Questions About Miscellaneous Bible Questions People are Really Asking: The TOP Most Frequently Asked Questions About Miscellaneous Bible Questions
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – About Miscellaneous Bible Questions people are really asking – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About Miscellaneous Bible Questions people are really asking and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
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But before we answer questions about Miscellaneous Bible Questions, hereunder is the most important question that has to do with your eternal destiny with answer for your necessary action:
Question: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?
Answer: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? To properly understand this question, you must first understand the terms “Jesus Christ,” “personal,” and “Savior.”
Who is Jesus Christ? Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?
What is a Savior, and why do we need a Savior? The Bible tells us that we have all sinned; we have all committed evil acts (Romans 3:10-18). As a result of our sin, we deserve God’s anger and judgment. The only just punishment for sins committed against an infinite and eternal God is an infinite punishment (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). That is why we need a Savior!
Jesus Christ came to earth and died in our place. Jesus’ death was an infinite payment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price so that we would not have to. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. That is why Jesus is the one and only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior?
Is Jesus your “personal” Savior? Many people view Christianity as attending church, performing rituals, and/or not committing certain sins. That is not Christianity. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life (John 3:16). Is Jesus personally your Savior?
If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, say the following words to God. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and deserve punishment. But I believe Jesus Christ took the punishment I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I receive Your offer of forgiveness and place my trust in You for salvation. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness— the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
Now, Top Questions About Miscellaneous Bible Questions People are Really Asking:
Who were the twelve disciples/aposties of Jesus Christ?
Are there such things as aliens or UFOs?
Does the Bible record the death of the apostles? How did each of the aposties die? Why did God choose Israel to be His chosen people?
Why do Jews and Arabs/Muslims hate each other?
Do Christians have to obey the laws of the land?
What is the Christian view of psychics?
Does the Bible condone slavery?
What are the Ten Commandments?
Does God still give visions to people today?
Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?
What were the Christian crusades?
What is the Great Commission?
What happened in the intertestamental period?
Should Christian women wear make-up or jewelry?
Who was Melchizedek?
Should a Christian listen to secular music?
What was the significance of the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died? What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
Christian archaeology—why is it important?
Can a Christian be cursed? Who were the early church fathers?
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it? Are we to love the sinner but hate the sin?
Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
Who were the Sadducees and the Pharisees?
How does psychology work with biblical counseling?
How do I know which of God’s promises are for me?
Is there such a thing as absolute truth?
Question: Who were the twelve disciples/apostles of Jesus Christ?
Answer: The word “disciple” refers to a learner or follower. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent out.” While Jesus was on earth, His twelve followers were called disciples. The twelve disciples followed Jesus Christ, learned from Him, and were trained by Him. After His resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the disciples out to be His witnesses (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). They were then referred to as the twelve apostles. However, even when Jesus was still on earth, the terms “disciples” and “apostles” were used somewhat interchangeably.
The original twelve disciples/apostles are listed in Matthew 10:2-4, “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” The Bible also lists the twelve disciples/apostles in Mark 3:16-19 and Luke 6:13-16. A comparison of the three passages shows a couple of minor differences in the names. It seems that Thaddaeus was also known as “Judas, son of James” (Luke 6:16) and Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3). Simon the Zealot was also known as Simon the Canaanite (Mark 3:18). Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was replaced in the twelve apostles by Matthias (see Acts 1:20-26). Some Bible teachers view Matthias as an “invalid” apostle and believe that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth apostle.
The twelve disciples/apostles were ordinary men whom God used in an extraordinary manner. Among the twelve were fishermen, a tax collector, and a revolutionary. The Gospels record the constant failings, struggles, and doubts of these twelve men who followed Jesus Christ. After witnessing Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples/apostles into powerful men of God who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). What was the change? The twelve apostles/disciples had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). May the same be said of us!
Question: Are there such things as aliens or UFOs?
Answer: First, let’s define “aliens” as “beings capable of making moral choices, having intellect, emotion, and a will.” Next, a few scientific facts:
1. Men have sent spacecraft to nearly every planet in our solar system. After observing these planets, we have ruled out all but Mars and possibly a moon of Jupiter as being able to support life.
2. In 1976, the U.S.A, sent two landers to Mars. Each had instruments that could dig into the Martian sand and analyze it for any sign of life. They found absolutely nothing. In contrast, if you analyzed soil from the most barren desert on earth or the most frozen dirt in Antarctica, you would find it teeming with micro-organisms. In 1997, the U.S.A, sent Pathfinder to the surface of Mars. This rover took more samples and conducted many more experiments. It also found absolutely no sign of life. Since that time, several more missions to Mars have been launched. The results have always been the same.
3. Astronomers are constantly finding new planets in distant solar systems. Some propose that the existence of so many planets proves that there must be life somewhere else in the universe. The fact is that none of these has ever been proved to be anything close to a life-supporting planet. The tremendous distance between Earth and these planets makes it impossible to make any judgments regarding their ability to sustain life. Knowing that Earth alone supports life in our solar system, evolutionists want very badly to find another planet in another solar system to support the notion that life must have evolved. There are many other planets out there, but we certainly do not know enough about them to verify that they could support life.
So, what does the Bible say? The earth and mankind are unique in God’s creation. Genesis 1 teaches that God created the earth before He even created the sun, the moon, or the stars. Acts 17:24, 26 states that “the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands…he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
Originally, mankind was without sin, and everything in the world was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). When the first man sinned (Genesis 3), the result was problems of all sorts, including sickness and death. Even though animals have no personal sin before God (they are not moral beings), they still suffer and die (Romans 8:19-22). Jesus Christ died to remove the punishment that we deserve for our sin. When He returns, He will undo the curse that has existed since Adam (Revelation 21-22). Note that Romans 8:19-22 states that all of creation eagerly waits for this time. It is important to also note that Christ came to die for mankind and that He died only once (Hebrews 7:27; 9:26-28; 10:10).
If all of creation now suffers under the curse, any life apart from the earth would also suffer. If, for the sake of argument, moral beings do exist on other planets, then they also suffer; and if not now, then someday they will surely suffer when everything passes away with a great noise and the elements melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10). If they had never sinned, then God would be unjust in punishing them. But if they had sinned, and Christ could die only once (which He did on earth), then they are left in their sin, which would also be contrary to the character of God (2 Peter 3:9). This leaves us with an unsolvable paradox—unless, of course, there are no moral beings outside of the earth.
What about non-moral and non-sentient life forms on other planets? Could algae or even dogs and cats be present on an unknown planet? Presumably so, and it would not do any real harm to any biblical text. But it would certainly prove problematic when trying answer questions like “Since all of creation suffers, what purpose would God have in creating non-moral and non-sentient creatures to suffer on distant planets?”
In conclusion, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe. In fact, the Bible gives us several key reasons why there cannot be. Yes, there are many strange and unexplainable things that take place. There is no reason, though, to attribute these phenomena to aliens or UFOs. If there is a discernable cause to these supposed events, it is likely to be spiritual, and more specifically, demonic, in origin.
Question: Does the Bible record the death of the apostles? How did each of the apostles die?
Answer: The only apostle whose death the Bible records is James (Acts 12:2). King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” likely a reference to beheading. The circumstances of the deaths of the other apostles are related through church tradition, so we should not put too much weight on any of the other accounts. The most commonly accepted church tradition in regard to the death of an apostle is that the apostle Peter was crucified upside-down on an x- shaped cross in Rome in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (John 21:18). The following are the most popular “traditions” concerning the deaths of the other apostles:
Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound. John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to what is now modern-day Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
James, the brother of Jesus (not officially an apostle), was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the temple (over a hundred feet down) when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club. This is thought to be the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.
Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, being flayed to death by a whip. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died. The apostle Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church there. Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded. The apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in AD 67. There are traditions regarding the other apostles as well, but none with any reliable historical or traditional support.
It is not so important how the apostles died. What is important is the fact that they were all willing to die for their faith. If Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known it. People will not die for something they know to be a lie. The fact that all of the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, is tremendous evidence that they had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Question: Why did God choose Israel to be His chosen people?
Answer: Speaking of the nation of Israel, Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.”
God chose the nation of Israel to be the people through whom Jesus Christ would be born—the Savior from sin and death (John 3:16). God first promised the Messiah after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin (Genesis chapter 3). God later confirmed that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus Christ is the ultimate reason why God chose Israel to be His special people. God did not need to have a chosen people, but He decided to do it that way. Jesus had to come from some nation of people, and God chose Israel.
However, God’s reason for choosing the nation of Israel was not solely for the purpose of producing the Messiah. God’s desire for Israel was that they would go and teach others about Him. Israel was to be a nation of priests, prophets, and missionaries to the world. God’s intent was for Israel to be a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God and His promised provision of a Redeemer, Messiah, and Savior. For the most part, Israel failed in this task. However, God’s ultimate purpose for Israel—that of bringing the Messiah into the world—was fulfilled perfectly in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Question: Why do Jews and Arabs/Muslims hate each other?
Answer: First, it is important to understand that not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. While a majority of Arabs are Muslims, there are many non-Muslim Arabs. Further, there are significantly more non-Arab Muslims in areas such as Indonesia and Malaysia than there are Arab Muslims. Second, it is important to remember that not all Arabs hate Jews, not all Muslims hate Jews, and not all Jews hate Arabs and Muslims. We must be careful to avoid stereotyping people. However, generally speaking, Arabs and Muslims have a dislike of and distrust for Jews, and vice-versa.
If there is an explicit biblical explanation for this animosity, it goes all the way back to Abraham. The Jews are descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac. The Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael. With Ishmael being the son of a slave woman (Genesis 16:1-16) and Isaac being the promised son who would inherit the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 21:1-3), obviously there would be some animosity between the two sons. As a result of Ishmael’s mocking Isaac (Genesis 21:9), Sarah talked Abraham into sending Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:11-21). Likely, this caused even more contempt in Ishmael’s heart towards Isaac. An angel prophesied to Hagar that Ishmael would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).
The religion of Islam, to which a majority of Arabs are adherents, has made this hostility more profound. The Qur’an contains somewhat contradictory instructions for Muslims regarding Jews. At one point it instructs Muslims to treat Jews as brothers and at another point commands Muslims to attack Jews who refuse to convert to Islam. The Qur’an also introduces a conflict as to which son of Abraham was truly the son of promise. The Hebrew Scriptures say it was Isaac. The Qur’an says it was Ishmael. The Qur’an teaches that it was Ishmael whom Abraham almost sacrificed to the Lord, not Isaac (in contradiction to Genesis chapter 22). This debate over who was the son of promise contributes to the hostility today.
However, the ancient root of bitterness between Isaac and Ishmael does not explain all of the hostility between Jews and Arabs today. In fact, for thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, Jews and Arabs lived in relative peace and indifference towards each other. The primary cause of the hostility has a modern origin. After World War II, when the United Nations gave a portion of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, the land was at that time primarily inhabited by Arabs (the Palestinians). Most Arabs protested vehemently against the nation of Israel occupying that land. Arab nations united and attacked Israel in an attempt to drive them out of the land, but they were defeated. Ever since, there has been great hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel exists on one tiny piece of land surrounded by much larger Arab nations such as Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. It is our viewpoint that, biblically speaking, Israel has a right to exist as a nation in its own land that God gave to the descendants of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. At the same time, we strongly believe that Israel should seek peace and display respect for its Arab neighbors. Psalm 122:6 declares, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”
Question: Do Christians have to obey the laws of the land?
Answer: Romans 13:1-7 states, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
This passage makes it abundantly clear that we are to obey the government God places over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 12:8). We are to obey the government in everything—paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he was under the government of Rome during the reign of Nero, perhaps the most evil of all the Roman emperors. Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?
The next question is “Is there a time when we should intentionally disobey the laws of the land?” The answer to that question may be found in Acts 5:27-29, “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”’ From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).
Question: What is the Christian view of psychics?
Answer: The Bible strongly condemns spiritism, mediums, the occult, and psychics (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-13). Horoscopes, tarot cards, astrology, fortune tellers, palm readings, and seances fall into this category as well. These practices are based on the concept that there are gods, spirits, or deceased loved ones that can give advice and guidance. These “gods” or “spirits” are demons (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The Bible gives us no reason to believe that deceased loved ones can contact us. If they were believers, they are in heaven enjoying the most wonderful place imaginable in fellowship with a loving God. If they were not believers, they are in hell, suffering the un-ending torment for rejecting God’s love and rebelling against Him.
So, if our loved ones cannot contact us, how do mediums, spiritists, and psychics get such accurate information? There have been many exposures of psychics as frauds. It has been proven that psychics can gain immense amounts of information on someone through ordinary means. Sometimes by just using a telephone number through caller ID and an internet search, a psychic can get names, addresses, dates of birth, dates of marriage, family members, etc. However, it is undeniable that psychics sometimes know things that should be impossible for them to know. Where do they get this information? The answer is from Satan and his demons. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Acts 16:16-18 describes a fortune teller who was able to predict the future until the apostle Paul rebuked a demon out of her.
Satan pretends to be kind and helpful. He tries to appear as something good. Satan and his demons will give a psychic information about a person in order to get that person hooked into spiritism, something that God forbids. It appears innocent at first, but soon people can find themselves addicted to psychics and unwittingly allow Satan to control and destroy their lives. Peter proclaimed, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). In some cases, the psychics themselves are deceived, not knowing the true source of the information they receive. Whatever the case and wherever the source of the information, nothing connected to spiritism, witchcraft, or astrology is a godly means of discovering information. How does God want us to discern His will for our life? God’s plan is simple, yet powerful and effective: study the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and pray for wisdom (James 1:5).
Question: Does the Bible condone slavery?
Answer: There is a tendency to look at slavery as something of the past. But it is estimated that there are today over 12 million people in the world who are subject to slavery: forced labor, sex trade, inheritable property, etc. As those who have been redeemed from the slavery of sin, followers of Jesus Christ should be the foremost champions of ending human slavery in the world today. The question arises, though, why does the Bible not speak out strongly against slavery? Why does the Bible, in fact, seem to support the practice of human slavery?
The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1), but does not outlaw slavery altogether. Many see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. What many fail to understand is that slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was more a matter of social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters.
The slavery of the past few centuries was often based exclusively on skin color. In the United States, many black people were considered slaves because of their nationality; many slave owners truly believed black people to be inferior human beings. The Bible most definitely does condemn race-based slavery. Consider the slavery the Hebrews experienced when they were in Egypt. The Hebrews were slaves, not by choice, but because they were Hebrews (Exodus 13:14). The plagues God poured out on Egypt demonstrate how God feels about racial slavery (Exodus 7-11). So, yes, the Bible does condemn some forms of slavery. At the same time, the Bible does seem to allow for other forms. The key issue is that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the racial slavery that plagued our world in the past few centuries.
In addition, both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of “man stealing” which is what happened in Africa in the 19th century. Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God. In fact, the penalty for such a crime in the Mosaic Law was death: “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). Similarly, in the New Testament, slave-traders are listed among those who are “ungodly and sinful” and are in the same category as those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, adulterers and perverts, and liars and perjurers (1 Timothy 1:8-10).
Another crucial point is that the purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society. The Bible often approaches issues from the inside out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God by receiving His salvation, God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible’s prescription for ending slavery.
Question: What are the Ten Commandments?
Answer: The Ten Commandments are ten laws in the Bible that God gave to the nation of Israel shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with our relationships with one another. The Ten Commandments are recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and are as follows:
1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is against
worshipping any god other than the one true God. All other gods are false
2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This command is against making an idol, a visible representation of God. There is no image we can create that can accurately portray God. To make an idol to represent God is to worship a false god.
3. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” This is a command against taking the name of the Lord in vain. We are not to treat God’s name lightly. We are to show reverence to God by only mentioning Him in respectful and honoring ways.
4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a command to set aside the Sabbath (Saturday, the last day of the week) as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord.
5. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the
land the LORD your God is giving you.” This is a command to always treat
one’s parents with honor and respect.
6. “You shall not murder.” This is a command against the premeditated murder of another human being.
7. “You shall not commit adultery.” This is a command against have
sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.
8. “You shall not steal.” This is a command against taking anything that is not one’s own, without the permission of the person to whom it belongs.
9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This is a command prohibiting testifying against another person falsely. It is essentially a command against lying.
10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This is a command against desiring anything that is not one’s own. Coveting can lead to breaking one of the commandments listed above: murder, adultery, and theft. If it is wrong to do something, it is wrong to desire to do that same something.
Many people mistakenly look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee entrance into heaven after death. In contrast, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to force people to realize that they cannot perfectly obey the Law (Romans 7:7-11), and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. Despite the claims of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16, no one can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace, available only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Question: Does God still give visions to people today?
Answer: Can God give visions to people today? Yes! Does God give visions to people today? Possibly. Should we expect visions to be an ordinary occurrence? No. As recorded in the Bible, God spoke to people many times by means of visions. Examples are Joseph, son of Jacob; Joseph, the husband of Mary; Solomon; Isaiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Peter; and Paul. The prophet Joel predicted an outpouring of visions, and this was confirmed by the apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2. It is important to note that the difference between a vision and a dream is that a vision is given when a person is awake while a dream is given when a person is asleep.
In many parts of the world, God seems to be using visions and dreams extensively. In areas where there is little or no gospel message available, and where people do not have Bibles, God is taking His message to people directly through dreams and visions. This is entirely consistent with the biblical example of visions being frequently used by God to reveal His truth to people in the early days of Christianity. If God desires to communicate His message to a person, He can use whatever means He finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. Of course, God also has the ability to give visions in areas where the gospel message is already readily available. There is no limit to what God can do.
At the same time, we must be careful when it comes to visions and the interpretation of visions. We must keep in mind that the Bible is finished, and it tells us everything we need to know. The key truth is that if God were to give a vision, it would agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Visions should never be given equal or greater authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice. If you believe you have had a vision and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your vision is in agreement with Scripture. Then prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to the vision (James 1:5). God would not give a vision to a person and then keep the meaning of the vision hidden. In Scripture, whenever a person asked God for the meaning of a vision, God made sure it was explained to the person (Daniel 8:15-17).
Question: Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?
Answer: Abraham had obeyed God many times in his walk with Him, but no test could have been more severe than the one in Genesis 22. God commanded, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a). This was an astounding request because Isaac was the son of promise. How did Abraham respond? With immediate obedience; early the next morning, Abraham started on his journey with two servants, a donkey and his beloved son Isaac, with firewood for the offering. His unquestioning obedience to God’s confusing command gave God the glory He deserves and is an example to us of how to glorify God. When we obey as Abraham did, trusting that God’s plan is the best possible scenario, we exalt His attributes and praise Him. Abraham’s obedience in the face of this crushing command extolled God’s sovereign love, His trustworthiness, and His goodness, and it provided an example for us to follow. His faith in the God he had come to know and love placed Abraham in the pantheon of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11.
God uses Abraham’s faith as an example to all who came after him as the only means of salvation. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This truth is the basis of the Christian faith, as reiterated in Romans 4:3 and James 2:23. The righteousness that was credited to Abraham is the same righteousness credited to us when we receive by faith the sacrifice God provided for our sins—Jesus Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Old Testament story of Abraham is the basis of the New Testament teaching of the atonement, the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the sin of mankind. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Following are some of the parallels between the two biblical accounts:
• “Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the
world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
• “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” (v. 2); it is believed that this area is where the city of Jerusalem was built many years later, where Jesus was crucified outside its city walls (Hebrews 13:12).
• “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (v. 2); “Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
• “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross…” (John 19:17).
• “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
• Isaac, the son, acted in obedience to his father in becoming the sacrifice
(v. 9); Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken
from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
• Resurrection – Isaac (figuratively) and Jesus in reality: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, Tt is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17-19); Jesus, “that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).
Question: What were the Christian crusades?
Answer: The crusades have provided some of the most frequent arguments against the Christian faith. Some Islamic terrorists even claim that their terrorist attacks are revenge for what Christians did in the crusades. So, what were the crusades and why are they viewed as such a big problem for the Christian faith?
First of all, the crusades should not be referred to as the “Christian crusades.” Most of the people involved in the crusades were not truly Christians, even though they claimed to be. The name of Christ was abused, misused, and blasphemed by the actions of many of the crusaders. Second, the crusades took place from approximately AD 1095 to 1230. Should the unbiblical actions of supposed Christians hundreds of years ago still be held against Christians today?
Third, not that this is an adequate excuse, but Christianity is not the only religion with a violent past. In actuality, the crusades were responses to Muslim invasions on what was once land occupied primarily by Christians. From approximately AD 200 to 900, the land of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. Once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands. In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings/emperors from Europe ordered the crusades to reclaim the land the Muslims had taken. The actions that many so- called Christians took in the crusades were still deplorable. There is no biblical justification for conquering lands, murdering civilians, and destroying cities in the name of Jesus Christ. At the same time, Islam is not a religion that can speak from a position of innocence in these matters.
To summarize briefly, the crusades were attempts in the 11th through 13th centuries AD to reclaim land in the Middle East that had been conquered by Muslims. The crusades were brutal and evil. Many people were forced to “convert” to Christianity. If they refused, they were put to death. The idea of conquering a land through war and violence in the name of Christ is completely unbiblical. Many of the actions that took place in the crusades were completely antithetical to everything the Christian faith stands for.
How can we respond when, as a result of the crusades, the Christian faith is attacked by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those of other religions? We can respond in the following ways: 1) Do you want to be held accountable for the actions of people who lived 900+ years ago? 2) Do you want to be held accountable for the actions of everyone who claims to represent your faith? Trying to blame all of Christianity for the crusades is analogous to blaming all Muslims for Islamic terrorism.
Question: What is the Great Commission?
Answer: Matthew 28:19-20 contains what has come to be called the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus gave this command to the apostles shortly before He ascended into heaven, and it essentially outlines what Jesus expected the apostles, and those who followed them, to do in His absence.
It is interesting that in the original Greek, the only specific command in Matthew 28:19-20 is “make disciples.” The Great Commission instructs us to make disciples while we are going throughout the world and while we are going about our daily activities. How are we to make disciples? By baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus commanded. “Make disciples” is the command of the Great Commission. “As you are going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are the means by which we fulfill the command to “make disciples.”
Many understand Acts 1:8 as part of the Great Commission as well, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Great Commission is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be Christ’s witnesses, fulfilling the Great Commission in our cities (Jerusalem), in our states and countries (Judea and Samaria), and anywhere else God sends us (to the ends of the earth).
Question: What happened in the intertestamental period?
Answer: The time between the last writings of the Old Testament and the appearance of Christ is known as the “intertestamental” (or “between the testaments”) period. Because there was no prophetic word from God during this period, some refer to it as the “400 silent years.” The political, religious, and social atmosphere of Palestine changed significantly during this period. Much of what happened was predicted by the prophet Daniel. (See Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8, and 11 and compare to historical events.)
Israel was under the control of the Persian Empire from about 532-332 BC The Persians allowed the Jews to practice their religion with little interference. They were even allowed to rebuild and worship at the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). This period included the last 100 years of the Old Testament period and about the first 100 years of the intertestamental period. This time of relative peace and contentment was just the calm before the storm.
Alexander the Great defeated Darius of Persia, bringing Greek rule to the world. Alexander was a student of Aristotle and was well educated in Greek philosophy and politics. He required that Greek culture be promoted in every land that he conquered. As a result, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, becoming the translation known as the Septuagint. Most of the New Testament references to Old Testament Scripture use the Septuagint phrasing. Alexander did allow religious freedom for the Jews, though he still strongly promoted Greek lifestyles. This was not a good turn of events for Israel since the Greek culture was very worldly, humanistic, and ungodly.
After Alexander died, Judea was ruled by a series of successors, culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus did far more than refuse religious freedom to the Jews. Around 167 B C, he overthrew the rightful line of the priesthood and desecrated the temple, defiling it with unclean animals and a pagan altar (see Mark 13:14). This was the religious equivalent of rape. Eventually, Jewish resistance to Antiochus restored the rightful priests and rescued the temple. The period that followed was one of war, violence, and infighting.
Around 63 BC, Pompey of Rome conquered Palestine, putting all of Judea under control of the Caesars. This eventually led to Herod being made king of Judea by the Roman emperor and senate. This would be the nation that taxed and controlled the Jews, and eventually executed the Messiah on a Roman cross. Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures were now mixed together in Judea.
During the span of the Greek and Roman occupations, two important political/religious groups emerged in Palestine. The Pharisees added to the Law of Moses through oral tradition and eventually considered their own laws more important than God’s (see Mark 7:1-23). While Christ’s teachings often agreed with the Pharisees, He railed against their hollow legalism and lack of compassion. The Sadducees represented the aristocrats and the wealthy. The Sadducees, who wielded power through the Sanhedrin, rejected all but the Mosaic books of the Old Testament. They refused to believe in resurrection and were generally shadows of the Greeks, whom they greatly admired.
This rush of events that set the stage for Christ had a profound impact on the Jewish people. Both Jews and pagans from other nations were becoming dissatisfied with religion. The pagans were beginning to question the validity of polytheism. Romans and Greeks were drawn from their mythologies towards Hebrew Scriptures, now easily readable in Greek or Latin. The Jews, however, were despondent. Once again, they were conquered, oppressed, and polluted. Hope was running low; faith was even lower. They were convinced that now the only thing that could save them and their faith was the appearance of the Messiah.
The New Testament tells the story of how hope came, not only for the Jews, but for the entire world. Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy was anticipated and recognized by many who sought Him out. The stories of the Roman centurion, the wise men, and the Pharisee Nicodemus show how Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by those who lived in His day. The “400 years of silence” were broken by the greatest story ever told—the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Question: Should Christian women wear make-up or jewelry?
Answer: First Samuel 16:7b declares, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” First Timothy 2:9-10 tells us, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Paul did not forbid women from wearing jewelry, makeup, or braided hair —rather he tells women to not let their outward appearance become more important than their inner beauty.
Peter reminds us of this spiritual fact: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-5). There is nothing wrong with wearing jewelry, makeup, or braided hair as long as it is done in a modest manner. A woman should not be so focused on her outward appearance that she neglects her inner spiritual life. The Bible focuses on the heart. If a woman is spending too much time and money on her appearance, the problem is that the woman’s priorities are wrong. Expensive jewelry and clothing are the results of the problem, not the problem itself.
Question: Who was Melchizedek?
Answer: Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6-11; 6:20-7:28). Melchizedek’s sudden appearance and disappearance in the book of Genesis is somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating friendship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”) and praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle (Genesis 14:18-20).
Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the items he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a fellow-worship er of the one true God as well as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than himself. Melchizedek’s existence shows that there were people other than Abraham and his family who served the one true God.
In Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David (Matthew 22:43), Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ. This theme is repeated in the book of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Christ are considered kings of righteousness and peace. By citing Melchizedek and his unique priesthood as a type, the writer shows that Christ’s new priesthood is superior to the old levitical order and the priesthood of Aaron (Hebrews 7:1-10).
Some propose that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. While possible, this view is unlikely. Melchizedek was the king of Salem. Would Jesus Christ have come to earth and ruled as an earthly king over a city? Melchizedek is similar to Christ in that they are both priests and kings; therefore, Melchizedek could be called a “type” of Christ, but they are not the same person.
Question: Should a Christian listen to secular music?
Answer: Many Christians struggle with this question. Many secular musicians are immensely talented. Secular music can be very entertaining. There are many secular songs that have catchy melodies, thoughtful insights, and positive messages. In determining whether or not to listen to secular music, there are three primary factors to consider: 1) the purpose of music, 2) the style of music, and 3) the content of the lyrics.
1. The purpose of music. Is music designed solely for worship, or did God also intend music to be soothing and/or entertaining? The most famous musician in the Bible, King David, primarily used music for the purpose of worshipping God (see Psalm 4:1; 6:1, 54, 55; 61:1; 67:1; 76:1). However, when King Saul was tormented by evil spirits, he would call on David to play the harp in order to soothe him (1 Samuel 16:14-23). The Israelites also used musical instruments to warn of danger (Nehemiah 4:20) and to surprise their enemies (Judges 7:16-22). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs Christians to encourage one another with music: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). So, while the primary purpose of music does seem to be worship, the Bible definitely allows for other uses of music.
2. The style of music. Sadly, the issue of music styles can be very divisive among Christians. There are Christians who adamantly demand that no musical instruments be used. There are Christians who only desire to sing the “old faithful” hymns. There are Christians who want more upbeat and contemporary music. There are Christians who claim to worship best in a “rock concert” type of environment. Instead of recognizing these differences as personal preferences and cultural distinctions, some Christians declare their preferred style of music to be the only “biblical” one and declare all other forms of music to be unwholesome, ungodly, or even satanic.
The Bible nowhere condemns any particular style of music. The Bible nowhere declares any particular musical instrument to be ungodly. The Bible mentions numerous kinds of string instruments and wind instruments. While the Bible does not specifically mention drums, it does mention other percussion instruments (Psalm 68:25; Ezra 3:10). Nearly all of the forms of modern music are variations and/or combinations of the same types of musical instruments, played at different speeds or with heightened emphasis. There is no biblical basis to declare any particular style of music to be ungodly or outside of God’s will.
3. The content of the lyrics. Since neither the purpose of music nor the style of music determines whether a Christian should listen to secular music, the content of the lyrics must be considered. While not specifically speaking of music, Philippians 4:8 is an excellent guide for musical lyrics: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If we should be thinking about such things, surely those are the things we should invite into our minds through music and lyrics. Can the lyrics in a secular song be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If so, then there is nothing wrong with a Christian listening to a secular song of that nature.
However, much of secular music does not meet the standard of Philippians 4:8. Secular music often promotes immorality and violence while belittling purity and integrity. If a song glorifies what opposes God, a Christian should not listen to it. However, there are many secular songs with no mention of God that still uphold godly values such as honesty, purity, and integrity. If a love song promotes the sanctity of marriage and/or the purity of true love—even if it does not mention God or the Bible—it can still be listened to and enjoyed.
Whatever a person allows to occupy his mind will sooner or later determine his speech and his actions. This is the premise behind Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:2, 5: establishing wholesome thought patterns. Second Corinthians 10:5 says we should “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” These Scriptures give a clear picture of the kind of music we should not listen to.
Obviously, the best kind of music is that which praises and glorifies God. Talented Christian musicians work in nearly every musical genre, ranging from classical to rock, rap, and reggae. There is nothing inherently wrong with any particular style of music. It is the lyrics that determine whether a song is “acceptable” for a Christian to listen to. If anything leads you to think about or get involved in something that does not glorify God, it should be avoided.
Question: What was the significance of the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died?
Answer: During the lifetime of Jesus, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) to enter into God’s presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16).
Solomon’s temple was 30 cubits high (1 Kings 6:2), but Herod had increased the height to 40 cubits, according to the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. There is uncertainty as to the exact measurement of a cubit, but it is safe to assume that this veil was somewhere near 60 feet high. Josephus also tells us that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart. The book of Exodus teaches that this thick veil was fashioned from blue, purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen.
The size and thickness of the veil makes the events occurring at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross so much more momentous. “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-5la).
So, what do we make of this? What significance does this torn veil have for us today? Above all, the tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death dramatically symbolized that His sacrifice, the shedding of His own blood, was a sufficient atonement for sins. It signified that now the way into the Holy of Holies was open for all people, for all time, both Jew and Gentile.
When Jesus died, the veil was torn, and God moved out of that place never again to dwell in a temple made with hands (Acts 17:24). God was through with that temple and its religious system, and the temple and Jerusalem were left “desolate” (destroyed by the Romans) in AD 70, just as Jesus prophesied in Luke 13:35. As long as the temple stood, it signified the continuation of the Old Covenant. Hebrews 9:8-9 refers to the age that was passing away as the new covenant was being established (Hebrews 8:13).
In a sense, the veil was symbolic of Christ Himself as the only way to the Father (John 14:6). This is indicated by the fact that the high priest had to enter the Holy of Holies through the veil. Now Christ is our superior High Priest, and as believers in His finished work, we partake of His better priesthood. We can now enter the Holy of Holies through Him. Hebrews 10:19-20 says that the faithful enter into the sanctuary by the “blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the veil, that is, through his flesh.” Here we see the image of Jesus’ flesh being torn for us just as He was tearing the veil for us.
The veil being torn from top to bottom is a fact of history. The profound significance of this event is explained in glorious detail in Hebrews. The things of the temple were shadows of things to come, and they all ultimately point us to Jesus Christ. He was the veil to the Holy of Holies, and through His death the faithful now have free access to God.
The veil in the temple was a constant reminder that sin renders humanity unfit for the presence of God. The fact that the sin offering was offered annually and countless other sacrifices repeated daily showed graphically that sin could not truly be atoned for or erased by mere animal sacrifices. Jesus Christ, through His death, has removed the barriers between God and man, and now we may approach Him with confidence and boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Question: What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
Answer: Countless explanations concerning the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh have been offered. They range from incessant temptation, dogged opponents, chronic maladies (such as eye problems, malaria, migraine headaches, and epilepsy), to a speech disability. No one can say for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it probably was a physical affliction.
What we do know about this thorn in the flesh comes from Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 12:7: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” First, the purpose of the thorn in the flesh was to keep Paul humble. Anyone who had encountered Jesus and was spoken to and commissioned by Him (Acts 9:2-8) would, in his natural state, become “puffed up.” Add to that the fact of being moved by the Holy Spirit to write much of the New Testament, and it is easy to see how Paul could become “haughty” (KJV) or “exalted above measure” (NKJV) or “too proud” (NC V). Second, we know that the affliction came from or by a messenger of Satan. Just as God allowed Satan to torment Job (Job 1:1-12), God allowed Satan to torment Paul for God’s own good purposes and always within God’s perfect will.
It is understandable that Paul would consider this thorn a hindrance to wider or more effective ministry (Galatians 5:14-16) and that he would three times petition God for its removal (2 Corinthians 12:8). But Paul learned from this experience the lesson that dominates his writings: divine power is best displayed against the backdrop of human weakness (2 Corinthians 4:7) so that God alone is praised (2 Corinthians 10:17). Rather than removing the problem, God gave him grace and strength through it, and He declared that grace to be “sufficient.”
Question: What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
Answer: What happened to the Ark of the Covenant is a question that has fascinated theologians, Bible students, and archaeologists for centuries. In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah of Judah ordered the caretakers of the Ark of the Covenant to return it to the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:1-6; cf. 2 Kings 23:21-23). That is the last time the ark’s location is mentioned in the Scriptures. Forty years later, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captured Jerusalem and raided the temple. Less than ten years after that, he returned, took what was left in the temple, and then burnt it and the city to the ground. So what happened to the ark? Was it taken by Nebuchadnezzar? Was it destroyed with the city? Or was it removed and hidden safely away, as evidently happened when Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt raided the temple during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam? (“Evidently” because, if Shishak had managed to take the Ark, why did Josiah ask the Levites to return it? If the Ark was in Egypt—a la the plotline of Raiders of the Lost Ark—the Levites would not have possessed it and therefore could not have returned it.)
The non-canonical book of 2 Maccabees reports that just prior to the Babylonian invasion, Jeremiah, “following a divine revelation, ordered that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him and…he went off to the mountain which Moses climbed to see God’s inheritance [i.e., Mt. Nebo; cf. Deuteronomy 31:1-4]. When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a room in a cave in which he put the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense; then he blocked up the entrance” (2:4- 5). However, “Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the path, but they could not find it. When Jeremiah heard of this, he reproved them: ‘The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Temple might be gloriously sanctified’” (2:6-8). It is not known if this secondhand (see 2:1) account is accurate; even if it is, we will not know until the Lord comes back, as the account itself claims.
Other theories concerning the whereabouts of the lost ark include Rabbis Shlomo Goren and Yehuda Getz’s claim that it is hidden beneath the temple mount, having been buried there before Nebuchadnezzar could steal it away. Unfortunately, the temple mount is now home to the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic holy site, and the local Muslim community refuses to allow it to be excavated. So we cannot know if Rabbis Goren and Getz are correct.
Explorer Vendyl Jones, among others, believes that an artifact found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the enigmatic “Copper Scroll” of Qumran Cave 3, is actually a treasure map of sorts detailing the location of a number of precious treasures taken from the temple before the Babylonians arrived, among them the lost Ark of the Covenant. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, as no one has yet been able to locate all of the necessary geographical landmarks listed on the scroll. Interestingly, some scholars speculate that the Copper Scroll may actually be the record referred to in 2 Maccabees 2:1 and 4, which describes Jeremiah hiding the ark. While this is an interesting speculation, it remains unsubstantiated.
Former East African correspondent for “The Economist,” Graham Hancock, published a book in 1992 entitled The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, in which he argued that the ark had been stowed away in Saint Mary of Zion’s Church in Aksum, an ancient city of Ethiopia. Explorer Robert Cornuke of the B.A.S.E. Institute, also believes the Ark may now reside in Aksum. However, no one has yet found it there. Similarly, archaeologist Michael Sanders believes the ark is hidden away in an ancient Egyptian temple in the Israeli village of Djaharya, but he has yet to actually find it there.
A doubtful Irish tradition maintains that the Ark is buried under the Hill of Tara in Ireland. Some scholars believe that this is the source of the Irish “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” legend. Even less believable are the claims of Ron Wyatt and Tom Crotser, Wyatt claiming to actually have seen the lost Ark of the Covenant buried under Mt. Calvary and Crotser claiming to have seen it on Mt. Pisgah near Mt. Nebo. Both of these men are held in low esteem by the archaeological community, and neither has been able to substantiate the wild claims with any evidence.
In the end, the ark remains lost to all but God. Interesting theories like the ones presented above continue to be offered, but the ark has yet to be found. The writer of 2 Maccabees may very well be right; we may not find out what happened to the lost Ark of the Covenant until the Lord Himself returns.
Question: Christian archaeology—why is it important?
Answer: Archaeology comes from two compounded Greek words—archae meaning “ancient,” and logos meaning “knowledge”; thus, “knowledge or study of the ancients.” An archaeologist is much more than an Indiana Jones-type individual running around the world looking for old artifacts to place in a museum. Archaeology is a science that studies ancient cultures by recovering and documenting materials from the past. Christian archaeology is the science of studying ancient cultures that have impacted Christianity and Judaism and the Jewish and Christian cultures themselves. Not only are Christian archaeologists trying to discover new things about the past, they are trying to validate what we already know about the past and advance our understanding of the manners and customs of the peoples of the Bible.
The biblical text and other written records are the most important pieces of information we have about the history of ancient biblical peoples. But these records alone have left many unanswered questions. That is where Christian archaeologists come in. They can fill in the partial picture that the biblical narrative provides. Excavations of ancient garbage dumps and abandoned cities have provided bits and pieces that give us clues to the past. The goal of Christian archaeology is to verify the essential truths of the Old and New Testaments through the physical artifacts of ancient peoples.
Christian archaeology did not become a scientific discipline until the 19th century. The building blocks of Christian archaeology were laid by men such as Johann Jahn, Edward Robinson, and Sir Flinders Petrie. William F. Albright became the dominant figure in the 20th century. It was Albright who drew Christian archaeology into the contemporary debates over the origins and reliability of the biblical narratives. It was Albright and his students who provided much of the physical evidence for the historical events described in the Bible. However, today it seems as though there are as many archaeologists trying to disprove the Bible as there are those proving it to be accurate.
We do not have to go very far to find new attacks on Christianity from the secular world. An example is much of the programming on the Discovery Channel, such as “The Da Vinci Code” docudrama. Other offerings have dealt with the historicity of Christ. One program, by James Cameron, argued that the tomb and burial box of Jesus had been found. From this “discovery” the conclusion was drawn that Jesus had not risen from the dead. What the program failed to say is that the box had been discovered years earlier and that it had already been proven not to be Christ’s burial box. This knowledge was achieved through the hard work of Christian archaeologists.
It is archaeological evidence that provides the best possible physical information on the life and times of the ancients. When proper scientific methods are applied to the excavation of ancient sites, information emerges that gives us a greater understanding of the ancient peoples and their culture and proofs that validate the biblical text. Systematic recordings of these findings, shared with experts worldwide, can give us the most complete information on the lives of those who lived in Bible times. Christian archaeology is just one of the tools scholars can use to present a more complete defense of the biblical narrative and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Often, when sharing our faith, we are asked by non-believers how we know the Bible is true. One of the answers we can give is that, through the work of Christian archaeologists, many of the facts of the Bible have been validated.
Question: Can a Christian be cursed?
Answer: The Bible tells us that “like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest” (Proverbs 26:2b). This means that foolish curses have no effect. God does not allow His children to be cursed. God is sovereign. No one has the power to curse one whom God has decided to bless. God is the only One able to pronounce judgment.
“Spells” in the Bible are always described negatively. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 numbers those who cast spells with those who commit other acts “detestable to the LORD” such as child sacrifice, witchcraft, sorcery, divination, or necromancy (consulting with the dead). Micah 5:12 says that God will destroy witchcraft and those who cast spells. Revelation 18 describes spells as part of the deception that will be used by the antichrist and his “great city of Babylon” (vv. 21-24). Though the end-times deception will be so great that even the elect would be deceived if God did not protect us (Matthew 24:24), God will utterly destroy Satan, the antichrist, and all who follow them (Revelation chapters 19- 20).
The Christian has been born again as a new person in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we are in the constant presence of the Holy Spirit who lives within us and under whose protection we exist (Romans 8:11). We do not need to worry about anyone casting any sort of pagan spell on us. Voodoo, witchcraft, hexes, and curses have no power over us because they come from Satan, and we know that “the one who is in you [Christ] is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has overcome him, and we have been freed to worship God without fear (John 8:36). “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
Question: Who were the early church fathers?
Answer: The early church fathers fall into three basic categories: apostolic fathers, ante-Nicene church fathers, and post-Nicene church fathers. The apostolic church fathers were the ones like Clement of Rome who were contemporaries of the apostles and were probably taught by them, carrying on the tradition and teaching of the apostles themselves. Linus, mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21, became the bishop of Rome after Peter was martyred, and Clement took over from Linus. Both Linus and Clement of Rome, therefore, are considered apostolic fathers. However, there appear to be no writings of Linus that have survived, while many of the writings of Clement of Rome survived. The apostolic fathers would have largely passed from the scene by the beginning of the second century, except for those few who might have been disciples of John, such as Poly carp. The tradition is that the apostle John died in Ephesus around AD 98.
The ante-Nicene fathers were those who came after the apostolic fathers and before the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Such individuals as Iraenus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr are ante-Nicene fathers.
The post-Nicene church fathers are those who came after the Council of Nicea in AD 325. These are such noted men as Augustine, bishop of Hippo, who is often called the father of the [Roman Catholic] Church because of his great work in Church doctrine; Chrysostom, called the “golden-mouthed” for his excellent oratorical skills; and Eusebius, who wrote a history of the church from the birth of Jesus to AD 324, one year before the Council of Nicea. He is included in the post-Nicene era since he did not write his history until after the Council of Nicea was held. Other post-Nicene fathers were Jerome, who translated the Greek New Testament into the Latin Vulgate, and Ambrose, who was largely responsible for the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity.
So, what did the early church fathers believe? The apostolic fathers were very concerned about the proclamation of the gospel being just as the apostles themselves proclaimed it. They were not interested in formulating theological doctrine, for the gospel they had learned from the apostles was quite sufficient for them. The apostolic fathers were as zealous as the apostles themselves in rooting out and exposing any false doctrine that cropped up in the early church. The orthodoxy of the message was preserved by the apostolic fathers’ desire to stay true to the gospel taught to them by the apostles.
The ante-Nicene fathers also tried to stay true to the gospel, but they had an additional worry. Now there were several spurious writings claiming to have the same weight as the established writings of Paul, Peter, and Luke. The reason for these spurious documents was evident. If the body of Christ could be persuaded to receive a false document, then error would creep into the church. So the ante- Nicene fathers spent a lot of their time defending the Christian faith from false doctrine, and this led to the beginnings of the formation of accepted church doctrine.
The post-Nicene fathers carried out the mission of defending the gospel against all kinds of heresies, so more and more the post-Nicene fathers grew interested in methods of defending the gospel and less interested in transmitting the gospel in a true and pure form. Thus, they began to fall away from the orthodoxy which was the hallmark of the apostolic fathers. This was the age of the theologian and endless discussion on arcane topics such as “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”
The early church fathers are an example to us of what it means to follow Christ and defend the truth. None of the early church fathers were perfect, just as none of us are perfect. Some of the early church fathers held beliefs that most Christians today consider to be incorrect. What eventually developed into Roman Catholic theology had its roots in the writings of the post-Nicene fathers. While we can gain knowledge and insight by studying the early church fathers, ultimately our faith must be in the Word of God, not in the writings of early Christian leaders. Only God’s Word is the infallible guide for faith and practice.
Question: Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Answer: While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are certain. First, although Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve (John 6:64), all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (as Judas understood it). Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty (John 6:68; 11:16), Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent. This lack of faith in Jesus is the foundation for all other considerations listed below. The same holds true for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only One who can provide forgiveness for our sins—and the eternal salvation that comes with it —we will be subject to numerous other problems that stem from a wrong view of God.
Second, Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. When the synoptic gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order with slight variations (Matthew 10:2- 4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the brothers James and John are always listed first, which is consistent with their relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last, which may indicate his relative lack of a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, the only documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked by Jesus after his greed-motivated remark to Mary (John 12:1-8), Judas’ denial of his betrayal (Matthew 26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).
Third, Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw the great following and believed he could profit from collections taken for the group. The fact that Judas was in charge of the moneybag for the group would indicate his interest in money (John 13:29).
Additionally, Judas, like most people at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel. Judas may have followed Jesus hoping to benefit from association with Him as the new reigning political power. No doubt he expected to be among the ruling elite after the revolution. By the time of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus had made it clear that He planned to die, not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas may have assumed—just as the Pharisees did—that since He would not overthrow the Romans, He must not be the Messiah they were expecting.
There are a few Old Testament verses that point to the betrayal, some more specifically than others. Here are two:
“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9, see fulfillment in Matthew 26:14, 48-49). Also, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me!’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter” (Zechariah 11:12-13; see Matthew 27:3-5 for the fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy). These Old Testament prophecies indicate that Judas’ betrayal was known to God and that it was sovereignly planned beforehand as the means by which Jesus would be killed.
But if Judas betrayal was known to God, did Judas have a choice, and is he held responsible for his part in the betrayal? It is difficult for many to reconcile the concept of “free will” (as most people understand it) with God’s foreknowledge of future events, and this is largely due to our limited experience of going through time in a linear fashion. If we see God as existing outside of time, since He created everything before “time” began, then we can understand that God sees every moment in time as the present. We experience time in a linear way—we see time as a straight line, and we pass from one point gradually to another, remembering the past we have already traveled through, but unable to see the future we are approaching. However, God, being the eternal Creator of the construct of time, is not “in time” or on the timeline, but outside of it. It might help to think of time (in relation to God) as a circle with God being the center and therefore equally close to all points.
In any case, Judas had the full capacity of making his choice—at least up to the point where “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27)—and God’s foreknowledge (John 13:10, 18, 21) in no way supersedes Judas’ ability to make any given choice. Rather, what Judas would choose eventually, God saw as if it was a present observation, and Jesus made it clear that Judas was responsible for his choice and would be held accountable for it. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). Notice that Jesus characterizes Judas’ participation as a betrayal. And regarding accountability for this betrayal Jesus said, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21). Satan, too, had a part in this, as we see in John 13:26-27, and he, too, will be held accountable for his deeds. God in His wisdom was able, as always, to manipulate even Satan’s rebellion for the benefit of mankind. Satan helped send Jesus to the cross, and on the cross sin and death were defeated, and now God’s provision of salvation is freely available to all who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
Question: What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?
Answer: In Matthew’s record of what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, these words of Jesus are recorded: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23- 25; Ephesians 2:15).
Of special significance in this study is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning “to loosen down.” The word is found seventeen times in the New Testament. It is used, for example, of the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Acts 6:14), and of the dissolving of the human body at death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The term can carry the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” i.e., “to render vain, deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used in connection with institutions, laws, etc., to convey the idea of “to invalidate.”
It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “…not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He
revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.
If, however, the law of Moses bears the same relationship to men today, in terms of its binding status, then it was not fulfilled, and Jesus failed at what He came to do. On the other hand, if the Lord did accomplish His goal, then the law was fulfilled, and it is not a binding legal institution today. Further, if the law of Moses was not fulfilled by Christ—and thus remains as a binding legal system for today—then it is not just partially binding. Rather, it is a totally compelling system. Jesus plainly said that not one “jot or tittle” (representative of the smallest markings of the Hebrew script) would pass away until all was fulfilled. Consequently, nothing of the law was to fail until it had completely accomplished its purpose. Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We cannot say that Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, but did not fulfill the other aspects of the law. Jesus either fulfilled all of the law, or none of it. What Jesus’ death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the other aspects of the law.
Question: Are we to love the sinner but hate the sin?
Answer: Many Christians use the cliche “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” However, we must realize that this is an exhortation to us as imperfect human beings. The difference between us and God in regard to loving and hating is vast. Even as Christians, we remain imperfect in our humanity and cannot love perfectly, nor can we hate perfectly (in other words, without malice). But God can do both of these perfectly, because He is God. God can hate without any sinful intent. Therefore, He can hate the sin and the sinner in a perfectly holy way and still be willing to lovingly forgive at the moment of that sinner’s repentance and faith (Malachi 1:3; Revelation 2:6; 2 Peter 3:9).
The Bible clearly teaches that God is love. First John 4:8-9 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” Mysterious but true is the fact that God can perfectly love and hate a person at the same time. This means He can love him as someone He created and can redeem, as well as hate him for his unbelief and sinful lifestyle. We, as imperfect human beings, cannot do this; thus, we must remind ourselves to “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
How exactly does that work? We hate sin by refusing to take part in it and by condemning it when we see it. Sin is to be hated, not excused or taken lightly. We love sinners by being faithful in witnessing to them of the forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ. A true act of love is treating someone with respect and kindness even though he/she knows you do not approve of his lifestyle and/or choices. It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person he/she is in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true. We love the sinner by speaking the truth in love. We hate the sin by refusing to condone, ignore, or excuse it.
Question: Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
Answer: Exodus 7:3-4 says, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my people the Israelites.” It seems unjust for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart and then to punish Pharaoh and Egypt for what Pharaoh decided when his heart was hardened. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart just so He could judge Egypt more severely with additional plagues?
First, Pharaoh was not an innocent or godly man. He was a brutal dictator overseeing the terrible abuse and oppression of the Israelites, who likely numbered over 1.5 million people at that time. The Egyptian pharaohs had enslaved the Israelites for 400 years. A previous pharaoh—possibly even the pharaoh in question—ordered that male Israelite babies be killed at birth (Exodus 1:16). The pharaoh God hardened was an evil man, and the nation he ruled agreed with, or at least did not oppose, his evil actions.
Second, before the first few plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart against letting the Israelites go. “Pharaoh’s heart became hard” (Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:19). “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart” (Exodus 8:15). “But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart” (Exodus 8:32). Pharaoh could have spared Egypt of all the plagues if he had not hardened his own heart. God was giving Pharaoh increasingly severe warnings of the judgment that was to come. Pharaoh chose to bring judgment on himself and on his nation by hardening his own heart against God’s commands.
As a result of Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart even further, allowing for the last few plagues (Exodus 9:12; 10:20, 27). Pharaoh and Egypt had brought these judgments on themselves with 400 years of slavery and mass murder. Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and Pharaoh and Egypt had horribly sinned against God, it would have been just if God had completely annihilated Egypt. Therefore, God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart was not unjust, and His bringing additional plagues against Egypt was not unjust. The plagues, as terrible as they were, actually demonstrate God’s mercy in not completely destroying Egypt, which would have been a perfectly just penalty.
Romans 9:17-18 declares, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: T raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” From a human perspective, it seems wrong for God to harden a person and then punish the person He has hardened. Biblically speaking, however, we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23), and the just penalty for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). Therefore, God’s hardening and punishing a person is not unjust; it is actually merciful in comparison to what the person deserves.
Question: Who were the Sadducees and the Pharisees?
Answer: The Gospels refer often to the Sadducees and Pharisees, as Jesus was in constant conflict with them. The Sadducees and Pharisees comprised the ruling class of Israel. There are many similarities between the two groups but important differences between them as well.
The Sadducees: During the time of Christ and the New Testament era, the Sadducees were aristocrats. They tended to be wealthy and held powerful positions, including that of chief priests and high priest, and they held the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They worked hard to keep the peace by agreeing with the decisions of Rome (Israel at this time was under Roman control), and they seemed to be more concerned with politics than religion. Because they were accommodating to Rome and were the wealthy upper class, they did not relate well to the common man, nor did the common man hold them in high opinion. The common man related better to those who belonged to the party of the Pharisees. Though the Sadducees held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin, history indicates that much of the time they had to go along with the ideas of the Pharisaic minority, because the Pharisees were popular with the masses.
Religiously, the Sadducees were more conservative in one main area of doctrine. The Pharisees gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God, while the Sadducees considered only the written Word to be from God. The Sadducees preserved the authority of the written Word of God, especially the books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). While they could be commended for this, they definitely were not perfect in their doctrinal views. The following is a brief list of beliefs they held that contradict Scripture:
1. They were extremely self-sufficient to the point of denying God’s
involvement in everyday life.
2. They denied any resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18- 27; Acts 23:8).
3. They denied any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, and
therefore denying any penalty or reward after the earthly life.
4. They denied the existence of a spiritual world, i.e., angels and demons (Acts 23:8).
Because the Sadducees were more concerned with politics than religion, they were unconcerned with Jesus until they became afraid He might bring unwanted Roman attention. It was at this point that the Sadducees and Pharisees united and conspired to put Christ to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53; 15:1). Other mentions of the Sadducees are found in Acts 4:1 and Acts 5:17, and the Sadducees are implicated in the death of James by the historian Josephus (Acts 12:1-2).
The Sadducees ceased to exist in AD 70. Since this party existed because of their political and priestly ties, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, the Sadducees were also destroyed.
The Pharisees: In contrast to the Sadducees, the Pharisees were mostly middle-class businessmen, and therefore were in contact with the common man. The Pharisees were held in much higher esteem by the common man than the Sadducees. Though they were a minority in the Sanhedrin and held a minority number of positions as priests, they seemed to control the decision making of the Sanhedrin far more than the Sadducees did, again because they had the support of the people.
Religiously, they accepted the written Word as inspired by God. At the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, this would have been what is now our Old Testament. But they also gave equal authority to oral tradition and attempted to defend this position by saying it went all the way back to Moses. Evolving over the centuries, these traditions added to God’s Word, which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2), and the Pharisees sought to strictly obey these traditions along with the Old Testament. The Gospels abound with examples of the Pharisees treating these traditions as equal to God’s Word (Matthew 9:14; 15:1- 9; 23:5; 23:16, 23; Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:42). However, they did remain true to God’s Word in reference to certain other important doctrines. In contrast to the Sadducees, they believed the following:
1. They believed that God controlled all things, yet decisions made by
individuals also contributed to the course of a person’s life.
2. They believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
3. They believed in an afterlife, with appropriate reward and punishment on an individual basis.
4. They believed in the existence of angels and demons (Acts 23:8).
Though the Pharisees were rivals of the Sadducees, they managed to set aside their differences on one occasion—the trial of Christ. It was at this point that the Sadducees and Pharisees united to put Christ to death (Mark 14:53; 15:1; John 11:48-50).
While the Sadducees ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Pharisees, who were more concerned with religion than politics, continued to exist. In fact, the Pharisees were against the rebellion that brought on Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70, and they were the first to make peace with the Romans afterward. The Pharisees were also responsible for the compilation of the Mishnah, an important document with reference to the continuation of Judaism beyond the destruction of the temple.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees earned numerous rebukes from Jesus. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from the Pharisees and Sadducees is to not be like them. Unlike the Sadducees, we are to believe everything the Bible says, including the miraculous and the afterlife. Unlike the Pharisees, we are not to treat traditions as having equal authority as Scripture, and we are not to allow our relationship with God to be reduced to a legalistic list of rules and rituals.
Question: How does psychology work with biblical counseling?
Answer: Secular psychology, based primarily on the teachings of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Carl Rogers, has no place in biblical counseling. Nor does some of what is called “Christian counseling,” because some of Christian counseling often has secular psychology, not the Bible, as its basis. This is not to say that someone who calls himself a Christian counselor is not also a biblical counselor, but too often Christian counselors are Christians who use secular psychology as their mode of operation.
Psychology is an academic discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior and the application of that knowledge to the various spheres of human activity. Psychology is humanistic in nature. Humanism affirms the worth and dignity of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality. Humanism rejects faith not based on reason, the supernatural, and the Bible. Therefore, psychology is man’s way of trying to understand and repair the spiritual side of man without reference to, or recognition of, the spiritual. The Bible declares that mankind had a beginning different from any other created thing. Man was made in the image of God, and when God breathed into man the breath of life, he became a living soul (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). At its very core, the Bible deals with man’s spirituality, beginning with his fall into sin and its consequences, particularly concerning man’s relationship with God. It is the fall —sin—that separates us from God and requires a Redeemer to restore that relationship.
Secular psychology, on the other hand, is based on the idea that man is basically good and the answer to his problems lies within himself. With the help of the psychotherapist—and sometimes the Christian counselor—the patient delves into the maze of his own mind and “works through” his emotions in order to discover the cause of his own difficulties. The Bible, however, paints a very different picture of man’s condition. Man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and his heart is “deceitful and beyond all cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). He is the victim of “total depravity” (Romans 3:10-23). To delve into such a mind seeking mental health is an exercise in futility, very much like trying to find a rose growing at the bottom of a cesspool.
Man was created innocent, but he disobeyed God; his sin changed the first man, Adam, and all who came after him, resulting in physical and spiritual death (Genesis 2:17; 5:5; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1). The answer to man’s spiritual problems is to be born again—to be made alive spiritually (John 3:3, 6-7; 1 Peter 1:23). Man is born again by trusting in Jesus Christ. To trust in Jesus means to understand that He is God incarnate, God in human form (John 3:16; John 1:1- 3). It means to understand and believe that Jesus paid for our sins when He died on the cross and that God demonstrated His acceptance of Christ as a sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead (Romans 4:24-25).
Biblical counselors, as opposed to psychotherapists and some Christian counselors, see the Bible alone as the source of a comprehensive and detailed approach to counseling (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:4). Biblical counseling is committed to letting God speak for Himself through His Word and to handling the Word of Truth rightly (2 Timothy 2:15). Biblical counseling follows the Bible and seeks to minister the love of the true and living God, love that deals with sin and produces obedience.
Psychotherapy and some forms of Christian counseling are needs-based. The needs for self-esteem, love and acceptance, and significance tend to dominate. If these needs are met, it is believed, people will be happy, kind, and moral; if their needs are not met, people will be miserable, hateful, and immoral. Scripture teaches that it is God who changes our desires and that true happiness can only be found in the desire for God and godliness. People who crave self-esteem, love, and significance may be happy if they get it, but they will remain self- centered. On the other hand, people who desire God, godly wisdom, and God’s glory will be satisfied, joyous, obedient, and profitable servants of God.
While secular psychotherapists attempt to help patients find the power to meet their own needs from within, most Christian counselors see Jesus Christ as the healer of the psyche. The patient is urged to realize how much he is loved by God, and the cross is presented as evidence of how valuable he/she is to God. The cross, therefore, exists to boost the patient’s self-esteem and meet his need to be loved. But, in the Bible, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God crucified in the place of sinners. The love of God actually demolishes self-esteem and makes unnecessary our incessant searching for it. God’s love produces, instead, a great and grateful esteem for Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave His life for us—the Lamb of God who alone is worthy. The love of God does not satisfy our lust to be loved as we are; rather, God loves us despite who we are and teaches us to love God and neighbor (1 John 4:7-5:3).
When an inherently sinful person engages a secular psychologist or Christian counselor in order to have his felt needs met or to attain happiness, self-esteem and fulfillment, he will inevitably come away from such counseling unfulfilled. Jesus said we must die to self and be born again. When we come to Him, it should be with the intention of putting off the old nature—not fixing it—and putting on the new nature, one that lives for Christ and seeks to serve Him out of love for what He has done. True biblical counselors seek to assist their clients to do just that, following the Bible and viewing counseling as a pastoral activity in which the goal is not self-esteem, but sanctification—growth in godliness and Christ-likeness.
Question: How do I know which of God’s promises are for me?
Answer: There are literally hundreds of promises in the Bible. How can we know which promises apply to us, which promises we can claim? To frame this question another way, how can one tell the difference between general promises and specific promises? A general promise is one that is given by the Holy Spirit to every believer in every age. When the author penned the promise, he set no limitations on time period or recipient.
An example of a general promise is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is based on the forgiving nature of God and is available to all believers everywhere. Another example of a general promise is Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This promise is made to all believers who, refusing to worry, bring their requests to God (v. 8). Other examples of general promises include Psalm 1:3; 27:10; 31:24; John 4:13-14 (note the word “whoever”); and Revelation 3:20.
A specific promise is one that is made to specific individuals on specific occasions. The context of the promise will usually make clear who the recipient is. For example, the promise of 1 Kings 9:5 is very specific: “I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” The preceding and following verses make it clear that the Lord is speaking only to King Solomon.
Luke 2:35 contains another specific promise: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” This prophecy/promise was directed to Mary and was fulfilled in her lifetime. While a specific promise is not made to all believers generally, the Holy Spirit can still use a specific promise to guide or encourage any of His children. For example, the promise of Isaiah 54:10 was written with Israel in mind, but the Holy Spirit has used these words to comfort many Christians today: “my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.”
As he was led to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul claimed the promise of Isaiah: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Isaiah’s promise was originally meant for the Messiah, but in it Paul found guidance from the Lord for his own life. When claiming a promise from Scripture, we should keep the following principles in mind:
1. Promises are often conditional. Look for the word “if” in the context.
2. God gives us promises to help us better submit to His will and trust Him. A promise does not make God bend to our will.
3. Do not assume to know precisely when, where, or how the promise will be fulfilled in your life.
Question: Is there such a thing as absolute truth?
Answer: In order to understand absolute or universal truth, we must begin by defining truth. Truth, according to the dictionary, is “conformity to fact or actuality; a statement proven to be or accepted as true.” Some people would say that there is no true reality, only perceptions and opinions. Others would argue that there must be some absolute reality or truth.
One view says that there are no absolutes that define reality. Those who hold this view believe everything is relative to something else, and thus there can be no actual reality. Because of that, there are ultimately no moral absolutes, no authority for deciding if an action is positive or negative, right or wrong. This view leads to “situational ethics,” the belief that what is right or wrong is relative to the situation. There is no right or wrong; therefore, whatever feels or seems right at the time and in that situation is right. Of course, situational ethics leads to a subjective, “whatever feels good” mentality and lifestyle, which has a devastating effect on society and individuals. This is postmodernism, creating a society that regards all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims as equally valid.
The other view holds that there are indeed absolute realities and standards that define what is true and what is not. Therefore, actions can be determined to be either right or wrong by how they measure up to those absolute standards. If there are no absolutes, no reality, chaos ensues. Take the law of gravity, for instance. If it were not an absolute, we could not be certain we could stand or sit in one place until we decided to move. Or if two plus two did not always equal four, the effects on civilization would be disastrous. Laws of science and physics would be irrelevant, and commerce would be impossible. What a mess that would be! Thankfully, two plus two does equal four. There is absolute truth, and it can be found and understood.
To make the statement that there is no absolute truth is illogical. Yet, today, many people are embracing a cultural relativism that denies any type of absolute truth. A good question to ask people who say, “There is no absolute truth” is this: “Are you absolutely sure of that?” If they say “yes,” they have made an absolute statement—which itself implies the existence of absolutes. They are saying that the very fact there is no absolute truth is the one and only absolute truth.
Beside the problem of self-contradiction, there are several other logical problems one must overcome to believe that there are no absolute or universal truths. One is that all humans have limited knowledge and finite minds and, therefore, cannot logically make absolute negative statements. A person cannot logically say, “There is no God” (even though many do so), because, in order to make such a statement, he would need to have absolute knowledge of the entire universe from beginning to end. Since that is impossible, the most anyone can logically say is “With the limited knowledge I have, I do not believe there is a God.”
Another problem with the denial of absolute truth/universal truth is that it fails to live up to what we know to be true in our own consciences, our own experiences, and what we see in the real world. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then there is nothing ultimately right or wrong about anything. What might be “right” for you does not mean it is “right” for me. While on the surface this type of relativism seems to be appealing, what it means is that everybody sets his own rules to live by and does what he thinks is right. Inevitably, one person’s sense of right will soon clash with another’s. What happens if it is “right” for me to ignore traffic lights, even when they are red? I put many lives at risk. Or I might think it is right to steal from you, and you might think it is not right. Clearly, our standards of right and wrong are in conflict. If there is no absolute truth, no standard of right and wrong that we are all accountable to, then we can never be sure of anything. People would be free to do whatever they want—murder, rape, steal, lie, cheat, etc., and no one could say those things would be wrong. There could be no government, no laws, and no justice, because one could not even say that the majority of the people have the right to make and enforce standards upon the minority. A world without absolutes would be the most horrible world imaginable.
From a spiritual standpoint, this type of relativism results in religious confusion, with no one true religion and no way of having a right relationship with God. All religions would therefore be false because they all make absolute claims regarding the afterlife. It is not uncommon today for people to believe that two diametrically opposed religions could both be equally “true,” even though both religions claim to have the only way to heaven or teach two totally opposite “truths.” People who do not believe in absolute truth ignore these claims and embrace a more tolerant universalism that teaches all religions are equal and all roads lead to heaven. People who embrace this worldview vehemently oppose evangelical Christians who believe the Bible when it says that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” and that He is the ultimate manifestation of truth and the only way one can get to heaven (John 14:6).
Tolerance has become the one cardinal virtue of the postmodern society, the one absolute, and, therefore, intolerance is the only evil. Any dogmatic belief— especially a belief in absolute truth—is viewed as intolerance, the ultimate sin. Those who deny absolute truth will often say that it is all right to believe what you want, as long as you do not try to impose your beliefs on others. But this view itself is a belief about what is right and wrong, and those who hold this view most definitely do try to impose it on others. They set up a standard of behavior which they insist others follow, thereby violating the very thing they claim to uphold—another self-contradicting position. Those who hold such a belief simply do not want to be accountable for their actions. If there is absolute truth, then there are absolute standards of right and wrong, and we are accountable to those standards. This accountability is what people are really rejecting when they reject absolute truth.
The denial of absolute truth/universal truth and the cultural relativism that comes with it are the logical result of a society that has embraced the theory of evolution as the explanation for life. If naturalistic evolution is true, then life has no meaning, we have no purpose, and there cannot be any absolute right or wrong. Man is then free to live as he pleases and is accountable to no one for his actions. Yet no matter how much sinful men deny the existence of God and absolute truth, they still will someday stand before Him in judgment. The Bible declares that “…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:19-22).
Is there any evidence for the existence of absolute truth? Yes. First, there is the human conscience, that certain “something” within us that tells us the world should be a certain way, that some things are right and some are wrong. Our conscience convinces us there is something wrong with suffering, starvation, rape, pain, and evil, and it makes us aware that love, generosity, compassion, and peace are positive things for which we should strive. This is universally true in all cultures in all times. The Bible describes the role of the human conscience in Romans 2:14-16: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
The second evidence for the existence of absolute truth is science. Science is simply the pursuit of knowledge, the study of what we know and the quest to know more. Therefore, all scientific study must by necessity be founded upon the belief that there are objective realities existing in the world and these realities can be discovered and proven. Without absolutes, what would there be to study? How could one know that the findings of science are real? In fact, the very laws of science are founded on the existence of absolute truth.
The third evidence for the existence of absolute truth/universal truth is religion. All the religions of the world attempt to give meaning and definition to life. They are born out of mankind’s desire for something more than simple existence. Through religion, humans seek God, hope for the future, forgiveness of sins, peace in the midst of struggle, and answers to our deepest questions. Religion is really evidence that mankind is more than just a highly evolved animal. It is evidence of a higher purpose and of the existence of a personal and purposeful Creator who implanted in man the desire to know Him. And if there is indeed a Creator, then He becomes the standard for absolute truth, and it is His authority that establishes that truth.
Fortunately, there is such a Creator, and He has revealed His truth to us through His Word, the Bible. Knowing absolute truth/universal truth is only possible through a personal relationship with the One who claims to be the Truth —Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be the only way, the only truth, the only life and the only path to God (John 14:6). The fact that absolute truth does exist points us to the truth that there is a sovereign God who created the heavens and the earth and who has revealed Himself to us in order that we might know Him personally through His Son Jesus Christ. That is the absolute truth.
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