ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY, CONQUERING DOUBT PART 38












07/29/21

Question: "What is the significance of the city of Jerusalem?"

Answer: For millennia, Jerusalem has been an important city, often commanding the attention of much of the world, and the city figures prominently in both biblical history and biblical prophecy. Jerusalem is central to many important events in the Bible.

The city of Jerusalem is situated on the edge of one of the highest tablelands in Israel, south of the center of the country, about thirty-seven miles east of the Mediterranean Sea and about twenty-four miles west of the Jordan River. Its situation, lined on two sides by deep ravines, provides a natural defense for the city. Jerusalem is called by various names in Scripture: “Salem,” “Ariel,” “Jebus,” the “city of God,” the “holy city,” the “city of David,” and “Zion.” Jerusalem itself means “possession of peace.”

Jerusalem in history. The first biblical reference to Jerusalem is found in the story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, King of Salem (Genesis 14:18–24). The actual name Jerusalem first occurs in Joshua 10:5. Later, David marched on Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6–10, c. 1000 BC), and he “captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David” from the Jebusites (verse 7). At that time, Jerusalem became the capital of Israel. It was in Jerusalem that Solomon built the temple and his palace (1 Kings 6–7). In 586 BC the Babylonians destroyed the temple and the city and deported the Jews to Babylon (2 Kings 24–25). After the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, they rebuilt the temple, completed in 516 BC under Zerubbabel (Ezra 6). Under Nehemiah’s leadership the walls were rebuilt in 444 BC (Nehemiah 6).

During the intertestamental period, the Selucid king Antiochus IV (175–163 BC) desecrated the temple. In 165 Jerusalem was liberated by Judas Maccabeus, and the Jews cleansed and restored the temple. In 65 BC the Romans besieged the city and destroyed the walls. Herod the Great was made “king of the Jews” by Caesar Augustus in 40 BC. Twenty years later Herod began a massive remodeling of the Jewish temple, a project completed in AD 66. That temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, and the Jews dispersed throughout the world.

In the seventh and eighth centuries, Islam came on the scene, and Muslims began building shrines and mosques in Jerusalem to commemorate certain events important in their religion. The Dome of the Rock is the most noteworthy shrine, built directly on the temple mount. Under Arab rule, Jerusalem prospered, and tolerance was at first extended to Christians. However, this tolerance began to wane over time. In the early eleventh century, a ruler of the Fatimid Dynasty ordered the destruction of all churches in Jerusalem. This outraged Christians throughout Europe and led to the First Crusade (1095–1099).

After World War II, on May 14, 1948, Israel once again became an independent state, and President Truman duly recognized Israel’s restored status as a national homeland for the Jewish people. On December 5, 1949, Israel declared Jerusalem to be its “eternal and sacred” capital. Unfortunately, other nations have been slow in facing the reality of Israel’s independence and its right to choose its own capital. In December 2017 the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem in prophecy. The Bible predicted that the Jewish people would return to Israel, and Jerusalem figures prominently in prophecies concerning the end times (Joel 3:1; Jeremiah 23:3; 30:7; Ezekiel 11:17; 37:1–14). Someday, the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in the Holy City (Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).

In the early part of the tribulation, a combined military force, including Russia, will march against Jerusalem: this battle is outlined in Ezekiel 38–39 in the prophecy of Gog and Magog, and it will end in the destruction of those armies arrayed against Israel. During the tribulation, the two witnesses will be martyred in Jerusalem (Revelation 11). At the end of the tribulation, the nations of the world will mount a final assault on the city in the Battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9–12; Zechariah 14:1–3; Revelation 16). That battle will be ended by the arrival of Jesus Christ Himself (Revelation 19). “The Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. . . . The Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him” (Zechariah 14:3, 5).

Zechariah 12:2–4 refers to the futility of people attacking Jerusalem: “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness.”

During the Millennial Kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the earth from Zion, and the nations will come to Jerusalem for instruction and blessing (Isaiah 2:2–4; 35:10; Psalm 102:20–22; Revelation 20).

Jerusalem in the present. Israel is a sovereign nation, and it has chosen its capital to be Jerusalem. In 1995, the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, requiring the U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. However, for over two decades, implementation of that law was delayed by U.S. Presidents. Now the United States has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that accords with thousands of years of history and the wishes of Israel itself.

Jerusalem is held in high regard by all three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews consider the Temple Mount to be the holiest place on earth; it is the third holiest Islamic site. Christians value Jerusalem as the site of much of Jesus’ ministry, the place where He was crucified and rose again, and the church’s birthplace (Acts 2). Today the Temple Mount is under the control of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a trust established to manage the Islamic structures in Jerusalem. Under their current rules, access to the holy sites is prohibited to all non-Muslims. The closest the Jews can get to their former temple site is the Western Wall.

Currently, Jerusalem is still experiencing what Jesus called “the times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” This period began with the Babylonian Exile (or possibly with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70) and will continue through the tribulation period (Matthew 24; Revelation 11:2). Scripture tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).

The rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a vital step in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The dry bones of the prophecy in Ezekiel 37 began coming back together. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is another important step. The stage is being set for other prophecies to be fulfilled. We may not know all the implications that current events have on the prophetic timeline, but we do know that Jerusalem is a special city. It is the only city in the world where God has put His Name (2 Kings 21:7). As for the temple, the Lord said, “I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (2 Chronicles 7:16). God has promised an everlasting covenant with Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:60), and Zion has this promise:
“‘Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

At His second coming, Jesus will descend to the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4). Jerusalem will be the seat of authority in Jesus’ kingdom, and judgment will be meted out from Zion (Micah 4:7; Isaiah 33:5; Psalm 110). With every passing day, we are closer to the Lord’s fulfillment of His promises concerning Jerusalem and His reign of true justice and peace (Isaiah 9:7). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20, KJV).


Question: "Who was Melchizedek (Melchisedek)?"

Answer: Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6–11; 6:20—7:28). Melchizedek’s sudden appearance and disappearance in the book of Genesis is somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating friendship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”) and praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle (Genesis 14:18–20).

Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the items he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than he.

In Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David (Matthew 22:43), Melchizedek is presented as a type of Christ. This theme is repeated in the book of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Christ are considered kings of righteousness and peace. By citing Melchizedek and his unique priesthood as a type, the writer shows that Christ’s new priesthood is superior to the old levitical order and the priesthood of Aaron (Hebrews 7:1–10).

Some propose that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, or a Christophany. This is a possible theory, given that Abraham had received such a visit before. Consider Genesis 17 where Abraham saw and spoke with the Lord (El Shaddai) in the form of a man.

Hebrews 6:20 says, “[Jesus] has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” This term order would ordinarily indicate a succession of priests holding the office. None are ever mentioned, however, in the long interval from Melchizedek to Christ, an anomaly that can be solved by assuming that Melchizedek and Christ are really the same person. Thus the “order” is eternally vested in Him and Him alone.

Hebrews 7:3 says that Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” The question is whether the author of Hebrews means this actually or figuratively.

If the description in Hebrews is literal, then it is indeed difficult to see how it could be properly applied to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ. No mere earthly king “remains a priest forever,” and no mere human is “without father or mother.” If Genesis 14 describes a theophany, then God the Son came to give Abraham His blessing (Genesis 14:17–19), appearing as the King of Righteousness (Revelation 19:11,16), the King of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and the Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5).

If the description of Melchizedek is figurative, then the details of having no genealogy, no beginning or ending, and a ceaseless ministry are simply statements accentuating the mysterious nature of the person who met Abraham. In this case, the silence in the Genesis account concerning these details is purposeful and better serves to link Melchizedek with Christ.

Are Melchizedek and Jesus the same person? A case can be made either way. At the very least, Melchizedek is a type of Christ, prefiguring the Lord’s ministry. But it is also possible that Abraham, after his weary battle, met and gave honor to the Lord Jesus Himself.


Question: "What happened in the intertestamental period?"

Answer: The time between the last writings of the Old Testament and the appearance of Christ is known as the “intertestamental” (or “between the testaments”) period. It lasted from the prophet Malachi’s time (about 400 BC) to the preaching of John the Baptist (about AD 25). Because there was no prophetic word from God during the period from Malachi to John, some refer to it as the “400 silent years.” The political, religious, and social atmosphere of Israel changed significantly during this period. Much of what happened was predicted by the prophet Daniel. (See Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8, and 11 and compare to historical events.)

Israel was under the control of the Persian Empire about 532–332 BC. The Persians allowed the Jews to practice their religion with little interference. They were even allowed to rebuild and worship at the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–4). This span of time included the last 100 years of the Old Testament period and about the first 100 years of the intertestamental period. This time of relative peace and contentment was just the calm before the storm.

Prior to the intertestamental period, Alexander the Great defeated Darius of Persia, bringing Greek rule to the world. Alexander was a student of Aristotle and was well-educated in Greek philosophy and politics. Alexander required that Greek culture be promoted in every land that he conquered. As a result, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, becoming the translation known as the Septuagint. Most of the New Testament references to Old Testament Scripture use the Septuagint phrasing. Alexander did allow religious freedom for the Jews, though he still strongly promoted Greek lifestyles. This was not a good turn of events for Israel, since the Greek culture was very worldly, humanistic, and ungodly.

After Alexander died, Judea was ruled by a series of successors, culminating in the Selucid king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus did far more than refuse religious freedom to the Jews. Around 167 BC, he overthrew the rightful line of the priesthood and desecrated the temple, defiling it with unclean animals and a pagan altar (see Mark 13:14 for a similar event to take place in the future). Antiochus’ act was the religious equivalent of rape. Eventually, Jewish resistance to Antiochus, led by Judas Maccabeus and the Hasmoneans, restored the rightful priests and rescued the temple. The period of the Maccabean Revolt was one of war, violence, and infighting.

Around 63 BC, Pompey of Rome conquered Israel, putting all of Judea under control of the Caesars. This eventually led to Herod being made king of Judea by the Roman emperor and senate. This is the nation that taxed and controlled the Jews and eventually executed the Messiah on a Roman cross. Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures were now mixed together in Judea.

During the span of the Greek and Roman occupations, two important political/religious groups emerged in Israel. The Pharisees added to the Law of Moses through oral tradition and eventually considered their own laws more important than God’s (see Mark 7:1–23). While Christ’s teachings often agreed with the Pharisees, He railed against their hollow legalism and lack of compassion. The Sadducees represented the aristocrats and the wealthy. The Sadducees, who wielded power through the Sanhedrin, rejected all but the Mosaic books of the Old Testament. They refused to believe in resurrection and were generally shadows of the Greeks, whom they greatly admired.

The events of the intertestamental period set the stage for Christ and had a profound impact on the Jewish people. Both Jews and pagans from other nations were becoming dissatisfied with religion. The pagans were beginning to question the validity of polytheism. Romans and Greeks were drawn from their mythologies toward the Hebrew Scriptures, now easily accessible in Greek or Latin. The Jews, however, were despondent. Once again, they were conquered, oppressed, and polluted. Hope was running low; faith was even lower. They were convinced that now the only thing that could save them and their faith was the appearance of the Messiah. Not only were people primed and ready for the Messiah, but God was moving in other ways as well: the Romans had built roads (to aid the spread of the gospel); everyone understood a common language, Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament); and there was a fair amount of peace and freedom to travel (further aiding the dissemination of the gospel).

The New Testament tells the story of how hope came, not only for the Jews but for the entire world. Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy was anticipated and recognized by many who sought Him out. The stories of the Roman centurion, the wise men, and the Pharisee Nicodemus show how Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by those from several different cultures. The “400 years of silence” of the intertestamental period were broken by the greatest story ever told—the gospel of Jesus Christ!


Question: "Who was Antiochus Epiphanes?"

Answer: Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who reigned over Syria from 175 BC until 164 BC. He is famous for almost conquering Egypt and for his brutal persecution of the Jews, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes was a ruthless and often capricious ruler. He is properly Antiochus IV, but he took upon himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “illustrious one” or “god manifest.” However, his bizarre and blasphemous behavior earned him another nickname among the Jews: “Epimanes,” which means “mad one.”

An altercation between Antiochus Epiphanes and a Roman ambassador by the name of Gaius Popillius Laenas is the origin of the saying “to draw a line in the sand.” When Antiochus brought his army against Egypt in 168 BC, Popillius stood in his way and gave him a message from the Roman Senate ordering him to stop the attack. Antiochus responded that he would think it over and discuss it with his council, at which point Popillius drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and told him that, if he did not give the Roman Senate an answer before crossing over the line in the sand, Rome would declare war. Antiochus decided to withdraw as Rome had requested.

But the most famous conflict connected to Antiochus Epiphanes is the Maccabean revolt. During that time of history, there were two factions within Judaism: the Hellenists, who had accepted pagan practices and the Greek culture; and the Traditionalists, who were faithful to the Mosaic Law and the old ways. Supposedly to avoid a civil war between these two factions, Antiochus made a decree outlawing Jewish rites and worship, ordering the Jews to worship Zeus rather than Yahweh. He wasn’t just trying to Hellenize the Jews but to totally eliminate all traces of Jewish culture. Of course, the Jews rebelled against his decrees.

In an act of brazen disrespect, Antiochus raided the temple in Jerusalem, stealing its treasures, setting up an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing swine on the altar. When the Jews expressed their outrage over the profaning of the temple, Antiochus responded by slaughtering a great number of the Jews and selling others into slavery. He issued even more draconian decrees: performing the rite of circumcision was punishable by death, and Jews everywhere were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and eat pig flesh.

The Jewish response was to take up arms and fight. In 167—166 BC, Judas Maccabaeus led the Jews in a series of victories over the military forces of the Syrian-Greeks. After vanquishing Antiochus and the Seleucids, the Jews cleaned and restored the temple in 165.

Antiochus Epiphanes is a tyrannical figure in Jewish history, and he is also a foreshadowing of the coming Antichrist. The prophet Daniel predicts an atrocity in the temple in the end times (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Daniel’s prophecy concerns a coming ruler who will cause the offerings to cease in the temple and set up “an abomination that causes desolation.” While what Antiochus did certainly qualifies as an abomination, Jesus speaks of Daniel’s prophecy as having a still-future fulfillment (Matthew 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20–21). The Antichrist will model Antiochus Ephiphanes in his great pride, blasphemous actions, and hatred of the Jews.




Question: "Who was Judas Maccabeus?"

Answer: Judas Maccabeus was a priest who led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire in Israel in the second century BC.

When the Old Testament closes, the people of Israel have returned from the Babylonian Exile, and the work of rebuilding has begun. Under Nehemiah, the wall of Jerusalem is rebuilt. Ezra begins to call the people back to devotion to Yahweh. The temple has also been rebuilt, although it does not compare favorably to the splendor of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 5). In the time of Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, the temple is functioning again with sacrifices being offered, although the people were not zealous for the Lord and were offering blemished animals.

Between Malachi and the coming of John the Baptist, about 400 years passes. While there was no official prophetic word during that time, there was still a lot going on. Judas Maccabeus is from this period, sometimes called the “silent period” because there was no prophetic voice. It is also called the “Intertestamental Period” because it covers the time between the Old and New Testaments.

The Old Testament closes roughly 400 BC. Alexander the Great all but conquers the known civilized world and dies in 323 BC. His empire is then distributed to his generals who consolidate their territory and their dynasties. Ptolemy, one of his generals, ruled in Egypt. Seleucus, another of his generals, ruled over territory that included Syria. These generals founded dynasties that were often at war with each other. A look at a map will confirm the precarious position of Israel, located as it was between the territories of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.

Ptolemaic rule of Israel (Palestine) was tolerant of Jewish religious practices. However, the Seleucid dynasty eventually won control of the area and began to curtail Jewish religious practices. In 175 BC, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV came to power. He chose for himself the title Epiphanes, which means “god manifest.” He began to persecute the Jews in earnest. He outlawed Jewish religious practices (including the observance of food laws) and ordered the worship of Zeus. His ultimate act of desecration was to sacrifice a pig to Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem in 167 BC. Things were set up for Judas Maccabeus and his rebellion.

Faithful Jewish opposition had been an undercurrent all along, but Antiochus’ overt act of desecration brought it to the surface. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, led the organized resistance along with his five sons, John Gaddi, Simon Thassi, Eleazar Avaran, Jonathan Apphus, and Judas Maccabeus. Mattathias started the rebellion by preventing a Jew from sacrificing to a pagan god and then killing an officer of the king. He escaped with his family to the hills where he was joined by many other faithful Jews. From there, they conducted a guerilla war against the Seleucids. Upon Mattathias’s death in 166 BC, his son Judas Maccabeus took command of the rebellion. He saw himself as a leader like Moses, Joshua, and Gideon.

Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion continued successfully, and the Jews were able to capture Jerusalem and rededicate the temple in 164 BC. (It is from this event that the festival of Hanukkah comes.) From there Judas Maccabeus took the war to Galilee in an effort to reclaim all Jewish territory. In 164 Antiochus Epiphanes died, and his son and successor Antiochus Eupator agreed to peace and to allow the resumption of Jewish practices. However, the war resumed shortly thereafter, and Judas sought and received help from the fledgling power of Rome to finally throw off Seleucid control. Judas Maccabeus died in about 161 and was succeeded by his brother Jonathan. Finally, under Jonathan’s leadership, peace was made with Alexander Balas, the Seleucid king, in about 153.

In spite of the fact that Judas Maccabeus neither started the rebellion nor saw it to its completion, he is considered to be the central figure in it. The name Maccabeusis derived from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” and he is often referred to as “Judas the Hammer.” After his death, Maccabeus (or Maccabee) became the family name so his brothers and even his father are referred to as “the Maccabees” (also called the Hasmoneans), and the revolt is referred to as “the Maccabean Revolt.”

The history of the rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus is recorded in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews and in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees.


07/26/21

Question: "How do you know if you have the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The Bible teaches that anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior receives God’s Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation: “In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14, CSB).

To be a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit living in you: “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9, CSB).

Paul taught the Corinthian church that by the one Spirit of God all believers are united in one body: “For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, CSB). Drinking of the Spirit is a metaphor for receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation: “Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”’ (When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.)” (John 7:37–39, NLT).

If you have, by faith, received Christ as your Savior, then you have the Holy Spirit. But many believers confuse “having the Holy Spirit” with “being filled with the Spirit.” Acquiring the Holy Spirit happens at salvation. All true believers possess the Holy Spirit as a seal marking them as a child of God.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit—submitting to the Spirit’s control—is an ongoing experience in the Christian life. “Being led by the Spirit,” “walking by the Spirit,” and “keeping step with the Spirit,” spiritual parallels to “being filled with the Spirit,” are all biblical descriptions of the goal of Christian discipleship (Galatians 5:16–26). Every believer should seek to be filled with the Spirit as part of his or her continuing relationship with God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18–20, NLT).

Some Christian denominations teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from the infilling that occurs at salvation. The teaching of a second baptism “in fire” or “power” causes confusion, often prompting believers to question whether they have the Holy Spirit. Some maintain that speaking in tongues is the outward evidence of having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, although there is nothing in the Bible to justify tongues as a universal experience. We hold to the belief that there is one baptism of the Spirit, and that occurs at salvation.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be empowered and controlled by the Spirit, to experience renewal, obedience, boldness to witness and share the gospel, and freedom from the power of sin (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 4:31, 7:55; 9:17; 13:9; Romans 15:13). It is to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). But to have the Holy Spirit is the mark of all born-again Christians. You can know you have the Holy Spirit if you are, in fact, a follower of Jesus Christ.


07/25/21

Question: "What is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the pouring out of God’s Spirit to fill and indwell people—was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2). This event was predicted in the Old Testament: in Isaiah 44:3 God said to Israel, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” The Holy Spirit is pictured as the “water of life” that saves and blesses a dying people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted another prophecy as being fulfilled: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. . . . And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:28–29, 32).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era, the church age. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was a rare gift that was only given to a few people, and usually for only short periods of time. When Saul was anointed king of Israel, the Holy Spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 10:10), but when God removed His blessing on Saul, the Holy Spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:14). The Holy Spirit came for specific moments or seasons in the lives of Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), and Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6) as well, to enable them to do His will and serve Israel. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers in Christ, and He came to stay. This marked a major change in the Holy Spirit’s work.

Before His arrest, Jesus had promised to send His disciples the Holy Spirit (John 14:15–17). The Spirit “lives with you and will be in you,” Jesus said (John 14:17). This was a prophecy of the indwelling of the Spirit, another distinctive of the church age. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 marked the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, too, as the Holy Spirit came upon all believers in a powerful, visible (and audible) way. Luke records the event: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2–4). Immediately, the Spirit-filled believers went into the streets of Jerusalem and preached Christ. Three thousand people were saved and baptized that day; the church had begun (verse 41).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon humanity was the inauguration of the New Covenant, which had been ratified by Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20). According to the terms of the New Covenant, every believer is given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Ever since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has baptized every believer into Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13), as He comes to permanently indwell God’s children.

In the book of Acts, there are three “outpourings” of the Holy Spirit, to three different people groups at three different times. The first was to Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The second was to a group of believing Samaritans (Acts 8). The third was to a group of believing Gentiles (Acts 10). Significantly, Peter was present at all three outpourings. Three times, God sent the Holy Spirit with demonstrable signs, as the Great Commission was being fulfilled. The same Holy Spirit coming upon Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the same manner in the presence of the same apostle kept the early church unified. There was not a “Jewish” church, a “Samaritan” church, and a “Roman” church—there was one church, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

The outpouring of the Spirit is different from the filling of the Spirit. The outpouring was a unique coming of the Holy Spirit to earth; the filling happens whenever we are surrendered to God’s control of our lives. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In this regard it is possible for the believer either to be “filled with the Spirit” or to “quench” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In either case, the Holy Spirit remains with the believer (as opposed to the Old Testament era, when the Holy Spirit would come and go). The filling of the Spirit comes as a direct result of submission to God’s will, and the quenching is a direct result of rebelling against God’s will.

Some still look for an “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit on a specific group of people in a specific place or time, but there is no biblical support for the repeat of such a Pentecost-style event. The church has already begun; the apostles have already laid that foundation (Ephesians 2:20). Sometimes we sing songs that ask the Holy Spirit to “come”; the reality is that He has already come to us—at the moment of salvation—and, once He comes, He doesn’t leave. The outpouring of the Spirit is a completed prophecy that ushered in the church age and the New Covenant in which all believers are given the Holy Spirit.


07/24/21

Question: "Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?"

Answer: Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a true believer. This is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” This verse very clearly states that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then that person is not saved. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, that person would have lost the saving relationship with Christ. Yet this is contrary to what the Bible teaches about the eternal security of Christians. Another verse that speaks to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper “to be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the 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.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment on their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezalel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers (Acts 2). The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.


07/23/21

Question: "What are the names and titles of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The Holy Spirit is known by many names and titles, most of which denote some function or aspect of His ministry. Below are some of the names and descriptions the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit: 

Author of Scripture: (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16) The Bible is inspired, literally “God-breathed,” by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The Spirit moved the authors of all 66 books to record exactly what He breathed into their hearts and minds. As a ship is moved through the water by wind in its sails, so the biblical writers were borne along by the Spirit’s impulse.

Comforter / Counselor / Advocate: (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7) All three words are translations of the Greek parakletos, from which we get “Paraclete,” another name for the Spirit. When Jesus went away, His disciples were greatly distressed because they had lost His comforting presence. But He promised to send the Spirit to comfort, console, and guide those who belong to Christ. The Spirit also “bears witness” with our spirits that we belong to Him and thereby assures us of salvation. 

Convicter of Sin: (John 16:7-11) The Spirit applies the truths of God to men’s own minds in order to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. He does this through the conviction in our hearts that we are not worthy to stand before a holy God, that we need His righteousness, and that judgment is certain and will come to all men one day. Those who deny these truths rebel against the conviction of the Spirit. 

Deposit / Seal / Earnest: (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14) The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

Guide: (John 16:13) Just as the Spirit guided the writers of Scripture to record truth, so does He promise to guide believers to know and understand that truth. God’s truth is “foolishness” to the world, because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those who belong to Christ have the indwelling Spirit who guides us into all we need to know in regard to spiritual matters. Those who do not belong to Christ have no “interpreter” to guide them to know and understand God’s Word.

Indweller of Believers: (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19) The Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of God’s people, and that indwelling is the distinguishing characteristic of the regenerated person. From within believers, He directs, guides, comforts, and influences us, as well as producing in us the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). He provides the intimate connection between God and His children. All true believers in Christ have the Spirit residing in their hearts. 

Intercessor: (Romans 8:26) One of the most encouraging and comforting aspects of the Holy Spirit is His ministry of intercession on behalf of those He inhabits. Because we often don’t know what or how to pray when we approach God, the Spirit intercedes and prays for us. He intercedes for us “with wordless groans,” so that when we are oppressed and overwhelmed by trials and the cares of life, He comes alongside to lend assistance as He sustains us before the throne of grace. 

Revealer / Spirit of Truth: (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16) Jesus promised that, after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit would come to “guide you into all truth.” Because of the Spirit in our hearts, we are able to understand truth, especially in spiritual matters, in a way that non-Christians cannot. In fact, the truth the Spirit reveals to us is “foolishness” to them, and they cannot understand it. But we have the mind of Christ in the Person of His Spirit within us.

Spirit of God / the Lord / Christ: (Matthew 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 1:11) These names remind us that the Spirit of God is indeed part of the triune godhead and that He is just as much God as the Father and the Son. He is first revealed to us at the creation, when He was “hovering over the waters,” denoting His part in creation, along with that of Jesus who “made all things” (John 1:1-3). We see this same Trinity of God again at Jesus’ baptism, when the Spirit descends on Jesus and the voice of the Father is heard. 

Spirit of Life: (Romans 8:2) The phrase “Spirit of life” means the Holy Spirit is the one who produces or gives life, not that He initiates salvation, but rather that He imparts newness of life. When we receive eternal life through Christ, the Spirit provides the spiritual food that is the sustenance of the spiritual life. Here again, we see the triune God at work. We are saved by the Father through the work of the Son, and that salvation is sustained by the Holy Spirit.

Teacher: (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13) Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach His disciples “all things” and bring to their remembrance the things He said while He was with them. The writers of the New Testament were moved by the Spirit to remember and understand the instructions Jesus gave for the building and organizing of the Church, the doctrines regarding Himself, the directives for holy living, and the revelation of things to come. 

Witness: (Romans 8:16; Hebrews 2:4; 10:15) The Spirit is called “witness” because He verifies and testifies to the fact that we are children of God, that Jesus and the disciples who performed miracles were sent by God, and that the books of the Bible are divinely inspired. Further, by giving the gifts of the Spirit to believers, He witnesses to us and the world that we belong to God.



07/22/21

Question: "Should we worship the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: We know that only God should be worshiped (see Exodus 34:14 and Revelation 22:9). Only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. If the Holy Spirit is God, then He can and should be worshiped.

Scripture presents the Holy Spirit as not merely a “force” but as a Person. The Spirit is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7–8, 13–14). He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He chooses (Acts 13:2), He teaches (John 14:26), and He guides (Acts 16:7). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3–4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7–10) and omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). He was involved in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit enjoys intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; John 14:16). When we compare Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7–9, we see that the Holy Spirit and Yahweh are the same (see also Isaiah 6:8 as compared to Acts 28:25).

Since the Holy Spirit is God, and God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3), then the Spirit is worthy of worship. Jesus, the Son of God, received worship (Matthew 28:9), so it stands to reason that the Spirit of God would also receive worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that believers “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.” There is one God who eternally exists in three Persons. When we worship God, we naturally worship all three members of the Godhead.

How do we worship the Holy Spirit? The same way we worship the Father and the Son. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inward workings of the Holy Spirit to which we respond by offering our lives to Him (Romans 12:1). We worship the Spirit by obedience to His commands. Referring to Christ, the apostle John explains that “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). We see here the link between obeying Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, convicting us our need to worship by obedience and empowering us to worship.

Question: "What is the power of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God. The Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, has appeared throughout Scripture as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest. His power was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2; Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13; see also Exodus 31:2–5; Numbers 27:18). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson’s feats of strength are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).

Jesus promised the Spirit as a permanent guide, teacher, seal of salvation, and comforter for believers (John 14:16-18). He also promised that the Holy Spirit’s power would help His followers to spread the message of the gospel around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the world.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon believers at Pentecost, it was not a quiet event, but a powerful one. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately afterward, the disciples spoke to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These people hailed from a variety of nations and therefore spoke many different languages. Imagine their surprise and wonder when the disciples spoke to them in their own tongues (verses 5–12)! Clearly, this was not something the disciples could have accomplished on their own without many months—or even years—of study. The Holy Spirit’s power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (verse 41).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and empowered by the Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit equipped the apostles to perform miracles, too (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 2:43; 3:1–7; 9:39–41). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more.

All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). And, although some of the spiritual gifts have ceased (e.g., speaking in tongues and prophecy), the Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish His will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s powerful indwelling is an amazing gift we should never take lightly.



Question: "What is the difference between the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit and God's omnipresence?"

Answer: God’s omnipresence is His attribute of being everywhere at once. He is omnipresent even when we do not experience His presence; He is here, even if we do not recognize Him. God’s manifest presence is, of course, His presence made manifest—the fact that He is with us is made clear and convincing.

God’s omnipresence applies to each Person in the Trinity: the Father (Isaiah 66:1), the Son (John 1:48), and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7–8). The fact that God is omnipresent may or may not result in a special experience on our part. However, God’s manifest presence is the result of His interaction with us overtly and unmistakably. It is then we experience God.

The Bible records that each Person of the Trinity has made Himself manifestly present in the lives of certain individuals. God the Father spoke to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3. God had been with Moses all along, but then, in “the far side of the wilderness” near Mt. Horeb (Exodus 3:1), God chose to manifest Himself. God the Son made Himself manifest through the Incarnation, as John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was manifest to the believers in the upper room: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2–4). The result of the manifest presence of God in the lives of the disciples was a world turned upside-down (see Acts 17:6).

Theologically, we understand that God is omnipresent, but that fact is not readily discerned with the senses. It is a reality, but that reality may not seem relevant to the majority of people on the planet who have no sense of His presence. They feelHe is distant, not close, and that feeling becomes their perceived reality.

We know of God’s manifest presence experientially. The manifest presence of the Spirit may not be visible or aural or able to be sensed physically, but His presence is experienced nonetheless. At the times of His choosing, the Spirit manifests His presence, and our theological knowledge becomes an experiential knowledge. Creedal acquaintance becomes loving familiarity.

In Psalm 71, David prays in his distress to his loving, merciful, and righteous God. David understands that God is with him, and that’s the reason he prays. Near the end of the prayer, David says, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more” (verses 20–21). God’s presence was hidden for a time in David’s life, and it was a time of “troubles, many and bitter”; but David trusted to once again know the manifest presence of God, and that would be a time of honor and comfort.

God never forsook Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For a time, however, it seemed that the only potentate in existence was King Nebuchadnezzar—and he was murderously furious at the three Hebrew men. The king, unaware of God’s omnipresence, threw the three into the burning, fiery furnace. And that’s when God manifested His presence: “King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and . . . said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods’” (Daniel 3:24–25). The reality of God’s presence became discernable, even to the pagan king. This was God’s manifest presence.

We can never lose God’s presence in reality, but we can lose the sense of His presence. There is never a time when God is not present with us, but there are times when God is not manifestly with us. Sometimes His presence is not clear or obvious to the human eye or the human spirit. That’s one reason why we are called to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). God’s omnipresence can exist without our awareness; God’s manifest presence cannot. The whole point of God’s manifest presence is that our awareness of Him is awakened.

Believers always have the Holy Spirit with them. The Bible teaches the indwelling of the Spirit: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit will not be taken from us. He is our Comforter, our Helper, our Paraclete until Jesus returns (John 14:16). At that time Jesus Himself will be with us—manifestly and forever.

But the indwelling of the Spirit is not the same as the Spirit’s manifest presence. Every believer goes through times when he doesn’t “feel” saved or days when he goes through his activities unaware of the Spirit’s presence within him. But then there are times when that same indwelling Spirit visits the believer in a special, manifest way. It could be a song the Spirit brings to mind; it could be a coincidental encounter with a friend; it could be a prompting to prayer, a desire to study the Word, or an ineffable feeling of peace—the Spirit is not limited in how He reveals Himself. The point is that He makes Himself known. He is our Comforter. “By him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15–16).

Should we trust in God’s omnipresence, even when we don’t feel He is with us? Absolutely. God, who cannot lie, says that He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Should we also seek God’s manifest presence? Absolutely. It’s not that we rely on feelings or that we seek after a sign, but we expect the Comforter to comfort His own—and we gladly acknowledge that we need His comfort.


07/21/21

Question: "Is the Holy Spirit a person?"

Answer: Many people find the doctrine of the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person—that is, He is a personal being, rather than an impersonal thing. First, almost every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is he, not it. Even though the Greek word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is itself neuter and would grammatically take neuter pronouns, in many cases masculine pronouns are found instead (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13–14). Every time the New Testament uses a masculine pronoun to refer to the Holy Spirit, the personality of the Spirit is emphasized.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God. 

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.



Question: "Where is the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: Scripture tells us that the Father is in heaven and the Son is at His right hand (Matthew 6:9; 23:9; Romans 8:34). But where is the Holy Spirit? Can we assign Him a location?

As God, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. At the same time, He is present in a special way in God’s people. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer in Jesus Christ. The bodies of Christians are His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).

We know that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father. Jesus comforted His followers before He was crucified by saying, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26); and, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit indwelled and empowered the disciples in Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit did not always indwell God’s people. The Holy Spirit appeared only sporadically in the Old Testament. Rather than dwell within the hearts of people as He would do after the ministry of Christ, the Holy Spirit temporarily came upon certain men in the Old Testament to enable them to carry out God’s plan. He came upon Moses and then upon the seventy leaders Moses chose to help him (Numbers 11:16–17, 25). He came upon King Saul (1 Samuel 10:6; 19:23). He came upon David when Samuel anointed him as the next king (1 Samuel 16:13). He came upon Balaam to give him a prophecy (Numbers 24:2).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would come and go. After God’s work had been accomplished on a specific occasion, or when people began to disobey the Lord, the Spirit would depart. He departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). He departed from Samson (Judges 16:20). His filling, empowering presence was not permanent in any individual at that time; rather, the Spirit “rested on” or “came upon” individuals who had a divine task to accomplish. God worked differently with humanity before the coming of His Son, Jesus (John 3:16–18). When God had an earthly temple, that was the place where His Spirit dwelt among His people (Exodus 25:8; 2 Chronicles 7:16). But when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two (Mark 15:38). God ushered in a new “temple” for His Spirit—the body and soul of every believer who receives Jesus as Lord and Savior (John 1:12; Romans 10:9–10).

Because He dwells in us, the Holy Spirit helps us pray (Romans 8:26). He comforts us (Psalm 34:18; 2 Corinthians 1:4). And He gives us words to say when we speak on His behalf (Luke 12:12). The Holy Spirit is everywhere that believers go. That’s one reason Christians must remain aware of their actions and attitudes. Because He lives in us, we are warned not to grieve or quench Him (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). We take Him with us wherever we go, and He is a part of everything we are doing. We develop a healthy fear of the Lord when we live with the continual awareness that the Holy Spirit is watching and evaluating everything we think, say, and do (Job 28:28; Proverbs 9:10; 16:6).


Question: "What does the Holy Spirit do?"

Answer: The Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is active in our world. The book of Acts, which sometimes goes by the longer title of “The Acts of the Apostles,” could just as accurately be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.” After the apostolic age, there have been some changes—the Spirit does not inspire further Scripture, for example—but He continues to do His work in the world.

First, the Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. He is the believers’ Helper (John 14:26). He indwells believers and seals them until the day of redemption—this indicates that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is irreversible. He guards and guarantees the salvation of the ones He indwells (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

The Holy Spirit regenerates and renews the believer (Titus 3:5). At the moment of salvation, the Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3). Believers receive the new birth by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5–8). The Spirit comforts believers with fellowship and joy as they go through a hostile world (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Spirit, in His mighty power, fills believers with “all joy and peace” as they trust the Lord, causing believers to “overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13).

Sanctification is another work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit sets Himself against the desires of the flesh and leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18). The works of the flesh become less evident, and the fruit of the Spirit becomes more evident (Galatians 5:19–26). Believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), which means they are to yield themselves to the Spirit’s full control.

The Holy Spirit is also a gift-giver. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4). The spiritual gifts that believers possess are given by the Holy Spirit as He determines in His wisdom (verse 11)

The Holy Spirit also does work among unbelievers. Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, ESV). The Spirit testifies of Christ (John 15:26), pointing people to the Lord. Currently, the Holy Spirit is also restraining sin and combatting “the secret power of lawlessness” in the world. This action keeps the rise of the Antichrist at bay (2 Thessalonians 2:6–10).

The Holy Spirit has one other important role, and that is to give believers wisdom by which we can understand God. “The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). Since we have been given the amazing gift of God’s Spirit inside ourselves, we can comprehend the thoughts of God, as revealed in the Scripture. The Spirit helps us understand. This is wisdom from God, rather than wisdom from man. No amount of human knowledge can ever replace the Holy Spirit’s teaching (1 Corinthians 2:12–13).




07/20/21

Question: "What are the attributes of God?"

Answer: The Bible, God's Word, tells us what God is like and what He is not like. Without the authority of the Bible, any attempt to explain God's attributes would be no better than an opinion, which by itself is often incorrect, especially in understanding God (Job 42:7). To say that it is important for us to try to understand what God is like is a huge understatement. Failure to do so can cause us to set up, chase after, and worship false gods contrary to His will (Exodus 20:3-5).

Only what God has chosen to reveal of Himself can be known. One of God's attributes or qualities is "light," meaning that He is self-revealing in information of Himself (Isaiah 60:19; James 1:17). The fact that God has revealed knowledge of Himself should not be neglected (Hebrews 4:1). Creation, the Bible, and the Word made flesh (Jesus Christ) will help us to know what God is like.

Let's start by understanding that God is our Creator and that we are a part of His creation (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1) and are created in His image. Man is above the rest of creation and was given dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28). Creation is marred by the fall but still offers a glimpse of God's works (Genesis 3:17-18; Romans 1:19-20). By considering creation's vastness, complexity, beauty, and order, we can have a sense of the awesomeness of God.

Reading through some of the names of God can be helpful in our search of what God is like. They are as follows:

Elohim - strong One, divine (Genesis 1:1)
Adonai - Lord, indicating a Master-to-servant relationship (Exodus 4:10, 13)
El Elyon - Most High, the strongest One (Genesis 14:20)
El Roi - the strong One who sees (Genesis 16:13)
El Shaddai - Almighty God (Genesis 17:1)
El Olam - Everlasting God (Isaiah 40:28)
Yahweh - LORD "I Am," meaning the eternal self-existent God (Exodus 3:13, 14).

God is eternal, meaning He had no beginning and His existence will never end. He is immortal and infinite (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17). God is immutable, meaning He is unchanging; this in turn means that God is absolutely reliable and trustworthy (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Psalm 102:26, 27). God is incomparable; there is no one like Him in works or being. He is unequaled and perfect (2 Samuel 7:22; Psalm 86:8; Isaiah 40:25; Matthew 5:48). God is inscrutable, unfathomable, unsearchable, and past finding out as far as understanding Him completely (Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 145:3; Romans 11:33, 34).

God is just; He is no respecter of persons in the sense of showing favoritism (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 18:30). God is omnipotent; He is all-powerful and can do anything that pleases Him, but His actions will always be in accord with the rest of His character (Revelation 19:6; Jeremiah 32:17, 27). God is omnipresent, meaning He is present everywhere, but this does not mean that God is everything (Psalm 139:7-13; Jeremiah 23:23). God is omniscient, meaning He knows the past, present, and future, including what we are thinking at any given moment. Since He knows everything, His justice will always be administered fairly (Psalm 139:1-5; Proverbs 5:21).

God is one; not only is there no other, but He is alone in being able to meet the deepest needs and longings of our hearts. God alone is worthy of our worship and devotion (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is righteous, meaning that God cannot and will not pass over wrongdoing. It is because of God's righteousness and justice that, in order for our sins to be forgiven, Jesus had to experience God's wrath when our sins were placed upon Him (Exodus 9:27; Matthew 27:45-46; Romans 3:21-26).

God is sovereign, meaning He is supreme. All of His creation put together cannot thwart His purposes (Psalm 93:1; 95:3; Jeremiah 23:20). God is spirit, meaning He is invisible (John 1:18; 4:24). God is a Trinity. He is three in one, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. God is truth, He will remain incorruptible and cannot lie (Psalm 117:2; 1 Samuel 15:29).

God is holy, separated from all moral defilement and hostile toward it. God sees all evil and it angers Him. God is referred to as a consuming fire (Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 1:13; Exodus 3:2, 4-5; Hebrews 12:29). God is gracious, and His grace includes His goodness, kindness, mercy, and love. If it were not for God's grace, His holiness would exclude us from His presence. Thankfully, this is not the case, for He desires to know each of us personally (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 31:19; 1 Peter 1:3; John 3:16, 17:3).

Since God is an infinite Being, no human can fully answer this God-sized question, but through God's Word, we can understand much about who God is and what He is like. May we all wholeheartedly continue to seek after Him (Jeremiah 29:13).


07/19/21

Question: "What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?"

Answer: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? To properly understand this question, you must first understand the terms "Jesus Christ," "personal," and "Savior."

Who is Jesus Christ? Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?

What is a Savior, and why do we need a Savior? The Bible tells us that we have all sinned; we have all committed evil acts (Romans 3:10-18). As a result of our sin, we deserve God's anger and judgment. The only just punishment for sins committed against an infinite and eternal God is an infinite punishment (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). That is why we need a Savior!

Jesus Christ came to earth and died in our place. Jesus' death was an infinite payment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price so that we would not have to. Jesus' resurrection from the dead proved that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. That is why Jesus is the one and only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior?

Is Jesus your "personal" Savior? Many people view Christianity as attending church, performing rituals, and/or not committing certain sins. That is not Christianity. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life (John 3:16). Is Jesus personally your Savior?

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, say the following words to God. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. "God, I know that I have sinned against You and deserve punishment. But I believe Jesus Christ took the punishment I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I receive Your offer of forgiveness and place my trust in You for salvation. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift of eternal life! Amen!"


07/17/21

Question: "What is the Romans Road to salvation?"

Answer: The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

The first verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. The second Scripture on the Romans Road to salvation, Romans 6:23, teaches us about the consequences of sin - "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death!

The third verse on the Romans Road to salvation picks up where Romans 6:23 left off, "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:8 declares, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus Christ died for us! Jesus' death paid for the price of our sins. Jesus' resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus' death as the payment for our sins.

The fourth stop on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins - and we will be saved! Romans 10:13 says it again, "for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rescue us from eternal death. Salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The final aspect of the Romans Road to salvation is the results of salvation. Romans 5:1 has this wonderful message, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Through Jesus Christ we can have a relationship of peace with God. Romans 8:1 teaches us, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins. Finally, we have this precious promise of God from 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."

Would you like to follow the Romans Road to salvation? If so, here is a simple prayer you can pray to God. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation! "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. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"



07/16/21

Question: "What are the steps to salvation?"

Answer: Many people are looking for "steps to salvation." People like the idea of an instruction manual with five steps that, if followed, will result in salvation. An example of this is Islam with its Five Pillars. According to Islam, if the Five Pillars are obeyed, salvation will be granted. Because the idea of a step-by-step process to salvation is appealing, many in the Christian community make the mistake of presenting salvation as a result of a step-by-step process. Roman Catholicism has seven sacraments. Various Christian denominations add baptism, public confession, turning from sin, speaking in tongues, etc., as steps to salvation. But the Bible only presents one step to salvation. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul responded, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).

Faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior is the only "step" to salvation. The message of the Bible is abundantly clear. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God took on human form and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven to all who receive, by grace through faith, Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31).

Salvation is not about certain steps we must follow to earn salvation. Yes, Christians should be baptized. Yes, Christians should publicly confess Christ as Savior. Yes, Christians should turn from sin. Yes, Christians should commit their lives to obeying God. However, these are not steps to salvation. They are results of salvation. Because of our sin, we cannot in any sense earn salvation. We could follow 1000 steps, and it would not be enough. That is why Jesus had to die in our place. We are absolutely incapable of paying our sin debt to God or cleansing ourselves from sin. Only God could accomplish our salvation, and so He did. God Himself completed the "steps" and thereby offers salvation to anyone who will receive it from Him.

Salvation and forgiveness of sins is not about following steps. It is about receiving Christ as Savior and recognizing that He has done all of the work for us. God requires one step of us—receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and fully trusting in Him alone as the way of salvation. That is what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions, each of which has a list of steps that must be followed in order for salvation to be received. The Christian faith recognizes that God has already completed the steps and simply calls on the repentant to receive Him in faith.


Question: "How do I convert to Christianity?"

Answer: A man in the Greek city of Philippi asked a very similar question of Paul and Silas. We know at least three things about this man: he was a jailer, he was a pagan, and he was desperate. He had been on the verge of suicide when Paul stopped him. And that’s when the man asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). 

The very fact that the man asks the question shows that he recognized his need of salvation—he saw only death for himself, and he knew he needed help. The fact that he asks Paul and Silas shows that he believed they had the answer.

That answer comes swiftly and simply: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (verse 31). The passage goes on to show how the man did believe and was converted. His life began displaying the difference from that day forward.

Note that the man’s conversion was based on faith (“Believe”). He had to trust Jesus and nothing else. The man believed that Jesus was the Son of God (“Lord”) and the Messiah who fulfilled the scriptures (“Christ”). His faith also included a belief that Jesus died for sin and rose again, because that was the message that Paul and Silas were preaching (see Romans 10:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

To “convert” is literally “to turn.” When we turn towards one thing, we by necessity turn away from something else. When we turn to Jesus, a turning from sin is implied. The Bible describes “repentance” as a change of mind about sin and a change of mind about Jesus, and then a turning to Jesus in “faith.” Therefore, repentance and faith are complementary. Both repentance and faith are indicated in 1 Thessalonians 1:9—“You turned to God from idols.” A Christian will leave behind his former ways and anything pertaining to false religion as the result of a genuine conversion to Christianity.

To put it simply, to convert to Christianity, you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sin and rose again. You must agree with God that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and you must trust in Jesus alone to save you. When you do this, God promises to save you and give you the Holy Spirit, who will make you a new creature.

Christianity, in its true form, is not a religion. Christianity, according to the Bible, is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is God offering salvation to anyone who believes and trusts the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. A person who converts to Christianity is not leaving one religion for another religion. Converting to Christianity is receiving the gift that God offers and beginning a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in the forgiveness of sins and eternity in Heaven after death.

Do you desire to convert to Christianity because of what you have read in this article? If your answer is yes, here is a simple prayer you can offer to God. Saying this prayer, or any other prayer, will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. "God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve 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 - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"



07/15/21

Question: "Where do you go when you die?"

Answer: The Bible is absolutely clear that, ultimately, there are only two options for where you go when you die: heaven or hell. The Bible also makes it abundantly clear that you can determine where you go when you die. How? Read on.

First, the problem. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23). We have all done things that are wrong, evil, or immoral (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Our sin separates us from God, and, if left unresolved, our sin will result in us being eternally separated from God (Matthew 25:46; Romans 6:23a). This eternal separation from God is hell, described in the Bible as an eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:14–15).

Now, the solution. God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14; 8:58; 10:30). He lived a sinless life (1 Peter 3:22; 1 John 3:5) and willingly sacrificed His life on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18–19). His death paid the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). God now offers us salvation and forgiveness as a gift (Romans 6:23b) that we must receive by faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Trust in Jesus alone as your Savior, relying on His sacrifice alone as the payment for your sins, and, according to the Word of God, you are promised eternal life in heaven.

Where do you go when you die? It is up to you. God offers you the choice. God invites you to come to Him. It is your call.

If you feel God drawing you to faith in Christ (John 6:44), come to the Savior. If God is lifting the veil and removing your spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4), look to the Savior. If you are experiencing a spark of life in what has always been dead (Ephesians 2:1), come to life through the Savior.

Where do you go when you die? Heaven or hell. Through Jesus Christ, hell is avoidable. Receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, and heaven will be your eternal destination. Make any other decision, and eternal separation from God in hell will be the result (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

If you now understand the two possibilities of where you go when you die and you want to trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, it is time to call on God for salvation. 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!”




07/14/21

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.”





07/13/21

Question: "Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?"

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Jesus spoke of Himself as the only way to heaven in several places besides John 14:6. He presented Himself as the object of faith in Matthew 7:21–27. He said His words are life (John 6:63). He promised that those who believe in Him will have eternal life (John 3:14–15). He is the gate of the sheep (John 10:7); the bread of life (John 6:35); and the resurrection (John 11:25). No one else can rightly claim those titles.

The apostles’ preaching focused on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Peter, speaking to the Sanhedrin, clearly proclaimed Jesus as the only way to heaven: “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). Paul, speaking to the synagogue in Antioch, singled out Jesus as the Savior: “I want you to know that 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). John, writing to the church at large, specifies the name of Christ as the basis of our forgiveness: “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12). No one but Jesus can forgive sin.

Eternal life in heaven is made possible only through Christ. Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To receive God’s free gift of salvation, we must look to Jesus and Jesus alone. We must trust in Jesus’ death on the cross as our payment for sin and in His resurrection. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, many of the crowd were turning their backs on Him and leaving in hopes of finding another savior. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67, ESV). Peter’s reply is exactly right: “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” (John 6:68–69, ESV). May we all share Peter’s faith that eternal life resides only in Jesus Christ.




Question: "Is there life after death?"

Answer: 

The existence of life after death is a universal question. Job speaks for all of us by stating, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure....If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:1-2, 14). Like Job, all of us have been challenged by this question. Exactly what happens to us after we die? Do we simply cease to exist? Is life a revolving door of departing and returning to earth in order to eventually achieve personal greatness? Does everyone go to the same place, or do we go to different places? Is there really a heaven and hell?

The Bible tells us that there is not only life after death, but eternal life so glorious that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to the earth to give us this gift of eternal life. "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" (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus took on the punishment that all of us deserve and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for our sin. Three days later, He proved Himself victorious over death by rising from the grave. He remained on the earth for forty days and was witnessed by hundreds before ascending to heaven. Romans 4:25 says, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

The resurrection of the Christ is a well-documented event. The apostle Paul challenged people to question eyewitnesses for its validity, and no one was able to contest its truth. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Because Christ was raised from the dead, we can have faith that we, too, will be resurrected. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof of life after death. Christ was only the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. Physical death came through one man, Adam, to whom we are all related. But all who have been adopted into God's family through faith in Jesus Christ will be given new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as God raised up Jesus' body, so will our bodies be resurrected upon Jesus' return (1 Corinthians 6:14).

Although we will all be eventually resurrected, not everyone will go to heaven. A choice must be made by each person in this life, and this choice will determine one's eternal destination. The Bible says that it is appointed for us to die only once, and after that will come judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ will go into eternal life in heaven, but those who reject Christ as Savior will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46). Hell, like heaven, is not simply a state of existence, but a literal place. It is a place where the unrighteous will experience never-ending, eternal wrath from God. Hell is described as a bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1) and a lake of fire, burning with sulfur, where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). In hell, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, indicating intense grief and anger (Matthew 13:42).

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires them to turn from their wicked ways so that they can live (Ezekiel 33:11). But He will not force us into submission; if we choose to reject Him, He accepts our decision to live eternally apart from Him. Life on earth is a test, a preparation for what is to come. For believers, life after death is eternal life in heaven with God. For unbelievers, life after death is eternity in the lake of fire. How can we receive eternal life after death and avoid an eternity in the lake of fire? There is only one way"through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "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).

The free gift of eternal life is available to all. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). We will not be given the opportunity to accept God's gift of salvation after death. Our eternal destination is determined in our earthly lifetimes by our reception or rejection of Jesus Christ. "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we trust the death of Jesus Christ as the full payment for our sin against God, we are guaranteed not only a meaningful life on earth, but also eternal life after death, in the glorious presence of Christ.


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!"


07/10/21
Question: "Why did Jesus mention the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:4?"

Answer: Jesus mentions the tower in Siloam in the context of answering a question about a recent tragedy in Jerusalem. Some people told Jesus about a group of Galileans who had come to the temple to sacrifice, and Pontius Pilate slaughtered them, probably due to a public disturbance the Galileans were causing (Luke 13:1). The men who related this story to Jesus may have been trying to lure Him into taking sides, either for or against Pilate, or they may have simply been curious about Jesus’ reaction to the massacre. Whatever their motivation, Jesus’ response is sobering: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (verses 2–3).

Jesus continues the conversation by mentioning another current event, this one involving the tower of Siloam: “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

The fall of the tower of Siloam is not mentioned in other historical records, and, since the Bible gives no more detail of the structure’s collapse, we cannot be sure what the tower was for or why it fell. The tragedy was obviously well-known to Jesus’ hearers. Siloam was an area just outside the walls of Jerusalem on the southeast side of the city. A spring-fed pool was there, which was the scene of one of Christ’s miracles (John 9). The tower of Siloam may have been part of an aqueduct system or a construction project that Pilate had begun. In any case, the tower fell, and eighteen people were killed in the catastrophe.

Here are two current events—the massacre on the temple mount and the collapse of the tower of Siloam, yet the same lessons are drawn from each. First, Jesus warned His audience not to assume that the victims of those tragedies had been judged for their great evil. It’s always a temptation to assign sudden, unexplainable deaths to the judgment of God in response to secret (or open) sin. Jesus says not so fast; it is a mistake to automatically attribute such tragedies to the vengeance of God. Whether it is a man-made tragedy (Pilate’s slaughter of the Galileans) or a naturally caused tragedy (the fall of the tower of Siloam), it is wrong to assume that the victims are somehow worse sinners than everyone else and thus deserve to die.

The second point Jesus made concerning both events is that everyone needs to repent. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. Jesus highlights the importance of repentance twice in this passage: repent or perish, He says; turn or burn. Instead of conjecturing on the Galileans’ sin, focus on your own sin. Rather than assigning wickedness to those killed by the tower of Siloam, examine your own heart.

When tragedies strike, such as what happened at the tower of Siloam, it’s natural for people to start asking why. Thoughts creep in such as maybe the victims deserved it somehow. Maybe they were bad people, and that’s why bad things happened to them. But then sometimes it really seems like the people affected by tragedies are good. Especially when the victims are children. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen at all?

In commenting on the fall of the tower of Siloam, Jesus negates four assumptions that people often make:

1) Suffering is proportional to sinfulness.
2) Tragedy is a sure sign of God’s judgment.
3) Bad things happen only to bad people.
4) We have the right to make such judgments.

To each of these assumptions, Jesus says, no.

When we read of a tragedy in the headlines, we should resist the temptation to assign guilt to the victims, as if they had received God’s judgment. Rather, Jesus bids us look to the sin within us and take the headline as a warning to repent. The sudden death of someone should not be an occasion for blame but for self-examination.

Whether you’re from Galilee or Jerusalem, from Kansas or Kenya, from the country or the city; whether you’re rich or poor, young or old; whether you think of yourself as a sinner or a saint; and whether or not you even want to think about spiritual things—the fact is you are under God’s judgment unless you repent and have faith in Jesus.



Question: "Why was Jonah angry that the Ninevites repented (Jonah 4:1-2)?"

Answer: It seems strange that a preacher would be angry that his listeners repented of their sin, but that is exactly Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance. Jonah 4:2 tells us why: “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah knew from the start that God was gracious and merciful. He realized that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them. The prophet was angry at their repentance because he would rather see them destroyed.

There are several possible reasons for Jonah’s desire to see Nineveh destroyed. First, Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a ruthless and warlike people who were enemies of Israel. Nineveh’s destruction would have been seen as a victory for Israel. Second, Jonah probably wanted to see Nineveh’s downfall to satisfy his own sense of justice. After all, Nineveh deserved God’s judgment. Third, God’s withholding of judgment from Nineveh could have made Jonah’s words appear illegitimate, since he had predicted the city’s destruction.

We can learn from Jonah’s negative example that we should praise God for His goodness. First, our God is a merciful God, willing to forgive all those who repent (see 2 Peter 3:9). The Ninevites were Gentiles, yet God still extended His salvation to them. In His goodness, God warned the Assyrians before sending judgment, giving them a chance to repent.

Second, God cares for people of every nation. He is, by nature, a Savior. As Luke 15 reveals in the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, God’s heart is for the redemption of all who will come to Him. Further, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 emphasizes God’s call to take God’s message of “good news” to all the nations. Romans 1:16 also emphasizes the importance of sharing the gospel with both Jews and non-Jews.

Third, God is concerned for those who have never heard the message of His salvation. The mention of “more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11) most likely refers to those who know nothing of spiritual truth. Concerning the things of God, they cannot tell up from down or right from left. God takes pity on the spiritual blindness of the pagan. God desires to extend His salvation to all who would repent and turn to Him.



Question: "What is the meaning of 2 Chronicles 7:14?"

Answer: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV).

The key to understanding any verse of Scripture is context. There is the immediate context—the verses before and after it, as well as the larger context of Scripture—how the verse fits into the overall story. There is also the historical and cultural context—how the verse was understood by its original audience in light of their history and culture. Because context is so important, a verse whose meaning and application seem straightforward when quoted in isolation may mean something significantly different when it is taken in context.

When approaching 2 Chronicles 7:14, one must first consider the immediate context. After Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord appeared to him and gave him some warnings and reassurances. “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.’ When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14).

The immediate context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that the verse is tied up with Israel and the temple and the fact that from time to time God might send judgment upon the land in the form of drought, locusts, or pestilence.

A few verses later God says this: “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them’” (2 Chronicles 7:19-22).

No doubt Solomon would have recognized this warning as a reiteration of Deuteronomy 28. God had entered into a covenant with Israel and promised to take care of them and cause them to prosper as long as they obeyed Him. He also promised to bring curses upon them if they failed to obey. Because of the covenant relationship, there was a direct correspondence between their obedience and their prosperity, and their disobedience and their hardship. Deuteronomy 28 spells out the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. Again, divine blessing and divine punishment on Israel were conditional on their obedience or disobedience.

We see this blessing and cursing under the Law play out in the book of Judges. Judges chapter 2 is often referred to as “The Cycle of the Judges.” Israel would fall into sin. God would send another nation to judge them. Israel would repent and call upon the Lord. The Lord would raise up a judge to deliver them. They would serve the Lord for a while and then fall back into sin again. And the cycle would continue.

In 2 Chronicles 7, the Lord simply reminds Solomon of the previous agreement. If Israel obeys, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be judged. The judgment is meant to bring Israel to repentance, and God assures Solomon that, if they will be humble, pray, and repent, then God will deliver them from the judgment.

In context, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise to ancient Israel (and perhaps even modern-day Israel) that, if they will repent and return to the Lord, He will rescue them. However, many Christians in the United States have taken this verse as a rallying cry for America. (Perhaps Christians in other countries have done so as well.) In this interpretation, Christians are the people who are called by God’s name. If Christians will humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and repent, then God will heal their land—often a moral and political healing is in view as well as economic healing. The question is whether or not this is a proper interpretation/application.

The first problem that the modern-day, “Westernized” interpretation encounters is that the United States does not have the same covenant relationship with God that ancient Israel enjoyed. The covenant with Israel was unique and exclusive. The terms that applied to Israel simply did not apply to any other nation, and it is improper for these terms to be co-opted and applied to a different nation.

Some might object that Christians are still called by God’s name and in some ways have inherited the covenant with Israel—and this may be true to some extent. Certainly, if a nation is in trouble, a prayerful and repentant response by Christians in that nation is always appropriate. However, there is another issue that is often overlooked.

When ancient Israel repented and sought the Lord, they were doing so en masse. The nation as a whole repented. Obviously, not every single Israelite repented and prayed, but still it was national repentance. There was never any indication that a small minority of the nation (a righteous remnant) could repent and pray and that the fate of the entire nation would change. God promised deliverance when the entire nation repented.

When 2 Chronicles 7:14 is applied to Christians in the U.S. or any other modern nation, it is usually with the understanding that the Christians in that nation—the true believers in Jesus Christ who have been born again by the Spirit of God—will comprise the righteous remnant. God never promised that if a righteous remnant repents and prays for their nation, that the nation will be saved. Perhaps if national repentance occurred, then God would spare a modern nation as He spared Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah (see Jonah 3)—but that is a different issue.

Having said that, it is never wrong to confess our sins and pray—in fact, it is our duty as believers to continuously confess and forsake our sins so that they will not hinder us (Hebrews 12:1) and to pray for our nation and those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1–2). It may be that God in His grace will bless our nation as a result—but there is no guarantee of national deliverance. Even if God did use our efforts to bring about national repentance and revival, there is no guarantee that the nation would be politically or economically saved. As believers, we are guaranteed personal salvation in Christ (Romans 8:1), and we are also guaranteed that God will use us to accomplish His purposes, whatever they may be. It is our duty as believers to live holy lives, seek God, pray, and share the gospel knowing that all who believe will be saved, but the Bible does not guarantee the political, cultural, or economic salvation of our nation.


07/09/21

Question: "What does "from faith to faith" mean in Romans 1:17?"

Answer: From faith to faith is an expression found in some versions of Romans 1:17, such as the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the Christian Standard Bible. The English Standard Version uses the wording “from faith for faith” instead. The meaning of the phrase becomes more evident in the New International Version: “by faith from first to last.” And perhaps the most transparent rendering of the verse for today’s reader is found in the New Living Translation: “from start to finish by faith.”

To fully understand what from faith to faith means, we must consider the phrase in context. In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the apostle introduces himself to the church in Rome. While many of the believers there would have heard of Paul, they had not yet met him personally. In preparation for a future visit, Paul wants the members of the church to know him sufficiently to discern fact from fiction concerning his identity.

In Romans 1:16–17, Paul reaches the high point of his introductory greeting to the church in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life’” (NLT).

Nothing mattered more to Paul than fulfilling God’s will for his life, which was to preach the good news of salvation. Without the good news of the gospel, and without the power that is the gospel, there can be no salvation, no freedom from sin, no redemption, and no life. The power of the gospel is the theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans and the ambition of his life.

Paul writes with full knowledge that the church in Rome is facing persecution and suffering under Roman oppression. Many of the believers there are experiencing humiliation and shame because of their faith in Christ. Paul wants them to be assured that the worldly power of Rome cannot hold a candle to the mighty power of God—the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel is God’s limitless power directed toward the salvation of men and women. For every person who believes, whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, black or white, the gospel effectively becomes the saving power of God.

Paul tells the Roman Christians that “in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed” (Romans 1:17). Righteousness is thus a complete and total work of God. Humans tend to view righteousness as something we can achieve by our own merit or actions. But the righteousness of God is different. It is a right standing before God that has nothing to do with human accomplishment or worth. It is received by faith. There is nothing we can do to deserve or earn it.

The exact meaning of Paul’s phrase from faith to faith has been debated, with several plausible explanations proposed. Some understand it in relation to the origin of faith: “From the faith of God, who makes the offer of salvation, to the faith of men, who receive it.” In simpler terms, “Salvation comes from God’s faith (or faithfulness) to our faith.” This was Karl Barth’s impression of the phrase from faith to faith, that salvation is accomplished through God’s faithfulness, which comes first, and our faith in response to that.

Others believe that Paul had the spreading of faith through evangelism in mind: “From the faith of one believer to another.” A third and widely accepted understanding is that from faith to faith speaks of a progressive, growing development of faith “from one degree of faith to another” akin to the “ever-increasing glory” of 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Another view is that Paul meant that from day one of our journey of faith until the very last day, we (the righteous) must live by faith. Whether we are brand-new followers of Christ or seasoned, mature believers who have walked with the Lord for many years, we must trust God “from start to finish” and rely on His mighty power—the power of the gospel—to change our lives and the lives of those we encounter.


Question: "How can I overcome the fact that I am struggling with faith?"

Answer: Many people struggle with their faith at different times in their lives. Some of the most committed and godly leaders have struggled with doubts, just like everyone else. The very essence of faith is to believe in that which we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). As physical beings, we tend to put faith in what we experience with our senses. Spiritual realities are not tangible and must be experienced outside our senses. So, when that which is tangible and visible seems overwhelming, doubts can shroud that which is invisible.

The first aspect to consider is the object of faith. The word faith has become popular in recent years, but the popular meaning is not necessarily the same as the biblical meaning. The term has become synonymous with any religious or irreligious adherence, regardless of whether there is foundational truth upon which to base such adherence. In other words, someone could claim “faith” in dandelions for spiritual healing, and that claim would be considered equally viable to the Christians’ claim that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. So, when struggling with “faith,” it is vital to define the object and reasonableness of that faith. All faith claims are not equal. Before we can be secure in our faith, we must answer the question: my faith is in what?

Many hold to the idea of having faith in faith. Faith itself is seen as the object, rather than God Himself. The biblical purpose for faith is to bring us into the presence of God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And 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 can only find Him when we come to Him through faith in His Son (John 14:6). Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” God does not bless half-hearted attempts to know Him. He desires that we pursue Him with passion, the same way He pursues us (1 John 4:19).

However, God understands our inability to exercise the faith we need at times. In Mark 9:24, a man admitted to Jesus that he wanted help with His unbelief. Jesus did not rebuke the man, but healed the man’s child anyway. He honored the man’s desire to grow in faith and was pleased that He, Jesus, was the object of that faith. So, if we have the desire to believe what the Bible teaches, then we have the right foundation for continuing to fight for faith. God has given us countless evidences of His existence and character (Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:38–40). Jesus fulfilled all prophecies necessary to validate His claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 2:15–17; 27:35; John 12:38). The Bible has been proven true over and over again for thousands of years. We have all the evidence we need, but God leaves the believing up to us.

It can be encouraging to remember that, when we struggle with faith, we are in good company. Elijah the prophet experienced such a struggle. One of the greatest prophets of all time had just called down fire from heaven, killed over 400 false prophets, and outrun King Ahab’s chariot—a feat that would have been the envy of any Olympic gold-medalist (1 Kings 18:36–38, 46). Yet the next chapter finds Elijah hiding in a cave, depressed and asking for death (1 Kings 19:3–5). After all those miracles, he gave in to fear and doubt because a wicked woman hated him (1 Kings 19:2). During times of stress and exhaustion, we can easily forget all that God has done for us.

John the Baptist was another who struggled with faith when at the lowest point in his life. Jesus had called John the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11). John had been selected by God before birth to be forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:11–17, 76). He was faithful to that calling all of his life (Mark 1:4–8). Yet even John, after being imprisoned and sentenced to die, struggled with doubts about Jesus’ identity (Luke 7:20). He sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was truly the One sent from God. Jesus did not rebuke John in his weakness but instead sent him a message that only a student of the Scriptures as John was would recognize (Luke 7:22). He quoted from Isaiah 61 and reminded John that He alone had fulfilled that Messianic prophecy.

We learn from these heroes of faith that God is patient with us when we desire to believe (Psalm 86:15; 147:11). When we experience times of doubt, we must immerse ourselves in truth. We can bolster a sagging faith by reading scriptural accounts of God’s miraculous interventions, listening to encouraging sermons, and reading books that appeal to our reason by authors such as C. S. Lewis or Lee Strobel. Podcasts by apologists such as William Lane Craig or Dr. John Lennox can also add fuel to the fire of our faith.

But the greatest power to overcome doubt comes from the Holy Spirit Himself, who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). We can cry out as the man cried to Jesus, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). And we can expect Him to answer.


07/08/21

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.



Question: "What is the biblical understanding of faith vs. works?"

Answer: The faith vs. works debate often comes up in discussions of salvation. There are many who say that a person is saved based on some mixture of faith and works. Biblical Christianity teaches salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, apart from any works we do. Perhaps the best place to start is to clearly define faith and works:

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 sets out the definition: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is that which assures us that our hope is reality, even though we cannot yet see it. If we have faith, we are convinced that what we believe is real, true, and reliable. The biblical object of faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ. True faith has always been the identifying mark of the people of God.

What are works? Work is a person’s actions or deeds. Work is that which we perform for some kind of reward. We work at our jobs and expect to receive a paycheck for it. Even working on a voluntary basis has its own reward—praise from others, a feeling of good will, etc. In the context of salvation, works refers to good deeds we do, especially religious or charitable acts or the observance of the Old Testament law.

In the faith vs. works debate, the two sides maintain that either we are saved by faith (and faith alone), or we are saved by works (or, more commonly, works added to faith). Which side is correct? What is the biblical relationship between faith and works?

• Works are required for salvation—but Scripture is clear that those works are Christ’s, not ours. Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). In fact, “the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10), and as He died, Jesus proclaimed that the work was finished (John 19:30). Now we are invited to enter into God’s rest by faith: “Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works” (Hebrews 4:10).

• Our works do nothing to earn or maintain salvation.It was the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ that justifies sinners (Romans 3:24). “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, . . . because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). We begin by faith, and we continue in faith: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2–3).

• Salvation is by grace, which precludes works. Grace is, by definition, unearned, and Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace in salvation destroys the argument for human effort: “If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). “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).

• God’s requirement for salvation is faith in His Son.One of the grand themes of the Bible is that we are justified, or declared righteous, by faith (Genesis 15:6). Faith is the only means of making sinful human beings able to stand before a holy God. No amount of law-keeping or good works can accomplish it (Titus 3:5). If our works could save us, then Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:21).

• Works are the product of faith. Those who have true faith in Jesus Christ will be “eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). John the Baptist called for “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The book of James emphasizes the nature of true saving faith as that which results in good works: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” and “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:17, 26). Grace through faith saves, and that faith is manifest in works. If someone claims to have faith yet exhibits no good works, his or her faith is “dead,” or nonexistent.

The faith vs. works debate, then, is really no debate at all. Both faith and works are integral parts of the Christian life. Biblically, faith is the cause of salvation, while works are the evidence of it.



Question: "Why is faith without works dead?"

Answer: James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many verses that say that true saving faith will result in a transformed life, that faith is demonstrated by the works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.

James 2:14–26 is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to create a works-based system of righteousness, but that is contrary to many other passages of Scripture. James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation. Faith in Christ always results in good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or dead faith and is not saved. Paul basically says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. James contrasts two different types of faith—true faith that saves and false faith that is dead.

Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. 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 in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:16–23).

Notice that the message of Jesus is the same as the message of James. Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the obedience that accompanies salvation. Simply saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.

Misunderstanding the relationship of faith and works comes from not understanding what the Bible teaches about salvation. There are really two errors in regards to works and faith. The first error is “easy believism,” the teaching that, as long as a person prayed a prayer or said, “I believe in Jesus,” at some point in his life, then he is saved, no matter what. So a person who, as a child, raised his hand in a church service is considered saved, even though he has never shown any desire to walk with God since and is, in fact, living in blatant sin. This teaching, sometimes called “decisional regeneration,” is dangerous and deceptive. The idea that a profession of faith saves a person, even if he lives like the devil afterwards, assumes a new category of believer called the “carnal Christian.” This allows various ungodly lifestyles to be excused: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or bank robber, but he’s saved; he’s just “carnal.” Yet, as we can see in James 2, an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.

The other error in regards to works and faith is to attempt to make works part of what justifies us before God. The mixture of works and faith to earn salvation is totally contrary to what Scripture teaches. Romans 4:5 says, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” There is no conflict between these two passages. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner has the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” poured out on him (Titus 3:5), thereby causing him to be born again (John 3:3). When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). God removes his sin-hardened heart of stone and fills him with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then causes the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate that new life. Our works will be characterized by obedience to God. Unseen faith will become seen by the production of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Christians belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd. As His sheep we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26–30).

Faith without works is dead because faith results in a new creation, not a repetition of the same old patterns of sinful behavior. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Faith without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God. Empty professions of faith have no power to change lives. Those who pay lip service to faith but who do not possess the Spirit will hear Christ Himself say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).


Question: "What does it mean that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)?"

Answer: In Hebrews 11, we learn about faith from the Bible’s Old Testament heroes. One crucial detail stands out in their lives: they placed their whole confidence in God, entrusting themselves into His hands. The actions and accomplishments of these men and women proved that faith pleases God, and He rewards those who seek Him: “And 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” (Hebrews 11:6).

The author of the book of Hebrews points out two critical convictions of believers. First, “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” Those who desire to draw near to God must have a deep-rooted belief that He is real. Such belief is not mere intellectual knowledge but a wholehearted devotion to His presence and participation in every part of one’s life. Without a genuine conviction that God exists, it is impossible to have an intimate relationship with Him. Second, the Lord’s followers must believe “that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This aspect of faith trusts in the character of God as a good, loving, generous, gracious, and merciful Father (James 1:17; Psalm 84:11; Lamentations 3:22–23). These two certainties are the groundwork of saving faith—a faith that pleases God.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because faith is the avenue by which we come to God and trust Him for our salvation. In His infinite goodness, God provides the very thing we need to draw near to Him: “For 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). God gives us the faith required to please Him.

Hebrews 11:1 gives a definition, or at least a good description, of the faith that pleases God: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “Confidence” is the translation of a Greek word that means “foundation.” Faith is the foundation that undergirds our hope. It is not a blind grasping in the dark, but an absolute conviction that comes from experiencing God’s love and the faithfulness of His Word. The term translated “assurance” is also translated as “evidence” or “proof.” With our natural eyes, we cannot see the realities of God’s kingdom, but by faith we receive the evidence or proof that they exist.

We’ve established that without faith it is impossible to come to God. It is also impossible to live for God—to follow and serve Him daily and persevere until the end—without faith. The entire Christian life is lived out by faith: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17; see also Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). The apostle Paul affirmed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Scripture refers explicitly to Enoch’s faith as pleasing to God: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, NLT; cf. Genesis 5:24). How did Enoch please God? Through living by faith. Enoch walked by faith in God. He obeyed the Word that had been revealed up to that point and lived in the light of its truth. Walking by faith means consistently living according to God’s Word (John 14:15). Without faith, it is impossible to believe God’s Word and obey it.

Scripture says that it is impossible to please God through works of the flesh: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8, ESV). We can’t earn God’s approval through good works. Only based on what Jesus Christ has done for us can we become holy and able to live a life pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ’s life in us produces the righteousness that pleases God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:13; 3:9).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God; in fact, we cannot even begin to approach the Lord and experience a personal relationship with Him without it. Faith is the atmosphere in which the believer’s life is lived. We are called “believers” because we are continually putting our faith, trust, and confidence in God. By faith the Christian life begins, and by faith it perseveres until the end.

The champions of the Old Testament like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, Gideon, and David all lived by faith. As they looked toward their future hope, they relied on God to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 11:13–16). And they obeyed God’s Word even when they did not understand it. This kind of walking by faith—accepting as truth the things we cannot yet touch, feel, or see, and then acting on them in obedience—is the prescription for living a life that pleases God. We may not see ourselves right now as God does—holy and made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But when we accept the evidence in God’s Word (Romans 10:17) and reach out in response to experience fellowship with Him, then we begin to live by faith, and that pleases God.


What is faith in God?


Faith in God is trust in Him, based on a true understanding of who He is, as revealed in the Bible. Faith in God involves an intellectual assent to the facts concerning God and a life-changing reliance on those facts.

Faith in God has several components. The first is believing that He actually exists. However, simply believing that God exists is not enough. As James 2:19 explains, the demons believe in God’s existence as well.

After acknowledging that God exists, the second element of faith in God is commitment. Faith that does not result in action is a dead faith, not true faith (James 2:26).

However, even a faith in God that motivates us to action is not enough. For faith in God to be genuine, we must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We are not allowed to accept the attributes of God that we prefer and reject the ones we don’t. If we do not accept God as He is, then we are putting our faith in a false god of our own making. Much “religion” does exactly this, but any religion not based on the Bible is a designer religion with a designer god. For faith in God to be genuine, it must be based on the genuine God. For example, the God of the Bible is triune, so true faith in God must accept the deity and personality of the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as the Father.

There is much confusion today over the nature of faith. It is reported that, when asked to define faith, a little boy in Sunday school responded, “Believing what you know isn’t true.” Many of the “new atheists” place faith against science and evidence. They say that Christians have faith that God exists but that atheists have empirical evidence for science. Christians have faith, but scientists have knowledge. This comparison misunderstands the nature of faith in God.

Faith in God is not a blind leap without any evidence or, even worse, contrary to the evidence. Faith is simply trust. The Christian trusts in God. The scientific atheist has faith in science. If an atheist uses the scientific method to discover a medicine and then takes that medicine, he is exercising faith. He trusts his data, and he trusts that the medicine will cure him, not poison him. Some people may take the medicine with no thought whatsoever as to how it was developed or as to who prepared it. Others may only take the medicine after thoroughly investigating every aspect of the research. One person may take it with great confidence while another person takes it tentatively. In the final analysis, anyone who takes the medicine is exercising faith in the medicine. Ultimately, it is not the strength of the faith that determines if the medicine will work, but the efficacy of the medicine. Great faith in bad medicine will not cure a person. It is the object of faith, not the strength of faith that makes the difference. Uncertainty about a good medicine will not hinder its efficacy, as long as it is taken as prescribed. Faith is not the opposite of doubt; in fact, doubt can exist even in the heart of faith (see Mark 9:24). A person can exercise faith (trust and commitment) while at the same time being unsure about the thing or person he has committed himself to. Someone once defined doubt as “faith seeking understanding.”

Some people may simply trust God because it seems intuitive. They may have been raised in a Christian home and taught the Bible from their earliest remembrance. They have seen God work in the lives of other people, and they simply trust Him. Others may only have come to faith after a thorough examination of the evidence for God. Whether the decision to trust the God of the Bible is intuitive or deliberative, it is the mark of genuine faith.

The atheist likewise may come to his atheism by intuition or after careful deliberation. In the end, he has faith that God does not exist because he trusts either his instincts or his investigation and commits himself to live in a way that is consistent with his beliefs. Contrary to the claims of the new atheists, everyone has some kind of faith—everyone trusts something. It is impossible to live without trusting in something, even if it is only in the reliability of our five senses. The object of our faith is what makes all the difference.



07/06/21

Question: "What does the Bible say about faith?"

Answer: Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.

Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.

Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Examples of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his promised son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.

According to the Bible, faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).




Question: "What is a leap of faith?"

Answer: The book of Hebrews is an excellent place to find answers to our questions about faith. Chapter 11 begins with this short definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

What, then, is a leap of faith? The term leap of faith is not found in the Bible. It is a common idiom, though. Usually, to take a leap of faith means “to believe in something with no evidence for it” or “to attempt an endeavor that has little chance of success.” Leap of faith actually originated in a religious context. Søren Kierkegaard coined the expression as a metaphor for belief in God. He argued that truth cannot be found by observation alone but must be understood in the mind and heart apart from empirical evidence. Since we cannot observe God with our eyes, we must have faith that He is there. We jump from material concepts to the immaterial with a “leap of faith.”

Continuing in Hebrews chapter 11, we find an impressive list of men and women in the Bible who took a “leap of faith,” as it were. These are just a few of the people mentioned who took God at His Word and trusted Him to do what He had promised:

By faith, Noah obeyed God and built an ark to save his family from the flood (Genesis 6:9 – 7:24). By faith, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, believing God would provide a lamb (Genesis 22:1–19). By faith, Moses chose to side with the Hebrews rather than stay in the Egyptian palace (Exodus 2 – 4). By faith, Rahab risked her life and sheltered enemy spies in her home (Joshua 2:1–24).

Throughout the rest of Scripture, the stories of the faithful continue. By faith, David confronted a giant with only a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17). By faith, Peter stepped out of the boat when Jesus invited him to come (Matthew 14:22–33). The accounts go on and on, each story helping us to understand the biblical meaning of a leap of faith.

Exercising faith in God often requires taking a risk. Second Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” But a biblical step of faith is not a “blind” leap. Our faith is backed by assurance and certainty. Faith is soundly supported by God’s promises in His Word. A leap of faith is not an irrational impulse that causes us to jump out into the great unknown without any foresight. According to the Word of God, believers are to seek counsel from godly leaders (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Also, Christians are to acquire wisdom and direction from God’s Word (Psalm 119:105, 130).

The stories in the Bible exist for a reason. Our trust and faith grow stronger as we read these accounts of God’s powerful deliverance and rescue in times of need. God miraculously delivered Joseph from slavery and placed him in charge over all of Egypt. God transformed Gideon from a coward to a courageous warrior. These Bible characters took leaps of faith because they trusted in the God who was powerful enough to rescue them, hold them up, and not let them fall (see Jude 1:24).

Putting our faith into action may feel like a scary leap, but that is part of the testing and proving of our faith: “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, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–9; See Hebrews 11:17 also).

Stepping out in faith requires trusting God to do what He has already promised in His Word, even though we may not see the fulfillment of His promise yet. Genuine faith, belief, and trust will move us to action.

A leap of faith might mean leaving the safety of your comfort zone. Peter abandoned his safety and comfort when he jumped out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. He could take that leap of faith because he knew his Lord and trusted that He was good: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter exercised childlike faith, the type of faith we are all called to possess: “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16).

When we demonstrate authentic trust in God, we know that our “leap of faith” is actually a leap into His all-powerful and loving arms. He delights in our trust and rewards those who earnestly pursue Him: “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” (Hebrews 11:6).


Question: "What is the biblical understanding of faith vs. works?"

Answer: The faith vs. works debate often comes up in discussions of salvation. There are many who say that a person is saved based on some mixture of faith and works. Biblical Christianity teaches salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, apart from any works we do. Perhaps the best place to start is to clearly define faith and works:

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 sets out the definition: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is that which assures us that our hope is reality, even though we cannot yet see it. If we have faith, we are convinced that what we believe is real, true, and reliable. The biblical object of faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ. True faith has always been the identifying mark of the people of God.

What are works? Work is a person’s actions or deeds. Work is that which we perform for some kind of reward. We work at our jobs and expect to receive a paycheck for it. Even working on a voluntary basis has its own reward—praise from others, a feeling of good will, etc. In the context of salvation, works refers to good deeds we do, especially religious or charitable acts or the observance of the Old Testament law.

In the faith vs. works debate, the two sides maintain that either we are saved by faith (and faith alone), or we are saved by works (or, more commonly, works added to faith). Which side is correct? What is the biblical relationship between faith and works?

• Works are required for salvation—but Scripture is clear that those works are Christ’s, not ours. Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). In fact, “the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10), and as He died, Jesus proclaimed that the work was finished (John 19:30). Now we are invited to enter into God’s rest by faith: “Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works” (Hebrews 4:10).

• Our works do nothing to earn or maintain salvation.It was the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ that justifies sinners (Romans 3:24). “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, . . . because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). We begin by faith, and we continue in faith: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2–3).

• Salvation is by grace, which precludes works. Grace is, by definition, unearned, and Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace in salvation destroys the argument for human effort: “If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). “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).

• God’s requirement for salvation is faith in His Son.One of the grand themes of the Bible is that we are justified, or declared righteous, by faith (Genesis 15:6). Faith is the only means of making sinful human beings able to stand before a holy God. No amount of law-keeping or good works can accomplish it (Titus 3:5). If our works could save us, then Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:21).

• Works are the product of faith. Those who have true faith in Jesus Christ will be “eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). John the Baptist called for “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The book of James emphasizes the nature of true saving faith as that which results in good works: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” and “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:17, 26). Grace through faith saves, and that faith is manifest in works. If someone claims to have faith yet exhibits no good works, his or her faith is “dead,” or nonexistent.

The faith vs. works debate, then, is really no debate at all. Both faith and works are integral parts of the Christian life. Biblically, faith is the cause of salvation, while works are the evidence of it.



07/04/21

Question: "What does it mean that today is the day of salvation?"

Answer: God has told the sinful world, in no uncertain terms, to repent (Mark 6:12; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 17:30). To repent means to change your mind from embrace of sin and rejection of Christ to rejection of sin and embrace of Christ. Those who refuse to repent and turn to Christ in faith will suffer eternal consequences. Given the fact of hell, mankind in his sin is in a dire situation. Why would anyone delay repentance? Yet many do, even while admitting their sin and claiming to see their need for salvation.

There are several reasons not to delay repentance. First, the Bible’s command to repent is accompanied by an urgent appeal to do it now: Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8, which speaks of “the day of salvation.” Then he says not to delay: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Repentance should take place as soon as God the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins (see John 16:8). In other words, today is the day of repentance. “Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7–8).

Another problem with delaying repentance is that no one knows the day he will die. And after death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The rich fool in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:16–20) thought he had plenty of time to enjoy life, but God had news for him: “This very night your life will be demanded from you” (verse 20). We have today—we have the present moment—and we should use it wisely.

Another reason to not delay repentance is that, every time we refuse to repent, we continue to sin and our hearts get harder (see Hebrews 3:7–8). Every time a person says “no” to what’s right, it becomes a little easier to say “no” the next time, too. There’s a gradual hardening of the heart, a searing of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), that can numb an unsaved person to the point of being past feeling. This is a dangerous spiritual condition to be in.

Also, the harder a person’s heart becomes, the more “force” God will have to apply to bring him to repentance. This is illustrated in the increasingly severe plagues in Egypt. As Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, the plagues continued and worsened until culminating in a loss of life in every Egyptian household (Exodus 7–11). “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).

Tragically, there is a point of no return. God may eventually stop trying to bring the chronically rebellious to repentance and give them over to their own ways (Romans 1:28). We never know when this point of no return is, so the better part of wisdom is timely repentance.

By delaying repentance, we are delaying certain blessings from God. At least three verses bring this to light: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). “Your wrongdoings have kept these [showers of blessing] away; your sins have deprived you of good” (Jeremiah 5:25). So, in delaying repentance, we miss out on God’s refreshment, we may not prosper (in God’s eyes), and we may be deprived of God’s goodness.

It is true that God is gracious to us and that a person may be able to repent up until the day he dies. But we should not live presumptuously. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Commentator Charles John Ellicott put it rightly: “For each church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present which may never again recur” (Commentary for English Readers, entry for 2 Corinthians 6:2).

James 4:17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Once we know what is right, we are responsible to do it. And once we know something is sin, we are responsible to repent of it and forsake it. We dare not delay repentance. There was a time when the Lord shut the door of the ark, and the flood swept everyone outside the ark away (Genesis 7:16). There came a time when the wedding party began, and those who were not ready for the coming of the bridegroom were locked out (Matthew 25:1–13).



Question: "Why did Jesus mention the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:4?"

Answer: Jesus mentions the tower in Siloam in the context of answering a question about a recent tragedy in Jerusalem. Some people told Jesus about a group of Galileans who had come to the temple to sacrifice, and Pontius Pilate slaughtered them, probably due to a public disturbance the Galileans were causing (Luke 13:1). The men who related this story to Jesus may have been trying to lure Him into taking sides, either for or against Pilate, or they may have simply been curious about Jesus’ reaction to the massacre. Whatever their motivation, Jesus’ response is sobering: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (verses 2–3).

Jesus continues the conversation by mentioning another current event, this one involving the tower of Siloam: “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

The fall of the tower of Siloam is not mentioned in other historical records, and, since the Bible gives no more detail of the structure’s collapse, we cannot be sure what the tower was for or why it fell. The tragedy was obviously well-known to Jesus’ hearers. Siloam was an area just outside the walls of Jerusalem on the southeast side of the city. A spring-fed pool was there, which was the scene of one of Christ’s miracles (John 9). The tower of Siloam may have been part of an aqueduct system or a construction project that Pilate had begun. In any case, the tower fell, and eighteen people were killed in the catastrophe.

Here are two current events—the massacre on the temple mount and the collapse of the tower of Siloam, yet the same lessons are drawn from each. First, Jesus warned His audience not to assume that the victims of those tragedies had been judged for their great evil. It’s always a temptation to assign sudden, unexplainable deaths to the judgment of God in response to secret (or open) sin. Jesus says not so fast; it is a mistake to automatically attribute such tragedies to the vengeance of God. Whether it is a man-made tragedy (Pilate’s slaughter of the Galileans) or a naturally caused tragedy (the fall of the tower of Siloam), it is wrong to assume that the victims are somehow worse sinners than everyone else and thus deserve to die.

The second point Jesus made concerning both events is that everyone needs to repent. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. Jesus highlights the importance of repentance twice in this passage: repent or perish, He says; turn or burn. Instead of conjecturing on the Galileans’ sin, focus on your own sin. Rather than assigning wickedness to those killed by the tower of Siloam, examine your own heart.

When tragedies strike, such as what happened at the tower of Siloam, it’s natural for people to start asking why. Thoughts creep in such as maybe the victims deserved it somehow. Maybe they were bad people, and that’s why bad things happened to them. But then sometimes it really seems like the people affected by tragedies are good. Especially when the victims are children. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen at all?

In commenting on the fall of the tower of Siloam, Jesus negates four assumptions that people often make:

1) Suffering is proportional to sinfulness.
2) Tragedy is a sure sign of God’s judgment.
3) Bad things happen only to bad people.
4) We have the right to make such judgments.

To each of these assumptions, Jesus says, no.

When we read of a tragedy in the headlines, we should resist the temptation to assign guilt to the victims, as if they had received God’s judgment. Rather, Jesus bids us look to the sin within us and take the headline as a warning to repent. The sudden death of someone should not be an occasion for blame but for self-examination.

Whether you’re from Galilee or Jerusalem, from Kansas or Kenya, from the country or the city; whether you’re rich or poor, young or old; whether you think of yourself as a sinner or a saint; and whether or not you even want to think about spiritual things—the fact is you are under God’s judgment unless you repent and have faith in Jesus.



Question: "Why was Jonah angry that the Ninevites repented (Jonah 4:1-2)?"

Answer: It seems strange that a preacher would be angry that his listeners repented of their sin, but that is exactly Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance. Jonah 4:2 tells us why: “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah knew from the start that God was gracious and merciful. He realized that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them. The prophet was angry at their repentance because he would rather see them destroyed.

There are several possible reasons for Jonah’s desire to see Nineveh destroyed. First, Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a ruthless and warlike people who were enemies of Israel. Nineveh’s destruction would have been seen as a victory for Israel. Second, Jonah probably wanted to see Nineveh’s downfall to satisfy his own sense of justice. After all, Nineveh deserved God’s judgment. Third, God’s withholding of judgment from Nineveh could have made Jonah’s words appear illegitimate, since he had predicted the city’s destruction.

We can learn from Jonah’s negative example that we should praise God for His goodness. First, our God is a merciful God, willing to forgive all those who repent (see 2 Peter 3:9). The Ninevites were Gentiles, yet God still extended His salvation to them. In His goodness, God warned the Assyrians before sending judgment, giving them a chance to repent.

Second, God cares for people of every nation. He is, by nature, a Savior. As Luke 15 reveals in the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, God’s heart is for the redemption of all who will come to Him. Further, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 emphasizes God’s call to take God’s message of “good news” to all the nations. Romans 1:16 also emphasizes the importance of sharing the gospel with both Jews and non-Jews.

Third, God is concerned for those who have never heard the message of His salvation. The mention of “more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11) most likely refers to those who know nothing of spiritual truth. Concerning the things of God, they cannot tell up from down or right from left. God takes pity on the spiritual blindness of the pagan. God desires to extend His salvation to all who would repent and turn to Him.


07/03/21

Question: "What does the Bible say about being in jail or prison?"

Answer: There are two types of people in jail or prison: those who were wrongfully accused and victimized by an unjust system, and those who are guilty and whose punishment is just according to the system of law they have broken. The Bible has something to say to both the innocent and guilty who are in jail/prison. To the guilty, the Bible recommends truth and submission to the laws of the government, and it offers freedom from the spiritual prison of sin—freedom that comes through the person of Christ (Romans 6:18). To the innocent and wrongfully accused, the Bible offers peace, patience, and hope in difficult circumstances, as well as the hope of heavenly reward.

Obedience to authorities and laws is a biblical principle. God has instituted governments to maintain order and to protect citizens, and if a person knowingly breaks the laws of the land, the Bible says that person will bear the punishment for his actions (Romans 13:1–4). If going to jail or prison is the appropriate punishment for what a person has done, according to the laws of his nation, the Bible does not excuse that person or seek to free him. The Bible calls submission to rules and authorities “good” (Titus 3:1). We are not to commit crimes (1 Peter 4:15). However, the apostle 
Paul and most of the other apostles were jailed at one time or another for preaching the gospel. If obedience to God’s Word is considered a crime for which one should be jailed, then Christians are to continue in obedience to God, even if prison is the result (Acts 5:29).

There are many examples in Scripture of innocent men who were put into prison. Joseph was thrown in an Egyptian prison because he was wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting his master’s wife (Genesis 39:6–20). The truth was that the woman propositioned Joseph, and, when Joseph rejected her, she took her revenge by lying about him. The truth was buried, and Joseph wound up in jail, but “the Lord was with him” (verse 21).

John the Baptist was also thrown in prison for unjust reasons: King Herod was angry with him for saying that it was wrong for the king to marry his brother’s wife (Mark 6:17–18). In prison, John received special encouragement from the Lord (Luke 7:22). John was eventually beheaded on a whim, to appease the wishes of Herod’s spiteful wife.

John’s and Joseph’s situations were terribly unjust, but the Bible never says that we will be able to avoid injustice. In fact, Christians are to expect unjust persecution in an unjust world (Matthew 5:10–12). “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). We will “face trials of many kinds” and should rejoice to see them (James 1:2). The Bible does not promise freedom from struggle or from injustice in this world. However, in the world to come, there will be perfect justice (Isaiah 32:1). Until that time, God promises to set us free spiritually and emotionally. Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom—even inside a jail cell (2 Corinthians 3:17).



Question: "What does it mean to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15)?"

Answer: After the arrest of John the Baptist, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15, ESV). Jesus’ exhortation for His listeners to repent indicated that they needed to change their minds. That He told them to believe in the gospel indicated how they needed to change their minds. Mark refers to Jesus’ message as “the gospel of God” (verse 14, ESV), or “the good news of God.” It was good news that the kingdom was at hand, and Jesus was preparing His listeners for how to be part of that kingdom.

Many in Jesus’ audience thought they were already righteous and would gain entrance to the kingdom of God because of their connection to Abraham and Moses and because they were keeping the laws God had given to Israel through Moses. Matthew 5—7 records Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus taught that His listeners should change their minds about how they could be part of His kingdom. Their connection to Abraham and Moses wasn’t enough, and their supposedly righteous deeds were not enough. Those things are not what God requires as the standard of righteousness. Instead, Jesus explained that they needed to have a true, internal righteousness, and they did not yet have that. It wasn’t just a king that they needed—they needed a savior. Sadly, only a few would recognize that need.

Jesus proclaimed that the people needed to repent and believe in the gospel because the kingdom of God was at hand. God’s eternal kingdom is currently based in heaven. But, in passages like 2 Samuel 7 and Revelation 19—20, God promises that His kingdom will at some point in the future come to earth in a physical form. The kingdom was at hand, or near, because Jesus the King had come to earth, presenting the kingdom and the good news about that kingdom and how one can be part of it—by believing in the gospel. Unfortunately, Jesus’ audience wasn’t yet prepared for the kingdom, because they hadn’t yet recognized that they needed the Messiah to make them righteous, and that Jesus was the Messiah.

Jesus’ message was truly good news, and the people needed to change their minds from unbelief to belief. They needed to believe in the Lord—as Abraham had done many years prior (Genesis 15:6)—to gain the righteousness that would allow them to be part of God’s kingdom. They needed to repent (change their minds about how they could enter the kingdom) and believe in the gospel now, because the kingdom of God was close at hand. Of course, some did change their minds about how they could be righteous, and they believed in Jesus, but most of the leaders and the nation as a whole did not believe (Mark 3:22–30). Because of that rejection, Jesus delayed the kingdom and shifted His focus and ministry to providing the sacrifice to pay for the sins of the people.

One day Jesus will return to the earth as King (Revelation 19—20), and, because of what the Bible tells us about the future, we know that we also need to “repent and believe in the gospel for the kingdom of God is at hand.” We need to change our minds from unbelief to belief and recognize that we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own works (Ephesians 2:8–9). When we believe in Christ, we are already transferred to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and, because His kingdom isn’t on earth yet, we ought to set our mind on the things above where He is, rather than on the things of earth (Colossians 3:1–4).



Question: "How to repent—what does the Bible say?"

Answer: Repentance is an important topic in the New Testament.

John the Baptist’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2, see also Mark 1:15 and Luke 3:3, 8).

When Jesus started His public ministry, He also called for repentance. Matthew 4:17 records, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Jesus says of repentance, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).

In Mark 6:12, the disciples also “went out and preached that people should repent.” This preaching continued in Acts. Peter preached to Jews, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Paul preached to Gentiles, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). And later he testified, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). And, similarly, “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).

As demonstrated in the passages above, repentance is an important part of an initial response to the gospel, but it is also an important part of the life of the Christian. Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul says, “Now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended” (2 Corinthians 7:9). To the church at Ephesus, Jesus says, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).

Even though repentance is extremely important, there is no Scripture passage that explains what repentance means or how to do it. This is probably because repentance is not an inherently theological word. When people heard the command to repent, they knew what it meant because it was a normal word with a normal meaning. Essentially, repent means “to change one’s mind” about something (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, metanoeo). Of course, when a person has a change of mind about something, the result is a change of behavior as well. If a driver is headed south on a highway and suddenly realizes that he is going the wrong direction, he will then get off at the next exit and head in the opposite direction. He has repented—he has changed his mind about the direction he should be driving. If he realizes he is going the wrong direction but decides to continue on without making any changes, he has not really repented. He has, by his actions, shown that he is just fine with the current direction of travel. In the New Testament, repentance is associated with a change of mind about sin.

Saying, “Sorry,” being sorry, or even feeling sorry are not the same as repenting. A person can feel emotionally sorry for something without addressing the underlying issue. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Judas felt great remorse over what he had done to Jesus, but he did not repent. Instead, he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3–5). Peter also felt great remorse over his denial of Christ (Matthew 26:75), but in his case it did result in genuine repentance and a change of direction, as later he boldly proclaimed Christ in the face of persecution (see Acts 4).

When a person is doing something that he has chosen to do and may even enjoy a great deal, but then, based on his exposure to the Word of God, he repents, it means he has changed his mind about it. The repentant person comes to believe what she once loved is wrong and that she should stop doing it. In accepting the gospel, repentance is the flip side of faith. It is possible that someone can become convinced that what he has been doing is wrong and then attempt to “mend his ways”—and he may even succeed. But if such a person does not place his faith in Christ and the righteousness He provides, then he is simply trusting his own moral reformation. Biblical repentance is the recognition that we are helpless to save ourselves—it is turning from sin and to the One who paid for it and can forgive it.

So how does a person repent? Like faith, repentance is a response to the work of God, who convicts and convinces a person that he is in error. In Acts 11:18, the Jewish believers “praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” Second Timothy 2:25 highlights the same thing: “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” These verses indicate a tension between God’s work and human responsibility. We gently instruct sinners in the hope that this intervention will be the means that God uses to bring them to repentance. It is the truth of God’s Word lovingly and accurately presented that God uses to bring about repentance.

If a person is having an extramarital affair, he or she may “know” or “believe” that it is morally wrong. However, repentance that results in a genuine change of mind would cause the adulterer to cut off the relationship. If a person really wants to repent, he needs to not only mentally agree that a thing is wrong, but ask himself, “If I really believe this is wrong, what will I do differently?” And the answer will be to do that different thing. As John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). He followed the command with some specific examples in Luke 3:10–14:

“‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.

“Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He replied, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.’”

An unbeliever’s desire to know how to repent and trust in Christ is evidence that God is working. If a believer wants to repent of sin that has crept into her life, it is because the Holy Spirit is working in the life of that believer. However, it is possible for a person to come to the point of admitting that a particular attitude or behavior is wrong but then refuse to submit to God’s truth regarding a change. That’s not repentance. Repentance is agreeing with God’s evaluation of the sin and then being willing to follow God’s leading in a new direction.

A person will be in a better position to repent if he is continually feeding on God’s truth through reading and studying the Bible, listening to biblical preaching and teaching, filling the mind with truth so that the mind begins to think the thoughts of God, and associating with like-minded Christians who will foster accountability. In some cases, a Christian may know that something is wrong and that she should change, but she doesn’t really want to. In that case, there is nothing wrong with praying, “Father, I know that I should change, but I am unwilling—please make me willing.”


Question: "What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation?"

Answer: Many understand the term repentance to mean “a turning from sin.” Regretting sin and turning from it is related to repentance, but it is not the precise meaning of the word. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8–14; Acts 3:19). In summarizing his ministry, Paul declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20). The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The book of Acts especially focuses on repentance in regard to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to sin and Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about that sin and to change their minds about Christ Himself, recognizing that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds, to abhor their past rejection of Christ, and to embrace faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance involves recognizing that you have thought wrongly in the past and determining to think rightly in the future. The repentant person has “second thoughts” about the mindset he formerly embraced. There is a change of disposition and a new way of thinking about God, about sin, about holiness, and about doing God’s will. True repentance is prompted by “godly sorrow,” and it “leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Repentance and faith can be understood as two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about your sin and about who Jesus is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

Repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace (Acts 5:31; 11:18). No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented of his sin and exercised faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19–23; James 2:14–26).

To see what repentance looks like in real life, all we need to do is turn to the story of Zacchaeus. Here was a man who cheated and stole and lived lavishly on his ill-gotten gains—until he met Jesus. At that point he had a radical change of mind: “Look, Lord!” said Zacchaeus. “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). Jesus happily proclaimed that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s house, and that even the tax collector was now “a son of Abraham” (verse 9)—a reference to Zacchaeus’s faith. The cheat became a philanthropist; the thief made restitution. That’s repentance, coupled with faith in Christ.

Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about your sin—no longer is sin something to toy with; it is something to be forsaken as we “flee from the coming wrath” (Matthew 3:7). It is also changing your mind about Jesus Christ—no longer is He to be mocked, discounted, or ignored; He is the Savior to be clung to; He is the Lord to be worshiped and adored.

07/02/21

Question: "What does it mean to "be angry and do not sin" (Psalm 4:4)?"

Answer: Psalm 4 is a psalm of trust written by David. The psalm is brief, only eight verses (nine, including the Hebrew ascription “for the choir director, on stringed instruments, a Psalm of David”). The psalm is written in three sections with a “selah” (a marker for a pause or musical interlude) at the end of verses 2 and 4. In the second short section, David sings, “Tremble and do not sin” (Psalm 4:4, NASB) or, as the ESV puts it, “Be angry and do not sin.” The Hebrew word translated in the ESV as “be angry” is ragaz, and it can mean “to be disturbed or agitated.” David recognizes there are legitimate causes to be agitated but cautions against going so far as to be sinful. In the New Testament, Paul quotes from Psalm 4:4 while giving instructions on Christian living in Ephesians 4:26.

David calls out for God to hear him as God has done before (Psalm 4:1). David seems to be concerned about men who are mistreating him in falsehood (Psalm 4:2). David affirms his confidence in God as having set apart the godly person and hearing him when he calls out to Him (Psalm 4:3). So, one can be bothered—or even angry—and yet, because the godly person knows that God hears and delivers, that anger should not extend to sinfulness (Psalm 4:4). In the same way, David calls to the hearer to meditate (on God’s faithfulness) quietly in the night and to be still (Psalm 4:5).

In the final and longest section of the psalm, after reminding the hearer to “be angry and do not sin,” David exhorts that we should “offer right sacrifices, and put [our] trust in the LORD” (Psalm 4:5, ESV). Because of that trust in the Lord, the godly person never needs to fret about wrongdoers. Even when others are not showing us good, God shines His light on us (Psalm 4:6). He is the one who puts gladness in our hearts even more than having plenty (Psalm 4:7). We rest peacefully in the night because of Him (Psalm 4:8).

This psalm is, among other things, a helpful reminder that we can “be angry and do not sin.” We may be upset, but we do not need to be overcome with anger, because we trust in Him. Paul later quotes Psalm 4:4 (translating the Hebrew ragaz with the Greek orgizo, indicating that the term angry is an accurate rendering), reminding believers that anger is acceptable if it does not extend to sin. Paul also puts an important time limit on anger, as he says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, ESV). David’s song was seemingly to be sung at night, as it focused on God’s provision of good rest because of our trust in the Lord, and Paul challenges his readers not to take anger to bed with them. While David’s words appeal to the heart, Paul’s are more an appeal to the intellect, but they are providing the same prescription: don’t end your day overcome with anger, but rather have confidence in the Lord.

Anger and faith are mutually exclusive ideas, as the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20). God is trustworthy, and anything that might bother us to the point of anger can be given to Him. We can trust Him to handle it.




Question: "What does selah mean?"

Answer: The word selah is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears 71 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk.

There is a great deal of uncertainty about the meaning of selah. Most versions of the Bible do not attempt to translate selah but simply transliterate the word straight from the Hebrew. The Septuagint translated the word as “daplasma” (“a division”). Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the definition of selah and on its root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning.

One possible Hebrew word related to selah is calah, which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold” (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value.

Selah is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From salah comes the belief that selah is a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms. If this is true, then each time selah appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, perhaps to take a breath, to sing a cappella, or to let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This theory would encompass all these meanings—“praise,” “lift up,” and “pause.” When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how selah could mean “to pause and praise.” Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency.

Perhaps the best way to think of selah is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where selahappears. When we see the word selah in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name. Selah!” (Psalm 66:4).



Question: "Why should we ask God to forgive us our debts (Matthew 6:12)?"

Answer: Matthew 6:12 appears toward the end of what is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, part of the Sermon on the Mount, a discourse on the kingdom of heaven. In this model prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Some may wonder why believers, who are forgiven of their sin, need to ask God to “forgive us our debts.”

When exploring the forgiveness of sins, it’s important to note there are three aspects of salvation: positional, progressive, and ultimate. Positional salvation is often thought of as synonymous with justification—the state of being declared righteous. Progressive salvation involves the process of becoming holy or righteous, as we are set apart in this world for God’s purposes. Ultimate salvation is our glorification, when we are removed from the presence of sin and made complete in holiness. All three aspects of salvation are acts of God completed by grace through faith (John 3:16; Romans 3:21–28).

The Christian is positionally righteous, but not practicallyso. We are declared innocent in Christ, but we still sin day to day in this world. That’s why we still need to ask God “to forgive us our debts” and why we still need to forgive the debts of others. The “debts” Jesus refers to are sins.

John addresses the same matter: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9). Christians should acknowledge their sins and offenses against God and confess them to the only One who can forgive.

Jesus, in Matthew 6, teaches humility and praying for God’s recognition rather than man’s (cf. Matthew 6:1, 5). He’s speaking to a Jewish audience, showing them that their law-based righteousness is not enough to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 5:20, 48). John is speaking to “brethren,” pointing to a Christian audience, both Jew and Gentile (1 John 3:13, 14, 16). This is critical to understand, as it means the principle of asking God to forgive our debts is universal.

Belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ leads to justification (John 3:16; John 6:47; 1 John 5:1–5; Romans 4:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:1–4). A repeated request for forgiveness is not required for salvation in this sense. Post-salvation confession of sin and requests for forgiveness are for the purpose of a healthy relationship with God. We must ask God to forgive our debts for the continuance and strengthening of our fellowship with Him. A daily prayer that God would “forgive us our debts” is not necessary for justification but instead is an aspect of the continuing process of sanctification.



06/30/21

Question: "How can I find joy in the midst of trials?"

Answer: James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This is the very first thing James writes in his letter after his salutation. Why? Because of its import. Many Christians think once they’ve made that decision for Christ that everything will fall into place and life will be that proverbial bowl of cherries. And when trials and tough times come upon them or continue, they begin to question, “why?” Wondering how they could possibly endure horrible circumstances and consider it joy. 

Peter also tackles this subject of joy through trials. “In 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 your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and 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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

In both of these passages, we see the instruction of what we should do. ‘Consider it pure joy…’ ‘In this you greatly rejoice…’ Why? Because trials make us stronger. The James passage clearly states that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. And the Peter passage states that our faith, which is priceless, will be proved genuine and result in praise to God. But how? How can we find joy in the midst of all the junk, hardships, and painful circumstances?

First, we need to understand that the joy the world gives is not the same as the joy the Spirit gives. Worldly joy or happiness comes and goes as often as waves hitting the shore. It isn’t something you can cling to when you’ve lost a loved one or are facing bankruptcy. The Spirit’s joy or happiness, on the other hand, can stay with you for the long haul. For the believer, the fruit of the Spirit, including joy, is like a bottomless well of water—there’s always an abundant supply. Even in the darkest days, when sadness, grief, and loss may threaten to overwhelm you, God’s joy is there.

Second, we need to understand that God’s joy cannot be taken away. Oh, you might think that it’s gone—that the hands of misfortune have snatched it from you—but it’s not. As believers, we are promised the constant presence of the Holy Spirit. We are promised His joy. Just as our salvation is assured through Jesus’ one-time sacrifice for all. Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Other examples, Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 16:34, “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.”

Third, we need to stop wallowing, whining, and complaining and grab onto God’s joy. Just like salvation, joy is a free and perfect gift from Him, and we must reach out and accept that gift. Grab onto it. Like a lifeline. Choose joy. Over bitterness, anger, and sorrow. Make a decision to choose joy every day. No matter what. Look at these great examples in Scripture: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10:34). And the best illustration of all, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

All through Scripture we see the persecution of the church, the trials and hardships that believers have faced. The challenge then is to truly learn how to consider each trial joy.

This topic is very near and dear to my heart because it is a lesson I’m relearning each and every day. My daughter has a rare nerve disorder, she’s had brain surgery, and we’ve faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, mountains of medical bills, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. But you know what I have discovered? God’s joy really is there. You can consider each trial joy, you can greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory even when you feel like you are face-first in the mud puddle. You can endure whatever circumstances are making you quake in your boots right now. If you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ—you have all you need.



Question: "What is the joy of the Lord?"

Answer: The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus was born, the angels announced “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). All who find Jesus know, with the shepherds of the nativity, the joy He brings. Even before His birth, Jesus had brought joy, as attested to in Mary’s song (Luke 1:47) and by John’s response to hearing Mary’s voice as he “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44).

Jesus exemplified joy in His ministry. He was no glum ascetic; rather, His enemies accused Him of being too joyful on occasion (Luke 7:34). Jesus described Himself as a bridegroom enjoying a wedding feast (Mark 2:18–20); He “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21); He spoke of “my joy” (John 15:11) and promised to give His disciples a lifetime supply of it (John 16:24). Joy is reflected in many of Jesus’ parables, including the three stories in Luke 15, which mention “rejoicing in the presence of the angels” (Luke 15:10) and end with a joyful shepherd, a joyful woman, and a joyful father.

Nehemiah told the repentant Israelites that the joy of the Lord would be their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The early church was characterized by gladness and the joy of the Lord (Acts 2:46; 13:52), and “joy in the Holy Spirit” is a distinguishing mark of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). Those who are part of the kingdom share in the kingdom’s delight.

Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In fact, it is our Christian duty to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). In Christ, the believer is “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

Because of its supernatural origin, the joy of the Lord—our gladness of heart—is present even through the trials of life. We know we are children of God, and no one can snatch us away from Him (John 10:28–29). We are heirs to “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade,” and no one can steal it from us (1 Peter 1:4; Matthew 6:20). We see the Author and Finisher of our faith, and, let the enemy rage ever so much, we know who wins in the end (Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 2).

Faith is the victory that overcomes the world, and the joy of the Lord is our strength. Adverse circumstances, instead of hindering our faith, can actually enhance our joy. Paul and Silas knew adversity as they sat with their feet in the stocks in a Philippian jail cell. Their legal rights had been violated. They had been arrested without cause and beaten without a trial. At midnight, since they couldn’t sleep, they sang—loudly—the praises of the Lord they were serving (Acts 16:25). A miracle soon followed (verse 26).

The apostles in Jerusalem were arrested—twice—and ordered not to preach in Jesus’ name. The second time they faced the court, they were beaten. Unfazed, they returned home “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” and ready to preach some more (Acts 5:41). Of course, the apostles were only following the example of our Lord, who had “for the joy set before him . . . endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

The joy of the Lord may be inexplicable to the one who does not possess it. But, for the believer in Christ, the joy of the Lord comes as naturally as grapes on a vine. As we abide in Christ, the True Vine, we, the branches, are full of His strength and vitality, and the fruit we produce, including joy, is His doing (John 15:5).



Question: "The Fruit of the Holy Spirit - What is joy?"

Answer: Literally, the "fruit of the Spirit" is what happens when the Holy Spirit indwells a believer. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit's cultivation of character in a heart. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what that fruit looks like; the second characteristic listed is joy.

The Greek word for joy is chara. Joy is the natural reaction to the work of God, whether promised or fulfilled. Joy expresses God's kingdom—His influence on earth (Romans 14:17). The Spirit’s production of joy can manifest in several different ways:

The joy of deliverance: When God sets someone free, rejoicing is in order. 

1 Samuel 2:1: Hannah was filled with joy at her deliverance from her enemies.

Acts 12:14: The servant girl was so overjoyed that God had rescued Peter from prison that she forgot to let Peter in the house.

The joy of salvation: Our greatest reason to be joyful is that God wants to save us and spend eternity with us. Nothing is better than this. 

Luke 15:7: All heaven is joyful when a person accepts God's provision of salvation. 

Acts 8:8: The people of Samaria were joyful as they heard the gospel and saw God's power in healing the sick. 

Acts 13:52; 15:3: Jewish believers rejoiced when they heard of the work of the Holy Spirit in saving Gentiles.

The joy of spiritual maturity: As the Holy Spirit works in us to bear more fruit, we become confident in God's promises and rejoice in our walk with Him and with other believers. 

John 15:11: The fullness of joy comes to those who continue in the love of Christ and obey Him.

2 Corinthians 1:24; 2:3; 7:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 3:9: Paul knew joy as the churches gave evidence of the Holy Spirit working among them.

Philippians 2:2: Groups of believers who unite in demonstrating the mind, love, and purpose of Christ bring joy to others.

Hebrews 10:34; 12:2; James 1:2-4: Believers, following the example of Jesus, endure persecution because of the promise of future joy.

The joy of God's presence: The Holy Spirit draws us to God, in whose presence we can know true joy. Without the Holy Spirit, no one would seek God.

Psalm 16:11: “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Matthew 2:10; Luke 1:14: Mary and the shepherds were joyful because Immanuel had been born.

Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:41: The women who went to Jesus' tomb and the disciples were overjoyed that He rose from the dead.

The Greek chara is closely related to charis, which means “grace” or “a gift.” Chara is the normal response to charis—we have joy because of God's grace. The next step in the progression is to allow our joy to become an action as we express it, although sometimes joy can be so great it is inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8).

Possessing joy is a choice. We choose whether to value God's presence, promises, and work in our lives. When we yield to the Spirit, He opens our eyes to God's grace around us and fills us with joy (Romans 15:13). Joy is not to be found in a fallen world; it is only fellowship with God that can make our joy complete (1 John 1:4).




Question: "How did Jesus bring joy to the world?"

Answer: Jesus brought joy into the world in some very practical ways. Every time He healed a person, cast out a demon, or forgave a sin, joy was the immediate result. Those who recognized Jesus as the promised Savior and Redeemer of the world were filled with joy (John 3:29). When the gospel spread in the days of the early church, joy followed the message (Acts 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

Humanity yearns for hope, for meaning and purpose. Within every human heart is the knowledge of eternity, even if we don’t recognize it as such (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Without God as a vital part of our existence, only emptiness and futility remain. The world was lost in darkness before Jesus came the first time. God had not spoken through His prophets for over 400 years. The period between Malachi and Matthew is silent, setting the stage for the greatest event of all time: God would become a Man and live among us (John 1:14).

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field, his first words were “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). That “great joy” was the truth that the God who had seemed far off had come to them in human flesh. He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 9:6–7; Matthew 1:23). Those who saw Him saw the face of God (John 14:9). He had come to rescue, to save, to heal, and to make mankind right with God (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:17–21). That was cause for great joy!

Because Jesus came, sinful human beings have an opportunity to come into the presence of a holy God and be pronounced “not guilty” (2 Corinthians 5:21)! When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two, symbolizing that the wall of separation between God and man had been eliminated (Mark 15:38). From then on, all who placed their trust in Christ would be forgiven of their sin and inherit eternal life (John 3:16–18). When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death for every person who trusts in Him (1 Corinthians 15:53–56). That is cause for great joy!

Jesus ascended back into heaven to “prepare a place” for all those who follow Him (John 14:1–2). But He promised that He will come again, a second time, to establish His kingdom on earth. In this kingdom righteousness and justice will reign, and God’s people will have places of honor (Micah 4; Isaiah 11; Matthew 19:28–29). The troubles of this life are not the end. Jesus told His followers, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The knowledge that soon we will live and reign forever with our Lord is cause for great joy!

The popular Christmas song “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts celebrates the joyful occasion of the Lord’s coming. But the lyrics were never intended to be a Christmas song. They were a poem by Watts based on Psalm 98, which is a psalm of the second coming of the Lord who “comes to judge the earth” (verse 9). Jesus’ purpose in His first coming was not to judge but to save (John 3:17); still, celebrating the King in His lowliness is appropriate. Jesus brought joy to the world in His first coming to earth as a baby, and He will bring joy to the world when He comes again to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

The wait for God’s promised Messiah, expressed in passages such as Isaiah 59:20, is over. The angels announced His arrival with great fanfare. No greater honor could befall the children of Adam than that their Creator had come to redeem them from Satan’s stranglehold (1 John 5:19–20). So, although our earthly life may be filled with troubles, we have reason for hope. Because Jesus came the first time and is poised to come the second time, we can sing with conviction, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king!”



Question: "What does it mean to count it all joy (James 1:2)?"

Answer: In some English translations of the Bible, James 1:2 contains the clause count it all joy. It is the first command James gives in his epistle; to understand what he means by it, we must look at the full passage and surrounding verses: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4, ESV).

The word count is a financial term, and it means “to evaluate.” When James says to “count it all joy,” he encourages his readers to evaluate the way they look at trials. He calls believers to develop a new and improved attitude that considers trials from God’s perspective. James wants believers to know to expect “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2) in the Christian life. We should be prepared and not caught off guard when a sudden trial comes upon us. Trials are part of the Christian experience. Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Typically, a trial is not an occasion for joy. James isn’t suggesting that we pursue trials or court hardship; neither are we to pretend that trials are enjoyable to endure. Trials are difficult and painful. But they exist for a purpose. Trials have the potential of producing something good in us, and, for this reason, they are an opportunity for expressing joy. Knowing there is a bigger picture, we can consider trials as things to rejoice in. Even though joy is contrary to our normal reaction, James urges us to work on changing our attitude toward troubles from dread to positive expectation, faith, trust, and even joy.

James does not merely say “count it joy,” but he says “count it all joy”; that is, we can consider trials and testings as pure, unalloyed, total joy. Too often, we see trials in a negative light, or we assume that joy cannot exist in hardship; worse, we consider the hard times as God’s curse upon us or His punishment for our sin, rather than what they really are—opportunities to joyfully mature into Christlikeness.

James 1:3 explains that God intends trials to test our faith and produce spiritual perseverance. Trials are like training challenges for an athlete. They build physical endurance and stamina. The athlete looks forward to physical and mental challenges because of the benefits that follow. If we were to walk through life on easy street and never face hardship, our Christian character would remain untested and underdeveloped. Trials develop our spiritual muscles, giving us the stamina and endurance to stay the course (Romans 5:2–5). We can count it all joy in trials because in them we learn to depend on God and trust Him. Faith that is tested becomes genuine faith, rugged faith, uncompromising faith: “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” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

God also uses trials to discipline us: “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Trials help to purge our spiritual shortcomings and mature our faith. They promote joy because they produce holiness in the life of steadfast believers.

James encourages Christians to embrace trials not for what they presently are, but for the outcome God will accomplish through them. James 1:12 promises, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:1–38), he could not see the beautiful, life-saving outcome that God would accomplish through his years of suffering and perseverance in Egypt. After his ordeal with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph spent long years forgotten in prison. Eventually, God’s plan came to fruition, and Joseph was raised up to the second most powerful position over Egypt. Through many trials and tests, Joseph learned to trust God. Not only did Joseph rescue his family and the nation of Israel from starvation, but he saved all of Egypt, too.

Joseph’s faith had been tested through trials, and perseverance finished its work. After coming through the trials victoriously, Joseph understood God’s good purpose in all he had endured. Joseph was able to see God’s sovereign hand in it all. Mature and complete, Joseph spoke these words of forgiveness to his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19–20).

James 1:4 says a believer who perseveres through trials is made “perfect.” This does not mean he or she becomes sinless or without moral failings. Perfect speaks of maturity or spiritual development. Christians who face trials with a joyful outlook—trusting God to accomplish His good purpose—will develop into full spiritual maturity. They will be equipped with everything they need to overcome every trial they encounter. That’s certainly a good reason to rejoice.

To count it all joy when we face trials, we must evaluate the difficulties in life with eyes of faith and see them in light of God’s good purpose. The translation of James 1:2–4 by J.B. Phillips aids our understanding: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.”





06/29/21

Question: "What does it mean that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)?"

Answer: John makes the powerful assertion that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19) in a section in which he is writing about how we should be expressing the love of God to others. He says a bit earlier in the letter that, “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). John explains that we have come to know (experientially) and believe the agape love that God has for us (1 John 4:16), and because of that there is an expectation that we should act on that love. If love originates with God, then the one who is walking with God should be demonstrating love (1 John 4:17).

But what kind of love should we be expressing, and with what kind of love do “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19)? His love is completed (or perfected) in us, in that we have confidence in the day of judgment. His love has kept us (by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ) from condemnation—that kind of life-saving love is what He has showed us and is what we are expected to show each other. That kind of love is free from fear, because there is no punishment in our futures (1 John 4:18). His love has given us great confidence, because He has removed our fear.

“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Love made the first move; our love for God is simply a response to His love for us. We have the capacity to love, now understanding what love really is and how we can express that without fear because He first loved us—because He modeled for us what love looks like. As John said a bit earlier, we have come to know and believe His love (1 John 4:16), so we are neither ignorant nor incapable of showing His kind of love to others. In fact, loving our brother is not only an expectation; it is an imperative.

“We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and because He first loved us, we can and must love others. If someone claims to love God whom we have not seen but doesn’t love his brother whom we have seen, then John says that person is lying (1 John 4:20). If we aren’t loving our brother, we aren’t loving God. John goes further, reminding his readers of Jesus’ commandment that we love our brother (1 John 4:21). John adds to the logic of love when he asserts that the believer in Jesus is born of God, and anyone who loves the Father should obviously love the child born of the Father (1 John 5:1). It would be nonsensical for a believer, then, not to love his brother in Christ. John explains it from a different angle as well: when we are loving God and observing His commandments, we can know we are loving the brethren (1 John 5:2).

To love God means to obey Him, especially considering that His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). John reminds us that our love should be a sincere love—like the love the Father has for us. We should not love simply with words, but with sincerity in our deeds (1 John 3:18). Loving in truth and sincerity is so important that John lists it as a logical next step after believing in Jesus—“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us (1 John 3:23, ESV). But God hasn’t simply told us to do something He wasn’t willing to do first, instead, “we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).




Question: "What is the meaning of Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"?"

Answer: In Philippians 2:5, Paul sets Jesus before us as the example of the type of attitude we should have: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Or, as the NIV has it, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Paul writes his letter to the Philippians to encourage them to rejoice even in difficult circumstances. Paul was in prison, and he encourages the Philippians that, even though he was imprisoned, they should rejoice because God was still working (Philippians 1). The church at Philippi was commendable for several reasons; however, they were also dealing with some disunity (Philippians 4:2). Paul asks them to make his joy complete—to provide him joy even in his difficulty—by “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). The Philippians could help Paul in his difficult time by simply showing the maturity that they should show in the first place. Paul explains how they can do that. They shouldn’t do anything out of selfishness or pride, but, instead, with humility in their thinking they should consider the other person as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3). They shouldn’t be simply concerned about their own interests, but also the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). After these exhortations, Paul gives them a supreme example to consider: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The idea of “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) is to have the same mindset or thinking that Christ had. Specifically, Paul is talking about how Jesus as God was willing to give up His glory (Philippians 2:6) and to humble Himself to become a man and to die on a cross (Philippians 2:7–8). Jesus gave Himself up as an expression of love and was willing to lower Himself to express that love. He is the supreme example of love and humility—as Jesus Himself put it, no one has greater love than to give his life for another (John 15:13). Paul is challenging his readers to think like that—to be willing to lower themselves for the benefit of the other. That is how they could be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, and intent on one purpose (Philippians 2:2)—by being willing to make their own interests and purposes subservient for the good of the other person.

Humility is a basic and necessary aspect of the Christian life, and we have the perfect model of how to be humble in Jesus Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Further, as James recounted, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, ESV). God sees when people respond to Him and to each other with humility, and He is gracious. Peter adds that we should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and at the right time He will exalt us (1 Peter 5:6). Any anxieties we might have about the implications of humility we can cast upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). This is one facet of God’s grace for the humble.

Paul challenged Euodia and Syntyche to live in harmony (Philippians 4:2), and that same challenge is applicable for us today. We need to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” and treat each other with humility and honor so that we are valuing each other as God values us and as He intends for us to value each other.


06/28/21

Question: "What is moral truth?"

Answer: Morals are our definitions of right and wrong: the lines separating good behavior from evil behavior. Morals are not an explanation of how things necessarily are, but a description of how things ought to be. This implies a level of obligation. Labelling something “moral” means we ought to actively pursue it, while something “immoral” ought to be actively avoided. When we call something “moral,” we associate it with concepts such as “good,” “right,” “proper,” “honorable,” or “ethical.” The nature of morality also means that the arrangement of those moral lines—the way in which those concepts are arrayed—is itself a moral imperative, since that which is “not moral” is to be actively opposed.

Truth is our definition of reality: the lines separating what is real from what is not real. Truth is an explanation of how things really are, not how we wish they were or even how they ought to be. When we refer to “truth,” we evoke concepts such as “actual,” “real,” “factual,” “genuine,” or “existing.” The nature of truth means that which is untrue, or false, either does not exist or cannot happen. Truth is its own imperative: a person can either accept it or reject it, but it cannot be altered by opinions.

On the surface, morality and truth seem to occupy separate spheres. Truth describes what “is,” and morality describes what “ought to be.” Speaking of “moral truth” implies a combination of those two ideas. A moral truthwould be right and good, as well as actual and real. Of course, since “what is” and “what ought” are not necessarily identical, the question arises whether “moral truth” can exist in a meaningful way, and what it would look like.

As it turns out, understanding morality requires a similar approach as any other set of facts: it is either objective or subjective. Objective morality—also labelled “absolute morality”—implies something fixed according to an unchanging perspective. Objective moral principles are linked to an unmoving, universal point of reference. Subjective morals—also called “relativism”—are linked to some changing, shifting, or preference-based perspective.

One problem with “subjective morality” is that it quickly becomes a contradiction in terms. If the lines defining what is right and wrong can be moved, then the purpose of morals itself is lost. One could conceivably call the same choice, in the same situation, either “moral” or “immoral” according to different points of reference. That in itself defeats the purpose of morality. Practical decisions might be entirely reversed, in that case. That subjective morality is self-contradictory implies actual morality is tied to something objective. That is, it is more rational to say that “moral truth” exists than to say that it does not.

Ultimately, the only reasonable basis for moral truth is God. An un-created, unchanging, perfect standard would fit the definitions of both truth and morality, simultaneously. Any basis for comparison or judgment eventually relies on an assumed “absolute” standard. Whether the concept is that which “is” or that which “ought to be,” the only reasonable basis is God. This means that which God calls “good” is the standard of morality: that is “moral truth.”



Question: "Why does God ask Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14)?"

Answer: When the Lord announced to Abraham, “By this time next year, Sarah will give birth to a son,” Sarah overheard and laughed in unbelief (Genesis 18:10–12). The news was so astonishing to the 89-year-old Sarah that she doubted God’s word and His promise. Then God asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13–14, NLT).

God countered Sarah’s rhetorical question (“Can an old woman like me have a baby?”) with one of His own: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” In other words, God answered Sarah’s unbelief with His assurance: “Nothing is too hard for me!”

When Sarah doubted the Lord, she was questioning both His truthfulness and His ability. Sarah is not unlike us. We sometimes doubt that God will keep His promises. We disbelieve the Lord’s power to do what He says He will do in His Word. And God, through Genesis 18:14, asks us the same question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

God framed the question rhetorically, but the Bible answers categorically, “No, nothing is too hard for the Lord!” The prophet Jeremiah observed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). Again God acknowledged, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted,” testifies Job 42:2. God’s Word never fails but accomplishes everything God intends for it to do (Isaiah 55:10–11; Joshua 21:45; Luke 1:37). His words are truth (2 Samuel 7:28). When God makes a promise, we can be sure He has the power to fulfill it (Ephesians 3:20–21; 2 Corinthians 1:20). “For the word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything he does,” affirms Psalm 33:4 (NLT).

Jesus told His disciples that, humanly speaking, salvation is impossible, “but with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26, NLT). Sarah was looking at God’s ability, fidelity, and truthfulness through a human lens. The Bible suggests numerous ways in which people fail or fall short (Psalm 14:3, John 20:27; Romans 1:25; Galatians 1:6; Revelation 2:4) yet emphasizes that God never lets His people down.

Faithfulness and truth are fundamental aspects of God’s character (Revelation 3:14; 19:11). Even “if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is” (2 Timothy 2:13, NLT).

Eventually, Sarah repented of her doubt and believed God. Isaac, the promised son, was born a year later: “The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would” (Genesis 21:1–2, NLT).

God has given us ample evidence of His power, faithfulness, and truthfulness. By a simple act of His will, He created the universe and everything in it out of nothing (Genesis 1—2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). God keeps the planets in orbit and “stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7, NLT). He holds all things together and supplies the needs of every living creature (Colossians 1:17; Psalm 145:14–21). Surely the God who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2), who gives life and breath to every creature and human being (Job 12:10), can make an old woman conceive and give birth to a child.

God’s question to Sarah ought to encourage us to examine our own hearts. Are there any obstacles of unbelief standing between me and God? Do I harbor doubts that cause me to laugh at the Lord’s promises?

If we truly believe with hearts of faith that God is who He says He is, nothing will shake our confidence in Him. When God asks, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” our answer will be a resounding, “No! God can do anything!”



Question: "What does it mean that we should think on whatever is right (Philippians 4:8)?"

Answer: In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul teaches the believers in Philippi to overcome anxiety and worry and experience joy and contentment in the Christian life by thinking about things that please God. In this way, Christians “guard their hearts” through right thinking, which consequentially transforms the way they live (Proverbs 4:23). Paul includes in his list of worthy virtues to occupy the believer’s mind the directive to “think on whatever is right.”

How can we guard our minds by thinking about whatever is right? The word for “right” in the original Greek language means “just, that which conforms with justice, morally right, proper.” And “just” is how the KJV and NKJV translate it. Specifically, the term relates to our relationships with others. One commentary suggests that thinking on whatever is right refers to fairness between “all parties involved, that which fulfills all obligations and debts. Thinking right thoughts steers one away from quarrels and dissensions to think of the needs and rights of the other party” (Anders, M., Galatians—Colossians, Vol. 8, Broadman & Holman, 1999, p. 262).

Another commentary explains that a person “is ‘just’ . . . and therefore right when he gives to God and to his fellow men what is their due. He accepts and performs his proper duty to God and man” (Loh, I. and Nida, E. A., A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, United Bible Societies, 1995, p. 134). In other words, “think on whatever is right in the eyes of God and people” or “think about what is fair for all involved” is an excellent way to understand Paul’s meaning.

One area of concern Paul addresses in his letter to the Philippians is how to handle disagreements between church members. He points to a particular argument between two women in the church: “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News” (Philippians 4:2–3, NLT).

Earlier in the epistle, Paul urges the church, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2–5).

When we love others humbly and unselfishly, when we esteem our brothers and sisters as better than ourselves, when we look out for their interests and not just our own, we are thinking on whatever is right. This kind of right thinking, especially in strained relationships, promotes peace and unity and spreads the joy of the Lord.

Thinking on whatever is right is unselfish thinking. It humbly considers ways to uplift and encourage others. It looks to the needs of others and puts an end to selfish ambition and quarreling. It does “everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Christ is the ultimate authority on right thinking: “He gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7–8, NLT).

In Ephesians 4:2, Paul echoes the sentiment: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” As we reflect carefully on whatever is right, these thoughts begin to shape our conduct.

The word right can also refer to being righteous. Psalm 11:7 tells us that God Himself is righteous and loves and rewards justice in His people. When Paul says to “think about these things” at the end of Philippians 4:8, he means to “consider, give thought to, and reason out” these virtues. Next, he says, “practice these things” (Philippians 4:9, ESV). As believers, we are to think about what is right and then reason out how to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

The goal of filling our minds with whatever is right is becoming like Christ—the Righteous One (1 John 2:1; Acts 3:14). As we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), thinking on whatever is right, we begin to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).


Question: "What are some of the exceedingly great and precious promises mentioned in 2 Peter 1:4?"

Answer: At the start of his second epistle, the apostle Peter writes these encouraging words to believers: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3–4).

God’s great and precious promises: their source. Peter says these promises stem from God’s “glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). He has made promises to His people in His Word because He is glorious and because He is good.

God’s great and precious promises: their recipients. Peter is writing to those who have received faith in the Savior (2 Peter 1:1). In verse 3, Peter refers to them as being “called” by God. The promises of God’s Word benefit believers in Jesus Christ.

God’s great and precious promises: their description. The promises God has made to His children are “great” or, as some translations say, “magnificent.” Not only that, but they are “very” great. And they are “precious”; that is, God’s promises are of inexpressible value. What God has promised is exceedingly magnificent and of the utmost worth.

God’s great and precious promises: their result. It is through the promises of God that we “participate in the divine nature”—we undergo a radical spiritual transformation and are made new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Having a new nature, we are no longer bound by the old sinful nature and are free from “the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire” (2 Peter 1:4, CSB). The promises of God have a sanctifying effect on us. With the Word of God in our hands and the Spirit of God in our hearts, we now have “everything we need for a godly life” (verse 3).

God’s great and precious promises: their message. So what are some of the promises to which Peter refers? All of God’s promises are wonderful, but we will look at some of the promises related to Peter’s next words, promises concerning the believer’s forgiveness, eternal life, and participation in the divine nature:

Psalm 23:6, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”

Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Matthew 11:28–29, “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.”

Acts 2:21; cf. Joel 2:32, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Acts 10:43, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 13:39, “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

John 14:3, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.”

John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

These are not just empty words. They are God’s “great and precious”—magnificent and valuable—promises to us in Christ. They are more than words on a page; they are reality.


06/25/21

Question: "What is prophecy? What does it mean to prophesy?"

Answer: To prophesy is simply to speak prophecy. Prophecy is the noun, and prophesy is the verb. Prophecy at its most basic definition is “a message from God.” So, to prophesy is to proclaim a message from God. The one who does this is, therefore, a prophet. Although foretelling is often associated with prophecy, revealing the future is not a necessary element of prophecy; however, since only God knows the future, any authoritative word about the future must of necessity be a prophecy, that is, a message from God.

In the Old Testament, there were prophets who simply spoke their divine messages to a king or to the people (e.g., Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha). Later, there came a series of “writing prophets” whose messages are preserved in Scripture (e.g., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and Malachi). Quite often the prophets would preface their utterances with words such as “thus saith the Lord” (KJV) or “this is what the Lord says” (NIV). The point is that God had communicated something to the prophets, and they were speaking directly for Him. “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

According to Deuteronomy 13, there are two signs of a true prophet. First, he must not direct people to follow other gods. Second, whenever the prophet says something about future events, those events must come to pass. If the prophet promotes the worship of false gods, or if his predictions fail to come to pass, then he is a false prophet.

God would often give the prophet a message about something that would happen in the short term, to give him credibility on the more long-term message. For instance, Jeremiah told the leaders of Judah that the nation would be conquered by Babylon. But another “prophet,” a charlatan named Hananiah, stood up and said the Lord had given him a different message, and claimed that Jeremiah was not a true prophet. Jeremiah told Hananiah that within a year he, Hananiah, would be dead, and within the year he died (Jeremiah 28). The fact that Jeremiah could so accurately predict the future should have given his other words more credibility.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist proclaims that the Kingdom of God and the Messiah are on the scene, and he identifies Jesus as that Messiah. John is often called the last of the Old Testament prophets. In the rest of the New Testament, prophets are not mentioned very much. It seems that apostles fulfilled the prophetic role, as they spoke directly and authoritatively for God, and their words are preserved today in Scripture. Ephesians 2:20 lists the apostles and prophets as being the foundation of the church, with Jesus Christ being the cornerstone. Obviously, before the canon of Scripture was complete, God may have communicated directly to people on a more regular basis. Prophecy is listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit (see Romans 12:6–8).

Of great interest today is whether or not the gift of prophecy continues or if it ceased when the foundational period of the church was complete. First Corinthians 12—14 is the longest New Testament passage relating to prophecy. The church at Corinth was misusing this gift as well as the gift of tongues. One problem they had was that, when the believers gathered, too many prophets were speaking, and they were interrupting each other to boot. Paul says that at most two or three prophets should speak, and they should do so one at a time. Others should carefully consider or evaluate what the prophet says (1 Corinthians 14:29–31). Perhaps the best understanding is that some people in Corinth thought they are getting a word directly from God, but they could have been wrong; therefore, they needed to submit their prophecies to the judgment of the church. As in the Old Testament, if a New Testament prophecy was contrary to sound doctrine, then the prophecy was to be rejected.

The instruction in 1 Corinthians 14 also suggests that a person should be cautious in speaking for God if the revelation is extra-biblical. Bearing a “message from God” does not automatically place one in a position of authority. The potential prophet should humbly submit his or her message to the leaders of the church for confirmation. Paul’s directive suggests that the gift of prophecy was already beginning to wane as an authoritative gift at the time 1 Corinthians was written.

A preacher or pastor today fulfills a prophetic role to the extent that he proclaims and explains the written Word of God. However, pastors are never called “prophets” in the New Testament. The pastor can confidently say, “Thus saith the Lord,” if he follows it up with chapter and verse. Unfortunately, some pastors assume a prophetic mantle and make pronouncements that are not from God but from their own imaginations.


Question: "Who was John the Baptist in the Bible?"

Answer: Although his name implies that he baptized people (which he did), John's life on earth was more than just baptizing. John's adult life was characterized by devotion and surrender to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. John's voice was a "lone voice in the wilderness" (John 1:23) as he proclaimed the coming of the Messiah to a people who desperately needed a Savior. He was the precursor for the modern-day evangelist as he unashamedly shared the good news of Jesus Christ. He was a man filled with faith and a role model to those of us who wish to share our faith with others. 

Most everyone, believer and non-believer alike, has heard of John the Baptist. He is one of the most significant and well-known figures in the Bible. While John was known as "the Baptist," he was in fact the first prophet called by God since Malachi some 400 years earlier. John's coming was foretold over 700 years previously by another prophet: "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken'" (Isaiah 40:3–5). This passage illustrates God's master plan in action as God selected John to be His special ambassador to proclaim His own coming. 

John’s birth was miraculous. He was born of elderly parents who had never been able to have children (Luke 1:7). The angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah, a Levitical priest, that he would have a son—news that Zechariah received with incredulity (verses 8–18). Gabriel said this about John: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He . . . will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (verses 15–17). True to the word of the Lord, Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to John. At the circumcision ceremony, Zechariah said about his son, “You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; / for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” (verse 76).

John was related to Jesus, as their mothers were relatives (Luke 1:36). In fact, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, he also told her about John. When Mary was carrying Jesus in her womb, she visited Elizabeth, and John leapt in his mother's womb for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice (Luke 1:39-45).

As an adult John lived a rugged life in the mountainous area of Judea, between the city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He wore clothes made of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, the typical garb of a prophet. His diet was a simple one—locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). John lived a simple life as he focused on the kingdom work set before him. 

John the Baptist's ministry grew in popularity, as recounted in Matthew 3:5–6: "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." To be baptized by John was to admit your sin and repent of it—which was, of course, a great way to be prepared for the Savior’s coming. The repentance associated with John’s baptism also kept the self-righteous out of the water, as they did not see themselves as sinners. For the self-righteous, John had stern words, calling them a "brood of vipers" and warning them not to rely on their Jewish lineage for salvation, but to repent and "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:7–10). People of that day simply did not address leaders, religious or otherwise, in this manner for fear of punishment. But John's faith made him fearless in the face of opposition.

The general opinion of John the Baptist was that he was a prophet of God (Matthew 14:5), and many people may have thought that he was the Messiah. This was not his intent, as he had a clear vision for what he was called to do. In John 3:28 John says, "You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.'" John cautioned his disciples that what they had seen and heard from him was just the beginning of the miracle that was to come in the form of Jesus Christ. John was merely a messenger sent by God to proclaim the truth. His message was simple and direct: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:2). He knew that, once Jesus appeared on the scene, John's work would be all but finished. He willingly gave up the spotlight to Jesus, saying, "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30). 

Perhaps there is no greater example of humility than what is seen in both Jesus and John in Matthew 3:13–15. Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John in the River Jordan. John rightly recognized that the sinless Son of God needed no baptism of repentance and that he was certainly not worthy to baptize his own Savior. But Jesus answered John’s concern by requesting baptism "to fulfill all righteousness," meaning that He was identifying Himself with sinners for whom He would ultimately sacrifice Himself, thereby securing all righteousness for them (2 Corinthians 5:21). In humility, John obeyed and consented to baptize Jesus (Matthew 3:13–15). As Jesus came up out of the water, “heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (verses 16–17).

Later, King Herod put John the Baptist in prison. Herod had married the former wife of his brother, Philip. John boldly spoke out against this marriage, much to the dislike of Herodias, Herod’s new wife (Luke 3:19–20; Mark 6:17–20). While John was in prison, he heard of all the things Jesus was doing. In what seems to be a moment of doubt, John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He truly was the Messiah. Jesus responded by telling the men to tell John what they saw and heard—prophecies were being fulfilled. Jesus never rebuked John; rather, He gave evidence that He was the promised Savior (Matthew 11:2–6; Luke 7:18–23). Jesus then spoke to the crowd about John, saying he was the prophesied messenger who would come before Messiah (Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27; cf. Malachi 3:1). Jesus also said, "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). 

John the Baptist's ministry, as well as his life, came to an abrupt end at the hand of King Herod. In an act of unspeakable vengeance, Herodias plotted with her daughter to have John killed. Herodias’s daughter danced for Herod and his dinner guests one night, and Herod was so pleased that he said to her, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you” (Mark 6:22). The girl consulted with her mother before she answered that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter (verse 25). Herod had been afraid of John, “knowing him to be a righteous and holy man” (verse 20), and so was loath to kill the prophet, but he had promised to give the dancing girl whatever she asked. Since John was already in prison, it was a simple thing to send the executioner to behead John, which is exactly what happened (Mark 6:27–28). It was a sad and ignoble end to the life of such a faithful man. 

There are several lessons we can learn from the life of John the Baptist. One lesson is that whole-heartedly believing in Jesus Christ is possible. John knew that the Messiah was coming. He believed this with his whole heart and spent his days "preparing the way" for the Lord's coming (Matthew 11:10). But the road was not an easy one to prepare. Daily he faced doubters who did not share his enthusiasm for the coming Messiah. Under hard questioning from the Pharisees, John shared his belief: "I baptize with water, . . . but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie" (John 1:26–27). John believed in the Christ, and his great faith kept him steadfast on his course until the time when he could say as he saw Jesus approach, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). As believers, we can all have this steadfast faith. 

While it is hard to know for sure what John was feeling as he sat in prison, he did certainly seem to have doubts. But John sent a message out to Jesus in an effort to find the truth. As Christians we all will have our faith put to the test, and we will either falter in our faith or, like John, cling to Christ, seek truth, and stand firm in our faith to the end. 

John's life is an example to us of the seriousness with which we are to approach the Christian life and our call to ministry, whatever that may be. John lived his life to introduce others to Jesus Christ; he was focused on the mission God had given him. John also knew the importance of repenting of one's sins in order to live a holy and righteous life. And as a servant of God, he also was unafraid of speaking truth, even when it meant calling out people such as Herod and the Pharisees for their sinful behavior. 

John was entrusted with a unique ministry, yet we, too, are called upon to share the truth of Jesus with others (Matthew 28:18–20; John 13:34–35; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21). We can follow John's example of faithful and obedient trust in God as we live and proclaim His truth in whatever life circumstances God has given us.


Question: "Who was Jeremiah in the Bible?"

Answer: Jeremiah the prophet lived in the final days of the crumbling nation of Judah. He was, appropriately, the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom, which comprised the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. God had repeatedly warned Israel to stop their idolatrous behavior, but they would not listen, so He tore the 12 tribes asunder, sending the 10 northern tribes into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. Then God sent Jeremiah to give Judah the last warning before He cast them out of the land, decimating the nation and sending them into captivity in the pagan kingdom of Babylon. Jeremiah, a faithful, God-fearing man, was called to tell Judah that, because of their unrepentant sin, their God had turned against them and was now prepared to remove them from the land at the hands of a pagan king. 

No doubt Jeremiah, who was only about 17 when God called him, had great inner turmoil over the fate of his people, and he begged them to listen. He is known as “the weeping prophet,” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen but because, no matter how hard he tried, the people would not listen. Furthermore, he found no human comfort. God had forbidden him to marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2), and his friends had turned their backs on him. So, along with the burden of the knowledge of impending judgment, he also must have felt very lonely. God knew that this was the best course for Jeremiah, because He went on to tell him how horrible conditions would be in a short time, with babies, children, and adults dying “grievous” deaths, their bodies unable to even be buried, and their flesh devoured by the birds (Jeremiah 16:3-4). 

Obviously, the people of Israel had become so hardened by the numbing effects of sin that they no longer believed God, nor did they fear Him. Jeremiah preached for 40 years, and not once did he see any real success in changing or softening the hearts and minds of his stubborn, idolatrous people. The other prophets of Israel had witnessed some successes, at least for a little while, but not Jeremiah. He was speaking to a brick wall; however, his words were not wasted. They were pearls being cast before swine, in a sense, and they were convicting every person who heard them and refused to heed the warning. 

Jeremiah tried to make the people understand their problem was a lack of belief, trust, and faith in God, along with an absence of fear that caused them to take Him for granted. It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, especially when the focus is not on God. The nation of Israel, just like many nations today, had stopped putting God first and had replaced Him with false gods, those that would not make them feel guilty or convict them of sin. God had delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, had performed miracles before them, and had even parted the waters of the sea for them. In spite of all these displays of God’s power, they returned to the false practices they had learned in Egypt, even making vows to the false “queen of heaven,” along with performing the other rites and rituals that were part of the Egyptian culture and religion. God finally turned them over to their idolatry, saying, “Go ahead, then; do what you promised! Keep your vows!” (Jeremiah 44:25).

Jeremiah became discouraged. He sank into a quagmire where many believers seem to get stuck when they think their efforts are not making a difference and time is diminishing. Jeremiah was emotionally spent, even to the point of doubting God (Jeremiah 15:18), but God was not done with him. Jeremiah 15:19 records a lesson for each believer to remember in those times when he feels alone, useless, and discouraged and whose faith is wavering: “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.’” God was saying to Jeremiah, come back to Me, and I will restore to you the joy of your salvation. These are similar to the words penned by David when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51:12).

What we learn from the life of Jeremiah is the comfort of knowing that, just like every believer, even great prophets of God can experience rejection, depression, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually, because our sinful nature fights against our new nature, that which is born of the Spirit of God, according to Galatians 5:17: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” But, just as Jeremiah found, we can know that the faithfulness of our God is infinite; even when we are unfaithful to Him, He remains steadfast (2 Timothy 2:13).

Jeremiah was given the task of delivering an unpopular, convicting message to Judah, one that caused him great mental anguish, as well as making him despised in the eyes of his people. God says that His truth sounds like “foolishness” to those who are lost, but to believers it is the very words of life (1 Corinthians 1:18). He also says that the time will come when people will not tolerate the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Those in Judah in Jeremiah’s day did not want to hear what he had to say, and his constant warning of judgment annoyed them. This is true of the world today, as believers who are following God’s instructions are warning the lost and dying world of impending judgment (Revelation 3:10). Even though most are not listening, we must persevere in proclaiming truth in order to rescue some from the terrible judgment that will inevitably come.


06/24/21

Question: "What does it mean that by wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3)?"

Answer: King Solomon was one of the most prolific property developers in biblical history and more than qualified to say, “By wisdom a house is built” (Proverbs 24:3). He constructed the “house of the Lord,” or the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), a massive project that took seven years and turned out to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. He also built his own magnificent palace—“the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:1–3, ESV)—as well as gardens, roads, walls, infrastructure, and many government buildings.

Yet a physical residence was not the only structure Solomon had in mind when he said, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:3–4). Solomon understood that the virtue of wisdom has constructive, life-giving qualities. His maxim closely resembles Proverbs 3:19: “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens” (ESV). Wisdom initiates life, produces fruit, and inaugurates creative wonders. Wisdom creates, nurtures, fosters, establishes, and fills a house, whether the “house” is a brick-and-mortar building, a household, a family, an enterprise, a company, an individual reputation, or personal character. In Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

In Proverbs 24:3 and elsewhere, the Scriptures personify wisdom as a productive, hardworking woman: “Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table” (Proverbs 9:1–2, NLT). Although wisdom is an intangible quality, Solomon describes it poetically, as if it were an actual person. In doing so, Solomon vividly communicates availability of wisdom and the benefits of seeking and finding it.

The “rare and beautiful treasures” that fill the rooms of Proverbs 24:3 could be literal—the wise will handle finances well—but they also symbolize blessings such as harmony, unity, loving family relationships, and a sense of safety, protection, well-being, and stability. “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling,” says Proverbs 21:20, ESV.

The Bible says that believers are “God’s house.” Through wisdom, we, as God’s children, are built into a solid and secure “house” for the Lord: “But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ” (Hebrews 3:6, NLT).

The apostle Paul taught that we are members of the “household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22, ESV). As individual members of Christ’s body, we are being built together into one holy temple in the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:17).

The most important stone in any building is the cornerstone. For this reason, Jesus Christ is called the Cornerstone of the church. He is the firm, immovable foundation upon which the entire building is established, undergirded, supported, and constructed. He sets the pattern for the entire structure. Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” upon which we are built (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Peter encouraged believers to come to God through Jesus Christ so they might be built into a spiritual house for God: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:4–5, 9).

God’s work will last. Without Him, we’re spinning our wheels: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). We must depend on the Lord’s wisdom (see Luke 6:48), but how do we get it? We first receive God’s wisdom when we are filled with His Holy Spirit at salvation (1 Corinthians 2:6–15). After that, James tells us that wisdom is gained by asking God for it (James 1:5). We obtain wisdom by seeking it, pursuing it, and valuing it (Proverbs 2:2, 4–5; 4:8). Likewise, we get wisdom by spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 19:7; Proverbs 4:5–7; 2 Timothy 3:15).

The Lord’s wisdom is failproof. God’s “house” is built by God’s wisdom and God’s power, and Jesus is the Cornerstone. We can trust that it will never crumble or collapse (Matthew 16:18).



Question: "How can the Lord be the strength of my life (Psalm 118:14)?"

Answer: The psalmist declares, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14, ESV). This verse is an exact quote from Exodus 15:2, part of Moses’ victory song after crossing the Red Sea. In Psalm 18:1, David repeats the sentiment, “I love you, LORD, my strength.”

Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving psalm. The worshiper begins by offering praise to the Lord for His steadfast, enduring love. In verse 5, the psalmist calls to the Lord in his distress, and God answers and rescues him. The songwriter then contrasts human power to God’s might and acknowledges that the real source of his help and survival is the Lord, who is the strength of his life.

Maybe in your distress, you’ve never called on the Lord for help. In your weakened state of need, you’ve never imagined God could answer—that He would reach down from heaven to rescue you from deep waters (Psalm 144:7). Perhaps you’re here reading this page because your heart is longing to know, “How can the Lord be the strength of my life?”

The strength that comes from God, that delivers people from death and equips them to follow Him and be safe from danger for all eternity, is not physical but spiritual (Psalm 84:7). First and foremost, we need the strength of God’s salvation. Humans do not have the power to save themselves. Only God can save us: “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; see also James 4:12). All we need to be saved is to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31).

Once we receive God’s strength at salvation, we can begin to “understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19–21). The Lord enables us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). God’s strength delivers us totally and empowers us to do good (Psalm 84:7; 28:8).

If we desire the Lord to be the strength of our life, we can pray this incredible prayer for spiritual strength: “For this reason I kneel before the Father. . . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14–21).

We do not need any other source of power or deliverance because Jesus Christ is the strength of our lives. Even when we feel weary and ineffective, His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Christ’s limitless life is the source of strength for those who belong to Him.

If we seek the Lord daily to be our spiritual source, He renews and fills us with the Bread of Life and Living Water (John 4:10–14; 6:35; 7:38). He gives us His strength so that we can walk in His ways and endure through every circumstance we face. Like the apostle Paul, we can say, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). Like the psalmist, we can declare, “The Lord is the strength of my life.”



Question: "How much of the Bible is prophecy?"

Answer: Prophecy accounts for a major portion of the entire canon of Scripture. Numerous books in the Old Testament contain prophecy—some include short statements about the future, and others feature entire prophetic visions. In the New Testament, almost every book contains some prophecy, with Revelation being wholly devoted to a prophetic vision.

By one count, about 27 percent of the Bible is predictive (Payne, J. B., The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, Baker Pub. Group, 1980, p. 675). This means that, when written, over one fourth of the Bible—more than one in four verses—was prophetic. Professor and theologian J. Barton Payne lists 1,817 prophecies in the Bible (ibid., p. 674). The consistent relation of prophecy in the Bible is staggering; on top of that is the amazing accuracy of those detailed prophecies.

At least one half of all biblical predictions have already been fulfilled precisely as God had declared. Because of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling these prophecies, we can be assured that He will fulfill the rest of the prophecies in Scripture without fault (see Numbers 23:19).

Prophecy in the Bible can be divided into two broad groups: fulfilled and not yet fulfilled. Some examples from these generalized groups include the following:

Fulfilled Prophecies: • The first coming of Christ (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:15–19; Numbers 24:17; Daniel 9:25–26; Micah 5:2).
• Jesus as the Savior of mankind (e.g., Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4–5).
• Prophecies regarding individual people, such as the doom of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:10).
• Prophecies regarding Israel, such as in the case of Israel’s exile to Babylon (2 Kings 20:18; Jeremiah 34:3).
• The destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70 (Matthew 24:1–2).
• Daniel’s prophecies about the rise and fall of many kingdoms (Daniel 7:2–6).

Prophecies Still to Be Fulfilled: • The second coming of Christ (Zechariah 14:3–4; Matthew 24:44; Acts 1:10–11; Revelation 1:7).
• The rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
• The tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15–22).
• The resurrections of the saved and the unsaved (Daniel 12:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Revelation 20:11–15).
• The millennial reign of Christ (Psalm 72:7–11; Zechariah 2:10–11; Revelation 20:4).
• The restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31–37; Romans 11:26–27).
• The new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

Some prophecies have a double fulfillment, one nearer to the time of the prophet and one further in the future. We see this in Isaiah 7:14, for example. The birth of a child served as a sign for King Ahaz, but the prophecy also pointed forward to the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22–23). Some interpret Jesus’ explanation of the signs of the end times as having been fulfilled in some sense in AD 70 yet also signaling a future, more complete fulfillment during the end times tribulation.

Other prophecies have been fulfilled partially and are awaiting complete fulfillment. An example of this is found in Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 61:1–2, in which He declares the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In the synagogue, Jesus read from the scroll: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). He then proclaimed Himself as the fulfillment of that prophecy. But He had stopped reading in the middle of Isaiah 61:2. The reason is simple: the first part of that verse was fulfilled by Christ in His first advent, but the second half, concerning “the day of vengeance of our God,” was not. The Day of the Lord is still to be fulfilled in the future.

The amount of prophecy in the Bible is one of the things that make it unique among religious books. There is absolutely no emphasis on predictive prophecy in the Qu’ran or the Hindu Vedas, for example. In contrast, the Bible repeatedly points to fulfilled prophecy as direct proof that it is God who speaks (see Deuteronomy 18:22; 1 Kings 22:28; Jeremiah 28:9). Given God’s omniscience, it should come as no surprise that the Bible contains so many clear predictions or that those predictions are literally fulfilled: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:9–10, ESV).




06/21/21

Question: "What does it mean that he who hates his brother walks in darkness (1 John 2:11)?"

Answer: Those who trust in God are described as walking in the light. God wants us to live in the light as He is in the light (John 3:21; 1 John 1:7). Walking in the light means living in obedience to Him and not living in sin. The unbeliever, however, lives in darkness. In 1 John 2:11 we are warned that he who hates his brother walks in darkness, blinded by sin.

John explains, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them” (1 John 2:9–11).

Those who walk in the light are to be marked by love. This love is shown in obedience to God (John 15:10; 1 John 2:3) and in loving others (John 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:7–8). Love for others is a sign of God’s presence in the life of a believer (John 13:34–35; 1 John 4:7–12). Since God is love, anyone who does not love others shows that God is not in him. First John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” Loving others is not a suggestion for believers; it is a command (Mark 12:30–31). Jesus told His followers, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love for others manifests our love for God, who is Light, so he who hates his brother walks in darkness, showing that God’s love is not in him.

Our love for others is another way the world can see God. Because of God’s love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), He sent His Son into the world that we might live through Him both in this life and for eternity. Those who trust God live in love because this truth has changed their lives and destinies. Yet it is possible for people to claim they love God without truly knowing Him. That’s why John warns that he who hates his brother actually walks in darkness. Loving others distinguishes those walking in light from those walking in darkness. In John 13:35, after Jesus commands His disciples to love one another, He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Believers love others because “[God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We are to love others in all we do (1 Corinthians 16:14). We show love by our attitudes as well as our actions. Philippians 2:3–4 gives us a practical way to show love: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” James 2:14–17 tells us to live out our faith by providing what others need instead of simply mouthing words of blessing. As we love others as Jesus loved us (Ephesians 5:2), we can walk in light, but he who hates his brother walks in darkness.

God’s love for us changes our lives and affects the way we see others who are also made in His image. The person who loves God will love others. He who hates his brother walks in darkness and shows that the love of God is not in him. Those who walk in the light have been given the reasons to love others and have God’s Spirit living in them to help them truly love.

Loving others can be difficult; even those who genuinely love God and walk in His light still struggle against sinful tendencies (1 John 1:8–10; Romans 7—8). But God is faithful to give us His heart for others if we seek Him. The more we understand His great love, the more we’ll desire to share it with the world through our words and deeds. Love speaks truth and genuinely seeks the benefit of the other (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 12:9–21; 1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:15). God can give us the desire, wisdom, and anything else necessary to love others with His love. As we continue to walk in His light, we will continue to live out His love.



Question: "What is the benefit of a word fitly spoken (Proverbs 25:11)?"

Answer: The ancient sages highly revered elegant and concise language. In Proverbs 25:11–14, Solomon presented a series of symbolic statements concerning speech with succinct sophistication. He began by saying, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV). With this maxim, Solomon stressed the importance of good counsel.

The word translated as “fitly” in Proverbs 25:11 occurs only here in the Old Testament, making its exact meaning somewhat unsure. Some translators link it to an Arabic word meaning “time.” If this is accurate, a word fitly spoken seems to imply “a word spoken at the right time” (CSB) or “at the proper time” (NASB). The New Living Translation agrees with this meaning: “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” The New English Bible also aligns with this idea, describing the word spoken“fitly” as being “in season.”

Other translators associate the original Hebrew term with a word that means “wheel,” thus rendering the modifier as “well-turned” or “well-spoken” as in “artfully expressed.” The NET Bible concurs: “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.”

The “apples of gold in a setting of silver” seem to refer to exquisitely crafted ornamental jewelry or artwork. The language evokes a design that has been etched, sculpted, or engraved in silver, like filigree. This interpretation supports the idea that well-spoken words have attractive and valuable qualities because skill and artistry have gone into fashioning them.

Proverbs 25:12 continues the jewelry imagery: “To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry” (NLT). Just as a beautifully constructed filigree necklace is pleasing to the eye, so is a word fitly spoken to the ear. The delicacy of the piece attracts the eye, just as a carefully chosen comment pricks the heart and mind.

“Especially to give a reproof with discretion, and so as to make it acceptable,” explains Bible commentator Matthew Henry. “If it be well given, by a wise reprover, and well taken, by an obedient ear, it is an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, very graceful and well becoming both the reprover and the reproved; both will have their praise, the reprover for giving it so prudently and the reproved for taking it so patiently and making a good use of it. Others will commend them both, and they will have satisfaction in each other; he who gave the reproof is pleased that it had the desired effect, and he to whom it was given has reason to be thankful for it as a kindness” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1994, p. 1,012).

Proverbs 15:23 agrees that a word fitly spoken pleases both the speaker and listener: “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!”

The Bible is abundantly clear that our words are important. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” says Proverbs 18:21. What we say can either destroy lives or save them (Proverbs 12:6). Jesus said, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (Matthew 12:36–37, NLT).

The apostle Paul taught that fitly spoken words—words that fit the occasion—build up those who hear them: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV). We can either tear people down with our words or let our conversation become a channel of grace and life as Jesus Christ did: “Everyone spoke well of him [Jesus] and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22, NLT).

A word fitly spoken will give grace to the hearer and be attractive, pleasant, desirable, and full of God’s wisdom. Paul told the Colossians, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Even a challenging word of rebuke or discipline can be phrased so gently and tactfully that it is accepted and even prized as a valuable jewel. When we make use of carefully crafted words that dignify rather than denigrate the hearer, not only do we bless the recipient, but we benefit as well with the joy of knowing our words were well-received and put to good use.

06/20/21

Question: "What does it mean to yield to the Spirit?"

Answer: Although there is no specific verse in the Bible about “yielding to the Spirit,” the idea is present. Romans 6:13 speaks of being yielded to God, and Romans 6:19 of yielding our bodies as “servants to righteousness unto holiness” (KJV). This is in contrast to yielding to sin and the flesh.

To yield is to give something up or to give way to a demand of some sort. A person yielded to the Spirit will accede to the Spirit’s will and submit to His authority. Scripture mentions walking in the Spirit—following His lead and living in cooperation with His plan. Scripture also mentions being filled with the Spirit—being fully possessed by Him and functioning in His power and freedom. Both walking in and being filled with the Spirit necessitates yielding to His control.

Yielding to the Spirit finds its opposite in grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30), quenching Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), or resisting Him (Acts 7:51). Those who are yielded to the Holy Spirit will not be doing that which offends Him, they will not dampen His influence in their hearts, and they will not oppose His will.

Some good examples of believers yielding to the Holy Spirit are found in the book of Acts. The believers gathered in a house in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were there in obedience to the risen Lord’s command to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). That power came in the Person of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4, when “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues a as the Spirit enabled them.” These disciples, yielded to the Spirit, proclaimed the gospel to the multitudes, and the church began.

The first foray into foreign missions began when the church in Syrian Antioch was “worshiping the Lord and fasting, [and] the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). Yielding to the Spirit, the church “fasted and prayed, . . . placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).

On the second missionary journey, Paul and his companions, Silas and Timothy, were traveling through Asia Minor preaching the gospel. But then the Spirit began to redirect them: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas” (Acts 16:6–8). That night in Troas, Paul had a vision that guided the missionaries to Macedonia. The gospel was brought to Europe because Paul and his companions were yielded to the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit would have us “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), do good works (1 Peter 2:15), and “be sanctified,” avoiding sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). The Spirit desires that we count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). He desires us to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18–19) and be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). He wants those who trust in Christ to be assured that they are God’s own children (Romans 8:16). As we yield to the Spirit, allowing Him full control of our lives, we will see the fruit of the Spirit being produced in us (Galatians 5:22–23), and we can look forward to “a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Hebrews 12:11).


Question: "What does it mean that we should think on whatever is noble (Philippians 4:8)?"

Answer: Instead of allowing our minds to be weighted down with anxiety and worry, the apostle Paul teaches us to guard our thought life by focusing on several wholesome and uplifting virtues. Listed among eight worthy virtues in Philippians 4:8 is “whatever is noble.”

How can we devote our minds to thinking about whatever is noble? The original Greek word translated as “noble” means “honorable, anything worthy of being honored, or entitled to honor and respect.” One Bible commentator submits that whatever is noble “refers to lofty, majestic, awesome things, things that lift the mind above the world’s dirt and scandal” (Anders, M., Galatians—Colossians, Vol. 8, Broadman & Holman, 1999, p. 262).

Paul understood the extraordinary power of one’s thought life. Our inner thoughts and heart attitudes directly determine how we feel and influence the way we live. The heart is like a fountain from which our emotions, inspirations, and feelings spring. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” imparts Proverbs 4:23. When we guard our hearts with correct thinking, everything we say and do in life will be affected.

Our society is constantly bombarding us with things to think about that are not noble. Celebrity scandals, dirty secrets, immoral entertainment, pornography, sexual promiscuity, godless living—all of these things drag our thoughts and eventually our actions and lives down into the gutter of this world.

Paul tells us that ungodly, ignoble thinking will “suppress the truth” in our minds (Romans 1:18). He goes on to detail the sad outcome of wallowing in unworthy, unholy thinking: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:21–25, ESV).

If we fail to fill our minds with noble thoughts, we run the risk of substituting the truth about God for Satan’s lies. Thinking on whatever is noble involves constantly filling our minds with God-honoring thoughts.

The most honorable thing we can contemplate is the Word of God. Psalm 1:1–3 extols the blessings and joys of the one who rejects the ignoble “counsel of the wicked” but “delights in the law of the Lord,” meditating on it “day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (ESV).

Isaiah 32:5–8 asserts that a wise person pursues what is noble. Such a person seeks godly wisdom. But the fool “speaks folly” and fills his heart “with iniquity.” Wise people of God don’t follow the counsel of the world. Their primary concern is not with earthly matters, but, instead, they concern themselves with things that pertain to God Himself—things that are lofty, honorable, and noble. “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands” (Isaiah 32:8, ESV).

To think on whatever is noble means to fix our minds on things that cultivate dignity, godliness, and moral excellence. Paul phrased it this way: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1–2). As we ponder the noble, honorable things of God, our thoughts will influence the way we live, steering us away from sin and the pleasures of this world and closer to the heart of God.


06/19/21

Question: "What is the definition of religion?"

Answer: More than 80 percent of the world subscribes to some “religion”; one might expect the word to have a straightforward meaning. Yet there is no universally accepted definition of the term religion. Religions take fundamentally different approaches to truth, Scripture, behavior, and reason. The same is true of a host of other concepts, such as meaningexperiencetraditiontoleranceunityconformityauthoritydeitydoctrinesalvationmoralitysexualityfamilydeath, and humanity. Some cultures view religion entirely separately from individuals or society. Others don’t distinguish those concepts enough to consider “religion” a meaningful category.

A general definition of religion can be distilled from these widely varied experiences as “a system connected to spiritual and/or supernatural components that uniquely impacts the adherent’s worldview, behavior, belief, culture, morality, and approach to certain writings, persons, or places.” Even simplified, that’s quite a mouthful—and a mind-full. The lines between religion and culture or philosophy or tradition or myth are not easily drawn.

Religion-as-a-category is hard to define, but specific examples are clearer. Most people connect to something easily identified as a religious belief. These systems self-identify as religions and exist far from the fuzzy edges of definitions. Examples are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These are straightforwardly called “religions” and come with all the expected features—over which they deeply disagree.

As with other broad terms, religion takes on narrower meaning in certain contexts. A common instance focuses on behavior. In that usage, references to “religion” emphasize actions or attitudes: rituals, prayers, behaviors, or confessions of doctrinal belief. Or, greatly simplified, “rules and rituals.” A person who often prays and attends church would be seen as “practicing religion.” In contrast, someone who never prays or attends church would be considered “non-practicing,” even if he claimed that faith.

Biblical references to “religion” typically use the narrow focus on behavior. In James 1:27, for example, the word religion references acts of worship—that is, the expression of faith: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Note in his description the lack of commonly accepted “tools” of religion: James does not mention religious objects, holy days, memorized liturgies, or special hand gestures. Pure religion involves helping others in distress and maintaining personal holiness. Jesus frequently criticized hollow, hypocritical behavior not rooted in sincere faith (Matthew 5:27–28; 7:21–23; Mark 7:9–13; Luke 11:42–44).

Scripture also explicitly contrasts the idea of religion as a practice with faith-in-and-of-itself. Speaking to non-believers, Paul noted altars to manifold deities and said the people were “very religious” (Acts 17:21–23). James says religion not producing self-control is “worthless” (James 1:26). 

A parallel to how Scripture views terms such as religion or religious would be terms such as politics and political. Politics are important, in their own way, since “politics” is how a culture translates moral and ethical beliefs into laws and government. A person can be “political” while maintaining a sense that political parties, laws, and elected officials are not literally the most important things at stake. They are means to an end, not the ends themselves. A person who derives his fundamental meaning and purpose from the mechanics of partisan politics isn’t political so much as unbalanced, given his misplaced priorities.

Religion, in the same way, can be warped when it becomes its own focus. Biblical Christianity posits an ultimate purpose both behind and beyond the characteristics used to define a “religion.” Those details matter, but they are not faith entire. This, again, was a key aspect of Christ’s teaching. It made up the bulk of His routine scolding of His era’s religious leaders, whose priorities were just as misplaced as some of today’s partisans (see Luke 11:52). Rituals, prayers, denominations, or other “lived” aspects of faith becoming gods unto themselves is the kind of “religion” against which Scripture speaks (Titus 3:5; Romans 3:20).

For this reason, Christians sometimes quip that “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” Of course, using the broadest definition of religion, the word accurately applies to following Jesus. And yet, believers are meant to understand how behaviors and attitudes should flow both from and toward the person of Jesus Christ. So far as that understanding exists, Christianity is fundamentally different from every other “religion” in the world.


Question: "What is an exvangelical?"

Answer: The term exvangelical refers to those who have moved away from common interpretations of the term evangelical. For many exvangelicals, that move away from evangelicalism corresponds with a move away from traditional morality, orthodox doctrine, and/or conservative social and political stances.

Being an exvangelical does not necessarily involve rejecting Christianity or the basic concepts of evangelicalism. Those who first used the term were responding to perceived trends within American Evangelicalism. Increasingly, however, those taking on the label “exvangelical” are embracing a non-Christian or progressive faith system.

Over time, culture shifts the meaning of words. The shift can be drastic, as seen with words like gay, which used to refer to happiness before it became a byword for homosexuality. The word catholic, which literally means “universal,” is now almost exclusively associated with Roman Catholicism and all its theological concerns. When faithful Christians stopped using the term catholic to refer to their faith, they sought distance from false associations, not from faith itself.

For some, moving away from the term evangelical reflects a similar desire. Whether Christians like it or not, the word evangelical is increasingly associated with attitudes and actions contrary to biblical faith. Whether or not the associations are fair, they’re still used by the culture at large to criticize religion. Also, sadly, it is true that some within the evangelical community demonstrate actions and attitudes that don’t reflect Christ very well. Some self-identified evangelical Christians dogmatically tie non-essential opinions to the validity of faith itself. Seeking to distance oneself from the term evangelical shouldn’t automatically be seen as a dismissal of Christianity.

More recently, there is a trend for exvangelical to describe someone moving beyond distancing to actively opposing evangelicalism. Increasingly, those who claim that label espouse progressive, secular, or anti-biblical attitudes. They take on the label “exvangelical” to signal they are “anti-evangelical” and dismissing fundamental aspects of biblical faith in favor of a more personal “faith” that suits them. In extreme cases, such exvangelicals merely “switch sides” while maintaining the same partisan, unforgiving attitudes they supposedly left behind. This is connected to the trend of “deconstruction”; in practice, it’s mostly a means by which people reject faith under the pretext of seeking truth.

Given the rapidly changing understanding of these terms, caution is advised. It’s important to know precisely what a person means when he uses—or claims—the term exvangelical. Likewise, those who merely decline the label “evangelical” should be extended careful understanding (see Romans 12:18). More important than the label one uses or one’s opinion on peripheral issues is one’s acceptance of the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:2; 9:16).


Question: "What does it mean to yield to the Spirit?"

Answer: Although there is no specific verse in the Bible about “yielding to the Spirit,” the idea is present. Romans 6:13 speaks of being yielded to God, and Romans 6:19 of yielding our bodies as “servants to righteousness unto holiness” (KJV). This is in contrast to yielding to sin and the flesh.

To yield is to give something up or to give way to a demand of some sort. A person yielded to the Spirit will accede to the Spirit’s will and submit to His authority. Scripture mentions walking in the Spirit—following His lead and living in cooperation with His plan. Scripture also mentions being filled with the Spirit—being fully possessed by Him and functioning in His power and freedom. Both walking in and being filled with the Spirit necessitates yielding to His control.

Yielding to the Spirit finds its opposite in grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30), quenching Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), or resisting Him (Acts 7:51). Those who are yielded to the Holy Spirit will not be doing that which offends Him, they will not dampen His influence in their hearts, and they will not oppose His will.

Some good examples of believers yielding to the Holy Spirit are found in the book of Acts. The believers gathered in a house in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were there in obedience to the risen Lord’s command to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). That power came in the Person of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4, when “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues a as the Spirit enabled them.” These disciples, yielded to the Spirit, proclaimed the gospel to the multitudes, and the church began.

The first foray into foreign missions began when the church in Syrian Antioch was “worshiping the Lord and fasting, [and] the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). Yielding to the Spirit, the church “fasted and prayed, . . . placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).

On the second missionary journey, Paul and his companions, Silas and Timothy, were traveling through Asia Minor preaching the gospel. But then the Spirit began to redirect them: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas” (Acts 16:6–8). That night in Troas, Paul had a vision that guided the missionaries to Macedonia. The gospel was brought to Europe because Paul and his companions were yielded to the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit would have us “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), do good works (1 Peter 2:15), and “be sanctified,” avoiding sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). The Spirit desires that we count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). He desires us to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18–19) and be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). He wants those who trust in Christ to be assured that they are God’s own children (Romans 8:16). As we yield to the Spirit, allowing Him full control of our lives, we will see the fruit of the Spirit being produced in us (Galatians 5:22–23), and we can look forward to “a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Hebrews 12:11).

06/18/21
Question: "Is the Trinity taught in the Old Testament?"

Answer: The word Trinity is not used in the Bible, but the doctrine of the tri-unity of God is clearly taught in the New Testament. The Old Testament does not explicitly teach the doctrine, but the concept of the Trinity is hinted at in certain places. We could say that the Old Testament lays a foundation for the later revelation concerning the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in the Hebrew concept of plurality in unity:

Deuteronomy 6:4 is a verse that seems, at first, to wholly negate the doctrine of the Trinity: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Interestingly, the singular Yahweh is coupled with the plural Elohim in this verse.) The word translated “one” is ehad, which means “one” or “unity”; however, the word is also used in other contexts to suggest a plurality within unity. For example, the word ehad also appears in Genesis 2:24, which considers two persons as one: “[A man] is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one [ehad]” (NLT). Obviously, the husband and wife are distinct persons, but they are called “one”—there is diversity within the unity.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in the names for God:

The very fact that God reveals Himself using multiple names in the Old Testament could be a clue pointing to His triune nature. Two of the names show up right away: Elohim in Genesis 1:1, and Yahweh in Genesis 2:4. Some scholars believe the multiple names for God imply a diversity within the Godhead.

One of the Hebrew names for “God” in our Bible, Elohim, is plural in form. The -im suffix is plural, and elohim, when not referring to the One True God, is translated as “gods” (plural) in Scripture. The plural form of a name for the One God could be seen as implying a perfect unity of Persons and is certainly consistent with the New Testament teaching of the Trinity.

Adonai, translated in our Bibles as “Lord,” occurs about 300 times in the Old Testament. This title for God is also plural. One writer comments on the word Adonai, “It is significant that it is almost always in the plural and possessive, meaning ‘my Lords.’ It confirms the idea of a trinity as found also in the name of Elohim” (Stone, Nathan, The Names of God, Moody Publishers, 2010, p. 35).

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in the appearances of the Angel of the Lord:

In several places, the Old Testament records encounters with someone called “the Angel of the Lord.” This supernatural presence speaks as if He is God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the responsibilities of God. For example, in Genesis 16:10, the Angel of the Lord says to Hagar, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” Of course, God is the One who blesses Ishmael, but it’s the Angel of the Lord who personally makes the promise to his mother.

The same Angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and assumes the role of God, saying, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12, emphasis added ). See also Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1–4; 5:23; 6:11–24; 13:3–22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; 3:1; 12:8. In several passages, those who see the Angel of the Lord fear for their lives because they had “seen the Lord.” It’s clear that the Angel of the Lord was no mere angel. Viewed through the lens of the New Testament teaching of the Trinity, it’s easy to conclude that the Angel of the Lord could be a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in its descriptions of the Spirit of God:

The post-exilic Levites speak of the Spirit of God as being sent by God and speaking for God: “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them” (Nehemiah 9:20, NKJV); and “For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets” (Nehemiah 9:30). Both verses seem to make a distinction between God and another personality called the Spirit of God. See also Isaiah 48:16 and Isaiah 63:10.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in God’s self-references:

Most of the time, God speaks of Himself using singular pronouns (e.g., Exodus 33:19; Hosea 11:9); at other times, He uses plural pronouns:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added).

“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:22, emphasis added).

As sinful humanity was erecting the tower of Babel, God said, “Come, let Us go down and confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7, BSB, emphasis added).

In Isaiah 6:8, God refers to Himself in both singular and plural terms: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” (emphasis added).

We could assume that, in each of the above passages, God is simply using the majestic plural to emphasize His power and greatness. Or we could also assume that there’s something more going on—viz., that these statements hint at discrete personalities existing as a unified whole.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in Messianic passages:

In Psalm 110:1, David writes, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (NKJV). Here is an example of Yahwehspeaking to Adonai and giving Him the place of highest honor in heaven. Jesus pointed to this psalm as proof that the Christ is more than David’s descendant—He is the pre-existent Lord and much greater than David (Matthew 22:41–45).

Another Messianic prophecy is found in Psalm 45:6–7: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” The psalmist, addressing Elohim, suddenly speaks of “your God” who honors and anoints the Addressee.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds support in the Old Testament in the repetition of God’s qualities or His name:

In Isaiah 6:3, the angels surrounding God praise Him as being “holy, holy, holy.” The threefold repetition expresses the intensity and completeness of God’s holiness. Some scholars also infer from the angels’ words an expression of the triune nature of God, as the three Persons of the Godhead are each equal in holiness and majesty.

Similarly, we have a threefold repetition of God’s name in Numbers 6:24–26:
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
The blessing’s appeal to “the Lord . . . the Lord . . . the Lord” is seen by some scholars as providing a glimpse of the Trinity.

In many ways, the Old Testament gives a preview of the New Testament’s fuller revelation, including the doctrine of God as a triune Being. While the Trinity is not clearly seen in the Old Testament, there are certainly indicators of that truth.


Question: "What does it mean that by wisdom a house is built (Proverbs 24:3)?"

Answer: King Solomon was one of the most prolific property developers in biblical history and more than qualified to say, “By wisdom a house is built” (Proverbs 24:3). He constructed the “house of the Lord,” or the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), a massive project that took seven years and turned out to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. He also built his own magnificent palace—“the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:1–3, ESV)—as well as gardens, roads, walls, infrastructure, and many government buildings.

Yet a physical residence was not the only structure Solomon had in mind when he said, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:3–4). Solomon understood that the virtue of wisdom has constructive, life-giving qualities. His maxim closely resembles Proverbs 3:19: “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens” (ESV). Wisdom initiates life, produces fruit, and inaugurates creative wonders. Wisdom creates, nurtures, fosters, establishes, and fills a house, whether the “house” is a brick-and-mortar building, a household, a family, an enterprise, a company, an individual reputation, or personal character. In Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

In Proverbs 24:3 and elsewhere, the Scriptures personify wisdom as a productive, hardworking woman: “Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table” (Proverbs 9:1–2, NLT). Although wisdom is an intangible quality, Solomon describes it poetically, as if it were an actual person. In doing so, Solomon vividly communicates availability of wisdom and the benefits of seeking and finding it.

The “rare and beautiful treasures” that fill the rooms of Proverbs 24:3 could be literal—the wise will handle finances well—but they also symbolize blessings such as harmony, unity, loving family relationships, and a sense of safety, protection, well-being, and stability. “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling,” says Proverbs 21:20, ESV.

The Bible says that believers are “God’s house.” Through wisdom, we, as God’s children, are built into a solid and secure “house” for the Lord: “But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ” (Hebrews 3:6, NLT).

The apostle Paul taught that we are members of the “household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22, ESV). As individual members of Christ’s body, we are being built together into one holy temple in the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:17).

The most important stone in any building is the cornerstone. For this reason, Jesus Christ is called the Cornerstone of the church. He is the firm, immovable foundation upon which the entire building is established, undergirded, supported, and constructed. He sets the pattern for the entire structure. Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” upon which we are built (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Peter encouraged believers to come to God through Jesus Christ so they might be built into a spiritual house for God: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:4–5, 9).

God’s work will last. Without Him, we’re spinning our wheels: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). We must depend on the Lord’s wisdom (see Luke 6:48), but how do we get it? We first receive God’s wisdom when we are filled with His Holy Spirit at salvation (1 Corinthians 2:6–15). After that, James tells us that wisdom is gained by asking God for it (James 1:5). We obtain wisdom by seeking it, pursuing it, and valuing it (Proverbs 2:2, 4–5; 4:8). Likewise, we get wisdom by spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 19:7; Proverbs 4:5–7; 2 Timothy 3:15).

The Lord’s wisdom is failproof. God’s “house” is built by God’s wisdom and God’s power, and Jesus is the Cornerstone. We can trust that it will never crumble or collapse (Matthew 16:18).


Question: "What is the benefit of a word fitly spoken (Proverbs 25:11)?"

Answer: The ancient sages highly revered elegant and concise language. In Proverbs 25:11–14, Solomon presented a series of symbolic statements concerning speech with succinct sophistication. He began by saying, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV). With this maxim, Solomon stressed the importance of good counsel.

The word translated as “fitly” in Proverbs 25:11 occurs only here in the Old Testament, making its exact meaning somewhat unsure. Some translators link it to an Arabic word meaning “time.” If this is accurate, a word fitly spoken seems to imply “a word spoken at the right time” (CSB) or “at the proper time” (NASB). The New Living Translation agrees with this meaning: “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” The New English Bible also aligns with this idea, describing the word spoken“fitly” as being “in season.”

Other translators associate the original Hebrew term with a word that means “wheel,” thus rendering the modifier as “well-turned” or “well-spoken” as in “artfully expressed.” The NET Bible concurs: “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.”

The “apples of gold in a setting of silver” seem to refer to exquisitely crafted ornamental jewelry or artwork. The language evokes a design that has been etched, sculpted, or engraved in silver, like filigree. This interpretation supports the idea that well-spoken words have attractive and valuable qualities because skill and artistry have gone into fashioning them.

Proverbs 25:12 continues the jewelry imagery: “To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry” (NLT). Just as a beautifully constructed filigree necklace is pleasing to the eye, so is a word fitly spoken to the ear. The delicacy of the piece attracts the eye, just as a carefully chosen comment pricks the heart and mind.

“Especially to give a reproof with discretion, and so as to make it acceptable,” explains Bible commentator Matthew Henry. “If it be well given, by a wise reprover, and well taken, by an obedient ear, it is an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, very graceful and well becoming both the reprover and the reproved; both will have their praise, the reprover for giving it so prudently and the reproved for taking it so patiently and making a good use of it. Others will commend them both, and they will have satisfaction in each other; he who gave the reproof is pleased that it had the desired effect, and he to whom it was given has reason to be thankful for it as a kindness” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1994, p. 1,012).

Proverbs 15:23 agrees that a word fitly spoken pleases both the speaker and listener: “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!”

The Bible is abundantly clear that our words are important. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” says Proverbs 18:21. What we say can either destroy lives or save them (Proverbs 12:6). Jesus said, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (Matthew 12:36–37, NLT).

The apostle Paul taught that fitly spoken words—words that fit the occasion—build up those who hear them: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV). We can either tear people down with our words or let our conversation become a channel of grace and life as Jesus Christ did: “Everyone spoke well of him [Jesus] and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22, NLT).

A word fitly spoken will give grace to the hearer and be attractive, pleasant, desirable, and full of God’s wisdom. Paul told the Colossians, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Even a challenging word of rebuke or discipline can be phrased so gently and tactfully that it is accepted and even prized as a valuable jewel. When we make use of carefully crafted words that dignify rather than denigrate the hearer, not only do we bless the recipient, but we benefit as well with the joy of knowing our words were well-received and put to good use.



06/17/21

Question: "What is the definition of religion?"

Answer: More than 80 percent of the world subscribes to some “religion”; one might expect the word to have a straightforward meaning. Yet there is no universally accepted definition of the term religion. Religions take fundamentally different approaches to truth, Scripture, behavior, and reason. The same is true of a host of other concepts, such as meaningexperiencetraditiontoleranceunityconformityauthoritydeitydoctrinesalvationmoralitysexualityfamilydeath, and humanity. Some cultures view religion entirely separately from individuals or society. Others don’t distinguish those concepts enough to consider “religion” a meaningful category.

A general definition of religion can be distilled from these widely varied experiences as “a system connected to spiritual and/or supernatural components that uniquely impacts the adherent’s worldview, behavior, belief, culture, morality, and approach to certain writings, persons, or places.” Even simplified, that’s quite a mouthful—and a mind-full. The lines between religion and culture or philosophy or tradition or myth are not easily drawn.

Religion-as-a-category is hard to define, but specific examples are clearer. Most people connect to something easily identified as a religious belief. These systems self-identify as religions and exist far from the fuzzy edges of definitions. Examples are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These are straightforwardly called “religions” and come with all the expected features—over which they deeply disagree.

As with other broad terms, religion takes on narrower meaning in certain contexts. A common instance focuses on behavior. In that usage, references to “religion” emphasize actions or attitudes: rituals, prayers, behaviors, or confessions of doctrinal belief. Or, greatly simplified, “rules and rituals.” A person who often prays and attends church would be seen as “practicing religion.” In contrast, someone who never prays or attends church would be considered “non-practicing,” even if he claimed that faith.

Biblical references to “religion” typically use the narrow focus on behavior. In James 1:27, for example, the word religion references acts of worship—that is, the expression of faith: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Note in his description the lack of commonly accepted “tools” of religion: James does not mention religious objects, holy days, memorized liturgies, or special hand gestures. Pure religion involves helping others in distress and maintaining personal holiness. Jesus frequently criticized hollow, hypocritical behavior not rooted in sincere faith (Matthew 5:27–28; 7:21–23; Mark 7:9–13; Luke 11:42–44).

Scripture also explicitly contrasts the idea of religion as a practice with faith-in-and-of-itself. Speaking to non-believers, Paul noted altars to manifold deities and said the people were “very religious” (Acts 17:21–23). James says religion not producing self-control is “worthless” (James 1:26). 

A parallel to how Scripture views terms such as religion or religious would be terms such as politics and political. Politics are important, in their own way, since “politics” is how a culture translates moral and ethical beliefs into laws and government. A person can be “political” while maintaining a sense that political parties, laws, and elected officials are not literally the most important things at stake. They are means to an end, not the ends themselves. A person who derives his fundamental meaning and purpose from the mechanics of partisan politics isn’t political so much as unbalanced, given his misplaced priorities.

Religion, in the same way, can be warped when it becomes its own focus. Biblical Christianity posits an ultimate purpose both behind and beyond the characteristics used to define a “religion.” Those details matter, but they are not faith entire. This, again, was a key aspect of Christ’s teaching. It made up the bulk of His routine scolding of His era’s religious leaders, whose priorities were just as misplaced as some of today’s partisans (see Luke 11:52). Rituals, prayers, denominations, or other “lived” aspects of faith becoming gods unto themselves is the kind of “religion” against which Scripture speaks (Titus 3:5; Romans 3:20).

For this reason, Christians sometimes quip that “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” Of course, using the broadest definition of religion, the word accurately applies to following Jesus. And yet, believers are meant to understand how behaviors and attitudes should flow both from and toward the person of Jesus Christ. So far as that understanding exists, Christianity is fundamentally different from every other “religion” in the world.




Question: "Who was Agag in the Bible?"

Answer: Two men are named Agag in Scripture. Like the designation “Pharaoh” in Egypt and “Abimelech” for the Philistines, “Agag” was apparently a general name for the king of the Amalekites. An Agag is mentioned in Numbers, in the story of Balaam; and another Agag is found in 1 Samuel in conjunction with an event in Saul’s life.

When Balaam prophesied concerning Israel, he stated, “Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted” (Numbers 24:7, ESV). In prophesying about Israel’s future Messiah King, Balaam compared Him to another king, Agag of the Amalekites.

The second man named Agag in Scripture is a later king of Amalek mentioned in 1 Samuel. The Lord had commanded King Saul to exterminate all the Amalekites and all that they owned, including livestock (1 Samuel 15:1–3). Instead of following the Lord’s command, “Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9). Saul and his army took plunder and livestock for themselves, which God had specifically forbidden (1 Samuel 15:3), and Saul also chose to keep Agag the king alive (1 Samuel 15:8).

When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul about his disobedience, Saul tried to mollify the prophet and justify himself by arguing that the plunder and livestock were intended to be dedicated to the Lord (1 Samuel 15:21). In response, Samuel told Saul he would lose his kingship because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22–23, 28–29). Samuel then did what Saul had refused to do: he killed Agag, saying to him, “‘As your sword has killed the sons of many mothers, now your mother will be childless.’ And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:33, NLT).

Contrary to Saul’s claim to have completely destroyed the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:20), biblical history shows there were still some left. Amalekites are mentioned later in the same book (1 Samuel 27:8). It was the Amalekites who raided David’s city of Ziklag, stealing away his family and possessions (1 Samuel 30:1–3). David pursued the Amalekites, defeated all but four hundred of them, and took back all that had been stolen (1 Samuel 30:17–20). Some of those Amalekites were presumably descendants of Agag, because of what we read in the book of Esther.

In Esther, the Jew-hating Haman is called “the Agagite” (Esther 3:1). Haman was probably a descendant of Agag, but the designation could simply refer to his Amalekite heritage. In either case, the situation in Persia was the result of Amalekites—including Agag and some of his family, we assume—having been spared by King Saul centuries earlier. Saul’s disobedience led, in Esther’s day, to a descendant of Agag attempting genocide against the Jews (Esther 3:6).

Haman’s chief enemy was Mordecai, who was from the same tribe as Saul (Esther 2:5). In the sovereign plan of God, Haman ultimately failed in his attempt to exterminate the Jews (Esther 7:9–10; 9:1–17). Today, the annual Jewish observance of Purim includes a reading of the story of Amalek’s hatred of Israel on the preceding Sabbath.

The lasting threat posed by Agag and the Amalekites shows that, although disobeying the Lord may at first appear to only affect the person sinning, rebellion to God’s commands can have consequences that affect many others over many years.


06/16/21

Question: ""Do not forget the Lord": what are the implications of this command (Deuteronomy 8:11)?"

Answer: As the people of Israel prepared to settle down in the Promised Land, Moses took time to warn them of certain dangers they must avoid. In Deuteronomy 8, he cautioned them about the perils of prosperity and self-satisfaction that they would face in their new home: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:11–14).

The word translated “forget” in this passage comes from a verb in the original Hebrew that means “to stop remembering, ignore, dismiss from the mind, abandon, neglect, or cease to care about.” This kind of forgetting involves putting the Lord out of one’s consciousness.

Moses knew that, if the people were not careful, they would forget the forty years of God’s care in the wilderness when He had given them food to eat, clothing to wear, and sheltered them. In their comfortable, complacent, and prosperous state in the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8), they would be tempted to dismiss from their minds God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea and deliverance from slavery in Egypt, His supply of manna in the desert when there was no food, His drawing water from the rock when they were thirsty, His guiding presence, His protection, and even His chastening hand when they had transgressed. As time went by, it would be all too easy for them to let the memory of God’s past goodness fade. They would become self-satisfied and think they had achieved success all on their own.

Moses explained, “He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 8:17–19, NLT).

Forgetting the Lord would get the Israelites into trouble, leading them into the sin of idolatry and eventual destruction. Moses cautioned that, if Israel neglected the lessons learned in the wilderness, failed to depend entirely on God, abandoned their worship of Him, and neglected His Word, disaster would obliterate the abundant blessings that remembering God brings.

Do not forget the Lord means consciously and consistently thinking about what God has shown us in the past, including His miracles of deliverance and provision, His abiding presence, His tender care, and His loving discipline. It also means obeying the “commands, laws, and decrees” in God’s Word. When Moses said, “Do not forget the Lord,” he meant for God’s people to keep the truth of Scripture and the real-life experiences of the living God ever at the forefront of their minds.

Are we not just like the ancient Israelites? When things are going well, don’t we quickly dismiss the truths we have learned in the past? Don’t we forget how we clung to God in the trials and heartaches, utterly dependent on Him for every breath?

The warning for Israel is the same for us today: Do not forget the Lord. Let these words challenge us to always give God’s dealings in our past a significant place in our present. May we honor and obey His Word and not take His blessings for granted. May we thank God for His goodness, mindful that He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift we enjoy (James 1:17). Similarly, let us constantly remember that our success depends solely on the Lord’s power and grace in our lives.


Question: "What are the Lord's appointed times (Leviticus 23)?"

Answer: In Leviticus 23:1–2, the Lord told Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: These are my appointed times, the times of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies” (CSB). “Appointed times” were the holy days, feasts, and festivals that God required the people of Israel to set aside as consecrated to the Lord and to observe faithfully throughout the year.

Part of ancient Israel’s commitment to worship and holy living involved the proper observance of sacred days and annual religious gatherings. The appointed times corresponded with the Jewish calendar and were tied to lunar and solar cycles.

The Lord called these solemn observances “my appointed times,” indicating that the focus of the gatherings would be on Him. They included the weekly Sabbath and the monthly new moon festival. The annual spring festivals were the Lord’s Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks, which was called Pentecost in the New Testament. The fall festivals consisted of the Feast of Trumpets or New Year’s Day, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.

The Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3) was an important religious celebration for the Hebrews because it was observed every week as a sign of Israel’s covenant relationship with God (Exodus 31:12–17). On the Sabbath, the Israelites were forbidden to do any work at all, whether plowing or reaping (Exodus 34:21), baking or food preparation (Exodus 16:23), lighting a fire (Exodus 35:3), or gathering wood (Numbers 15:32–36). Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rest, to cease from labor.” The Sabbath remembered God’s rest on the seventh day following the six days of creation (Exodus 20:11) as well as God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

The new moon observance marked the first day of every new month. During the new moon festivals, several different sacrifices were offered (Numbers 28:11–15), trumpets were blown (Numbers 10:10), all labor and trade were suspended (Nehemiah 10:31), and feasts were enjoyed (1 Samuel 20:5).

The appointed time of the Passover (Leviticus 23:4–5) was at the beginning of the bright season of the year when the moon was full in the first month of spring. The name Passover originates from the Hebrew term pesach, meaning “to leave or spare by passing over.” This great festival commemorated Israel’s salvation and deliverance from Egypt. Along with the Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles, it was one of three annual pilgrimage festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16) in which all Jewish males were required to travel to Jerusalem to worship.

The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6–8) immediately followed Passover and was always celebrated as an extension of the Passover feast. During this week, the Israelites ate only unleavened bread to commemorate Israel’s hurried departure from Egypt. On the second day, Israel incorporated the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9–14) when the priest presented the first sheaves of grain from the spring harvest as a wave offering to the Lord. The Jews could not partake of their crops until the first fruits had been given. This act symbolized that the first and the best of everything belongs to God and that Israel would put the Lord first in every part of life. It was also an expression of thanksgiving for God’s gift of the harvest and for supplying their daily bread.

The next appointed time on the Jewish calendar was the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 15—22; Deuteronomy 16:9–10), which fell in late spring, on the fiftieth day (or a full seven weeks) after the Feast of Firstfruits. In the New Testament, this commemoration is called “Pentecost” (Acts 2:1), from the Greek word meaning “fifty.” As one of the harvest feasts, the Feast of Weeks involved offering the first loaves of bread made from the wheat harvest to the Lord. On this day, the Israelites also read from the book of Ruth and the Psalms.

The Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23–25; Numbers 29:1–6) or Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day), which was observed in the fall, marked the start of a new agricultural and civil year in Israel. This appointed time was announced with the blast of trumpets, commencing ten days of solemn dedication and repentance before the Lord.

The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26–32; Numbers 29:7–11) or Yom Kippur was the highest and holiest day of the Lord’s appointed times, falling ten days after the Feast of Trumpets. This day called for solemn fasting, deep repentance, and sacrifice. Only on this day, once a year, could the high priest enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle or temple and make an atoning blood sacrifice for the sins of all the people of Israel. As a complete Sabbath, no work was done on the Day of Atonement.

Five days later, Israel celebrated its most joyous appointed time of the year with the fall harvest festival (Sukkot), also known as the Feast of Tabernacles(Leviticus 23:33–36, 40, 42–43; Numbers 29:12–40) or Feast of Booths. During this week-long celebration, the Jewish people built small, makeshift shelters where they lived and ate their meals as a reminder of God’s provision and care during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness when they lived and worshiped in temporary tents.

The Lord’s appointed times were celebrations of God’s divine protection and provision. Each one recognized different aspects of God’s work of salvation in the lives of His people. Ultimately, these holy days, feasts, and festivals found their fulfillment in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. Together, these observances prophetically convey the message of the cross, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and the glorious promise of His second coming. As we gain a richer, fuller understanding of the Lord’s appointed times, we are rewarded with a more complete and unified picture of God’s plan of salvation as presented throughout the whole of Scripture.




06/14/21

Question: ""Do not forget the Lord": what are the implications of this command (Deuteronomy 8:11)?"

Answer: As the people of Israel prepared to settle down in the Promised Land, Moses took time to warn them of certain dangers they must avoid. In Deuteronomy 8, he cautioned them about the perils of prosperity and self-satisfaction that they would face in their new home: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:11–14).

The word translated “forget” in this passage comes from a verb in the original Hebrew that means “to stop remembering, ignore, dismiss from the mind, abandon, neglect, or cease to care about.” This kind of forgetting involves putting the Lord out of one’s consciousness.

Moses knew that, if the people were not careful, they would forget the forty years of God’s care in the wilderness when He had given them food to eat, clothing to wear, and sheltered them. In their comfortable, complacent, and prosperous state in the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8), they would be tempted to dismiss from their minds God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea and deliverance from slavery in Egypt, His supply of manna in the desert when there was no food, His drawing water from the rock when they were thirsty, His guiding presence, His protection, and even His chastening hand when they had transgressed. As time went by, it would be all too easy for them to let the memory of God’s past goodness fade. They would become self-satisfied and think they had achieved success all on their own.

Moses explained, “He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 8:17–19, NLT).

Forgetting the Lord would get the Israelites into trouble, leading them into the sin of idolatry and eventual destruction. Moses cautioned that, if Israel neglected the lessons learned in the wilderness, failed to depend entirely on God, abandoned their worship of Him, and neglected His Word, disaster would obliterate the abundant blessings that remembering God brings.

Do not forget the Lord means consciously and consistently thinking about what God has shown us in the past, including His miracles of deliverance and provision, His abiding presence, His tender care, and His loving discipline. It also means obeying the “commands, laws, and decrees” in God’s Word. When Moses said, “Do not forget the Lord,” he meant for God’s people to keep the truth of Scripture and the real-life experiences of the living God ever at the forefront of their minds.

Are we not just like the ancient Israelites? When things are going well, don’t we quickly dismiss the truths we have learned in the past? Don’t we forget how we clung to God in the trials and heartaches, utterly dependent on Him for every breath?

The warning for Israel is the same for us today: Do not forget the Lord. Let these words challenge us to always give God’s dealings in our past a significant place in our present. May we honor and obey His Word and not take His blessings for granted. May we thank God for His goodness, mindful that He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift we enjoy (James 1:17). Similarly, let us constantly remember that our success depends solely on the Lord’s power and grace in our lives.


Question: "What is the counsel of the ungodly, and how do we not walk in it (Psalm 1:1)?"

Answer: Psalm 1 seems to present a choice that every person must make. There is a fork in the road of life: one route is the way of the righteous, which leads to blessings; the other is the “path of sinners,” and it ends in destruction. A prerequisite for experiencing a blessed life is described in the opening verses:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1–2, NKJV).

The blessed man does not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly.” In the original Hebrew, the word translated “counsel” is a noun meaning “something that provides direction or advice as to a decision or course of action.” The “ungodly” are wicked people, sinners, and those characterized by godlessness.

To walk not in the counsel of the ungodly means to reject any advice from the wicked. It includes avoiding any guiding influence that might shape or direct one’s way of life toward godlessness. Walking involves progress; thus, the verse instructs, “Don’t walk in the counsel, don’t stand in the path, don’t sit in the seat” of the ungodly. The apparent progression presents a picture of someone walking next to sin, then stopping to stand and take it all in, and then finally sitting right down in sin’s seat “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures” of it (Hebrews 11:25).

Not walking, standing, or sitting with the ungodly implies steering clear of sin by avoiding participation in every aspect of the sinner’s way of life. The apostle Paul warned, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared,” cautions Proverbs 22:24–25.

A Christian cannot expect to make forward progress if he seeks counsel from sinners or makes plans with unbelievers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The person who chooses the righteous way of life avoids thinking like the ungodly, behaving like the wicked, and associating with the godless. Instead, he will “walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

A believer who “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly” will apply biblical truth to his daily life, letting God’s Word be a lamp to guide his feet and a light for his path (Psalm 119:105). His “delight is in the law of the Lord,” and he “meditates on his law day and night,” says Psalm 1:2. Such a person will grow in faith and spiritual maturity (Romans 10:17).

God blesses the route of the righteous because they “fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands” (Psalm 112:1). Rather than taking pleasure in sin and the things of the world, they “live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:15, NLT).

Loving God and obeying His Word will result in abundant blessings (Joshua 1:8; Luke 11:28; John 14:21). As we read the Scriptures daily, study them, memorize them, and meditate on them night and day, our thinking changes. We no longer love the world or the things in it (1 John 2:15–17). We no longer walk in the counsel of the ungodly. We “don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world”; instead, God transforms us by changing how we think. Then we can experience God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2, NLT).

People who walk in the counsel of the ungodly listen to worldly advice, make plans with the wicked, and willfully participate in the sinner’s way of life. Romans 8:5–7 describes these people as those “who live according to the flesh” and “have their minds set on what the flesh desires.” By contrast, “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

God calls His children to choose the way of righteousness—to be set apart, holy. He calls us out of darkness to walk in His light (1 Peter 1:15–16; 2:9). That is the path to the blessings of life and peace.


06/13/21

Question: "Why didn't Jesus write any books in the Bible?"

Answer: Many wonder why Jesus did not write any books or why anything He may have written was not preserved. Conspiracy theorists suggest His texts were hidden for nefarious reasons. Given the importance of the written Word (2 Timothy 3:16), it’s natural to ask why Christ didn’t record anything in writing. Scripture doesn’t give us an exact answer. Still, we can make educated guesses. The most likely reason relates to humanity’s habit of over-emphasizing certain things and ideas, while losing sight of the larger picture.

Speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus said that He was going to leave the physical world (John 16:5). Then, shockingly, He said that His leaving was to their advantage (John 16:7). That would have been hard to understand at the time. However, it does make sense in hindsight.

So long as Jesus was physically present, the disciples would always rely on His presence to control their faith. Only when Jesus left, and the Holy Spirit came, would the disciples rely on a personal, internal connection to God’s will. If Jesus had stayed physically present in this world, their every decision would have been delayed until they could ask Him His advice in person. The reach of the gospel would be limited by where He was, physically, at any given time. Obedience to God and the outworking of faith would have been focused on seeing or hearing a physical Christ—to the exclusion of interacting with other Christians or heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit.

As we consider why Jesus didn’t write any books of the Bible, similar principles may apply. Even having the Bible, some ignore or downplay everything in Scripture other than the words of Jesus: the “Red Letter” groups. Beyond the fact that “red letters” are not designated in the original texts, that approach to the Bible can lead to setting aside important teachings from God. It’s a misplaced effort to emphasize some of God’s Word over other parts. In truth, everything in Scripture is from Jesus, because it’s all from God.

If we had texts personally written by Jesus, many would go beyond honoring them to setting aside all other words of Scripture. Having a “book of Jesus” would invite people to ignore inspired statements outside that text.

If the physical scrolls of any book of the Bible survived, people would treat those objects as idols—just as they do with supposed “relics” associated with Christ. Jesus’ only earthly possessions when He died were His clothes; these were immediately taken by indifferent Romans (John 19:23–24). Had He left anything else, including writings, the relics would quickly have inspired idolatrous impulses. Something similar happened in the Old Testament, when people obsessed over an item associated with Moses (Numbers 21:49; 2 Kings 18:1–4).

Knowing human nature, God may have purposefully avoided giving us things to worship. This may explain why we know so little about Jesus’ childhood or His appearance. Such details would likely provide temptation and distraction far more than they’d tell us anything we need to know about God.

We don’t have an explicit answer about why Jesus never left writings of His own. Still, human weakness seems the best explanation. Discipleship relies on individual understanding and an appreciation for all of God’s Word. If we had a book of the Bible written by Jesus, we would be tempted to obsess over and even idolize it. As much as the disciples would have loved Jesus to stay with them, and as much as we’d love to have His handwritten words, our sin nature determines that not having those things is, ironically, better for us and our relationship to God.




Question: "What does it mean to cling to what is good (Romans 12:9)?"

Answer: Romans 12:9–21 contains a series of short appeals in which the apostle Paul urges Christians to live together as Christ’s body by putting sacrificial love into action. He begins with this plea: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Paul points out that true believers love genuinely, without hypocrisy, and overcome evil with good.

The term for “good” in the original language speaks of “moral excellence.” The verb translated “cling to” means “to stick or hold together and resist separation, to join, unite, or embrace.” Some Bible versions say “hold fast” (ESV) or “hold tight to what is good” (NLT). When Paul told the Roman Christians to “cling to what is good,” his desire was for them to embrace moral goodness with all of their beings or, in other words, to love it.

The godless of the world “hate what is good” (2 Timothy 3:3, NLT). But God’s children are lovers of good. We hate evil because it is the enemy of all that is good. God Himself is good and the source of all goodness (Mark 10:18). Everything God creates is “very good” in every aspect (Genesis 1:31).

Our goodness as believers, our righteousness or moral excellence, starts by being made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:22; 10:4). God has made Jesus Christ our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Once we are made right with God through the blood of Jesus and our faith in Him, we continue to seek, hunger, and thirst for His righteousness by clinging to what is good (Matthew 5:6; 6:33).

When we hold tight to God, He works His righteousness in us. When we cling to what is good—when we love God and stick close to Him—we can trust that He is transforming us from within, teaching us His good and perfect will, and working everything in our lives for good (Romans 8:28).

Early church father Augustine of Hippo said, “It is good for me to stick close to my God. This will constitute the perfect and eternal wisdom, as it will constitute the truly happy life, because to attain it is to attain the eternal and supreme good, and to stick close to God forever is the sum of our good” (Letters, 131—164, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 20, R. J. Deferrari, ed., W. Parsons, trans., The Catholic University of America Press, 1953, p. 314).

Paul advised the Thessalonians to test all things by God’s moral standard and only “hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21–22, NLT). He told the Roman believers, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

God warned the people of Israel to turn away from their corrupt behavior and “do what is good” (Amos 5:14, NLT). If they would go against the prevailing corruption by hating evil behavior and clinging to what is good and righteous, if they would defend justice instead of trampling on it (Amos 5:10–12), the Lord would stand by them as their defender rather than as their judge. Similarly, Paul asserted that to those who “keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers,” the Lord will give eternal life. “But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness” (Romans 2:7–8, NLT).

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is “the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). His life and death are ultimate examples of what it means to put sincere, sacrificial love into action. Jesus “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14, NLT).

By doing good deeds and showing kindness and sacrificial love to others, we prove that we are the children of God: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11; see also James 3:13). Clinging to what is good draws us into a closer relationship with Christ, which in turn results in Christlikeness of character: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21, NLT).

We cling to what is good by clinging to the Lord. Jesus Christ in us is all the goodness we need to be wholly good.


Question: "What does it mean to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9)?"

Answer: In Romans 12:9–21, the apostle Paul presents a series of short exhortations that concentrate on living and loving sacrificially in every situation and in all relationships. He begins with this appeal: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9, ESV). Paul’s teaching stresses that people who overcome evil with sincere love bear the marks of a true Christian.

In the original language, the word translated as “abhor” means “to find repugnant, hate, loathe, dislike, and have a horror of.” The term for “evil” in Romans 12:9 speaks of “morally objectionable behavior.” The appropriate Christian attitude toward evil behavior is vehement opposition to the point of being horrified by it and feeling hatred toward it. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, believers are to “reject every kind of evil.” It’s important to note that abhorring what is evil entails rejecting or hating sinful behavior. Believers are not to reject or hate sinful people who do evil, only their immoral behavior.

Through the prophet Amos, God told the people of Israel to turn away from their corrupt behavior. If they would “do what is good and run from evil,” then they would live (Amos 5:14, NLT). If they would go against the prevailing immorality—if they would hate evil behavior and instead love what is good, honest, and righteous, if they would uphold justice instead of squashing it (Amos 5:10–12)—then the Lord would be with them to defend them rather than to judge them.

God hates evil (Psalm 5:4–6; Proverbs 6:16–19). David said, “O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked” (Psalm 5:4, NLT). Because God is holy, He hates sin and wickedness.

Scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), but it also teaches that “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11). Because God is holy (Psalm 99:9), His wrath against evil is as much a part of His character as His love. The love of God is pure and holy. The Lord loves justice, truth, righteousness, and holiness and therefore must hate wickedness, sin, and evil. If God did not abhor what is evil, He could not be a God of holy love.

Thus, those who have genuine love for God will also abhor what is evil: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10).

David pledged, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it” (Psalm 101:3). When we come face to face with evil behavior, God wants us to hate it so much that we refuse to take part in it.

As we consider the things we watch on television or look at online, is there anything vile, evil, or repugnant to God? When we think about the behaviors we engage in alone or with other people, are there activities the Lord would want us to have no part in? The Bible teaches us to separate ourselves from the unclean things of the world (Isaiah 52:11; 2 Corinthians 6:17; James 4:8) and “cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT). Our genuine love for the Lord and other people ought to motivate us in every circumstance and relationship to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.

06/11/21

Question: "How should a Christian view the relationship of faith and reason?"

Answer: Atheists often chide Christians about the concept of faith and the part it plays in a Christian’s belief system. For example, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “When faith is thus exalted above everything else, it necessarily follows that reason, knowledge and patient inquiry have to be discredited: the road to the truth becomes a forbidden road. Faith means not wanting to know what is true” (The Antichrist, 1888, § 52).

In the same vein, atheistic philosopher Peter Boghossian, in his book A Manual for Creating Atheists, separates faith from reason, asserting that faith is “pretending to know things that you don’t know” and “belief without evidence” (Pitchstone Publishing, 2013, p. 23–24). He calls faith “an unreliable epistemology” and a “virus.”

Both Nietzsche and Boghossian are incorrect in their assertions about faith and its relationship to reason and truth. They use a distorted redefinition of faith and wrongly assert that it is an epistemology (a system or study about how one acquires knowledge). Faith, properly defined, is trust developed through the acquisition of prior information. Reason is part of the formula used to gather the information and accept or reject the truth claim.

In the Scriptures, reason and faith are seen working together in many places. For example, in the book of Acts, the author records six times (Acts 17:2,17; 18:4, 19, 19:8, 9) that the apostle Paul “reasoned” or was “reasoning” with his audiences. Moreover, in Acts 9:29, Paul is “arguing” with his opponents; in Acts 14:1, he “spoke in such a manner” that a large number of unbelievers were converted; in Acts 17:3 the apostle is “explaining and giving evidence”; in Acts 18:5 he is “solemnly testifying” (also used in Acts 20:21 and 28:23); in Acts 19:8, Paul is “persuading”; in verse 26 his opponents admit that Paul has “persuaded” people; in Acts 20:2, he gives “much exhortation”; and in Acts 28:23, the apostle is “explaining” and attempting to “persuade.”

The use of reason and logical argumentation like that of Paul results in one of two outcomes—rejection or acceptance, with the latter being where faith comes in.

Regarding faith, the definitions atheistic philosophers use are foreign to the true biblical meaning of the term. In the Greek New Testament, the word pistis is used, which is a noun that comes from the verb peitho, meaning “to be persuaded.” According to the best Greek lexicons, the word translated “faith” means “a state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted”; “trust, confidence, that which evokes trust”; “reliability, fidelity; pertaining to being worthy of belief or trust.” The same is true of the Hebrew term for “faith” (ěměṯ), which denotes “firmness, trustworthiness, constancy, duration, and truth.”

Faith is summed up in Hebrews 11:1 this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith relies on “substance” and “evidence” as in the way a husband has complete faith and trust in his wife, although he may not be able to demonstrate that faith in an empirical manner to others.

In the end, the proper way to view reason and faith is to understand that faith is a trust given in response to acquired knowledge, and that arriving at faith involves reason and a commitment to the truth.

Question: "Faith vs. belief - what is the difference?"

Answer: On one hand, there is no difference between faith and belief. The two terms are often used interchangeably. The Gospel of John was written so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The Gospel of John does not even use the word faith, although the concept of faith is thoroughly woven into John. Throughout Scripture, there is no distinction between faith and belief.

On the other hand, in popular English usage, the word faith often has a deeper meaning. Belief often refers to an intellectual acceptance of facts. If you ask the average person on the street if he believes in Alexander the Great or Abraham Lincoln, he would probably interpret the question to mean, “Do you believe that such a person existed?” Most, no doubt, would answer in the affirmative. However, faith, in modern usage, has the added idea of trust and commitment.

Many people believe that Alexander the Great existed. When he was alive, many had faith in him as well, trusting him to protect them, lead them into battle, and expand the Greek Empire. However, it would be safe to assume that no one alive today is trusting him to do anything for them. They believe in his existence, but they do not have faith in him.

Most people believe it is important to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly; however, most people do not personally eat healthy food and exercise regularly. They believe that a certain set of facts is true, but they have not committed themselves to the implications of the facts. They have belief but not faith, in the modern sense.

Likewise, many people today believe a certain set of facts about God, and in some cases their facts may be completely orthodox. However, if they have never committed themselves to God, if they have not trusted Him, then they do not have faith or biblical belief in Him. Biblical faith (biblical belief) is never simply giving assent to a certain set of facts. Biblical faith is trust and commitment that result in a change of behavior. James 2:19 puts it this way: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” The demons believe that God exists, and they may even know more about God than people do, but they do not have faith in Him. Unfortunately, many people have the same kind of belief that the demons have, but that it is not sufficient for their salvation.

This concept can be illustrated another way: three people board a commercial airliner to travel to a distant city. The first is an engineer who designs and builds airplanes. He is also a pilot. He knows how everything works. Furthermore, he is a personal friend of the pilot who will be flying that afternoon, and he knows him to be very competent. He boards the plane with full confidence. The second person is just the average business traveler. He knows a little bit about airplanes but just doesn’t think about it too much. He takes his seat and starts reading a magazine. The third is deathly afraid of flying. He breaks out in a cold sweat. It takes all he can do not to turn and flee down the gangway. With much fear and trembling, he gets on the plane, sits down, and hopes he can fall asleep and not wake up until they land. So the question is, “who has more faith in the plane?” The answer is that they all have the same amount of faith. All of them have boarded the plane and committed their safety to the plane and the crew. They will only arrive at their destination if the plane arrives. If the plane goes down, they will go down, too. All the people who got on the plane were committing themselves to the plane—they believed (or had faith) in the plane. Those who stayed at the airport, even if they had complete confidence that the plane would arrive as scheduled, did not exercise faith in the plane. They did not commit themselves to it.

In summary, faith and belief are used interchangeably. However, the New Testament does recognize that people can have false faith or incomplete belief, which is inadequate. The difference is not between the two words but between the concepts of mental agreement and wholehearted commitment. In modern usage, belief often refers to mental agreement, and faith refers to wholehearted commitment. As long as that distinction is maintained, it doesn’t matter which words are used. However, we need to be careful not to import the modern usage back into specific New Testament passages.


Question: "What does the motto 'faith seeking understanding' mean?"

Answer: The motto “faith seeking understanding” is considered one of the classical definitions of theology. The statement is originally translated from the Latin fides quaerens intellectum. “Faith seeking understanding” means that faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ prompts a questioning search for deeper understanding.

The exact phrase “faith seeking understanding” was introduced by Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109), a monk, theologian, and Archbishop of Canterbury, in his book Proslogium.

Before Anselm, Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) coined a similar Latin phrase: Crede ut intelligas, or “believe that you may understand.” Augustine believed that knowledge of God comes before faith in Him, but faith in God brings with it a constant desire for deeper understanding. To phrase it simply, Christians earnestly want to understand what they believe.

Anselm agreed with Augustine. He believed that faith is required for understanding, but also that reason is essential to understanding. To Anselm, Christian faith sets in motion a quest to know and understand God and what we believe about Him.

Faith, according to Anselm, causes believers to seek understanding for the joy of knowing God and loving Him. In his book Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Daniel L. Migliore explains, “For Anselm, faith seeks understanding, and understanding brings joy.” Anselm himself wrote in Proslogium, “I pray thee, O God, let me know thee and love thee so that I may rejoice in thee.”

The Bible promotes the idea of faith seeking understanding. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment adjures us to love the Lord with all our minds (Matthew 22:37). Speaking to the disciples in one of His post-resurrection appearances, Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Faith is what overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), but that faith is accompanied by an understanding of God: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true” (verse 20).

In a discussion of Anselm’s motto, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy clears up two misconceptions. Many have mistaken “faith seeking understanding” to mean that Anselm hoped to replace faith with understanding, but this is far from true. Faith for Anselm is an active love for God in pursuit of deeper knowledge of God.

Second, many philosophers have thought “faith seeking understanding” pertains only to believers because it begins with faith. But Anselm believed that reason alone was enough to convince even a moderately intelligent person of God’s existence. Anslem’s book Monologionbegins with these words: “If anyone does not know, either because he has not heard or because he does not believe, that there is one nature, supreme among all existing things, who alone is self-sufficient in his eternal happiness, who through his omnipotent goodness grants and brings it about that all other things exist or have any sort of well-being, and a great many other things that we must believe about God or his creation, I think he could at least convince himself of most of these things by reason alone, if he is even moderately intelligent.”

Anselm’s motto of “faith seeking understanding” formed the foundation of the medieval theological and philosophical system known as Scholasticism, which sought to unite faith and reason into one coherent system.



06/09/21

Question: "How can I keep the faith?"

Answer: First Timothy 4:16 exhorts us to keep the faith: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them.” When Paul visited the recently established churches in Asia Minor, his goal was “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). Other passages calling us to keep the faith are Hebrews 12:1 and Ephesians 6:13. The Bible also gives us advice for how to do it.

Keeping the faith requires remembering what brought us to faith in the first place. We need to be intentional about remembering God’s grace in our lives. Hebrews 12:1b–3 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Practically, this means remembering the wonderful gift of God’s salvation and following the example of our Savior, who “endured” the trials of this life. We must “fix our eyes” on Jesus. Many people find prayer and journaling helpful in this regard. The Old Testament saints often demonstrated the importance of remembering. The Israelites were instructed to set up memorials, and many of the Jewish feasts were designed to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” When we praise God, we remember His past goodness, and that makes it easier to keep trusting Him now.

Keeping the faith requires a love of truth and a commitment to the Word of God. First Timothy 4:1 says that, in the latter days, those who abandon the faith “follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” To accept “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6–7) is to fall into error. Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience”; those who ignore this command “have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18–19). We must “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). The Spirit of truth will never lead us into untruth (John 16:13).

Keeping the faith also involves growth in Christ. Jesus is the author of our faith (the one who initiated the relationship), and He is the perfecter of our faith (the one who will see it through to the end). From beginning to end, Jesus is the source of our faith. We remember what He has done, and we look forward to what He will do. Practically, this involves having an active prayer life, studying God’s Word, and digging in to His truth. 

Keeping the faith is also about community. The Christian life is not lived exclusively between God and the individual; it is lived in community with other Christians. Hebrews 10:23–25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not 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.” Fellow believers can encourage us to keep the faith. They can exhort us when we are going astray. They can join in our gladness and in our sorrow (Romans 12:15). 

We will face trials and temptations in life (John 16:33; James 1:2–4). Our faith will be challenged. But it is not only in the difficult times that we dig in our heels and fight for our faith. No, we contend for our faith always. What we do today prepares us for what is in store tomorrow. God is always at work in our lives. Our faith should be ever-growing. Second Peter 1:3–11 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . My brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We keep the faith by remembering God’s faithfulness and continuing to grow in relationship with Him.


Question: "What is seed faith? What is a seed faith offering?"

Answer: Promoters of the false “prosperity gospel” and Word of Faith movement often like to talk about “seeding,” “seed faith offerings,” and “hundred-fold returns.” A seed faith offering is money given in faith that God will multiply it and return it to the giver. The more money you give—and the more faith you have—the more money you get in return. Prosperity preachers often solicit gifts to their ministries by promising such in-kind returns: “Send me $10 and trust God to give you back $1,000.” They give their appeals for money a spiritual gloss with statements such as “God wants to bless you with a miracle” and “Jesus is bigger than your debt.” And they will misuse verses such as Mark 4:8, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” It’s good to remember the “seed” in this verse is the Word of God (Mark 4:14), not money.

The late Oral Roberts was highly influential in spreading the concept of seed faith offerings, and he taught people to expect a miracle when they sow a “seed” from their “need.” He wrote, “To realize your potential, to overcome life’s problems, to see your life become fruitful, multiply and provide abundance (i.e., health, prosperity, spiritual renewal, in the family or oneself), you should decide to follow the divine law of the sower and the harvest. Sow the seed of His promise in the ground of your need” (from “Principles of the Seed”). In the July 1980 edition of Abundant Life, Roberts wrote, “Solve your money needs with money seeds” (page 4).

Richard Roberts, Oral’s son, says on his website, “Give God something to work with. No matter how little you think you have, sow it in joy and faith, knowing in your heart that you are sowing seed so you may reap miracles. Then start expecting all kinds of miracles!” In May 2016, Roberts’ newsletter appealed for monetary gifts with this statement: “Sow a special $100 seed. . . . If you will plant this seed out of your need and go into a holy agreement with me, then TOGETHER you and I will EXPECT A MIGHTY MIRACLE FROM GOD” (from his website, emphasis in the original).

According to Oral Roberts, the way to take advantage of the law of sowing and reaping is three-fold: 1) look to God as your source, 2) give first so that it may be given to you, and 3) expect a miracle. As a “proof text” for the second step, seed-faith teachers like to use Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The misuse of this verse starts with its application to material gain—Jesus was speaking of forgiveness in Luke 6:37, not money. Also, there’s a difference between “Give, and” and “Give so that.” Seed-faith teachers advocate a selfish motive for giving—give so that you can get—and they state as much. The Bible teaches that we give for the sake of benefiting others and to glorify the Lord, not in order to enrich ourselves.

Teachers of seed faith offering also like Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, this verse says nothing about getting money or making seed faith offerings.

Another passage misused by seed-faith preachers is Mark 10:29–30, “Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.” Seed-faith teachers latch on to the promise of a “hundred times as much,” but they only apply it to “homes” and “fields”—that is, material wealth. They ignore the rest of the list. Are we to suppose that Jesus promised His followers a hundred literal mothers or that we should expect a hundred times more blood relatives than we have now? Or was Jesus speaking of an increased spiritual family? Since the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters are spiritual, then perhaps the homes and fields are spiritual, as well.

The promoters of the doctrine of seed faith offerings ignore several important details in Scripture. Consider, for example, 2 Corinthians 9:10–12, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” This passage says God supplies the seed for sowing; that is, He supplies the resources for us to generously give away. And, when we give, God will supply more resources so the giving continues. Note, however, the reaping is not monetary gain but “the harvest of your righteousness.” Also, it is thanksgivings to God that overflow, not our bank accounts. The seed sown in this passage does not result in miracles or in personal wealth.

The promoters of seed faith offerings also ignore the fact that the apostles were not wealthy men. The apostles certainly gave to others: “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Based on the doctrine of seed faith offerings, Paul should have been a rich man. Yet, “to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:10–11). The apostles were materially poor, yet they were spiritually blessed by the Lord.

God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but we must not assume that His favor will be shown in financial returns. Nor should we appropriate promises given to Old Testament Israel for ourselves. Our motive for giving should not be to get money in return. Our goal should be godliness with contentment (see 1 Timothy 6:6–10). We should pray, “Lord, help me learn to be content with what I have, even if I am hungry or in need” (see Philippians 4:11–13).

The seed faith teaching amounts to little more than a get-rich-quick scheme that preys upon the desperate and hurting among God’s people. Peter warned the church about such chicanery: “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3, KJV).


Question: "Is the Word of Faith movement biblical?"

Answer: Word of Faith teaching is decidedly unbiblical. It is not a denomination and does not have a formal organization or hierarchy. Instead, it is a movement that is heavily influenced by a number of high-profile pastors and teachers such as Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, and Fred Price.

The Word of Faith movement grew out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century. Its founder was E. W. Kenyon, who studied the metaphysical New Thought teachings of Phineas Quimby. Mind science (where "name it and claim it" originated) was combined with Pentecostalism, resulting in a peculiar mix of orthodox Christianity and mysticism. Kenneth Hagin, in turn, studied under E. W. Kenyon and made the Word of Faith movement what it is today. Although individual teachings range from completely heretical to completely ridiculous, what follows is the basic theology most Word of Faith teachers align themselves with.

At the heart of the Word of Faith movement is the belief in the "force of faith." It is believed words can be used to manipulate the faith-force, and thus actually create what they believe Scripture promises (health and wealth). Laws supposedly governing the faith-force are said to operate independently of God's sovereign will and that God Himself is subject to these laws. This is nothing short of idolatry, turning our faith—and by extension ourselves—into god.

From here, its theology just strays further and further from Scripture: it claims that God created human beings in His literal, physical image as little gods. Before the fall, humans had the potential to call things into existence by using the faith-force. After the fall, humans took on Satan's nature and lost the ability to call things into existence. In order to correct this situation, Jesus Christ gave up His divinity and became a man, died spiritually, took Satan's nature upon Himself, went to hell, was born again, and rose from the dead with God's nature. After this, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to replicate the Incarnation in believers so they could become little gods as God had originally intended.

Following the natural progression of these teachings, as little gods we again have the ability to manipulate the faith-force and become prosperous in all areas of life. Illness, sin, and failure are the result of a lack of faith, and are remedied by confession—claiming God's promises for oneself into existence. Simply put, the Word of Faith movement exalts man to god-status and reduces God to man-status. Needless to say, this is a false representation of what Christianity is all about. Obviously, Word of Faith teaching does not take into account what is found in Scripture. Personal revelation, not Scripture, is highly relied upon in order to come up with such absurd beliefs, which is just one more proof of its heretical nature.

Countering Word of Faith teaching is a simple matter of reading the Bible. God alone is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe (Genesis 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:15) and does not need faith—He is the object of faith (Mark 11:22; Hebrews 11:3). God is spirit and does not have a physical body (John 4:24). Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27; 9:6), but this does not make him a little god or divine. Only God has a divine nature (Galatians 4:8; Isaiah 1:6-11, 43:10, 44:6; Ezekiel 28:2; Psalm 8:6-8). Christ is Eternal, the Only Begotten Son, and the only incarnation of God (John 1:1, 2, 14, 15, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:1). In Him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). By becoming a man, Jesus gave up the glory of heaven but not His divinity (Philippians 2:6-7), though He did choose to withhold His power while walking the earth as man.

The Word of Faith movement is deceiving countless people, causing them to grasp after a way of life and faith that is not biblical. At its core is the same lie Satan has been telling since the Garden: “You shall be as God” (Genesis 3:5). Sadly, those who buy into the Word of Faith movement are still listening to him. Our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith (Psalm 33:20-22). Our faith comes from God in the first place (Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2) and is not something we create for ourselves. So, be wary of the Word of Faith movement and any church that aligns itself with Word of Faith teachings.


06/08/21

Question: "What does it mean that faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)?"

Answer: The writer of Hebrews writes to encourage readers that Jesus is supreme and to challenge readers to walk focused on Him (Hebrews 12:1–2). In chapter 11 the author highlights a number of portraits of faith to illustrate that, while they all gained approval (justification) through their faith, God’s promises to them would include betterment for us as well (Hebrews 12:39–40). The writer begins the “Hall of Faith,” as chapter 11 is sometimes known, by asserting that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV). But what does it mean that faith is the evidence of “things not seen”?

In Romans 8:23 Paul illustrates a principle of hope in that we wait eagerly for the redemption of our body—something we don’t currently see as a reality. He adds that in hope we have been saved and that hope that is seen is not hope—for if it were seen, then there is no more need for hope because what we were hoping for would be reality (Romans 8:24). Because we don’t yet see it, it remains hope, and we wait eagerly with perseverance to see it (Romans 8:25). Similarly, Paul suggests that we can endure momentary light affliction because of the weight of glory it produces in us (2 Corinthians 4:17). Anticipating that future result, we are looking at things that are not currently seen because the things that are not seen are future things—eternal things, in this case (2 Corinthians 4:18). Working from the same essential principle, the writer of Hebrews reminds readers that faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The term translated “evidence” is the Greek word elengchos, which often refers to an argument or a case being made. Faith is an argument for that which is not yet seen. Of course, faith doesn’t prove something that is not yet seen—only the One who made the promise can prove the promise by fulfilling it. Faith, though, is the certainty of something that one does not see and an argument for its validity.

Elsewhere, Paul argues for the superiority of love over faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), but faith will one day be unnecessary, as it will be turned to sight, and hope will be realized and be unneeded after that. Love, on the other hand, will sustain throughout eternity. The author of Hebrews makes a similar case that faith is vitally important, for through faith comes justification (Hebrews 11:1), but the author is also quick to point out that faith is only as good as the object of that faith. In this case, the author directs us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfector of the faith (Hebrews 12:2). In so doing, we can run the race before us without growing weary (Hebrews 12:1). The power of faith, then, is not on its own merits, for faith is temporary. Rather, the power of faith is in the One who began the faith and who will complete the faith. Because He is trustworthy, the faith itself is an assurance, an argument for—and the evidence of—things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Because of the cloud of witnesses that has preceded us and that has modeled putting faith into action, we can be encouraged in our own lives that, just as God will fulfill His promise to them, He will fulfill His promises to us. Until we see that come to pass, our faith in Him is an evidence of things not seen.



06/07/21

Question: "What does it mean that faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1)?"

Answer: The writer of Hebrews opens chapter 11 with a brief description of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV). This statement should not be regarded as a complete definition of faith. Instead, the author focuses on two critical aspects of a much broader theological concept to introduce a famous gallery of Old Testament heroes of faith. The first vital facet of faith is that it is “the substance of things hoped for.”

The word for “substance” (KJV, NKJV) in the clause faith is the substance of things hoped for, is alternatively translated as “assurance” (ESV), “confidence” (NIV), and “the reality” (NLT). In the original Greek, the term conveys the idea of “a firm foundation,” “the real being,” “the actual existence,” “the substantial nature,” and “a resolute trust.” One sense of the word refers to a title deed or a legal document guaranteeing the right to possess a property.

According to Moulton and Milligan in Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, “faith is the substance of things hoped for” could be translated “faith is the title-deed of things hoped for” (Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960). Another commentary suggests that faith, as described in Hebrews 11:1, “apprehends reality: it is that to which the unseen objects of hope become real and substantial. Assurance gives the true idea. It is the firm grasp of faith on unseen fact” (Vincent, M. R., Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 4, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887, p. 510).

The clause faith is the substance of things hoped fordescribes a conviction that already takes custody—here and now—of what we hope for and what God has promised us in the future. This present-day ownership of things hoped for and promised in the future is an inner reality. Right now, amid a global pandemic, financial crisis, and social unrest, as our world seems to be falling apart, we can stand on the rock-solid, unshakeable promises of God’s security, rest, peace, provision, mercy, grace, and salvation. His Word can be trusted. We can have full confidence in the Lord’s promises because they are real and a firm foundation for this life.

This “substance” or “assurance” describes our inward response to God’s trustworthy, unfailing nature. We can be sure of the Lord’s promises because, as the writer of Hebrews goes on to show, biblical heroes of every generation have proven them to be true: “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death” (Hebrews 11:4–5). On and on goes the list. By faith Noah built the ark, saved his family, and became an heir of righteousness (Hebrews 11:7). By faith Abraham obeyed God and moved from his homeland (verses 8–10).

The writer of Hebrews presents example after example of those who demonstrated faith as the substance of things hoped for: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). From the patriarchs to King David to anonymous champions of faith, believers have trusted in God’s promises despite enduring unimaginable challenges (verses 17–38).

Faith, being the substance of things hoped for, is also an outward force. Possessing the reality of hope supplies believers with the motivation to endure trials and hardships. It results in decisive obedience—the kind that caused the ancient heroes of faith to act upon their hope. Faith, as the substance of things hoped for, activates believers to preach boldly, pray unceasingly, love unconditionally, serve compassionately, and work tirelessly “as long as it is day” (John 9:4). The inward substance of faith moves our hearts while the external reality moves mountains.


06/06/21

Question: "What is the Baha'i faith?"

Answer: The Baha'i faith is one of the newer world religions stemming originally from Shi'ite Islam in Persia (modern-day Iran). However, it has come to achieve a unique status of its own. The Baha'i faith has distinguished itself as a unique world religion because of its size (5 million members), its global scale (236 countries), its practical autonomy from its parent religion of Islam (there is little blurriness between the two), and for its doctrinal uniqueness, being monotheistic yet inclusive.

The Baha'i faith's earliest forerunner was Sayid Ali Muhammad who on May 23, 1844, declared himself the Bab ("Gate"), the eighth manifestation of God and first since Muhammad. Implicit to that statement was the denial of Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet and a denial together of the unique authority of the Koran. Islam did not take kindly to such thoughts. The Bab and his followers, called Babis, saw heavy persecution and were part of great bloodshed before the Bab was executed as a political prisoner just six years later in Tabríz, Ádhirbáyján, July 9, 1850. But before he died, the Bab spoke of a coming prophet, referred to as "He whom God will Manifest." On April 22, 1863, Mirza Husayn Ali, one of his followers, declared himself the fulfillment of that prophecy and the latest manifestation of God. He donned the title Baha'u'llah ("glory of God"). The Bab was therefore viewed as a "John the Baptist"-type of forerunner leading up to Baha'u'llah who is the more significant manifestation for this age. His followers are called Baha’is. The uniqueness of this budding Baha'i faith, as it has come to be called, becomes clear in the Baha'u'llah's declarations. Not only did he claim to be the latest prophet foreseen in Shi'ite Islam, and not only did he claim to be a manifestation of God, but he claimed to be the second coming of Christ, the promised Holy Spirit, the Day of God, the Maiytrea (from Buddhism), and the Krishna (from Hinduism). A kind of inclusivism is apparent from the early stages of the Baha'i faith.

No other manifestation is said to have come since Baha'u'llah, but his leadership was passed on by appointment. He designated a successor in his son Abbas Effendi (later, Abdu'l-Baha "slave of Baha"). While the successors could not speak inspired scripture from God, they could interpret scripture infallibly and were viewed as the maintenance of God's true word on earth. Abdu'l-Baha would appoint his grandson Shoghi Effendi as successor. Shoghi Effendi, however, died before appointing a successor. The gap was filled by an ingeniously organized governing institution called the Universal House of Justice which remains in power today as the governing body for the Baha'i World Faith. Today, the Baha'i faith exists as a world religion with yearly international conferences convening at the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel.

The core doctrines of the Baha'i faith can be attractive in their simplicity:

1) Adoration of one God and the reconciliation of all major religions.
2) Appreciation of the diversity and morality of the human family and the elimination of all prejudice.
3) The establishment of world peace, equality of women and men, and universal education.
4) Cooperation between Science and Religion in the individual's search for truth.
To these may be added certain implicit beliefs and practices:
5) A Universal Auxillary Language.
6) Universal Weights and Measures.
7) God who is himself unknowable nevertheless reveals himself through manifestations.
8) These manifestations are a kind of progressive revelation.
9) No proselytizing (aggressive witnessing).
10) The study of different Scriptures besides simply Baha'i books.
11) Prayer and worship is obligatory and much of that according to specific instructions.

The Baha'i faith is quite sophisticated, and many of its followers today are educated, eloquent, eclectic, politically liberal, yet socially conservative (i.e., anti-abortion, pro-traditional family, etc.). Moreover, Baha’is are not only expected to understand their own uniquely Baha'i scriptures, but are also expected to study the scriptures of other world religions. Therefore, it is quite possible to encounter a Baha'i who is more educated on Christianity than is the average Christian. Furthermore, the Baha'i faith has a strong emphasis on education combined with certain liberal values such as gender egalitarianism, universal education, and harmony between science and religion.

Nonetheless, the Baha'i faith has many theological gaps and doctrinal inconsistencies. Compared to Christianity, its core teachings are only superficial in their commonality. The differences are deep and fundamental. The Baha'i faith is ornate, and a full critique would be encyclopedic. So, only a few observations are made below.

The Baha'i faith teaches that God is unknowable in His essence. Baha’is have the difficulty of explaining how they can have an elaborate theology about God yet assert that God is "unknowable." And it does not help to say that prophets and manifestations inform mankind about God because, if God is "unknowable," then humanity has no reference point whereby to tell which teacher is telling the truth. Christianity rightly teaches that God can be known, as is naturally known even by non-believers, though they may not have a relational knowledge of God. Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…" God is knowable, not only through the creation, but through His Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit, who leads and guides us and bears witness that we are His children (Romans 8:14-16). Not only can we know Him, but we can know Him intimately as our "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). True, God may not fit His infinity into our finite minds, but man can still have partial knowledge of God which is entirely true and relationally meaningful.

About Jesus, the Baha'i faith teaches that He was a manifestation of God but not an incarnation. The difference sounds slight but is actually enormous. Baha’is believe God is unknowable; therefore, God cannot incarnate Himself to be present among men. If Jesus is God in the most literal sense, and Jesus is knowable, then God is knowable, and that Baha'i doctrine is exploded. So, Baha’is teach that Jesus was a reflection of God. Just as a person can look at a reflection of the sun in a mirror and say, "There is the sun," so one can look at Jesus and say, "There is God," meaning "There is a reflection of God." Here again the problem of teaching that God is "unknowable" surfaces since there would be no way to distinguish between true and false manifestations or prophets. The Christian, however, can argue that Christ has set Himself apart from all other manifestations and has confirmed His self-attested divinity by physically rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15), a point which Baha’is also deny. While the resurrection would be a miracle, it is nonetheless a historically defensible fact, given the body of evidence. Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. William Lane Craig, and N.T. Wright have done well in defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Baha'i faith also denies the sole sufficiency of Christ and of Scripture. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha'u'llah were all manifestations of God, and the latest of these would have the highest authority since he'd have the most complete revelation of God, according to the idea of progressive revelation. Here, Christian apologetics can be employed to demonstrate the uniqueness of Christianity's claims and its doctrinal and practical truthfulness exclusive of contrary religious systems. The Baha'i, however, is concerned for showing that all the world's major religions are ultimately reconcilable. Any differences would be explained away as:

1) Social Laws—Instead of supra-cultural Spiritual Laws.
2) Early revelation—As opposed to the more “complete” later revelation.
3) Corrupted Teaching or Misinterpretation.

But even granting these qualifications, the world's religions are too varied and too fundamentally different to be reconciled. Given that the world's religions obviously teach and practice contrary things, the burden is on the Baha'i to salvage the world's major religions while dismantling almost everything foundational to those religions. Ironically, the religions which are most inclusive—Buddhism and Hinduism—are classically atheistic and pantheistic (respectively), and neither atheism nor pantheism is allowed within the strictly monotheistic Baha'i faith. Meanwhile, the religions that are least theologically inclusive of the Baha'i faith—Islam, Christianity, Orthodox Judaism—are monotheistic, as Baha'i is.

Also, the Baha'i faith teaches a sort of works-based salvation. The Baha'i faith is not much different from Islam in its core teachings about how to be saved except that, for the Baha'i, little is said about the afterlife. This earthly life is to be filled with good works counterbalancing one's evil deeds and showing one's self deserving of ultimate deliverance. Sin is not paid for or dissolved; rather, it is excused by a presumably benevolent God. Man does not have a significant relationship with God. In fact, Baha’is teach that there is no personality in God's essence, but only in His manifestations. Thus, God does not submit easily to a relationship with man. Accordingly, the Christian doctrine of grace is reinterpreted so that "grace" means "God's kind allowance for man to have the opportunity to earn deliverance." Built into this doctrine is a denial of Christ's sacrificial atonement and a minimization of sin.

The Christian view of salvation is very different. Sin is understood as being of eternal and infinite consequence since it is a universal crime against an infinitely perfect God (Romans 3:10, 23). Likewise, sin is so great that it deserves a life (blood) sacrifice and incurs eternal punishment in the afterlife. But Christ pays the price that all owe, dying as an innocent sacrifice for a guilty humanity. Because man cannot do anything to unblemish himself or to deserve eternal reward, he either must die for his own sins or believe that Christ graciously died in his place (Isaiah 53; Romans 5:8). Thus, salvation is either by God's grace through man's faith or there is no eternal salvation.

It is no surprise then that Baha'i faith proclaims Baha'u'llah to be the second coming of Christ. Jesus Himself warned us in the Gospel of Matthew concerning the end times: "Then if any one says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:23-24). Interestingly, Baha’is typically deny or minimize any miracles of Baha'u'llah. His unique spiritual claims are based on self-attested authority, uncanny and uneducated wisdom, prolific writing, pure living, majority consensus, and other subjective tests. The more objective tests such as prophetic fulfillment employ heavily allegorical interpretations of Scripture (see Thief in the Night by William Sears). The belief in Baha'u'llah largely reduces to a point of faith—is one willing to accept him as the manifestation of God, in the absence of objective evidence? Of course, Christianity also calls for faith, but the Christian has strong and demonstrable evidence along with that faith.

The Baha'i faith therefore does not accord with classical Christianity, and it has much to answer for in its own right. How an unknowable God could elicit such an elaborate theology and justify a new world religion is a mystery. The Baha’i faith is weak in addressing sin, treating it as if it were not a big problem and is surmountable by human effort. Christ's divinity is denied, as is the evidential value and literal nature of Christ's resurrection. And for the Baha'i faith, one of its biggest problems is its pluralism. That is, how can one reconcile such divergent religious without leaving them theologically gutted? It is easy to argue that the world's religions have commonalities in their ethical teachings and have some concept of ultimate reality. But it is another beast entirely to try to argue unity in their fundamental teachings about what the ultimate reality is and about how those ethics are grounded.


06/05/21

Question: "How can I overcome a crisis of faith?"

Answer: The term crisis of faith usually refers to the point at which a person feels that he or she can no longer serve God or follow Christ. A person going through a crisis of faith is tempted to turn away from all he or she had believed in. When we feel we are facing a crisis of faith, there are some questions we should ask ourselves:

1. What did I have faith in? The idea of “faith” has become trendy, and some use the word as a way to indicate how deep and spiritual they are. But faith is only as good as its object. You can have faith in a bridge, but if that bridge is built of rotting timber and constructed by a class of fourth-graders, it is not wise to cross it. So spiritual faith is only as good as its foundation.

We can have what we call a “crisis of faith” when the thing we believed in lets us down. But many times, what we called “faith” was only a misplaced trust in a god we invented. Was our trust in God—or in the notion that we would never experience trouble of a certain type? Was the Lord the object of our faith—or a friend or family member who failed us? If we have placed our faith in anything other than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, we are guaranteed disappointment (John 3:36).

2. What caused this crisis of faith? Often, a crisis of faith is the result of a tragedy. The death of someone close, a betrayal by a spiritual mentor, a broken relationship, or some other type of devastating loss can cause us to question whether God is even paying attention. Sometimes, at the end of a series of emotional blows, we find ourselves at a crisis point. It is good to identify what got us there, to better understand the nature of our disappointment and know where the real wound lies.

3. What do I believe I deserve and did not get? At the root of most faith crises is this fact: something should have happened one way, and it happened another way. When we live life with a lot of “should’s,” we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. For example, “I should have received an A on that test.” “He should love me after all I’ve done for him.” “God should have healed my child.” At the core of those statements is the unspoken assumption that we know more than God does. We determine what “should” happen, and God owes it to us to conform reality to our expectations.

Most Christians who have walked with God for any length of time have experienced at least one crisis of faith. Elijah experienced such a crisis when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. On the run for his life, Elijah “came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:4). Here was a godly man struggling with depression and beginning to lose the vision of why he was serving God.

A. W. Tozer wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Sometimes, we respond to that hurt with having a crisis of faith. But what feels to us like the end is often the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. A crisis of faith is sometimes necessary to shatter our childish illusions about God and discover who He really is.

A crisis of faith can bring us to the point of such desperation that we are willing to do things God’s way, no matter the cost. To overcome a crisis of faith, we must surrender entirely to God’s plan for us. To give God instructions about how our lives should go is to eventually suffer a crisis of faith when He does not follow our instructions. We may discover in our “dark night of the soul” that we had not given Him the wholehearted devotion He requires (Mark 12:29–30).

To overcome a crisis of faith, we must repent of any sin in our lives. Repentance is the doorway to freedom, so Satan and our flesh fight it. In our struggles, we will often do everything but repent. We will cry, complain, grovel, and condemn ourselves—but God asks for none of that. Jesus warned the church at Ephesus that, even though they were still keeping up appearances, their hearts had grown cold toward Him: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5).

In overcoming a crisis of faith, we must lay our hearts bare before the Lord, pour out our souls, and surrender afresh to His will for our lives (Galatians 2:20). We must cast down any idols we have erected in our hearts and abolish any worldly thoughts we have entertained in our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5). Then, by faith, we ask for the fruit that can be ours again: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

The psalmists faced life events that could have resulted in a crisis of faith for them (Psalm 10:1–11; 13:1–4; 22:1–18). They wrote about those times and were not afraid to be honest with God about their emotional struggles. In overcoming a spiritual crisis, we can pray this psalm back to the Lord, whether or not we “feel it” in the moment: “Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:10–12).


06/04/21

Question: "What did Jesus mean when He told people, 'Your faith has made you well'?"

Answer: The first recorded instance of Jesus saying, “Your faith has made you well” is found in Matthew 9:22 (ESV) where Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood. The KJV translates Jesus’ words as “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” and the NIV says, “Your faith has healed you.” The same incident is also recorded in Mark 5:34, where Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (ESV).

Jesus also says, “Your faith has made you well,” to the ten lepers (Luke 17:19) and a blind beggar (Luke 18:42). Other times Jesus links faith and healing without using the exact words, “Your faith has made you well,” such as in Matthew 8:13 and 15:28.

The healing that these people experienced is expressed, in Greek, by a form of the word sozo, which means “to preserve, rescue, save from death, or keep alive.” Sometimes, sozo refers to spiritual salvation, which is also linked to a person’s faith. For example, when the penitent prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, He told her much the same thing: “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50; for other examples, see Mark 10:52 and Luke 17:19). When Jesus spoke of the faith of the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9, His healing was very likely more than physical; it was a spiritual healing as well, as she is told to “go in peace” (Mark 5:34).

When Jesus said to certain people, “Your faith has made you well,” He was saying that their faith (their confidence in Him) had been the means of their restoration. The power of Christ was what effected the cure, but His power was applied in connection with their faith. Just as the faith of some enabled them to receive healing, so healing was sometimes stymied by a lack of faith (see Matthew 13:58). In the same way, salvation comes to a sinner through faith. Everyone who is saved must believe, but it is the power of Christ that saves, not the power of faith. Faith is only the instrument, not the power itself.

In other words, the value of one’s faith does not come from the one who expresses it but from the object in which it rests (Mark 10:52; 11:22). Ultimately, healing is not contingent upon the quality of one’s faith, but upon the Healer. It was through Christ that the woman in Matthew 9 was able to receive a bodily peace as well as a spiritual peace.

We must recognize that Jesus did not indiscriminately heal all the people all of the time. For example, in the scene of the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda where multitudes gathered to be healed, Jesus chose only one man to heal (John 5:1–11), and his is an interesting case. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well. His answer was steeped in superstition: there was no one to carry him to the pool, and he wasn’t fast enough to get into the water at the right time. This confused and needy man was healed by God’s grace. He had no faith in Jesus; he didn’t even know it was Jesus who had healed him until later (John 5:12–13).

Another example of someone who was healed before faith is the man born blind in John 9. He did not ask to be healed, but from many others, he was chosen to be healed—another example of God’s grace. In the case of the man born blind and in the case of the man at the pool, Jesus dealt with their physical problems separately from dealing with their spiritual need—the man in John 9 later comes to a full realization of who Jesus is and exercises faith in Him (verse 38). Jesus’ healing of these men was not about their faith as much as it was about His will.

Everyone whom Jesus willed to be healed was healed. Sometimes He healed those who expressed their faith in Him, and He made a point of emphasizing the condition of their heart: “Your faith has made you well.” Other times, in His great mercy, He healed those who had no faith and later drew them to Himself.


06/03/21

Pregunta: "¿Cómo puedo superar el hecho de que estoy luchando con la fe?"

Respuesta: Muchas personas luchan con su fe en diferentes momentos de sus vidas. Algunos de los líderes más comprometidos y piadosos han luchado con dudas, al igual que todos los demás. La esencia misma de la fe es creer en lo que no podemos ver (Hebreos 11:1). Como seres físicos, tendemos a poner fe en lo que experimentamos con nuestros sentidos. Las realidades espirituales no son tangibles y deben experimentarse fuera de nuestros sentidos. Por lo tanto, cuando lo que es tangible y visible parece abrumador, las dudas pueden encudar lo que es invisible.

El primer aspecto a considerar es el objeto de la fe. La palabra fe se ha vuelto popular en los últimos años, pero el significado popular no es necesariamente el mismo que el significado bíblico. El término se ha convertido en sinónimo de cualquier adhesión religiosa o irreligiosa, independientemente de si hay una verdad fundamental en la que basar dicha adhesión. En otras palabras, alguien podría reclamar "fe" en dientes de león para la sanidad espiritual, y esa afirmación se consideraría igualmente viable que la afirmación de los cristianos de que la Biblia es la Palabra inspirada de Dios. Por lo tanto, cuando se lucha con la "fe", es vital definir el objeto y la razonabilidad de esa fe. Todas las afirmaciones de fe no son iguales. Antes de que podamos estar seguros en nuestra fe, debemos responder a la pregunta: ¿mi fe está en qué?

Muchos se aferran a la idea de tener fe en la fe. La fe misma es vista como el objeto, en lugar de Dios mismo. El propósito bíblico de la fe es llevarnos a la presencia de Dios. Hebreos 11:6 dice: "Y sin fe es imposible agradar a Dios, porque cualquiera que se acerca a él debe creer que existe y que recompensa a los que lo buscan". Solo podemos encontrarlo cuando venimos a Él a través de la fe en Su Hijo (Juan 14:6). Jeremías 29:13 dice: "Me buscarás y me encontrarás, cuando me busques de todo corazón". Dios no bendice los intentos a medias de conocerlo. Él desea que lo persigamos con pasión, de la misma manera que Él nos persigue (1 Juan 4:19).

Sin embargo, Dios entiende nuestra incapacidad para ejercer la fe que necesitamos a veces. En Marcos 9:24, un hombre admitió a Jesús que quería ayuda con su incredulidad. Jesús no reprendió al hombre, sino que sanó al hijo del hombre de todos modos. Honró el deseo del hombre de crecer en la fe y se alegró de que Él, Jesús, fuera el objeto de esa fe. Por lo tanto, si tenemos el deseo de creer lo que la Biblia enseña, entonces tenemos el fundamento correcto para continuar luchando por la fe. Dios nos ha dado innumerables evidencias de Su existencia y carácter (Salmo 19:1; Lucas 19:38-40). Jesús cumplió todas las profecías necesarias para validar Su afirmación de ser el Hijo de Dios (Mateo 2:15-17; 27:35; Juan 12:38). La Biblia ha sido probadamente verdadera una y otra vez durante miles de años. Tenemos toda la evidencia que necesitamos, pero Dios nos deja la creencia a nosotros.

Puede ser alentador recordar que, cuando luchamos con la fe, estamos en buena compañía. El profeta Elías experimentó tal lucha. Uno de los profetas más grandes de todos los tiempos acababa de llamar fuego del cielo, mató a más de 400 falsos profetas y había superado el carro del rey Acab, una hazaña que habría sido la envidia de cualquier medallista de oro olímpico (1 Reyes 18:36-38, 46). Sin embargo, el siguiente capítulo encuentra a Elías escondido en una cueva, deprimido y pidiendo la muerte (1 Reyes 19:3-5). Después de todos esos milagros, cedió al miedo y la duda porque una mujer impía lo odiaba (1 Reyes 19:2). En tiempos de estrés y agotamiento, podemos olvidar fácilmente todo lo que Dios ha hecho por nosotros.

Juan el Bautista fue otro que luchó con la fe cuando estaba en el punto más bajo de su vida. Jesús había llamado a Juan el mayor profeta (Mateo 11:11). Juan había sido seleccionado por Dios antes de nacer para ser precursor del Mesías (Lucas 1:11-17, 76). Él fue fiel a ese llamado toda su vida (Marcos 1:4-8). Sin embargo, incluso Juan, después de ser encarcelado y sentenciado a muerte, luchó con dudas sobre la identidad de Jesús (Lucas 7, 20). Él envió mensajeros para preguntarle a Jesús si Él era verdaderamente el Enviado por Dios. Jesús no reprendió a Juan en su debilidad, sino que le envió un mensaje que solo un estudiante de las Escrituras como lo fue Juan reconocería (Lucas 7:22). Citó de Isaías 61 y le recordó a Juan que solo Él había cumplido esa profecía mesiánica.

Aprendemos de estos héroes de la fe que Dios es paciente con nosotros cuando deseamos creer (Salmo 86:15; 147:11). Cuando experimentamos tiempos de duda, debemos sumergirnos en la verdad. Podemos reforzar una fe flácida leyendo relatos bíblicos de las intervenciones milagrosas de Dios, escuchando sermones alentadores y leyendo libros que apelan a nuestra razón por autores como C. S. Lewis o Lee Strobel. Podcasts de apologistas como William Lane Craig o el Dr. John Lennox también puede agregar combustible al fuego de nuestra fe.

Pero el mayor poder para vencer la duda viene del Espíritu Santo mismo, que "da testimonio con nuestro espíritu de que somos hijos de Dios" (Romanos 8, 16). Podemos clamar como el hombre clamó a Jesús: "Creo. ¡Señor, ayuda a mi incredulidad!" (Marcos 9:24). Y podemos esperar que Él responda.


06/02/21

Question: "How can I keep the faith?"

Answer: First Timothy 4:16 exhorts us to keep the faith: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them.” When Paul visited the recently established churches in Asia Minor, his goal was “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). Other passages calling us to keep the faith are Hebrews 12:1 and Ephesians 6:13. The Bible also gives us advice for how to do it.

Keeping the faith requires remembering what brought us to faith in the first place. We need to be intentional about remembering God’s grace in our lives. Hebrews 12:1b–3 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Practically, this means remembering the wonderful gift of God’s salvation and following the example of our Savior, who “endured” the trials of this life. We must “fix our eyes” on Jesus. Many people find prayer and journaling helpful in this regard. The Old Testament saints often demonstrated the importance of remembering. The Israelites were instructed to set up memorials, and many of the Jewish feasts were designed to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” When we praise God, we remember His past goodness, and that makes it easier to keep trusting Him now.

Keeping the faith requires a love of truth and a commitment to the Word of God. First Timothy 4:1 says that, in the latter days, those who abandon the faith “follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” To accept “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6–7) is to fall into error. Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience”; those who ignore this command “have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18–19). We must “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). The Spirit of truth will never lead us into untruth (John 16:13).

Keeping the faith also involves growth in Christ. Jesus is the author of our faith (the one who initiated the relationship), and He is the perfecter of our faith (the one who will see it through to the end). From beginning to end, Jesus is the source of our faith. We remember what He has done, and we look forward to what He will do. Practically, this involves having an active prayer life, studying God’s Word, and digging in to His truth. 

Keeping the faith is also about community. The Christian life is not lived exclusively between God and the individual; it is lived in community with other Christians. Hebrews 10:23–25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not 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.” Fellow believers can encourage us to keep the faith. They can exhort us when we are going astray. They can join in our gladness and in our sorrow (Romans 12:15). 

We will face trials and temptations in life (John 16:33; James 1:2–4). Our faith will be challenged. But it is not only in the difficult times that we dig in our heels and fight for our faith. No, we contend for our faith always. What we do today prepares us for what is in store tomorrow. God is always at work in our lives. Our faith should be ever-growing. Second Peter 1:3–11 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . My brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We keep the faith by remembering God’s faithfulness and continuing to grow in relationship with Him.


05/31/21
Question: "What is a leap of faith?"

Answer: The book of Hebrews is an excellent place to find answers to our questions about faith. Chapter 11 begins with this short definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

What, then, is a leap of faith? The term leap of faith is not found in the Bible. It is a common idiom, though. Usually, to take a leap of faith means “to believe in something with no evidence for it” or “to attempt an endeavor that has little chance of success.” Leap of faith actually originated in a religious context. Søren Kierkegaard coined the expression as a metaphor for belief in God. He argued that truth cannot be found by observation alone but must be understood in the mind and heart apart from empirical evidence. Since we cannot observe God with our eyes, we must have faith that He is there. We jump from material concepts to the immaterial with a “leap of faith.”

Continuing in Hebrews chapter 11, we find an impressive list of men and women in the Bible who took a “leap of faith,” as it were. These are just a few of the people mentioned who took God at His Word and trusted Him to do what He had promised:

By faith, Noah obeyed God and built an ark to save his family from the flood (Genesis 6:9 – 7:24). By faith, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, believing God would provide a lamb (Genesis 22:1–19). By faith, Moses chose to side with the Hebrews rather than stay in the Egyptian palace (Exodus 2 – 4). By faith, Rahab risked her life and sheltered enemy spies in her home (Joshua 2:1–24).

Throughout the rest of Scripture, the stories of the faithful continue. By faith, David confronted a giant with only a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17). By faith, Peter stepped out of the boat when Jesus invited him to come (Matthew 14:22–33). The accounts go on and on, each story helping us to understand the biblical meaning of a leap of faith.

Exercising faith in God often requires taking a risk. Second Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” But a biblical step of faith is not a “blind” leap. Our faith is backed by assurance and certainty. Faith is soundly supported by God’s promises in His Word. A leap of faith is not an irrational impulse that causes us to jump out into the great unknown without any foresight. According to the Word of God, believers are to seek counsel from godly leaders (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Also, Christians are to acquire wisdom and direction from God’s Word (Psalm 119:105, 130).

The stories in the Bible exist for a reason. Our trust and faith grow stronger as we read these accounts of God’s powerful deliverance and rescue in times of need. God miraculously delivered Joseph from slavery and placed him in charge over all of Egypt. God transformed Gideon from a coward to a courageous warrior. These Bible characters took leaps of faith because they trusted in the God who was powerful enough to rescue them, hold them up, and not let them fall (see Jude 1:24).

Putting our faith into action may feel like a scary leap, but that is part of the testing and proving of our faith: “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, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–9; See Hebrews 11:17 also).

Stepping out in faith requires trusting God to do what He has already promised in His Word, even though we may not see the fulfillment of His promise yet. Genuine faith, belief, and trust will move us to action.

A leap of faith might mean leaving the safety of your comfort zone. Peter abandoned his safety and comfort when he jumped out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. He could take that leap of faith because he knew his Lord and trusted that He was good: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter exercised childlike faith, the type of faith we are all called to possess: “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16).

When we demonstrate authentic trust in God, we know that our “leap of faith” is actually a leap into His all-powerful and loving arms. He delights in our trust and rewards those who earnestly pursue Him: “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” (Hebrews 11:6).


05/30/21

Question: "What does "from faith to faith" mean in Romans 1:17?"

Answer: From faith to faith is an expression found in some versions of Romans 1:17, such as the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the Christian Standard Bible. The English Standard Version uses the wording “from faith for faith” instead. The meaning of the phrase becomes more evident in the New International Version: “by faith from first to last.” And perhaps the most transparent rendering of the verse for today’s reader is found in the New Living Translation: “from start to finish by faith.”

To fully understand what from faith to faith means, we must consider the phrase in context. In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the apostle introduces himself to the church in Rome. While many of the believers there would have heard of Paul, they had not yet met him personally. In preparation for a future visit, Paul wants the members of the church to know him sufficiently to discern fact from fiction concerning his identity.

In Romans 1:16–17, Paul reaches the high point of his introductory greeting to the church in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life’” (NLT).

Nothing mattered more to Paul than fulfilling God’s will for his life, which was to preach the good news of salvation. Without the good news of the gospel, and without the power that is the gospel, there can be no salvation, no freedom from sin, no redemption, and no life. The power of the gospel is the theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans and the ambition of his life.

Paul writes with full knowledge that the church in Rome is facing persecution and suffering under Roman oppression. Many of the believers there are experiencing humiliation and shame because of their faith in Christ. Paul wants them to be assured that the worldly power of Rome cannot hold a candle to the mighty power of God—the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel is God’s limitless power directed toward the salvation of men and women. For every person who believes, whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, black or white, the gospel effectively becomes the saving power of God.

Paul tells the Roman Christians that “in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed” (Romans 1:17). Righteousness is thus a complete and total work of God. Humans tend to view righteousness as something we can achieve by our own merit or actions. But the righteousness of God is different. It is a right standing before God that has nothing to do with human accomplishment or worth. It is received by faith. There is nothing we can do to deserve or earn it.

The exact meaning of Paul’s phrase from faith to faith has been debated, with several plausible explanations proposed. Some understand it in relation to the origin of faith: “From the faith of God, who makes the offer of salvation, to the faith of men, who receive it.” In simpler terms, “Salvation comes from God’s faith (or faithfulness) to our faith.” This was Karl Barth’s impression of the phrase from faith to faith, that salvation is accomplished through God’s faithfulness, which comes first, and our faith in response to that.

Others believe that Paul had the spreading of faith through evangelism in mind: “From the faith of one believer to another.” A third and widely accepted understanding is that from faith to faith speaks of a progressive, growing development of faith “from one degree of faith to another” akin to the “ever-increasing glory” of 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Another view is that Paul meant that from day one of our journey of faith until the very last day, we (the righteous) must live by faith. Whether we are brand-new followers of Christ or seasoned, mature believers who have walked with the Lord for many years, we must trust God “from start to finish” and rely on His mighty power—the power of the gospel—to change our lives and the lives of those we encounter.



05/29/21

Question: "Why do so many people struggle with a lack of faith?"

Answer: The apostle Paul exhorts Christians to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). What we see here is a contrast between truth and perception—what we know and believe to be true and what we perceive to be true. This is where the Christian struggle with a lack of faith finds its basis. The main reason why so many Christians struggle with a lack of faith is that we follow our perceptions of what is true rather than what we know to be true by faith.

Perhaps before going any further it may be helpful to come up with a working definition of faith. Faith, contrary to popular opinion, is not “belief without proof.” This is the definition that many skeptics give for faith. This definition reduces faith to mere fideism—i.e., “I believe despite what the evidence tells me.” Skeptics are right to reject this concept of faith, and Christians should reject it, too. Faith is not belief without proof or belief despite the evidence; rather, faith is a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. That trust or confidence we have in someone is built up over time as he proves himself faithful time and time again.

Christianity is a faith-based religion. It is based on faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. God has provided us with His Word, the Holy Bible, as a testimony of His faithfulness to His people all throughout history. In its bare essentials, Christianity is faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ claimed to be the promised Messiah and the Son of God. His life was one of perfect righteousness according to the revealed Law of God, His death was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people, and He was raised to life three days after His death. When we place our faith and trust in Christ alone for our salvation, God takes our sin and places it on the cross of Christ and awards us, by grace, with the perfect righteousness of Christ. That, in a nutshell, is the Christian message. As Christians, we are called to believe this message and live in light of it.

Despite this, Christians still struggle with believing the biblical account because it doesn’t match up with our perception of reality. We may believe that Jesus was a real person, we may believe that He died by crucifixion at the hand of the Romans, we may even believe that He led a perfect life according to God’s Law, but we don’t “see” how faith in Christ makes us righteous before God. We can’t “see” Jesus atoning for our sins. We can’t “see” or “perceive” any of the great truths of Christianity, and, therefore, we struggle with lack of faith. As a result of this lack of perception, our lives often do not reflect the fact that we really believe what we claim to believe.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon among Christians. The main reason we struggle with faith is that we don’t truly know the God in whom we profess to have faith. In our daily lives, we don’t trust complete strangers. The more intimately we know someone and the more time we have had to see him “in action,” the more likely we are to believe what he says. But, if God is essentially a stranger to us, we are less likely to believe what He has said in His Word. The only cure for this is to spend more time in God’s Word getting to know Him. 

The world, the flesh, and the devil often distract us. By “the world” is meant the accepted “wisdom” of the unbelieving world and the culture in which we find ourselves. For those of us living in Europe and North America, that dominant worldview is naturalism, materialism, skepticism, and atheism. “The flesh,” refers to our sinful nature that still clings to Christians and with which we struggle on a daily basis. “The devil” refers to Satan and his horde of evil spirits who excite and entice us through the world and our senses. These things all afflict us and cause us to struggle with faith.

That is why Christians need to be constantly reminded of what Christ has done for us and what our response should be. The apostle Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Our faith is built up as we have the gospel continually preached to us. Our churches need to be built on the solid preaching of the Word and the regular observance of the ordinances. Instead, too many churches spend their time, energy, and resources on the creation of “programs” that neither feed the sheep nor draw a clear distinction between godliness and ungodliness.

Consider the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament. God had performed great miracles in rescuing His chosen people from slavery in Egypt—the Ten Plagues, the pillar of smoke and fire, and the crossing of the Red Sea. God brings His people to the foot of Mount Sinai, gives them the Law and makes a covenant with them. No sooner does He do this than the people begin to grumble and lose faith. With Moses gone up on the mountain, the people convince Aaron, Moses’ brother, to construct an idol (against God’s clear prohibition) for them to worship (Exodus 32:1–6). They were no longer walking by faith, but by sight. Despite all the clear miracles God did in their redemption, they lost faith and began to go on their perception.

That is why God instructed the new generation of Israelites before going into the Promised Land to continually remind themselves of what God had done for them: “And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). God knows that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), and so He commands His people to be in constant remembrance of these things. 

In conclusion, we need to heed the example of the disciple Thomas. When Thomas heard the stories of the resurrection, he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus with his own two eyes. Jesus accommodated Thomas’ lack of faith by making an appearance to him and allowing him to see and touch Him. Thomas responds in worship, and Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Many skeptics today echo Thomas’ sentiment: “Unless I see Jesus face to face, I will not believe!” We must not behave as the unbelievers do. We need to continually keep in mind Paul’s exhortation to walk by faith rather than sight. We learn in the book of Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) because faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, not responding to our perceptions.


05/28/21

Question: "How can I overcome the fact that I am struggling with faith?"

Answer: Many people struggle with their faith at different times in their lives. Some of the most committed and godly leaders have struggled with doubts, just like everyone else. The very essence of faith is to believe in that which we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). As physical beings, we tend to put faith in what we experience with our senses. Spiritual realities are not tangible and must be experienced outside our senses. So, when that which is tangible and visible seems overwhelming, doubts can shroud that which is invisible.

The first aspect to consider is the object of faith. The word faith has become popular in recent years, but the popular meaning is not necessarily the same as the biblical meaning. The term has become synonymous with any religious or irreligious adherence, regardless of whether there is foundational truth upon which to base such adherence. In other words, someone could claim “faith” in dandelions for spiritual healing, and that claim would be considered equally viable to the Christians’ claim that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. So, when struggling with “faith,” it is vital to define the object and reasonableness of that faith. All faith claims are not equal. Before we can be secure in our faith, we must answer the question: my faith is in what?

Many hold to the idea of having faith in faith. Faith itself is seen as the object, rather than God Himself. The biblical purpose for faith is to bring us into the presence of God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And 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 can only find Him when we come to Him through faith in His Son (John 14:6). Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” God does not bless half-hearted attempts to know Him. He desires that we pursue Him with passion, the same way He pursues us (1 John 4:19).

However, God understands our inability to exercise the faith we need at times. In Mark 9:24, a man admitted to Jesus that he wanted help with His unbelief. Jesus did not rebuke the man, but healed the man’s child anyway. He honored the man’s desire to grow in faith and was pleased that He, Jesus, was the object of that faith. So, if we have the desire to believe what the Bible teaches, then we have the right foundation for continuing to fight for faith. God has given us countless evidences of His existence and character (Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:38–40). Jesus fulfilled all prophecies necessary to validate His claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 2:15–17; 27:35; John 12:38). The Bible has been proven true over and over again for thousands of years. We have all the evidence we need, but God leaves the believing up to us.

It can be encouraging to remember that, when we struggle with faith, we are in good company. Elijah the prophet experienced such a struggle. One of the greatest prophets of all time had just called down fire from heaven, killed over 400 false prophets, and outrun King Ahab’s chariot—a feat that would have been the envy of any Olympic gold-medalist (1 Kings 18:36–38, 46). Yet the next chapter finds Elijah hiding in a cave, depressed and asking for death (1 Kings 19:3–5). After all those miracles, he gave in to fear and doubt because a wicked woman hated him (1 Kings 19:2). During times of stress and exhaustion, we can easily forget all that God has done for us.

John the Baptist was another who struggled with faith when at the lowest point in his life. Jesus had called John the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11). John had been selected by God before birth to be forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:11–17, 76). He was faithful to that calling all of his life (Mark 1:4–8). Yet even John, after being imprisoned and sentenced to die, struggled with doubts about Jesus’ identity (Luke 7:20). He sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was truly the One sent from God. Jesus did not rebuke John in his weakness but instead sent him a message that only a student of the Scriptures as John was would recognize (Luke 7:22). He quoted from Isaiah 61 and reminded John that He alone had fulfilled that Messianic prophecy.

We learn from these heroes of faith that God is patient with us when we desire to believe (Psalm 86:15; 147:11). When we experience times of doubt, we must immerse ourselves in truth. We can bolster a sagging faith by reading scriptural accounts of God’s miraculous interventions, listening to encouraging sermons, and reading books that appeal to our reason by authors such as C. S. Lewis or Lee Strobel. Podcasts by apologists such as William Lane Craig or Dr. John Lennox can also add fuel to the fire of our faith.

But the greatest power to overcome doubt comes from the Holy Spirit Himself, who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). We can cry out as the man cried to Jesus, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). And we can expect Him to answer.


05/27/21

Question: "Why do so many people struggle with a lack of faith?"

Answer: The apostle Paul exhorts Christians to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). What we see here is a contrast between truth and perception—what we know and believe to be true and what we perceive to be true. This is where the Christian struggle with a lack of faith finds its basis. The main reason why so many Christians struggle with a lack of faith is that we follow our perceptions of what is true rather than what we know to be true by faith.

Perhaps before going any further it may be helpful to come up with a working definition of faith. Faith, contrary to popular opinion, is not “belief without proof.” This is the definition that many skeptics give for faith. This definition reduces faith to mere fideism—i.e., “I believe despite what the evidence tells me.” Skeptics are right to reject this concept of faith, and Christians should reject it, too. Faith is not belief without proof or belief despite the evidence; rather, faith is a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. That trust or confidence we have in someone is built up over time as he proves himself faithful time and time again.

Christianity is a faith-based religion. It is based on faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. God has provided us with His Word, the Holy Bible, as a testimony of His faithfulness to His people all throughout history. In its bare essentials, Christianity is faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ claimed to be the promised Messiah and the Son of God. His life was one of perfect righteousness according to the revealed Law of God, His death was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people, and He was raised to life three days after His death. When we place our faith and trust in Christ alone for our salvation, God takes our sin and places it on the cross of Christ and awards us, by grace, with the perfect righteousness of Christ. That, in a nutshell, is the Christian message. As Christians, we are called to believe this message and live in light of it.

Despite this, Christians still struggle with believing the biblical account because it doesn’t match up with our perception of reality. We may believe that Jesus was a real person, we may believe that He died by crucifixion at the hand of the Romans, we may even believe that He led a perfect life according to God’s Law, but we don’t “see” how faith in Christ makes us righteous before God. We can’t “see” Jesus atoning for our sins. We can’t “see” or “perceive” any of the great truths of Christianity, and, therefore, we struggle with lack of faith. As a result of this lack of perception, our lives often do not reflect the fact that we really believe what we claim to believe.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon among Christians. The main reason we struggle with faith is that we don’t truly know the God in whom we profess to have faith. In our daily lives, we don’t trust complete strangers. The more intimately we know someone and the more time we have had to see him “in action,” the more likely we are to believe what he says. But, if God is essentially a stranger to us, we are less likely to believe what He has said in His Word. The only cure for this is to spend more time in God’s Word getting to know Him. 

The world, the flesh, and the devil often distract us. By “the world” is meant the accepted “wisdom” of the unbelieving world and the culture in which we find ourselves. For those of us living in Europe and North America, that dominant worldview is naturalism, materialism, skepticism, and atheism. “The flesh,” refers to our sinful nature that still clings to Christians and with which we struggle on a daily basis. “The devil” refers to Satan and his horde of evil spirits who excite and entice us through the world and our senses. These things all afflict us and cause us to struggle with faith.

That is why Christians need to be constantly reminded of what Christ has done for us and what our response should be. The apostle Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Our faith is built up as we have the gospel continually preached to us. Our churches need to be built on the solid preaching of the Word and the regular observance of the ordinances. Instead, too many churches spend their time, energy, and resources on the creation of “programs” that neither feed the sheep nor draw a clear distinction between godliness and ungodliness.

Consider the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament. God had performed great miracles in rescuing His chosen people from slavery in Egypt—the Ten Plagues, the pillar of smoke and fire, and the crossing of the Red Sea. God brings His people to the foot of Mount Sinai, gives them the Law and makes a covenant with them. No sooner does He do this than the people begin to grumble and lose faith. With Moses gone up on the mountain, the people convince Aaron, Moses’ brother, to construct an idol (against God’s clear prohibition) for them to worship (Exodus 32:1–6). They were no longer walking by faith, but by sight. Despite all the clear miracles God did in their redemption, they lost faith and began to go on their perception.

That is why God instructed the new generation of Israelites before going into the Promised Land to continually remind themselves of what God had done for them: “And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). God knows that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), and so He commands His people to be in constant remembrance of these things. 

In conclusion, we need to heed the example of the disciple Thomas. When Thomas heard the stories of the resurrection, he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus with his own two eyes. Jesus accommodated Thomas’ lack of faith by making an appearance to him and allowing him to see and touch Him. Thomas responds in worship, and Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Many skeptics today echo Thomas’ sentiment: “Unless I see Jesus face to face, I will not believe!” We must not behave as the unbelievers do. We need to continually keep in mind Paul’s exhortation to walk by faith rather than sight. We learn in the book of Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) because faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, not responding to our perceptions.



05/26/21

Question: "What does it mean that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)?"

Answer: In Hebrews 11, we learn about faith from the Bible’s Old Testament heroes. One crucial detail stands out in their lives: they placed their whole confidence in God, entrusting themselves into His hands. The actions and accomplishments of these men and women proved that faith pleases God, and He rewards those who seek Him: “And 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” (Hebrews 11:6).

The author of the book of Hebrews points out two critical convictions of believers. First, “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” Those who desire to draw near to God must have a deep-rooted belief that He is real. Such belief is not mere intellectual knowledge but a wholehearted devotion to His presence and participation in every part of one’s life. Without a genuine conviction that God exists, it is impossible to have an intimate relationship with Him. Second, the Lord’s followers must believe “that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This aspect of faith trusts in the character of God as a good, loving, generous, gracious, and merciful Father (James 1:17; Psalm 84:11; Lamentations 3:22–23). These two certainties are the groundwork of saving faith—a faith that pleases God.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because faith is the avenue by which we come to God and trust Him for our salvation. In His infinite goodness, God provides the very thing we need to draw near to Him: “For 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). God gives us the faith required to please Him.

Hebrews 11:1 gives a definition, or at least a good description, of the faith that pleases God: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “Confidence” is the translation of a Greek word that means “foundation.” Faith is the foundation that undergirds our hope. It is not a blind grasping in the dark, but an absolute conviction that comes from experiencing God’s love and the faithfulness of His Word. The term translated “assurance” is also translated as “evidence” or “proof.” With our natural eyes, we cannot see the realities of God’s kingdom, but by faith we receive the evidence or proof that they exist.

We’ve established that without faith it is impossible to come to God. It is also impossible to live for God—to follow and serve Him daily and persevere until the end—without faith. The entire Christian life is lived out by faith: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17; see also Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). The apostle Paul affirmed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Scripture refers explicitly to Enoch’s faith as pleasing to God: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, NLT; cf. Genesis 5:24). How did Enoch please God? Through living by faith. Enoch walked by faith in God. He obeyed the Word that had been revealed up to that point and lived in the light of its truth. Walking by faith means consistently living according to God’s Word (John 14:15). Without faith, it is impossible to believe God’s Word and obey it.

Scripture says that it is impossible to please God through works of the flesh: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8, ESV). We can’t earn God’s approval through good works. Only based on what Jesus Christ has done for us can we become holy and able to live a life pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ’s life in us produces the righteousness that pleases God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:13; 3:9).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God; in fact, we cannot even begin to approach the Lord and experience a personal relationship with Him without it. Faith is the atmosphere in which the believer’s life is lived. We are called “believers” because we are continually putting our faith, trust, and confidence in God. By faith the Christian life begins, and by faith it perseveres until the end.

The champions of the Old Testament like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, Gideon, and David all lived by faith. As they looked toward their future hope, they relied on God to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 11:13–16). And they obeyed God’s Word even when they did not understand it. This kind of walking by faith—accepting as truth the things we cannot yet touch, feel, or see, and then acting on them in obedience—is the prescription for living a life that pleases God. We may not see ourselves right now as God does—holy and made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But when we accept the evidence in God’s Word (Romans 10:17) and reach out in response to experience fellowship with Him, then we begin to live by faith, and that pleases God.


05/25/21

Question: "What does the Bible say about faith?"

Answer: Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.

Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.

Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Examples of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his promised son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.

According to the Bible, faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).


05/24/21

Question: "What is a leap of faith?"

Answer: The book of Hebrews is an excellent place to find answers to our questions about faith. Chapter 11 begins with this short definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

What, then, is a leap of faith? The term leap of faith is not found in the Bible. It is a common idiom, though. Usually, to take a leap of faith means “to believe in something with no evidence for it” or “to attempt an endeavor that has little chance of success.” Leap of faith actually originated in a religious context. Søren Kierkegaard coined the expression as a metaphor for belief in God. He argued that truth cannot be found by observation alone but must be understood in the mind and heart apart from empirical evidence. Since we cannot observe God with our eyes, we must have faith that He is there. We jump from material concepts to the immaterial with a “leap of faith.”

Continuing in Hebrews chapter 11, we find an impressive list of men and women in the Bible who took a “leap of faith,” as it were. These are just a few of the people mentioned who took God at His Word and trusted Him to do what He had promised:

By faith, Noah obeyed God and built an ark to save his family from the flood (Genesis 6:9 – 7:24). By faith, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, believing God would provide a lamb (Genesis 22:1–19). By faith, Moses chose to side with the Hebrews rather than stay in the Egyptian palace (Exodus 2 – 4). By faith, Rahab risked her life and sheltered enemy spies in her home (Joshua 2:1–24).

Throughout the rest of Scripture, the stories of the faithful continue. By faith, David confronted a giant with only a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17). By faith, Peter stepped out of the boat when Jesus invited him to come (Matthew 14:22–33). The accounts go on and on, each story helping us to understand the biblical meaning of a leap of faith.

Exercising faith in God often requires taking a risk. Second Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” But a biblical step of faith is not a “blind” leap. Our faith is backed by assurance and certainty. Faith is soundly supported by God’s promises in His Word. A leap of faith is not an irrational impulse that causes us to jump out into the great unknown without any foresight. According to the Word of God, believers are to seek counsel from godly leaders (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Also, Christians are to acquire wisdom and direction from God’s Word (Psalm 119:105, 130).

The stories in the Bible exist for a reason. Our trust and faith grow stronger as we read these accounts of God’s powerful deliverance and rescue in times of need. God miraculously delivered Joseph from slavery and placed him in charge over all of Egypt. God transformed Gideon from a coward to a courageous warrior. These Bible characters took leaps of faith because they trusted in the God who was powerful enough to rescue them, hold them up, and not let them fall (see Jude 1:24).

Putting our faith into action may feel like a scary leap, but that is part of the testing and proving of our faith: “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, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–9; See Hebrews 11:17 also).

Stepping out in faith requires trusting God to do what He has already promised in His Word, even though we may not see the fulfillment of His promise yet. Genuine faith, belief, and trust will move us to action.

A leap of faith might mean leaving the safety of your comfort zone. Peter abandoned his safety and comfort when he jumped out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. He could take that leap of faith because he knew his Lord and trusted that He was good: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter exercised childlike faith, the type of faith we are all called to possess: “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16).

When we demonstrate authentic trust in God, we know that our “leap of faith” is actually a leap into His all-powerful and loving arms. He delights in our trust and rewards those who earnestly pursue Him: “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” (Hebrews 11:6).


05/22/21

Question: "What is Hamas?"

Answer: Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist group that seeks to eliminate the nation of Israel, replacing it with an Islamic state. Hamas is an acronym for Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, which in English translates to “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

Hamas is a militant Muslim group that functions through several semi-independent branches, each focusing on a category such as charity, media, or military action. While social welfare is admirable, the group’s use of violence and anti-Semitic propaganda have resulted in its being designated a terrorist organization by many nations worldwide. The group most notably operates in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of Israel. Hamas is heavily supported by nations such as Iran, Qatar, and Turkey.

The “military” efforts of Hamas are routinely denounced as acts of terrorism. These include suicide bombings, the mass launching of homemade, unguided rockets, and other acts directly targeting Israeli civilians. Observers have also criticized Hamas for deliberately placing weapons and other military resources in civilian areas. Some have gone further and accused the group of using Palestinians as human shields. Defenses against such charges tend to rely on technicalities and legalese. Without question, Hamas has shown itself willing to endanger Palestinian people to further their political and religious goals.

Hamas also participates in anti-Semitic propaganda and media production. This includes programs targeted at children that encourage martyrdom, hatred for Jews, and support for terrorist acts. Due to the claimed separation of Hamas’s different branches, it is sometimes argued that these radio, television, and print productions do not represent the actual views of Hamas. Given that the branches of Hamas share common resources, leadership, and aims, this is not a reasonable defense.

Criticism of Hamas is by no means limited to pro-Israeli, Western, or anti-Islamic voices. A great many Palestinian people also disagree with Hamas’s tactics. Some also reject their more extreme goals. Though Hamas is nominally a Sunni Muslim organization, many Muslims disapprove of the group. Regardless of how one views the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, groups primarily dealing in hatred and terrorism, such as Hamas, should not be supported.



Question: "What does the Bible say about terrorism?"

Answer: The Bible doesn’t directly address the topic of terrorism, at least not the type of terrorism we think of in the modern world. True “terrorism” is an attempt to incite fear, shock, and panic in a target population through the use of violence. The goal of acts of terrorism is to bully a government or culture into cooperating with the demands of the terrorists. In some cases, the carnage is inflicted for its own sake or as a punishment or an act of revenge.

Many of the weapons used in modern terror attacks did not exist in biblical times, such as explosives, chemical weapons, and firearms. News of an attack would travel slowly in ancient times and only by oral or written descriptions. The ability to inflict sudden, catastrophic damage combined with the rapid spread of news—especially in graphic pictures and videos—has made terrorism as we know it today possible. These capabilities did not exist in biblical times, and so neither did modern-style terrorism. However, Old Testament statements about Israel’s responsibilities during war, scriptural comments about those who target the innocent, and the general sense of Christian morality all speak against what we would today define as “terrorism.”

Ancient armies were far more likely to deliberately target innocents; in fact, the idea of avoiding women and children during war was all but unheard of in the ancient Near East. However, Israel was given explicit instructions for warfare that greatly humanized their military operations. Soldiers were given the option to return home if they were newly married, afraid, or otherwise unready for warfare. They were not encouraged to suicidally throw themselves into battle (Deuteronomy 20:5–8). Israel was commanded to offer peace—and with it a warning—to a city prior to any attack (Deuteronomy 20:10). This procedure not only left room for peace, but it gave non-combatants an opportunity to flee prior to the battle.

Israel was not encouraged to go out of their way to attack civilians instead of soldiers, as modern terrorism does. And the Israelites were frequently reminded that their limited, one-time-only orders to attack were based on the wickedness of their enemy, not their own superiority (Deuteronomy 9:4–6).

The Bible also expresses a strong condemnation for the shedding of innocent blood. Over and over, the Scriptures condemn those who use violence against the helpless and inoffensive (Deuteronomy 27:25; Proverbs 6:16–18). Those who use common terrorist tactics such as attacking non-combatants and trying to inspire terror are also rebuked (Jeremiah 7:6; 19:4; 22:3, 17). Even on a small scale, using ambush tactics in order to kill those one hates is treated as murder (Deuteronomy 19:11).

This theme is continued in the New Testament, where Christians are explicitly told not to use bloodshed in an attempt to defend Christ (Matthew 10:52). Attempts to violently overthrow or influence the government are also off-limits (Romans 13:1). Rather, Christians are to overcome evil through good (Romans 12:21).

All in all, terrorism is simply incompatible with a biblical worldview. Opposition to terrorism is expressed both in the Old and New Testaments. The principles apply both to nations and to individual people. The Bible does not explicitly address the 21st-century concept of terrorism, but it clearly condemns everything about it.



Question: "What is the difference between Israel and Palestine?"

Answer: The region where Israel is currently located was referred to as “Palestine” at least as early as the 5th century BC. Writings from such men as Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch all refer to the land in this area as “Palestine.” This term is believed to come from Masoretic Hebrew biblical texts. Some scholars think that the word Palestine means “land of the Philistines”—the region definitely included the place where the Philistines lived in Canaan—but there is no consensus on that meaning.

The main difference between Israel and Palestine is that Israel is a nation, and Palestine is a geographical region. Palestine has not been, nor is it currently, a nation. The nation of Israel should be distinguished from the land region of Palestine. Before the kingdom of Israel existed, the region was called “Canaan.” The region delineated as “Canaan” or, later, “Palestine” is not necessarily the same as the boundaries for Israel described in the Bible.

After the exodus, God brought the descendants of Israel/Jacob into the land He had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:17–21; Joshua 1:1–9). Based upon the dimensions of the land found in the Abrahamic Covenant, Israel’s land promise remains yet to be fulfilled; even at the peak of the Davidic kingdom, the territory occupied by Israel did not match the promise. So we have good reason to think the land promise must be literally fulfilled in the future. The land that Abraham’s descendants will one day occupy may rightly be called “Israel” because it is their rightful inheritance.

The word Palestine only occurs one time in the Bible, and only in the King James Version, in Joel 3:4. (Palestina is found in Isaiah 14:29 and 31 in the KJV.) The Hebrew word Pelesheth means “the land of wanders” or “strangers.” That word is found in Exodus 15:14; Psalm 60:8; 83:7; 87:4; and 108:9. It is usually translated “Philistia” and typically refers to a region on the southern border of Syria to the south and west of Canaan.

The name of the region of Palestine has varied throughout history. Prior to AD 135, the Romans called the land “Judea and Galilee.” That changed when Emperor Hadrian brutally suppressed the Jewish Resistance movement and occupied Judea. The Romans began calling the land “Syria Palaestina” after two of Israel’s historic enemies (Syria and Philistia); Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter on Israel’s temple mount, made Jerusalem a Roman colony, and renamed the city “Aelia Capitalina.” For centuries afterward, the land of Israel was called “Palestine,” following the lead of the Romans, and the term Palestine entered our lexicon—the name became so common that respected Bible commentators have used it (e.g., McGee, Pentecost, Chafer, and Ryrie), and some Bible translations use the term (see the section heading for Joshua 11 in the NASB). Prior to their national independence in 1948, Jewish groups adopted the “Palestine” label for themselves: the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was originally called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, and the original name for the Jerusalem Postwas the Palestine Post. Both of those entities were founded in the 1930s.

Today, the word Palestine is still used to designate a land region, but it has also taken on political connotations. Considering the context of the term is important, since Palestine is a label often used by propagandists who refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Maps published with the nation of Israel labelled as “Palestine” are blatant attacks on the legitimacy of Israel as a modern nation.


Question: "What is the Abrahamic Covenant?"

Answer: A covenant is an agreement between two parties. There are two basic types of covenants: conditional and unconditional. A conditional or bilateral covenant is an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment. Both parties agree to fulfill certain conditions. If either party fails to meet their responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the expectations of the covenant. An unconditional or unilateral covenant is an agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do something. Nothing is required of the other party.

The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant. The actual covenant is found in Genesis 12:1–3. The ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the covenant. When a covenant was dependent upon both parties keeping commitments, then both parties would pass between the pieces of animals. In Genesis 15, God alone moves between the halves of the animals. Abraham was in a deep sleep. God’s solitary action indicates that the covenant is principally His promise. He binds Himself to the covenant.

Later, God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision as the specific sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:9–14). All males in Abraham’s line were to be circumcised and thus carry with them a lifelong mark in their flesh that they were part of God’s physical blessing in the world. Any descendant of Abraham who refused circumcision was declaring himself to be outside of God’s covenant; this explains why God was angry with Moses when Moses failed to circumcise his son (Exodus 4:24–26).

God determined to call out a special people for Himself, and through that special people He would bless the whole world. The Lord tells Abram,
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3).

Based on this promise, God later changed Abram’s name from Abram (“high father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) in Genesis 17:5. As we’ve seen, the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional. It should also be taken literally. There is no need to spiritualize the promise to Abraham. God’s promises to Abraham’s descendants will be fulfilled literally.

The Abrahamic Covenant included the promise of land (Genesis 12:1). It was a specific land, an actual property, with dimensions specified in Genesis 15:18–21. In Genesis 13:15, God gives Abraham all the land that he can see, and the gift is declared to be “forever.” God was not going to renege on His promise. The territory given as part of the Abrahamic Covenant is expanded in Deuteronomy 30:1–10, often called the Palestinian Covenant.

Centuries after Abraham died, the children of Israel took possession of the land under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua 21:43). At no point in history, though, has Israel controlled all of the land God had specified. There remains, therefore, a final fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant that will see Israel occupying their God-given homeland to the fullest extent. The fulfillment will be more than a matter of geography; it will also be a time of holiness and restoration (see Ezekiel 20:40–44 and 36:1—37:28).

The Abrahamic Covenant also promised many descendants (Genesis 12:2). God promised that the number of Abraham’s children would rival that of “the dust of the earth” (Genesis 15:16). Nations and kings would proceed from him (Genesis 17:6). It is significant that the promise was given to an aged, childless couple. But Abraham “did not waver through unbelief” (Romans 4:20), and his wife Sarah “considered him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11). Abraham was justified by his faith (Genesis 15:6), and he and his wife welcomed Isaac, the son of promise, into their home when they were 100 and 90 years old, respectively (Genesis 21:5).

God reiterates the Abrahamic Covenant to Isaac and to his son Jacob, whose name God changes to Israel. The great nation is eventually established in the land where Abraham had dwelled. King David, one of Abraham’s many descendants, is given the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12–16), promising a “son of David” who would one day rule over the Jewish nation—and all nations—from Jerusalem. Many other Old Testament prophecies point to the blessed, future fulfillment of that promise (e.g., Isaiah 11; Micah 4; Zechariah 8).

The Abrahamic Covenant also included a promise of blessing and redemption (Genesis 12:3). All the earth would be blessed through Abraham. This promise finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34; cf. Luke 22:20), which was ratified by Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham and Redeemer who will one day “restore everything” (Acts 3:21).

Five times in Genesis 12, as God is giving the Abrahamic Covenant, He says, “I will.” Clearly, God takes the onus of keeping the covenant upon Himself. The covenant is unconditional. One day, Israel will repent, be forgiven, and be restored to God’s favor (Zechariah 12:10–14; Romans 11:25–27). One day, the nation of Israel will possess the entire territory promised to them. One day, the Messiah will return to set up His throne, and through His righteous rule the whole world will be blessed with an abundance of peace, pleasure, and prosperity.


Question: "Should Israel be building settlements in the occupied territories, i.e., the West Bank and East Jerusalem?"

Answer: In December 2016 the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution that condemns Israel for its building of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. However, the resolution was nothing but a formal statement of what most nations in the world already believed about the settlements. The United Nations has passed similar resolutions against Israel as far back as 1979. The difference is that these resolutions did not carry the authority of the Security Council. Prior to 2016, the United States had always vetoed any Security Council resolutions against Israel. Israel and its relationship to its neighbors and the West Bank (and Gaza) is a complicated issue. Here is a brief history:

Israel became a sovereign nation in 1948 when the United Nations officially recognized its existence. Immediately, Israel’s neighbors attacked the new nation, seeking to destroy it before it could be established. This conflict became known as the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, and Israel defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. After fighting ended, the nation of Israel stayed within the borders designated for it by the United Nations in 1948. Nineteen years later, in 1967, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq attacked again, with additional help from other Arab nations. In what became known as the Six-Day War, Israel again defeated the attackers. After this conflict, however, Israel seized control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (from Jordan), the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza (from Egypt), and the Golan Heights (from Syria). Ever since, Israel’s occupation of those territories has been a matter of international debate. Israel gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt in 1979 as part of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, but it still retains control of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.

Israel has been building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1972, although the building of settlements has been greatly expanded in recent years. The Palestinians in the West Bank have protested loudly, claiming those lands belong to them. However, Israel was attacked by its neighboring countries at the behest of the Palestinians. There is a universally understood concept that, if you attack a nation and lose, there are consequences. The attacks on Israel in 1948 and 1967, the countless intifadas, the acts of terrorism, the kidnappings, etc., have all been unprovoked. Israel has never been the military aggressor against its neighbors. When a nation seizes territory from the nations that attacked it, the action is normally seen as a justifiable way for that nation to solidify its defense. In any situation not involving Israel, there would be universal recognition of the nation’s right to control the seized territories.

For some reason, when the situation involves Israel, the international community has always been on the side of the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors. Why is this? Latent and overt anti-Semitism? The tremendous influence of the Arab nations due to their control of the oil market? Compassion for the Palestinians? It is likely a combination of those and other factors. But none of those factors change the history. Israel suffered an unprovoked attack and occupied those territories in order to better defend itself from future attacks.

Biblically speaking, Israel has every right to possess, occupy, and build homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and far more. All of those territories are well within the borders of the land that God promised to the nation of Israel. Israel currently possesses a fraction of the land the Word of God declares belongs to it (see Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4). Unless the Palestinians are descendants of the tribes of Israel (which is possible), they have absolutely no biblical claim to live on those lands. Whatever the case, they have no biblical basis for preventing the nation of Israel from occupying and building homes in those territories.

GotQuestions.org is decidedly and unashamedly pro-Israel. We do not claim Israel is entirely guiltless in the conflict with the Palestinians. However, whatever crimes Israel has committed are outweighed by the terrorism, crimes, and military attacks perpetuated against it by the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. The failure or refusal of the United Nations to recognize this is amazing and distressing. There is no adequate explanation for the sheer blindness of the United Nations toward the reality of the Israel-Palestinian conflict other than satanic deception.



Question: "What happened in the Six-Day War?"

Answer: The Six-Day War, also called the June War or the Third Arab-Israeli War, was an international conflict occurring in June of 1967. This series of battles pitted Israel against several Arabic nations, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The Islamic nations received varied support from more than a half-dozen other nations in their fight against Israel. While Israel initiated full-scale military action, most analysts agree the Israelis were acting in legitimate self-defense. Israel technically began the war with a surprise air strike against Egypt on June 5, 1967, and was counter-attacked by nations such as Syria and Jordan. By June 10, Israel had taken extensive territory from their enemies, and a cease-fire was signed.

Leading up to the Six-Day War, neighboring Arabic nations openly called for the destruction of Israel. These were not misunderstood remarks; two years before the Six-Day War, Egypt’s then-President Nassar vowed to pursue the complete obliteration of Israel, saying, “We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood.” Many of the Islamic states also enabled guerilla-style raids on Jewish territories. Tension over these issues, as well as border disputes, led to several skirmishes between Israeli forces and those of neighboring countries.

Eventually, Egypt declared its intent to block all Israeli ships from using the Straits of Tiran, one of Israel’s primary sea lanes. Israel had previously warned Egypt that such a measure would be considered an act of war. Egypt declared the Straits closed to Israeli ships, anyway. Other Arabic nations quickly allied with Egypt, stating their intent to fight against Israel. Egypt then expelled UN peacekeepers from the nearby Sinai Peninsula, allowing Egypt to enact their blockade.

Israel responded several days later with an air strike that caught Egypt completely off guard. Using rapid-rearming techniques and extraordinary discipline, Israeli aircraft wiped out virtually the entire Egyptian air force. This gave Israel a decided advantage in the rest of the conflict. Israel then moved ground troops into the Sinai Peninsula but found themselves counter-attacked on other fronts. Syria and Jordan directed artillery fire at cities such as Tel Aviv and military action in Jerusalem.

Israel pursued combat on these three separate fronts until an eventual cease-fire was signed on the war’s sixth day. The entire conflict was a rout, from start to finish, in favor of the Israelis. Israel’s territory nearly tripled as a result of the war. Casualties on the Israeli side were less than 10 percent of those suffered by their combined opponents. The victory was so overwhelming that many Arabic nations initially claimed Israel had been aided by forces from the United States or some other ally; they were not. Israel’s success in the Six-Day War is commonly credited to exceptional military preparation and tactics.

At the same time, many commentators note the comparative ease with which a single, extremely young nation, fighting on three fronts, decimated the combined forces of several established states. For these and many other reasons, some see the Six-Day War as an example of God’s protection of His chosen people (see Genesis 12:3). The exact reasons why the war occurred, and whether or not it was justified, are matters of intense debate. Most historians agree that Israel acted in response to aggressive acts by Arabic nations, especially Egypt, and that the war itself was a lopsided victory for Israel.


Question: "What does it mean that the Jews are God's chosen people?"

Answer: God’s Word affirms that the Jews are God’s chosen people: “You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6). From eternity past God knew that He would need to be born into the human race in order to save us from the spiritually dead condition that we were in (Ephesians 1—2; Genesis 3). God had planned from the beginning to be born into a very small nation or race of people called the Jews. The Old Testament tells the story of how God set about creating, distinguishing, and preserving that race.

The ultimate goal of God’s choice of the Jews as His chosen people was to produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would be the Savior of the world. Jesus had to come from some nation or people, and God chose Israel. God first promised the Savior/Messiah after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3). Later, God specified that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12). Later still, He narrowed the Messiah’s ancestry to the line of David (2 Samuel 7). Throughout their history, the people of Israel were aware of their “chosen” status before God (see 1 Kings 3:8; 8:53; Psalm 105:43; Isaiah 43:4; 65:9; and Amos 3:2). The fact that God has an eternal future for Israel is evident in that five sixths of the Bible bears directly or indirectly upon them—Jesus being the central figure who brought the Jews and Gentiles together (Ephesians 2:14).

The fact that the Jews are God’s chosen people means that they have been held to a high standard. From those who are given much, much is required (Luke 12:48), or as God said through one prophet, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2).

Israel’s responsibilities have included keeping and preserving the Law (Joshua 22:5); being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6); and bringing “renown and praise and honor” to the Lord (Jeremiah 13:11). Their high calling is straight from the God who chose them out of all the nations of the earth.




05/21/21

Question: "What is the significance of Caesarea Philippi in the Bible?"

Answer: Caesarea Philippi was a city in the time of Christ located in the foothills of Mount Hermon, about fifteen miles north of the Sea of Galilee. The natural spring near Caesarea Philippi is the largest source of the Jordan River. Caesarea Philippi is mentioned only in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Mark, both recording the same incident.

One of the villages around Caesarea Philippi was the setting for Jesus’ famous statement to Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). This passage contains the very first use of the word church in the New Testament. Leading up to this statement, both Matthew 16:13 and Mark 8:27 recount Jesus asking the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” When they replied with a variety of answers—John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets—Jesus pressed further with, “Who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). That statement of truth would become the foundation for Jesus’ church. And it all started in Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi was so named by Herod Philip, whose father, Herod the Great, had built a temple there. Philip took a special interest in the village and enlarged it, attaching his name to that of Caesar. The name Philip gave the town also served to distinguish it from another town called Caesarea (Acts 10:1). While Caesarea was located in Judea on the border of the Mediterranean Sea, Caesarea Philippi was in Galilee within the land allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. The gospels record Jesus going to Caesarea Philippi only once, possibly because it was sparsely populated and situated on the northernmost border of His travels.

We can only speculate why Jesus traveled to Caesarea Philippi when He spent most of His time preaching to large crowds in bigger cities. It was a beautiful location, perfect for getaways, and it may be that Jesus wanted to spend some time with His disciples in relative peace. Also, Jesus’ mission took Him “throughout all Galilee” (Matthew 4:23, ESV) as He taught in “all the towns and villages” in that region (Matthew 9:35). He could not overlook Caesarea Philippi.

Our Lord’s visit to Caesarea Philippi is a reminder that Jesus is keenly aware of the poor, the marginalized, and the overlooked (Matthew 11:28). His birth was first announced to a group of humble shepherds (Luke 2:8–12), and one of His most world-changing declarations was made to a group of unlikely disciples in a burg called Caesarea Philippi. Jesus continually demonstrated the truth of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:27–29: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” Caesarea Philippi was not eternally significant in any way until the Son of God chose it as the place where He declared the beginning of His church.


05/20/21

Question: "What is the significance of the stones of remembrance in Joshua 4:9?"

Answer: After the people of Israel supernaturally crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, God commanded Joshua to “choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight’” (Joshua 4:2–3, NLT). These stones of remembrance would serve as a permanent national reminder and a memorial to future generations of the miraculous river crossing.

Joshua’s stones of remembrance are just one monument in a series of memorials commemorating the mighty acts of God on behalf of the people of Israel (Exodus 13:3–6; 24:4; Deuteronomy 27:1–8; Joshua 22:9–12; 24:24–28; 1 Samuel 7:12). To everyone else, the stones were just a heap of rubble, but to the people of God, they were a constant reminder that Yahweh was a personal and powerful God, working wonders on behalf of His people.

When the people following Joshua arrived at the Jordan, the river was at flood stage, transforming it from its typical 100-foot width to a daunting mile-wide, raging river. Israel’s entrance into Canaan was completely blocked. But as soon as the priests dipped their feet in the river’s edge, God stopped the flow of water, and the people crossed on dry ground. The priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the riverbed until the whole nation had passed over (Joshua 3:14–17).

Then God gave Joshua instructions to appoint twelve men, one from each tribe. The men were each to retrieve one stone from where the priests had stood in the riverbed bearing the ark of the covenant. The stones of remembrance were not to come from the shores of the Jordan but the center, spotlighting the fact that Israel had crossed over on dry land.

Each of the stones of remembrance represented one of the tribes of Israel. The number twelve is repeated five times in Joshua 4:1–8, emphasizing the unity of the tribes as one nation under Joshua’s leadership.

The twelve stones of remembrance would now serve as a perpetual sign and memorial. Joshua piled them up in Gilgal, where the Israelites set up camp. “Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the LORD your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the LORD’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the LORD your God forever’” (Joshua 4:21–24, NLT)

Remembering the past plays a vital role in the identity of any nation. Sociologists claim that a society aspiring to endure must become “a community of memory and hope” (Waltke, B. K., “Joshua,” New Bible Commentary: 21st-century Edition, ed. by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, p. 241). God repeatedly directed ancient Israel to set up monuments and enact rituals such as the Passover (Exodus 13—14). Each tribute marked a significant historical memory that would offer future hope for the nation that God had claimed as His own.

Crossing the Jordan represented a major change for the nation of Israel. Their wilderness wanderings were over. No longer would Israel be fed with manna provided by the hand of God (Joshua 5:12). From now on, the people would need to walk by faith in God’s promise to give them a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).

God sent the ark ahead of the people into the overflowing waters to encourage their faith. The ark represented God’s presence, His very self, going before them and opening the way for them in their new walk of faith. Just as God had parted the Red Sea to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt, so also would He spread open the Jordan to lead them into the Promised Land. Remembering God’s miraculous provision and presence gave the children of Israel the courage to follow Him into this new territory fraught with conflict and enemies to conquer.

With stones of remembrance, the Israelites built a monument to commemorate their crossing over from the old way of life into the new in the Promised Land. The pile of twelve stones reminded Israel of what God had done for them—that He cared for His people, kept His promises, and went before them in victory to conquer the land of their inheritance. This is the message the stones declared to Israel, and this is what they say to us today.

God is faithful. His promises never fail (1 Kings 8:56). With the assurance of His presence and the reminder of His mighty power, the Lord bolsters our faith whenever He asks us to follow Him into new areas of battle and conquest. We can let these stones remind us, too, that unless we step out in faith and get our feet wet as the priests did, we’ll never fully experience the new life of faith and freedom that Christ has opened up for us as our inheritance in Him (Galatians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:16).



05/18/21

Question: "What does the Bible say about having a calm spirit (Proverbs 17:27)?"

Answer: Proverbs 17:27 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (NKJV). This proverb emphasizes the wisdom of avoiding reckless speech by exercising self-control so as not to provoke hostility. Having a calm spirit describes someone with an even-tempered disposition. A contemporary paraphrase might be “a wise person keeps his cool.”

Bible translators render the phrase for “calm spirit” in various ways: “cool spirit” (ESV, NASB), “cool head” (CSB), “even-tempered” (NLT, NIV), and “excellent spirit” (KJV). The word spirit here refers to a person’s disposition or temperament.

The proverbs of Solomon often stress the importance of self-control, especially in the things we say. According to Proverbs 17:27, a prudent person uses few words and maintains a calm attitude by staying composed under pressure. By exercising self-control when speaking and not allowing oneself to be dominated by heightened emotions, a calm spirit diffuses anger and ill feelings: “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

In contrast to a hot-tempered person, someone with a calm spirit or an even-tempered nature is slow to anger: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18, ESV; see also Proverbs 14:29).

Abigail is an excellent example of a wise person whose calm spirit deflected a volatile situation. First Samuel 25:3 tells us that Abigail was “discerning and beautiful,” but her husband, Nabal, was “harsh and badly behaved.” Nabal treated David and his men with surliness and disrespect, and David was bent on bloodshed. Without her husband’s knowledge, Abigail arranged a meeting with David. Humbly and calmly, she persuaded him not to harm Nabal. Afterward, David blessed Abigail for her excellent discernment and for keeping him from carrying out vengeance with his own hand (1 Samuel 25:32–34).

Ecclesiastes 10:4 gives a nugget of wisdom for maintaining a calm spirit at work: “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest.” The New Living Translation renders the verse like so: “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.”

Wise people are cautious with their words and think before they speak. They “bring calm in the end”; on the other hand, “Fools give full vent to their rage” (Proverbs 29:11). According to Matthew Henry, “A cool head with a warm heart is an admirable composition” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1994, p. 994).

If a cool, calm, and gentle demeanor dissolves anger and neutralizes a heated situation, then the opposite—acting like a hot head—charges it up. James teaches us that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). “Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” says James 3:17. In other words, God’s wisdom endorses humility, gentleness, and self-restraint (2 Peter 1:5–8).

We discover in many proverbs that our words are like fruits that reveal the quality or disposition of our hearts. In Proverbs 17:27, a person’s restraint with words shows the heart of a peacemaker, as well as a wise and understanding nature. Having a calm spirit is also a sign that the Holy Spirit lives in us: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22–23, NLT).


05/17/21

Question: "What does it mean to receive Jesus Christ?"

Answer: Many terms used in Christianity can be confusing to new believers or those seeking to know more about Jesus. One such phrase recurs often: “Receive Jesus Christ as your Savior.” What exactly does it mean to “receive” Jesus? Since Jesus lived, died, and rose again over two thousand years ago, how can we “receive” Him now?

John 1:11–12 speaks of receiving Jesus and defines the term: “He [Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John equates “receiving” Jesus with “believing” in Him, which results in one’s becoming a child of God. So, receiving Jesus has to do with faith. We trust who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf.

When we “receive” a package, we take it to ourselves. When a running back “receives” the football, he pulls it to himself and clings to it. When we “receive” Jesus, we take Him to ourselves and cling to the truth about Him.

To receive Jesus as our Savior means we look to Him and Him alone as the One who forgives our sin, mends our relationship with God, and provides us entrance to heaven. To reject Him as Savior means we either don’t believe we need salvation or are looking to anotherdeliverer. Scripture is plain, however, that “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).

To receive Jesus as our Lord means we let go of the lesser gods we have built our lives around. We may know the facts about Jesus as detailed in the Bible—we can even acknowledge the truth of those facts—without being a part of God’s family. We cannot receive Jesus as Lord without displacing the idols in our lives—idols such as power, popularity, wealth, or comfort that we trust to provide us with purpose and strength. Jesus described the need to follow Him wholeheartedly in Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

When Jesus visited His hometown of Nazareth, the people there did not believe He was anything other than the son of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 13:54–58; see also John 6:41–42). They accepted Him as a local carpenter but rejected Him as the promised Messiah. Many people today do a similar thing. They accept Jesus as a good moral teacher, a role model, or even a prophet who can teach us about God. But they stop short of receiving Him as their personal Lord and Savior. They do not commit their faith to Him.

Receiving Jesus is a matter of one’s eternal destiny: “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. 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 3:16–18).

To receive Jesus means we acknowledge that He is who He said He is (1 John 5:10; Matthew 27:43; John 20:31). He is the Son of God who took on human form (Philippians 2:6–8), was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26–38), lived a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15), and accomplished in full God’s plan to rescue mankind from sin (Matthew 1:18; 1 Peter 1:20; John 19:30; 2 Corinthians 5:18–21). To receive Jesus is to trust that His sacrifice on the cross completely paid for our sin and to believe that God raised Him from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–5, 20; 2 Timothy 2:8).

To receive Jesus is to recognize that we are sinners separated from a holy God (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1–3). To receive Jesus is to call out to Him in faith, trusting that only His blood can cleanse us from sin and restore us to a right relationship with God (Ephesians 2:4–10; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 10:19–22). Those who receive Jesus by faith are given “the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12–13).

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, God sends us the gift of His Holy Spirit who enters our spirits and begins to transform us to be more like Christ (Romans 8:29; John 14:26; Luke 24:49; Ephesians 1:13–14; Philippians 2:12–13). Jesus called this transaction being “born again” (John 3:3–8). When a baby is born, a new creature emerges that did not previously exist. Over time, that baby begins to look and act like the parents. So it is when we are born of the Spirit by receiving Jesus. We become children of God and begin to look and act more like our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 7:1; Ephesians 5:1).

Receiving Jesus Christ into our lives is more than adding Him to an already cluttered priority list. He does not offer the option of being only a part of our lives. When we receive Him, we pledge to Him our allegiance and look to Him as the undisputed Lord of our lives (Luke 6:46; John 15:14). We will still disobey His commands at times (1 John 1:8–10). But the Holy Spirit within us draws us to repentance so that our close fellowship with God is restored (Psalm 51:7). Receiving Jesus is the beginning of a lifetime of discovery and an eternity of bliss in heaven with Him (John 3:36; Revelation 21—22).


05/16/21

Question: "How can we "forget not His benefits" (Psalm 103:2)?"

Answer: In Psalm 103, David praises the Lord for His abundant mercies. He tells his soul to “bless the Lord” six times (verses 1, 2, 20, 21, 22) and to “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Then David lists several good things that God does for His people.

For more than half of the psalm, David stirs up his heart, soul, “and all that is within” him (Psalm 103:1) to “forget not His benefits.” The original Hebrew verb translated “forget” means “to lose memory or remembrance of,” but it can also mean “ignore” or “cease to care about.” The Lord’s “benefits” represent all the good things the Lord provides to aid or promote the well-being of His children.

We bless or praise the Lord by spending time in grateful remembrance of the mercies we have received from Him. Praise is similar to one aspect of the exercise of bodybuilding. If we regularly stretch, flex, and use our muscles, we won’t lose muscle tone. Instead, we gain definition and strength. And if we get in the regular habit of giving thanks to the Lord for His blessings, we won’t forget them. If we do not give thanks, if we fail to praise the Lord, if we ignore His benefits or, worse, cease to care about them, we are sure to forget them.

What are some of the Lord’s benefits we ought to remember? David enumerates: “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The LORD gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly” (Psalm 103:3–6, NLT). David goes on to praise the Lord’s compassion, mercy, and patience (Psalm 103:8). He recalls how God revealed His character to Moses and His mighty deeds to the children of Israel (Psalm 103:7).

In His mercy, the Lord holds back the punishment we deserve and pours out His unfailing love (Psalm 103:10–11). “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:13–14, NLT).

We have so much to be thankful for as God’s children. May we never forget His forgiveness: “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:13–14, NLT). May we always remember that He heals us from the sin that infects us: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

May we forget not His benefits, including redemption from death: “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NLT).

May we never ignore or cease to care about His lovingkindness and tender mercy: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live” (Psalm 63:3–4, ESV).

A genuinely grateful heart remembers always to praise the Lord for His goodness. But forgetting His benefits—ignoring them, or ceasing to care about them—waters down our praise. In Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people that forgetting is the first step toward spiritual catastrophe: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. . . . Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you” (Deuteronomy 4:9, 23).

When we fail to praise the Lord and forget all the good things that He provides for our well-being, we reveal a deeper heart problem. Our neglect reflects apathy and indifference, which end in spiritual death (Hebrews 2:1–3). But when we forget not His benefits—when we remember His mercy, compassion, loyal love, forgiveness, and salvation—we can’t help but have our hearts renewed and our lives lifted as we praise and bless the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:8–13 24–29, 34–36)!


05/15/21

Question: "How can the Lord be the strength of my life (Psalm 118:14)?"

Answer: The psalmist declares, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14, ESV). This verse is an exact quote from Exodus 15:2, part of Moses’ victory song after crossing the Red Sea. In Psalm 18:1, David repeats the sentiment, “I love you, LORD, my strength.”

Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving psalm. The worshiper begins by offering praise to the Lord for His steadfast, enduring love. In verse 5, the psalmist calls to the Lord in his distress, and God answers and rescues him. The songwriter then contrasts human power to God’s might and acknowledges that the real source of his help and survival is the Lord, who is the strength of his life.

Maybe in your distress, you’ve never called on the Lord for help. In your weakened state of need, you’ve never imagined God could answer—that He would reach down from heaven to rescue you from deep waters (Psalm 144:7). Perhaps you’re here reading this page because your heart is longing to know, “How can the Lord be the strength of my life?”

The strength that comes from God, that delivers people from death and equips them to follow Him and be safe from danger for all eternity, is not physical but spiritual (Psalm 84:7). First and foremost, we need the strength of God’s salvation. Humans do not have the power to save themselves. Only God can save us: “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; see also James 4:12). All we need to be saved is to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31).

Once we receive God’s strength at salvation, we can begin to “understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19–21). The Lord enables us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). God’s strength delivers us totally and empowers us to do good (Psalm 84:7; 28:8).

If we desire the Lord to be the strength of our life, we can pray this incredible prayer for spiritual strength: “For this reason I kneel before the Father. . . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14–21).

We do not need any other source of power or deliverance because Jesus Christ is the strength of our lives. Even when we feel weary and ineffective, His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Christ’s limitless life is the source of strength for those who belong to Him.

If we seek the Lord daily to be our spiritual source, He renews and fills us with the Bread of Life and Living Water (John 4:10–14; 6:35; 7:38). He gives us His strength so that we can walk in His ways and endure through every circumstance we face. Like the apostle Paul, we can say, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). Like the psalmist, we can declare, “The Lord is the strength of my life.”


05/14/21

Question: "What is a lexicon?"

Answer: A lexicon is a linguistic resource much like a dictionary in that it contains an alphabetical listing of words in a language, usually with a definition. A Bible lexicon will provide the meanings of original-language words used in Scripture. A Hebrew-Aramaic lexicon covers the words of the Old Testament. A Greek lexicon contains the words of the New Testament. A lexicon is helpful in studying the Bible and carrying out a word study from a passage.

Bible lexicons help the student of Scripture to understand the etymology and original meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. They can also assist one in exploring the context and culture behind the word. Nuances and connotations of the original words are not always easy to convey in English. For example, the Greek word Logos, translated as “the Word” in John 1:1, has a much deeper meaning than what we normally think of as a “word.” A lexicon can help us unravel the complexity.

Several different Bible lexicons are available in print, and there are also Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic lexicons to be found online. Websites such as Bible Study Tools and Study Light offer free access to searchable Bible lexicons. Some examples of Greek and Hebrew lexicons are A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literatureby Walter Bauer, William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, & Frederick Danker, Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon by H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon by Francis Brown, C. Briggs, and S.R. Driver, and The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Ludwig Kohler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann Stamm.

A lexicon can be beneficial and insightful to Christians as they study God’s Word. A good way to utilize a Greek or Hebrew lexicon is to use it alongside other resources such as a concordance, dictionary, or commentary. Notably, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance includes a Greek and Hebrew lexicon in one volume with the concordance.

As a basic example of how a Greek lexicon can be helpful, we can turn to Revelation 1:8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” Using a lexicon, we find that alpha (A) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega (Ω) is the last letter. So we have a description of God’s nature: He is the beginning and ending of all things. He is from eternity with no one before Him, and He lasts into eternity with none after Him (cf. Revelation 22:13).

Lexicons can help the student of the Bible understand the origin and meaning of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words in their original contexts. Of course, we can understand the Bible in our own language, and we have several good translations that do justice to the original text. But when we want to delve more deeply, a Bible lexicon is a useful tool.


05/13/21


How can the Lord be the strength of my life (Psalm 118:14)?

Question

Answer


The psalmist declares, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14, ESV). This verse is an exact quote from Exodus 15:2, part of Moses’ victory song after crossing the Red Sea. In Psalm 18:1, David repeats the sentiment, “I love you, LORD, my strength.”

Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving psalm. The worshiper begins by offering praise to the Lord for His steadfast, enduring love. In verse 5, the psalmist calls to the Lord in his distress, and God answers and rescues him. The songwriter then contrasts human power to God’s might and acknowledges that the real source of his help and survival is the Lord, who is the strength of his life.

Maybe in your distress, you’ve never called on the Lord for help. In your weakened state of need, you’ve never imagined God could answer—that He would reach down from heaven to rescue you from deep waters (Psalm 144:7). Perhaps you’re here reading this page because your heart is longing to know, “How can the Lord be the strength of my life?”

The strength that comes from God, that delivers people from death and equips them to follow Him and be safe from danger for all eternity, is not physical but spiritual (Psalm 84:7). First and foremost, we need the strength of God’s salvation. Humans do not have the power to save themselves. Only God can save us: “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; see also James 4:12). All we need to be saved is to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31).

Once we receive God’s strength at salvation, we can begin to “understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19–21). The Lord enables us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). God’s strength delivers us totally and empowers us to do good (Psalm 84:728:8).

If we desire the Lord to be the strength of our life, we can pray this incredible prayer for spiritual strength: “For this reason I kneel before the Father. . . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14–21).

We do not need any other source of power or deliverance because Jesus Christ is the strength of our lives. Even when we feel weary and ineffective, His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Christ’s limitless life is the source of strength for those who belong to Him.

If we seek the Lord daily to be our spiritual source, He renews and fills us with the Bread of Life and Living Water (John 4:10–146:357:38). He gives us His strength so that we can walk in His ways and endure through every circumstance we face. Like the apostle Paul, we can say, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). Like the psalmist, we can declare, “The Lord is the strength of my life.”


05/12/21

Question: "What is the meaning of life?"

Answer: What is the meaning of life? How can purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life be found? How can something of lasting significance be achieved? Many people have never stopped to consider these important questions. They look back years later and wonder why their relationships have fallen apart and why they feel so empty, even though they may have achieved what they set out to accomplish. An athlete who had reached the pinnacle of his sport was once asked what he wished someone would have told him when he first started playing his sport. He replied, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.” Many goals reveal their emptiness only after years have been wasted in their pursuit.

In our humanistic culture, people lose sight of the meaning of life. They pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning and purpose. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and doing good to others. People have testified that, while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes looked for the meaning of life in many vain pursuits. He describes the feeling of emptiness he felt: “Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued (Ecclesiastes 2:10). And yet he summed up life “under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless. What explains this void? God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is.

In the book of Genesis, we find a clue to the meaning of life in the fact that God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). This means that we are more like God than we are like anything else. We also find that, before mankind fell and the curse of sin came upon the earth, the following things were true: 1) God made man a social creature (Genesis 2:18–25); 2) God gave man work (Genesis 2:15); 3) God had fellowship with man (Genesis 3:8); and 4) God gave man dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). These facts have significance related to the meaning of life. God intended mankind to have fulfillment in life, but our condition (especially touching our fellowship with God) was adversely affected by the fall into sin and the resulting curse upon the earth (Genesis 3).

The book of Revelation shows that God is concerned with restoring the meaning of life to us. God reveals that He will destroy this present creation and create a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15). The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain (Revelation 21:4). God will dwell with mankind, and they shall be His children (Revelation 21:7). Thus, we come full circle: God created us to have fellowship with Him; man sinned, breaking that fellowship; God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal state. To go through life achieving everything we set out to achieve only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile! But God has made a way to not only make eternal bliss possible (Luke 23:43) but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this eternal bliss and “heaven on earth” obtained?

The meaning of life restored through Jesus Christ

The real meaning of life, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of our relationship with God. This restoration is only possible through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to God (Romans 5:10; Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 14:6). Salvation and eternal life are gained when we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Once that salvation is received by grace through faith, Christ makes us new creations, and we begin the progressive journey of growing closer to Him and learning to rely on Him.

God wants us to know the meaning of life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). A “full” life is logically one that is meaningful and devoid of aimless wandering.

The meaning of life is wrapped up in the glory of God. In calling His elect, God says, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them” (Isaiah 43:7, NLT). The reason we were made is for God’s glory. Any time we substitute our own glory for God’s, we miss the meaning of life. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25). “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).


05/11/21

Question: "Is the Bible truly God's Word?"

Answer: Our answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its importance to our lives, but also it will ultimately have an eternal impact on us. If the Bible is truly God's Word, then we should cherish it, study it, obey it, and fully trust it. If the Bible is the Word of God, then to dismiss it is to dismiss God Himself.

The fact that God gave us the Bible is an evidence and illustration of His love for us. The term "revelation" simply means that God communicated to mankind what He is like and how we can have a right relationship with Him. These are things that we could not have known had God not divinely revealed them to us in the Bible. Although God's revelation of Himself in the Bible was given progressively over approximately 1500 years, it has always contained everything man needs to know about God in order to have a right relationship with Him. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then it is the final authority for all matters of faith, religious practice, and morals.

The question we must ask ourselves is how can we know that the Bible is the Word of God and not just a good book? What is unique about the Bible that sets it apart from all other religious books ever written? Is there any evidence that the Bible is truly God's Word? These types of questions must be seriously examined if we are to determine the validity of the Bible's claim to be the very Word of God, divinely inspired, and totally sufficient for all matters of faith and practice. There can be no doubt that the Bible does claim to be the very Word of God. This is clearly seen in Paul's commendation to Timothy: "" from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17). 

There are both internal and external evidences that the Bible is truly God's Word. The internal evidences are those things within the Bible that testify of its divine origin. One of the first internal evidences that the Bible is truly God's Word is seen in its unity. Even though it is really sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life, the Bible remains one unified book from beginning to end without contradiction. This unity is unique from all other books and is evidence of the divine origin of the words which God moved men to record.

Another of the internal evidences that indicates the Bible is truly God's Word is the prophecies contained within its pages. The Bible contains hundreds of detailed prophecies relating to the future of individual nations including Israel, certain cities, and mankind. Other prophecies concern the coming of One who would be the Messiah, the Savior of all who would believe in Him. Unlike the prophecies found in other religious books or those by men such as Nostradamus, biblical prophecies are extremely detailed. There are over three hundred prophecies concerning Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Not only was it foretold where He would be born and His lineage, but also how He would die and that He would rise again. There simply is no logical way to explain the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible other than by divine origin. There is no other religious book with the extent or type of predictive prophecy that the Bible contains.

A third internal evidence of the divine origin of the Bible is its unique authority and power. While this evidence is more subjective than the first two, it is no less a powerful testimony of the divine origin of the Bible. The Bible's authority is unlike any other book ever written. This authority and power are best seen in the way countless lives have been transformed by the supernatural power of God's Word. Drug addicts have been cured by it, homosexuals set free by it, derelicts and deadbeats transformed by it, hardened criminals reformed by it, sinners rebuked by it, and hate turned to love by it. The Bible does possess a dynamic and transforming power that is only possible because it is truly God's Word.

There are also external evidences that indicate the Bible is truly the Word of God. One is the historicity of the Bible. Because the Bible details historical events, its truthfulness and accuracy are subject to verification like any other historical document. Through both archaeological evidences and other writings, the historical accounts of the Bible have been proven time and time again to be accurate and true. In fact, all the archaeological and manuscript evidence supporting the Bible makes it the best-documented book from the ancient world. The fact that the Bible accurately and truthfully records historically verifiable events is a great indication of its truthfulness when dealing with religious subjects and doctrines and helps substantiate its claim to be the very Word of God.

Another external evidence that the Bible is truly God's Word is the integrity of its human authors. As mentioned earlier, God used men from many walks of life to record His words. In studying the lives of these men, we find them to be honest and sincere. The fact that they were willing to die often excruciating deaths for what they believed testifies that these ordinary yet honest men truly believed God had spoken to them. The men who wrote the New Testament and many hundreds of other believers (1 Corinthians 15:6) knew the truth of their message because they had seen and spent time with Jesus Christ after He had risen from the dead. Seeing the risen Christ had a tremendous impact on them. They went from hiding in fear to being willing to die for the message God had revealed to them. Their lives and deaths testify to the fact that the Bible truly is God's Word.

A final external evidence that the Bible is truly God's Word is the indestructibility of the Bible. Because of its importance and its claim to be the very Word of God, the Bible has suffered more vicious attacks and attempts to destroy it than any other book in history. From early Roman Emperors like Diocletian, through communist dictators and on to modern-day atheists and agnostics, the Bible has withstood and outlasted all of its attackers and is still today the most widely published book in the world.

Throughout time, skeptics have regarded the Bible as mythological, but archaeology has confirmed it as historical. Opponents have attacked its teaching as primitive and outdated, but its moral and legal concepts and teachings have had a positive influence on societies and cultures throughout the world. It continues to be attacked by pseudo-science, psychology, and political movements, yet it remains just as true and relevant today as it was when it was first written. It is a book that has transformed countless lives and cultures throughout the last 2000 years. No matter how its opponents try to attack, destroy, or discredit it, the Bible remains; its veracity and impact on lives is unmistakable. The accuracy which has been preserved despite every attempt to corrupt, attack, or destroy it is clear testimony to the fact that the Bible is truly God's Word and is supernaturally protected by Him. It should not surprise us that, no matter how the Bible is attacked, it always comes out unchanged and unscathed. After all, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31). After looking at the evidence, one can say without a doubt that, yes, the Bible is truly God's Word.



05/10/21

Question: "What is a Christian?"

Answer: A dictionary definition of a Christian would be something similar to "a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus." While this is a good starting point, like many dictionary definitions, it falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian. The word "Christian" is used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called "Christians" in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. The word "Christian" literally means, "belonging to the party of Christ" or a "follower of Christ."

Unfortunately over time, the word "Christian" has lost a great deal of its significance and is often used of someone who is religious or has high moral values but who may or may not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Many people who do not believe and trust in Jesus Christ consider themselves Christians simply because they go to church or they live in a "Christian" nation. But going to church, serving those less fortunate than you, or being a good person does not make you a Christian. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church does not make you a Christian.

The Bible teaches that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God. Titus 3:5 says, "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." So, a Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is ""by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." 

A true Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day. John 1:12 tells us, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." The mark of a true Christian is love for others and obedience to God's Word (1 John 2:4, 10). A true Christian is indeed a child of God, a part of God's true family, and one who has been given new life in Jesus Christ.

What is Christianity and what do Christians believe?

Answer


The core beliefs of Christianity are summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was resurrected, and thereby offers salvation to all who will receive Him in faith. Unique among all other faiths, Christianity is more about a relationship than religious practices. Instead of adhering to a list of “do’s and don’ts,” the goal of a Christian is to cultivate a close walk with God. That relationship is made possible because of the work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


Beyond these core beliefs, there are many other items that are, or at least should be, indicative of what Christianity is and what Christians believe. Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired, “God-breathed” Word of God and that its teaching is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:20-21). Christians believe in one God that exists in three persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that mankind was created specifically to have a relationship with God, but sin separates all men from God (Romans 3:235:12). Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ walked this earth, fully God, and yet fully man (Philippians 2:6-11), and died on the cross. Christians believe that after His death, Christ was buried, He rose again, and now lives at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for the believers forever (Hebrews 7:25). Christianity proclaims that Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to completely pay the sin debt owed by all men and this is what restores the broken relationship between God and man (Hebrews 9:11-1410:10Romans 5:86:23).

Christianity teaches that in order to be saved and be granted entrance into heaven after death, one must place one’s faith entirely in the finished work of Christ on the cross. If we believe that Christ died in our place and paid the price of our own sins, and rose again, then we are saved. There is nothing that anyone can do to earn salvation. We cannot be “good enough” to please God on our own, because we are all sinners (Isaiah 53:664:6-7). There is nothing more to be done, because Christ has done all the work! When He was on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning that the work of redemption was completed.

According to Christianity, salvation is freedom from the old sin nature and freedom to pursue a right relationship with God. Where we were once slaves to sin, we are now slaves to Christ (Romans 6:15-22). As long as believers live on this earth in their sinful bodies, they will engage in a constant struggle with sin. However, Christians can have victory in the struggle with sin by studying and applying God’s Word in their lives and being controlled by the Holy Spirit—that is, submitting to the Spirit’s leading in everyday circumstances.

So, while many religious systems require that a person do or not do certain things, Christianity is about believing that Christ died on the cross as payment for our own sins and rose again. Our sin debt is paid and we can have fellowship with God. We can have victory over our sin nature and walk in fellowship and obedience with God. That is true biblical Christianity.

05/09/21

Question: "Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?"

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Jesus spoke of Himself as the only way to heaven in several places besides John 14:6. He presented Himself as the object of faith in Matthew 7:21–27. He said His words are life (John 6:63). He promised that those who believe in Him will have eternal life (John 3:14–15). He is the gate of the sheep (John 10:7); the bread of life (John 6:35); and the resurrection (John 11:25). No one else can rightly claim those titles.

The apostles’ preaching focused on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Peter, speaking to the Sanhedrin, clearly proclaimed Jesus as the only way to heaven: “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). Paul, speaking to the synagogue in Antioch, singled out Jesus as the Savior: “I want you to know that 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). John, writing to the church at large, specifies the name of Christ as the basis of our forgiveness: “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12). No one but Jesus can forgive sin.

Eternal life in heaven is made possible only through Christ. Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To receive God’s free gift of salvation, we must look to Jesus and Jesus alone. We must trust in Jesus’ death on the cross as our payment for sin and in His resurrection. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, many of the crowd were turning their backs on Him and leaving in hopes of finding another savior. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67, ESV). Peter’s reply is exactly right: “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” (John 6:68–69, ESV). May we all share Peter’s faith that eternal life resides only in Jesus Christ.


05/08/21

Question: "Is there life after death?"

Answer: The existence of life after death is a universal question. Job speaks for all of us by stating, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure....If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:1-2, 14). Like Job, all of us have been challenged by this question. Exactly what happens to us after we die? Do we simply cease to exist? Is life a revolving door of departing and returning to earth in order to eventually achieve personal greatness? Does everyone go to the same place, or do we go to different places? Is there really a heaven and hell?

The Bible tells us that there is not only life after death, but eternal life so glorious that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to the earth to give us this gift of eternal life. "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" (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus took on the punishment that all of us deserve and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for our sin. Three days later, He proved Himself victorious over death by rising from the grave. He remained on the earth for forty days and was witnessed by hundreds before ascending to heaven. Romans 4:25 says, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

The resurrection of the Christ is a well-documented event. The apostle Paul challenged people to question eyewitnesses for its validity, and no one was able to contest its truth. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Because Christ was raised from the dead, we can have faith that we, too, will be resurrected. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof of life after death. Christ was only the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. Physical death came through one man, Adam, to whom we are all related. But all who have been adopted into God's family through faith in Jesus Christ will be given new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as God raised up Jesus' body, so will our bodies be resurrected upon Jesus' return (1 Corinthians 6:14).

Although we will all be eventually resurrected, not everyone will go to heaven. A choice must be made by each person in this life, and this choice will determine one's eternal destination. The Bible says that it is appointed for us to die only once, and after that will come judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ will go into eternal life in heaven, but those who reject Christ as Savior will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46). Hell, like heaven, is not simply a state of existence, but a literal place. It is a place where the unrighteous will experience never-ending, eternal wrath from God. Hell is described as a bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1) and a lake of fire, burning with sulfur, where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). In hell, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, indicating intense grief and anger (Matthew 13:42).

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires them to turn from their wicked ways so that they can live (Ezekiel 33:11). But He will not force us into submission; if we choose to reject Him, He accepts our decision to live eternally apart from Him. Life on earth is a test, a preparation for what is to come. For believers, life after death is eternal life in heaven with God. For unbelievers, life after death is eternity in the lake of fire. How can we receive eternal life after death and avoid an eternity in the lake of fire? There is only one way"through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "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).

The free gift of eternal life is available to all. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). We will not be given the opportunity to accept God's gift of salvation after death. Our eternal destination is determined in our earthly lifetimes by our reception or rejection of Jesus Christ. "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we trust the death of Jesus Christ as the full payment for our sin against God, we are guaranteed not only a meaningful life on earth, but also eternal life after death, in the glorious presence of Christ.


05/07/21
Question: "Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?"

Answer: Some who deny that Jesus is God make the claim that Jesus never said that He is God. It is correct that the Bible never records Jesus saying the precise words, “I am God.” This does not mean, however, that Jesus never claimed to be God.

Is Jesus God? — Jesus claimed to be God.

Take for example the words of Jesus 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, emphasis added). 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!” This is a reference back to Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself as the “I AM.” The Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Leviticus 24:16).

Is Jesus God? — His followers declared Him to be God.

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 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. Beyond these, there are many other passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus being God.

Is Jesus God? — The reason Jesus must be God.

The most important reason that Jesus must 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.

Is Jesus God? Yes. Jesus declared Himself to be God. His followers believed Him to be God. The provision of salvation only works if Jesus is God. Jesus is God incarnate, the eternal Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13), and God our Savior (2 Peter 1:1).


05/06/21


Is there a conclusive argument for the existence of God?


The question of whether there is a conclusive argument for the existence of God has been debated throughout history, with exceedingly intelligent people taking both sides of the dispute. In recent times, arguments against the possibility of God’s existence have taken on a militant spirit that accuses anyone daring to believe in God as being delusional and irrational. Karl Marx asserted that anyone believing in God must have a mental disorder that causes invalid thinking. The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud wrote that a person who believed in a Creator God was delusional and only held those beliefs due to a “wish-fulfillment” factor that produced what Freud considered to be an unjustifiable position. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche bluntly said that faith equates to not wanting to know what is true. The voices of these three figures from history (along with others) are simply now parroted by a new generation of atheists who claim that a belief in God is intellectually unwarranted.


Is this truly the case? Is belief in God a rationally unacceptable position to hold? Is there a logical and reasonable argument for the existence of God? Outside of referencing the Bible, can a case for the existence of God be made that refutes the positions of both the old and new atheists and gives sufficient warrant for believing in a Creator? The answer is, yes, it can. Moreover, in demonstrating the validity of an argument for the existence of God, the case for atheism is shown to be intellectually weak. 


An argument for the existence of God — something rather than nothing


To make an argument for the existence of God, we must start by asking the right questions. We begin with the most basic metaphysical question: “Why do we have something rather than nothing at all?” This is the basic question of existence—why are we here; why is the earth here; why is the universe here rather than nothing? Commenting on this point, one theologian has said, “In one sense man does not ask the question about God, his very existence raises the question about God.” 


In considering this question, there are four possible answers to why we have something rather than nothing at all: 


1. Reality is an illusion.

2. Reality is/was self-created.

3. Reality is self-existent (eternal).

4. Reality was created by something that is self-existent.


So, which is the most plausible solution? Let’s begin with reality being simply an illusion, which is what a number of Eastern religions believe. This option was ruled out centuries ago by the philosopher Rene Descartes who is famous for the statement, “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes, a mathematician, argued that if he is thinking, then he must “be.” In other words, “I think, therefore I am not an illusion.” Illusions require something experiencing the illusion, and moreover, you cannot doubt the existence of yourself without proving your existence; it is a self-defeating argument. So the possibility of reality being an illusion is eliminated.


Next is the option of reality being self-created. When we study philosophy, we learn of “analytically false” statements, which means they are false by definition. The possibility of reality being self-created is one of those types of statements for the simple reason that something cannot be prior to itself. If you created yourself, then you must have existed prior to you creating yourself, but that simply cannot be. In evolution this is sometimes referred to as “spontaneous generation” —something coming from nothing—a position that few, if any, reasonable people hold to anymore simply because you cannot get something from nothing. Even the atheist David Hume said, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” Since something cannot come from nothing, the alternative of reality being self-created is ruled out. 


Now we are left with only two choices—an eternal reality or reality being created by something that is eternal: an eternal universe or an eternal Creator. The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards summed up this crossroads:


• Something exists.

• Nothing cannot create something.

• Therefore, a necessary and eternal “something” exists.


Notice that we must go back to an eternal “something.” The atheist who derides the believer in God for believing in an eternal Creator must turn around and embrace an eternal universe; it is the only other door he can choose. But the question now is, where does the evidence lead? Does the evidence point to matter before mind or mind before matter?


To date, all key scientific and philosophical evidence points away from an eternal universe and toward an eternal Creator. From a scientific standpoint, honest scientists admit the universe had a beginning, and whatever has a beginning is not eternal. In other words, whatever has a beginning has a cause, and if the universe had a beginning, it had a cause. The fact that the universe had a beginning is underscored by evidence such as the second law of thermodynamics, the radiation echo of the big bang discovered in the early 1900s, the fact that the universe is expanding and can be traced back to a singular beginning, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. All prove the universe is not eternal.


Further, the laws that surround causation speak against the universe being the ultimate cause of all we know for this simple fact: an effect must resemble its cause. This being true, no atheist can explain how an impersonal, purposeless, meaningless, and amoral universe accidentally created beings (us) who are full of personality and obsessed with purpose, meaning, and morals. Such a thing, from a causation standpoint, completely refutes the idea of a natural universe birthing everything that exists. So in the end, the concept of an eternal universe is eliminated. 


Philosopher J. S. Mill (not a Christian) summed up where we have now come to: “It is self-evident that only Mind can create mind.” The only rational and reasonable conclusion is that an eternal Creator is the one who is responsible for reality as we know it. Or to put it in a logical set of statements: 


• Something exists.

• You do not get something from nothing.

• Therefore a necessary and eternal “something” exists.

• The only two options are an eternal universe and an eternal Creator.

• Science and philosophy have disproven the concept of an eternal universe.

• Therefore, an eternal Creator exists.


Former atheist Lee Strobel, who arrived at this end result many years ago, has commented, “Essentially, I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason. Those leaps of faith were simply too big for me to take, especially in light of the affirmative case for God’s existence … In other words, in my assessment the Christian worldview accounted for the totality of the evidence much better than the atheistic worldview.”


An argument for the existence of God — knowing the Creator


But the next question we must tackle is this: if an eternal Creator exists (and we have shown that He does), what kind of Creator is He? Can we infer things about Him from what He created? In other words, can we understand the cause by its effects? The answer to this is yes, we can, with the following characteristics being surmised: 


• He must be supernatural in nature (as He created time and space).

• He must be powerful (exceedingly). 

• He must be eternal (self-existent).

• He must be omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it).

• He must be timeless and changeless (He created time). 

• He must be immaterial because He transcends space/physical.

• He must be personal (the impersonal cannot create personality). 

• He must be infinite and singular as you cannot have two infinites. 

• He must be diverse yet have unity as unity and diversity exist in nature.

• He must be intelligent (supremely). Only cognitive being can produce cognitive being. 

• He must be purposeful as He deliberately created everything.

• He must be moral (no moral law can be had without a giver). 

• He must be caring (or no moral laws would have been given).


These things being true, we now ask if any religion in the world describes such a Creator. The answer to this is yes: the God of the Bible fits this profile perfectly. He is supernatural (Genesis 1:1), powerful (Jeremiah 32:17), eternal (Psalm 90:2), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), timeless/changeless (Malachi 3:6), immaterial (John 4:24), personal (Genesis 3:9), necessary (Colossians 1:17), infinite/singular (Jeremiah 23:24Deuteronomy 6:4), diverse yet with unity (Matthew 28:19), intelligent (Psalm 147:4-5), purposeful (Jeremiah 29:11), moral (Daniel 9:14), and caring (1 Peter 5:6-7). 


An argument for the existence of God — the flaws of atheism


One last subject to address on the matter of God’s existence is the matter of how justifiable the atheist’s position actually is. Since the atheist asserts the believer’s position is unsound, it is only reasonable to turn the question around and aim it squarely back at him. The first thing to understand is that the claim the atheist makes—“no god,” which is what “atheist” means—is an untenable position to hold from a philosophical standpoint. As legal scholar and philosopher Mortimer Adler says, “An affirmative existential proposition can be proved, but a negative existential proposition—one that denies the existence of something—cannot be proved.” For example, someone may claim that a red eagle exists and someone else may assert that red eagles do not exist. The former only needs to find a single red eagle to prove his assertion. But the latter must comb the entire universe and literally be in every place at once to ensure he has not missed a red eagle somewhere and at some time, which is impossible to do. This is why intellectually honest atheists will admit they cannot prove God does not exist. 


Next, it is important to understand the issue that surrounds the seriousness of truth claims that are made and the amount of evidence required to warrant certain conclusions. For example, if someone puts two containers of lemonade in front of you and says that one may be more tart than the other, since the consequences of getting the more tart drink would not be serious, you would not require a large amount of evidence in order to make your choice. However, if to one cup the host added sweetener but to the other he introduced rat poison, then you would want to have quite a bit of evidence before you made your choice. 


This is where a person sits when deciding between atheism and belief in God. Since belief in atheism could possibly result in irreparable and eternal consequences, it would seem that the atheist should be mandated to produce weighty and overriding evidence to support his position, but he cannot. Atheism simply cannot meet the test for evidence for the seriousness of the charge it makes. Instead, the atheist and those whom he convinces of his position slide into eternity with their fingers crossed and hope they do not find the unpleasant truth that eternity does indeed exist. As Mortimer Adler says, “More consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from any other basic question.”


An argument for the existence of God — the conclusion


So does belief in God have intellectual warrant? Is there a rational, logical, and reasonable argument for the existence of God? Absolutely. While atheists such as Freud claim that those believing in God have a wish-fulfillment desire, perhaps it is Freud and his followers who actually suffer from wish-fulfillment: the hope and wish that there is no God, no accountability, and therefore no judgment. But refuting Freud is the God of the Bible who affirms His existence and the fact that a judgment is indeed coming for those who know within themselves the truth that He exists but suppress that truth (Romans 1:20). But for those who respond to the evidence that a Creator does indeed exist, He offers the way of salvation that has been accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).



05/05/21

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!"



05/04/21

Question: "Do you have eternal life?"

Answer: The Bible presents a clear path to eternal life. First, we must recognize that we have sinned against God: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all done things that are displeasing to God, which makes us deserving of punishment. Since all our sins are ultimately against an eternal God, only an eternal punishment is sufficient. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

However, Jesus Christ, the sinless (1 Peter 2:22), eternal Son of God became a man (John 1:1,14) and died to pay our penalty. "God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ died on the cross (John 19:31-42), taking the punishment that we deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21). Three days later He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving His victory over sin and death. "In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

By faith, we must change our mindset regarding Christ - who He is, what He did, and why - for salvation (Acts 3:19)."If we place our faith in Him, trusting His death on the cross to pay for our sins, we will be forgiven and receive the promise of eternal life in heaven. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross is the only true path to eternal life! "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. "God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve 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 - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"



05/03/21

Question: "What is justification? What does it mean to be justified?"

Answer: Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God's declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ's righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us.

Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the fact of justification that enables God to begin the process of sanctification—the process by which God makes us in reality what we already are positionally. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).




05/02/21


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 justified means “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).




05/01/21


Question: "How can salvation be not of works when faith is required? Isn't believing a work?"

Answer: Our salvation depends solely upon Jesus Christ. He is our substitute, taking sin’s penalty (2 Corinthians 5:21); He is our Savior from sin (John 1:29); He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The work necessary to provide salvation was fully accomplished by Jesus Himself, who lived a perfect life, took God’s judgment for sin, and rose again from the dead (Hebrews 10:12).

The Bible is quite clear that our own works do not help merit salvation. We are saved “not because of righteous things we had done” (Titus 3:5). “Not by works” (Ephesians 2:9). “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). This means that offering sacrifices, keeping the commandments, going to church, being baptized, and other good deeds are incapable of saving anyone. No matter how “good” we are, we can never measure up to God’s standard of holiness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 19:17; Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible is just as clear that salvation is conditional; God does not save everyone. The one condition for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly 200 times in the New Testament, faith (or belief) is declared to be the sole condition for salvation (John 1:12; Acts 16:31). 

One day, some people asked Jesus what they could do to please God: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus immediately points them to faith: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). So, the question is about God’s requirements (plural), and Jesus’ answer is that God’s requirement (singular) is that you believe in Him.

Grace is God’s giving us something we cannot earn or deserve. According to Romans 11:6, “works” of any kind destroys grace—the idea is that a worker earns payment, while the recipient of grace simply receives it, unearned. Since salvation is all of grace, it cannot be earned. Faith, therefore, is a non-work. Faith cannot truly be considered a “work,” or else it would destroy grace. (See also Romans 4—Abraham’s salvation was dependent on faith in God, as opposed to any work he performed.)

Suppose someone anonymously sent you a check for $1,000,000. The money is yours if you want it, but you still must endorse the check. In no way can signing your name be considered earning the million dollars—the endorsement is a non-work. You can never boast about becoming a millionaire through sheer effort or your own business savvy. No, the million dollars was simply a gift, and signing your name was the only way to receive it. Similarly, exercising faith is the only way to receive the generous gift of God, and faith cannot be considered a work worthy of the gift.

True faith cannot be considered a work because true faith involves a cessation of our works in the flesh. True faith has as its object Jesus and His work on our behalf (Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:10).

To take this a step further, true faith cannot be considered a work because even faith is a gift from God, not something we produce on our own. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Praise the Lord for His power to save and for His grace to make salvation a reality!




04/30/21


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 obedience to 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).



04/29/21


Question: "Do we contribute anything to our own salvation?"

Answer: There are two ways to look at this question—from a practical point of view and a biblical point of view. First, from a practical point of view, let’s assume that a person does contribute something to his salvation. If that were possible, who would get the credit in heaven? If we somehow contribute to our own salvation, it would follow that we get the credit. And if we get the credit, this certainly will detract from God’s getting the credit. If it were possible to contribute something to attain heaven, then people upon their arrival would be patting themselves on the back because of what they did in order to obtain heavenly citizenship. These same people would be singing, "Praise myself, I contributed to my own salvation." It is unthinkable that people in heaven will be worshiping self rather than God. God said, “I will not give my glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8; 42:11).

From a biblical point of view, mankind contributes nothing at all to his salvation. The problem with humanity is their sinfulness. Theologians normally refer to this as "total depravity." Total depravity is the belief that mankind is sinful throughout and can do nothing of himself to earn God’s favor. Because of this sinful state, mankind wants nothing to do with God (see especially Romans 1:18-32). It is safe to say that because mankind is totally depraved, mankind chooses to sin, loves to sin, defends sin, and glories in sin.

Because of man’s sinful predicament, he is in need of God’s direct intervention. This intervention has been provided by Jesus Christ, the mediator between sinful humanity and righteous God (1 Timothy 2:5). As already stated, humanity wants nothing to do with God, but God wants everything to do with us. This is why He sent his son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of humanity—God’s perfect substitution (1 Timothy 2:6). Because Jesus died, through faith mankind can be declared justified, declared righteous (Romans 5:1). By faith, the person is redeemed, bought out of the slave market of sin, and set free from it (1 Peter 1:18-19).

These acts just mentioned—substitution, justification, redemption—are just a few that are provided for completely by God, and devoid completely of anything human. The Bible is clear that mankind cannot contribute anything to his salvation. Any time someone thinks he can contribute, he is in essence working for his salvation, which is clearly against the Bible’s statements (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Even faith itself is a gift from God. Salvation is a free gift from God (Romans 6:23), and since it is a gift, there is nothing you can do to earn it. All you have to do is take the gift. "But to all who have received him (i.e., Jesus)—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children" (John 1:12).



04/28/21


Question: "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?"

Answer: In some people’s minds, being homosexual is as much outside one’s control as the color of your skin and your height. On the other hand, the Bible clearly and consistently declares that homosexual activity is a sin (Genesis 19:1–13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). This disconnect leads to much controversy, debate, and even hostility.

When examining what the Bible says about homosexuality, it is important to distinguish between homosexual behavior and homosexual inclinations or attractions. It is the difference between active sin and the passive condition of being tempted. Homosexual behavior is sinful, but the Bible never says it is a sin to be tempted. Simply stated, a struggle with temptation may lead to sin, but the struggle itself is not a sin.

Romans 1:26–27 teaches that homosexuality is a result of denying and disobeying God. When people continue in sin and unbelief, God “gives them over” to even more wicked and depraved sin to show them the futility and hopelessness of life apart from God. One of the fruits of rebellion against God is homosexuality. First Corinthians 6:9 proclaims that those who practice homosexuality, and therefore transgress God’s created order, are not saved.

A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as some people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person’s choosing to sin by giving in to sinful desires. Just because a person is born with a greater susceptibility to fits of rage, that doesn’t make it right for him to give in to those desires and explode at every provocation. The same is true with a susceptibility to homosexuality.

No matter our proclivities or attractions, we cannot continue to define ourselves by the very sins that crucified Jesus—and at the same time assume we are right with God. Paul lists many of the sins that the Corinthians once practiced (homosexuality is on the list). But in 1 Corinthians 6:11, he reminds them, “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (emphasis added). In other words, some of the Corinthians, before they were saved, lived homosexual lifestyles; but no sin is too great for the cleansing power of Jesus. Once cleansed, we are no longer defined by sin.

The problem with homosexual attraction is that it is an attraction to something God has forbidden, and any desire for something sinful ultimately has its roots in sin. The pervasive nature of sin causes us to see the world and our own actions through a warped perspective. Our thoughts, desires, and dispositions are all affected. So, homosexual attraction does not always result in active, willful sin—there may not be a conscious choice to sin—but it springs from the sinful nature. Same-sex attraction is always, on some basic level, an expression of the fallen nature.

As sinful human beings living in a sinful world (Romans 3:23), we are beset with weaknesses, temptations, and inducements to sin. Our world is filled with lures and entrapments, including the enticement to practice homosexuality.

The temptation to engage in homosexual behavior is very real to many. Those who struggle with homosexual attraction often report suffering through years of wishing things were different. People may not always be able to control how or what they feel, but they can control what they do with those feelings (1 Peter 1:5–8). We all have the responsibility to resist temptation (Ephesians 6:13). We must all be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We must all “walk by the Spirit” so as not to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Finally, the Bible does not describe homosexuality as a “greater” sin than any other. All sin is offensive to God. Without Christ, we are lost, whatever type of sin has entangled us. According to the Bible, God’s forgiveness is available to the homosexual just as it is to the adulterer, idol worshiper, murderer, and thief. God promises the strength for victory over sin, including homosexuality, to all those who will believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13).



04/26/21


Question: "What is the crown of glory and diadem of beauty (Isaiah 28:5)?"


Answer: The first half of Isaiah 28 is both a woe (a judgment) pronounced against Ephraim/Israel and an announcement of the Messianic hope for the remnant of faithful people who lived in Israel. Even in the midst of judgment, there would be “a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty” (Isaiah 28:5, ESV). Ephraim was the tribe located immediately to the north of the southern kingdom of Judah. Ephraim was a border tribe and one of the more prominent tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, which included ten tribes to the north of Judah and Benjamin. Because of Ephraim’s prominence and location, it was sometimes representative of the entire northern kingdom (e.g., Ezekiel 37:16).

In Isaiah 28:1–13 judgment is pronounced against the “proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim” (Isaiah 28:1, ESV). Israel was enjoying the prosperity of living in the land God gave to the nation, but it was not worshipping God. Instead, the people were worshipping the gods of the people of Canaan and committing idolatry against God. As a result, the glorious beauty of Ephraim was fading (Isaiah 28:2), and God’s patience with their immorality was coming to an end. Like hail in a storm, the glory of Ephraim would be cast to the ground (Isaiah 28:2), and the “proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim” would be brought so low that it would be stepped on (Isaiah 28:3, ESV). Their beauty would fade very quickly (Isaiah 28:4). But with God’s judgment He shows grace. Even when Ephraim would be judged, the Lord of Hosts would be “a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty” to them (Isaiah 28:5).

The kingdom of Israel was reveling in its own glory, but it was short-lived. When that glory faded, the remnant of the people—that smaller group who had trusted in God and was seeking to worship Him—would see that Hewas their crown of glory and diadem of beauty. Those who had stood for God even while much of the nation had opposed Him would be rewarded when God’s judgment arrived. God’s rule and the arrival of His justice would be beautiful to those who had long awaited it (Isaiah 28:6).

While there was judgment coming in the near term for Israel, justice wasn’t simply a short-term happening, as God said, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone, A precious cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. The one who believes in it will not be disturbed” (Isaiah 28:16, NASB). God would one day, through the Messiah (the cornerstone, Acts 4:11), bring about lasting justice (Isaiah 28:17). Just as He was then, God will be a “crown of glory and diadem of beauty” to all who trust in Him.

Isaiah 28 records a particular judgment for Ephraim, and it reminds us that we should glory in Him, not in our own strength or circumstances. Like Ephraim, sometimes we enjoy the prosperity God provides so much that we don’t trust in Him as we should. When we keep in view that He is also our “crown of glory and diadem of beauty,” we can avoid putting our hope and trust in someone or something else.



04/25/21


Question: "What is the meaning of "redeeming the time" in Ephesians 5:16?"

Answer: Ephesians 5:15–16 in the King James Version says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The phrase redeeming the time is also found in Colossians 4:5: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (KJV). In both passages, redeeming the time is related to wisdom in how we “walk,” that is, in how we live.

To redeem something means to buy it back, to regain possession of it. Time is a gift from God, and none of us know how much of it we are allotted. Only God knows how much time each of us has on this earth to make decisions that will impact eternity (Psalm 139:16). When God says we should be “redeeming the time,” He wants us to live in constant awareness of that ticking clock and make the most of the time we have. In fact, the NIV’s translation of Ephesians 5:16 uses the phrase making the most of every opportunity instead of redeeming the time. Rather than waste our days on frivolous pursuits that leave no lasting imprint, Scripture instructs us to be diligent about doing good (Titus 3:8).

The context of the command to redeem the time helps us understand what redeeming the time looks like and why it’s important: “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life” (Ephesians 5:15–18, NLT). Redeeming the time means that we are careful in how we live. We seek out and employ wisdom (see Proverbs 2:1–15). We seize every opportunity and use it for God’s glory. We think through our plans and make sure they align with God’s will. And we avoid empty, harmful activities such as getting drunk. Why are we to live this way? “Because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus taught His disciples the necessity of redeeming the time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus was diligent about keeping to His mission. Distractions were as prevalent then as they are now, but He let none of them deter Him from preaching and teaching God’s Word. That was why He had come (Luke 4:43). Though He spent only 33 years on this earth, Jesus changed the world forever because He redeemed the time.

We can learn to redeem the time by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They conclude with this thought: “Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.” As Christians, we should live like we were dying and pursue all God has given us to do while we have time. Everything done for Christ on earth earns eternal rewards (Mark 9:41). That which was done for selfish, carnal reasons will burn up and blow away (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).

Another way we can learn to redeem the time is by asking God to help us. We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance. By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts. We look for ways we can honor the Lord, help someone else, or utilize our time in productive ways. Sitting at a red light, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip along with a gospel tract or a card inviting the waiter to church. We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. Volunteering, serving at church, leading a ministry, taking Bible studies to the jails and prisons, and studying to show ourselves “approved unto God” are all ways we can redeem the time (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).

James 4:14 reminds us that our earthly lives are no more than a fog that appears and then quickly evaporates. Our money and possessions will be given to someone else. Our jobs will be filled by others. Our families may remember us with fondness but will move on with lives that don’t include us. All that remains of our lives on earth is that which was invested in eternity. In the end, all that matters is what we did or did not do to redeem the time (Psalm 102:3; 144:4).


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