Topics: fasting, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, faithful children qualification of elders, the antichrist, women baptizing men, knowing loved ones in heaven, the Sinner’s Prayer
The latest Bible Questions & Answers session at where I preach was held on Sunday night, November 30, 2014, at 6 pm. You can listen to the audio of that session here. Below are my written answers to each question. I hope they are of benefit to you in your personal studies.
1. Does “fasting” mean to sacrifice food only, or does it mean other things? Christ, the apostles, and the early church fasted. Does that mean we have a commandment to fast today? If we don’t, do we sin?
As far as I am aware, the biblical definition of “fasting” refers to choosing to abstain from food altogether, or a certain type of food, and/or water for a set period of time.
Jesus did fast (Luke 4:1-2). The apostle Paul also fasted (2 Cor. 11:23-28). We read in Acts of the early church choosing to fast when sending out missionaries (Acts 13:1-3) and right before appointing elders (Acts 14:21-23).
Jesus spoke of fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. Notice that he said, “WHEN you fast…”, not “IF you fast…” Remember also that Paul told Christians to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Both Paul and Jesus fasted, and we are to imitate them. Therefore, it is scripturally certain that Christians should fast.
When should Christians fast? The short answer from the Bible is “whenever the occasion calls for it.” Matthew 9:16-17 records how Jesus was asked why his disciples were not fasting like the Pharisees and the disciples of John were fasting, and Jesus basically replied that his disciples would fast when they were faced with the terrible time in their lives when he would be taken away from them. Later, Matthew 17:20-21 records a time when Jesus told them that they would need to pray and fast in order to perform a certain type of miracle. From that we learn that we are to fast when the situations calls for it. Today, in our individual lives, from time to time we will be faced with difficult temptations or crises in our lives; during such times it would be appropriate to fast. Congregationally, when we are about to make major decisions like appointing elders or sending out missionaries as they did in Acts, it would be appropriate to fast.
Yet, when we fast we must do so with the proper attitude. Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 that fasting should be done to glorify God rather than to get glory from men. Isaiah 58:3-9 teaches that God will be pleased with our fasting when we fast because we are repenting of sins.
Much more could be said about this, and next year I plan on devoting a full sermon to it for the benefit of those who weren’t in the Bible class last month when we discussed it.
2. Explain “anointing with oil.” Is this something which we should do today?
Back in biblical times, hospitals were non-existent and there weren’t that many doctors. When someone got sick, it was a common practice for their friends or loved ones to physically treat them by anointing them with certain types of oils that had medicinal value (Luke 10:34 – the good Samaritan).
We also see in Mark 6:13 that the apostles miraculously healed sick people by anointing them with oil. However, miraculous healing no longer takes place today because Paul prophesied it would cease with the completion of God’s Word (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Therefore, when we today think of the concept of “anointing with oil,” we should associate it purely with offering medicinal aid to someone who is ill.
With that in mind, look at James 5:14-16. Notice several points here.
1.One thing we need to remember whenever we are sick is that our sickness may or may not be the consequence of sin in our lives. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Look at verse 15. In talking about the sick person, James says, “IF he has committed sins…” That leaves open the possibility that this Christian is sick not because he has sinned. However, passages like 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 (where Paul told the Corinthians that it was because they sinfully abused the Lord’s Supper that many of them are weak and ill) tell us that there might be times when we are sick because God is lovingly chastising us for in in our lives in an effort to direct us back to him (Heb. 12:5-11). In any case, sins need to be confessed and forgiveness needs to be sought if we hope to have God hear our prayers (James 5:16).
2.So in times of physical sickness, God commands Christians to call for the elders of the church (v. 14). Why? Don’t you want the prayers of the righteous working in your behalf? (v. 14b, 16b). (Notice that God commands that you call the elders, not the preacher. We can say that the preacher is not the pastor all we want, but when we expect him above all others to be there when we’re sick we are treating him like a pastor anyway, regardless of what we say. Notice also that God commands that YOU call for them, not wait for them to call on you. Something to think about, Christians.) When we’re sick, we must call for the elders of the church and have them pray with you in faith (trusting in the power of God to heal if it is his will – v. 15) and fervently (v. 16b).
3.While with the sick person, the elders should “anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Remember, anointing with oil is simply another way of saying that the sick needs medical aid. The elders should make sure that the sick person is receiving the treatment he or she needs, which in our society today is what usually happens.
3. Please explain “the laying on of hands.”
The laying on of hands was done for several reasons in the Bible. Depending on the context, sometimes it was done for multiple reasons at once.
In the Old Testament we read of Jacob laying his hands on Joseph’s sons in order to bless them (Gen. 48:14ff). Likewise, in the New Testament we read of Jesus blessing children by laying his hands on them while praying (Matt. 19:13-15).
Throughout Leviticus and also in Numbers, we read of OT priests being commanded to lay hands on the heads of the animals they were about to sacrifice (Lev. 3:1ff; 4:4; 16:21; Num. 8:12).
We also read in the Bible that one laid hands on someone to show that they were appointing that person to a specific office or responsibility. Moses laid hands on Joshua when appointing him to be his successor as leader of Israel (Num. 27:18-23). Over in Acts, the apostles laid hands on the seven men in order to appoint them to the responsibility of feeding the Grecian widows (Acts 6:1-6; another reason they did that, which I’ll get to shortly.) The prophets and teachers of Antioch laid hands on Paul and Barnabas when they appointed to them the responsibility of going out on a mission trip (Acts 13:1-3). So we see that when you were appointed to an office or given a responsibility in the church, those already entrusted with responsibility laid their hands on you. With that in mind, we see in 1 Timothy that Paul had given to the preacher Timothy the responsibility of appointing elders. While talking of that responsibility, he cautioned Timothy to not lay hands on anyone hastily, and to do so without prejudice or partiality (1 Tim. 5:19-22). In other words, appointing someone to an office or a responsibility in the church is a very serious matter. It should be done with great caution and prayer, and it should not be done with any sort of pre-judgment or partiality (“I want him to be an elder or a deacon because he’s a friend of mine.”)
In the OT, we also see that the Israelites were told to lay hands on a convicted criminal before sentencing him to death (Lev. 24:14), thus showing their approval of the action.
In the NT, we see Jesus and the apostles miraculously healing the sick by laying their hands on them (Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8).
Finally, we also see the apostles laying their hands on early Christians in order to give them miraculous spiritual gifts. This took place in Acts 6, when they laid hands on those seven men to appoint them to the responsibility of feeding widows (Acts 6:1-6). After they laid their hands on them, we read of one of them, Stephen, being able to perform miracles (v. 8). This is the first time in Acts where we read of anyone other than an apostle performing miracles, and it took place after the apostles laid their hands on Stephen. Again, in Acts 8:14-17 we read of another one of those seven men whom the apostles had laid their hands on, Philip, performing miracles and baptizing Samaritans. The apostles Peter and John had to make the trip to Samaria to lay their hands on the Samaritans in order to give them miraculous spiritual gifts. Later, the apostle Paul would lay his hands on the Ephesians in Acts 19:6 and give them the ability to perform miracles. He also laid his hands on Timothy and gave him a miraculous spiritual gift (2 Tim. 1:6). This lets us know when miracles ceased. Since one could do miracles only if an apostle laid his hands on you, then miracles ceased when all of the apostles died and all those on whom they laid their hands also died.
4. Is an elder disqualified if one or more of his children are unfaithful, even if they are no longer living in the home?
1 Tim. 3:4-5 – “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
In order for an elder to be qualified to be an elder and for a person who desires to be an elder to meet the qualifications of the office, he must manage his family well and in a dignified manner, which means that his children must submit to his rule respectfully.
The reason this qualification exists is because shepherding and overseeing the children of God is not for the inexperienced. As God said in verse 5, the best way to get the experience needed to properly manage God’s family is to first have the years of experience of properly managing your own family.
Titus 1:6 – “if…his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”
In order to be qualified to be put into the office and remain in the office, an elder must have believing children. Why? Harkening back to 1 Timothy 3:5, it shows that he is both able and fit to shepherd and manage the children of God in the church.
Notice that the verse says that his children must not be accused (that is, RIGHTFULLY accused; anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time, but is the charge legitimate? That’s the key) of:
Debauchery – wild extravagance, wasteful indulgence, especially when it comes to sexual immorality
Insubordination – unruly disobedience
Why? Prov. 28:7 – “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.”
And again, harkening back to 1 Timothy 3:5, the child who is proven to be caught up in debauchery and insubordination would cast doubt upon his father’s ability to properly oversee the church, and rightly so.
The part of Titus 1:6 which says that the children must be believers or faithful basically means that they must be Christians, and faithfully obedient Christians at that. All throughout the NT the term “faithful” or “believer” refers to a Christian. James 2:14-26 shows that God considers one’s faith to be alive rather than dead if one is involved in works of obedience to his will, so the term “believing children” refers to not just Christians, but faithfully obedient Christians, those who are obedient to the will of God as revealed in the Bible, not the whims and preferences of man.
Must all of the elder’s children be faithful? The most ideal situation would be that all of his children are faithfully obedient Christians, because, as alluded to in 1 Tim. 3:5, it would show even more clearly that he is properly fit to shepherd and manage the church of God.
That said, look at Titus 1:6. You’ll see that the word “all” is not in there. It simply says that he have faithful children, not that all of his children are faithful.
Say you have a man who has two children of accountable age, and one child that came along later in life who is still too young to be accountable. He has spent the past 15 years of his life raising his two older children to follow God, and his teaching has borne fruit as both of them decided at age 12 or 13 to obey the gospel and since then they’ve both been obedient. However, he also has a three year old son who in no way is even yet accountable for anything. He and his wife are currently teaching their toddler about the concept of obeying God, just as they had done with his older siblings. Is he not qualified simply because his last son due to his extremely young age is not yet capable of being a faithfully obedient Christian?
Because Titus 1:6 doesn’t specify that all of his children are meant in the phrase “believing children,” then the question of whether all of his children must be faithful Christians is a matter of judgment. Romans 14 teaches us how to handle matters of personal judgment, namely, we do not judge each other for believing or doing something that is different from what we personally believe or do.
One other biblical fact to keep in mind: Remember that the Bible speaks of godly men of faith who had children, of whom not all were as godly as them. Isaac had two sons. Both Jacob and Esau in many ways sinned against God, but eventually Jacob walked with God while Esau remained in sin…yet Isaac is listed among the faithful giants of Hebrews 11. Jacob likewise had 12 sons, but out of all of them only Joseph stands tall as an example of godliness. Judah committed terrible sins but later repented, but the rest of them (with the exception of Benjamin) also committed terrible sins with no indication that they repented…yet Jacob is also called a giant of faith. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet out of all of his sons only Solomon is lifted up as an example of godliness and wisdom, and even Solomon spent a portion of his adult life in apostasy at one point. Something to consider when thinking about this question.
“Must his children be faithful even if they are no longer living in the home?”
Undoubtedly while living in the home they are to submit completely to their father’s will, provided he commands them to do nothing sinful (1 Tim. 3:4; Eph. 6:1). However, Matthew 19:5 teaches that a point comes when a man leaves his father and mother and joins to his wife. In other words, when a child reaches adulthood and goes off on his own to start his own home, he leaves his parents behind. What biblical obligation does he still have to them at that point? Obedience in all things as it had been when he was younger? No, because now he has his own home of which he is the leader. However, Ephesians 6:2 would still tell him to honor his father and mother. Giving parents honor and respect is a lifelong responsibility which God has placed upon all of us.
With that in mind, consider this. The grown, faithfully obedient Christian children of an elder who have left his home to start their own, but yet still honor and respect him as their parent, show the world something. What they show is that he had taught them correctly when they were younger and still under his roof. And what that shows is that he his fit to shepherd and manage the church, as alluded to in 1 Timothy 3:4-5.
5. Who is the “antichrist”? Is he one man?
The Christians of John’s day had heard antichrist was coming in the last hour, and at the time John wrote “many antichrists” (note the plurality) have come, thus proving the Christian age is the final age (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3b; 1 Cor. 10:11b).
The antichrist is one who lies and denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior and Lord of man (1 John 2:22).
The spirit of the antichrist is every spirit that is not from God, which is every spirit that does not confess Jesus (1 John 4:3a).
The antichrist is any deceiver who has gone out into the world and does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 John 7).
To sum up, “the antichrist” is not one man, but any person who is against Jesus Christ (anti Christ, against Christ) in any way.
6. Is it wrong for a woman to baptize someone, including a man?
The command to teach the gospel to lost souls and baptize them was given to ALL Christians, not just males (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15).
True, women are commanded to not teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:11-12), but that command is limited to within the church (1 Tim. 3:14-15). No one is within the church until AFTER baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus, no scripture prohibits a woman from teaching a lost man the gospel and baptizing him into the church.
However, if this freedom a woman has offends a brother or sister weaker in knowledge, she should give up her freedom for the sake of unity (Rom. 14:1-15:2).
7. In heaven, will we know our loved ones as we know them on earth?
Several biblical points need to be considered:
1. In Hades after death, the rich man recognized Lazarus, a man whom he knew in life (Luke 16:23-24).
2. Paul comforted the Thessalonians by teaching them that their deceased loved ones in Christ would go with them into eternity (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Why comfort them in this way if they wouldn’t recognize their loved ones in heaven?
3. Jesus spoke of many reclining at table in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while others are in hell (Matt. 8:11). Again, why talk of interacting with Bible characters in heaven if we do not have the ability to know them for who they are?
Thus, the Scriptures indicate that if our loved ones died in Christ and we also die while in Christ, we will know them in heaven.
8. I have heard family, friends, and co-workers say that all they had to do was pray the Sinner’s Prayer and they were saved. Can you explain the Sinner’s Prayer and tell where one can find it in the Bible?
In a nutshell, the Bible never teaches that one must pray in order to be saved.
When asked, “What shall we do?”, Peter told those seeking salvation on Pentecost to repent and be baptized in order to be forgiven of sins (Acts 2:37-38). Note that he didn’t tell them to pray.
Likewise, Jesus said that faith and baptism save, not prayer (Mark 16:16).
After one obeys the gospel through confessed, heart-felt faith and penitent baptism into the body of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:35-38; 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:23), one must penitently confess their sins to God through prayer in order to receive continual forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). However, the command to pray as part of the plan for salvation comes after salvation is initially obtained through faithful, penitent baptism…not before.