August 2015 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  vain repetition in prayer, the difference between disciples and apostles, whether it’s sinful to salute or honor national flags, why we refer to God’s Word as the “Bible,” the mark of Cain and the origin of his wife and the other inhabitants of Nod, whether it’s sinful to use church funds to benevolently help non-Christians, how to deal with the accusation of contradictions in the Bible

You can listen to the audio of this Bible Question & Answer session here.

Is it wrong to pray daily or even yearly for the same thing?  Is it wrong to thank God daily for blessings you’ve received over many years?  Explain vain repetition.

God wants us to pray repeatedly and persistently, always with gratitude (Luke 11:5-9; 18:1-8; 21:36; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Col. 3:17; 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17-18).

Repetition is encouraged.  VAIN (meaningless, not coming from the heart) repetition is condemned (Matt. 6:7-8; 15:7-9a).

What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?

Disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, which means “learner, pupil, disciple.”  Apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.”

The term apostle is used in two different ways in the New Testament.  Normally it’s used to describe a church leadership office in the early church in which the 12 apostles and Paul had inspired authority and the ability to perform miracles (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; 2:42; 6:1ff; Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; 2 Cor. 12:12).  In order to be chosen for this office, one had to have been an eyewitness of all Jesus did from his baptism to his ascension (Acts 1:21-26).  However, it’s also used in a broader sense to refer to Christian missionaries sent forth on mission trips by churches (Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).

All apostles were disciples, but not all disciples were apostles, either in the sense that they were in the church office nor in the sense that not all were sent out by churches to do missionary work.

Interestingly, Jesus was also called an apostle in that he was a messenger, one sent by God (Heb. 3:1).

Is it sinful for a Christian to salute or honor a national flag?

Christians must only worship the God of heaven (Rev. 22:9).  Yet, we are also told to give honor to others, including governmental authorities (1 Pet. 2:17; Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:21).

Saluting a national flag, as well as saying the pledge of allegiance, reflects honor, not worship.  Yet, if it violates your conscience and personal convictions, abstain from doing so…but be careful not to bind your own idiosyncrasies onto others (Rom. 14:13, 22).

The word “Bible” is not found in God’s Word.  Why do we call it the Bible?

Bible is derived from Greek.  Ancient books were written on the byblos or papyrus reed.  From byblos came the Greek word for “book,” which is biblosBiblos is used in Matthew 1:1.

As the books of Scripture were written, early Christians began to refer to them as “the Books, ” or “the Biblia“…the Bible.

What is the essence of the mark on Cain’s forehead?  Also, Genesis says Cain traveled to the east of Nod and married.  Who were the people who lived there at that time?

Actually, the Bible never says that a “mark” was set upon Cain’s forehead (Gen. 4:15).  Mark comes from the Hebrew word oth, which means “sign” or “token.”  Thus, what’s actually said is that the Lord showed or gave Cain a “sign” to convince and assure him that none would be allowed to kill him.

Cain traveled to the east of Eden into the land of Nod, literally the “place of wandering” (Gen. 4:16-17).  There he “knew his wife” (v. 17), a phrase not referring to him meeting her for the first time, but rather to physical marital relations.  Cain probably was already married to his wife when he killed Abel and was exiled.  Eve, “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20), had sons and daughters with Adam (Gen. 5:4).  From these Cain found his wife, and from these came those who eventually inhabited the city Cain built in the “place of wandering.”

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says that the Sunday collection is for the saints.  So does that mean we shouldn’t help non-Christians with church funds?

The same collection is referenced in 2 Corinthians 8-9.  2 Corinthians 9:13 specifically mentions that the contribution was “for THEM (contextually, the saints) AND for ALL.”  “ALL” comes from the Greek word pantas, which means “everyone.”  It’s the same word used in the directive for congregations to “do good to ALL, and especially to those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).  Thus, Christians in need must get preference over non-Christians when it comes benevolent disbursement of church funds, yet the church must not shirk from using funds to help non-Christians in legitimate need also (Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 10:25-37).

A co-worker tells me he doesn’t believe in the Bible because there are so many contradictions in it.  What should I tell him?

(The following directly comes from the Apologetics Press two-volume book by Eric Lyons, The Anvil Rings.  I highly recommend it as a study that deals with supposed contradictions within the Bible.  It contains much more information needed to know to answer the charge of supposed scriptural contradictions than what I have listed below.)

First, ask him if he has an “innocent until proven guilty” attitude toward the Bible.  A teacher cannot justifiably assume that a student who makes a perfect score on a test without studying for it in fact cheated.  He may have received all the information elsewhere at another time, or perhaps he learned everything well enough that he didn’t need to study at home.  He may have even got lucky and guessed correctly on the questions he didn’t know.  In our daily lives we generally consider a person to be truthful until we have evidence that he or she has lied.  The same rule should apply when we read a historical document or a book, including the Bible.

Next, ask him if he allows possibilities to suffice as solutions for supposed contradictions.  If we believe the Bible is innocent until proven guilty, then any possible answer should be good enough to nullify the charge of error and contradiction.  Not just any answer, but any possible answer.  When you study the Bible and come across passages that may seem contradictory, you don’t necessarily have to pin down the exact solution in order to show their truthfulness.  You need only show the possibility of a harmonization between passages that appear to conflict in order to negate the force of the charge that a Bible contradiction really exists.

For example, who was present when David at the showbread?  Christ says Abiathar (Mark 2:25-26), while Samuel says Ahimelech (1 Sam. 21:1).  Did Jesus contradict Samuel?  Not necessarily.  Perhaps the two names belonged to the same man (like Peter who was also called Simon Peter, Simon, and Cephas.)  Perhaps Jesus didn’t mean that Abiathar personally ministered to David, but that the event with David and the showbread occurred in his lifetime (“in the days of”).  Notice also that Samuel refers to a priest named Ahimelech, while Christ mentions a high priest named Abiathar.  A priest was not the same as a high priest, so two different men in two different offices could have been mentioned in both accounts.  Any of these possibilities suffice to negate the charge of a contradiction.

Also, ask him if he understands that a genuine contradiction must refer to the same person, place, or thing in the same sense in the same time but in different ways.  One of the main problems in a discussion concerning alleged contradictions is that most people do not understand what constitutes a genuine contradiction.  Nothing can both be and not be.  A door may be open, or a door may be shut, but the same door may not be both open and shut at the same time.  With reference to the door, shut and open are opposites, but they are not contradictory unless it be affirmed that they characterize the same object at the same time.  So it is very important that one recognizes that mere opposites or differences do not necessitate a contradiction.  For there to be a bona fide contradiction, one must be referring to the same person, place, or thing in the same sense at the same time, but in different ways.

Suppose someone says, “Terry Anthony is rich,” and “Terry Anthony is poor.”  Do those two statements contradict each other?  Not necessarily.  How do you know the same Terry Anthony is under consideration in both statements?  Maybe Terry Anthony in Texas is rich, but Terry Anthony in Tennessee is poor.  The same person, place, or thing must be under consideration.  Plus, the same time period must be under consideration.  Terry Anthony could have a fortune in his youth but then lost it all in a stock-market crash.  At one time he was rich, but now he is poor.  Also, the statements must be talking about the same sense.  Terry Anthony could be the richest man alive, but he is poor if he is not following God.  On the other hand, he could have no money whatsoever yet still be rich in spiritual blessings.

Keeping these principles in mind, it’s easy to see that Luke did not contradict himself by describing the death of James in Acts 12 only to describe James as a church leader in Acts 15…because the James in Acts 12 is a different James than the one in Acts 15.  Likewise, the ark of Genesis 6 is not the same ark of Joshua 3.  God seeing that everything he made was very good (Gen. 1) does not contradict him being sorry that he had made man (Gen. 6), because the events of Genesis 6 took place hundreds of years after the events of Genesis 1.

Finally, ask him if he understands that supplementation does not equal contradiction.  Suppose you are telling a story about how you and a friend went to a Braves game.  You mention what great defense the Braves played, and your friend talks about their clutch hits in the final innings of the game.  Is there a contradiction because your friend talks about their offense but you mention only their defense?  No, he is simply adding to (supplementing) your story to make it more complete.  That happens in the Bible a lot.  Matthew 27:57-60 says Joseph put Jesus in the tomb, while John 19:38-40 says Joseph AND Nicodemus did so.  Contradiction?  No, because John is simply supplementing Matthew’s account.

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