Bible Questions & Answers – September 21, 2014

Here is the link to the mp3 recording of a Bible Question & Answer session I headed up at worship services last night.  Below are listed each question turned into me in the previous weeks and the Bible answer my studies produced.  I hope they help you in your own studies of the Bible.  This was an excellent exercise, and I’m looking forward to the next Q & A session next Sunday night.  Lord willing, I’ll post them and the audio for them next week for your perusal and study.

Disclaimer:  I just heard an error I made in the audio presentation last night.  I spoke of Moses’ hands being held up by Joshua and “someone whose name I can’t think of right now.”  What I couldn’t remember at the time is that it was actually Aaron, not Joshua, along with Hur, who held up Moses’ hands.

Here are the questions and their scriptural answers:

1.  Who wrote Hebrews?

Probably not Paul, because Paul had told the Galatians in Gal. 1:11-12 – “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  And the author of Hebrews said this about how he received the message of Christ in Heb. 2:2-4 – “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard…”  Unlike Paul, the Hebrew writer did not receive the gospel directly from Christ, but rather was taught it by the apostles of Christ. So that rules out Paul.  The book of Hebrews does not identify its human author, but we do know that the author was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Thus, the real author of Hebrews is the Holy Spirit.

2.  Who are the modern descendants of Amalek, the son of Eliphaz?

First, let’s talk about who Amalek and Eliphaz were. You read about them in Genesis 36:12, which says that Eliphaz was Esau’s son and Amalek would therefore be Esau’s grandson.

The descendants of Amalek were a nation known as the Amalekites. They were known primarily as the enemies of the Israelites. Exodus 17 records just one of many times the Israelites and Amalekites fought each other.  During the time of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, the prophet Balaam prophesied under inspiration of God that the Amalekites would be completely destroyed. Hundreds of years later, this prophecy would begin to be fulfilled when God told Saul to completely wipe out the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15.  As we know, Saul failed to completely obey that command, so a small remnant of the Amalekites continued to exist for a few more centuries until they were completely wiped out during the reign of King Hezekiah, as described at the end of 1 Chronicles 4.

Because they were completely wiped out during Hezekiah’s reign and were prophesied to be completely destroyed, we conclude that there are no modern-day descendants of Amalek.

3. No man has seen God at any time (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). However, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30). Moses said the Lord spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). Moses, Aaron, Nadab & Abihu, and 70 elders said they saw the God of Israel (Ex. 24:9). Please explain.

In modern times, we tend to use words and phrases in many different senses. Likewise, in Scripture words and phrases are often used in a variety of ways.  With that in mind, consider that the gospel of John says that Jesus, the Word, was God (John 1:1). John then said that Jesus, the Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14)…but then just a few sentences later said that “no man has seen God at any time” (v. 18; 1 John 4:12).

Was Jesus God? Yes. Did man see Jesus? Yes. So in what sense has man not seen God?

The Bible says that God is spirit (John 4:24). Jesus is God, but no man has ever seen Jesus in his true image as a spirit Being, in all of his fullness, glory, and splendor.  Paul told the Philippians in Phil. 2:6-7 – “who, though (Christ Jesus) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

When God the Word, Jesus Christ, appeared on Earth two thousand years ago, he came in a veiled form. He had existed in heaven “in the form of God,” but made himself nothing and took on “the likeness of man.” So when mankind saw Jesus, they saw an embodiment of deity in the form of a man…the Word who became flesh.  Likewise, when Jacob struggled with God in Genesis 32, he saw only a form of God…not the spiritual, invisible, omnipresent God who fills heaven and earth.

But what about those statements which indicate that man saw or spoke to God “face to face”?  Remember, Moses and Jacob and others who made those statements, while they witnessed great and awesome things, still only saw manifestations of God and a part of his glory, not the fullness of his glory.

God specifically said as much in Exodus 33:18-23 when Moses asked God to show him his glory. God replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you…but…you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” God then put Moses in a cleft in the rock and covered him with his hand until he had passed by. Then God took away his hand, and Moses saw his back, but not his face. Moses saw a manifestation of God, part of his glory, but not the fullness of his glory.

Remember also that the terms “face” and “face to face” are used in different senses in Scripture. Exodus 33:11 says that God spoke to Moses “face to face,” but just nine verses later God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live.” Was the author of Exodus so misguided that he contradicted himself in the same paragraph? Not when we realize that these terms are being used in different senses, in different ways.

Numbers 12 shows us the difference. In Numbers 12 Aaron and Miriam had complained about Moses and arrogantly asked, “Has the Lord only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (v. 2) God then appeared to Aaron and Miriam. Notice what he said to them in vs. 6-8:  “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. I speak with him face to face, even PLAINLY, and NOT IN DARK SAYINGS (RIDDLES).”

Notice the contrast. God spoke with the prophets through visions and dreams, but to Moses he spoke not in dark riddles, but plainly, directly. In other words, God…who never showed his face to Moses, nevertheless allowed Moses to see some unmistakable evidence of his glorious presence by letting him see his back, and spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11), in other words, plainly, directly. That’s what “face to face” means.

Look at it this way. If you can work “side by side” with someone without literally working inches from him, and if you can see “eye to eye” with soemone without ever literally looking into their eyes, then God can speak “face to face” with Moses without literally revealing to him his full, glorious, spiritual “face.”

(My thanks to Apologetics Press for giving me lots of great insight into finding the answer to this question.  You can read what they have to say about this question in more detail here.)

4.  Jesus knew his purpose was to save us, and he knew the Father and where he was going to back to.  So why did Jesus pray to have this cup pass from him?  (Luke 22:42)

Jesus, the Word, “was God” (John 1:1). However, John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh.” Paul said in Phil. 2:6-7 that Christ “was in the form of God, (but) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Therefore, Christ was both God and human when he was here on earth.  Being human, his human nature would have been deeply affected that night in the garden, knowing that in just a few hours he was going to die a horrible, painful death in order to save us from our sins. If there was any other way that we could be redeemed, Jesus the man would have wanted to take that option and avoid the cross. Every one of us would want the same thing.

However, the divine side of Jesus, the Son of God, bowed to the will of God the Father by acceding to the Father’s will. In doing so, he did what Paul said he did in Phil. 2:8 and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” in order to be the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 9:26-28; 10:10-12).

5.  What is the age of accountability?

The term “age of accountability” is a man-made term used to describe a biblical concept, kind of like “Golden Rule” or “Great Commission.”

The Bible teaches that children are born and for a time remain sinless & innocent. Ezekiel 18:1-20 states quite clearly that we do not inherit the sins of our parents.  Ezekiel 28:15 has God telling a human being, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till unrighteousness was found in you,” showing that there is a time in our lives during which we were innocent, with no unrighteousness in us.  In Romans 9:10-11, Paul talked about Jacob and Esau before they were born while they were still in the womb of their mother, and stated that during that time they “had done nothing either good or bad.” This teaches us that children are born sinless and innocent, and during childhood we remain sinless and innocent. That’s why Jesus told adults in Matthew 18:3-4 that they had to be like little children in order to be in the kingdom.

However, the Bible also speaks of a time when we become accountable for our actions. Isaiah 7:15 speaks of a time when a young man will come to “know how to refuse the evil and choose the good,” in other words, become accountable.  Before they became accountable, they were sinless and innocent. Paul would say in Romans 7:9 that he was “alive,” spiritually speaking, at that time. However, in vs. 10-11 of Romans 7 he then spoke of a time when sin entered his life and he “died” spiritually. When he was accountable, when he knew how to refuse the evil and choose the good and yet he chose evil, that’s when he sinned. And it would be at that point that he and all the rest of us would need God’s grace, we would need forgiveness, we would need to obey the gospel.

Is there a specific, set age for when that time of accountability occurs? No, because each person is different. When each of us becomes accountable for our actions and choices depends upon a variety of social and environmental factors. Children mature at different rates and ages as their spirits are fashioned, shaped, and molded by parents, teachers, and life’s experiences. That’s why there is no set age of accountability.

6.  Why is Jesus God’s one and only Son?

John 3:16 calls Jesus the “only begotten” Son of God. “Only begotten” is monogenes in Greek, mono meaning “only, alone” and genos meaning “race, stock,” resulting in monogenes…”from one race or stock,” “unique offspring,” “only begotten.”

All Christians are called the children of God in 1 John 3:1-2. However, Christ is God’s Son in a very unique way. Of all God’s children, only Jesus is Deity (John 1:1).  He is the only way God the Father is made known to us (John 1:18).  The only way to salvation is uniquely found in Jesus. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish (John 3:16). God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him (1 John 4:9). No one comes to the Father but through Jesus (John 14:6).

These are just a few of the reasons why Jesus is God’s only begotten, completely unique Son.

7.  The body goes numb after a certain amount of pain.  Was this true for Jesus?

Psalm 22 is a prophecy about the experience the Messiah would undergo while being crucified. Verse 17 says, “I can count all my bones,” possibly indicating that Jesus would feel pain in every single bone of his body while on the cross.

Remember also that he refused to ingest a local anesthetic before he was nailed to the cross (Matt. 27:34). That implies that he wanted to experience the total package, the complete agony that would come with crucifixion.

With that in mind, remember what he said in John 10:18 – “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” Jesus alone had power over his body experiencing death, which leads me to believe that he had power over his body experiencing pain as well. If he refused a local anesthetic, that means he wanted to experience the pain, so it might have been that he kept his body from experiencing any natural numbness that comes from pain.

However, all of this is conjecture. There is no way to be biblically certain.

8.  Is mental illness a sin?

We must be very careful to give a blanket, over-generalizing, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. All mental illnesses are not the same, so we cannot give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question.

There are genuine mental problems which exist. Some of them are genetic or hormonal. Some of them are biological or environmental.

There are some genuine mental problems which come about due to debilitating conditions which are self-inflicted.

Some people spend much of their lives indulging in certain sins and as a result become genuinely unbalanced mentally. Wickedness does exact a huge toll, and in some cases mental illness is a consequence of sin.

Some mental problems keep one from being able to make rational choices, while others do not.

And in some cases, many people have cited mental illness because they want to defend their sinful conduct.

What we need to remember is this. We are commanded in John 7:24 to not judge according to appearance. That means we never assume anything about anyone. We do not assume that all mental illness is sin, we do not assume all mental illness is not sin. We do not assume that someone’s mental illness is real or faked, we do not assume that their mental illness holds them accountable or fails to hold them accountable before God.

Instead, John 7:24 tells us to make righteous judgments. That is possible at times, but at times it is not possible. Mark 7:20-22 tells us that one’s actions shows the condition of their heart, but in the case of mental illness are they genuinely in control of their actions? Sometimes it is possible to successfully determine that; sometimes it’s not. God knows all, and he will make the final judgment.

In the meantime, and this is the most important part to the answer to this question, we must always make the conscious choice to always be like Christ wants us to be with everyone, including those with mental illnesses (Col. 3:12-14): kind, compassionate, patient, encouraging. Basically, love them as Christ loves us.

Before moving on, here are some biblical points we need to remember when thinking about mental illness and sin:

Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are made in the image of God. That means, among other things, that we have the ability to choose between right and wrong. If man is incapable of making choices, the whole system of civil law is futile and we ought to abandon our justice system, which would of course result in utter chaos. So generally speaking mankind has the ability to choose between right and wrong. Now, some people are incapable of choosing between right and wrong due to genuine mental illness. However, if one truly does have the mental ability to choose between right and wrong, that person is accountable.

Every command given to man in the bible implies that man has the ability to respond to that command. That’s why Joshua said in Josh. 24:15, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” That’s why Isaiah talked about the time in our lives when we come to know how to refuse the evil and choose the good (Is. 7:15-16). That’s why Jesus told us in Matt. 22:37 to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, but then also acknowledged in John 5:40 that some in fact refuse to come to him. Rev. 22:17 says, “Let the one who desires take the water of life”…why? Because we have the ability to choose. What good is a command from God if we do not have the ability to either accept it or reject it?

With this in mind, if one genuinely is mentally unable to make choices and therefore is not capable of obeying or disobeying God, then the scriptural doctrine of them being eternally punished in hell makes no sense whatsoever.

Therefore, biblically speaking, if a person’s mental problem truly keeps them from being able to make the choice to obey or disobey God, then they would not be sinning. Those of us who are professionally trained in dealing with mental problems might or might not be able to tell if such is the case in a certain situation, but we can be confident that the God who is the final judge is capable of making that judgment, and he will do so.

(My thanks to Wayne Jackson and his excellent book, The Bible and Mental Health, which helped me greatly in part of the answer to this question.)

9.  Do angels walk among us today?

Let’s first define the term “angel.” It comes from the Greek word angelos and literally means “messenger.”  Many are not aware that the Bible uses the word “angel” or angelos to simply refer to a human messenger at times. Rev. 2-3 cite seven examples of this, when Jesus tells John to write to “the angel of the church of Ephesus/Smyrna/etc.” He wasn’t telling John to write to a celestial angel; rather, he was telling John to write to the messenger of that particular congregation, most likely referring to the preacher of that congregation, since preachers are to preach the message of God (2 Tim. 4:2). So in that sense, one could answer this question by saying that human angels, literally human messengers of God, walk among us today. In a sense, God wants all Christians to be his messengers.

However, the question most likely has a different kind of angel in mind, celestial angels. The Bible speaks of the existence of celestial, heavenly angels also, as seen in many places, chapters 5 and 7 of Revelation being cited as just two of many examples.  Concerning celestial angels and whether they walk among us today or how they walk among us today, the Bible gives very, very little information.

Hebrews 1:14 is talking about celestial angels and says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” So this verse tells us that celestial angels are sent out to serve for the sake of Christians. Notice though that this verse does not give details as to how that happens, nor does any other verse in the New Testament.

Over in Matthew 18:10, Jesus is warning about not placing stumbling blocks in front children, and he gives the reason why we should be careful not to do this when he says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Notice that Jesus says that children have angels (“their angels”). However, also notice that he gives no other information about these angels of children other than that they see God the Father’s face in heaven. We don’t know what that means. A lot of people read into this verse and conclude that this verse is talking about guardian angels, but if you read the verse you’ll see that guardian angels are never explicitly mentioned. In fact, nowhere in the entire Bible do you read the term “guardian angel.” Now, angels are said to serve for the sake of Christians, and children are said to somehow have angels. Does that mean that these angels guard Christians and children in some capacity? The Bible doesn’t say. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Without further biblical data, we cannot say for sure.

Over in Hebrews 13:2 Christians are commanded, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We see a biblical example of this in Genesis 18-19, where Abraham and Lot separately brought angels into their home without at first realizing it. Now, is that what Hebrews 13:2 is referring to? Is it simply telling Christians that we need to be hospitable because at some time in the past Abraham and Lot had angels in their home and didn’t know it? Or is Hebrews telling us that we need to be hospitable because even now, today, angels might walk among us and come into our home and we are not aware of it? The verse doesn’t specify either way.

In the end, notice the word “unawares” in Hebrews 13:2. That word best answers this question: “Do angels walk among us today?” Biblically, Hebrews 13:2 tells us the answer: We don’t know. (Deut. 29:29)

10.  Can anyone lead in acts of worship?

The simple answer is “No, not just anyone can lead in acts of worship. Some might not be aware, but the Bible actually gives qualifications as to who leads the church in acts of worship in 1 Tim. 2:8 – “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”

Since other passages speak of women praying and the command to pray being given to the church as a whole (1 Cor. 11:5; Col. 4:2), we know that what’s being talked about here in 1 Timothy 2:8 is leading the church in the act of prayer, and thus acts of worship in general. Notice that the verse says certain kind of people are to do this:

They must be “men.” In the Greek the male gender is specifically referred to. This goes along with 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which forbid women in the church from exercising authority, or leading, the men. Naturally, this would not prohibit women from leading in acts of worship if no Christian men were present.

The man who is leading prayer or other acts of worship must be holy, which is what the phrase “lifting up holy hands” means. The Bible calls only Christians holy (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 3:1; et al). One becomes holy (set apart) only when one obeys the gospel and becomes a Christian and stays a faithful Christian. Therefore, the qualification of being holy refers to being a faithful Christian. Only faithful Christian men can lead the church in acts of worship when Christian women are present.

These Christian men must also be “without anger” in order to lead prayer or other acts of worship. They must not be wrathful, hot-tempered people. This helps set the proper example and keeps them from placing a stumbling block in front of others while leading them in prayer.

In order to lead prayer or other acts of worship, Christian men must also be “without quarreling,” meaning that they must not be argumentative in nature or in the midst of a quarrel or feud with someone else. This goes along with Christ’s command in Matthew 5:23-24 to not worship God until you’ve done everything you can to make peace with someone who has something against you. Again, meeting this qualification helps keep the man who is leading in worship from placing a stumbling block and distraction in front of his brother while worshiping.

11.  The devil was an angel and he sinned against God in heaven.  Does that mean we could also sin against God while in heaven and be thrown out?

An understandable question, considering the origins of Satan. However, God’s Word gives us several promises which, when you think about it, make it a virtual guarantee that we will not sin against God while in heaven and thus be cast out:

After we are judged and are ushered into heaven, Jesus describes the kind of life waiting for us in heaven as ETERNAL life, life without end (Matt. 25:46).

Revelation 21:4 promises us that in the new heavens and new earth, death will be no more. What kind of death? Not just physical, but spiritual death (death being defined as “separation from God.”) Remember that the wages of sin is spiritual death, spiritual separation from God (Rom. 6:23). If there is no death in heaven, the promise that we will never be separated from God in heaven, then that means there will be no sin in heaven…which is exactly what Revelation 21:27 and 22:15 promise.

12.  If a person had been baptized in a denomination, could they then be a Christian, become part of the Lord’s church, without being baptized into the church of Christ?

When one honestly examines and accepts nothing more or less than the totality of New Testament teaching concerning this question, the only conclusion one can reach is to answer, “No, the person who had been baptized in a man-made denomination would need to be baptized again, this time into the Lord’s church, in order to receive forgiveness of sins & the salvation Christ offers. There are several biblical reasons for this:

First, the Bible says quite specifically in Ephesians 4:5 that there is only “one baptism.” Think about that. There’s only one baptism which God recognizes, only one baptism which God considers to be valid.

With that in mind, we also see in Ephesians 4:4 that there is only “one body.” That “body” is specifically defined by God to be his Son’s church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). Thus, since there’s only one body and that body is defined as the church of Christ, that means there is only one church: the church of Christ, the Lord’s church.

So there is only one body (one church), and only one baptism. Let’s examine further what the New Testament says about this “one baptism.”

The New Testament says repeatedly that this one baptism is done in Jesus’ name. People were told that if they were to have their sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, they would have to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38). Interestingly, the NT even records an instance where people had been previously baptized, but were baptized again (Acts 19:5). Notice that the verse that describes their second baptism goes out of its way to say that they were baptized in Jesus’ name.

What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? It’s far more than simply saying the words “in Jesus’ name” when you’re saying a prayer or while you’re baptizing someone. Rather, to baptize or to do anything in Jesus’ name means to baptize or do anything according to his will, COMPLETELY according to his will (Col. 3:17; Matt. 7:21-27).

So what is his COMPLETE will for us concerning baptism? Why does Jesus want us to be baptized?  Obviously he wants us to be baptized in order to obtain salvation and forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). However, a mistake many of us make along these lines is we tend to think that salvation and forgiveness are the only reasons Jesus wants us to be baptized. They aren’t.

We must remember that Psalm 119:160 tells us that the sum, or total/entirety, of God’s Word is truth. If we want the complete truth about the will of Christ concerning baptism, if we want the complete truth about the “one baptism” we read about in the NT, we have to accept ALL of what God’s Word says about it.

And the whole truth is that Christ has more reasons for us to be baptized than obtaining salvation and forgiveness of sins. Another reason he wants us to be baptized is so that we can be baptized into him (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). What does it mean to be baptized “into Christ”?

Look at Ephesians 1:22-23. It says that Christ’s body is his church, “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” In other words, Christ fills all in all…but what fills up Christ? His body, his church. So if you want to be “in Christ,” if you want to be baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), you have to be baptized into his body, his church, because his church is what fills him. That’s why the Bible also specifically commands us to be baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13 – “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”)

Remember, Ephesians 4:4-5 says there’s only one baptism, and it also says there’s only one body, one church. 1 Corinthians 12:13 specifically says that we are to be baptized into that one body, that one church.

Look at it this way. 1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism saves us. Want to know why? Because we’re baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). What does that have to do with our salvation? Look at Ephesians 5:23 – “…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

If we want Christ to be our Savior, if we want Christ to save us, we have to be inside his body, his church of which there is only one…because this verse says that Christ is the Savior of his church, his body. How do we get into his body, his church? We’re baptized into it. That’s why Peter said that baptism saves us.

Have you been baptized into Christ’s church? You haven’t if you were baptized in a denomination, because those churches are all man-made. The Bible says there’s only one, his Son’s church, the church of Christ. Why not obey the gospel today by confessing your faith in Christ, repenting of your sins, and being baptized into Christ’s body, his church and receive salvation and forgiveness?

(Tune in next week for the next Q & A session audio and answers.)

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