


Believers who feel a desire to leave a church should be clear on their reasons. If the church does not proclaim the truth or does not teach the Bible and revere Christ, and there is another church in the area that does, then there are grounds to leave. A case can be made, however, for staying and working to bring about changes for the better. We are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). If one is strongly convicted of the need to move the church in a more Bible-based, Christ-honoring direction and can do that in a loving manner, then staying would seem to be the better course of action.


The Bible does not outline a procedure on how to leave a church. In the early days of the church, a believer would have to move to another town to find a different church. In some places today, a church sits on seemingly every corner, and, sadly, many believers leave one church for another down the street instead of working through whatever problem they faced. Forgiveness, love, and unity are to characterize believers (John 13:34–35; Colossians 3:13; John 17:21–23), not bitterness and division (Ephesians 4:31–32).


Should a believer feel led to leave a church, it is crucial for him/her to do so in such a way that does not cause unnecessary division or controversy (Proverbs 6:19; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Faced with a lack of biblical teaching, then the course is clear, and a new church should be sought. However, many people’s dissatisfaction with their church is due to their own lack of involvement in the ministries of the church. It is far easier to be spiritually fed by the church when one takes an active part in “feeding” others. The purpose of the church is clearly outlined in Ephesians 4:11–14. Allow this passage to be the guide in choosing and finding a church.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/17/19


Question: "What does the Bible say about church discipline?"


Answer:Church discipline is the process of correcting sinful behavior among members of a local church body for the purpose of protecting the church, restoring the sinner to a right walk with God, and renewing fellowship among the church members. In some cases, church discipline can proceed all the way to excommunication, which is the formal removal of an individual from church membership and the informal separation from that individual.


Matthew 18:15–20 gives the procedure and authority for a church to practice church discipline. Jesus instructs us that one individual (usually the offended party) is to go to the offending individual privately. If the offender refuses to acknowledge his sin and repent, then two or three others go to confirm the details of the situation. If there is still no repentance—the offender remains firmly attached to his sin, despite two chances to repent—the matter is taken before the church. The offender then has a third chance to repent and forsake his sinful behavior. If at any point in the process of church discipline, the sinner heeds the call to repent, then “you have gained your brother” (verse 15, ESV). However, if the discipline continues all the way through the third step without a positive response from the offender, then, Jesus said, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (verse 17, ESV).


The process of church discipline is never pleasant just as a father never delights in having to discipline his children. Sometimes, though, church discipline is necessary. The purpose of church discipline is not to be mean-spirited or to display a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, the goal of church discipline is the restoration of the individual to full fellowship with both God and other believers. The discipline is to start privately and gradually become more public. It is to be done in love toward the individual, in obedience to God, and in godly fear for the sake of others in the church.


The Bible’s instructions concerning church discipline imply the necessity of church membership. The church and its pastor are responsible for the spiritual well-being of a certain group of people (members of the local church), not of everyone in the city. In the context of church discipline, Paul asks, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). The candidate for church discipline has to be “inside” the church and accountable to the church. He professes faith in Christ yet continues in undeniable sin.


The Bible gives an example of church discipline in a local church—the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1–13). In this case, the discipline led to excommunication, and the apostle Paul gives some reasons for the discipline. One is that sin is like yeast; if allowed to exist, it spreads to those nearby in the same way that “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (1 Corinthians 5:6–7). Also, Paul explains that Jesus saved us so that we might be set apart from sin, that we might be “unleavened” or free from that which causes spiritual decay (1 Corinthians 5:7–8). Christ’s desire for His bride, the church, is that she might be pure and undefiled (Ephesians 5:25–27). The testimony of Christ Jesus (and His church) before unbelievers is important, too. When David sinned with Bathsheba, one of the consequences of his sin was that the name of the one true God was blasphemed by God’s enemies (2 Samuel 12:14).


Hopefully, any disciplinary action a church takes against a member is successful in bringing about godly sorrow and true repentance. When repentance occurs, the individual can be restored to fellowship. The man involved in the 1 Corinthians 5 passage repented, and Paul later encouraged the church to restore him to full fellowship with the church (2 Corinthians 2:5–8). Unfortunately, disciplinary action, even when done correctly and in love, is not always successful in bringing about restoration. Even when church discipline fails to bring about repentance, it is still needed to accomplish other good purposes such as maintaining a good testimony in the world.


We have all likely witnessed the behavior of a youngster who is always allowed to do as he pleases with no consistent discipline. It is not a pretty sight. Nor is the overly permissive parent loving, for a lack of guidance dooms the child to a dismal future. Undisciplined, out-of-control behavior will keep the child from forming meaningful relationships and performing well in any kind of setting. Similarly, discipline in the church, while never enjoyable or easy, is necessary at times. In fact, it is loving. And it is commanded by God.


PART II

Question: "What does the Bible say about infant baptism / paedobaptism?"


Answer:There is much confusion about baptism in the various Christian denominations. However, this is not a result of the Bible presenting a confusing message on baptism. The Bible is abundantly clear of what baptism is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. In the Bible, only believers who had placed their faith in Christ were baptized - as a public testimony of their faith and identification with Him (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4). Water baptism by immersion is a step of obedience after faith in Christ. It is a proclamation of faith in Christ, a statement of submission to Him, and an identification with His death, burial, and resurrection.


With this in view, infant baptism is not a Biblical practice. An infant cannot place his or her faith in Christ. An infant cannot make a conscious decision to obey Christ. An infant cannot understand what water baptism symbolizes. The Bible does not record any infants being baptized. Infant baptism is the origin of the sprinkling and pouring methods of baptism - as it is unwise and unsafe to immerse an infant under water. Even the method of infant baptism fails to agree with the Bible. How does pouring or sprinkling illustrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?


Many Christians who practice infant baptism do so because they understand infant baptism as the new covenant equivalent of circumcision. In this view, just as circumcision joined a Hebrew to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, so baptism joined a person to the New Covenant of salvation through Jesus Christ. This view is unbiblical. The New Testament nowhere describes baptism as the New Covenant replacement for Old Covenant circumcision. The New Testament nowhere describes baptism as a sign of the New Covenant. It is faith in Jesus Christ that enables a person to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15).


Baptism does not save a person. It does not matter if you were baptized by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling - if you have not first trusted in Christ for salvation, baptism (no matter the method) is meaningless and useless. Water baptism by immersion is a step of obedience to be done after salvation as a public profession of faith in Christ and identification with Him. Infant baptism does not fit the Biblical definition of baptism or the Biblical method of baptism. If Christian parents wish to dedicate their child to Christ, then a baby dedication service is entirely appropriate. However, even if infants are dedicated to the Lord, when they grow up they will still have to make a personal decision to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.


PART III 

Question: "What should I be looking for in a church?"


Answer:In order to know what to look for in a local church, we must first understand God's purpose for the church—the body of Christ—in general. There are two outstanding truths about the church. First, "the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Second, Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18). 


In regard to the truth, the local church is a place where the Bible (God's only Truth) has complete authority. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one where, according to biblical standards, the gospel is preached, sin is condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and opportunities to minister to others exist. Consider the model of the early church found in Acts 2:42-47, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."


In regard to the second truth about the church, Christians should attend a local fellowship that declares Christ's headship in all matters of doctrine and practice. No man, whether pastor, priest, or pope, is the head of the church. All men die. How can the living church of the living God have a dead head? It cannot. Christ is the church's one supreme authority, and all church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are appointed through His sovereignty, as found in the Scriptures. 


Once these two fundamental truths are set, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal preference. Before attending a church, some research is necessary. Doctrinal statements, purpose statements, mission statements, or anything that will give insight into what a church believes should be carefully examined. Many churches have websites where one can determine what they believe regarding the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation.


Next should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place. Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful. Any literature they have for visitors should be scrutinized, paying close attention to belief statements. Church evaluation should be based on the principles outlined above. Is the Bible held as the only authority? Is Christ exalted as head of the church? Does the church focus on discipleship? Were you led to worship God? What types of ministries does the church involve itself in? Was the message biblical and evangelical? How was the fellowship? You also need to feel comfortable. Were you made to feel welcome? Is the congregation comprised of true worshippers? 


Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it is still filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are continually at war. Also, do not forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the church God would have you attend is crucial throughout the decision-making process.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/16/19

Question: "Should Christian women wear head coverings?"


Answer:1 Corinthians 11:3-16 addresses the issue of women and head coverings. The context of the entire passage of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 is submission to the God-given order and "chain of command." A "covering" on a woman's head is used as an illustration of the order, headship, and the authority of God. The key verse of this passage is 1 Corinthians 11:3 "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." The implications of this verse are found in the rest of the passage. The order is: God the Father, God the Son, the man or husband, and the woman or wife. The veil or covering on the head of a believing Corinthian wife showed that she was under the authority of her husband, and therefore under submission to God.


Within this passage is also verse 10: "For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels." Why is that important to angels? The relationship of God with men is something that angels watch and learn from (1 Peter 1:12). Therefore, a woman's submission to God's delegated authority over her is an example to angels. The holy angels, who are in perfect and total submission to God, expect that we, as followers of Christ, be the same.


This covering not only means a cloth but also can refer to a woman's hair length. How can we say that? We must take this verse in the context or the setting in which it is presented. "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering" (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Therefore, in the context of this passage, a woman who is wearing her hair longer marks herself out distinctively as a woman and not a man. The Apostle Paul is saying here that in the Corinthian culture, when a wife's hair was longer than her husband's, it showed her submission to his headship. The roles of the male and female are designed by God to portray a profound spiritual lesson, that is of submission to the will and the order of God.


But why is hair an issue in this passage? The apostle Paul is addressing an issue related to the Corinthian culture that was being allowed to disrupt the church. For a woman to have a shaved head was a disgrace (and, in Jewish thinking, a sign of mourning, Deuteronomy 21:12). Her hair was her “glory” (1 Corinthians 11:15). In the Corinthian culture, women normally wore a head covering as a symbol of their submission to their husbands. Paul affirms the rightness of following that cultural mandate—to dispense with the head coverings on women would send the entirely wrong signal to the culture at large. In fact, Paul says that, if a Christian woman refuses her head covering, she might as well shave her hair off, too (verse 6). A woman who refused to wear a covering in that culture was basically saying, “I refuse to submit to God’s order.” Therefore, the apostle Paul is teaching the Corinthians that hair length or the wearing of a “covering” by the woman was an outward indication of a heart attitude of submission to God and to His established authority.


God's order is that the husband is the head of the wife as God is the head of Christ, but there is no inequality or inferiority implied. God and Christ are equal and united, just as the husband and the wife are one. This is not a passage that teaches the woman is inferior to man or that she should be submissive to every man. It is teaching God's order and spiritual headship in the marriage relationship. In the Corinthian culture, a woman who covered her head during worship or when she was in public displayed her submission to authority.


In today's culture, we no longer view a woman's wearing of a head covering as a sign of submission. In most modern societies, scarves and hats are fashion accessories. A woman has the choice to wear a head covering if she views it as a sign of her submission to the authority of her husband. However, it is a personal choice and not something that should be used to judge spirituality. The real issue here is the heart attitude of obedience to God's authority and submission to His established order “as to the LORD” (Ephesians 5:22). God is far more concerned with an attitude of submission than an outward display of submission via a head covering. First Timothy 2:9-10, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."



PART II 

Question: "Should the church get involved in social issues and causes?"


Answer:This issue is the cause of much controversy in the Christian community. Each of the two extremes is represented by those who feel very strongly that their position is the "Christian" one. On one hand there are those who spend many hours writing to their Congressmen, picketing abortion clinics, campaigning for conservative candidates and using all means available to influence and improve the quality of government to conform it to the Christian worldview. At the other extreme are those who take Jesus' words "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) as their motto, refusing to vote or get involved in any effort to affect the culture in which we live.


There is no doubt that we should be good citizens. Romans 13:1 tells us, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." Christians should be exemplary in their conduct regarding the laws of the land, choosing to disobey only those laws/rules that directly contradict the revealed Word of God. Abortion, for example, may be an abomination, but no one is forced by the government to have an abortion, as is the case in China. The Chinese Christians who defy the law and refuse to have abortions are obeying the biblical commands "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19) and "you shall not murder" (Romans 13:9), thereby obeying the Word of God rather than the laws of man. But such instances are very rare in contemporary Western culture.


Perhaps the best way to understand our responsibilities in the social/cultural arena is to look to Jesus for our example. Jesus lived in one of history's most corrupt societies. But He perfectly maintained His Father's perspective on social and political matters, even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today's culture. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, and the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched. Legal and economic oppression of the Jews by Rome was rampant, dwarfing anything we experience today. But even in the face of such tyranny, Jesus never issued a call for political changes, even by peaceful means. He never attempted to "capture the culture" for biblical morality. He did not come to earth to be a political or social reformer. Rather, He came to establish a new spiritual order. He came not to make the old order moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures (His people) holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. He knew what many today fail to grasp: governments and institutions are made up of people. When people's hearts are changed by Christ, godly governments and institutions will follow. If the hearts of the people are corrupt, getting them together in groups only multiplies the corruption. What we need is not better government, but better men and women in government.


So what is a Christian to do? Can Christians shun all political and social efforts to affect the culture? Certainly, if our consciences convict us to do so and as long as our motivation is pure and not an effort to appear holier than those who do choose to be involved. Pride is too often the by-product of completely withdrawing from the culture. We are to be in the world, but not of it, and part of being in the world is modeling Christ-likeness for the world and Christian love toward one another.


Can we picket, campaign, and lobby our elected leaders on issues of concern to us? Certainly, as long as we keep the ultimate goal in mind"to win people to Christ. Too often that goal and the activities described above are in conflict. Take, for example, the misguided efforts by a small fringe group from Kansas who show up at the funerals of homosexuals with signs declaring "God hates fags" and "burn in hell." How likely is it that such cruel and vicious behavior will convince unbelievers we serve a loving and merciful God who will forgive sin? The cause of Christ is not advanced by this type of activism, no matter what the motivation. Even the most gracious efforts to "clean up the culture" will not protect or expand the cause of Christ. Ours is a spiritual battle against worldly ideologies and dogmas that are arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).


The picture of the Christian in the world is well illustrated by the analogy of the train station. We (Christians) are waiting in the station to board the northbound (heavenly) train. We are surrounded by people who are preparing to board the southbound train, completely unaware of its tragic destination. Should we spend our time and energy pleading with them to switch trains? Or do we merely tidy up the train station instead? The answer is obvious, and those who would tidy up the culture for the culture's sake are not only missing the point, they are misunderstanding the reason God leaves us in the world"to be His witness to the lost and condemned. Such a mission is far more "good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:8) than any amount of social or political activism.


PART III 

Question: "Why is church attendance important?"


Answer:The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We should follow that example of devotion—and to the same things. Back then, they had no designated church building, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). Wherever the meeting takes place, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers and the teaching of God’s Word.


Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not the way to go. We need the encouragement that church attendance affords. And the approach of the end times should prompt us to be even more devoted to going to church.


Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).


When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26).


For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be regular aspects of a believer's life. Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers.


Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are “like living stones . . . being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God’s “spiritual house,” we naturally have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church “goes to church.”

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/15/19

Question: "Are we supposed to use musical instruments in church?"

Answer:In all the examples of believers meeting together for worship in the New Testament, we have no clear instance of musical instruments being used. Most churches today utilize musical instruments of all kinds, but some use none at all. The lack of a biblical example of a church using musical instruments has led some to believe that musical instruments should not be used in the church but that our singing should be done a cappella.

While the church is a New Testament concept, we should look at the use of musical instruments by God’s people in the Old Testament. Musical instruments were definitely used in worship in the Old Testament. The use of musical instruments was even commanded in some passages: “Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre” (Psalm 81:2; cf. 98:5; 150:4). Several of the psalms were intended to be played “with stringed instruments” (e.g., Psalm 4:1; 55:1; 67:1; 76:1), as well as the song of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:19). Instrumental musical accompaniment was a common part of worship. David commanded the leaders of the Levites “to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals” (1 Chronicles 15:16); in fact, four thousand Levites were set apart for playing musical instruments (1 Chronicles 23:5).

Christians who believe that musical instruments should not be used in church acknowledge the Old Testament use of musical instruments, but they rightly assert that Old Testament examples do not set New Testament church practices. They assert that, under the New Covenant, the believers’ “instrument” is the human voice. Just as the Old Testament temple has given way to the “living temple” of the human body (1 Corinthians 6:19), so the old “mechanical” instruments of temple music have given way to the “living,” Spirit-filled instrument of the human voice.

So, are churches who utilize musical instruments working outside the will of God? In answering this, we should remember a few important things: first, our guide for church practice should be Scripture alone, not church tradition, not the writings of church fathers, and not modern culture.

Second, absent a direct teaching in Scripture, we should exercise grace and tolerance. There may not be any example of a New Testament church using musical instruments, but, by the same token, the New Testament nowhere condemns musical instruments in the church. It’s natural to come up with rules that are not in the Bible, but we should be very slow to require what Scripture does not require or to forbid what Scripture does not forbid.

Third, the fact that there is no example in Scripture of a church using musical instruments does not imply a command not to have musical instruments. Arguments from silence are notoriously flawed. Saying that the New Testament does not authorize the church to use mechanical instruments of music is not the same as saying the use of such instruments is wrong. The New Testament also does not authorize the church to pass offering plates or install stained glass windows, yet few would say that those things are “wrong.” A lack of direct scriptural “authorization” of a certain practice is not an automatic prohibition.

In short, the Bible neither forbids nor commands the use of musical instruments in church. A church has freedom to use musical instruments in worship, and a church has freedom not to. Whatever a church decides to do concerning the use of musical instruments, other churches should accept it as that church’s way of praising the Lord. With or without musical instruments, we should “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).


PART II 

Question: "What is the rock in Matthew 16:18?"

Answer:The debate rages over whether "the rock" on which Christ will build His church is Peter, or Peter's confession that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty, there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct. The grammatical construction allows for either view. The first view is that Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the "rock" on which He would build His church. Jesus appears to be using a play on words. "You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church." Since Peter's name means rock, and Jesus is going to build His church on a rock " it appears that Christ is linking the two together. God used Peter greatly in the foundation of the church. It was Peter who first proclaimed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-47). Peter was also the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). In a sense, Peter was the rock "foundation" of the church.

The other popular interpretation of the rock is that Jesus was referring not to Peter, but to Peter's confession of faith in verse 16: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Jesus had never explicitly taught Peter and the other disciples the fullness of His identity, and He recognized that God had sovereignly opened Peter's eyes and revealed to him who Jesus really was. His confession of Christ as Messiah poured forth from him, a heartfelt declaration of Peter's personal faith in Jesus. It is this personal faith in Christ which is the hallmark of the true Christian. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, as Peter did, are the church. Peter expresses this in 1 Peter 2:4 when he addressed the believers who had been dispersed around the ancient world: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

At this point, Jesus declares that God had revealed this truth to Peter. The word for "Peter," Petros, means a small stone (John 1:42). Jesus used a play on words here with petra ("on this rock") which means a foundation boulder, as in Matthew 7:24, 25 when He described the rock upon which the wise man builds his house. Peter himself uses the same imagery in his first epistle: the church is built of numerous small petros "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5) who, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and those confessions of faith are the bedrock of the church.

In addition, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ is both the foundation (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:11) and the head (Ephesians 5:23) of the church. It is a mistake to think that here He is giving either of those roles to Peter. There is a sense in which the apostles played a foundational role in the building of the church (Ephesians 2:20), but the role of primacy is reserved for Christ alone, not assigned to Peter. So, Jesus' words here are best interpreted as a simple play on words in that a boulder-like truth came from the mouth of one who was called a small stone. And Christ Himself is called the "chief cornerstone" (1 Peter 2:6, 7). The chief cornerstone of any building was that upon which the building was anchored. If Christ declared Himself to be the cornerstone, how could Peter be the rock upon which the church was built? It is more likely that the believers, of which Peter is one, are the stones which make up the church, anchored upon the Cornerstone, "and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame" (1 Peter 2:6).

The Roman Catholic Church uses the argument that Peter is the rock to which Jesus referred as evidence that it is the one true church. As we have seen, Peter's being the rock is not the only valid interpretation of this verse. Even if Peter is the rock in Matthew 16:18, this is meaningless in giving the Roman Catholic Church any authority. Scripture nowhere records Peter being in Rome. Scripture nowhere describes Peter as being supreme over the other apostles. The New Testament does not describe Peter as being the "all authoritative leader" of the early Christian church. Peter was not the first pope, and Peter did not start the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Peter or any other apostle. If Peter truly was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, it would be in full agreement with what Peter taught (Acts chapter 2, 1 Peter, 2 Peter).


PART III 

Question: "What is the Sabbath day?"

Answer:At first glance, the question “What is the Sabbath day?” seems fairly simple. According to Exodus 20:8–11, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, on which we are to rest, in remembrance that God created the universe in six days and then “rested” on the seventh day. However, due to the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of some Christian groups, the meaning of the Sabbath day rest has been confused.

Some Christian groups, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, view the Sabbath as the day of worship, the day on which Christians should attend church/worship services. While these groups typically also teach that no work is to be done on the Sabbath, the concept of the “day of worship” is sometimes more emphasized than the “day of rest.” Originally, the Sabbath was a day of rest, and that purpose was retained in the Mosaic Law (Exodus 16:23–29; 31:14–16; 35:2–3; Deuteronomy 5:12–15; Nehemiah 13:15–22; Jeremiah 17:21–27). Under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were made daily at the tabernacle/temple. The “worship” was continual. And there were special commands given to Israel regarding a “sacred assembly” held on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3; cf. Numbers 28:9). The keeping of the Sabbath was the “sign” of the covenant between Israel and the Lord (Exodus 31:13).

The New Testament records Jews and converts to Judaism meeting in synagogues on the Sabbath (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Luke 13:10–16; Acts 13:14, 27, 42–44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). Obviously, with no work being done on the Sabbath day, the Sabbath day would be the ideal day to have organized worship services. However, the New Testament does not command that the Sabbath be the day of worship. The church is not under the Mosaic Law.

The church is under the New Covenant, established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible nowhere describes Christians setting aside the Sabbath day as the day of worship. The only Scriptures that describe Christians in any sense meeting on the Sabbath are in fact pointing to evangelistic efforts at Jewish synagogues, which met on the Sabbath day. Acts 3:2 records the early Christians meeting every day. The Bereans studied the Scriptures every day (Acts 17:11). Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 both mention Christians meeting on the first day of the week. There is no evidence in the New Testament that the apostles or the early Christians in any sense observed the Sabbath day as the prescribed day of worship.

Traditionally, Christians have held their primary corporate worship services on Sundays, the first day of the week, in celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which occurred on a Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). It is important to understand, though, that Sunday is not the commanded day of corporate worship, either. There is no explicit biblical command that either Saturday or Sunday be the day of worship. Scriptures such as Romans 14:5–6 and Colossians 2:16 give Christians freedom to observe a special day or to observe every day as special. God’s desire is that we worship and serve Him continually, every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday. Please read our other articles on the Sabbath day and Sabbath keeping to explore this issue further.


PART IV

Question: "What day is the Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday? Do Christians have to observe the Sabbath day?"

Answer:It is often claimed that "God instituted the Sabbath in Eden" because of the connection between the Sabbath and creation in Exodus 20:11. Although God's rest on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3) did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, there is no biblical record of the Sabbath before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. Nowhere in Scripture is there any hint that Sabbath-keeping was practiced from Adam to Moses. 

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign between God and Israel: "The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested" (Exodus 31:16"17).

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments to the next generation of Israelites. Here, after commanding Sabbath observance in verses 12"14, Moses gives the reason the Sabbath was given to the nation Israel: "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15).

God's intent for giving the Sabbath to Israel was not that they would remember creation, but that they would remember their Egyptian slavery and the Lord's deliverance. Note the requirements for Sabbath-keeping: A person placed under that Sabbath law could not leave his home on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:29), he could not build a fire (Exodus 35:3), and he could not cause anyone else to work (Deuteronomy 5:14). A person breaking the Sabbath law was to be put to death (Exodus 31:15; Numbers 15:32"35).

An examination of New Testament passages shows us four important points: 1) Whenever Christ appears in His resurrected form and the day is mentioned, it is always the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:19, 26). 2) The only times the Sabbath is mentioned from Acts through Revelation, the occasion is Jewish evangelism, and the setting is usually a synagogue (Acts chapters 13–18). Paul wrote, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20). Paul did not go to the synagogue to fellowship with and edify the saints, but to convict and save the lost. 3) After Paul states, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6), the Sabbath is never again mentioned. And 4) instead of suggesting adherence to the Sabbath day, the remainder of the New Testament implies the opposite (including the one exception to point 3, above, found in Colossians 2:16).

Looking more closely at point 4 above will reveal that there is no obligation for the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath, and will also show that the idea of a Sunday "Christian Sabbath" is also unscriptural. As discussed above, there is one time the Sabbath is mentioned after Paul began to focus on the Gentiles, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Colossians 2:16"17). The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross where Christ "canceled the written code, with its regulations" (Colossians 2:14).

This idea is repeated more than once in the New Testament: "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord" (Romans 14:5"6a). "But now that you know God " or rather are known by God " how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years" (Galatians 4:9"10).

But some claim that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321 "changed" the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. On what day did the early church meet for worship? Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship. However, there are clear passages that mention the first day of the week. For instance, Acts 20:7 states that "on the first day of the week we came together to break bread." In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers "on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income." Since Paul designates this offering as "service" in 2 Corinthians 9:12, this collection must have been linked with the Sunday worship service of the Christian assembly. Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first century.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath is still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. But the Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law (Galatians 4:1-26; Romans 6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian"be it Saturday or Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10) celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath"resting, but are now free to follow the risen Christ'serving. The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 



05/14/19

Question: "Can women serve as deacons in the church?"

Answer:Scripture is not completely clear whether or not a woman can serve as a deacon. The statement that deacons are to be “men worthy of respect” (1 Timothy 3:8 NIV) and the qualification “the husband of but one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12) would seem to disqualify women from serving as deacons. 

However, some interpret 1 Timothy 3:11 as referring to women deacons because the Greek word translated “wives” can also be translated “women.” According to this interpretation, Paul is referring not to deacons’ wives, but to women who serve as deacons. The use of the word likewisein verse 8 could suggest a third group of leaders in addition to elders and deacons. Also supporting this interpretation is the fact that Paul gives no requirements for elders’ wives when outlining the qualifications for eldership. Why would he list qualifications for deacons’ wives but not for elders' wives? Elders hold a more prominent position in the church, yet Paul places no demands on their wives.

Arguing against interpreting "deacon's wives" as "female deacons" is the fact that it would be unusual for Paul to give qualifications for deacons in verses 8-10 and 12-13, with qualifications for deaconesses in between.

Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe with the same word Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:12. It is unclear, though, whether Paul is saying Phoebe is a deacon or whether he is just saying she is a servant. In the early church, women servants cared for sick believers, the poor, strangers, and those in prison. They instructed women and children (Titus 2:3-5). Phoebe may not have had the official designation of “deacon” but Paul thought enough of her to entrust her with the tremendous responsibility of delivering the epistle to the Romans to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1-2). Clearly, he saw her not as inferior or less capable, but as a trusted and valued member of the body of Christ.

Scripture does not give much support to the idea of women serving as deacons, but it does not necessarily disqualify them, either. Some churches have instituted the office of deaconess, but most differentiate it from the office of deacon. If a church does institute the position of deaconess, the church leadership should ensure that the deaconess is in submission to the restrictions Paul places on the ministry of women in other passages (such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12), just as all leadership is to be in submission to the church authority structure and ultimately to our supreme authority, Christ Jesus.


PART II 

Question: "Women pastors / preachers? Can a woman be a pastor or preacher?"

Answer:There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.

The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11–12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13–14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors over men, which definitely includes preaching to them, teaching them publicly, and exercising spiritual authority over them.

There are many objections to this view of women in pastoral ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11–14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, then the majority of Jesus’ disciples would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesusfrom teaching men (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus). Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, and women were the authorities in that branch of paganism—therefore, the theory goes, Paul was only reacting against the female-led customs of the Ephesian idolaters, and the church needed to be different. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention the standard practice of Artemis worshipers as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11–12.

A third objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words for “woman” and “man” in 1 Timothy 2 couldrefer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words is broader than that. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8–10. Are only husbandsto lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wivesto dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9–10)? Of course not. Verses 8–10 clearly refer to all men and women, not just husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a narrowing to husbands and wives in verses 11–14.

Yet another objection to this interpretation of women in pastoral ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. It is true that these women were chosen by God for special service to Him and that they stand as models of faith, courage, and, yes, leadership. However, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue of pastors in the church. The New Testament Epistles present a new paradigm for God’s people—the church, the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves an authority structure unique to the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.

Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla’s name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was more prominent in ministry than her husband. Did Priscilla and her husband teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Apollos? Yes, in their home they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Does the Bible ever say that Priscilla pastored a church or taught publicly or became the spiritual leader of a congregation of saints? No. As far as we know, Priscilla was not involved in ministry activity in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11–14.

In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is called a “deacon” (or “servant”) in the church and is highly commended by Paul. But, as with Priscilla, there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Phoebe was a pastor or a teacher of men in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not for deacons (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9). 

The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11–14 makes the reason why women cannot be pastors perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for,” giving the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11–12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived” (verses 13–14). God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. The order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22–33) and in the church. 

The fact that Eve was deceived is also given in 1 Timothy 2:14 as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This does not mean that women are gullible or that they are all more easily deceived than men. If all women are more easily deceived, why would they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? The text simply says that women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Evewas deceived. God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.

Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helping/serving. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3–5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.


PART III 

Question: "What are the duties of an elder in the church?"

Answer:The Bible spells out at least five duties and obligations of an elder:

1) The elders help to settle disputes in the church. "While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the Christians 'unless you keep the ancient Jewish custom of circumcision taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' Paul and Barnabas, disagreeing with them, argued forcefully and at length. Finally, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15:1-2, NLT). The question was raised and forcefully argued, then taken to the apostles and elders for a decision. This passage teaches that elders are decision makers.

2) They pray for the sick. "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14). Since the elders have to meet specific qualifications, their lives are godly and therefore the sin in their lives is minimal and is confessed regularly; therefore, they are used to pray for the sick. One of the necessities in prayer is praying for the Lord's will to be done, and they are expected to do this.

3) They are to watch out for the church in humility. "I exhort the elders who are among you, I being also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:1-4). Elders are the designated leaders of the church, and the flock is entrusted to them by God. They are not to lead for the pay or the reward but because of their desire to serve and shepherd the flock.

4) They are to watch out for the spiritual life of the flock. "Yield to those leading you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). This verse does not specifically say "elders," but it is talking about the church leaders. They are accountable for the spiritual life of the church.

5) They are to spend their time in prayer and teaching the word. "And the Twelve called near the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word"" (Acts 6:2-4). This is for the apostles, but we can see from the passage above in #3 that Peter equates himself as an apostle and an elder. From this verse you can also see the difference between the duties of elder and deacon.

Simply put, the elders should be peacemakers, prayer warriors, teachers, leaders by example, and decision makers. They are the preaching and teaching leaders of the church. It is a position to be sought but not taken lightly"read this warning: "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). The role of elder is not a position to be taken lightly.


PART IV

Question: "Do women have to remain silent in church?"

Answer:First Corinthians 14:33–35 states, “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (ESV). At first glance, this seems to be a blanket command that women are never allowed to speak at all in the church. However, earlier in the same epistle (1 Corinthians 11:5), Paul mentions situations where women are allowed to pray and prophesy in the assembled congregation. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 14:33–35 must not be an absolute command for women to remain silent at all times in all services. The prohibition must be limited in some way by the context.

The concern of 1 Corinthians 14 is the orderly assembly of the congregation. The church of Corinth was noted for the chaos and lack of order rampant in that assembly (verse 33). Everyone in the church service was participating with whatever expression they desired, whenever they desired, as loudly as they desired. Those with the gift of tongues were speaking simultaneously, and no one was concerned with interpreting what was being said. Those with a revelation from God were shouting out randomly, even if what was said could not be heard above the din, and apparently no one was evaluating what was being offered as prophecy. The meetings were characterized by chaos, and no one was being edified or instructed (see verses 5, 12, and 19). To remedy this problem, Paul instructs a number of people/groups to “be quiet” at certain times and under certain conditions:

• Verses 27–28a, “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church.”

• Verses 29–31a, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one.”

• Verses 34–35, “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

As we have already noted, women are allowed to pray and prophesy in church in 1 Corinthians 11:5, so 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 cannot be an absolute prohibition against all types of speaking by all women at all times. As evident from the commands to tongues-speakers and prophets, certain other people are also prohibited from speaking at certain times and for certain reasons. The context gives us some clues as to what is going on.

First, the command for women to remain silent seems to deal with two important issues: proper order in the church and proper demonstration or acknowledgment of authority. Apparently, some women were speaking out in a way that did not acknowledge the spiritual authority of either their husbands or church leaders. This issue is addressed in 1 Corinthians 11 as well. Women are allowed to pray and prophesy, as long as they have their heads covered to show proper respect for spiritual authority. (In the first century, the head covering was the sign of a chaste, respectful woman, so women in the church were not to cast it off; to do so was to convey insolence or impropriety, according to the contemporary culture. Today, head coverings do not communicate the same message, so most evangelical interpreters stress that the attitude of respect, displayed by culturally significant symbols, is important, not a head covering specifically.) We might envision Paul saying, “If a woman wants to pray or prophesy in church, let her do so while showing the proper respect for church authority; otherwise, let her remain silent.”

The Greek word gunaikesin 1 Corinthians 14:34 can mean either “woman” or “wife,” depending on the context. The mention of husbands in verse 35 might indicate that “wife” is intended and that only married women are to be silent in the church. However, limiting the application of the Paul’s injunction to married women doesn’t really solve the problem: in the ancient world marriage was usually seen as an elevation of status. If married women are enjoined to be silent, how much more would single women have been expected to sit quietly?

The various possible interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 are too numerous to recount here. The best explanation takes into account the surrounding context and resolves the tension between 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. The immediate context has to do with the delivery of prophecy and the deliberation about the prophecy. If someone offers a prophecy to the church in the public meeting, the church is to pass judgment upon it (1 Corinthians 14:29). That is, the church is to weigh it and evaluate it to see if it is truly from God and, if so, what actions should be taken. It seems that the best contextual understanding is that women are to keep silent in this deliberative process, since evaluating prophecy is an exercise of spiritual authority. Further complications could also arise: what if a wife questioned her husband’s prophecy or disagreed with her husband’s evaluation of a prophecy? In that case, it would be proper for her to hold her peace in the assembly and ask him about it privately at home (verse 35). This would show respect for her husband’s spiritual authority and minimize the possibility of disorder in the church. (Although not mentioned in the passage, a husband may have found it wise to “recuse himself” if his wife’s prophecy came under scrutiny!)

Paul’s original intent in 1 Corinthians 14:33–35 seems to be that a woman must not take part in the deliberative process of evaluating prophecies. The question remains about how this command is to be applied today.

In both 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul is keen to maintain male spiritual leadership in the home and church as a universal principle (see also 1 Timothy 2:12). Pastors and elders are men, and women come under that authority with the rest of the church. How this submission to authority is acknowledged and applied may differ based on current cultural practices. If a head covering (as in chapter 11) is the culturally appropriate symbol of a woman’s chastity and submissiveness, then a head covering should be worn. If that symbol passes from currency, then it may be discarded in favor of other culturally relevant symbols. In modern Western culture, modest clothing would certainly be a relevant symbol. Other symbols, such as a wife taking her husband’s last name, might have held much significance at one time in American culture but may now be less significant.

There may be another reason, rooted in culture, for the command for women to remain silent in the church. For a first-century woman to participate in a deliberative action in any assembly would have been considered a usurpation of authority. Perhaps in today’s culture, where women are invited to participate, their silence is not required in the church in order to show proper respect to their husbands or church leadership. The interpretation offered here maintains that, as long the male leadership in the home and church is honored and female acceptance of it is expressed in culturally relevant ways, then the spirit of the passage is fulfilled.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/13/19

Question: "What are the responsibilities of deacons in the church?"

Answer:n the New Testament, the word usually translated "serve" is the Greek word diakoneo, which literally means "through the dirt." It refers to an attendant, a waiter, or one who ministers to another. From this word we get the English word “deacon.” We first see the word "deacon" used this way in the book of Acts. “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). The men who were giving themselves to feeding the flock by preaching and teaching realized that it wasn’t right for them to leave those activities to wait tables, so they found some other men who were willing to serve, and put them in place to minister to the church’s physical needs while the elders or pastors ministered to their spiritual needs. It was a better use of the resources they were given, and a better use of everyone’s gifts. It also got more people involved in serving and helping one another.

Today, for the biblical church, these roles are essentially the same. Elders and pastors are to “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2), and deacons are to be appointed to take care of everything else. In a modern church, this might include taking on administrative or organizational tasks, ushering, being responsible for building maintenance, or volunteering to be the church treasurer. It depends on the need and the gifts of the available men.

The responsibilities of a deacon are not clearly listed or outlined; they are assumed to be everything that does not include the duties of an elder or pastor, which is to preach, teach, and exhort. But qualifications for a deacon’s character are clearly outlined in Scripture. They are to be blameless, the husband of one wife, a good household manager, respectable, honest, not addicted to alcohol and not greedy (1 Timothy 3:8-12). According to the Word, the office of deacon is an honor and a blessing. “For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).


PART II 

Question: "Is ecumenism biblical? Should a Christian be involved in the ecumenical movement?"

Answer:Walter A. Elwell, in The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, defines ecumenismas “the organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity among Christians.” On an international level, the World Council of Churches represents ecumenism when it states its purpose this way: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21)” (www.wcc-coe.org). On a national level, a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, published in 1994 and endorsed by some rather prominent representatives of evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism, is another example of ecumenism.

Ecumenismcan also be defined more broadly: “a movement that promotes worldwide unity among all religions through greater cooperation.” For example, a Christian priest may invite a Muslim imam to speak in his pulpit, or a church may get together with a Hindu temple to hold a joint prayer service. Defined this way, ecumenism is definitely wrong. We are not to be “yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14; see also Galatians 1:6–9). Light and darkness have no fellowship with each other.

For this article, we will restrict the definition of ecumenismto “the move toward unity among Christian groups.” The important question is this: are ecumenical ventures right and biblical? Should we be involved with other “Christians” in joint ventures locally, nationally, or internationally? The answer is not absolute. Of course, unity among true Christians is important (Psalm 133:1; John 17:22). But what if some of those who profess Christianity actually deny certain fundamentals of the faith? One must consider each situation individually. Here are a couple of questions that will help us make God-honoring decisions regarding ecumenism:

First of all, are those we are joining with truly Christians in the biblical sense of the word? Many people and organizations reference the name of Jesus Christ and even state He is Lord and Savior yet clearly reject what the Bible says about Him. Obvious examples of this are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ and claim to be “Christian” yet deny what the Bible declares concerning Christ’s nature and work. A not-so-obvious example is liberal Christianity. Liberal Christianity is found in almost every denomination, and, although it may seem Christian, it usually rejects several essential truths. Liberals often deny or diminish the inspiration and authority of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), the exclusive nature of salvation in Christ (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5), and the total dependence upon God’s grace, apart from human works, for salvation (Romans 3:24, 28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9).

There is a major emphasis in our day on ecumenical unity among evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Those who promote such unity state that both groups are Christian and both are God-honoring systems of faith. But there are substantial differences between the two groups. Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are two different religions that practice and believe different things about how one is saved, the authority of the Bible, the priesthood of believers, the nature of man, the work of Christ on the cross, etc. The list of irreconcilable differences between what the Bible says and what the Roman Catholic Church says make any joint mission between the two impossible. Those who deny this are not being true to what they say they believe, no matter which side they are on. Any Catholic who is serious about his faith will reject what a serious evangelical Christian believes, and vice-versa.

One of the draws of ecumenism is that often theologically divergent groups are passionately like-minded regarding certain issues. Biblical Christians usually hold a strong pro-life stance, a traditional view of the family, a conviction to care for the homeless and sick, and a desire to see justice in the world. Other groups, which may have unbiblical theology, can hold the same social positions. Thus, the temptation to pool resources in pursuit of a common cause is sometimes great. This leads to the next question.

Second, what is the ultimate goal of this ecumenical venture? Scripture gives clear guidance as to how Bible-believing Christians are to live. Colossians 3:17 states our purpose this way: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Regarding our interactions with the lost, Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 28:18–20 and 1 Corinthians 2:2 make the gospel our top priority. All that we do is to bring glory and honor to God, we are to live in good works before a lost and dying world, and we must bring to the world the life-changing message of the gospel. Sharing the death and resurrection of Christ brings glory to God and should motivate our interaction with the world.

Regarding ecumenical ventures, we need to ask whether or not these goals are being pursued. Often, sharing the gospel becomes an afterthought, if it is even thought of at all. In place of the gospel, ecumenism tends to focus on political and social messages. Rather than seek to transform hearts, ecumenical endeavors often seek to transform environments—political, social, or financial. The ultimate goal of our actions should be the salvation of lost sinners (Ephesians 2:1–3). The angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). There is nothing in the Bible that says the angels rejoice when a law is passed, when a well is dug, or when a street is paved. (Not that there is anything wrong with accomplishing those things, but they cannot be allowed to overshadow the gospel.) As we contemplate ecumenical ventures, we need to make sure God’s kingdom is being expanded through evangelism.

In conclusion, should we be involved in ecumenical cooperation with other Christian churches and other groups of believers? If there is no doctrinal compromise on core Christian belief, if the gospel is not being watered-down or sidelined, if believers can maintain a clear testimony before the world, and if God is glorified, then we may freely and joyfully join with other believers in pursuit of God’s kingdom.


PART III 

Question: "What are the pros and cons of short-term missions?"

Answer:Although short-term missions have drawbacks, they can be overcome with godly wisdom, training, and heart.

The Pros:

1. Short-term missionaries better understand the ministry and purpose of missions.

Those who have never experienced cross-cultural missions often have wrong impressions about it. They may view missions as a glamorous ministry with thankful natives coming to Christ each day. After participating in a short-term missions trip, they better appreciate the goals and service of missions. 

2. Short-term missionaries become more sacrificial supporters of long-term missionaries.

A short-term mission trip often increases a person's interest in and support of missions. God may use a short-term mission trip to call a person to long-term missions. Besides going long-term, multiple opportunities await to support missions. 

The short-term mission trip itself strengthens missionaries. The church group brings fresh hands to work, enthusiasm for the ministry, and Christian fellowship to encourage. They can help with tasks the long-term missionaries don't have the time or numbers to do: relief projects, tract handouts, children's clubs, etc. 

Once back home, the short-term missionary doesn't easily forget the need. They often become life-long supporters of missionaries through prayer, gifts, and letters. Their passion for missions spreads to others back home.

3. Short-term missions develop passion for knowing Christ and making Christ known.

A short-term mission trip teaches people dependence on God. They face customs to get through, an unfamiliar language to understand, and culture shock to overcome. As they turn to God for help, short-term missionaries experience the power of prayer. Seeing God move in and through lives, they develop a love for Christ and the Gospel. This passion does not end at the mission trip's end but should continue to energize the short-term missionary back home. By God's grace, personal evangelism increases. Prayer and Bible study become a delight, not a duty or drudgery.

The Cons:

1. Short-term missions are expensive.

If cost were the only factor, short-term missions would not be worthwhile. Some people point out that the money used to fly 30 teens to Peru could be sent to the long-term missionaries there. After all, the youth group could do missions at home: passing out tracts at a park, teaching a children's Bible club, or helping in a soup kitchen in the inner city. 

2. Short-term missions may not require "counting the cost."

Some who go on a short-term mission trip still don't understand the sacrifices of missions. They haven't spent the grueling hours learning the language; they haven't had to leave family and friends for more than a few weeks; they haven't experienced the years of service without visible results. Besides, short-term missionaries sometimes only add to the burdens of long-term missionaries.

3. Short-term missions may not have a lasting impact.

Some short-term missionaries come with the haughty idea that they can single-handedly change the nation in the few weeks they serve. Without regard to the long-term missionaries, native church leaders, or even the Lord, they hand out a few tracts, hold a puppet show, or put a new roof on an orphanage. Their impact on the community fades as soon as they hop on the plane back home. Even with the proper heart attitude and goals, short-term missionaries have more limitations than long-term missionaries. Short-term missions may not provide the time it takes to learn the language and culture, build relationships, and make disciples.

Conclusion: Are short-term missions worthwhile?

God uses both short- and long-term missionaries to make disciples of all nations (e.g. the apostle Paul vs. Timothy). The call and heart of both types of missionary are most important. While long-term missionaries carry out the bulk of missions work, short-term missions can lighten the load. Short-term missions are usually most effective under the direction of long-term missionaries and the national church. Although short-term missions has drawbacks, they can be overcome with godly wisdom, training, and heart.


PART IV

Question: "What is a Christian missionary?"

Answer:A Christian missionary is commissioned by the Lord to make disciples, followers of Christ. Jesus commands all Christians to share the Gospel, the message of His death and resurrection that conquered the penalty and power of sin. 

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Who is a Christian missionary?Many people picture a missionary as a middle-aged man who leaves his job in America to evangelize and plant churches in Africa. But that is a simplistic view. Today, African Christians reach out to Muslims in the Middle East. College students spend their summer teaching English in Asia. A family in America befriends and witnesses to international students. A truck driver responds to an international disaster, meeting both physical and spiritual needs. All these are missionaries.

Although missionaries cannot be stereotyped, they each have a call. God calls them to set aside personal ambitions in order to be witnesses of the Gospel. Like Isaiah, a missionary gladly responds, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8b). Often God sends a missionary to a particular people group as Paul was sent to the unreached Gentiles and Peter to the Jews (Galatians 2:8). Although technically a Christian missionary is one specifically called by God and sent out by the local church, every Christian has a mission to make disciples. 

What does a Christian missionary do?A Christian missionary proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. Whom do they tell? Jesus made it clear that Christians are to reach out to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19), especially those ethnic groups without a Gospel witness. Unreached people groups are still waiting for the way, truth, and life found in Christ (Romans 15:20). But Christians at home should be missionaries in their own communities, doing personal evangelism (Acts 1:8).

Missionaries do more than evangelism. The commission was to make disciples, not immature believers. Thus, a Christian missionary's outreach involves evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. These main goals are accomplished in a variety of ways: street preaching, tract hand-outs, church building, Bible studies, teaching English as a second language, relief projects, children's clubs, mountain trekking, literacy teaching, radio broadcasting, etc. 

Why does a Christian missionary go?Christian missionaries go in obedience to God's call. God called the apostle Paul, "to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles" to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:16-18).

Jesus assured us that missionaries will face surrender and suffering. Missionaries leave friends behind, experience culture shock and rejection (Matthew 10:16-31). But instead of falling into self-pity or pride, they learn to delight in serving God. Rather than being a burden, obeying His call brings joy and reward in heaven. Therefore, a missionary serves not out of duty but love (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). 

A Christian missionary delights in spreading the good news of Christ to the lost just as Paul did: "Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord. . . . thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 2:12-17). Rather than seeking personal gain while witnessing, Christian missionaries bring glory to God by honoring Christ's righteous life, sacrificial death, and absolute authority.

Will you be a Christian missionary?A Christian missionary is an ambassador of Christ. Each one must be yielded to the Lord, loving Him with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. Specifically, a missionary is one whom God sends through the support of the Church to the unreached. All Christians, however, are called to be missionaries of the Gospel. The Lord works through them to rescue the lost. What greater call can one answer?

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/12/19

Question: "What is Christian Missions?"

Answer:Christian missions is following Christ’s call: sharing the gospel with the lost world through God’s wisdom and strength.

Christian missions is obeying Christ

After Christ’s death and resurrection, the Lord commanded the disciples to share the gospel, the message of His redemption: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20)

This Great Commission applies to Christians today. Rather than weighing us down with a burden, obeying God’s call brings joy and reward in heaven. We should fulfill our mission not out of duty but love: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. . . . All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:14–21).

God could convert everyone using a blinding light and the voice of Christ as He did with the apostle Paul. Instead, He gives Christians the mission of reconciliation (Acts 1:8–9). He works through us, calling sinners to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

Christian missions is sharing Christ

Our mission is proclaiming Christ as the only Savior from sin and the only way to abundant, eternal life. Whom do we tell? Jesus told Christians to reach out to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus sends us to all people groups, to every ethnic culture without a gospel witness.

Christian missions, however, is not limited to overseas ministry. While believers should faithfully support those who go to the unreached on foreign soil, all Christians have the mission to share Christ on the home field with family, friends, coworkers, and the community.

The Christian mission of sharing Christ does not end with a sinner’s salvation. The commission was to make disciples—not immature believers. Thus, Christian missions involves not only evangelism but also discipleship.

Christian missions is relying on Christ

Sharing the gospel humbly, boldly, and passionately is our Christian mission. But we cannot do it alone. The power and results of Christian missions come from the Lord. He gives us the wisdom, strength, and desire to witness! Through our witness, He works repentance and faith in the sinner’s heart (2 Corinthians 5:20–21).

Although missions is ultimately God’s work, Christians are responsible to understand and share the gospel and to have a strong relationship with Christ. Such a relationship guards against hypocrisy. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15–16). Jesus assured us that suffering would accompany missions, but God uses even suffering for good (Romans 8:28).

In sum, Christian missions is obeying Christ, sharing Christ, and relying on Christ. Specifically, God sends missionaries through the support of the church to the unreached. All Christians, however, have the mission of reconciliation. The Lord works through them to rescue the lost. What greater mission can one fulfill?


PART II 

Question: "Should communion be open or closed?"

Answer:The difference between “open” and “closed” communion hinges on a church’s view of the purpose of communion and the authority of the church. Churches that practice “open” communion invite all professed believers in Christ to join them in observing the ordinance. Churches that practice “closed” communion limit involvement in the Lord’s Supper to their own local body—only official members in good standing are allowed to partake. Some churches practice a third type, which they call “close” communion; in “close” communion members of other churches in the same denomination are allowed to break bread together with the members of the local church.

The Bible’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper is found in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 and promotes open participation for believers. All those who are true believers in God through personal faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, are worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper by virtue of the fact they have accepted the death of Christ as payment for their sins (see also Ephesians 1:6–7).

The reasoning behind some churches’ practice of closed or close communion is that they want to make sure everyone partaking is a believer. This is understandable; however, it places church leadership and/or church ushers in a position of determining who is worthy to partake, which is problematic at best. A given church may assume that all of their official members are true believers, but such an assumption may or may not be true.

The practice of closed communion—restricting communion to church members—is also an attempt to make sure someone doesn’t partake in an “unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:27). Closed-communion churches consider that only the local body is able to determine the spiritual worthiness of its members; there is no way of determining the spiritual condition of outsiders or strangers. However, 1 Corinthians 11:27 is referring to the mannerin which a person partakes of the bread and cup, not to his or her personal worthiness. No one is really “worthy” to commune with God; it is only by virtue of the shed blood of Christ that we have been made worthy. The mannerof partaking becomes unworthy when certain believers are excluded (verse 21), when participants refuse to share (verse 21), when drunkenness is involved (verse 21), when the poor are humiliated (verse 22), when selfishness is promoted (verse 33), or when the gathering is viewed as merely a meal to satisfy hunger (verse 34).

Biblically, communion should be open to all believers, not closed to a particular church or denomination. What’s important is that the participants are born-again believers walking in fellowship with their Lord and with each other. Before partaking of communion, each believer should personally examine his or her motives (1 Corinthians 11:28). No matter what church one belongs to, irreverence, prejudice, selfishness, and lust have no place at the Lord’s Table.


PART III 

Question: "How often should the Lord's Supper / Communion be observed?"

Answer:The Bible nowhere instructs us how often we should take communion. First Corinthians 11:23–26 records the following instructions for communion: “The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This passage gives all the instructions we need to perform the rite of communion and to understand the significance of what we are doing.

The bread that Jesus broke represents His body that was broken on the cross for us. The cup represents the blood He shed on our behalf, sealing a covenant between Him and us. Each time we observe the ordinance of communion, we are not only remembering what He did for us, but we are “showing” it as well to all who watch and all who participate. Communion is a beautiful picture of what happened at the cross, what it means, and how it impacts our lives as believers.

It would seem that, since we take the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ’s death, we should take it fairly often. Some churches have a monthly Lord’s Supper service; others do it bi-monthly; others weekly. Since the Bible does not give us specific instruction as to frequency, there is some latitude in how often a church should observe the Lord’s Supper. It should be often enough to renew focus on Christ, without being so often that it becomes routine. In any case, it’s not the frequency that matters but the heart attitude of those who participate. We should partake with reverence, love, and a deep sense of gratitude for the Lord Jesus, who was willing to die on the cross to take upon Himself our sins.


PART IV

Question: "Why is there so much disagreement about holy communion?"

Answer:Holy communion or the Lord’s Supper (also known in some churches as the Lord’s Table or the Eucharist) is the source of significant disagreement within the church as a whole. What’s agreed upon is found clearly in Scripture: communion was instituted by Jesus during His last supper with His disciples. During that time, He served them bread and “the cup.” He told them that these elements were His body and blood (Matthew 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24). He also instructed them to repeat the ceremony in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19).

Disagreements over holy communion stem from many questions: Was Jesus speaking of His body and blood figuratively or literally, or were His words a mystical combination of the figurative and literal? How often is the church to observe communion? Is the Eucharist a means of grace or simply a memorial? What was in the cup—fermented wine or unfermented grape juice?

Because Jesus did not give specific, step-by-step instructions regarding the ritual, naturally, there is some conflict about the how’s and where’s and when’s, and what exactly the bread and wine represent. There are arguments about whether or not the elements actually become the blood and body of Christ (the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation), whether they somehow contain His Spirit (Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation), or whether the wine and bread are simply symbols of His body and blood. There are differing opinions about the liturgy that should be spoken and whether or not confession should be part of the ritual. Denominations differ on the frequency of the communion, how it should be performed, and by whom.

There are four biblical accounts of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, three in the Synoptic Gospels and one in 1 Corinthians 11:23–34. When we look at these accounts in combination, we know the following:

1. During the Passover meal, Jesus blessed, broke, and offered bread to His disciples, saying, “Take eat, this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

2. He also passed around a cup, telling them to divide it among them: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins.” He also instructed all of them to drink it.

3. It was during this last meal that Jesus mentions that one of His disciples would betray Him.

4. Jesus says He will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He drinks it anew with His followers in the Father’s kingdom.

As He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus was focused on the spiritual relationship between Himself and His disciples. He did not provide particulars of how or when or where or by whom the elements should be served, and, therefore, different churches have some freedom to decide those details for themselves. For example, whether a church observes communion once a week or once a month is not really important.

However, other disagreements over communion are theologically significant. For example, if partaking of the Lord’s Table is necessary in order to receive grace, then grace is not really free and must be earned by deeds we perform, in contradiction of Titus 3:5. And, if the bread is actuallythe body of Christ, then the Lord is being sacrificed again and again, in contradiction of Romans 6:9–10. These matters are significant enough to have divided the church through the years and actually became an issue of contention during the Protestant Reformation.

Understanding that we are saved by grace, through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9) and considering Jesus’ words concerning the elements of communion to be figurative, we focus on the beauty of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28) brought into effect by Jesus’ own blood. We remember His sacrifice for us as often as we partake of the Lord’s Table (Luke 22:19). And we look forward to once again sharing the cup with Christ in the kingdom of God (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14: 25; Luke 22:18).

GOD BLESSED YOU DEARLY!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/11/19

Question: "What is the importance of the Lord's supper / Christian Communion?"

Answer:A study of the Lord’s Supper is a soul-stirring experience because of the depth of meaning it contains. It was during the age-old celebration of the Passover on the eve of His death that Jesus instituted a significant new fellowship meal that we observe to this day. It is an integral part of Christian worship. It causes us to remember our Lord’s death and resurrection and to look for His glorious return in the future.

The Passover was the most sacred feast of the Jewish religious year. It commemorated the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood of a lamb that was sprinkled on their doorposts. The lamb was then roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. God’s command was that throughout the generations to come the feast would be celebrated. The story is recorded in Exodus 12.

During the Last Supper—a Passover celebration—Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks to God. As He broke it and gave it to His disciples, He said, “‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-21). He concluded the feast by singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30), and they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. It was there that, as predicted, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. The following day Jesus was crucified.

The accounts of the Lord’s Supper are found in the Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:7-22; and John 13:21-30). The apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Paul includes a statement not found in the Gospels: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). We may ask what it means to partake of the bread and the cup “in an unworthy manner.” It may mean to disregard the true meaning of the bread and cup and to forget the tremendous price our Savior paid for our salvation. Or it may mean to allow the ceremony to become a dead and formal ritual or to come to the Lord’s Supper with unconfessed sin. In keeping with Paul’s instruction, we should examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup.

Another statement Paul made that is not included in the gospel accounts is “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This places a time limit on the ceremony—until our Lord’s return. From these brief accounts we learn how Jesus used two of the frailest of elements as symbols of His body and blood and established them as a monument to His death. It was not a monument of carved marble or molded brass, but of bread and wine.

He declared that the bread spoke of His body which would be broken. There was not a broken bone, but His body was so badly tortured that it was hardly recognizable (Psalm 22:12-17; Isaiah 53:4-7). The wine spoke of His blood, indicating the terrible death He would soon experience. He, the perfect Son of God, became the fulfillment of the countless Old Testament prophecies concerning a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). When He said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He indicated this was a ceremony that must be continued in the future. It indicated also that the Passover, which required the death of a lamb and looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, was fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper. The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant when Christ, the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), was sacrificed (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrificial system was no longer needed (Hebrews 9:25-28). The Lord’s Supper/Christian Communion is a remembrance of what Christ did for us and a celebration of what we receive as a result of His sacrifice.


PART II 

Question: "What is the proper mode of baptism?"

Answer:The simplest answer to this question is found in the meaning of the word "baptize." It comes from a Greek word which means "to submerge in water." Therefore, baptism by sprinkling or by pouring is an oxymoron, something that is self-contradictory. Baptism by sprinkling would mean "submerging someone in water by sprinkling water on them." Baptism, by its inherent definition, must be an act of immersion in water.

Baptism illustrates a believer's identification with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:3-4). The action of being immersed in the water pictures dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water illustrates Christ's resurrection. As a result, baptism by immersion is the only method of baptism which illustrates being buried with Christ and being raised with Him. Baptism by sprinkling and/or pouring came into practice as a result of the unbiblical practice of infant baptism.

Baptism by immersion, while it is the most biblical mode of identifying with Christ, is not a prerequisite for salvation. It is rather an act of obedience, a public proclamation of faith in Christ and identification with Him. Baptism is a picture of our leaving our old life and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Baptism by immersion is the only mode that fully illustrates this radical change.


PART III 

Question: "What is the symbolism of water baptism?"

Answer:Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to Him. It also expresses unity with all the saints (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:27–28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because our Lord commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Water baptism is for believers. Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation (Romans 3:23). We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected to assure our place in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). When we turn to Jesus, asking Him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ (1 Peter 1:3–5). At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into His death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin (Romans 6:3–7). When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ to be with Him forever, born into the family of our loving God (Romans 8:16). Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, so the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus (John 14:15). Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.


PART IV

Question: "What is the symbolism of water baptism?"

Answer:Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to Him. It also expresses unity with all the saints (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:27–28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because our Lord commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Water baptism is for believers. Befor we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation (Romans 3:23). We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected to assure our place in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). When we turn to Jesus, asking Him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ (1 Peter 1:3–5). At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into His death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin (Romans 6:3–7). When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ to be with Him forever, born into the family of our loving God (Romans 8:16). Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, so the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus (John 14:15). Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

GOD BLESSED YOU DEARLY!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/10/19

Question: "Does the Bible teach believer's baptism/credobaptism?"

Answer:Baptism has been a topic of debate within Christian circles for many years. In fact, it was already an issue in the early church. Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 1:13–16. The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle had baptized them, arguing about whose baptism was better. Paul rebuked them for their sectarianism and concluded with, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” From this statement it is clear that there is a marked difference between receiving the gospel and the act of baptism. They are linked but are not the same in importance.

According to the bulk of Scripture, water baptism is an important first step in following Jesus as Lord. Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:21) and told those who professed His name to follow His example as evidence that their hearts had changed (Acts 8:16; 19:5). Believer’s baptism is the act by which a believer in Jesus Christ chooses to be baptized in order to give testimony of his faith. Believer’s baptism is also called “credobaptism,” a term that comes from the Latin word for “creed,” indicating that baptism is a symbol of a person’s adopting a certain doctrine or creed.

Believer’s baptism is clearly taught in Acts 2. In this chapter, Peter is preaching the gospel message on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaims Jesus’ death and resurrection and commands the crowd to repent and believe in Christ (Acts 2:36, 38). The response to Peter’s gospel presentation is recorded in verse 41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized.” Note the order of events—they accepted the message (the gospel of Christ), and thenthey were baptized. Only those who believed were baptized. We see the same order in Acts 16, when the Philippian jailer and his family are saved. They believe, and then they are baptized (Acts 16:29–34). The practice of the apostles was to baptize believers, not unbelievers.

Believer’s baptism is distinguished from infant baptism in that an infant, who has no understanding of the gospel, cannot be a “believer” in Christ. Believer’s baptism involves a person hearing the gospel, accepting Christ as Savior, and choosing to be baptized. It is his or her choice. In infant baptism, the choice is made by someone else, not the child being baptized. Those who baptize infants often teach that water baptism is the means by which the Holy Spirit is imparted to an individual. They base this idea primarily upon Peter’s words in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those who hold this doctrine believe that the act of baptizing an infant sets the child apart and secures salvation. Nowhere in Scripture is the practice of infant baptism even implied. Some point to the few references of the apostles baptizing “households” (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 33), with the assumption that the households included infants, but this is going beyond what the text says.

In the New Testament, baptism by water was the natural result of saving faith and commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord (Acts 2:42; 8:35–37). Since infants and small children cannot make an informed decision to profess Jesus as Lord, their baptism has no spiritual significance. If infant baptism made a baby right with God, then only children whose parents desired it would be “saved.” Those who did not have believing parents would be condemned as infants, an idea with no biblical foundation. Scripture is clear that God judges the heart of every person and judges or rewards each based on the decisions made by that individual, not by his or her parents (Romans 2:5–6, Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Others teach that water baptism is a requirement for salvation, equal to repentance and confession of Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:8–9). While biblical examples show that baptism usually immediately followed conversion, nowhere did Jesus teach that baptism would save anyone. At the Last Supper, He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Faith in the power of His shed blood is all that is required to make guilty sinners right with God. Romans 5:8–9 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

If baptism were required for entrance into eternal life, then Jesus was wrong to say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The thief had no opportunity to be baptized before facing God. He was declared righteous because he placed his faith in what the Son of God was doing on his behalf (John 3:16; Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:4). Galatians 2:16 clarifies the fact that nothing we do can add or take away from the finished work of Christ on our behalf, including baptism: “A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

Water baptism is an important first step of obedience in following Christ. Believers should be baptized. But, baptism is the resultof salvation not a contributorto it.


PART II 

Question: "What is the importance of Christian baptism?"

Answer:Christian baptism is one of two ordinances that Jesus instituted for the church. Just before His ascension, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). These instructions specify that the church is responsible to teach Jesus’ word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. These things are to be done everywhere (“all nations”) until “the very end of the age.” So, if for no other reason, baptism has importance because Jesus commanded it.

Baptism was practiced before the founding of the church. The Jews of ancient times would baptize proselytes to signify the converts’ “cleansed” nature. John the Baptist used baptism to prepare the way of the Lord, requiring everyone, not just Gentiles, to be baptized because everyoneneeds repentance. However, John’s baptism, signifying repentance, is not the same as Christian baptism, as seen in Acts 18:24–26 and 19:1–7. Christian baptism has a deeper significance.

Baptism is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit—this is what makes it “Christian” baptism. It is through this ordinance that a person is admitted into the fellowship of the church. When we are saved, we are “baptized” by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, which is the church. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Baptism by water is a “reenactment” of the baptism by the Spirit.

Christian baptism is the means by which a person makes a public profession of faith and discipleship. In the waters of baptism, a person says, wordlessly, “I confess faith in Christ; Jesus has cleansed my soul from sin, and I now have a new life of sanctification.”

Christian baptism illustrates, in dramatic style, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, it also illustrates our death to sin and new life in Christ. As the sinner confesses the Lord Jesus, he dies to sin (Romans 6:11) and is raised to a brand-new life (Colossians 2:12). Being submerged in the water represents death to sin, and emerging from the water represents the cleansed, holy life that follows salvation. Romans 6:4 puts it this way: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Very simply, baptism is an outward testimony of the inward change in a believer’s life. Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord aftersalvation; although baptism is closely associated with salvation, it is not a requirement to be saved. The Bible shows in many places that the order of events is 1) a person believes in the Lord Jesus and 2) he is baptized. This sequence is seen in Acts 2:41, “Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized” (see also Acts 16:14–15).

A new believer in Jesus Christ should desire to be baptized as soon as possible. In Acts 8 Philip speaks “the good news about Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch, and, “as they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’” (verses 35–36). Right away, they stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized the man.

Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Everywhere the gospel is preached and people are drawn to faith in Christ, they are to be baptized.


PART III 

Question: "What does the husband of one wife phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2 mean?"

Answer:There are at least three possible interpretations of the phrase husband of one wifein 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV). 1) It could simply be saying that a polygamist is not qualified to be an elder, a deacon or a pastor. This is the most literal interpretation of the English rendering of the phrase, but seems somewhat unlikely considering that polygamy was quite rare in the time that Paul was writing. 2) The Greek could literally be translated as “one-woman man.” In other words, a bishop must be absolutely loyal to the woman he is married to. This interpretation acknowledges that the original text focuses not on marital status but on moral purity. 3) The phrase could also be understood to declare that, in order to be an elder/deacon/pastor, a man can only have been married once, other than in the case of a remarried widower; in other words, a pastor cannot be a divorcé.

Interpretations 2 and 3 are the most prevalent today. Interpretation 2 seems to be the strongest, primarily because Scripture allows for divorce in exceptional circumstances (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:12–16). It is also important to differentiate a man who was divorced and remarried before he became a Christian from a man who was divorced and remarried after becoming a Christian. An otherwise qualified man should not be excluded from church leadership because of his actions prior to coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Although 1 Timothy 3:2 does not necessarily exclude a divorced or remarried man from serving as an elder/deacon/pastor, there are other issues to consider.

The first qualification of an elder/deacon/pastor is to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). If the divorce and/or remarriage had no biblical grounds, then the man has damaged his testimony in the church and community; the “above reproach” qualification will exclude him from the pastorate rather than the “husband of one wife” requirement. An elder/deacon/pastor is to be a man whom the church and community can look up to as an example of Christlikeness and godly leadership. If a past divorce and/or remarriage detracts from this ideal, then he should not serve in the position of elder/deacon/pastor. It is important to remember that, even though a man is disqualified from serving as an elder/deacon/pastor, he is still a valuable member of the body of Christ. Every Christian possesses spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4–7) and is called to participate in edifying other believers with those gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7). A man who is disqualified from the position of elder/deacon/pastor can still teach, preach, serve, pray, worship, and play an important role in the church.


PART IV

Question: "Why are there so many different Christian interpretations? If all Christians have the same Bible, and the same Holy Spirit, should not Christians be able to agree?"

Answer:Scripture says there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). This passage emphasizes the unity that should exist in the body of Christ as we are indwelt by "one Spirit" (verse 4). In verse 3, Paul makes an appeal to humility, meekness, patience, and love"all of which are necessary to preserve unity. According to 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God (verse 11), which He reveals (verse 10) and teaches (verse 13) to those whom He indwells. This activity of the Holy Spirit is called illumination.

In a perfect world, every believer would dutifully study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15) in prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit's illumination. As can be clearly seen, this is not a perfect world. Not everyone who possesses the Holy Spirit actually listens to the Holy Spirit. There are Christians who grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). Ask any educator"even the best classroom teacher has his share of wayward students who seem to resist learning, no matter what the teacher does. So, one reason different people have different interpretations of the Bible is simply that some do not listen to the Teacher"the Holy Spirit. Following are some other reasons for the wide divergence of beliefs among those who teach the Bible.

1. Unbelief.The fact is that many who claim to be Christians have never been born again. They wear the label of "Christian," but there has been no true change of heart. Many who do not even believe the Bible to be true presume to teach it. They claim to speak for God yet live in a state of unbelief. Most false interpretations of Scripture come from such sources.

It is impossible for an unbeliever to correctly interpret Scripture. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). An unsaved man cannot understand the truth of the Bible. He has no illumination. Further, even being a pastor or theologian does not guarantee one's salvation.

An example of the chaos created by unbelief is found in John 12:28-29. Jesus prays to the Father, saying, "Father, glorify your name." The Father responds with an audible voice from heaven, which everyone nearby hears. Notice, however, the difference in interpretation: "The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him." Everyone heard the same thing"an intelligible statement from heaven"yet everyone heard what he wanted to hear.

2. Lack of training.The apostle Peter warns against those who misinterpret the Scriptures. He attributes their spurious teachings in part to the fact that they are "ignorant" (2 Peter 3:16). Timothy is told to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no shortcut to proper biblical interpretation; we are constrained to study.

3. Poor hermeneutics.Much error has been promoted because of a simple failure to apply good hermeneutics (the science of interpreting Scripture). Taking a verse out of its immediate context can do great damage to the intent of the verse. Ignoring the wider context of the chapter and book, or failing to understand the historical/cultural context will also lead to problems.

4. Ignorance of the whole Word of God.Apollos was a powerful and eloquent preacher, but he only knew the baptism of John. He was ignorant of Jesus and His provision of salvation, so his message was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and "explained to him the way of God more adequately" (Acts 18:24-28). After that, Apollos preached Jesus Christ. Some groups and individuals today have an incomplete message because they concentrate on certain passages to the exclusion of others. They fail to compare Scripture with Scripture.

5. Selfishness and pride.Sad to say, many interpretations of the Bible are based on an individual's own personal biases and pet doctrines. Some people see an opportunity for personal advancement by promoting a "new perspective" on Scripture. (See the description of false teachers in Jude's epistle.)

6. Failure to mature.When Christians are not maturing as they should, their handling of the Word of God is affected. "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly" (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). An immature Christian is not ready for the "meat" of God's Word. Note that the proof of the Corinthians" carnality is a division in their church (verse 4). 

7. Undue emphasis on tradition.Some churches claim to believe the Bible, but their interpretation is always filtered through the established traditions of their church. Where tradition and the teaching of the Bible are in conflict, tradition is given precedence. This effectively negates the authority of the Word and grants supremacy to the church leadership.

On the essentials, the Bible is abundantly clear. There is nothing ambiguous about the deity of Christ, the reality of heaven and hell, and salvation by grace through faith. On some issues of less importance, however, the teaching of Scripture is less clear, and this naturally leads to different interpretations. For example, we have no direct biblical command governing the frequency of communion or the style of music to use. Honest, sincere Christians can have differing interpretations of the passages concerning these peripheral issues.

The important thing is to be dogmatic where Scripture is and to avoid being dogmatic where Scripture is not. Churches should strive to follow the model of the early church in Jerusalem: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). There was unity in the early church because they were steadfast in the Apostles' doctrine. There will be unity in the church again when we get back to the Apostles' doctrine and forego the other doctrines, fads, and gimmicks that have crept into the church

GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/09/19

Question: "When did the church begin/start?"

Answer:The church began on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover when Jesus died and rose again. The word translated “church” comes from two Greek words that together mean “called out from the world for God.” The word is used throughout the Bible to refer to all those who have been born again (John 3:3) through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 10:9–10). The word church, when used to reference all believers everywhere, is synonymous with the term Body of Christ(Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18).

The word churchfirst appears in Matthew 16 when Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (verse 18). The “rock” here is the statement Peter had made, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). That truth about Jesus is the bedrock of the church that has flourished for over two thousand years. Everyone who makes that truth the foundation of his or her own life becomes a member of Jesus’ church (Acts 16:31).

Jesus’ words, “I willbuild my church,” were a foretelling of what was about to happen when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers (John 15:26–27; 16:13). Jesus still had to undergo the cross and experience the resurrection. Although the disciples understood in part, the fulfillment of all Jesus had come to do had not yet been accomplished. After His resurrection Jesus would not allow His followers to begin the work He had given them, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20), until the Holy Spirit had come (Acts 1:4–5).

The book of Acts details the beginning of the church and its miraculous spread through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:9), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 of Jesus’ followers who waited and prayed (Acts 1:15; 2:1–4). The same disciples who had quaked in fear of being identified with Jesus (Mark 14:30, 50) were suddenly empowered to boldly proclaim the gospel of the risen Messiah, validating their message with miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 2:4, 38–41; 3:6–7; 8:7). Thousands of Jews from all parts of the world were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. They heard the gospel in their own languages (Acts 2:5–8), and many believed (Acts 2:41; 4:4). Those who were saved were baptized, adding daily to the church. When persecution broke out, the believers scattered, taking the gospel message with them, and the church spread like wildfire to all parts of the known earth (Acts 8:4; 11:19–21).

The start of the church involved Jews in Jerusalem, but the church soon spread to other people groups. The Samaritans were evangelized by Philip in Acts 8. In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision that helped him understand that the message of salvation was not limited to the Jews but open to anyone who believed (Acts 10:34–35, 45). The salvation of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–39) and the Italian centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) convinced the Jewish believers that God’s church was broader than they had imagined. The miraculous calling of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–19) set the stage for an even greater spread of the gospel to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16; 1 Timothy 2:7).

Jesus’ prophetic words to Peter before the crucifixion have proved true. Though persecution and “the gates of Hades” have fought against it, the church only grows stronger. Revelation 7:9 provides a glimpse of the church as God designed it to be: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The church that Jesus began will continue until the day He comes for us (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) and we are united with Him forever as His bride (Ephesians 5:27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7).


PART II 

Question: "What is the meaning and origin of the word church?"

Answer:The Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia. A literal translation of ekklesiawould be “a called-out assembly.” How we got our English word churchis a different story, but that, too, is rooted in Greek.

Etymologically speaking, the word churchmeans “house of the Lord.” The modern word churchis a direct descendant of the Old English word ciriceor circe. The first recorded use of the Old English word is from the thirteenth century, and it could refer to either a body of Christian believers or to the place where they gathered.

The early Quakers, as a matter of principle, refused to call the buildings where they met “churches,” since in the biblical word churchreferred to people, not a building. The Quakers instead called a building designed for Christian worship a “steeplehouse.” That term is now archaic, as many church buildings no longer have a steeple.

Going further back than Old English, the word churchultimately traces its origin to a Greek term, kurikón, which was related to kurios, “lord.” The phrase kurikón oikíameant “the Lord’s house.” In the Middle Ages, the Greek term for “house of worship” was shortened to kurkón. And that’s the word that was loaned to West Germanic as kirikaand eventually to Old English as cirice.

Old Norse borrowed the Old English word ciriceto form kirkja, and that’s where the Scottish word kirkcame from. During the Middle English period, the word kirkwas borrowed from the Scots, so now Modern English has both churchand kirkas synonyms.

Many English words, especially those related to Christianity, came from Greek and passed through early German dialects. The word churchis one of those words. Other English ecclesiastical words that share a Greek origin include ChristangelevangelismbaptizeepiscopalapostlePresbyterian, and charismatic.


PART III 

Question: "What is the church?"

Answer:Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of churchis not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.

The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22–23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) until Christ’s return. Biblically, we may regard the church in two ways, as the universal church or as the local church.

The universal church consists of everyone, everywhere, who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. All those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ comprise the universal church.

The local church is described in Galatians 1:1–2: “Paul, an apostle . . . and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—they had a localized ministry and were scattered throughout the province. They were local churches. A Baptist church, a Lutheran church, an E-Free church, etc., is not thechurch, as in the universal church; rather, it is a localchurch, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of everyone who belongs to Christ. Members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.

In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of people who claim the name of Christ. Members of a local church may or may not be members of the universal church, depending on the genuineness of their faith. The local church is where believers can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12—encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.


PART IV

Question: "What is Ecclesiology?"

Answer:Ecclesiology is the study of the church. The word Ecclesiology comes from two Greek words meaning "assembly" and "word" - combining to mean "the study of the church." The church is the assembly of believers who belong to God. Ecclesiology is crucial to understand God's purpose for believers in the world today. Some important issues in Ecclesiology are:

What is the church? Many people today understand the church to be a building. This is not the biblical understanding of the church. The root meaning of "church" is not that of a building, but of people.

What is the purpose of the church? According to Scripture, the purposes / activities of the church should be: (1) teaching Biblical doctrine, (2) providing a place of fellowship for believers, (3) observing the Lord's supper, and (4) praying.

What is the importance of Christian baptism? According to the Bible, Christian baptism is simply a step of obedience, a public proclamation of one's faith in Christ alone for salvation. While baptism is not required for salvation, it is an act of obedience and faith"evidence that salvation is a reality in a person's life.

What is the importance of the Lord's Supper / Christian Communion? A study of the Lord's Supper is a soul-stirring experience because of the depth of meaning that it portrays. It is an "acted out sermon," remembering our Lord's death and resurrection, and looking to the future for His return in glory.

What does the Bible say about the form of church government? The Bible teaches that church leadership consists of a plurality of elders along with a group of deacons who serve as servants of the church. But it is not contrary to this plurality of elders to have one of these elders serving in the major "pastoral" role.

Ecclesiology helps us to understand the role of the church and our role in the church. It teaches us about the ordinances of the church, how church leadership is to be chosen and structured, and what the church is to be doing in regards to believers (worship and discipleship) and unbelievers (ministry and evangelism). A Biblical understanding of Ecclesiology would go a long way to correct many of the common problems in churches today. Above all, we must understand that the church is the Body of Christ and that each of us has a specific function and role within that body. 

A key Scripture on Ecclesiology is Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/08/19

Question: "Is repentance a change of mind or a turning from sin?"

Answer:Technically, repentance is a change of mind, not a turning from sin. The Greek word translated “repentance” is metanoia, and the meaning is simply “a change of mind.” In common usage, however, we often speak of repentance as “a turning from sin.” There is a good reason for this.

Repentance is often associated with salvation in Scripture. What happens when the Holy Spirit begins His work to bring a person to salvation? The Spirit gives the sinner a personal understanding and infallible conviction that the facts concerning his spiritual state are true. Those facts are his personal sin, the eternal punishment due him for his sin, the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ suffering for his sin, and the need for faith in Jesus to save him from his sin. From that convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), the sinner repents—he changes his mind—about sin, the Savior, and salvation.

When a repentant person changes his mind about sin, that change of mind naturally leads to a turning from sin. Sin is no longer desirable or fun, because sin brings condemnation. The repentant sinner begins to abhor his past misdeeds. And he begins to seek ways to amend his behavior (see Luke 19:8). So, ultimately, the result of the change of mind about sin is good deeds. The sinner turns away from sin toward faith in the Savior, and that faith is shown in action (see James 2:17).

The change of mind (repentance) is not precisely the same as the active turning from sin and visible performance of good deeds, but one leads to the other. In this way, repentance is related to turning from sin. When people speak of repentance as a turning from sin (rather than a change of mind), they are using a figure of speech called metonymy. In metonymy, the name of a concept is replaced with a word suggested by the original.

Metonymy is quite common in everyday language. For example, the cable television program Suitsis about lawyers. But instead of naming the program Lawyers, the producers used metonymy to name the program after the suits that identify the working lawyer. News reports that begin, “The White House issued a statement today,” are also using metonymy, as the name for the building where the President lives is substituted for the name of the President himself.

In the Bible we can see other examples of metonymy. In Mark 9:17 the father states that his son has “a mute spirit” (NKJV). The evil spirit itself is not mute. The evil spirit causes the boy to be mute. The spirit is named after the effect it produces: a mute child. The metonymy here replaces the cause with the effect. Similarly, using the word repentanceto mean “a turning from sin” replaces the cause with the effect. The cause is repentance, a change of mind; the effect is a turning away from sin. A word is replaced by a related concept. That’s metonymy.

In summary, repentance is a change of mind. But the full biblical understanding of repentance goes beyond that. In relationship to salvation, repentance is a change of mind from an embrace of sin to rejection of sin and from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. Such repentance is something only God can enable (John 6:44; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). Therefore, true biblical repentance will always result in a change of behavior. Maybe not instantly, but inevitably and progressively.


PART II

Question: "What does it mean that Christians are adopted by God?"

Answer:To adopt someone is to make that person a legal son or daughter. Adoption is one of the metaphors used in the Bible to explain how Christians are brought into the family of God. Jesus came “that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:5), and He was successful: “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children” (Romans 8:15, NLT).

The Bible also uses the metaphor of being “born again” into God’s family (John 3:3), which seems to be at odds with the concept of adoption because, normally, either a person is born into a family or adopted, not both. We shouldn’t make too much of the difference, however, because both of these concepts are metaphors and should not be played against each other.

Adoption was not common in the Jewish world. A person’s standing was based on his birth. This is the reason that, if a man died, his brother was supposed to marry the widow. The first son to be born of the new marriage would be legally considered the son of the dead brother so that his family line would continue. There was never any thought of the widow adopting a son to carry on the family name. In John 3, Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, and He uses the Jewish concept of being born again (or born from above) to explain how one is brought into God’s family.

In the Roman world, adoption was a significant and common practice. Today, we can write a will and leave our wealth and property to anyone we want, male or female. In the Roman world, with few exceptions, a man had to pass his wealth on to his son(s). If a man had no sons or if he felt that his sons were incapable of managing his wealth or were unworthy of it, he would have to adopt someone who would make a worthy son. These adoptions were not infant adoptions as is common today. Older boys and adult men were normally adopted. In some cases, the adoptee might even be older than the man who was adopting him. When the adoption was legally approved, the adoptee would have all his debts cancelled and he would receive a new name. He would be the legal son of his adoptive father and entitled to all the rights and benefits of a son. A father could disown his natural-born son, but an adoption was irreversible.

In the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and the movie starring Charleton Heston, we see a vivid portrayal of Roman adoption. In the movie, Judah Ben-Hur (a Jew) has been imprisoned on a Roman galley ship as a rower. When the ship sinks in battle, Judah escapes and saves the life of a Roman commander, Arrius. Arrius’s only son has been killed, and he ultimately adopts Judah, who is pardoned for his supposed crimes. He is also given a new name, “young Arrius,” and has all the rights of inheritance. In the scene where the adoption is announced, Arrius takes off his ancestral signet ring and gives it to young Arrius. Young Arrius says that he has received “a new life, a new home, a new father.”

Paul, writing to Roman audiences, uses the metaphor of adoption, which a Roman audience would have understood. Galatians 4:3–7 says, “So also, when we were children, we were enslaved under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive our adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God.” In this passage, Christians are born enslaved, but Jesus buys them out of slavery and they are adopted by the Father and given the Spirit, so now they are heirs.

Some have objected to the language that refers to our adoption as “sons.” What about the daughters? In the Roman world, daughters could not normally receive an inheritance. Paul, writing to male and female believers, says that both genders have been adopted so as to receive full legal rights that sons receive. Rather than diminishing the status of women, this wording elevates it. A woman may not be able to be an heir of a Roman father, but a believing woman is an heir of God.

When we come to faith in Christ, our debts are cancelled, we are given a new name, and we are given all the rights that heirs of God possess. One difference from Roman adoption is that Christians are not adopted because God thinks they will make worthy heirs. God adopts people who are completely unworthy, because He adopts on the basis of His grace.

So, Christians have been born into God’s family (using a Jewish metaphor) and adopted into God’s family (using a Roman metaphor). The end result is the same; Christians are a forever part of God’s family.


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean to trust in Jesus?"

Answer:The expression trust in Jesusholds multi-layered meaning. In one sense, trusting in Jesus means believing in Him for salvation (John 3:16). We believe who He is—God in human form—and put our faith in Him as Savior. And we believe what He has done—that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. Since we cannot save ourselves from sin and death (Romans 3:10–20), we trust in Jesus to save us (John 11:25). We cannot receive eternal life and live forever in the presence of God until we’ve trusted in Jesus as Savior and accepted His forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).

Subsequent to salvation, trusting in Jesus means committing or dedicating ourselves entirely to Him. When we are born again, we become followers of Jesus Christ. As His followers, we put complete confidence in Him and His Word. To trust in Jesus means to believe everything He said and accept His Word as true: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31–32, ESV). The more we know and abide in the words of Jesus, the more we will obey Him, and the more our confidence in Him will grow as we experience freedom in Christ.

A trustworthy promise Jesus gave us in His Word was to come to Him to find rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). A yoke is a wooden harness used to join the necks of two draft animals. Together, the beasts can more effectively pull a heavy load. In the time when Jesus spoke these words, farmers would often pair a young, inexperienced, but vigorous animal with an older, weaker, but seasoned animal. The younger animal would learn from the more experienced one, and the older would benefit from the younger one’s strength to help carry the load.

Rest, another way of expressing trust, is a state of leaning on Jesus for strength and learning from Him. He shares the load as we journey together. When we are tired and overburdened, we can come alongside Jesus and find rest for our souls. In this way, we trust in Jesus, by relying on Him for everything in our lives, especially when we are weary and burdened down. Jesus is the believer’s Sabbath-rest (Hebrews 4:1–11).

Jesus understands our weaknesses and knows we will struggle to trust in Him. That is why Scripture says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). When we take our anxious hearts to God in prayer, He offers us peace. His presence is peace. The passage does not say He’ll always give us what we’re asking for, but it does promise peace to guard our hearts and minds. To trust in Jesus means to come to Him and believe He has good and trustworthy plans for our lives and our future. We don’t have to fret about tomorrow. When we trust in Jesus, He pours out His peace on us.

Our trust in Jesus grows through experience (2 Corinthians 1:10) as we see God working all things in our lives—both the good and bad—for His purpose (Romans 8:28). Jesus wants us to live by faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:20), and so the Christian life becomes a testing and training ground in trust: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). We may know that Jesus loves us and promises always to be with us (Matthew 28:20), but we can’t see Him, and, during times of trouble, doubt and fear can creep in and make it difficult to apply that knowledge. Peter encourages us that we can trust in Jesus even when we cannot see Him: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:6–8).

Even though we can’t see Jesus with our physical eyes, the Holy Spirit enables us to see Jesus with the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians 1:18–20). Ultimately, our inability to see Jesus physically makes our trust in Him even more secure. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The apostle Paul captured what it means for a believer to trust in Jesus: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18).

Jesus is teaching us to trust Him in all things at all times with all of our heart (Proverbs 3:5–6) so that our faith becomes unshakeable: “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4). As we learn to trust in Jesus more, we identify more with the psalmist’s description of a believer at rest in the arms of God: “I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:2).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/07/19

Question: "Did Old Testament believers have eternal security?"

Answer:The answer to the question of whether Old Testament believers in the Lord had eternal security is the same as the answer to whether New Testament believers have eternal security. God does not change (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6) and is therefore consistent regarding His offer of salvation. If the New Testament believer is eternally secure in his or her salvation, so is the Old Testament believer.

Salvation has always been a gift of God, by grace through faith (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1–8; Ephesians 2:8–9). In the Old Testament, people were responsible to exercise faith in what God had revealed to them and to trust in God for their salvation; their faith was made evident in their actions. In the New Testament era, we are responsible to exercise faith in what God has done through Christ and to trust in God for our salvation; our faith is made evident in our actions.

The gift of God is eternallife, not temporarylife (Romans 6:23). God’s offer of salvation is not that we “might” have eternal life if we try really hard or if we don’t mess up too much. Salvation is based on what Christ has done, not on what we have done or will do. Hebrews 11 gives many examples of the faith of Old Testament believers, including those who sinned greatly. It confirms that they will receive what God has promised, based on the work of Christ (Hebrews 11:39–40).

Romans 8:38–39 confirms the eternal security of all believers in the strongest terms: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In this passage Paul goes out of his way to assure God’s children that absolutely nothing at all can destroy their relationship with the God of their salvation.

One major difference between believers in the Old Testament and believers in the New Testament relates to the role of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit enters a believer at the point of salvation and permanently indwells him (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13–14). This indwelling is something that Jesus had promised would occur after His ascension to heaven (John 14:17; 16:7; cf. John 7:39). In the Old Testament, it seems that the Spirit of God did not permanently indwell believers; rather, the Spirit came upon them from time to time to accomplish God’s purposes through them (Judges 3:10; 14:19; 1 Samuel 10:10; 16:14; Psalm 51:11).

The fact that the Holy Spirit came and went does not mean Old Testament believers lost (and regained) their salvation. The context of Psalm 51 is David’s repentant prayer following his sin with Bathsheba. The infant born of David and Bathsheba’s sinful union died, and David said that he would one day go to be with the child (2 Samuel 12:16–23). In other words, David believed he would one day join his departed son in heaven. David did not lose his salvation, despite his sin. 

The Old Testament saints, by faith, looked forward to the Messiah who would come to save (John 8:56). They put their faith in God to save them: “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:19–20). Today, we look back, by faith, to the Christ who has come to save. We, too, put our faith in God to save us. Together, saints from the Old and New Testaments trust that God is true to His promises: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Because of His faithfulness, we are eternally secure.


PART II 

Question: "What is a profession of faith?"

Answer:To profess something is to openly declare it. When we use the term profession of faith, we usually refer to a person’s public declaration of his or her intent to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Because words do not always reflect the true condition of the heart, a profession of faith is not always a guarantee of true salvation.

Romans 10:9–10 shows the value of a profession of faith in Christ: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Faith in the heart is accompanied by a profession of the mouth. Those who are saved will speak of their salvation—even when that profession could lead to death, as was the case for the Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing.

Our part in salvation is minimal because salvation is a spiritual work performed by the Holy Spirit. Our words don’t save us. Salvation is by grace through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), not by words we speak. Jesus’ rebuke of the Jews’ hypocrisy was based on their empty profession: “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’” (Mark 7:6).

In the days of the early church, and in many parts of the world today, confessing Jesus as Lord could be costly. Professing faith in Jesus as Messiah invited persecution, even death, for Jewish believers (Acts 8:1). That was one reason Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus (Mark 14:66–72). After Jesus rose from the dead, ascended back into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers, the formerly fearful disciples confessed Jesus boldly in the streets and synagogues (Acts 1–2). Their professions of faith won converts but also brought persecution (Acts 2:1–41; 4:1–4). They refused to stop speaking about Jesus, remembering His words: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). So, one purpose of our profession of faith is to declare that we are not ashamed to be called His followers.

Of course, words without a heart change are only words. A mere profession of faith, with no corresponding heart of faith, has no power to save or change us. In fact, Jesus warned that many who think they are saved because of a profession will find out some day that they were never His at all: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21–23). So simply professing faith in Jesus, even when the profession is accompanied by good works, does not guarantee salvation. There must be repentance of sin (Mark 6:12). We must be born again (John 3:3). We must follow Jesus as Lord of our lives, by faith.

A profession of faith is the starting place for a lifetime of discipleship (Luke 9:23). There are many ways to make professions of faith, just as there are many ways to deny Jesus. He said, “I tell you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8). One such outward profession is baptism, which is the first step of obedience in following Jesus as Lord (Acts 2:38). But baptism does not guarantee salvation, either. Thousands have been immersed, sprinkled, or dabbed with water, but that ritual cannot save. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). Baptism should symbolize the new life we have in Christ, the inner change of allegiance we possess. Without that new life and change of heart, baptism and other professions of faith are simply religious rituals, powerless in themselves.

Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit moves into a repentant heart and begins His sanctifying work of making us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). When Jesus explained this action to Nicodemus in John 3, He compared the Spirit’s moving to the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we see where it has been because it changes everything it touches. Grass moves, leaves shudder, and skin cools so that no one doubts that the wind has come. So it is with the Spirit. When He moves into a believing heart, He begins to change the believer. We cannot see Him, but we see where He has been because values move, perspectives shift, and desires begin to line up with God’s Word. We profess the Lord Jesus in everything we do and seek to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). The way we conduct our lives is a more sure profession of faith than mere words. Words are important, and a believer in Christ will be unashamed to identify as such. There were times when Jesus pressed for a verbal profession of faith (e.g., Matthew 16:15), but He also pressed for more than words: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean to have peace with God?"

Answer:Before we can understand what it means to have peace with God, we must recognize that human beings in our natural state are enemies of God. Because we inherited a sin nature from our first parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12), we are born with a disposition to please ourselves and be our own gods. That rebellious nature sets us at odds with our perfect Creator. His just nature cannot overlook our sin; justice demands punishment (Romans 3:23; 6:23). We cannot create peace with God because our best efforts on our best day are nothing but filthy rags compared to His holiness (Isaiah 64:6). So, in our sinful state, we cannot be reconciled, we cannot have peace with God, no matter how hard we try.

God took the initiative in pursuing peace with us by sending His Son to earth. Jesus lived a perfect life, His crucifixion paid for the sins of all who would trust in Him (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and His resurrection guarantees our justification before God (Romans 4:25). Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and He is the One who gives us peace with God. That’s why the message of salvation in Christ is called the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

The angels’ words to the shepherds on that first Christmas were “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” With whom is God pleased? God’s pleasure and peace rest upon those who receive God’s Son by faith (John 1:12). “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace with God means that our great sin debt has been paid and God sees us as righteous (Colossians 2:14; Romans 3:22). We are no longer enemies but beloved children (1 John 3:2). His holy nature can have fellowship with us because He sees us “in Christ.”

Peace with God means our consciences are cleared (Hebrews 10:22; Titus 3:5). The overwhelming weight of guilt that plagued us all is gone, placed on Jesus on the cross (Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24). The shame that we rightly felt for the wicked deeds we had done was carried by Jesus. God the Father adopts us as His own children and invites us to “come boldly before the throne of grace” to commune with Him and ask for what we need (Hebrews 4:16). For the Christian, maintaining a sense of peace with God means we keep our ongoing sins and failures confessed (1 John 1:9). We don’t have to keep confessing in order to establish peace with God; Jesus did that at the cross when we believed. Truly born-again people live in ongoing attitudes of repentance so that no sin will take root to defile them again (John 3:3; Romans 6:1–4). Unconfessed sin mars the joyful fellowship between a child of God and his Father.

Peace with God also allows the Christian to live without fear of death or eternity. Our hope is secure in the knowledge that Jesus has done all that was necessary to make us right with God (Matthew 5:17; John 3:16–18). Our last breath on earth will be our first breath in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6–8; Luke 16:22). The Holy Spirit has been given to us like a promise ring, a certainty that a greater event will surely take place (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). Right now, the Holy Spirit lives within us to guide, convict, comfort, and remind us of Jesus’ completed sacrifice on our behalf (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

Human beings were created to live in peace with God. Sin destroyed that peace and still destroys it for everyone who refuses Jesus’ offer of salvation. However, anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, believes in his heart that Jesus is the only way to God, and is willing to surrender to Him as Savior and Lord can have peace with God (Romans 10:9–10, 13; John 3:16, 36; Acts 2:21, 28).


PART IV

Question: "Will God forgive me?"

Answer:Are you feeling guilty and desperate? Mortified by some of the things you've done? Wondering if forgiveness is possible? The conviction of sin can bring us to a place of feeling helpless and hopeless. Our shame tempts us to think that no one, much less God, could forgive us. We might wonder how we can go on. What possible hope could there be?

Have you heard that God is a forgiving God? Have you heard about His great love? Let's start with the good news first: no one is beyond God's forgiveness. No matter what you have done, you have not out-sinned God's ability to forgive you.

The Bible tells us that all humans have sinned (Romans 3:23). Each of us is deserving of eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). No matter the sin—rape, murder, terrorism, adultery, theft, pride, gossip, jealousy, lying, not fully loving others, etc.—we deserve to be punished. It's an all-or-nothing scenario. God does not judge us on whether our "good" outweighs our "bad," but on whether we will accept His way of salvation.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16–18, ESV).

God made a way of forgiveness, not just for some sin but for all of it. There is no sin that God cannot forgive. No matter what you've done, God will forgive you if you come to Him in faith.

There is only one way of forgiveness. God won't forgive you because you promise to do better next time or because you make amends or because you do good deeds. No, He will forgive you because Jesus paid the penalty for sin on your behalf.

Jesus was fully God and fully human. He was without sin and lived a perfect life. But He was crucified on the cross. He died a sinner's death. The Bible tells us, "For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). Jesus took on our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear it. He did the work and paid the price so that we could receive forgiveness.

We know Jesus spoke truth and that His sacrifice on our behalves was effective because He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 20–22). Jesus died and was buried, but He was physically raised back to life. Jesus conquered sin and death. He made it possible for us not to be stuck in our sin and guilt and shame. He made a way for us to move past despair and into true life (John 10:10). He offers forgiveness to us if we will put our trust in Him.

Do you want to receive forgiveness from God today? There is no one prayer that will grant you this forgiveness. As has been explained, forgiveness is made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. But we can receive this forgiveness by asking God for it, in faith, through prayer. You might say something like this:

"God, I know that I have sinned against you. I know that I am deserving of being separated from you forever. I know that I can't possibly make it up to you or become righteous in myself. I need your forgiveness. You have provided a way. You sent your Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die, and rise back to life on my behalf. You have paid the price that I owed for sin so that I might be forgiven and enjoy fellowship with you. Please forgive me, God. I believe in you. Remove my guilt and bring me into new life in your Son. Thank you that I can trust that you will do this. Thank you for providing a way of forgiveness and for accepting me into your family. Amen."

If you have prayed this prayer and truly believed it in your heart, you are forgiven. You have been made new in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have become a child of God (John 1:12–13). Give God praise for releasing you of the burden of guilt and despair. We would love to connect with you. Please let us know that you've made a decision to receive God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ by sending us an email at questions@gotquestions.org.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/06/19

Question: "Why do I need to be saved?"

Answer:After their miraculous release from the Philippian jail, Paul and Silas tell their repentant jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Their words are one of many expressions of the underlying message of the whole Bible: God has provided salvation for the lost. Scripture is clear that all people need to be saved, and here are some reasons why that salvation is necessary:

– We need to be saved because we are totally lost in sin.It’s not that we need to save ourselves—we cannot do so—but that we need to be saved. The Bible teaches the total depravity of the human race; that is, every aspect of our being has been corrupted by sin. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12). We need the Good Shepherd to seek out the lost sheep and bring them home, rejoicing (see Luke 15:3–6).

– We need to be saved because we are under God’s wrath.We are “by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Without salvation, we stand condemned: “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). We need Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, to propitiate the wrath of God and forfend our judgment.

– We need to be saved because we are in danger of hell.After death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and, if we die without God’s salvation, we will meet the same fate as the rich man who lifted up his eyes “in Hades, being in torment” (Luke 16:23). We need a Savior to rescue us from a fate literally worse than death.

– We need to be saved because we are spiritually dead.Before salvation, we are “dead in [our] sins” (Colossians 2:13). Dead people can do nothing for themselves. We need resurrection. We need the life-giving power of Christ, who alone can conquer death.

– We need to be saved because our hearts are hardened by evil.“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The unsaved “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18). We need a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to fix our hearts and align them with God’s will.

– We need to be saved because we are enslaved to sin and Satan.“Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9). In our natural state, we are held in Satan’s snare and bound by his will (2 Timothy 2:26). We need a Redeemer to liberate us. In Christ we “have been set free from sin” (Romans 6:18).

– We need to be saved because we are at odds with God.“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). We need Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us to God and bring us into the family of God as adopted sons and daughters.

When Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” He spoke of necessity (John 3:7). Being saved—receiving the new birth—is not just a nice idea or a divine suggestion. It is the deepest need of the human soul: “You mustbe born again.”


PART II 

Question: "What is the meaning of spiritual rebirth?"

Answer:Spiritual rebirthrefers to the new life a person finds when he or she becomes a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This concept is also referred to as “salvation,” “regeneration,” or being “born again.”

Before spiritual rebirth, all humans are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and spiritually dead in their trespasses (Colossians 2:13). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, they brought sin and death into the world. Every one of their descendants is cursed with a sin nature—a desire to live contrary to God’s will. As we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, we all live under the same curse (Romans 3:23) and deserve death as punishment (6:23). To save us from the curse, Christ Jesus came from heaven to live on earth as the perfect God-man and die a painful death on a cross, taking upon Himself the punishment we all deserve. He then conquered death by rising from the grave three days later. After His ascension back to heaven, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in all who put their faith in Him. The entrance of the Holy Spirit into a soul is what brings about the spiritual rebirth of that person.

When the Pharisee Nicodemus visited Jesus one night, Jesus informed him that, in order to see the kingdom of God, he must be born again (John 3:3). This was a concept that Nicodemus was unable to grasp, to Jesus’ surprise. Jesus explained further: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ . . . Do you not understand these things? . . . For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:6–7, 10, 16). In saying that Nicodemus must be born again, Jesus was telling him that he must go through spiritual rebirth—he must start a new life in the Spirit—before he could enter God’s kingdom.

Jesus is the only way to forgiveness for sin and spiritual rebirth (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection, we pass from death to life; our sins are forgiven, and we are spiritually reborn. We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:18). At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit enters the believer, and “the Spirit gives life” (John 6:63). The Spirit remains in us as a deposit guaranteeing our salvation (Ephesians 1:13–14) and as a guide for the new life of spiritual rebirth (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:25). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean to be saved by grace?"

Answer:Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

The words of this famous hymn by John Newton seem to resonate with people of all theological persuasions: it is performed in churches of all kinds, from evangelical Christian, to Roman Catholic, to mainline liberal, to Mormon. It has been recorded by countless artists from Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, to the Three Tenors, to Rascal Flatts and Alan Jackson. The concept of (or at least the word) grace is firmly planted in our culture.

The concept of grace as found in the Bible is multifaceted, but it can be summed up in the definition “undeserved favor.” The Bible says that we are saved by grace. The grace of God is expressed by God’s forgiveness of our sins, and His blessings to us include peace and fulfillment in this life and, in the life to come, unencumbered fellowship with Him for all eternity. Just as the song “Amazing Grace” has gained almost universal acceptance, it is difficult to find any religious expression with roots in Christianity that does not extoll the virtues of grace. No one with even minimal exposure to Christianity would be so crass as to claim that he has lived a life of such sterling character that God owes him eternal life. The vast majority will admit that they have shortcomings and are in need of God’s grace in some form.

However, there is much misunderstanding about being saved by grace. A great many who call themselves Christians assume that the grace of God has established a system whereby the sinner can mitigate his deserved punishment by his own efforts. For some this may be a formal system of sacraments that infuse the soul with the grace of God. For others the system is less formal but still includes various religious activities, such as church attendance, baptism, contributing to the offering, and doing good deeds. While most agree that “nobody’s perfect,” many say that God in His “grace” will overlook our sins ifHe sees that we have made a genuine effort to do the right thing, mend our ways, and avail ourselves of the help He offers through the church—if He sees that the trajectory of our lives is headed in the right direction, then in His “grace” He will forgive our sins and grant us eternal life. In this view of “grace,” the sinner does not earn eternal life in an absolute sense, but his penitent response and genuine effort does trigger a gracious response from the Father. This belief, although widespread, contradicts the true meaning of grace (“unmerited favor”).

This example may help illustrate the above view of grace: a teenager works hard all summer to save money to buy a car. He works a regular job and does yard work and odd jobs on the side. He saves his money and does not spend it frivolously. Nevertheless, at the end of the summer, he simply does not have enough money to buy a car that will meet his needs. His father, seeing his diligence and frugality, graciously steps in and not only makes up the difference but also adds more money to the car fund so that his son can buy a car that is better than he thought he could ever afford. The son’s best effort was not good enough, but the father’s grace makes up the difference. No one would claim that the father was obligated to make up the difference, so, when he does, it is an act of grace. If the son had been fired from his job for showing up late, had lazed around at the pool every day instead of working, or had spent what money he had on fast food and video games, then the father would not have stepped in to make up the difference. It would be incorrect to say that the son “earned” the car, for he did not, but his effort did trigger a gracious response from his father.

According to the Bible, is this really grace? The answer is NO! Grace is undeservedfavor; it is God’s blessing on the unworthy. In the example above, the father bestowed his favor because he felt his son’s efforts should be rewarded—the father’s gift was based on a genuine effort by the son and was therefore not true grace. Jesus illustrated true grace with the story of a father who received his runaway son with celebratory joy—a totally unworthy individual who brought nothing to his father except dishonor and shame was lavished with undeserved blessings (Luke 15:11–24).

We are saved by grace, not by a mixture of God’s grace and our meritorious works. According to Scripture, we can do nothing to earn salvation, nor are our best efforts good enough to elicit a gracious response from God so that He will make up the difference. All of our righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Even considering our best efforts, we have fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23), and we deserve death (Romans 6:23). We are not commanded to “do our best” for God but to love Him perfectly and completely (Matthew 22:37). We fail in that. The command is not to “try” to love our neighbors but to actually succeed in loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). In spite of our “best efforts,” we fail—and who can honestly claim they gave it their “best effort” anyway?

People will often try to comfort those who realize their shortcomings by saying something like “Don’t be afraid—God knows your heart,” as if that should be a comfort. If God knows our hearts, we are doomed indeed—there is no place left to hide! Our only hope is to place our faith in Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose again. Our sin is imputed to Him, and His righteousness is imputed to us when we trust Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are justified not by our works (Romans 3:20) but by Jesus’ resurrection (Romans 4:25). Faith itself is not a “good work” that causes God to take notice of us. Faith is repenting of our sin, admitting that we are hopelessly and helplessly lost and unable to do anything to gain God’s favor, then simply accepting the salvation that He offers freely.

We are saved by grace; the work is God’s, not ours. “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:4–5). Here we see two great truths. First, God justifies the ungodly—not people who have done their best and somehow elicited a gracious response from God. God justifies those who do notdeserve it. Second, God justifies people who receive salvation by faith—not people who give it their best effort. If they are justified in any part based on what they do, they are receiving wages, not a gift. If grace is based on works to any degree, then it is not grace (Romans 11:6).

We are saved by grace from beginning to end. Once a person has come to faith in Christ, he will undoubtedly realize that the only reason he was able to have faith is that God was drawing him even before he knew it (see John 6:44). Left to himself, the sinner would have continued to rebel and flee from God. Even before we believe, the very desire to come to God is God’s grace at work to save us. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8, ESV; cf. Revelation 7:10).

Salvation by grace means that, from first to last, it is undeserved. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Grace is not God doing 95 or even 99.9 percent, with us making up the difference. Grace is God doing 100 percent and our humble acceptance of it, recognizing that we are unworthy and have nothing to contribute.

Could my tears forever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone—

Thou must save, and Thou alone:

In my hand no price I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

(Augustus Toplady)


PART IV

Question: "What is positional sanctification?"

Answer:To sanctify means to set apart as holy, which is what happens to sinners who are saved from sin by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). The three “phases” of salvation are positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and final sanctification. At the moment of salvation, we are sanctified or set apart positionally; that is, we are saved from the ultimate penalty of sin. Then begins progressivesanctification, the process whereby we are saved from the practice and power of sin. And after this physical life is over, we will be sanctified finally; that is, we will be saved from the presence of sin.

Positional sanctification is a one-time act of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of unbelievers whom He has chosen for salvation from sin. At the moment of salvation, believers understand and acknowledge their sinful state, their inability to save themselves through any works of their own, their need of a savior, their acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as sin’s payment, and their faith in Jesus’ resurrection. At that moment, believers are brought out of darkness into the light. We have been “justified through faith” (Romans 5:1), and our position before God has been changed forever. No longer dead in trespasses, we are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Our position changes in that we are made citizens of a whole new kingdom: “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).

Positional sanctification also changes our position as sinners deserving of God’s wrath to the position of beloved children of the Father and perfect in His eyes. Our new position means we are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27); God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9); new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17); dead to sin (Romans 6:2); and possessors of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Because salvation is an act of the Spirit, the believer’s new position cannot change, be lost, or be given back. We cannot “un-save” ourselves, nor can we alter our position before God through any of our works or the lack thereof. We are kept in the position of beloved for the rest of our lives and throughout eternity. Positional sanctification is the work of God whereby He declares us already set apart and holy in His eyes: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Positional sanctification is not dependent on our feelings or whims; it is a fact of salvation, even though our actions on earth do not always align with our position in heaven.

Positional sanctification inevitably leads to progressive sanctification, with good works as the inevitable result. Those who are born again will naturally begin to act according to their new nature in Christ, and the result will be increasing holiness in personal living (1 Peter 1:15–16). The positionally sanctified will be progressively sanctified by the same Holy Spirit who justified us in the first place. The works that God has foreordained for us will be accomplished through His power (Ephesians 2:10).

Once we have been positionally sanctified, the process of progressive sanctification begins. Progressive sanctification is the lifelong process of becoming more Christlike as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and yield to His control (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Once we are positionally sanctified, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to progressively sanctify us (John 17:17) so that in the end our practical holiness aligns with our positional holiness when we see Christ face to face in glory (1 John 3:2).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/05/19

Question: "What does it mean that salvation is by grace through faith?"


Answer:Salvation by grace through faith is at the heart of the Christian religion. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). The statement has three parts—salvation, grace, and faith—and they are equally important. The three together constitute a basic tenet of Christianity.


The word salvationis defined as “the act of being delivered, redeemed, or rescued.” The Bible tells us that, since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, each person is born in sin inherited from Adam: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is what causes all of us to die. Sin separates us from God, and sin destines each person to eternal separation from Him in hell. What each of us needs is to be delivered from that fate. In other words, we need salvation from sin and its penalty.


How are we saved from sin? Most religions throughout history have taught that salvation is achieved by good works. Others teach that acts of contrition (saying we are sorry) along with living a moral life is the way to atone for our sin. Sorrow over sin is certainly valuable and necessary, but that alone will not save us from sin. We may repent of our sins, also valuable and necessary, and determine to never sin again, but salvation is not the result of good intentions. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. We may fill our lives with good works, but even one sin makes us a sinner in practice, and we are already sinners by nature. No matter how well-intentioned or “good” we may be, the fact is that we simply do not have the power or the goodness to overcome the sin nature we have inherited from Adam. We need something more powerful, and this is where grace comes in.


The grace of God is His undeserved favor bestowed on those He has called to salvation through His love (Ephesians 2:4–5). It is His grace that saves us from sin. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Being justified, we are vindicated and determined to be sinless in the eyes of God. Our sin no longer separates us from Him and no longer sentences us to hell. Grace is not earned by any effort on our part; otherwise, it could not be called grace. Grace is free. If our good works earned salvation, then God would be obligated to pay us our due. But no one can earn heaven, and God’s blessings are not His obligation; they flow from His goodness and love. No matter how diligently we pursue works to earn God’s favor, we will fail. Our sin trips us up every time. “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20, NKJV).


The means God has chosen to bestow His grace upon us is through faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Salvation is obtained by faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in what He has done—specifically, His death on the cross and His resurrection. But even faith is not something we generate on our own. Faith, as well as grace, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). He bestows saving faith and saving grace upon us in order to redeem us from sin and deliver us from its consequences. So God saves us by His grace through the faith He gives us. Both grace and faith are gifts. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8, ESV).


By grace, we receive the faith that enables us to believe that He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and provide the salvation we cannot achieve on our own. Jesus, as God in flesh, is the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Just like the author of a book creates it from scratch, Jesus Christ wrote the story of our redemption from beginning to end. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4–6). The Lord died for our sins and rose for our justification, and He forgives, freely and fully, those who accept His gift of grace in Christ—and that acceptance comes through faith. This is the meaning of salvation by grace through faith.


PART II 

Question: "What does it mean that our sins are washed away?"


Answer:When the Bible speaks of our sins being washed away, it means we are forgiven. Our sins, which had defiled us, are gone. By the grace of God through Christ, we are no longer spiritually corrupt; we stand justified before God.


The concept of having our sins washed away is first introduced in the Old Testament. When God gave instructions for consecrating the Levites, He said, “Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves” (Numbers 8:7). Isaiah 1:16 commands the rebellious people to “wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil.” God often used physical illustrations to help us understand spiritual truths. We understand that washing with water makes us physically clean, so the Bible takes that concept and applies it to our spiritual state.


Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded people to purify themselves by following rigorous instructions about sacrifices, ritualistic bathing, and types of clothing to wear (Exodus 30:20; Numbers 19:21; Joel 1:13). From ancient times, God’s people understood that sin makes us dirty, and dirty people are unworthy to enter into the presence of the Lord. Many of the laws in the Old Testament were given for the purpose of contrasting God’s holiness with man’s unholiness.


David wrote of his need to have his sins washed away. After his sin with Bathsheba was exposed by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 11), David repented with great sorrow. In his prayer of repentance, he says, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). Jesus refers to Nicodemus’s need to have his sins washed away: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Human beings have always needed some way to have our sins washed away.


The New Testament continues the theme of washing sins away. Ananias told Paul to “be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). God had demonstrated through the Law that we cannot purify ourselves; only He can. So when Ananias instructed Paul to be baptized to wash away his sins, Paul understood that, despite his exalted status as a Pharisee, he was as sin-covered as the lowest tax collector (1 Timothy 1:15–16).


The Bible makes it clear that every human being is born into this world as a sinner (Romans 3:23). That sin makes us ceremonially unclean and unfit to enter into the presence of God. The blood of Christ is what washes our sins away (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19). Hebrews 9 contrasts the old methods of cleansing with the new covenant that came through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to establish a new way of being made right with God. Hebrews 9:13–14 says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”


When we, through faith, apply the blood of Jesus to our unclean souls, God pronounces us ceremonially clean (Titus 2:14; 3:5). He washes our sins away, as it were; He places our sin debt upon His own Son and declares us righteous in His sight (Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God chooses to forget our sin and remove it far from Him (Psalm 103:12). We are still sinners in practice, but righteous in position. An adopted child becomes a son the moment the judge declares him so, even though he may not know the parents well, understand their house rules, or be deserving of their love in any way. Over time, he grows to know and love them, assimilating into their family life, and becoming in practice what he was already declared to be in position.


So it is with us. Our sins are washed away the moment we place our faith and trust in the saving work of Jesus on our behalf (Acts 2:21). Over time, we grow to know and love our Father, assimilate into our Christian family, and become in practice what we have already been declared to be in position (2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:3). The joy of the Christian life is that, even though we are not perfect, we can live every moment with the confidence that our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus and we have been pronounced “clean” by the final Judge (see Genesis 18:25 and Romans 8:33).


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus took our place?"


Answer:On the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin. He did not deserve to die, but He willingly took our place and experienced death for us. Jesus’ death was a substitution, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18), the innocent for the guilty, the perfect for the corrupt.


The doctrine of the substitutionary atonement teaches that Christ suffered vicariously, being substituted for the sinner, and that His sufferings were expiatory (that is, His sufferings made amends). On the cross, Jesus took our place in several ways:


Jesus took our place in that He was made sin for us. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB). As Jesus was hanging on the cross, suspended between earth and heaven, the sins of the world were placed on Him (1 Peter 2:24). The perfect Son of Man carried our guilt.


Jesus took our place in that He experienced physical death—not just any death, but the death of a lawbreaker. Everyone dies, but there is a difference between dying a “natural” death and being executed for one’s crimes. Sin is the violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, ESV). Since we have all sinned, we all deserve death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Jesus releases us from that penalty. Although He had committed no crime (see Luke 23:15), Jesus was executed as a criminal; in fact, it is becauseHe was sinless that His death avails to us. He had no personal sin to pay for, so His death pays for ours. Our legal debt has been paid in full—tetelestai(John 19:30). As the old gospel song says, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.”


So, Jesus took our place judicially, bearing the penalty of sin and dying in our place. “When you were dead in your sins . . . , God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14). In other words, God nailed all the accusations against us to the cross. God will never see believers in Christ as deserving the death penalty because our crimes have already been punished in the physical body of Jesus (see Romans 8:1).


God’s Law says, “You are guilty of sin against a holy God. Justice demands your life.” Jesus answers, “Take My life instead.” The fact that Jesus took our place shows God’s great love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).


But the penalty for sin extends beyond physical death to include a spiritual separation from God. Again, in this matter, Jesus took our place. Part of Christ’s agony on the cross was a feeling of separation from the Father. After three hours of supernatural darkness in the land, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, we need never experience that sense of abandonment (Hebrews 13:5). We can never fathom, at least in this life, how much God the Son suffered in taking our place.


We know Jesus’ suffering was intense. In the days leading up to the crucifixion, Jesus expressed distress about what was coming (John 12:27). But those who tried to dissuade Him from going to the cross were sharply rebuked—the offer to avoid the ordeal was a temptation from Satan himself (Matthew 16:21–23), and Jesus had not come to take the easy way out. On the night of His arrest, Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Even with having an angel to strengthen Him, Jesus actually sweated blood (Luke 22:43–44).


In order for us to be saved, Jesus had to take our place and die for sin. He had to lay down His life as a sacrifice, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). His sacrifice was perfect in holiness, in worth, and in power to save. After His resurrection, Jesus showed His scars to the apostles (John 20:26–27). As long as our salvation lasts (forever), the marks of our Savior’s suffering will be visible (Revelation 5:6)—an eternal reminder that He took our place.


“Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering. . . .

He was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed. . . .

The Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all”

(Isaiah 53:4–6).


PART IV

Question: "What is the horn of salvation?"


Answer:The horn of salvation is mentioned several times in the Bible, but what does this expression mean? What does salvation have to do with a horn?


In the Old Testament, the word hornsignifies many things. Of course, one usage of hornwas to refer to a pointed bony structure growing out of an animal’s head (Genesis 22:13). Animal horns, used for fighting, protection, and securing dominance, became symbols of strength, power, and victory. Often, Scripture’s mention of a “horn” is as a literary symbol representing potency and power.


For example, in Daniel 7:7 and 24, the ten horns of Daniel’s fourth beast represent ten kings. In Psalm 75:10, God says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.” In other words, the righteous will prevail, no matter how strong the wicked seem to be. In Jeremiah 48:25, “Moab’s horn is cut off” means that the strength of Moab is gone. The four horns in Zechariah 1:18–19 represent the powerful nations that attacked and scattered Israel.


Animal horns were also used as receptacles for oil (1 Samuel 16:1) or as a shofar trumpet (Joshua 6:5). The prayer in Psalm 92:10 contains both a reference to oil and a figurative use of horn: “You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured on me.”


In 1 Samuel 2:1 Hannah prays, “In the Lord, my horn is lifted high,” indicating the strength that will come from her having a child. In Luke 1:69 Zechariah praises God that “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” In this case, the “horn of salvation” is a reference to Jesus Christ, the powerful deliverer and king who was soon to be born.


Another significant instance of the word hornin the Old Testament is in reference to the protrusion at each corner of the altar (Exodus 27:2). In worship, the horns of the altar were dabbed with blood to purify them and make atonement for sin (Leviticus 8:15; 4:6). The horns of the altar speak of the power of God’s salvation. That part of the altar also became a place of refuge and sanctuary for a fugitive (1 Kings 1:50).


We often see the horn in Scripture as a symbol of salvation. Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” In the New Testament, Jesus is the horn of salvation (Luke 1:68–69). Thus, a title applied to Yahweh is also applied to Jesus; they are both called “the horn of salvation.” The very name Jesusmeans “The Lord Is Salvation.” The salvation Jesus offers is strong, triumphant, and powerful. Just like the horns on the altar offered refuge and atonement, Jesus offers clemency and cleansing through His death on the cross. However strong our spiritual foe, the horn of our salvation is stronger still.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/04/19

Question: "Why doesn't God save everyone?"


Answer:“If God loves us and wants us to spend eternity with Him, why doesn’t He just save everyone now?” This question and others like it often keep people from seeking God further, as they assume that this question is the mountain that cannot be scaled. But the question itself is based upon some faulty assumptions. When those assumptions are corrected, the question of why God doesn’t save everyone no longer carries the weight it once did.


Any time we ask a question about God from our limited earthly perspective, we are working under a handicap. In essence, we are tiny dust specks looking up into the universe and demanding that it make sense to our finite minds. Often, when we ask, “Why doesn’t God just save everyone?” we start with the assumption that we are more compassionate than God is, and that puts us on the wrong track from the get-go. God is perfect, and His ways are far beyond human comprehension (Isaiah 55:8–9). When we accept that reality and align our thinking with His perspective, we position ourselves for greater understanding.


Knowledge begins in heaven with God (Proverbs 9:10). He is infinitely creative, and at some point, He created our universe (Genesis 1:1). He spoke everything into existence (Genesis 1) except man. When He created Adam, He got down in the dirt and formed his body from clay. Then He blew into the man’s nostrils, “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). It was the breath of God that separated mankind from all other living creatures. That “living soul” was immortal, meant to last forever. God had chosen to create a being so like Him that the man could reason, reflect, intuit, and choose his own paths. Without that right to choose, human beings would not bear God’s image (see Genesis 1:27). God respects what He has created to such an extent that He will not allow even His overwhelming love to violate our free will. Why doesn’t God just save everyone? Because He will not violate the free will He has given us.


One astounding facet of God’s human creation is that He made Himself emotionally vulnerable to us. He didn’t have to do that. The triune God has forever been the very definition of joy, love, and peace; He is complete in Himself with no needs or unmet desires. Untold millions of created beings worship and serve Him day and night (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11; 7:11; Isaiah 6:1–3). Yet He gives human beings the high privilege of bringing Him pleasure or sorrow. We can reflect His glory in ways unique to our design (Proverbs 16:7; Psalm 147:11; 149:4). Or we can reject His love and His commands (Ezekiel 8:17; 33:11; 2 Kings 22:17). God’s act of creating us can be compared to a husband and wife who are perfectly happy and content in themselves, but they decide to have a child. That decision brings with it the potential for exceeding joy and exceeding sorrow. They have chosen to alter their lives by creating a vulnerability that they did not have to create. As they love and care for that child, they long for the child to love them back. But they won’t force the love, because forced love is not love at all. Why doesn’t God just save everyone? Because our love for Him must be voluntary.


God pours out His love and provision on this earth (Matthew 5:45), desiring that His human creations acknowledge His truth and love Him back. He makes Himself known in thousands of ways (Psalm 19:1; 97:6; Romans 1:19–20), working behind the scenes to bring us into a position to reach out to Him (Isaiah 46:10–11; Proverbs 16:33). He provides, protects, and blesses, giving mankind numerous opportunities to look up and find Him (Matthew 5:44; Jeremiah 29:13; Romans 2:4). But He won’t force salvation on the unwilling. Why doesn’t God just save everyone? Because gifts must be willingly received.


God has given His very best—His only begotten Son—to settle our sin debt (John 3:16–18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He does not take the rejection of that offer lightly. The Father who watched His own beloved Son be tortured to death for the benefit of an ungrateful mob refuses to degrade that sacrifice by deciding later that it was not truly necessary (see Acts 4:12; Isaiah 42:8). Why doesn’t God just save everyone? Because salvation can only come through faith in Christ. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).


We err when we, from our earth-bound perspective, magnify the love of God out of proportion to His justice, righteousness, and wrath toward sin (Romans 1:18; Isaiah 61:8). Sin is serious, and the debt against our Creator must be paid (Colossians 2:14). We can accept Jesus as our substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21), or we can pay for sin ourselves in eternity (Matthew 25:46; Jude 1:7). C. S. Lewis has famously stated, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened” (from The Great Divorce).


PART II

Question: "What is forgiveness?"


Answer:Forgiveness in the Bible is a “release” or a “dismissal” of something. The forgiveness we have in Christ involves the release of sinners from God’s just penalty and the complete dismissal of all charges against us (see Romans 8:1). Colossians 1:14 says that in God’s beloved Son “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Amplified Bible translates the last phrase like this: “the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty].” God’s gracious forgiveness of our sin is to be the measure of our gracious forgiveness of others (Ephesians 4:32).


To some people, forgiveness may seem like weakness or letting an undeserving person win, but it has no connection to weakness or even to emotions. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what he or she has done to you.


What is forgiveness in relation to salvation?

Forgiveness is an integral part of salvation. When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is comparable to financial debt being erased. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” from the cross (John 19:30), He was literally saying, “It is paid in full” (tetelestaiin Greek). Jesus took the punishment we deserved, so, when God forgives us of our sins, we are free; we no longer live under that debt. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold that sin against us (Psalm 103:12).


It is impossible to have salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s deliverance from the consequences of sin. God’s salvation in Christ is the ultimate example of forgiveness. Have you accepted forgiveness from God?


What is forgiveness of others?

Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both passages is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!


The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us. We keep no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5) but forgive as many times as necessary (Matthew 18:21–22). Refusing to forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a growing Christian.


God promises that, when we come to Him confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it for the sake of Christ (1 John 1:9). Likewise, the forgiveness we extend to others should know no limits (Luke 17:3–4).


PART III 

Question: "What is the relationship of faith, works, and security in salvation?"


Answer:We believe in eternal security, that is, once a person is born again by the power of God, he is saved forever. Jesus gives “eternal life” (John 10:28), not temporary life. But we often get questions having to do with losing faith. How is salvation maintained? What if someone had saving faith at one time in his life, but later loses faith? Are good works necessary to sustain faith? Are we really secure in Christ?


There are four basic approaches to the issues surrounding faith, works, and security. The first approach is to say that you must have faith and continued obedienceto be saved. You will not know for sure that you’re saved until you die and your life is finally evaluated by God. Then you will be saved or lost based on your performance in life. This is the basic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the thought of many Protestants. However, this approach does not adequately explain the teaching of Scripture that we are saved by grace through faith and that salvation is something that takes place here and now—not just in the afterlife.


The second approach to the relationship of faith, works, and security says that you are saved by faith to the exclusion of works. In this line of thinking, if you profess faith in Christ and subsequently repudiate your faith or embrace gross sin, you are still saved, because you are saved no matter what you do. This approach, sometimes called “easy believism,” does not take seriously the warnings in Scripture that emphasize personal holiness and enduring faith.


The third approach to faith, works, and security states that you are saved by faith, but you must somehow maintain your salvation through a combination of faith and works—or at least you must avoid flagrant, unrepentant sin. In other words, you may be saved, justified, born again, adopted into God’s family, and indwelt with the Holy Spirit yet still fall away and ultimately be lost. While this approach does take seriously Scripture’s warnings against sin, it still does not properly account for the many passages that speak of assurance of salvation, not to mention that we are saved apart from our works.


The final approach to faith, works, and security affirms that you are saved by faith based on the merit of Jesus Christ who died for you. In a great exchange, your sin was placed on Christ, and His righteousness was placed on you. The result of being born again and indwelt with God’s Spirit is that He begins to change you from the inside out. Your inner change becomes outwardly visible by continued faith and increasing obedience. If you profess faith in Christ but offer no evidence of a changed life, we have good reason to suspect that your initial profession may not have been genuine (Matthew 7:21).


The first approach fails because it adds works to faith as the means of salvation and denies security. The second approach fails because it ignores the need for a changed life (see Ephesians 1:4). The third approach fails because it places on us the duty of maintaining salvation instead of on Christ where it belongs (see Galatians 1:1–3). The fourth and final approach is biblical. We are saved by faith, not by our own good works (Ephesians 2:8–9), yet we are saved to do good works(Ephesians 2:10).


Many people talk about eternal security. The old Reformed term is perseverance of the saints. We persevere because the God who saves the believer is also the God who keeps the believer safe and enables him or her to continue in faith and good works (Philippians 1:6).


PART IV

Question: "Can a person believe in some sense but not be saved?"


Answer:There are different levelsof belief, and different objectsof belief, and not all that’s called “belief” is actually saving faith. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” So, if a person simply believes that there is a God in heaven—and that’s the extent of his faith—then he has exactly the same faith as the demons of hell. That’s not saving faith, even though it involves a measure of belief. Therefore, yes, a person can “believe” in some sense but not be saved.


Simon the sorcerer in Samaria is said to have “believed and was baptized” at the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:13). But later, when Simon offers the apostles money to have their ability to impart the Holy Spirit (verses 18–19), he is rebuked sternly by Peter: “May your money perish with you. . . . You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God” (verses 20–21). Was Simon saved, based on his “belief”? Before we answer that, we should acknowledge the difficulty of building a doctrine on a narrative passage in Acts. Such passages were never meant to be extrapolated into foundational teachings, and we are not necessarily given all the facts we need to make a doctrinal determination. Concerning Acts 8, some would say that Simon lost his salvation (a view that contradicts other passages, such as John 10:28–30). Others would say that Simon’s initial belief was not genuine—he was never saved to begin with. And others might say that Simon was truly saved but, having a deficient understanding of the Holy Spirit, made a horrible suggestion. After Simon was rebuked, he seems to have some measure of repentance (verse 24). We are not told how the story ends. Our conclusion is that Simon did notlose his salvation; either he had made a false profession or he offered a horrible suggestion out of ignorance and greed.


It is quite possible for a person to have an initial positive response to the gospel without being saved. He may feel his heart stirred at the stories about Jesus. He may even identify with Christ through baptism and church membership and get involved in ministry—all the while not being born again. We see instances of this in Scripture (Matthew 7:21–23; 13:24–30) and in everyday life.


We can illustrate the disconnect between some kinds of “belief” and saving faith this way: many Americans are overweight, and at the same time there are thousands of weight-loss products available. People will see an infomercial about the latest home exercise equipment, and they say, “That’s just what I need!” and they buy the equipment. They receive their purchase and eagerly use it—for a couple of weeks. Six months later it’s back in the box packed away somewhere. What happened? They believed in a product, but it wasn’t the type of belief that led to lower body weight. Nothing really changed in their lives. They had an initial positive response, but rather than possessing genuine “faith,” so to speak, they were merely indulging a passing fancy. People do this with Christ as well (see Matthew 13:5–7).


In Matthew 7:21–23 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Notice here that the people Jesus condemns were actively involved in ministry, but they were not genuine believers. They had faith of a sort—they acknowledged who Jesus is—but they had no relationship with Him. Jesus does not say that at one time He knew them, but then He later rejected them. He says, “I neverknew you.” They were never saved to begin with.


Another passage that shows people “believing” without being saved is Jesus’ first parable. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 highlights the various responses that people have to the gospel (the “seed”). In verses 5–7 we see that “some [seed] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Here two of the “soils” had an initial positive response—the seed sprouted but never matured. The picture here is not that these people were saved and then lost salvation but that their initial response, as joyful as it may have been, was not genuine.


The book of Hebrews and the warnings contained therein can be also understood this way. The recipients of the epistle were Jews who had come out of the synagogue and joined themselves to the Christian community. They “believed” a lot of things about Jesus, but at least some of them were not saved. Their mental acknowledgement of Jesus had not resulted in commitment to Him. When the persecution of the church began, the “fence-sitters” were tempted to abandon Christ and go back to the old Jewish sacrificial system. The writer of Hebrews compares them to the generation that came out of Egypt but refused to enter the Promised Land. Although they started on the trip with Moses (an initial positive response) they refused to enter because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19). Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 issue warnings against so-called belief without salvation.


In John 6, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, many people turn away from Jesus and no longer follow Him (John 6:66). Jesus then asks the Twelve if they will abandon him as well. Peter answers that they could never leave their Lord (verse 68). Then Jesus says, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (verse 70). The “devil” here is Judas Iscariot, who would later betray Jesus. What’s interesting is that we see Peter and Judas side by side. Both expressed faith in Christ. Both “believed” in the sense that they knew Jesus personally, they saw the miracles, and they had committed years of their lives to Him. But the level of their “belief” was different. Peter would later deny Christ, but after the denial Peter repented and became a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9). Judas, on the other hand, betrayed Jesus and never repented, although he realized that he had made a mistake and was sorry (Matthew 27:5). Judas is never presented as a disciple who lost his salvation; rather, he is one who had never truly believed unto salvation (see John 6:64).


Peter denied Christ, but only for a short span of time in his life of faith. Judas affirmed Christ, but only for a short span of time in his life of unbelief. Neither Peter’s denial nor Judas’s profession was indicative of the underlying condition of their hearts—a condition that was eventually made evident (see Matthew 7:16). We see similar professions in the church sometimes. Some people seem to be on fire for God for a short time, only to later repudiate what they believed and abandon themselves to a blatant violation of biblical principles. They did not lose salvation; they never had it—they were simply going through a “Christianity phase” that eventually passed. See 1 John 2:19.


God knows our hearts. We, however, cannot see the hearts of other people and may often be deceived about our own hearts as well. That’s why Paul writes, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we want confidence about our spiritual situation, we need to do more than look back to some words we said in the past when we “accepted Christ”; we need to also examine our current condition to see if there is evidence of God’s work in our lives today—changing us from within, convicting us of sin, and drawing us to repentance.


Church discipline (see Matthew 18:15–18) forces the issue. If a professed believer is living in open sin and no one ever confronts him, then he can remain on the fence. If he is confronted by one, then by two or three believers and then by the whole church, he has to decide. Either he will admit he is sinning and repent, thus giving evidence of his salvation, or he will decide that he never really wanted to be part of this life in Christ anyway and exit the situation. One way or the other, the situation is clarified.


The epistle of 1 John is important because it provides many signs of saving faith, so that we can knowthat our faith is genuine (see 1 John 5:13). Also, believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).

GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/03/19

Question: "Is entire sanctification possible in this life?"


Answer:Entire sanctification, also known as Christian perfectionism or sometimes sinless perfection, is the teaching that a Christian can reach such a state of holiness that he or she ceases to sin in this life.


The words sanctificationsanctifysaintholy, and consecrateall come from the same root and all have to do with being “set apart.” God is holy in that He is set apart from every other thing and especially set apart from any sin. When applied to creatures, sanctification has two senses. The first refers to the formal declaration that something has been set apart for God. For instance, the various pieces of equipment used in the tabernacle and temple were consecrated—set apart for specific use by God. Likewise, the priests were consecrated for service to God. When people come to faith in Christ, they are sanctified—they are formally designated as belonging to God. They are a holy people (1 Peter 2:9). Even the Corinthian church, which had members participating in all sorts of ungodly behavior, could be referred to as a group of “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2) because they were children of God through faith in Christ. This is often called “positional sanctification.”


There is a second sense in which sanctification applies to believers. When they initially come to faith and are set apart for God, their actions may not be much different from their actions before. They have been formally (positionally) sanctified, but now they need to be practicallysanctified—that is, they need to start living in a way that is set apart to God; they need to practice holiness. As believers grow in their relationship with the Lord, their behavior should change to be more conformed to what God desires—they will become more and more sanctified. This is often called “progressive sanctification.”


Using these two senses of the word sanctified, it is fitting to say that all believers are sanctified, but they also need to increasingly be more sanctified. They are holy, but they need to increase in holiness. They are saints, but they need to live like saints. The question regarding entire sanctification is, can any believer become fully sanctified in the practical sense? Can a believer reach a point in this life where he is so in fellowship with God and so in tune with the Holy Spirit that he no longer commits sin?


Those who hold to the doctrine of entire sanctification believe that it is indeed possible for Christians to be so sanctified in their behavior that they no longer sin. According to the concept of entire sanctification, it is possible not to sin, and some believers actually fulfill this possibility in their daily lives. Entire sanctification is then presented as an ideal that is attainable for any believer. The command to “be holy” in Matthew 5:48 is just one verse that is used as proof of this possibility. Why would God command us to do something that is impossible for us to do? Perhaps 1 John 3:6 is the most powerful proof-text: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”


Those who deny the possibility of entire sanctification agree that holiness is the goal and should be the desire of every believer, but that it simply cannot be attained here on earth—sin is simply too pervasive. Interpreting 1 John 3:6, they would point out that the verb sinsis in the present tense and indicates an ongoing, habitual pattern of unrepentant sin. They would also point out that the epistle of 1 John also speaks of Jesus being the Advocate for sinning believers and that, if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves (1 John 2:1; 1:8).


In the final analysis, there is nothing in Scripture that teaches that believers will become perfect in this life. Entire sanctification will take place when we reach heaven, but not until. The expectation is that believers on earth will continue to sin and need to be cleansed (1 John 1:9). It is realistic to expect that Christians will not live in conscious sinful rebellion against God, but sin is too pervasive to ever escape its contaminations in this life. The goal is that, even though sin is present, it should not dominate us. “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11–14). At any given moment, a believer may be cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than actively rebelling against it, but, even in our best moments, we have not reached sinless perfection.


The commands of God and the demands of Scripture upon our lives are encompassing; it strains credulity for any believer to claim that he is living in perfect obedience to all that God has said. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and that the second is similar: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38). It is one thing for a believer to say that there is no known area of rebellion against God in his or her life, but it is quite another to say that he or she loves God wholly and perfectly. It is one thing to say that a believer does not harbor any hatred for his neighbor, but quite another to assert that the believer loves his neighbors the way he loves himself. First Thessalonians 1:17 commands believers to “pray without ceasing.” A believer may have a robust prayer life, but can any believer in all honesty claim to fully obey this command? Most believers find that, when they are convicted of one area of sin and repent of it, they will then become aware of another area that they may not have been aware of before. If a Christian has come to the place where he simply cannot identify any areas of sinfulness in his own life, he should not assume he has attained entire sanctification. Rather, he would be well advised to ask his spouse or other close friends or relatives for their perspective. He might be surprised at how blinded he has become to areas of sinfulness in his own life that are readily evident to others.


PART II

Question: "Is it possible for a believer to unbelieve?"


Answer:The question of whether a believer can become an unbeliever usually arises in an attempt to explain puzzling situations involving people we know. Someone who at one time made a profession of faith denies the faith. By all outward appearances, he was a believer involved in church life and perhaps even in ministry. So what happened? Is this a case of a believer becoming an unbeliever?


There are a number of prominent skeptics who started out as professing believers. Dan Barker, atheist and president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, started out as a minister and Christian musician. Charles Templeton (now deceased) was an evangelist who at one time toured with Billy Graham but later became an outspoken agnostic. Bart Ehrman is a New York Timesbest-selling author and well-known skeptic who continually casts doubt upon the reliability of the New Testament. Ehrman describes himself as a former born-again fundamentalist. He studied at Moody Bible Institute and graduated from Wheaton College.


Aside from these high profile cases are the thousands, perhaps millions of people who have made professions of faith, often as children, but years later maintain no faith in Christ. Whether they call themselves atheistic, agnostic, or simply uninterested, they have left the faith. What are we to make of these people? Were they born-again believers at one time, but now they are unbelievers?


There are a number of possibilities that are often suggested.


The first possibility is to affirm that these people were and still are saved, born again, made part of the Body of Christ, and indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Since God’s salvation is irreversible, once a person has been saved, he will always be saved regardless of any future state of unbelief or disobedience. It seems that parents often take comfort in this idea, for, even though a child may be walking far from the Lord, the parent holds on to a specific time and place where the child “accepted Christ.”


The second possibility is to agree that these people were once true believers but that, when they stopped believing, they lost their salvation. All of God’s blessings have been reversed. The former believers have become unbelievers and unsaved.


The third possibility is that, although these people may have given outward signs of having genuine faith, their subsequent choices and statements reveal that they were never true believers. No matter what they say, they were never born again and sealed by the Spirit. True believers may experience times of doubt, uncertainty, disobedience, and momentary unbelief, but they will never renounce their faith. This idea is known as the perseverance of the saints—all who are truly saved will persevere (continue) in their faith, kept by the power of God. We can only know if a “decision for Christ” was genuine by the fruit that it produced. This is the approach that is most supported by Scripture.


Scripture and history are filled with examples of people who made an initial positive response to Christ only to fall away later. In the parable of the sower and the seed, some of the seed sprung up quickly, only to wither away or be choked out by weeds. “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:20–22). But the seed (the gospel) sown on good soil brings forth fruit for harvest. In the initial stages, it might be very difficult to tell which plants will make it or not. Time reveals the truth.


In John 6, Jesus calls himself the Bread from Heaven and makes some statements that were very hard to understand. Verse 66 says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” There were people who had identified themselves as followers of Jesus, but they turned back when Jesus said something they disliked. It was not that they lost salvation; they never had it to begin with, and this incident is what showed their true colors.


Next in John 6, Jesus comments on Peter and Judas Iscariot. “Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him” (verses 67–70). At the time Jesus spoke those words, Peter and Judas lookedvery much alike—both were disciples. On the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter and Judas lookedvery much alike—both denied the Lord. A few days later, however, they showedthemselves to be very different. Judas, overcome with remorse, did not seek repentance and forgiveness but committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). Peter was filled with shame and wept (Matthew 26:75). Three days later Peter is still with the disciples and becomes an apostle of the Risen Lord.


Neither Judas nor Peter lost his salvation. Judas’ true nature was that of an unbeliever. He liked Jesus well enough and dabbled with faith for a while, but he never really believed—we might say he only pretended to be a believer. Judas was the treasurer for the disciples, and John 12:6 tells us that he was dipping into the money for himself. Peter, on the other hand, for a short period of time, “pretended” to be an unbeliever, but over the course of time his true, redeemed nature showed itself.


First John directly addresses the issue of professing believers who seem to become unbelievers. Some false teachers, who had appeared to be true believers at one time, were troubling the church. First John 2:19 explains, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Although those who departed the faith had appeared to be genuine, John makes it clear that they had never actually been “of us”; one of the marks of a believer is that he “continues with us.” People may be able to “fake it” for a while, but they cannot sustain the part forever. Truth will out. First John 3:9 says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” A genuine believer is kept from falling into continuous sin because he has been born of God—God keeps him safe.


A true believer may fall into disobedience and struggle with doubt, but a true believer will never renounce Christ. A person who has renounced Christ by his words or deeds has not lost salvation; rather, he is demonstrating that he never had genuine faith. This is one reason why church discipline is so important. In Matthew 18, Jesus outlines the steps. If a person in the church sins, he should be confronted and given the chance to repent. Once all the steps in the process have been followed and there is still no repentance, then the unrepentant sinner is to be put out to the church and treated as an unbeliever (verses 15–17). This process is designed to get the sinner off the fence. Either he will see the error of his ways and be brought to his senses, or he will decide that the church and the Christian life are not that important and walk away—either way, church discipline forces a person’s true nature to come out.


A genuine believer can never become an unbeliever because he or she has been born again by the Spirit of God. It is not one’s faith that keeps one safe but the power of God that enables continual faith.


PART III 

Question: "How could Jesus say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' before He died on the cross?"


Answer:We know that God forgives sins on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7). Yet, before He went to the cross, Jesus told two people that their sins were forgiven. This fact puzzles some people. How could Jesus forgive sin before the sacrifice was even made? After all, Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”


Let’s identify the two people to whom Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” before He died on the cross. The first is the paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus by friends and lowered through a roof to be healed. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:20). The second person is the sinful woman who came to Jesus while He ate at Simon the Pharisee’s house. Seeing her reverence, the Lord contrasted her love with Simon’s lack of love. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 7:48). In both cases, Jesus’ words caused quite a stir among the hearers (Luke 5:21; 7:49).


When Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven”—even before He died on the cross—He was not speaking empty words. He had the power to forgive sin, just like He had the power to heal paralysis. In fact, Jesus used the physical healing to confirm His authority to dispense spiritual healing: “‘I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God” (Luke 5:24–25).


Turning to the Old Testament, we find other people whose sins were forgiven before Jesus died on the cross. David prayed for forgiveness (Psalm 51:2) and received it. “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven” (Psalm 32:1). As he touched Isaiah with a coal from the altar, an angel declared the prophet’s forgiveness: “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). The atonement provided by the animal sacrifices resulted in forgiveness (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35).


The principle found all through the Bible is that forgiveness is God’s business. “With you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:4, ESV). “You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5, NASB). “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness” (Daniel 9:9, ESV). When Jesus displayed His power to forgive sins, He clearly showed that He was the Son of God wielding God’s authority in this world. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21). No one; Jesus is God Incarnate.


Forgiveness of sin in every dispensation has always been based on Jesus’ death on the cross (see Hebrews 9:15). In the Old Testament, sins were forgiven on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross, of which the animal sacrifices were but a foreshadowing. During the life of Christ, sins were forgiven on the basis of His yet-future death on the cross—the benefits of that sacrifice were granted to those who had faith in Jesus. Now, by faith, we look back on the death and resurrection of Christ and receive God’s forgiveness. The good news is as Paul preached, “My friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). When we trust Christ, the word to us is the same as that spoken to the forgiven woman in Simon’s house: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).


PART IV

Question: "What is the concept of the vicarious atonement?"


Answer:Vicarious atonement is the idea that Jesus Christ took the place of mankind, suffering the penalty for sin. Atonementis a term meaning “reconciliation” or “amends.” Vicariousmeans “done in place of or instead of someone else.” So, in literal terms, the Christian concept of “vicarious atonement” is that Jesus was substituted for humanity and punished for our faults in order to pay for the sins we had committed and reconcile us to God. Vicarious atonement is also referred to as “substitutionary atonement” or “penal substitution.”


According to the Bible, vicarious atonement is an accurate description of Jesus Christ’s role in our salvation. First Peter 3:18 refers to Jesus’ death as “the righteous [suffering] for the unrighteous.” Mark 10:45 indicates that He came to “give His life as a ransom for many.” The fact that believers “were bought with a price” by Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, should motivate us to give God glory in the things we say and do.


Second Corinthians 5:21 clearly says that God the Father “made him to be sin who knew no sin,” meaning there was an exchange that took place at the cross. Our sin was transferred to Jesus, and our suffering became Jesus’ suffering. His death was vicarious—Jesus was our Substitute. His death atoned for us—Jesus made amends between us and God. Jesus was condemned instead of us. Even in the Old Testament, prophets such as Isaiah spoke of the Messiah’s taking the penalty for sin on our behalf (Isaiah 53:5).


In broad terms, human beings are hopelessly lost and unable to be reconciled to God on their own. This is because of our sin, which no amount of good works can undo. Since God is perfect and holy, we can never hope to pay for our own sins in order to be with Him. So Jesus Christ was offered as our substitute. Instead of our trying—and failing—to cover the penalty for our own sins, Jesus became the vicarious object of God’s justice. With this exchange our sin was paid for, and we can be declared righteous in Christ (Romans 4:5; 8:1).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


05/02/19

Question: "What is a spiritual awakening?"


Answer:A spiritual awakening is, generally speaking, a newfound awareness of a spiritual reality. A spiritual awakening can be gradual or rapid, and it can mean different things to different people. An internet search of the term spiritual awakeningleads to sites where one can find the “five stages of spiritual awakening,” “ten (or eleven) signs of spiritual awakening,” and “eight signs you may be experiencing spiritual awakening.” These signs and stages may be physical—everything from gaining or losing appetite, weight, sleep, or energy to physical sensitivity to cell phones. Or the signs can be emotional—a broken heart, changes in relationships, or excessive episodes of grief, fear, rage, or depression. Many secular references to spiritual awakening are in the context of mysticism and New Age thinking and should be approached with extreme caution. What the world calls a “spiritual awakening” could be nothing more than an open door to contact demonic spirits.


Biblically, a spiritual awakening is not a waking from spiritual sleep but a resurrection from spiritual death. All people are born in sin and are spiritually dead. Ephesians 2:1 states that, before we knew Christ, we were dead in transgressions and sins. Because of the sin of Adam, which we inherited, we are all separated from God, who is Life (Romans 5:12). We cannot experience, understand, or relate to a holy and perfect God in our unregenerate state, nor can we enter His kingdom. Our need for spiritual awakening is profound: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We must roused; we must be “awakened” spiritually, or, as Jesus put it, we must be “born again” or “born of the Spirit” (John 3:3–8).


The true spiritual awakening—the new birth that Jesus spoke of—occurs not by some physical, mental, or emotional process but by the power of the Holy Spirit. One who is awakened by the Holy Spirit is recreated into a completely new person (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3). That new creation is characterized by a new heart that wants to please and obey God and live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). He has been awakened to a new reality, one that centers on the Savior who redeemed him, the Spirit who awakened him, and the kingdom of God to which he now belongs. This is the true spiritual awakening.


John 9 records the story of the man born blind, whose spiritual awakening led to an acknowledgement of who Jesus is. The man’s receipt of spiritual sight was accompanied by physical sight. The man spoke of the dawning of new light in his life in simple terms: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25). He knew the truth of Psalm 36:9, “With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”


The apostle Paul’s spiritual awakening was sudden and dramatic, when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever (Acts 9). From then on, Paul’s desire was for all believers to increase in their spiritual awareness: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18). The psalmist’s prayer was also for spiritually open eyes: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). Our spiritual awakening begins when Jesus sheds His light upon us: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).


The proper response to the Light of the World should be as natural as getting up in the morning: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). When the Holy Spirit awakens us to the truth of Christ and indwells us by grace through faith, we can truly sing with John Newton,

“Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.”


PART II 

Question: "What is more important, the death of Christ or His resurrection?"


Answer:The death and resurrection of Christ are equally important. Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish separate but necessarily related things. The death and resurrection of our Lord are really inseparable, like the warp and weft of cloth.


The cross of Christ won for us the victory that we could never have won for ourselves. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). On the cross God piled our sins on Jesus, and He bore the punishment due us (Isaiah 53:4–8). In His death, Jesus took upon Himself the curse introduced by Adam (see Galatians 3:13).


With the death of Christ, our sins became powerless to rule over us (Romans 6). By His death, Jesus destroyed the works of the devil (John 12:31; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), condemned Satan (John 16:11), and crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).


Without the sacrificial death of Christ, we would still be in our sins, unforgiven, unredeemed, unsaved, and unloved. The cross of Christ is vital to our salvation and was thus a main theme of the apostles’ preaching (Acts 2:23, 36; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Galatians 6:14).


But the story of Jesus Christ did not end with His death. The resurrection of Christ is also foundational to the gospel message. Our salvation stands or falls based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19. If Christ is not physically risen from the dead, then we ourselves have no hope of resurrection, the apostles’ preaching was in vain, and believers are all to be pitied. Without the resurrection, we are still sitting “in darkness and in the shadow of death” waiting for the sunrise (Luke 1:78–79).


Because of Jesus’ resurrection, His promise holds true for us: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Our great enemy, death, will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26, 54–55). Jesus’ resurrection is also important because it is through that event that God declares us righteous: Jesus “was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The gift of the Holy Spirit was sent from the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus (John 16:7).


At least three times in His earthly ministry, Jesus predicted that He would die and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead, He would have failed in His prophecies—He would have been yet another false prophet to be ignored. As it is, however, we have a living Lord, faithful to His Word. The angel at Jesus’ empty tomb was able to point to fulfilled prophecy: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).


Scripture links the death and resurrection of Christ, and we must maintain that link. Jesus’ entrance into the tomb is as equally important as His exit from the tomb. In 1 Corinthians 15:3–5, Paul defines the gospel as the dual truth that Jesus died for our sins (proved by His burial) and that He rose again the third day (proved by His appearances to many witnesses). This gospel truth is “of first importance” (verse 3).


It is impossible to separate the death of Christ from His resurrection. To believe in one without the other is to believe in a false gospel that cannot save. In order for Jesus to have truly arisen from the dead, He must have truly died. And in order for His death to have a true meaning for us, He must have a true resurrection. We cannot have one without the other.


PART III 

Question: "What is impartation?"


Answer:The word impartmeans “to give, convey, or grant.” Impartation, then, is the act of giving or granting something. In the Bible spiritual gifts are imparted (Romans 1:11); wisdom is imparted (Proverbs 29:15); the message of the gospel is imparted (1 Thessalonians 2:8); and material goods are imparted (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18). Some translations use the word shareas a replacement for impart. The Bible never speaks of the impartation of righteousness.


Most evangelicals speak of righteousness as being imputed, rather than imparted. To impute is to credit something to the account of another. Imputation of righteousness is clearly taught in passages such as Romans 4:3, which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (cf. Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:22). The “credit” or “reckoning” that Abraham received was an imputation. Imputation is thus linked to the act of justification. The moment a person is born again, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that sinner’s account. The doctrine of double imputation says that, at the same time, the sinner’s sin is imputed to Christ’s account.


Roman Catholics speak of infused righteousness, which should not be confused with impartation or imputation. Infused righteousness, in Catholic theology, is that which comes gradually to the believer through obedience, confession, penance, and the other sacraments. There is no biblical basis for the idea of infused righteousness, which contradicts the scriptural teaching that justification comes through faith alone and not through the channel of works (Romans 3:28).


Imparted righteousnessis a term used mostly in Wesleyan and Methodist circles to explain sanctification. Impartation is seen as separate from imputation, although the two work in conjunction. According to Wesley’s theology, we are justified when Christ’s righteousness is imputedto us; after that, we begin to be sanctified when God’s righteousness is impartedto us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, empowering us to live in a holy manner. According to some in the Wesleyan tradition, this imparted righteousness can lead to sinless perfection.


Possible biblical support for the idea of imparted righteousness comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” and 2 Peter 1:4, which speaks of how we “participate in the divine nature.” The idea is that imputed righteousness changes our standing before God, and imparted righteousness changes our nature even as we live in the flesh. The new nature that wars against the flesh (Roman 7:14–25) is the result of imparted righteousness, granted to us by God.


In the final analysis, the Bible clearly teaches imputed righteousness, but the doctrine of imparted righteousness is not so clear. At salvation, believers in Jesus Christ receive a new nature—which loves righteousness and produces good works—but to say they receive righteousness itself is stretching the point.


PART IV

Question: "What is the effectual calling/call?"


Answer:The term effectual call, as related to salvation, comes from Chapter X of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith. The effectual call is understood as God’s sovereign drawing of a sinner to salvation. The effectual call to a sinner so overwhelms his natural inclination to rebel that he willingly places faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul refers to the effectual call when he writes, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). The necessity of the effectual call is emphasized in Jesus’ words, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44).


Paul further affirms that God must impress His will on the natural state of man when he writes that those who oppose God “must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). The apostle Peter writes that God “called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Peter’s use of the Greek word kaleo, which is translated “called,” expresses the action of God calling sinners. Whenever kaleois used in the participial form, as it is in this passage, with God as the subject, it refers to the effectual call of God on sinners to salvation. Kaleocarries the idea that a sinner is being drawnto God rather than simply invited to come.


The effectual calling is more commonly known as “irresistible grace,” which is the Iin the acronym TULIP. The doctrine of effectual calling is closely related to the doctrine of total depravity, the Tin TULIP. Since the unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), he is incapable of reaching out to God or responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ on his own. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10–11). This state of total depravity makes the effectual calling of God necessary to give anyone the opportunity for salvation.


Jesus said, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In this statement, Jesus distinguishes between the general call that everyone receives by hearing the gospel and the effectual call that leads to salvation. The effectual call is also taught in passages such as Romans 1:6, where Paul greets the believers as those “who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”; and Acts 16:14, where Luke says of Lydia that “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” The effectual call, therefore, is God’s action toward the elect, those whom He chose in Christ “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless. . . . He predestined [them] for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5).


The general call, on the other hand, is for all of humanity, not just the elect. The famous passage, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), portrays God’s general revelation to everyone in the world. The gospel is available to everyone, but, because of humanity’s sinful nature and total depravity, no one will turn to God without God first impressing Himself on them.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAX


05/01/19

Question: "Does salvation affect more than just the afterlife?"


Answer:We often emphasize how salvation impacts the afterlife but neglect to consider how it should impact our lives right now. Coming to Christ in faith is life’s watershed in so many ways—once we are saved, we are set free from sin and given a new life and a new perspective. As John Newton put it, “I once was lost but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.” After salvation, everything changes.


In the Epistles we also find a consistent emphasis on daily living. According to Ephesians 2:10, the reason we are saved is not just to spend eternity in heaven but “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These “good works” are to be done here, in this world. If our eternal salvation isn’t reflected in our daily lives, there is a problem.


James wrote his letter to encourage an applied faith. Our salvation ought to result in a controlled tongue (James 1:26) and other changes in our lives. Faith that purports to exist apart from the evidence of good works is “dead” (James 2:20). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 that we should “live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” A life that is surrendered and obedient to God is a natural outgrowth of salvation. Jesus taught that we are His servants, placed here to carry on His business while we await His return (Luke 19:12–27).


In the book of Revelation, God sends letters to seven churches (Revelation 2—3), and in each case there are specific areas of daily living that are either commended or condemned. The church of Ephesus was recognized for their labors and patience, and the church of Smyrna was commended for faithfulness in trials and poverty. On the other end of the spectrum, the church of Pergamos was rebuked for tolerating false doctrine, and the church at Thyatira was rebuked for following a false teacher into sexual sins. Obviously, Jesus considered salvation something that should affect one’s daily life, not just the afterlife.


Salvation is the beginning point of a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has ability to restore and rebuild what was destroyed by sin. In Joel 2:25, God promises Israel that, even though He had brought judgment upon them for their sins, He is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (ESV), when Israel repents and returns to Him. A similar restoration is promised Israel in Zechariah 10:6. This is not to say that getting saved makes everything happy and trouble-free in this life. There are times that God chooses to allow hardship as a reminder of the high cost of sin or of our need to rely on Him more. But we face those trials with a new outlook and strength from above. In fact, the hardships we endure are actually gifts from God to cause us to grow in faith and to equip us to be a blessing to others (2 Corinthians 1:4–6; 12:8–10).


In Jesus’ ministry, everyone who came to Him in faith was forever changed. The demoniac of Decapolis went home an evangelist (Mark 5:20). Lepers rejoined society, cleansed and rejoicing (Luke 17:15–16). Fishermen became apostles (Matthew 4:19), publicans became philanthropists, and sinners became saints (Luke 19:8–10). By faith we are saved (Ephesians 2:8), and the change that salvation brings starts now.


PART II 

Question: "What does the Bible say about the evangelization of children?"


Answer:Jesus’ desire is that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). The mission field is “all nations.” There are no geographical restrictions to the gospel, no cultural restrictions, and no age restrictions. Everyone needs to repent and be forgiven, including the children of “all nations.” Children, therefore, should be evangelized, and there are many Christian organizations such as AWANA International and Child Evangelism Fellowship that are working to meet that goal.


The Bible says that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). They are in need of instruction (Proverbs 8:32–33) and are quite able to learn. Timothy was a student of the Word at a very young age. He knew the Holy Scriptures “from infancy” (2 Timothy 3:15), having been taught by his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).


Children are fully able to praise God. In celebrating the Lord’s majestic name, the psalmist sings, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies” (Psalm 8:2). Praise is not something children must wait until they’re older to do—it is their joyful task now. When Jesus arrived in the temple, the chief priests were aloof and reproachful, but not the kids. The children were “shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’” (Matthew 21:15).


One the best passages on the evangelism of children is Mark 10:13–16: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Jesus welcomes children to come to Him for His blessing. In fact, those who place obstacles in the path of a child coming to Christ make the Lord “indignant.”


Jesus used the occasion of blessing the children to point out the need for faith. The kingdom must be received “like a little child” (Mark 10:15). Children do not strive to earnthe kingdom of God but trustHim to give it to them. Theirs is a simple faith. Jesus declared that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, with simple trust and dependence on God, cannot enter. Only those with a childlike trust in God can be saved.


Elsewhere, Jesus directs our attention to a child to illustrate true humility and the relationship God wants with all of us. The disciples had asked the Lord about who would be the “greatest” in heaven. In response, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:2–5).


In the next verse, Jesus strongly advocates for the protection of children: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Jesus specifies that these children are among “those who believe in me.” This plainly indicates that children can believe in Jesus! If they can believe in Jesus, then we must evangelize them.


We must also never cause a believing child to stumble. “Cause to stumble” (skandalidzoin Greek) means “to entrap, trip up or entice to sin.” How does one cause believing children to stumble? Probably when we reject or ignore them—this would be the opposite of welcoming them (Matthew 18:5)—or when we lead them into sin.


Ephesians is a letter addressed to “God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Paul describes them as having redemption through the blood of Christ and forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore, the original recipients of this epistle were believers in Christ. Toward the end of the letter, Paul addresses different groups of believers and instructs them on how they can walk in a way worthy of their calling. Children (teknonin Greek) are commanded to obey (in the Lord) their parents (Ephesians 6:1). The fact that Paul addresses children implies that they were saints—part of “God’s holy people in Ephesus.” Children today can and should also trust in Christ, just as the children in Ephesus did.


In the letter to Titus, the qualifications for elders are laid out (Titus 1:6–9): being above reproach, being the husband of one wife, etc. In the list of qualifications is having “tekna pista,” translated as “children who believe” in the New American Standard Bible. If they believe, they must have been evangelized.


In the Old Testament, there was an emphasis on transmitting God’s Law to the next generation so that they, too, would fear the LORD and obey His Word. Moses reminded the people of Israel to obey God’s laws in Deuteronomy 6:1–9. The command was not only for the present generation but also for their children and grandchildren (verses 1–2). The first priority of parents was their own obedience; God’s Word was to be in their hearts (verses 5–6), and then they were to teach it to their children (verse 7). These same principles are applicable to Christian parents today.


If we fail to share the gospel with the next generation, we risk repeating Israel’s mistake in Judges 2:10–11: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.” What is needed in every nation, every day, is the transforming power of the gospel of Christ. Sharing the gospel with children is commanded and blessed by God.


PART III 

Question: "What is the bad news / good news approach to sharing the gospel?"


Answer:Everything in life has good news and bad news associated with it. The entire truth is generally found in a combination of both. Emphasizing one side to the exclusion of the other is not the whole truth. The same is true of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


The bad news, spiritually speaking, is that we are all sinners deserving of hell for our sin against a holy God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Our sin has kept us from His presence and eternal life (John 3:15–20). No one can earn his or her way into the presence of God because there is “no one righteous” (Romans 3:10). Our best human efforts to please God are “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Some evangelists and street preachers focus exclusively on this aspect of God’s truth, which could be considered the “bad news approach.”


The good news is that God loves us (John 3:15–18). He wants a relationship with His human creation and has communicated with us in a variety of ways such as nature (Romans 1:20), the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), and Jesus coming in human form to live among us (John 1:14). God does love us. He does want to bless us. He wants a relationship with us and desires to teach us His ways so that we can become all He created us to be (Romans 8:29). Teachers who focus only on the good news are leaving out a vital part of God’s plan of salvation, which includes repentance (Matthew 3:2; Mark 6:12) and taking up our cross to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).


Until we know the bad news, we can’t truly appreciate the good news. You would not appreciate a stranger bursting into your home and dragging you outside, unless you first understood that your house was on fire. Until we understand that we are destined for hell because of our sin, we cannot appreciate all that Jesus did for us on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we don’t realize how hopeless we are, we won’t recognize the great hope Jesus offers (Hebrews 6:19). Unless we recognize that we are sinners, we can’t appreciate a Savior.


The best approach is to present what the apostle Paul called the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). God’s whole counsel includes both the bad news about our natural state and the good news about God’s plan to redeem us. Jesus never eliminated either of these when He brought “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). His peace is available to everyone who is brought to repentance by the “bad news” and joyfully accepts the “good news” that He is Lord of all (Romans 10:8–9).


PART IV

Question: "Why do some people not turn to God until later in life?"


Answer:The gospel message is for young and old, for men and women of all races and cultures (Galatians 3:28). But most who hear the message do not respond immediately. Some might not turn to God until they are well advanced in years.


Humanly speaking, we can suppose many reasons for not responding to God till later in life—having a family or a career, wanting to travel, or pursuing any number of sporting or social activities. Some may think God won’t mind waiting till their busy lives quiet down so they can spare Him some time. Others are too proud to acknowledge God. Some live comfortably by virtue of their own efforts, and they don’t feel any need to turn to God. Some simply love their sin. And others are so convinced they are earning their salvation by good works they have not yet turned to God in faith.


Jesus told a parable that shows different people being called at different times. In Matthew 20:1–16 the master of the vineyard hires workers to bring in the harvest. Some start work early in the day and agree to their wage. The harvest is so great the master has to hire more workers as the day progresses, right up until almost the close of the working day. The master pays those who started work late the same amount as those who started early. This parable speaks of God’s sovereignty in calling whomsoever He will, at whatever stage in life. He treats those who enter His service “late in the day” as equals with those who have toiled all their lives in His service.


From before creation, God knew whom He would call: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5). God knows just the right time to call a sinner to repentance and salvation. Many can hear the outward call of God, for the seed of God’s Word is cast all over, but not all the seed lands on “good soil” where it can take root and produce a harvest (Matthew 13:1–23).


In addition to hearing the outward call, individuals must hear the inward call of the Holy Spirit, for it is He who convicts us of our sin and enables us to put faith in Christ (John 16:7–15). An example of this inward call is the conversion of Lydia: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). Paul gave the outward call, but it was the Holy Spirit who gave Lydia the inward call. Until that happens, we can never respond properly to the outward call. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is God who draws us to Himself; He decides whom He will call and when He will call them. His timing is perfect.


God’s plan for us is hidden till God chooses to disclose it. Only in hindsight can we see how the Holy Spirit was active in bringing us to the point of salvation. We may remember something significant a Christian said that made us stop and think. Or we were introduced to people whose lives demonstrated the love and humility of Jesus. Perhaps our circumstances changed dramatically, and we found ourselves in a place not of our choosing. Through seemingly random events, we finally acknowledged we were missing something important, and that started our search for God and a desire to be in relationship with Him. For each believer, the story of conversion is unique, but the common denominator is the Holy Spirit’s leading and the Word of God’s generation of faith (Romans 10:17).


God knows our hearts, and He knows who will respond to His call. When the moment is right, God breaks through our barriers, and the inward call of God becomes irresistible. Those who reject the outward call are without the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9).


God calls to us, but sometimes we don’t hear. God calls to us, but sometimes we ignore it. God calls to us, but sometimes our pride gets in the way. For some, it takes a personal tragedy before they stop to re-evaluate their lives. For others, it takes a lesson in humility before they acknowledge their need. For all those reasons and more, some people take a while to get around to turning to God. The danger in procrastination is that time might run out. No one is guaranteed tomorrow (Luke 12:20). God is patient, but, after death, there is no second chance to be saved (Hebrews 9:27).


Christians have a responsibility to spread the good news, but it is God who brings people to repentance and saving faith in Christ Jesus. If you have someone you are praying for, possibly for years, follow Jesus’ advice to “pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Trust God’s timing and turning.


If you are putting off God’s call to salvation, you are playing with fire. God’s moment is always now (2 Corinthians 6:2). We ignore God’s calling to our eternal peril.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


04/30//19

Question: "What does it mean to believe in Jesus?"


Answer:“Do you believe in Jesus?” seems like a strange question. It sounds like the same question as “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” or “Do you believe in aliens?” But the question “Do you believe in Jesus?” is asking far more than “Do you believe that Jesus Christ existed/exists?” The true meaning of the question is “Do you believe Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is, and are you trusting Him as your Savior?”


So, do you believe in Jesus?


Do you believe that Jesus is God in human form (John 1:1, 14)? Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), for which you deserve eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23)? Do you believe that the sacrifice of Jesus, God incarnate, is the only adequate payment for your sins (1 John 2:2; John 14:6; Acts 4:12)?


Do you believe these things? If so, great, but believing the facts about Jesus is only part of the equation. Biblical faith/belief is far more than believing certain things to be true. Biblical saving faith is also trusting/relying on those facts.


A chair is a good illustration. You can look at a chair and believe it is made of materials strong enough to support your weight, and you can believe that it was assembled correctly. But that is not biblical faith. Biblical faith is sitting in the chair. It is actually relying on the chair to hold your weight off the ground.


Are you trusting that Jesus is your Savior? Are you relying on His death as the full payment for your sin debt? Are you depending on His resurrection as the guarantee that you, too, will be raised to eternal life after death? Not that it could ever happen, but if the “chair” of Jesus Christ were pulled out from beneath you, spiritually speaking, would you hit the ground, or are you also relying on things in addition to the chair?


If you understand and believe what the Bible says about Jesus, and if you are trusting in those truths as the basis for salvation—you are saved! You “believe in Jesus” in the biblical sense.


If you are uncertain if you truly believe in Jesus but you desire to, or if you feel God drawing you to faith in Jesus, the next step is simple. Believe! Trust in Jesus! Rely on Him for your salvation. Allow God to turn you from sin to forgiveness and salvation.


If you would like to verbally express your new faith to God, here is a sample of what you can say: “God, I know that I have sinned. I know that my sin separates me from you. I know that if left unforgiven, my sin will separate me from you for eternity. I believe and trust that Jesus Christ is my Savior, that He died to pay the full penalty for my sins and that He rose from the dead on the third day. I am relying on His sacrifice alone to bring me into a right relationship with you. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for saving me. Help me to grow closer to you each and every day for the rest of my life.”


PART II 

Question: "Does Jesus love me?"


Answer:Many people have wondered if Jesus really loves them. The Bible is clear that no matter what we have done, Jesus does love us. In fact, He promises to both forgive us of every wrong we have done and provide us eternal life if only we will believe in Him: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).


Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we were even born, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf to give us the opportunity for eternal life. This amazing gift comes to us because of His wonderful grace toward us: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We don’t have to earn His love; we simply accept it.


It may be difficult to believe Jesus loves you because of other people who have let you down in the past. However, Jesus is unlike any other person; He is God in human form (John 1:14). He was involved in creating us, He sustains our every breath, and He offers us new life now and eternal life in heaven with Him.


Another reason it may be difficult to accept the truth that Jesus loves you is that something you have done in the past troubles you. Jesus already knows your past and still offers you eternal life and forgiveness. A wonderful example of His love can be found in His last hours on the cross. One of the men crucified next to Him was being put to death for his crimes. Turning to Jesus, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, saying, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42–43). Despite this criminal’s sins, Jesus accepted his simple and sincere act of faith and promised him eternity in heaven—even though Jesus knew the man had no time to live his life differently.


When we ask, “How much does Jesus love me?” we only need to look at the cross. He stretched out His hands and said, “I love you this much.” He gave His life to give you new life.


You can pray to receive Jesus as your Savior right now and accept His love and eternal life. There is no special prayer to pray, but you can respond with a prayer similar to this:


“Dear God, I realize I am a sinner and could never reach heaven by my own good deeds. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son who rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life.”


Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean to know Jesus?"


Answer:When people speak of “knowing” Jesus, they refer to having a relationship with Him. Being a Christian is more than knowing aboutJesus; being a Christian is knowingHim personally. Jesus spoke of the need to know the Savior when He prayed, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).


It is one thing to know abouta sports hero, and quite another thing to be a friendof that athlete. You can read every news article on your hero, memorize every stat, and collect every piece of memorabilia yet never really know the athlete himself. To truly know a sports hero, you would have to do more than watch him play. You would have to have a relationship with him, based on time spent together and regular conversation. When a person truly knows Jesus, it is on the basis of a relationship; they spend time together and talk regularly. And, when we know Jesus, we also know God. “We know . . . that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true” (1 John 5:20).


How can you know Jesus? Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” You must believe that Jesus is Lord and that He has risen from the dead. The reason He died was to pay for your sin (1 Peter 2:24).


When you trust in Christ, you receive Jesus and become part of His family (John 1:12). In addition, John 3:16 says that you have been given eternal life: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This life includes eternity with Christ in heaven and is available to you and to anyone who believes in Christ.


Is there anything else you have to do to know Jesus? Ephesians 2:8–9 explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Knowing Jesus is not based on what we do; knowing Jesus is based on faith in Him. Romans 5:8 teaches, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This great love brought Jesus from heaven to earth to live, die, and return to life to provide salvation for us.


There is no special prayer you must pray to know Jesus and believe in Him. However, the following prayer can be used right now to express your decision to place your faith in Jesus Christ:


“Dear God, I realize I am a sinner and could never reach heaven by my own good deeds. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son who rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life.” 


Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART IV

Question: "What does it mean to have faith in Jesus?"


Answer:Many people speak about “having faith in Jesus,” but what exactly does this mean?


The Bible uses the phrase “faith in Jesus” synonymously with belief in Jesus as Savior. Romans 3:22–23 says that “righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When we place our faith in Jesus, we believe in Him, and God grants His righteousness to us.


To have faith in Jesus means to trust Him. Simply. Fully. Without reservation. On one occasion, before Jesus healed two blind men, He asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They answered, “Yes, Lord,” and He healed them “according to [their] faith” (Matthew 9:28–29). The men simply trusted the power and goodness of the Lord, and they received their sight.


When a person has faith in Jesus, it means that he or she believes who Jesus is (God in human form) and trusts what Jesus has done (died and resurrected). This faith in the person and work of Christ is what saves (see Romans 10:9–10; 1 Corinthians 15:3–4). “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1).


John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The key is belief, in response to God’s love. Anyone who places his or her faith in Jesus has the promise of eternal life.


Without faith in Jesus, we remain in sin and cannot be accepted into God’s presence in His perfect heaven. With faith in Jesus, we are given access to the Father as God’s own children (John 1:12).


To have faith in Jesus is to reject all other ways of salvation. We cannot trust in Jesus andanything else. We trust in Jesus alone. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Salvation is exclusive. Jesus is the only way (John 14:6).


Are you ready to place your faith in Jesus? Do you trust Him to save you? There is no special prayer you must pray. However, you can respond right now with a prayer similar to this:


“Dear God, I realize I am a sinner and could never reach heaven by my own good deeds. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son who died and rose again to give me eternal life. I trust in Jesus alone. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life.”


Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


04/29/19

Question: "Who can be saved?"


Answer:Jesus clearly taught in John 3:16 that He will save anyone who believes in Him: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life..” This “whoever” includes you and every other person in the world.


The Bible says that, if salvation were based on our own efforts, no one could be saved: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Psalm 143:2 adds, “No one living is righteous before you.” Romans 3:10 affirms, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”


We cannot save ourselves. Instead, we are saved when we believe in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8–9 teaches, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We are saved by God’s grace, and grace, by definition, cannot be earned. We do not deserve salvation; we simply receive it by faith.


God’s grace is enough to cover all sin (Romans 5:20). The Bible is filled with examples of people who were saved from sinful backgrounds. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians who had formerly been living in a variety of sinful conditions, including sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, greed, and drunkenness. But Paul tells them that, upon salvation, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).


The apostle Paul himself had been a persecutor of Christians, approving of the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and arresting Christians and throwing them into prison (Acts 8:3). He would later write, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:13–15).


God often chooses to save unlikely candidates to serve His purposes. He saved a thief on a cross with only minutes to live (Luke 23:42–43), a persecutor of the church (Paul), a fisherman who had denied Him (Peter), a Roman soldier and his family (Acts 10), a runaway slave (Onesimus in Philemon), and many others. There is no one beyond God’s ability to save (see Isaiah 50:2). We must respond in faith and receive His free gift of eternal life.


Who can be saved? One thing is for certain—youcan, if you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior! If you are not certain you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you can respond right now with a prayer similar to this:


“God, I realize I am a sinner and could never reach heaven by my own good deeds. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son who died for my sins and rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life.”


PART II 

Question: "Why is justification by faith such an important doctrine?"


Answer:The teaching of justification by faith is what separates biblical Christianity from all other belief systems. In every religion, and in some branches of what is called “Christianity,” man is working his way to God. Only in true, biblical Christianity is man saved as a result of grace through faith. Only when we get back to the Bible do we see that justification is by faith, apart from works.


The word justifiedmeans “pronounced or treated as righteous.” For a Christian, justification is the act of God not only forgiving the believer’s sins but imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Bible states in several places that justification only comes through faith (e.g., Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24). Justification is not earned through our own works; rather, we are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). The Christian, being declared righteous, is thus freed from the guilt of sin.


Justification is a completed work of God, and it is instantaneous, as opposed to sanctification, which is an ongoing process of growth by which we become more Christlike (the act of “being saved,” cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Sanctification occurs after justification.


Understanding the doctrine of justification is important for a Christian. First, it is the very knowledge of justification and of grace that motivates good works and spiritual growth; thus, justification leads to sanctification. Also, the fact that justification is a finished work of God means that Christians have assurance of their salvation. In God’s eyes, believers have the righteousness necessary to gain eternal life.


Once a person is justified, there is nothing else he needs in order to gain entrance into heaven. Since justification comes by faith in Christ, based on His work on our behalf, our own works are disqualified as a means of salvation (Romans 3:28). There exist vast religious systems with complex theologies that teach the false doctrine of justification by works. But they are teaching “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6–7).


Without an understanding of justification by faith alone, we cannot truly perceive the glorious gift of grace—God’s “unmerited favor” becomes “merited” in our minds, and we begin to think we deserve salvation. The doctrine of justification by faith helps us maintain “pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Holding to justification by faith keeps us from falling for the lie that we can earn heaven. There is no ritual, no sacrament, no deed that can make us worthy of the righteousness of Christ. It is only by His grace, in response to our faith, that God has credited to us the holiness of His Son. Both Old and New Testaments say, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).


PART III 

Question: "Is it biblical to ask Jesus into your heart?"


Answer:“Do you want to be saved? Then just ask Jesus to come into your heart.” While this statement is not anti-biblical, neither is it expressly biblical. The wording generates a mental image that can easily lead to wrong impressions, especially among children, who tend to take things literally. Plus, the exhortation to “ask Jesus into your heart”—if that’s the whole message—leaves out some important things such as repentance and faith. The Bible does mention the fact that, in some sense, Jesus resides in our hearts: Paul prayed “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). But Paul is writing to believers who had already received Christ. The parallel prayer in verse 16 is that God “may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” There is no evangelistic appeal in the context of Ephesians 3. Paul is not telling the Ephesians to “ask Jesus into their hearts”; he is simply elevating their awareness that Jesus is present within them through the Holy Spirit.


The verse from which the “ask Jesus into your heart” concept is usually taken is Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Notice, however, that the verse does not mention the heart at all. Neither does the individual ask Jesus to do anything; rather, Jesus asks us to do something. In context, Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea, who was in desperate need of repentance (verse 19). The Laodiceans had effectively excluded Jesus from their fellowship, and the Lord was seeking to restore that fellowship. The passage does not deal with a person calling on the Lord for salvation.


The idea of Jesus “coming into your heart” is nowhere used in any preaching in the Bible. The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Gospel presentations in the Bible exhort a proper response to that message: believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), or repent (Acts 3:19). We are to change our minds about our sin and about who Christ is, believe Jesus died and rose again, and receive the gift of eternal life by faith. None of the apostles ever told someone to “ask Jesus into your heart.”


Often, the exhortation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart” is used as a simple way to say, “Ask Jesus to enter your life” or “Allow the Lord to take control.” If this is done in the context of presenting the whole gospel, then there’s no harm done. But before a person is invited to “ask Jesus into your heart,” he or she should understand sin and its penalty, the payment Christ made on the cross, and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, referring to salvation as Jesus’ “coming into your heart” might even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). Still, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring at salvation.


When sharing the gospel, we should be careful what we say and how we say it. Even the word believecan be misleading if it is presented as mere intellectual assent (agreeing that certain facts are true) instead of as trust (relying on those true facts). Judas Iscariot believedcertain facts about Jesus, but he never trustedJesus for salvation. Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart. Salvation is about trusting in Jesus as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness He offers by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).


PART IV

Question: "What is the relationship between salvation and forgiveness?"


Answer:When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive salvation and forgiveness. But that’s not all. The Bible says we also receive justification, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, propitiation, and regeneration. Each of these theological terms expresses wonderful truths about the blessing we receive when Jesus becomes our Savior. Salvationand forgiveness, while related, are not exactly the same.


The term salvationcomes from the Greek word sozo, which means “to be delivered, rescued.” Salvation is deliverance from the penalty of sin, that is, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Matthew 25:46). Salvation is God’s rescuing us from our deserved fate. Salvation also includes a more immediate deliverance from the power of sin in this life. Sin has lost its dominion over the saved ones (Romans 6:14). Faith in Jesus Christ rescues us from the empty and meaningless life described in Ecclesiastes and provides us with a life that is abundant and fruitful (John 10:10; Galatians 5:22–23).


The term forgivenesscomes from the Greek word aphiemi, which means “to let go, to give up, to keep no longer.” When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is analogous to financial debt being erased. When God forgives us of our sins, we are free. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold them against us (Psalm 103:12).


Salvation and forgiveness are closely related. There is no salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s delivering us from the consequences of sin. Forgiveness is God’s erasing our sin debt. To use a financial illustration, forgiveness is God’s shredding the documents that list our debt, and salvation is God’s letting us out of debtors’ prison. Praise God for the wonderful salvation and forgiveness He has provided. May our lives reflect gratitude for all He has done for us (Romans 12:1).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


04/28/19

Question: "What is free grace? What is Free Grace Theology?"


Answer:Free Grace Theology is essentially a view of soteriology grown from more traditional Baptist roots. It was systematized by theologians such as Dr.’s Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges in the 1980s, mainly as a response to Lordship Theology or Lordship Salvation, which has its roots in Reformed theology. Today, Free Grace is still going strong, supported by such Christian voices as Tony Evans, Erwin Lutzer, Bruce Wilkinson, Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Grace Evangelical Society.


The basic teaching of Free Grace Theology is that responding to the “call to believe” in Jesus Christ through faith alone is all that is necessary to receive eternal life. This basic, simple belief brings assurance of “entering” the kingdom of God. Then, if a person further responds to the “call to follow” Jesus, he becomes a disciple and undergoes sanctification. The follower of Christ has the opportunity to “inherit” the kingdom of God, which includes receiving particular rewards based on works accomplished for God on earth.


Free Grace theologians point to a number of passages to validate their distinction between having saving faith and following Christ, mainly from the Gospel of John and the Pauline Epistles. For instance, Jesus’ explanation to the woman at the well of how to receive salvation—that she simply ask Him for it (John 4:10)—is compared to Jesus’ words to the disciples a few minutes later—that they must “do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34).


Other verses in John’s Gospel mention the act of belief as the sole requirement for salvation, including John 3:16 and John 5:24. And John 6:47 says, “The one who believes has eternal life.” The fact that works lead to rewards in heaven may be seen in passages such as Matthew 5:1–15; 1 Corinthians 3:11–15; and Hebrews 10:32–36, particularly verse 36, which reads, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”


Many Reformed theologians are appalled by the assertions of Free Grace theologians, accusing them of “easy believism” or even antinomianism. Antinomianism is the heretical belief that a Christian is under no law whatsoever, whether biblical or moral, and thus may do whatever he pleases. The fact of the matter is that Free Grace Theology can make it easier to arrive at antinomianism. However, Free Grace teaching is not antinomian per se. Free Grace theologians consider their position more biblical than Lordship Salvation, which they consider to be a works-based theology. According to Free Grace theologians, Lordship Salvation holds that saving faith includes inherently the “act” of accomplishing radical internal change leading to good works.


This leads to the Free Grace emphasis on assurance of salvation, again based on the basic promises in John’s Gospel, that belief is all that is necessary for salvation. To the Free Grace theologian, this is a simple, cut-and-dried issue—if you believe, you are saved. For the Lordship Salvation camp, assurance of salvation comes through the observation of change in the professing believer, i.e., that he is accomplishing good works. Each camp views the other as possibly leading to heresy.


Although Free Grace Theology and Lordship Salvation are terms that have developed only recently, they represent concerns that have been around since the beginning of the church. At the end of the day, there is no question about the basic salvation of those who hold either view. Both views are within the limits of orthodoxy. Still, this does not mean it’s an insignificant discussion. One’s beliefs in this matter can change his view of himself, God, and assurance of salvation a great deal.


PART II 

Question: "What is a faith conversion? What does it mean to be converted?"


Answer:To convert is to change from one character, type, or purpose to another. Our bodies convert food into energy. We can convert inches to centimeters, pounds to kilograms, and dollars to euros. Our hearts can undergo similar conversions. We can change direction morally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are what we think (Proverbs 23:7). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “converted” means “to turn back or return.” It is also translated "restore," as in Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul." The picture the Bible paints of the word convertis to return to what we were initially created to be.


Since the fall of mankind, every human has been born with a sin nature. Our natural tendency is to please ourselves rather than God. Our human attempts to be good fall far short of the perfection of God (Romans 3:10, 23; Isaiah 53:6). We cannot please God through our own efforts and are destined for eternal separation from Him (Romans 6:23, 8:8; John 3:16-18); we cannot convert ourselves. That's why Jesus came to earth, died in our place, and rose again to conquer death and sin (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He took the punishment our sin deserves. He offers to trade His perfection for our imperfection so that we can be seen as righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21).


When we admit our helplessness apart from Christ, we are ready to embrace Him as Savior and Lord (Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9). Conversion happens when we trade our old sin nature for the new nature Christ provides. When we come to Him humbly, confess our sin, turn away from it, and seek His ways, our entire perspective changes. The Holy Spirit moves into our spirits and transforms our entire way of life (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are converted—restored to the relationship God intended us to have with Him. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." This is more than a human attempt to "clean up your act." It is a wholesale change of direction. You were going east; now you are going west. Conversion changes the human heart from sinful to righteous, from hell-bound to heaven-bound.


The Bible has many examples of people who were converted by the grace of God. The Christian-hating Saul became Paul, who devoted the rest of his life to serving the church he once tried to destroy (1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:7-8). The impetuous and condemning John was transformed into the “apostle of love” (see 1 John 4:7-21). The demoniac of Gerasene, after meeting Jesus, was “dressed and in his right mind” and begging to follow Jesus (Mark 5:15-18). The Holy Spirit has lost none of His power. Modern conversion stories include the amazing transformations of John Newton, Mel Trotter, David Berkowitz, and Chuck Colson.


This is all accomplished through faith. Faith is placing your whole life into the hands of Someone your spirit recognizes but your physical senses cannot confirm (Hebrews 11:1). Hebrews 11:6 says that "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." We are saved from our old sin nature and the penalty of that sin through faith in Jesus Christ. But even that faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). God gives us the faith to believe in Him, but we must receive it and act on it. Exercising that gift of faith results in conversion.


Conversion begins in the heart and radiates outward to affect everything we think, say, or do (James 2:26). Merely stating that conversion has occurred does not make it so. Real conversion is obvious as a person switches direction, changes allegiance and moves from self-worship to God-worship. As the heart is transformed, the actions follow until the entire life has been converted from sin-filled to God-honoring (Romans 6:6-7).


PART III

Question: "If Jesus is our atonement, why did He die at Passover instead of the Day of Atonement?"


Answer:Every one of the Old Testament sacrifices typified Christ. The Passover, or paschal, sacrifice was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. The paschal lamb was to be a male, without spot and blemish, and not a bone was to be broken. Jesus fulfilled this picture perfectly. As the Israelites applied the blood of the sacrifice in faith, so we today apply the spotless blood of Christ to the “doorposts” of our hearts. In all these ways, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).


An objection sometimes arises that the paschal sacrifice was not considered an atonement; rather, atonement was provided for the Jews via the sacrifices on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Ergo, Jesus, who was killed at Passover and who is called “our Passover” in the New Testament, could not have been an atonement for sin.


There are two ways to counter this objection. The first is simply to show how Jesus also fulfilled the symbolism of Yom Kippur. Jesus bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24) and tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). In doing so, He offered a better sacrifice than those of Yom Kippur—better because Christ’s sacrifice was permanent, was voluntary, and did not just cover sin but removed it altogether (Hebrews 9:8-14).


The second counter is to point out that Jewish tradition did indeed view the Passover sacrifice as being expiatory; that is, the lamb removed sin from God’s view. The Passover lamb died under God’s outpoured wrath, thus covering over the sins of the one offering it. Here’s what Rashi, a well-respected medieval Jewish commentator, has to say: “I see the Paschal blood and propitiate you. . . . I mercifully take pity on you by means of the Paschal blood and the blood of circumcision, and I propitiate your souls” (Ex. R. 15, 35b, 35a).


During the tenth and final plague in Egypt, the Passover sacrifice literally saved individuals from death (Exodus 12:23). On the basis of the redemptive offering of the Passover blood, the firstborn lived. Again, Rashi comments: “It is as if a king said to his sons: ‘Know you that I judge persons on capital charges and condemn them. Give me therefore a present, so that in case you are brought before my judgment seat I may set aside the indictments against you.’ So God said to Israel: ‘I am now concerned with death penalties, but I will tell you how I will have pity on you and for the sake of the Passover blood and the circumcision blood I will atone for you’” (Ex. R. 15.12, on Exodus 12.10).


The Passover lambs brought atonement to the believing Jewish households on that signal night of judgment and redemption. Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra also links the Passover with atonement: “The mark of blood was designed as an atonement for those within the house who partook of the paschal offering, and was also a sign for the destroying angel to pass by the house” (Soncino Chumash, pg. 388).


When John the Baptist saw Christ, he pointed to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the “Passover lamb” in that He was silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) and in His death bore the wrath of God, preserved the lives of all who trust Him, and gave freedom to the former slaves of sin.


PART IV

Question: "What was the Old Testament way of salvation?"


Answer:How people were saved during the time of the Old Testament is a confusing question to some. We know that, in the New Testament era, salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus is the Way (John 14:6). But, before Christ, what was the way?


A common misconception about the Old Testament way of salvation is that Jews were saved by keeping the Law. But we know from Scripture that that is not true. Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Some might want to dismiss this passage as only applying to the New Testament, but Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4—salvation by faith, apart from the Law was an Old Testamentprinciple. Paul taught that the purpose of the Law was to serve as a “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Also, in Romans 3:20 Paul makes the point that keeping the Law did not save either Old or New Testament Jews because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” The Law was never intended to save anyone; the purpose of the Law was to make us “conscious of sin.”


If the Old Testament way of salvation was not keeping the Law, then how were people saved? Fortunately, the answer to that question is easily found in Scripture, so there can be no doubt as to what was the Old Testament way of salvation. In Romans 4 the apostle Paul makes it very clear that the Old Testament way of salvation was the same as the New Testament way, which is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To prove this, Paul points us to Abraham, who was saved by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Again, Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove his point—Genesis 15:6, this time. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the Law, because he lived over 400 years before the Law was given!


Paul then shows that David was also saved by faith (Romans 4:6-8, quoting Psalm 32:1-2). Paul continues to establish that the Old Testament way of salvation was through faith alone. In Romans 4:23-24 he writes, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” In other words, righteousness is “credited” or given to those who have faith in God—Abraham, David, and we all share the same way of salvation. 


Much of Romans and Galatians addresses the fact that there is only one way of salvation and only one gospel message. Throughout history people have tried to pervert the gospel by adding human works to it, requiring certain things to be done to “earn” salvation. But the Bible’s clear message is that the way of salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, it was faith in the promise that God would send a Savior someday. Those who lived in the time of the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah and believed God’s promise of the coming Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). Those who exercised such faith were saved. Today we look back on the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins (Romans 10:9-10).


The gospel is not an exclusively New Testament message. The Old Testament contained it as well: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:8-9, quoting Genesis 12:3).


As early as Genesis 3:15, we see the promise of a coming Savior, and throughout the Old Testament there are hundreds of promises that the Messiah would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; cf. Isaiah 53:5-6). Job’s faith was in the fact that he knew that his “Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Clearly, Old Testament saints were aware of the promised Redeemer, and they were saved by faith in that Savior, the same way people are saved today. There is no other way. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12, quoting Psalm 118:22).

HAVE A BLESSED DAY

MAXIMILIANO 



04/27/19

Question: "What does it mean that good works are the result of salvation?"


Answer:Ephesians 2:8–9 makes it clear that we are not saved by good works. In fact, before we are saved, our works are done in the flesh and cannot please God; even our most “righteous” deeds fall far short of God’s glory (see Romans 3:20 and Isaiah 64:6). We can be saved only because God is gracious and merciful and has designed a way for us to be declared righteous when we are not (Psalm 86:5; Ephesians 2:4). When Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), we inherited His righteousness. Salvation is a divine exchange: our tattered rags of self-effort for the perfection of Christ. Because His death and resurrection paid the price for our evil deeds, we can be declared perfect before God (Romans 5:1). We are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” like a flawless garment (Romans 13:14).


At salvation, the Holy Spirit moves into the repentant heart (Acts 2:38). Self is no longer the uncontested lord of our lives. Jesus is now the boss. That’s what it means to say that Jesus is “Lord” (Romans 10:9; Colossians 2:6). We were once headed south; we are now headed north. Everything is changed. We begin to view life from God’s perspective, not our own—as John Newton wrote, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”


The sins we once committed without thought now bring conviction. To know God is to see sin the way He sees it. First John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Instead of sin, the born-again Christian produces “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Salvation enables us to live “in the Spirit” and so truly perform good works (Galatians 5:16).


Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God’s goal in saving us was not only to rescue us from hell, but also that we would reflect His character and goodness to the world. God delights to see us becoming more like His Son (Romans 8:29). We were created in God’s image. Sin marred that image. When God bought us back for Himself, it was to restore His image in us and free us to become all we were created to be. When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, He prompts us to do things that glorify God (John 14:26). Our desire to please God grows as our understanding of Him grows. That desire to please God results in good works.


It is biblically inconsistent to say that someone has been savedbut has not changed. Many people go through the outward motions of giving their lives to Christ, but no lifestyle change follows. That is not real salvation but is a “dead” faith (James 2:26). When you walk into a dark room and flip the switch, you expect light. If no light appears, you rightly assume something is wrong. It would be logically inconsistent to say that the light is on when the room is still pitch black. Light naturally dispels darkness. When a dark heart receives the light of salvation, it is illuminated (John 12:46). Priorities change. Desires change. Outlook changes. Life is seen clearly for the first time. If the darkness of sin continues, we can rightly assume no light came on.


To use another biblical analogy, God wants to produce fruit in our lives (see Galatians 5:22–23). He is the Vinedresser, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. The branches are naturally attached to the vine; from the vine they get their support, their ability to produce fruit, and their very life. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). That is the purpose of the vineyard—to produce “much fruit.” Good works follow salvation.


So, although we cannot be saved byour good works, when we aresaved, we willproduce good works. Just as a baby will grow after birth, so a believer will grow after the new birth. We grow at different rates and in different ways, but a live birth results in growth. If a baby never grows, there is something very wrong. No one expects a baby to stay a baby forever. As he grows, the child begins to look more and more like his parents. In the same way, after salvation, we grow, and we begin to look more and more like our Heavenly Father. This is only possible as we “abide in Him” and allow Him to reproduce His character in us (John 15:4).


Good works do not produce salvation. Good works are the product of salvation. Jesus said to His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


PART II 

Question: "How do God's mercy and justice work together in salvation?"


Answer:God’s justice and mercy are seemingly incompatible. After all, justice involves the dispensing of deserved punishment for wrongdoing, and mercy is all about pardon and compassion for an offender. However, these two attributes of God do in fact form a unity within His character.


The Bible contains many references to God’s mercy. Over 290 verses in the Old Testament and 70 in the New Testament contain direct statements of the mercy of God toward His people.


God was merciful to the Ninevites who repented at the preaching of Jonah, who described God as “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). David said God is “gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness. The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8–9, NASB).


But the Bible also speaks of God’s justice and His wrath over sin. In fact, God’s perfect justice is a defining characteristic: “There is no God apart from me, a righteous [just] God and a Savior; there is none but me” (Isaiah 45:21). “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).


In the New Testament, Paul details why God’s judgment is coming: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).


So the Bible showcases the fact that God is merciful, but it also reveals that He is just and will one day dispense justice on the sin of the world.


In every other religion in the world that holds to the idea of a supreme deity, that deity’s mercy is always exercised at the expense ofjustice. For example, in Islam, Allah may grant mercy to an individual, but it’s done by dismissing the penalties of whatever law has been broken. In other words, the offender’s punishment that was properly due him is brushed aside so that mercy can be extended. Islam’s Allah and every other deity in the non-Christian religions set aside the requirements of moral law in order to be merciful. Mercy is seen as at odds with justice. In a sense, in those religions, crime can indeed pay.


If any human judge acted in such a fashion, most people would lodge a major complaint. It is a judge’s responsibility to see that the law is followed and that justice is provided. A judge who ignores the law is betraying his office.


Christianity is unique in that God’s mercy is shown throughHis justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Christian doctrine of penal substitution states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ and it’s only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice that God extends His mercy to undeserving sinners who look to Him for salvation.


As Christ died for sinners, He also demonstrated God’s righteousness; His death on the cross showcased God’s justice. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says: “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousnessat the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24–26, emphasis added).


In other words, all the sin from Adam to the time of Christ was under the forbearance and mercy of God. God in His mercy chose not to punish sin, which would require an eternity in hell for all sinners, although He would have been perfectly just in doing so. Adam and Eve were not immediately destroyed when they ate the forbidden fruit. Instead, God planned a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). In His love God sent His own Son (John 3:16). Christ paid for every single sin ever committed; thus, God was just in punishing sin, and He can also justify sinners who receive Christ by faith (Romans 3:26). God’s justice andHis mercy were demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. At the cross, God’s justice was meted out in full (upon Christ), and God’s mercy was extended in full (to all who believe). So God’s perfect mercy was exercised through His perfect justice.


The end result is that everyone who trusts in the Lord Jesus is saved from God’s wrath and instead experiences His grace and mercy (Romans 8:1). As Paul says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9).


PART III 

Question: "Why did God make salvation such a narrow path?"


Answer:In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." This passage causes some to question the goodness of God. After all, if He really wants to save everyone, why didn't He make it easier to be saved? Why doesn't He simply let everyone into heaven?


When we read the word narrow, we tend to associate it with prejudicial selection. It sounds as though God has rated us all on some scale of acceptability and only allows a select few to enter His presence. However, a few verses earlier, Jesus had told the same audience, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Jesus made it clear: the path to eternal life is open to everyone who asks.


However, the gate to heaven is “narrow” in the sense of having a particular requirement for entrance—faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ; He is the only way (John 14:6). The “wide” gate is non-exclusive; it allows for human effort and all other of the world’s religions.


Jesus says that narrow gate leads to a “hard” road, one that will take us through hardships and difficult decisions. Following Jesus requires crucifying our flesh (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Romans 6:2), living by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:38), enduring trials with Christlike patience (James 1:2–3, 12; 1 Peter 1:6), and living a lifestyle separate from the world (James 1:27; Romans 12:1–2). When faced with the choice between a narrow, bumpy road and a wide, paved highway, most of us choose the easier road. Human nature gravitates toward comfort and pleasure. When faced with the reality of denying themselves to follow Jesus, most people turn away (John 6:66). Jesus never sugar-coated the truth, and the truth is that not many people are willing to pay the price to follow Him.


God offers salvation to everyone who accepts it (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:2). But it is on His terms. We must come the way He has provided. We cannot create our own paths or come to a holy God based on our own efforts. Compared to His righteousness, we are all filthy (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10). God cannot simply excuse or overlook our sin. He is merciful, but He is also just. Justice requires that sin be paid for. At great cost to Himself, He paid that price (Isaiah 53:5; 1 John 3:1, 16; Psalm 51:7). Without the blood of Jesus covering our sin, we stand guilty before the God we rejected (Romans 1:20). 


The way to God was completely closed, and sin was the roadblock (Romans 5:12). No one deserves a second chance. We all deserve to stay on the "wide road that leads to destruction." But God loved us enough to provide the path to eternal life anyway (Romans 5:6–8). However, He also knows that in our self-centered, sin-saturated world there are not many who will desire Him enough to come to Him on His terms (John 6:44, 65; Romans 3:11; Jeremiah 29:13). Satan has paved the highway to hell with fleshly temptations, worldly attractions, and moral compromises. Most people allow their passions and desires to dictate the course of their lives. They choose temporary, earthly pleasure over the self-sacrifice required in following Jesus (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:37). The narrow gate is ignored. Most people would rather create their own religions and design their own gods. So it was with sorrow, not discrimination, that Jesus declared that the road to eternal life is "narrow, and only a few find it."


PART IV

Question: "What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?"


Answer:The word gospelmeans “good news,” so the gospel of Christ is the good news of His coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who will believe (Colossians 1:14; Romans 10:9). Since the first man’s sin, mankind has been under the condemnation of God (Romans 5:12). Because everyone breaks God’s perfect law by committing sin (Romans 3:23), everyone is guilty (Romans 5:18). The punishment for the crime of sin is physical death (Romans 6:23) and then an eternity spent in a place of punishment (Revelation 20:15; Matthew 25:46). This eternal separation from God is also called the “second death” (Revelation 20:14–15).


The bad news that all are guilty of sin and condemned by God is countered by the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. God, because of His love for the world, has made a way for man to be forgiven of their sins (John 3:16). He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the sins of mankind on Himself through death on a cross (1 Peter 2:24). In placing our sin on Christ, God ensured that all who will believe in the name of Jesus will be forgiven (Acts 10:43). Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the justification of all who believe (Romans 4:25).


The Bible specifies the content of the gospel message: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1 Corinthians 15:1–6). In this passage, Paul emphasizes the primacy of the gospel—it is of “first importance.” The gospel message contains two historical facts, both supported by Scripture: Christ’s death and His resurrection. Both those facts are bolstered by other proofs: Christ’s death is proved by His burial, and His resurrection is proved by the eyewitnesses.


The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that God provided the way for man to be freed from the penalty of sin (John 14:6; Romans 6:23). But not all people