Tag Archives: Satan

April 2015 Bible Questions And Answers

Topics:  Muslims, boycotting, Jesus’ body after ascension, communication in the afterlife, Jewish racism in the Bible, saying “going to church,” Satan’s sin in heaven, Christians’ punishment compared to the punishment of unbelievers

With this coming Sunday being the next scheduled Bible Question & Answers session at Duncan, I thought I’d post the questions and answers from our last session in April.  Apologies for taking so long to get them out.  I’ll do better with this coming Sunday’s batch of questions and answers.

Can a true Muslim be a good American? How should we interact with Muslims since they are called to convert us or kill us?

The Quran (Islam’s holy book, their “Bible”) contains verses which promote jihad, a holy war which requires Muslims to act violently toward unrepentant non-Muslims.  One of many passages which does so is this one:  “Now when ye MEET IN BATTLE those who disbelieve, then it is SMITING OF THE NECKS until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the WAR lay down its burdens.  That (is the ordinance).  And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others.  And THOSE WHO ARE SLAIN in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain.”  (Surah 47:4, emphasis mine).  Muslim scholar Abdulla Yusuf Ali wrote a commentary on this passage in which he stated, “When once the fight (Jihad) is entered upon, carry it out with the utmost vigour, and strike home your blows at the most vital points (smite at their necks), both literally and figuratively.  You cannot wage war with kid gloves.”

The religion of Islam is similar to Christianity in that its followers each exhibit varying degrees of faithfulness to its commandments.  Just as there are “liberal” Christians who hold to a relaxed view of biblical teaching, there are “liberal” Muslims, those who hold a relaxed view of the many teachings of the Quran concerning violence towards non-Muslims and thus are peaceful and kind.  Just as there are “conservative” Christians who simply take the Bible for what it says and try to obey all of it, there are also “conservative” Muslims who take the Quran for what it says and try to obey it all, including the passages about violence towards non-Muslims.  The “conservative” Muslims are currently represented by ISIS, the 9/11 hijackers, etc.  The “liberal” Muslims, generally speaking, are far more likely to be “good Americans” (i.e., abiding by the laws of this country; living peacefully with their fellow Americans.)

Scripture gives several guidelines on how Christians are to interact with Muslims:

  1. Remember that their souls are precious in the sight of God, so reach out to them with the gospel (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; Mark 16:15).
  2. Help them see us and our Christ as a loving people who represent a loving God by loving our neighbors and our enemies (1 Cor. 13:4-7; 1 John 4:8; Matt. 22:39; 5:44).
  3. Our love is primarily shown by sharing the truth with them in love (Eph. 4:15).
  4. Rather than writing off all Muslims you know as among the “conservative,” violent type, judge each individual Muslim righteously (John 7:24).
  5. Upon evidence that you’re dealing with a Muslim who is very “conservative” in doctrine (i.e., a violent jihadist), act wisely to protect yourself (Matt. 10:14); cf. Acts 23:12-35).

Should Christians boycott businesses which promote sins like homosexuality?

Conscientous Christians are always concerned about their affiliations and the causes they support (Prov. 4:14-15; 1 Thess. 5:22; etc.)  We all want to avoid giving evil the upper hand.  In our society, this means we are often faced with questions of which businesses we ought to support as consumers.

First of all, it must be said that we must never do anything to violate our own consciences (Rom. 14:23).  Yet, it must also be pointed out that God authorized Christians to do business in markets which sold meat that was offered to idols, even though eating meat offered to idols is sinful (1 Cor. 10:25-31; cf. Acts 15:28-29).  Thus, God allows us to purchase products or services from a business that sells things which contribute to the sins of others.

God also commands us not to research everyone through whom we purchase products or services to determine if they’re good (1 Cor. 10:25, 27).  This is because of another fact we must no longer overlook.  Boycotting breeds inconsistent hypocrisy, something God wishes Christians to overcome (Rom. 2:1, 17-24).

In recent years Disney, Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s, Sears, Wal-Mart, NBC, IBM, Subaru of America, Volvo, Chase Bank, Baby Magazine, Procter & Gamble, and more have all to some degree sponsored or promoted pro-homosexual organizations or causes.

If you boycott them all, what about businesses which hire and support liars, alcoholics, and the unscripturally divorced?  What about the businesses which sell alcohol and immodest clothing?  What about utility companies which serve businesses that sell or offer sinful services and products?

Every gas station I’ve ever seen sells alcohol, porn, lottery tickets, and tobacco products…so don’t worry about boycotting Ford, Volvo, or Subaru for supporting homosexual causes, because you won’t be able to buy a car to begin with!

If you boycott Procter & Gamble because they sponsor homosexual causes, forget about buying Duracell batteries, Febreze, Charmin, Ivory, Olay, Zest, Cover Girl, Max Factor, Crest, Scope, Gillette, Folgers, Always, Pringles, and a host of other products which they produce.

Friends, can you name even one business which is completely free from some association with sin?  Are we going to boycott them all for consistencies’ sake?  It can’t be done.

This is why we who hate to think we’re supporting sin need to remember how the New Testament says that purchasing a product or service which is innocent in itself is not a vote for that company or business’s immoral policies.

Don’t violate your conscience if it demands you boycott a business (Rom. 14:23), but also follow Romans 14:22 by not advertising your boycotting to others.  By doing so you will avoid advertising your inconsistency also.

Instead, let’s boycott sin itself!

When Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), was he still in his earthly body?

All scriptural indications point to the conclusion that he was still in his earthly, resurrected physical body when he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:1-9; Mark 16:1-19; cf. Luke 24:36-42).

Yet flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven; hence, when we are resurrected on the last day we will be given an imperishable, immortal body (1 Cor. 15:50-54).

Jesus was the very first to be resurrected never to die again.  We will experience the same on Judgment Day (1 Cor. 15:20-23; Acts 26:23; cf. Rev. 1:18; Rom. 6:9).

Thus, Jesus must have received a physical, yet imperishable and immortal, body when he was resurrected, in which he also ascended.

How did Abraham speak to the rich man when there is a great gulf between them?  Will we be able to communicate with others in Hades?  Some say we are in a dormant state.

Abraham in Paradise and the rich man in torment did have a conversation in Hades in which they were able to communicate with each other in spite of the fact that there was a great gulf or chasm between them and they were far away from each other (Luke 16:22-26).  The Bible doesn’t explain the mechanics behind this fact, so I will not either (Deut. 29:29).

It is true that death is often referred to as “sleep” in the Bible (Matt. 27:52-53; John 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thess. 5:13-17; 2 Pet. 3:4).  “Sleep” is a euphemistic metaphor for death, and should not be taken to mean that death brings about an end to all consciousness, in which the soul or spirit is “dormant” in the sense of hibernation or unconsciouness.  Otherwise, Abraham and the rich man wouldn’t have been able to communicate after death due to being in an unconscious sleep.

Rather, death is like sleep in that it brings about a cessation of activity, a season of rest and repose for the saints in Paradise.

Webster defines racism as the practice of racial discrimination or persecution.  The Jews were God’s chosen people, so were they not racist?  They called the Samaritans dogs because they were a mixed race, had nothing to do with the Gentiles, and weren’t permitted to marry Gentiles to keep the Jewish nation pure.  Maybe I’m wrong; if so help me to understand.

The prohibition against marrying Gentiles was to keep the Jewish nation which would produce the Messiah pure in a religious sense (Ex. 34:13-16; Deut. 7:3-4; Josh. 23:12-13; cf. 1 Kings 11:1-8; Ez. 9-10; Neh. 13:23ff).  However, marriage to Gentiles was allowed in some cases (cf. Deut. 21:10-14).  Thus, the prohibition was not founded out of racist discrimination, but rather out of a desire to keep the Israelites loyal to God alone.

God has never shown partiality between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:9-11).  True, he set Abraham’s descendants apart to produce the Messiah because of Abraham’s faith (Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:9-12).  Yet, remember that Abraham was an uncircumcised Gentile at the time God set him apart (Rom. 4:9-12).

God also communicated with and/or blessed in various ways individual Gentiles such as Abel, Noah, Job, Melchizedek, Jethro, Balaam, Rahab, Ruth, etc.  He also indirectly and directly reached out to and/or blessed many Gentile nations and their kings, such using Joseph with Pharaoh’s Egypt, Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, Daniel and Esther with Darius’ and Xerxes’ Persia, Jonah and Nahum with Assyria, Obadiah with Edom, Zephaniah with Ethiopia, and Amos and Ezekiel with Ammon, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Edom.

God also offered his Son for the whole world and the gospel to both Jew and Gentile (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; Tit. 2:11).

Thus, any racist discrimination and prejudice against Gentiles by Jews did not originate with God.  Rather, it came about through the inordinate, selfish pride of the Jews who took their divine national sanctification to mean more than it did (Matt. 3:8-9; John 8:37-41).  Jesus reached out to and showed kindness to Samaritans and Gentiles, as did his faithful followers (John 4; Mark 7:24-30; Acts 8:5ff; 10-11; 15; etc.)  Prideful, racist Jews tried to either prevent or limit compassionate outreach to Gentiles (cf. Gal. 1-5; Col. 2: Rom. 2-11).

Is it wrong to say that we’re “going to church”?  The church is the people, Christians, not the building.  So is it a sin to say that we’re “going to church” when we’re talking about going to the building?

The Greek word ekklesia is translated “church” in English Bibles.  It literally means “called out” or “assembly,” and is used to refer to those called out universally from sin (cf. Matt. 16:18), local congregations of Christians (cf. Gal. 1:2; Rom. 16:16), and even to secular assemblies like courts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

The word “church” originates from the old English word cirice or cyrice, which in turn comes from the Dutch word kerk and the German word kirche, which in turn are based on the medieval Greek term kuriakon doma (“Lord’s house”).  I surmise that in medieval times, kuriakon doma (“Lord’s house”) was used synonymously with ekklesia (“called out,” “assembly”) because the ekklesia was referred to as “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Therefore, whenever you read the word “church” in your Bibles, know that you’re reading a word that should technically be translated “called out” or “assembly.”  However, the reason it’s translated “church” is because “church” originally meant “Lord’s house,” a biblical description of the religious “assembly” of the “called out” from sin (1 Tim. 3:15).

So when you say “Let’s go to church,” you’re technically saying either “Let’s go to the assembly of the called out” or “Let’s go to the Lord’s house,” both of which are biblical and basically mean the same thing.

Remember also that God warns us to avoid “unhealthy cravings for quarrels about words” because they produce “dissension…evil suspicions, and constant friction” and prove that we “understand nothing” and are “deprived of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).  The inconsistent policing of the term “church,” the suspicion of error or even apostasy such policing produces among some who hear their brethren say “Let’s go to church,” and the lack of knowledge and understanding about the origins of these terms all combine to show a prime example of what Paul’s talking about here.

How?  Several inconsistencies are made by those who tell their brethren that they shouldn’t say, “Go to church”:

  1. Technically, we should say “called out” or “assembly” instead of “church” because that’s what ekklesia actually means, but we don’t and no one has a problem with it.
  2. The etymology of “church” shows that it originally meant “Lord’s house,” a biblical description of ekklesia…so why quibble over something that technically is biblical?
  3. Ekklesia was also biblically used to refer to a secular court (Acts 19).  No one has a problem saying “Let’s go to court” or “Court is in session” or “I’m representing myself in court.”  So why have a problem saying “Let’s go to church” or “Church has started” or “I’m in church”?
  4. When Paul said that it’s shameful for a woman to speak “in church” (1 Cor. 14:35), how is that different from saying, “We’re in church”?

Just something to think about.

The Bible repeatedly says that God cannot know sin.  So how is it the devil could have sinned against God in a perfect heaven?

The Bible gives little information about the origin of Satan.  We know that he was a created being (Col. 1:16), possibly an angel created during creation week (Job 38:7) and thus originally “very good” like the rest of God’s creation (Gen. 1:31).  Some believe what is said about Babylon’s king, Lucifer, and about Tyre’s king figuratively applies to the origin of Satan (Is. 14:1-15; Ezek. 28:11-19).  All we know for certain is that he was condemned because of pride (1 Tim. 3:6).

We also know God gave the human beings he created free will to choose to disobey him or obey him (Josh 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21).  Since God tempts no one to do evil (James 1:13), the only logical conclusion based on the little information we have is that Satan also had free will to choose to obey or disobey God.  Due to pride, he chose to sin against God and was cast down.

Who knows if there is more to this story which hasn’t been revealed to us?  (Deut. 29:29)

Why are we punished worse than the unbeliever if we commit the same sins as they, even if we pray about it?

God does imply a degree of worse punishment for the apostate Christian than the unbeliever who had never known the way of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Luke 12:47-48).  This is because the believer who willfully, unrepentantly sins is “crucifying once again the Son of God…and holding him up to contempt” (Heb. 6:4-6), and has “spurned the Son of God…profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:26-29).

Yet, the Christian who penitently prays about his sins to God, confessing them and asking for forgiveness and strength to overcome them, will receive no eternal punishment, but rather forgiveness and eternal life (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:22).

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?

…That Through Death He Might Destroy The One Who Has The Power Of Death…

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Hebrews 2:14-16 – Scripture of the Day (February 4, 2014)

When Satan successfully tempted Adam and Eve, he brought death into the world (Gen. 3:1ff; Rom. 5:12).  The concept of death revolves around separation, the separation of the body from the spirit which is the physical first death (James 2:26) and the separation of God from us due to our sins which is the spiritual second death death culminating in eternal hell (Is. 59:2; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8).  Because we all sinned (Rom. 3:23), and our sins demanded a just punishment (Rom. 2:5-6; 3:26) for which the blood of animal sacrifices could not atone (Heb. 10:1-4), Satan had the power of death over us.  In other words, we had no hope of salvation from hell.

Thanks be to God that out of his great love for us he sent his only Son (John 3:16), who left the glory of Heaven to become a mortal, flesh-and-blood Man (John 1:14; Rom. 1:3; 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7-8; Col. 1:22; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7) who was tempted in every way that we are tempted, “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-16).  By living that sinless life and then offering himself on the cross on our behalf, he became the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2; 4:10; cf. Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Col. 1:20; ).  God’s righteous demand for a just punishment for our sins was met, giving us the hope of salvation and thus taking away Satan’s power of death over us!

Yes, Satan is still active and we must be wary of him (1 Pet. 5:8-9; 2 Cor. 2:11)…but Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has destroyed him so that we know his guaranteed, ultimate end (Rev. 20:10-12).  Therefore, Christians need no longer fear the death that is separation from God (Rom. 8:37-39; 1 Cor. 3:21-23) because we are Abraham’s spiritual descendants due to belonging to Christ (Gal. 3:29; cf. Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:16; James 1:1-2) and thus are heirs to whom is promised that glorious, eternal inheritance in Heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-5)!

How does one come to belong to Christ and thus receive these awesome blessings?  Through faithful, penitent baptism into Christ and his body, the church of Christ (Gal. 3:26-29; Rom. 6:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Col. 1:18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).