Tag Archives: Bible questions and answers

October Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  baptism of John, Christ “shedding” his blood, suicide, fallen angels, same-sex marriage, 1 Peter 3:21’s baptism

The latest Bible Questions & Answers session where I preach was held on Sunday night, October 26, 2014, at 6 pm.  Here is a link to the recording of that session.  Below are my written answers to each question.  I hope they are of benefit to you in your personal studies.

1.  Was John the Baptist ever baptized?

The Scriptures do not explicitly say that he was, but there are scriptural reasons to believe that he was.

The Bible does not mention immersion in water as a divine requirement for forgiveness of sins before John started baptizing people.

Mark 1:4 calls his baptism a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John obviously had sins in his life, and so would need to repent and be baptized in order to have them forgiven.

Jesus, being sinless, did not need to undertake a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John recognized that, and apparently stated his own need to be baptized when he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Notice that Jesus replied, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:14-15). Jesus basically was saying to John, “We both need to be baptized in order to stand completely righteous in the sight of God and men. We need to practice what we preach in order to avoid being a stumbling block to others.”

Therefore, I have no doubt that John himself had been baptized. By whom and when is a matter of conjecture.

2.  Is it wrong to say Christ “shed his blood” on the cross at the Lord’s table?  He did not shed any blood.

Actually, Jesus himself said that he did while instituting the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:28 – “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

“Shed” (ekcheo) is defined and translated as “shed,” “poured out,” “shed forth,” “spill,” “run out,” “run greedily,” “shed abroad,” and “gush out.” Therefore, any of these terms would be acceptable terminology to use during communion.

I recognize the legitimate and sincere need to not go beyond what the Bible says. However, let me ask us to consider that sometimes in our efforts to not go beyond Scripture we do exactly that and add laws which God never legislated. I’ve heard it said that one should never say that Christ “spilled” his blood, but here we see that the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “shed” includes the concept of spilling.

We need to heed the warning God gave us in 1 Timothy 6:4-5 about not being like those who, according to the verse, are “puffed up with conceit and understand nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…”

3.  Saul committed suicide (1 Chr. 10:4).  Was he condemned?

The first thing that should be noted is that Saul would have been eternally condemned even if he had not committed suicide. The night before he died, 1 Samuel 28 records how Saul had gone to a medium, a witch, to get advice from her on how to defeat the Philistines. Under the Old Law, witchcraft was a sin punishable by death (Ex. 22:18), and it was explicitly forbidden for an Israelite to seek them out and turn to them (Lev. 19:31). Yet, that’s exactly what Saul had done. The reason he decided to commit this sin is also very telling about the state of his soul in the final days of his life. He would go to the Lord for guidance and the Lord would not answer him because Saul had unrepentant sin in his heart and had turned away from hearing God’s laws (Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9). The spirit of Samuel whom the medium had called up even said very plainly that the Lord was Saul’s enemy (1 Sam. 28:16). Therefore, Saul would have stood condemned even if he had not committed suicide, because the Scriptures give no indication that he, even in the final moments of his life, was penitent.

Is suicide a sin resulting in eternal condemnation? Sadly, more and more of the world doesn’t think so. In some societies going all the way back to biblical times and up to today, suicide is seen as an honorable way to die.

The Greeks considered it a part of man’s freedom. The Japanese consider it evidence of sincerity. In fact, when a Japanese mother decides to commit suicide she usually first kills her children. Believe it or not, Japanese society praises such an act because they consider children to be parts of their parents, and to leave them motherless would be cruel. In America, suicide is becoming increasingly popular, the 11th leading cause of death in recent years and the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age bracket. There are reports of a number of suicides even among pre-teens. More and more of us tend to rationalize it, calling it “death with dignity” or even “patient-directed termination.” It’s becoming more popular due to humanistic, worldly influences that cheapen the value of human life. When abortion, euthanasia, human experimentation and the like become increasingly accepted, alongside atheistic, hedonistic philosophies and the belief that there is no ultimate judgment for us, then we should not be surprised that the suicide rate is growing. After all, it’s based upon the premise that self-murder will end all of your problems because, supposedly, there is nothing beyond death. Some false religions contribute to this also. For example, the notion of reincarnation, that one after death may return to this life in a new existence wherein he can “try again” to achieve happiness leads some to take their own lives. And of course, there is also the case of people with genuine mental illnesses who commit suicide, people who are therefore not accountable for their actions. (However, statistically only about 10% of suicides are done by those diagnosed with clinical mental illnesses.)

What does the Bible say about suicide? Well, it condemns it as a morally reprehensible act if done by a rational person.

First of all, the rational person who commits suicide is basically saying that he is autonomous, his own source of law. The Greek Stoic philosopher Seneca defended suicide as an aspect of man’s lordship over his own being. However, the Bible says that God made us and we are his (Ps. 100:3; Ezek. 18:4). He breathed the breath of life into us (Gen. 2:7). He is the potter and has the right over us, the clay (Rom. 9:21).

Secondly, the Bible teaches that life is a gift from God. Paul said to Athens and also to Timothy that God himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25; 1 Tim. 6:13). No one has the right to destroy that gift of life which God gives unless God himself authorizes them to do so, as he did from time to time in the Old Testament (Lev. 20:2) and also to governing authorities in the New Testament (Rom. 13:4).

Murder is basically any shedding of human blood which is unauthorized by God. Suicide thereby falls into the definition of murder. God calls murder an assault upon how man is created in God’s image (Gen. 9:6), and is condemned in both Testaments (Ex. 20:13; Rom. 13:9).

Suicide is also an act of selfishness. We were created for one reason: to fear God and keep his commandments (Eccl. 12:13). God is our Maker (Ps. 95:6), and because he is our Maker he is worthy to be served by us (Ps. 18:3). We were created to glorify him (Is. 43:7). One of the commandments God created us to obey is to help others. Jesus went about helping others and doing good (Acts 10:38), and we also are to do good to all at every opportunity (Gal. 6:10). None of us lives (or dies) to himself (Rom. 14:7). The rational person who chooses to take his own life purposefully avoids taking on these biblical responsibilities.

Finally, suicide is wrong because it violates the biblical principle of self-worth. When Paul told us to not think more highly of ourselves THAN WE OUGHT TO THINK (Rom. 12:3), he is implicitly telling us that we ought to think of ourselves highly to a certain extent. When Jesus told us to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES (Matt. 22:39) and that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies (Eph. 5:28), he implicitly tells us that we ought to love ourselves. How is rationally, purposefully deciding to take your own life thinking highly of yourself and loving yourself?

(My thanks to the Christian Courier website for giving me some great insights into the answering of this question.)

4.  Why are the angels who sinned cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness (2 Pet. 2:4)…but Satan roams the earth (or at least is not chained) while tempting David, Job, Jesus, etc.?  (1 Chr. 21:1; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; etc.)  I also know that he accuses us daily before the Lord, but cannot recall the scripture.

First off, go to 2 Peter 2:4 and notice that most English translations say that the sinning angels were cast down to “hell.” The Greek word there is tartarus, which literally means “prison.” This is the only place this word is found in Scripture, so we have to go to how the Greeks used it in their contemporary literature back then to determine its true meaning. Homer, the Greek writer of the Iliad and Odyssey, used the word tartarus to refer to a murky abyss beneath Hades (the place where the dead go to wait for judgment) where the sins of the wicked immortals are punished. Peter was writing to Greeks here, so it makes sense that he would use this word which they were familiar with in reference to the condemnation of the angels. What is also interesting is that the Bible brings out how demons and even Jesus himself alluded to the concept of tartarus, that murky pit beneath Hades where the wicked are punished. When Jesus cast out demons, they pleaded with him not to command them to depart into the abyss (Luke 8:31). When Jesus gave the account of the wicked rich man being in Hades after he died, Luke 16:23-26 brings out how the rich man was not only in Hades, but specifically “in torment” (v. 23) and that there is “a great chasm/gulf” between him and those in Hades who were at rest, implying that he would be in that murky abyss of tartarus where the fallen angels were.

Next, notice that the passage asked about that says that Satan accuses Christians day and night before God is Rev. 12:9-10 – “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

A deep study into the original language’s literal wording of what is rendered in English “delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” gives some insight into the actual meaning of the passage, a meaning which is probably quite different from the way we normally interpret the passage. As seen in the question and in how it’s worded in English translations, we read 2 Peter 2:4 and gather than God chained these angels in the darkness of tartarus, the abyss, where they are even to this day waiting for judgment. If God did that with these angels, why did he not do so with Satan, their leader? Why is Satan free to roam the earth and tempt us?

Look at the word “delivered.” It comes from the Greek paradidomi, which has several definitions. Here are a few of them: “to give into the hands (of another); “to give over into (one’s) power or use; “to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage;” “to permit, allow.” Granted, another one of its definitions is “to deliver up one to custody, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death.” However, in light of these other definitions and also in light of the question, “Why is Satan roaming free while the rest of the angels are delivered into chains of darkness?”, perhaps we are using the wrong definition of paradidomi. Another interesting point is that the word “into” (“delivered into chains of darkness”) is not in the original Greek.

So maybe we ought to use these other definitions of paradidomi, namely, that instead of saying God “delivered them into chains of darkness”/put them in the custody of chains of darkness, maybe we should instead use the other definitions of the word so that the verse says that while reserving them for judgment, God “permitted them chains of darkness/allowed them chains of darkness/gave into their hands chains of darkness/gave these chains of darkness over to them to keep, use, and manage.”

The idea that God PERMITS AND ALLOWS AND GIVES INTO THESE FALLEN ANGEL’S HANDS THE POWER TO USE these chains of darkness tells us exactly HOW Satan had the power to tempt David (1 Chr. 21:1) and Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11) and us today. In fact, we see this played out very plainly in Job 1:6-12, where it plainly says that God gave Satan permission to torment Job and tempt him to sin. We also see it played out very plainly in Luke 8:26ff, where Jesus clearly had power over those demons and they recognized it and begged him not to cast them into the abyss.

God gave Satan permission to have control over the chains of darkness. He tempts us and torments us so that we will give into his temptations to sin and thus place ourselves in those chains of darkness. John 3:19 tells us that people who give into sin, whose works are evil, love those chains of darkness. That’s why Jesus warns us about the darkness overtaking us (John 12:35), and is the light so that whoever believes in him may not remain in darkness (John 12:46). Jesus wants us to cast off those works of darkness, those chains of darkness (Rom. 13:12) and recognize that light has no fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). God wants us to remember that we were in darkness at one time, but now we are light in the Lord and need to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8) by taking no part in those unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11) so that we will not be ensnared in those chains again. God wants us to remember that we are wrestling against – notice – ‘the cosmic powers OVER this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12). (Paul is basically stating outright that rather than being bound by the chains of darkness, Satan and his angels actually have power OVER those chains of darkness.) And if we give into his temptations, if we sin, if we hate our brother, we are still in darkness (1 John 2:9, 11). We are walking in the darkness. We do not know where we are going, because the darkness has blinded our eyes.

An even bigger question is WHY. WHY did God PERMIT, ALLOW, AND GIVE INTO THESE FALLEN ANGEL’S HANDS THE POWER TO USE THESE CHAINS OF DARKNESS??

Simply put, God wants us to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37). In order to truly love him with all of our heart, we can’t be robots. He can’t program us or force us to love him with all of our being. No, we have to choose him (Josh. 24:15). In order to make that choice, there has to be another option. That’s where Satan comes in.

By giving Satan the power to use those chains of the darkness of sin, by giving him the power to tempt us to willingly bind ourselves in those chains of darkness, God is giving us the power to choose, to choose either Satan or him, and thus the power to love him with all of our being if we choose him from the heart.

Before we go on to the next question, I want you to remember this. GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!!

Even though he gave Satan the power over chains of darkness, GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!! He has ALWAYS been in control!!

In the Old Testament, he would not allow Satan to do just anything he wanted to Job (Job 1:6ff). That encourages me.

What encourages me even more is that Jesus, by dying on the cross and being the propitiation for our sins, limited Satan’s power even more! Hebrews 2:14 says that Christ through his death destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. That’s the real meaning of Revelation 20:1-3 where Satan is bound for a thousand years and thrown into the pit. Why was he thrown into the pit? “So that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” Remember what we read earlier in Rev. 12:9-10 about Satan the dragon being cast down? Verse 9 says that he was cast down. Look at verse 10. After he was cast down, a loud voice said in heaven, “NOW the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come!” When did salvation come? At the cross. When did Jesus receive all power and authority? After the cross? When did the kingdom come? After the cross. When did God limit the power of Satan even more? After he finally provided forgiveness to all through the blood of Christ shed on the cross!

Jesus promised that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29), and that includes Satan. Satan cannot force us to leave God. God will not allow it. He promised us that he will not let any of Satan’s temptation be strong for us to overcome, that he will always provide the way of escape that we will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13). Praise him for that!

5.  What should our congregation do in light of the Supreme Court decision about allowing gay marriages in many states, probably including this one before long?

To review, on October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on three lower federal court’s rulings to overturn bans on homosexual marriage.  Because one of these lower federal courts has jurisdiction in this state, by allowing their pro-homosexual marriage ruling to stand the U.S. Supreme Court has made it very likely, according to judicial experts on both sides, that our state’s current ban on same-sex marriage will soon be ruled unconstitutional and that ruling will be upheld.

Additionally, within the past few months various domestic businesses owned by people with Christian views (photographers, bakeries, churches that rent property to the public, and recently two ministers who own a wedding chapel) have been successfully fined and in some cases are facing jail time for politely declining to participate in homosexual weddings.  Denmark recently forced churches to allow same-sex weddings on private church property, and Canada’s Supreme Court recently ruled that any condemnation of same-sex marriage is deemed “hate speech.”  All of this has laid the groundwork for United States churches and ministers to be successfully punished for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

n response to this growing persecution that is on the horizon, or perhaps has passed the horizon and is now approaching our front door, what are we to do?

Some of us might want to respond by softening the church’s stance on homosexuality and marriage. Some elderships and congregations are telling their preachers and Bible class teachers to do this. I know because some preacher colleague friends of mine in the Lord’s church from all over the country, including a few close by, tell me that’s what some of their elders and brethren are wanting them to do. Others are doing it, you know. The Roman Catholic Church made headlines about a week or so ago when a Vatican document was published saying that homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept homosexuals and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples. That’s on top of their current Pope recently taking a very “open posture” on gay issues, one of their top-ranking Italian bishops recently saying that the Church should be more open to arguments in support of same sex marriage, and one of the Pope’s closest friends who is a Cardinal in Brazil saying in a recent interview that he “didn’t know” whether Jesus would oppose homosexual marriage.

Well, here’s what God’s Word tells us. Here’s the thoughts of Christ the Word. God wants Christians to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), the truth being God’s Word (John 17:17). God says that we are to “preach the Word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort…for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” The Bible says that there will be those in the church who are like this, who turn away from listening to the truth. Romans 16:17-18 says that they cause divisions, create obstacles contrary to the doctrine we have been taught, that they serve their own appetites rather than the Lord Jesus, that they deceive the hearts of the naïve by smooth talk and flattery, and we are to watch out for them and avoid them. Instead, we are to preach the truth, which is that homosexuality is listed among the unrighteous sins keeping one out of the kingdom, and that it can in fact be repented of when one obeys the gospel (1 Cor. 6:9-11). That message will bring persecution, slander, and lies upon us for the sake of Jesus; Jesus tells us we’re blessed when that happens, the kingdom is ours, and we’re not the first prophets who have had that happen to them (Mt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:12). God wants us to follow the example of the apostles, who when the government told them to stop preaching Jesus, replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Concerning homosexuality, we must stand firm on what God has actually commanded us to do: preach the Word of God in love, no matter what.

What about things which God has NOT commanded us to do?  I ask because the New Testament does not in any way give ministers and churches the divinely-appointed responsibility to officiate or host wedding ceremonies.  “The church wedding” with a preacher officiating is a tradition of men having its origin in Catholicism.  Certainly no scripture is violated by observing this tradition, but no scripture is obeyed either.

Most likely within the upcoming year, a judge will declare homosexual marriage legal in this state. When that happens, the likelihood will increase with each passing Sunday that this congregation will eventually be successfully sued and fined. Wives of preachers from different parts of the country have told my wife, who in turn has told me, that in recent weeks people have called the church building and talked to their minister husbands, asking for the church’s stance on homosexuality. From the types of questions asked, it seems that they were fishing for a successful discrimination lawsuit. They will likely find one here at this congregation if we do two things:

  1. Continue to preach God’s Word about homosexuality as he commanded us to do (2 Tim. 4:2-4; Acts 20:27-32 – the whole counsel of God; elders were warned about those among their own ranks rising to speak perverse things and draw brethren away after them, but Paul commended them and us to God and the word of his grace). We cannot stop doing that, no matter what lawsuits or jail time may come.
  2. Successful discrimination lawsuits will come if we continue to allow weddings to be hosted here on church property in which we, due to scriptural teaching, allow only scripturally qualified marriages to be started and celebrated in these weddings, namely, no homosexual marriages and only marriages between two heterosexuals who have either never been married before, been widowed, or have been divorced for the reason of their spouse’s fornication and are now remarrying. Again, the practice of a wedding taking place in a church is not a responsibility God gave to the church in the NT. It is a man-made tradition rooted in Catholicism. It’s an innocent tradition in itself, but the reality of the times we live in is that we are likely to be successfully sued for participating in a man-made tradition which God never commanded the church to do.

Therefore, to answer the question asked here tonight, my advice to our elders and this congregation is the following:

First, continue to stand firm in preaching the truth in love, preaching the whole counsel of God about homosexuality and every other sin. Do so no matter what. God has commanded that we do this. Our own eternal destiny, and the destinies of the lost out there who are dying in their sins, depend on it. That is worth any fine given to us, any lawsuit we lose. If we are kicked out of this building and have to meet in a dark alley somewhere under cover of darkness because we preach the truth, then so be it.

However, I would also strongly advise our elders and this congregation to not open the door to the risk of the Lord’s money being used to pay a fine, pay a lawsuit, pay legal fees, or forfeit our facilities here over defending something God never asked us to defend in the first place, namely, the man-made tradition of using a church building to host and participate in a wedding ceremony.

In my judgment, good stewards would not use the Lord’s money to defend something that he has not actually commanded us to do in general or specific command, principle, or example. One does not find the church of Christ in the New Testament being commanded to host a wedding in its meeting place, we do not find an example of it, nor is there even a general principle commanding it. It’s completely optional, completely a man-made tradition. Do we want to risk our weekly contributions going to pay off legal fees to defend our participation in a man-made tradition? In my opinion – and that’s all it is, an opinion – I don’t want the Lord’s money used to that purpose.

My advice was asked for in this question. I suggest that our elders and the men of this congregation and the board of trustees of this congregation get together very soon and make it official policy, even going so far as to put it in the by-laws of this church property, that these facilities will not be used for weddings or civil unions of any kind, for anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or preference. Doing so, in my judgment, won’t eliminate a discrimination lawsuit from occurring, but it might just lower the likelihood of a lawsuit coming on this front.

I also highly advise that our elders seek legal counsel immediately on how to further protect the facilities and funds of this church, without of course sacrificing this congregation’s mission to firmly, vocally, and lovingly proclaim and support biblical truth concerning homosexuality.

“Jon, is this a little extreme?” Yes, it is, but we live in extreme times. How many of you thought that you would see in the United States headlines that would make a conversation like this relevant? I say that we, as in everything else, follow the example of the early church. In Acts 8:1, when the first major persecution arose in the church’s history, what did they do? They took extreme steps. They scattered and left Jerusalem. They recognized that God had not given a command to stay in Jerusalem, and they weren’t willing to lose their freedom over defending something God had not actually commanded them to defend. So they were wise, and took the extreme option. However, notice also that verse 4 says that they never stopped doing what God actually had commanded them to do, which is preach the Word that brought that persecution to them in the first place. We can and must learn a lesson from them.

As for me, as a preacher I have recently decided to pursue two courses of action and ask for your support, understanding, and prayers.

First, I will continue to preach the whole counsel of God about homosexuality and will do so in love regardless of personal cost.

However, from this point forward I will not officiate any wedding ceremonies of any kind.  This is a very painful decision for me to make as it means that I likely will not officiate my daughters’ weddings, something I’ve always wanted to do.  However, as leader of my family I cannot in good conscience put my family’s finances at risk over something which God has not actually required of me.

6.  Please explain 1 Peter 3:21’s statement about baptism not being a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a good conscience.

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)

Some say this verse teaches a person has a good conscience BEFORE baptism, thus indicating that salvation precedes baptism.  This is not what the passage is saying, for several reasons.

A good conscience, while in most cases a good thing, is not necessarily in itself proof that one is saved and in a right relationship with God.  Saul of Tarsus said he lived in good conscience all his life (Acts 23:1), which would include the time when he persecuted the church.

Therefore, even if it could be proved from this verse that a good conscience comes before baptism (which it can’t), even so that would not necessarily prove that baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Another point to bring out about a good conscience is that the term could be describing a heart that is sincere, a person who is earnestly seeking to obey God.  A person earnestly and sincerely seeking to obey God, after reading in the Bible the commands to be baptized, would obey the command to be baptized rather than question it as so many do.

Above all else, remember this. The verse starts out by saying something that a 10 year old could understand. Baptism now saves you. That’s very clear. So when we try to figure out the rest of the verse, any conclusion we come to is wrong if it contradicts that very plain statement: Baptism now saves you.

Baptism now saves you. How? It’s not the water. Not as a removal of dirt from the body. The water might cleanse the dirt from your body, but the water won’t cleanse your soul from sin.

Only the blood of Christ does that. Jesus said that his blood was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28). Paul said that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins through his blood (Eph. 1:7). Is it any wonder that Ananias said to Saul that he would be washing away his sins if he was baptized? (Acts 22:16) In baptism one spiritually comes into contact with the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sins. We are commanded to be baptized in water (Acts 10:48; John 3:5), but the water itself doesn’t spiritually cleanse us.

So how does baptism save us? We’ve already examined its connection to the blood of Christ. This verse gives us another way baptism saves us. Peter says that baptism is an appeal. Appeal in the Greek literally means a request, a craving. Baptism is an appeal, a request, a craving…for what?

A good conscience, a clear conscience, the kind of conscience you get when your sins are forgiven.

Baptism is an appeal, a request, a craving for forgiveness and the clear conscience forgiveness brings. The Bible teaches that God will always and immediately grant that forgiveness we crave to any penitent believer the moment he is baptized (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16)

Therefore, that good conscience that tells you that you are now saved and you are now forgiven comes only after baptism, because baptism is how we appeal to God for that forgiveness which brings about that good conscience?

Are you ready to appeal to God for a good conscience?

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.)