FAQ’S on God, the Bible and other Spiritual Issues

 

This FAQ is biased. It reflects the author's Christian beliefs, reverence for God, and a great respect for God's Holy Word, the Bible. I believe that the Holy Bible was inspired by God, who had His servants speak, write, and preserve His word. The Bible reflects the style of the many people involved, but it is from God, and should be respected as such.


ABORTION

What God’s Word Says About Abortion

God speaks very clearly in the Bible on the value of unborn children. God’s Word says that He personally made each one of us, and has a plan for each life:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart" (Jeremiah 1:5).

"Even before I was born, God had chosen me to be His" (Galatians 1:15).

"For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13, 16). "Your hands shaped me and made me . . . Did You not clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life" (Job 10:8–12).

"This is what the Lord says—He who made you, who formed you in the womb" (Isaiah 44:2).

"Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers?" (Job 31:15).

Because man is made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27), each life is of great value to God: "Children are a gift from God" (Psalm 127:3). He even calls our children His own: "You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to Me and sacrificed them...You slaughtered My children" (Ezekiel 16:20,21). The Bible says of our Creator, "In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being" (Job 12:10). God, the giver of life, commands us not to take the life of an innocent person: "Do not shed innocent blood" (Jeremiah 7:6); "Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person" (Deuteronomy 27:25). "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Taking the life of the unborn is clearly murder—"He didn’t kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave" (Jeremiah 20:17)— and God vowed to punish those who "ripped open the women with child" (Amos 1:13).

The unborn child was granted equal protection in the law; if he lost his life, the one who caused his death must lose his own life: "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined . . .But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life" (Exodus 21:22,23). Life is a gift created by God, and is not to be taken away by abortion. God is "prochoice," but He tells us clearly the only acceptable choice to make: "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).

"What does the Bible say about abortion?"

The Bible never specifically addresses the issue of abortion. However, there are numerous teachings in Scripture that make it abundantly clear what God’s view of abortion is. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows us before He knits us in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb. Exodus 21:22-25 prescribes the same penalty for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as the penalty for someone who commits murder. This clearly indicates that God considers a baby in the womb as just as much of a human being as a full-grown adult. For the Christian, abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose. It is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6).

The first argument that always arises against the Christian stance on abortion is, “What about cases of rape and/or incest?” As horrible as it would be to become pregnant as a result of rape and/or incest, does that make the murder of a baby the answer? Two wrongs do not make a right. The child who is a result of rape/incest could be given up for adoption to a loving family unable to have children on their own – or the child could be raised by its mother. Again, the baby should not be punished for the evil acts of its father.

The second argument that usually arises against the Christian stance on abortion is, “What about when the life of the mother is at risk?” Honestly, this is the most difficult question to answer on the issue of abortion. First, let’s remember that this situation is the reason behind less than one-tenth of one percent of the abortions done in the world today. Far more women have an abortion because they do not want to “ruin their body” than women who have an abortion to save their own lives. Second, let’s remember that God is a God of miracles. He can preserve the life of a mother and a child despite all the medical odds being against it. Third, it is never medically necessary to intentionally kill a baby inside the mother's womb. There is a vast difference between trying to save a mother's life, resulting in a baby's death, and intentionally ending the life of a baby in a mother's womb. Ultimately, though, this question can only be decided between a husband, wife, and God. Any couple facing this extremely difficult situation should pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) as to what He would have them to do.

94% of the abortions performed in the world today are for reasons other than the life of the mother being at risk. The vast majority of instances can be qualified under "A woman and/or her partner decide they do not want the baby they have conceived." This is an utmost evil. Even in the more difficult 6% of instances, abortion should never be the first option. The life of a human being in the womb is worth every effort to allow a full-term birthing process.

For those who have had an abortion – the sin of abortion is no less forgivable than any other sin. Through faith in Christ, any and all sins can be forgiven (John 3:16; Romans 8:1; Colossians 1:14). A woman who has had an abortion, or a man who has encouraged an abortion, or even a doctor who has performed one – all can be forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ.

ADAM

"Adam didn’t die the day God said he would!" Eph. 4:18

He certainly did. He died spiritually. The moment he sinned, he became "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Ezekiel 18:4 says, "The soul that sins, it shall die." It is because we are born spiritually dead that Jesus came to give us spiritual life (John 5:40; 10:10; 14:6; etc.). This is why Jesus told us that we must be born again (John 3:3). When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that we "pass from death to life" (John 5:24; Romans 6:13; 1 John 3:14). "We are born dead in trespasses and sins, alienated, cut off, detached from the life of God. The day that man believed the devil’s lie (which is sin), he forfeited the life that distinguished him from the animal kingdom—the life of God. When sin came in, the life went out." Ian Thomas

ALCOHOL

"What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol / wine? Is it a sin for a Christian to drink alcohol / wine?"

Scripture contains many warnings regarding the drinking of alcohol (Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 29:6; Judges 13:4,7,14; 1 Samuel 1:15; Proverbs 20:1; 31:4,6; Isaiah 5:11,22; 24:9; 28:7; 29:9; 56:12; Micah 2:11; Luke 1:15). However, Scripture does not necessarily forbid a Christian from drinking beer, wine, or any other drink containing alcohol. In fact, some Scriptures discuss alcohol in positive terms. Ecclesiastes 9:7 instructs “drink wine with a merry heart.” Psalm 104:14-15 states that God gives wine “that makes glad the heart of men.” Amos 9:14 discusses drinking wine from your own vineyard as a sign of God’s blessing. Isaiah 55:11 encourages “yes, come buy wine and milk…”

What God commands Christians regarding alcohol is to avoid drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). The Bible condemns drunkenness and its effects (Proverbs 23:29-35). Christians are also commanded to not allow their bodies to be “mastered” by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19). Drinking alcohol in excess is undeniably addictive. Scripture also forbids a Christian from doing anything that might offend other Christians or might encourage them to sin against their conscience (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). In light of these principles, it would be extremely difficult for any Christian to say he is drinking alcohol to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Jesus changed water into wine. It even seems that Jesus drank wine on occasion (John 2:1-11; Matthew 26:29). In New Testament times, the water was not very clean. Without modern sanitation efforts, the water was often filled with bacteria, viruses, and all kinds of contaminants. The same is true in many third-world countries today. As a result, people often drank wine (or grape juice) because it was far less likely to be contaminated. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul was instructing Timothy to stop drinking the water (which was probably causing his stomach problems) and instead drink wine. In that day, wine was fermented (containing alcohol), but necessarily not to the degree it is today. It is incorrect to say that it was grape juice, but it is also incorrect to say that it was the same thing as the wine commonly used today. Again, Scripture does not necessarily forbid Christians from drinking beer, wine, or any other drink containing alcohol. Alcohol is not, in and of itself, tainted by sin. It is, rather, drunkenness and addiction to alcohol that a Christian must absolutely refrain from (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Corinthians 6:12).

Alcohol, consumed in small quantities, is neither harmful or addictive. In fact, some doctors advocate drinking small amounts of red wine for its health benefits, especially for the heart. Consumption of small quantities of alcohol is a matter of Christian freedom. Drunkenness and addiction are sin. However, due to the Biblical concerns regarding alcohol and its effects, due to the easy temptation to over-consumption of alcohol, and due to the possibility of causing offense and/or stumbling of others – it is usually best for a Christian to abstain entirely from drinking alcohol.

ANGELS

"What does the Bible say about angels?"

Angels are personal spiritual beings, having aspects of intelligence, emotions, and will. This is true of both the good and evil angels. Angels possess intelligence (Matthew 8:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12), show emotions (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17), and demonstrate that they have wills (Luke 8:28-31: 2 Timothy 2:26; Jude 6). Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), with no true physical body. The fact that they do not have bodies does not affect their being personalities (any more than it does with God).

The knowledge angels possess is limited by their being created beings. This means they do not know all things as God does (Matthew 24:36). They do seem to have greater knowledge than humans, however. This may be due to three causes. (1) Angels were created as a higher order of creatures in the universe than humans are. Therefore, innately they possess greater knowledge. (2) Angels study the Bible and the world more thoroughly than humans do and gain knowledge from it (James 2:19; Revelation 12:12). (3) Angels gain knowledge through long observation of human activities. Unlike humans, angels do not have to study the past; they have experienced it. Therefore, they know how others have acted and reacted in situations and can predict with a greater degree of accuracy how we may act in similar circumstances.

Though they have wills, the angels are, like all creatures, subject to the will of God. Good angels are sent by God to help believers (Hebrews 1:14). Here are some activities the Bible ascribes to angels:

A.They praise God (Psalm 148:1,2; Isaiah 6:3).
B. They worship God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:8-13).
C. They rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7).
D. They serve God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 22:9).
E. They appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1).
F. They are instruments of God's judgments (Revelation 7:1; 8:2).
G. They bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10).
H. They aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3).
I. They observe Christian order, work, and suffering (1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
J. They encourage in times of danger (Acts 27:23,24).
K. They care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).

Angels are entirely a different order of being than humans. Human beings do not become angels after they die. Angels will never become, and never were, human beings. God created the angels, just as He created humanity. The Bible nowhere states that angels are created in the image and likeness of God, as humans are (Genesis 1:26). Angels are spiritual beings that can, to a certain degree, take on physical form. Humans are primarily physical beings, but with a spiritual aspect. The greatest thing we can learn from the angels is their instant, unquestioning obedience to God’s commands.

"What do angels look like?"

Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), so they do not have any essential physical form. But angels do have the ability to take on human form. When angels appeared to humans in the Bible, they resembled normal males. In Genesis 18:1-19, God and two angels appeared as men and actually ate a meal with Abraham. Angels appear as men many times throughout the Bible (Joshua 5:13-14; Mark 16:5), although they never appear in the likeness of women.

At other times, angels appeared not as humans, but as something other-worldly. At times, their appearance was terrifying to those who encountered them. Often the first words from these angels were “do not be afraid,” because extreme fear was such a common reaction. Zacharias in Luke 1:12 was speechless before the angel who visited him, as were the keepers of Jesus’ tomb, who became as dead men when they saw the angel of the Lord (Matthew 28:4). The shepherds in the fields in Luke 2 were “sore afraid” when the angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them. To others, however, angelic appearances did not produce terror. Mary’s encounter with the angel who announced the birth of Jesus produced confusion at the pronouncement, but did not seem to produce the same fear experienced by Zacharias.

As for physical characteristics, angels are often described as winged. The cherubim on the ark of the covenant have wings that cover the mercy seat (Exodus 25:20). Isaiah also saw winged seraphim in his vision of the throne of heaven, each one having six wings (Isaiah 6:2). Ezekiel, too, saw visions of winged angels. Isaiah 6:1-2 depicts angels having human features—voices, faces and feet. Angel voices are heard singing and praising God in unison several other passages. One of the most complete descriptions of an angel is in Daniel 10:5-6: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” The angel guarding Jesus’ tomb was similarly described: “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).

Whatever appearance angels take on, there is reason to believe they are incredibly beautiful in appearance. First, Ezekiel tells us that Lucifer’s beauty was such that it caused his heart to be “lifted up” in pride. In addition, it stands to reason that angels have extraordinary beauty. because they are continually in the presence of Almighty God, whose glory is reflected upon all that is around Him.

"Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?"

With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan, probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18), in pride, chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god. Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God, he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one-third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels / demons.

Unlike humanity, however, the choice the angels had, to follow Satan or remain faithful to God, was an eternal choice. The Bible presents no opportunity for the fallen angels to repent and be forgiven. Nor does the Bible indicate that it is possible for more of the angels to sin. The angels who remain faithful to God are described as the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21). Satan and the fallen angels knew God in all His glory. For them to rebel despite what they knew about God, it is the utmost of evil. As a result, God does not give Satan and the other fallen angels the opportunity to repent. Further, the Bible gives us no reason to believe they would repent even if God gave them the chance (1 Peter 5:8). God gave Satan and the angels the same choice He gave Adam and Eve - to obey Him or not. The angels had a free will choice to make - God did not force or encourage any of the angels to sin. Satan and the fallen angels sinned of their own free will - and therefore are worthy of God's eternal wrath (Matthew 25:41).

Why did God give the angels this choice, when He knew what the results would be? God knew that one-third of the angels would rebel, and therefore be cursed to the eternal fire. God also knew that Satan would further his rebellion by tempting humanity into sin. So, why did God allow it? The Bible does not explicitly give the answer to this question. The same can be asked of almost any evil action – why does God allow it? Ultimately, it comes back to choice. God created free beings, the angels and human beings. If God wanted beings who simply did what they were programmed to do, the animals would have sufficed. No, God desired beings with whom He could have a genuine relationship, and therefore He gave us all the ability to choose, and presented us with a choice.

"Do we have guardian angels?"

Matthew 18:10 states, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." In the context, "these little ones" could either apply to those who believe in Him (v. 6) or it could refer to little children (vv. 3-5). This is the key passage when the discussion of guardian angels comes up. There is no doubt that good angels help protect (Daniel 6:20-23; 2 Kings 6:13-17), reveal information (Acts 7:52-53; Luke 1:11-20), guide (Matthew 1:20-21; Acts 8:26), provide for (Genesis 21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7), and minister to believers in general (Hebrews 1:14). There are many more instances of these angelic activities in Scripture.

The question that arises is whether each person—or each believer—has an angel assigned to him/her. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had the archangel (Michael) assigned to it (Daniel 10:21; 12:1), but nowhere in Scripture does it state that an angel was "assigned" to an individual (they were sometimes sent to individuals, but no mention of "permanent" assignment is given). One commentator states that the Jews had fully developed the belief in guardian angels during the time between the Old and New Testament periods. Some early church fathers believed that each person had not only a good angel assigned to him/her, but also a demon. The belief in guardian angels has been around for a long time, but there is no scriptural basis for it.

To return to Matthew 18:10, the word their is a collective pronoun in the Greek and refers to the fact that believers are served by angels in general. These angels are pictured “always” watching the face of God so as to hear His command to them to help a believer when needed. If one is to take from the Matthew passage that guardian angels are referred to, it would seem that these angels are not on active duty, but rather "always see the face of" the Father in heaven. The active duty or oversight seems, then, to come more from God than the angels, which makes perfect sense because God alone is omniscient. He sees every believer at every moment, and He alone knows when one of us needs the intervention of an angel. Because they are continually seeing His face, the angels are at His disposal to help one of His “little ones.”

In Western society today, it is "in" to believe in angels. We have movies that focus on angels; we have TV series which portray angels as being assigned to help humans. Scripture makes it clear that although angels possess superhuman power and knowledge, they are created beings just as we are and are "nothing" compared to God. As such, they are not to be worshipped (Exodus 20:1-6; Colossians 2:18). Rather, worship is to be reserved for the Triune God alone. Unfortunately, while the shows about angels give lip service to God, the Son of God is rarely mentioned (if at all). And God says in John 5:23 that if one does not honor the Son, he does not honor the Father who sent Him.

It cannot be emphatically answered from Scripture whether each believer has a guardian angel assigned to him/her. But as stated earlier, God does use them in ministering to us. It is scriptural to say that He uses them as He uses us; i.e., He in no way needs us or them to accomplish His purposes but chooses to use us and them nevertheless (Job 4:18; Job 15:15). In the end, whether we have an angel assigned to protect us or not, we have a greater assurance that God gives: if we are His children through faith in Christ, He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28-30), and Jesus Christ will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). If we have an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God with us, does it really matter whether or not there is a finite angel alongside us?

"What are cherubim? Are cherubs angels?"

Cherubim / cherubs are angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God. The cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, "After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." Prior to his rebellion, Satan was a cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15). The tabernacle and temple along with their articles contained many representations of cherubim (Exodus 25:17-22; 26:1,31; 36:8; 1 Kings 6:23-35; 7:29-36; 8:6-7; 1 Chronicles 28:18; 2 Chronicles 3:7-14; 5:7-8; Hebrews 9:5).

Chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Ezekiel describe the "four living creatures" (Ezekiel 1:5) as the same beings as the cherubim (Ezekiel 10). Each had four faces - that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10; also 10:14) - and each had four wings. In their appearance, the cherubim "had the likeness of a man" (Ezekiel 1:5). These cherubim used two of their wings for flying and the other two for covering their bodies (Ezekiel 1:6,11,23). Under their wings the cherubim appeared to have the form, or likeness, of a man's hand (Ezekiel 1:8; 10:7-8,21).

The imagery of Revelation 4:6-9 also seems to be describing cherubs. The cherubs served the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God's praises, they also served as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.

"What are seraphim? Are seraphs angels?"

The seraphim, "fiery, burning ones," are angelic beings associated with the prophet Isaiah's vision of God in the Temple when he was called to his prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6:1-7). Isaiah 6:2-4 records, "Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke." Seraphs are angels that worship God continually.

Isaiah chapter 6 is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim. Each seraph had six wings. They used two to fly, two to cover their feet, and two to cover their faces (Isaiah 6:2). The seraphim flew about the throne on which God was seated, singing His praises as they called special attention to God’s glory and majesty. These beings apparently also served as agents of purification for Isaiah as he began his prophetic ministry. One placed a hot coal against Isaiah's lips with the words "your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged" (Isaiah 6:7). Similar to the other types of holy angels, the seraphim are perfectly obedient to God. Similar to the cherubim, the seraphim are particularly focused on worshipping God.

ANIMALS

"Do pets / animals go to Heaven? Do pets / animals have souls?"

The Bible does not give any specific teaching on whether pets / animals have “souls” or whether pets / animals will be in heaven. However, we can take some general Scriptural principles and shed some light on the subject. The Bible states that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15,22) have the breath of life. The primary difference between human beings and animals is that man is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Animals are not made in the image and likeness of God. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human being are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will - and - have an aspect of being that continues after death. If pets / animals do have a “soul” or immaterial aspect, it must therefore be of a different and lesser "quality." This difference probably means that pet / animal “souls” do not carry on after death.

Another factor to consider in this question is that God did create animals as a part of His creative process in Genesis. God created the animals and said they were good (Genesis 1:25). Therefore, there is no reason why there could not be animals on the new earth (Revelation 21:1). There will most definitely be animals during the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). It is impossible to say definitively whether some of these animals might be pets we had while here on earth. We do know that God is just and that when we get to Heaven we will find ourselves in complete agreement with His decision on this issue, whatever it may be.

ANTI-CHRIST

"Who is the antichrist?"

There is much speculation about the identity of the antichrist. Some of the more popular targets are Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Prince Charles of England, and Pope Benedict XVI. In the United States, former President Bill Clinton, current President George Bush, and presidential candidate Barack Obama are the most frequent candidates. So, who is the antichrist, and how will we recognize him?

The Bible really does not say anything specific about where the antichrist will come from. Many Bible scholars speculate that he will come from a confederacy of ten nations and/or a reborn Roman empire (Daniel 7:24-25; Revelation 17:7). Others see him as being a Jew since he would have to be in order to claim to be the Messiah. It is all just speculation since the Bible does not specifically say where the antichrist will come from or what race he will be. One day, the antichrist will be revealed. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 tells us how we will recognize the antichrist: "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God."

It is likely that most people who are alive when the antichrist is revealed will be very surprised at his identity. The antichrist may or may not be alive today. Martin Luther was convinced that the pope in his time was the antichrist. Others who have lived in the past few hundred years have been equally sure as to the identity of the antichrist. So far, they have all been incorrect. We should put the speculations behind us and focus on what the Bible actually says about the antichrist. Revelation 13:5-8 declares, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world."

APOSTLES

"Who were the twelve (12) disciples / apostles of Jesus Christ?"

The word "disciple" refers to a "learner" or "follower." The word "apostle" refers to "one who is sent out." While Jesus was on earth, the twelve were called disciples. The 12 disciples followed Jesus Christ, learned from Him, and were trained by Him. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the disciples out (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) to be His witnesses. 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, as Jesus trained them and sent them out.

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 12 disciples / apostles in Mark 3:16-19 and Luke 6:13-16. In comparing the three passages, there are a couple of minor differences in the names. It seems that Thaddaeus was also know 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" member of the 12 apostles, and instead believe that the Apostle 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 12 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 12 apostles / disciples had "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). May the same be said of us!

"Does the Bible record the death of the apostles? How did each of the apostles die?"

The only apostle’s 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 can only be known based on church traditions, so we should not put too much weight on any of the other accounts. The most commonly accepted church tradition in regards 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). Following are the most popular “traditions” in regards to 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), the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple 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 was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.

Bartholomew, also know as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, when he was flayed to death by a whip. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, Andrew's body was tied 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 at Rome in A.D. 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. No one will die for something he knows is 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.

ARK OF THE COVENANT

"What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?"

The Bible does not record what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. Tradition says that the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark and hid it in the catacombs beneath the temple as the Babylonians were getting ready to conquer and destroy Jerusalem. According to this tradition, the Ark remains hidden in the catacombs beneath Jerusalem, waiting for the day that a Jewish temple is rebuilt. The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Bible does seem to indicate that the Ark of the Covenant will be rediscovered in the end times. Revelation 11:19, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm."

ARMOR OF GOD

"What is the full armor of God?"

The phrase “full armor of God” comes from a passage in the New Testament: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:13-17).

Ephesians 6:12 clearly indicates that the conflict with Satan is spiritual, and therefore no tangible weapons can be effectively employed against him and his minions. We are not given a list of specific tactics he will use. However, the passage is quite clear that when we follow all the instructions faithfully, we will be able to stand, and we will have victory regardless of his offense.

The first element of our armor is truth (vs. 14). This is easy to understand, since Satan is said to be the "father of lies." (John 8:44). Deception is high on the list of things God considers to be abominations. A “lying tongue” is one of the things He describes as “detestable to Him” (Proverbs 6:16-17). He clearly states that no liar will be admitted into heaven (Revelation 22:14-15). We are therefore exhorted to put on truth for our own sanctification and deliverance and for the benefit of those to whom we are a witness.

Also in vs. 14 we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate would shield a warrior from a fatal blow to the heart and other critical organs. This righteousness is not works of righteousness done by men—though these are certainly a hedge of protection when used against the reproaches and accusations we suffer at the hands of the enemy. Rather, this is the righteousness of Christ, imputed by God and received by faith, which guards our hearts against the accusations and charges of Satan, and secures our innermost being from his attacks.

Verse 15 speaks of the preparation of the feet for spiritual conflict. The modern soldier needs to pay particular attention to his feet as well as the ancient soldier. Sometimes the ancient enemy would place dangerous obstacles in the path of advancing soldiers. This is much like the land mines of today. Also disease can damage the feet of a soldier who is without proper footwear. The idea of the preparation of the gospel of peace as footwear suggests what we need to advance into Satan's territory with the message of grace so essential to winning souls to Christ. Satan has many obstacles placed in the path to halt the propagation of the gospel.

The shield of faith spoken of in vs. 16 makes ineffective Satan's assault of sowing doubts in regard to the faithfulness of God and His Word. Our faith—of which Christ is the author and perfecter (Hebrews 12:2)— is like a golden shield, precious, solid, and substantial; and like a shield of mighty warriors, by which mighty things are done, and by which the believer not only repels, but conquers the enemy.

The helmet of vs. 17 protecting the head is, again, to keep viable a most critical part of the body. We could say that our way of thinking needs preservation. The head of the soldier was among the principal parts to be defended, as on it the deadliest strokes might fall, and it is the head that commands the whole body. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure Gospel “hope” of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine, or give way to Satan’s temptations to despair. The unsaved person has no hope of warding off the blows of false doctrine because his mind is incapable of discerning between truth and falsehood.

Verse 17 interprets itself in regard to what is meant by the sword of the Spirit. While all the rest is defensive in nature, here is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God. It speaks of the holiness and power of the Word of God. A greater spiritual weapon is not conceivable. In Jesus' temptations in the desert, the Word of God was always His overpowering response to Satan. What a blessing that the same Word is available to us!

Praying in the Spirit (that is, with the mind of Christ, with His heart and His priorities) as in vs. 18 is the culmination of what is involved in arraying ourselves and in utilizing all the aforementioned armor of God. It is significant that this passage of Scripture is so true to the priorities of ministry highlighted throughout Paul's epistles; he holds prayer as most essential element to spiritual victory and maturity. How sincerely he requests it for himself as well (vs. 19-20).

BAPTISM

Why was Jesus baptized? Why was Jesus' baptism important?”

When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John asked the same question. Why should he, a sinful man, baptize the Messiah? He tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized saying “I need to be baptized by You and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). The baptisms that John performed symbolized repentance, and he saw this as inappropriate for the One he knew to be the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Christ was here identifying Himself with sinners. He will ultimately bear their sins; His perfect righteousness will be imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, this act of baptism was a necessary part of the righteousness He secured for sinners. His was a perfect righteousness in that He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law which we, for whose sin He would exchange His righteousness, are not capable of fulfilling. He is our perfect substitute.


This baptism was a very public one and was recorded for all generations to know about and understand, and it is important for several reasons. First, it pictures His death and resurrection. Second, it symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Third, it marks His first public identification with those whose sins He would bear. Fourth, the event was a public affirmation of His Messiahship by the testimony that came directly from heaven (Matthew 3:17).

Water baptism is used as a way to identify. In Jesus’ day, when a Gentile would convert to Judaism, he would have to be publicly baptized to identify him as a convert. Obviously, Jesus was not converting to anything. Jesus’ baptism was an identification of Jesus with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was baptized to publicly announce Himself as God’s Son, and to pronounce the beginning of His ministry with the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus did not “need” the Holy Spirit. However, to set an example for us, Jesus emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) and relied upon the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus' baptism and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is an example that we are to follow in our own lives.

THE BIBLE

What is in the Bible?

The Holy Bible is a collection of books. These are arranged in the Old Testament (before Jesus Christ) and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the same books as the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, and consists of 3 or 4 main sections:

  • The Law (Torah), called the 5 Books of Moses. These are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These tell about creation, the patriarchs, the miraculous way that God broke the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and more.
  • History. These tell how God has intervened, interacted, and taught people through history. God's mixture of justice, mercy, and love are clearly seen in these books.
  • Wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs), also called the poetic books include prayers, great wisdom, and some prophesy. Many of the things written in the Psalms were fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah. The history and wisdom literature books combined are referred to as "The Writings" (Kethuvim).
  • The Prophets (Nevi'im). These contain God's Word to His people, both in terms of current activities and in predicting future events.

The New Testament consists of 4 sections:

  • The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell about Jesus' life and teaching.
  • Acts records the history of the early church and some of the miracles done by the Holy Spirit.
  • The Letters (also called the Epistles) contain important teaching for those who follow Jesus Christ.
  • Revelation is a book of prophesy that tells about what is going to happen, as well as sending some warning messages to the current assemblies of Christians.

The Bible is the account of God's action in the world and his purpose with all creation. The writing of the Bible took place over sixteen centuries and is the work of over forty human authors. It is a quite amazing collection of 66 books with very different styles all containing the message God desired us to have.

This compilation of booklets contains an astonishing variety of literary styles. It provides many stories about the lives of good and bad people, about battles and journeys, about the life of Jesus along with letters written to groups of Christians that met in homes. It comes to us in narratives and dialogues, in proverbs and parables, in songs and allegories, in history and prophecy.

The accounts in the Bible were not generally written down as they occurred. Rather they were told over and over again and handed down through the years before someone finally wrote them down. Yet the same themes may be found throughout the book.

So along with the diversity there is also a remarkable unity. So what is the Bible? Well, in addition to all the above, the Bible is this:

·         It is a guide for living life to the full. It gives us a road map for the perilous journey of life. Or to put it another way, on our voyage through life's ocean, we find our anchor right here.

·         It is a storehouse of wonderful stories for children and grownups. Remember Noah and the ark? Joseph's coat of many colors? Daniel in the lion's den? Jonah and the fish? The parables of Jesus? In these stories we recognize the triumphs and failures of ordinary people - and we may even see ourselves!

·         It is a refuge in trouble. People in pain, in suffering, in prison, in mourning, tell how they turned to the Bible and found strength there in their desperate hours.

·         It is a treasury of insight as to who we are. We are not meaningless robots, but we are magnificent creatures of a God who loves us and gives us a purpose and a destiny.

·         It is a sourcebook for everyday living. We find standards for our conduct, guidelines for knowing right from wrong, principles to help us in a confused society where so often "anything goes."

"What are some interesting facts & stats about the Bible?"

Books in the Bible: 66
Books in the Old Testament: 39
Books in the New Testament: 27
Shortest book in the Bible: 2 John
Longest book in the Bible: Psalms
Chapters in the Bible: 1189
Chapters in the Old Testament: 929
Chapters in the New Testament: 260
Middle chapter of the Bible: Psalm 117
Shortest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 117
Longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119
Verses in the Bible: 31,173
Verses in the Old Testament: 23,214
Verses in the New Testament: 7,959
Shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35
Longest verse in the Bible: Esther 8:9
Words in the Bible: 773,692
Words in the Old Testament: 592,439
Words in the New Testament: 181,253

"Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?"

Ultimately, above the human authors, the Bible was written by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible was "breathed out" by God. God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that while using their own writing styles and personalities, they still recorded exactly what God wanted to be said. The Bible was not dictated from God, but it was perfectly guided and entirely inspired by Him.

Humanly speaking, the Bible was written by approximately 40 men of diverse backgrounds over the course of 1500 years. Isaiah was a prophet, Ezra was a priest, Matthew was a tax-collector, John was a fisherman, Paul was a tentmaker, Moses was a shepherd. Despite being penned by different authors over 15 centuries, the Bible does not contradict itself and does not contain any errors. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Few of the books of the Bible specifically name their author. Here are the books of the Bible along with the name of who is most assumed by Biblical scholars to be the author, along with the approximate date of authorship:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy = Moses - 1400 B.C.
Joshua = Joshua - 1350 B.C.
Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel = Samuel / Nathan / Gad - 1000 - 900 B.C.
1 Kings, 2 Kings = Jeremiah - 600 B.C.
1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah = Ezra - 450 B.C.
Esther = Mordecai - 400 B.C.
Job = Moses - 1400 B.C.
Psalms = several different authors, mostly David - 1000 - 400 B.C.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon = Solomon - 900 B.C.
Isaiah = Isaiah - 700 B.C.
Jeremiah, Lamentations = Jeremiah - 600 B.C.
Ezekiel = Ezekiel - 550 B.C.
Daniel = Daniel - 550 B.C.
Hosea = Hosea - 750 B.C.
Joel = Joel - 850 B.C.
Amos = Amos - 750 B.C.
Obadiah = Obadiah - 600 B.C.
Jonah = Jonah - 700 B.C.
Micah = Micah - 700 B.C.
Nahum = Nahum - 650 B.C.
Habakkuk = Habakkuk - 600 B.C.
Zephaniah = Zephaniah - 650 B.C.
Haggai = Haggai - 520 B.C.
Zechariah = Zechariah - 500 B.C.
Malachi = Malachi - 430 B.C.
Matthew = Matthew - A.D. 55
Mark = John Mark - A.D. 50
Luke = Luke - A.D. 60
John = John - A.D. 90
Acts = Luke - A.D. 65
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon = Paul - A.D. 50-70
Hebrews = unknown, best guesses are Paul, Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos - 65 A.D.
James = James - A.D. 45
1 Peter, 2 Peter = Peter - A.D. 60
1 John, 2 John, 3 John = John - A.D. 90
Jude = Jude - A.D. 60
Revelation = John - A.D. 90

When was the Bible written?

The Bible was not written in one specific year or in a single location. The Bible is a collection of writings, and the earliest ones were set down nearly 3500 years ago. So let's start at the beginning of this fascinating story.

The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses and are commonly called the Pentateuch (literally "five scrolls").

Moses lived between 1500 and 1300 BC, though he recounts events in the first eleven chapters of the Bible that occurred long before his time (such as the creation and the flood).

These earliest accounts were handed on from generation to generation in songs, narratives, and poetry.

In those early societies there was no writing as yet and people passed on these oral accounts with great detail and accuracy.

The earliest writing began when symbols were scratched or pressed on clay tablets. The Egyptians refined this technique and developed an early form of writing known as hieroglyphics. The Bible tells us that Moses was "educated in all the learning of the Egyptians", so he would have been familiar with the major writing systems of his time. We also read that God gave Moses "two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God"(Exodus 31:18). All this leads to the conclusion that the earliest writings in the Bible were set down around 1400 BC.

The writings of the thirty or so other contributors to the Old Testament span a thousand years! They recount the times and messages from Moses' successor, Joshua, to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, who wrote his little tract around 450 BC.

Then there is a 500-year period when no writings were contributed to the Bible. This is the period between the testaments, when Alexander the Great conquered much of the world and when the Greek language was introduced to the Hebrews. Indeed, they began to use Greek so much that the Hebrew language was replaced by Greek and by another language, Aramaic, which was spoken all over that area of the world at that time.

The New Testament was written during a much shorter period, i.e. during the last half of the first century AD.

·         It was the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, which ignited the flame that produced the New Testament, as the new faith swept across the Near East and then westward to Greece and on to Rome.

·         Half of the New Testament books were contributed by one man, the Apostle Paul, in the epistles he sent to groups of new Christians and to his assistants Timothy and Titus.

·         The Bible closes with a majestic book of visions and dramatic views of the future. It was penned by the aged Apostle John around 95 AD and describes the new heaven and the new earth when God's kingdom will embrace the universe and all rebellion and death will be a thing of the past.

In looking at all these dates, the important thing to remember is that when the Bible was written is not as important as what was written. However, the when is important also as we sense how God's presence persisted through the centuries and gave us "in the fullness of time" the full-orbed revelation of salvation and hope through his son Jesus Christ.

"Old Testament vs. New Testament - What are the differences?"

The Old Testament lays the foundation for the teachings and events found in the New Testament. The Bible is a progressive revelation. If you skip the first half of any good book and try to finish it, you will have a hard time understanding the characters, the plot, and the ending. In the same way, the New Testament is only completely understood when it is seen as a fulfillment of the events, characters, laws, sacrificial system, covenants, and promises of the Old Testament.

If we only had the New Testament, we would come to the gospels and not know why the Jews were looking for a Messiah (a Savior King). Without the Old Testament, we would not understand why this Messiah was coming (see Isaiah 53), and we would not have been able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah through the many detailed prophecies that were given concerning Him, e.g., His birth place (Micah 5:2); His manner of death (Psalm 22, especially vv. 1,7-8, 14-18; Psalm 69:21, etc.), His resurrection (Psalm 16:10), and many more details of His ministry (Isaiah 52:19f.; 9:2, etc.).

Without the Old Testament, we would not understand the Jewish customs that are mentioned in passing in the New Testament. We would not understand the perversions that the Pharisees had made to God's law as they added their traditions to it. We would not understand why Jesus was so upset as He cleansed the temple courtyard. We would not understand that we can make use of the same wisdom that Christ used in His many replies to His adversaries (both human and demonic).

In a similar fashion, the New Testament Gospels and Acts of the Apostles record many of the fulfillments of prophecies that were recorded hundreds of years earlier in the Old Testament. Many of these relate to the first coming of the Messiah. In the circumstances of Jesus' birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection as found in the Gospels, we find the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that relate to the Messiah's first coming. It is these details that validate Jesus' claim to be the promised Christ. And even the prophecies in the New Testament (many of which are in the book of Revelation) are built upon earlier prophecies found in Old Testament books. These New Testament prophecies relate to events surrounding the second coming of Christ. Roughly two out of three verses in Revelation are based on Old Testament verses.

Both the Old and New Testaments contain numerous lessons for us through the lives of its many fallible characters who possessed the same nature as we do today. By observing their lives we can be encouraged to trust God no matter what (Daniel 3) and to not compromise in the little things (Daniel 1) so that we will be faithful later in the big things (Daniel 6). We can learn that it is best to confess sin early and sincerely instead of shifting blame (1 Samuel 15). We can learn not to play with sin, it will find us out and its bite is deadly (See Judges 13-16).

We can learn that we need to trust and obey God if we expect to experience His "promised land" living in this life and His paradise in the next (Numbers 13). We learn that if we contemplate sin, we are only setting ourselves up for committing it (Genesis 3; Joshua 6-7). We learn that our sin has consequences not only for ourselves but for our loved ones around us and conversely that our good behavior has reward for us and those around us as well (Genesis 3; Exodus 20:5-6). In the New Testament, we have the example of Peter to learn from—that we dare not trust our own strength or we WILL fail (Matthew 26:33-41). In the words of the thief on the cross, we see that it is through simple, sincere faith that we are saved from our sin (Luke 23:39-43). We also see what a vital New Testament church should look like (Acts 2:41-47; 13:1-3, etc.).

Also, because the revelation in Scripture is progressive, the New Testament brings into focus teachings that were only alluded to in the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews describes how Jesus is the true High Priest and His one sacrifice replaces all of the sacrifices that were mere portrayals of that sacrifice. The Old Testament gives the Law which has two parts: the commandments and the blessing/curse that comes from obedience or disobedience to those commands. The New Testament clarifies that God gave those commandments to show men their need of salvation and were never intended to be a means of salvation (Romans 3:19).

The Old Testament describes the sacrificial system God gave the Israelites to temporarily cover their sins. The New Testament clarifies that this system was an allusion to the sacrifice of Christ through whom alone salvation is found (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:4-10). The Old Testament saw paradise lost; the New Testament shows how paradise was regained for mankind through the second Adam (Christ) and how it will one day be restored. The Old Testament declares that man was separated from God through sin (Genesis 3), and the New Testament declares that man can now be restored in his relationship to God (Romans 3-6). The Old Testament predicted the Messiah's life. The Gospels primarily record Jesus' life, and the Epistles interpret His life and how we are to respond to all He has done and will do.

Again, while the New Testament is the "clearer" picture, the Old Testament is nonetheless important. Beside laying the foundation for the New Testament, without the Old Testament we would not have a basis for standing against the error of the politically correct perversions of our society in which evolution is seen to be the creator of all of the species over millions of years (instead of their being the result of special creation by God in a literal six days). We would buy the lie that marriages and the family unit are an evolving structure that should continue to change as society changes (instead of being seen as a design by God for the purpose of raising up godly children and for the protection of those who would otherwise be used and abused—most often women and children).

Likewise, without the Old Testament we would not understand the promises God will yet fulfill to the Jewish nation. As a result, we would not properly see that the Tribulation period is a seven-year period in which He will specifically be working with the Jewish nation who rejected His first coming but who will receive Him at His second coming. We would not understand how Christ's future 1,000-year reign fits in with His promises to the Jews, nor how we as Gentiles will fit in. Nor would we see how the end of the Bible ties up the loose ends that were unraveled in the beginning of the Bible, restoring the paradise that God originally created this world to be in which we would enjoy close companionship with Him on a personal basis as in the Garden of Eden.

In summary, the Old Testament lays the foundation for, and was meant to prepare the Israelites for, the coming of the Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for their sins (and for the sins of the world as well). The New Testament shares the life of Jesus Christ and then looks back on what He did and how we are to respond to His gift of eternal life and live our lives in gratitude for all He has done for us (Romans 12). Both testaments reveal the same holy, merciful, and righteous God who must condemn sin but who desires to bring to Himself a fallen human race of sinners through the forgiveness only possible through Christ's atoning sacrifice as payment for sin. In both testaments God reveals Himself to us and how we are to come to Him through Jesus Christ. And in both testaments we find all we need for eternal life and godly living (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Is the Bible true? If so, how can I know it is true?

You might expect us at International Bible Society to say, "Yes, the Bible is true." Who could blame you for being a bit skeptical; I can hear you say, "Of course, they claim it's true! It's their main product!" Yes, that's so, but we'll do our best to bring you to our heartfelt conviction: the Bible is the truth! In the end, of course, only God himself can lead you to confess, as Jesus did in John 17:17, "Your word is truth."

Many brilliant people deny that the Bible is true, so obviously sheer intelligence is not the key to faith in the Bible. Jesus gives us an insight when he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32, NIV) That sense of freedom in your soul which Jesus mentions is one way to gauge the truth of the Bible. That is, you'll be free from the horrible compulsion that you have to earn God's approval. You'll be free from fear about your eternal destiny, and free from the grip of slavery to your pride. In other words, the results in your life will demonstrate the truth of your faith! Mere intelligence alone can never give that freedom.

But let's look at what we mean by "truth" in talking about the Bible. Some scholars have a field day describing how archaic and out of date the Bible is. Here are some typical examples of what these scholars claim the Bible teaches:

·         the sun revolves around the earth,

·         historical data and many statistics are inaccurate,

·         polygamy, slavery, and anti-Semitism are condoned,

·         women are demeaned,

·         pillaging the environment is of minimal concern.

Notice that these issues are of two kinds. First, there is the matter of factual accuracy. While this does bother some scholars of a scientific bent, we need to remember that the Bible's intention is not to instruct about scientific data, but rather about God's plan and the salvation of people. So, for example, we do not expect that the Bible will tell us if the days of creation were exactly 24 hours long or covered much longer periods (the Hebrew word for day, "yom", permits either reading). Such matters are outside the intent of what the authors (and the Holy Spirit who inspired them) wanted to communicate. It is unreasonable to expect that authors writing three thousand years ago would write in the terminology and categories of the 21st century.

The other kinds of issues are moral ones, such as slavery, which is not specifically condemned in the Bible. However, the moral tone of the Bible is such that slavery would fade away as the standards of love and justice proclaimed by Christ are upheld. The place of women, aliens, prisoners, and the disabled, is elevated in Scripture. The worship of one God in a world of many deities stands out as a call to people to turn away from idols and temple prostitution to purity and a consecrated life.

So indeed there are factual difficulties in the Bible - as we remember that it was begun over three thousand years ago and took sixteen centuries to complete. What is truly amazing is that there is a deeper unity of purpose and message throughout the entire book! God's plan for his people and the universe is clearly spelled out. His love and purpose are unmistakable. On the very deepest level this is ageless truth. We are called upon to confess with John, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 NIV) This is the truth that answers our heart's cry. And how can you know it's true?

Again this answer is on two levels.

The first is the reliability of the underlying documents. On this level the evidence is utterly astonishing. No other volume in the world has even a small percentage of ancient manuscripts, parchments, papyri, and other documents which antedate the printing press. They number over five thousand! In the terrible days of persecution by the Roman emperors, many of the precious copies of the Scriptures were destroyed by imperial edict. Yet several were kept in secret and so God's Word was preserved throughout the centuries. It is also remarkable that the thousands of underlying documents agree to such a surprising extent. We may be sure that even today we have the authentic Bible.

But there is another level of our acceptance of the truth of the Bible. This is a faith issue, and it is interwoven with all of God's work in our lives. There is a way in which God's call on our lives nudges us toward faith and life. We can resist and object. We can listen to the dozens of doubts and objections the Enemy puts before us. As Dr. Bill Bright has said, for those who do not believe the Bible, it is not because they are unable to believe, rather they are unwilling to believe. But as we are open to God's voice, we hear his mandate growing more clear as he calls, "Believe!" This is a level beyond mere factual analysis. It is the level of faith where we finally respond, "I believe! Help my unbelief!"

So as we promised, we would try to tell you about the truth of the Bible, even though we are believers. But we haven't trivialized the issue for you, either. We've told you the truth. Now the ball is in your court. How will you respond to God and his Word? In it you will find the truth - for time and eternity!

"Why isn't the Bible in chronological order?"

The books of the Bible are primarily divided by the type of literature. For example, Genesis through Esther are primarily historical, Job through Song of Solomon are poetry, Isaiah through Malachi are prophecy. Similarly, Matthew through Acts are historical, Romans through Jude are letters to churches or individuals, Revelation is prophecy. Within the type of literature, the books of the Bible are in basic chronological order. For example, Isaiah's prophecies occurred before Jeremiah's prophesies.

The Bible not being in chronological order can sometimes make studying the Bible difficult. That is why chronological Bibles can come in so handy. A chronological Bible actually puts the content of the Bible in chronological order. As an example, Isaiah ministered during the times of the kings. So, a chronological Bible puts Isaiah’s prophecies in the appropriate place in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. A chronological Bible also takes the four Gospels and attempts to put all of the events in order.

"How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God, and not the Apocrypha, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.?"

The question of which (if any) religious text is the true word of God is of utmost importance. To avoid circular reasoning, the first question we must ask is: how would we know if God communicated in the first place? Well, God would have to communicate in a manner that people could understand, but that also means that people could make up their own messages and simply claim that they came from God. So, it seems reasonable to think that if God wanted to authenticate His communication He would have to verify it in a manner that could not be duplicated by mere humans - in other words, by miracles. This narrows the field considerably.

Beyond the evidence for the Bible's correctness (manuscript evidence) and its historicity (archeological evidence), the most important evidence is that of its inspiration. The real determination of the Bible's claim to absolute inspired truth is in its supernatural evidence, including prophecy. God used prophets to speak and write down His Word and God uses miracles like fulfilled prophecy to authenticate His messengers. For example, in Genesis 12:7, God promises that the land of Israel was to be for Abraham and his descendants. In 1948 Israel was returned back to the Jewish people for the second time in history. This may not seem so astonishing until you realize that no nation in the history of the world has been scattered from its homeland and returned! Israel has done it twice. The book of Daniel predicts with accuracy the coming of the four great kingdoms from Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Greece, to Rome centuries before some of those kingdoms came on the scene (a time span of over 1,000 years!) with details concerning how they would rule and be broken. This includes the reigns of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanies.

In Ezekiel 26 we can see in astonishing detail how the city of Tyre was to be destroyed, how it would be torn down, and how its debris would be thrown into the sea. When Alexander the Great marched on that area, he encountered a group of people holed up in a tower on an island off the coast near there. He could not cross the sea, so he could not fight those in the tower. Rather than wait them out, the proud conqueror had his army throw stones into the sea to build a land bridge to the tower. It worked. His army crossed the sea and overthrew the occupants of the stronghold. But where did he get so much stone? The rocks that were used for the land bridge were the leftover rubble from the city of Tyre . . . its stones cast into the sea!

There are so many prophecies concerning Christ (over 270!) that it would take more than a few screens worth of space to list them all. Further, Jesus would have had no control over many of them such as His birthplace or time of birth. Second, the odds of one man accidentally fulfilling even 16 of these are 1 in 10^45. How many is that? For comparison, there are less than 10^28 atoms in the entire universe! And Jesus, who affirmed the Bible as the Word of God, proved His reliability and deity by His resurrection (an historical fact not easily ignored).

Now consider the Quran - its author, Muhammad, performed no miracles to back up his message (even when he was asked to by his followers - Sura 17:91-95; 29:47-51). Only in much later tradition (the Hadith) do any alleged miracles even show up and these are all quite fanciful (like Muhammad cutting the moon in half) and have zero reliable testimony to back them up. Further, the Quran makes clear historical errors. Muslims believe the Bible is inspired but with some errors from editing (Sura 2:136 as well as Suras 13, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 25). The question they cannot adequately answer is: "When was the Bible corrupted?" If they say before 600 A.D. then how can the Quran admonish believers to read it? If they claim it was after 600 A.D., then they have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, for we have absolutely no doubt as to the accuracy of biblical manuscripts from at least the 3rd century forward. Even if Christianity were false, the Quran still has an insurmountable problem because it makes judgments against Christians for believing things that they do not (nor have they ever) believed. For example, the Quran teaches that Christians believe the Trinity is the Father, the Mother (Mary), and the Son (Sura 5:73-75, 116), and the Quran also teaches that Christians believe that God had sex with Mary to have a son (Suras 2:116; 6:100-101; 10:68; 16:57; 19:35; 23:91; 37:149-151; 43:16-19). If the Quran is really from God, then it should at least be able to accurately report what Christians believe.

Joseph Smith, the author of the Book of Mormon, tried to do some miracles such as prophecy (a test for a true prophet in Deuteronomy 18:21-22) but failed several times. He foretold of Christ's second coming in History of the Church (HC) 2:382. Joseph Smith preached that the coming of the Lord would be in 56 years (about 1891). The second coming did not occur in 1891, and the Mormon Church does not claim that it did. Nor has it occurred since. He also prophesied that several cities would be destroyed in Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 84:114-115. New York, Albany and Boston were to be destroyed if they rejected the gospel according to Smith. Joseph Smith himself went to New York, Albany, and Boston and preached there. These cities did not accept his gospel, yet they have not been destroyed. Another famous false prophecy of Joseph Smith was his "END OF ALL NATIONS" in D&C 87 concerning the rebellion of South Carolina in the war between the states. The South was supposed to call on Great Britain for aid, and as a result war would be poured out upon all nations; slaves would revolt; the inhabitants of the earth would mourn; famine, plague, earthquake, thunder, lightning, and a full end of all nations would result. The South finally did revolt in 1861, but the slaves did not rise up, war was not poured out upon all nations, there was no worldwide famine, plague, earthquake, etc., and there was no resulting "end of all nations."

The collection of writings that Protestants call the Apocrypha (hidden writings), Roman Catholics call the deuterocanonical (later or second canon) books. These books were written between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D., the Intertestamental Period between the inspired writings of God's Prophets in the Old Testament and those of the Apostles and their contemporaries in the New Testament. These were "infallibly" accepted into the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 at the Council of Trent. Now the Apocrypha would be covered under the evidence for the Bible if these writings were truly inspired - but evidence seems to indicate that they are not. In the Bible we find prophets of God whose messages are ratified by miracles or prophecy that comes true, and whose message is immediately accepted by the people (Deut 31:26; Josh. 24:26; 1 Samuel 10:25; Daniel 9:2; Col. 4:16; 2 Peter 3:15-16). What we find in the apocrypha is just the opposite - no apocryphal book was written by a prophet; in fact one book specifically states that it is not inspired (1 Maccabees 9:27)! None of these books were included in the Hebrew Scriptures. There is no ratification of the authors of any apocryphal book. No apocryphal book is cited as authoritative by later Biblical writers. There is no fulfilled prophecy in any apocryphal book. Finally, Jesus, who quoted from every section of Old Testament Scripture, never once quoted from the apocrypha. Neither did any of His disciples.

The Bible so far outshines every competing source for being God's revelation that if it is not God's Word, it would seem impossible to choose among the leftovers. If the Bible is not God's Word, then we have been left with no clear criteria by which to know what might be.

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

In 1947 in an obscure cave west of the Dead Sea, Bedouin shepherds discovered some scrolls carefully placed in ten tall jars. They did not know what they had come upon, but they sold the scrolls to a nearby dealer. This was the opening chapter to an astonishing archeological find; eventually some 800 different manuscripts would be found in eleven caves near the valley called Wadi Qumran. In all, some 60,000 fragments, portions, or complete scrolls of these 800 manuscripts were retrieved, covering many subjects.

Many of the documents contained biblical texts. Either fragments or complete copies were found of every book in the Old Testament except Esther. They had been placed in these caves around the middle of the first century AD, and the amazing fact is that they had lain there undisturbed for 1900 years! But why are these Dead Sea Scrolls so important for us? The reason is that before this discovery the earliest manuscripts of biblical texts dated from the ninth century after Christ. They were copies of earlier copies which were long lost.

But now, for example, we have a scroll of the complete book of Isaiah dating from the second century before Christ. It is a thousand years older than any previous Hebrew Scripture document that we had before 1947.

So as these scrolls were painstakingly unrolled and translated, biblical scholars and Christians everywhere wondered what the results would be. Would the new finds provide contradictory texts, quite different from the text of our Bibles? Would the Bible have to be altered or expanded?

Even though not all of the scrolls are unrolled and translated more than half a century later, the answers are coming clear. The texts are amazingly similar to the documents we already have. The variations are less than two percent, and not a single teaching or doctrine of the Bible we have is altered. Rather than posing a threat to the Christian faith, the Dead Sea Scrolls have, in fact, provided convincing support for the genuineness of God's revelation as given to us in the Bible.

Nevertheless, Bible scholars are having intense debates about some of the texts. For example, some new Bible translations have added approximately 70 words to the end of 1 Samuel 10. The passage tells us that a certain king Nahash gouged out the eyes of the Israelites. While the text itself is of little consequence, it raises some very basic questions. Are new parts of the Bible still coming to light? Don't we have God's complete revelation? How is this possible?

Such questions need a forthright answer, and that answer is to trust in God's provision. This trust embraces our faith in His plan for the universe, and in His sending of His son to our needy world. Therefore, it also certainly embraces our trust in His revelation. If we trust Him with our destiny, we can trust His provision of exactly what we need to know and receive from Him.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided enormous light for Bible translators. The Scripture text we have today is clearly reliable and substantiated from these ancient scrolls. The challenge we face in responding to this marvelous find is to place our faith in God's Word and in His provision of light on our path for time and eternity.

Is the Bible still reliable and relevant today?

Sure, the Bible was relevant once upon a time, in that long-ago era of shepherds and scribes. That story of how the Hebrew people emerged from their centuries of slavery in Egypt is a gripping account, but does it have any connection to my world of lightning fast e-mails and jet travel? The problems of a fish swallowing a disobedient prophet named Jonah and how to get Daniel out of a den of lions seem pretty far removed from fixing my transmission or resurrecting my crashed hard drive. For a soccer mom racing to get her kids to the dentist, is there any relevance to the story of how Elijah saw to the killing of 400 prophets of the god Baal? Can we relate at all to such strange and mystifying events today?

Little wonder then that the French philosopher Voltaire said that in a hundred years from his day the Bible would have passed into the mists of history as people became more liberated and enlightened. And today a group of people known as the Jesus Seminar tell us that huge sections of the New Testament are not genuine but were concocted by writers who weaseled their own thoughts into the canon. Others have attacked the names and dates and events and numbers in the Bible, and proclaim that the book is riddled with errors. People who accept human evolution out of some primordial soup ridicule the very idea of creation as a throwback to an age of barbarians and illiterates. And, of course, priests and preachers will keep their jobs as long as they can continue to make you believe in the Bible!

Such attacks on the reliability and relevance of the Bible can be very persuasive. Yet as far as reliability is concerned, it's only fair to note that the Bible contains the best documented text of any volume in human history. Perhaps the most amazing support comes from the Dead Sea scrolls which were discovered in 1947 after lying in the Qumran caves for nearly 2000 years. Here were literally thousands of pieces from the Old Testament, and some were nearly a thousand years older than anything we had before. And yet there is a 98% similarity to the texts that are in common use. Both Christians and Jews were confirmed in their faith in the trustworthiness of the text handed down through the centuries. The attempts to tamper with the text have basically failed, and our treasure of God's revelation has come down to us intact.

But is the ancient book really relevant to the issues of our frenetic, post-modern world of microscopes and satellites? This is a question asked by those who are racing through life with little time for reflection on their destiny or why they are here. But for those who are unexpectedly slammed onto a hospital bed, life takes on a much different quality! Suddenly in the long, agonizing hours punctuated only by the clicking of a heart monitor, there is time to reflect on a new set of questions, timeless questions which have not changed much through the centuries. Does anyone really love me? How did those stars a billion miles away get there? Is there any hope for me? How do I get in touch with God right now?

It is then that these questions about the relevance of the Bible tend to fade away. The comfort and the hope embodied in the Bible suddenly become totally relevant. Its diversity touches every age, every situation. There are wonderful stories for children, deeply emotional psalms and confessions, discourses to engage the deepest philosophical questions, and the sayings of Jesus confronting the issues of life and death and the eternity ahead.

For some, there is a terrifying sense of guilt gnawing at the bone. It's time to deal with it, to recognize how you have slapped God in the face and hurt others. But the Bible does not just leave you there, sitting in your remorse! The very heart of the Bible is that there is a way out. God does not, however, just wink at your failures and let justice slide. In fact (and this is what the coming of Jesus Christ is all about), he did stand in my place to take the punishment due to me and to millions like me. He did suffer in my stead, he did hang on that cross at the center of history on my behalf, and finally he did die my death. Then on that first Easter he stood up from the grave as God gave that divine stamp of approval on all that he had done.

Christians do find that relevant! For us, life is not simply an empty journey, a trip to acquire more toys until eventually it's all over. From the pages of the Bible we read about our role in God's design and kingdom, and how our lives are touched with purpose and meaning. And at the end there is more than a gloomy extinction at the conclusion of a hectic life, but a great reunion where I plan to meet Jesus face to face.

Along the miles of concrete I traverse every day, I have a guide, a beacon. It's not in the form of a dead book, but it's a living guide for the journey. By the way, Voltaire is dead now, but the book he derided is today more widely read and pondered than ever. The house in which Voltaire lived later became a distribution center - for Bibles.

The Bible Stands Alone

Compiled by Jordan and Justin Drake

In 1889 a schoolteacher told a ten-year-old boy, "You will never amount to very much." That boy was Albert Einstein. In 1954 a music manager told a young singer, "You ought to go back to driving a truck." That singer was Elvis Presley. In 1962 a record company told a group of singers, "We don’t like your sound. Groups with guitars are definitely on their way out." They said that to the Beatles. Man is prone to make mistakes. Those who reject the Bible should take the time to look at the evidence before they come to a verdict.

1.     It is unique in its continuity.

If just 10 people today were picked who were from the same place, born around the same time, spoke the same language, and made about the same amount of money, and were asked to write on just one controversial subject, they would have trouble agreeing with each other. But the Bible stands alone. It was written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 40 writers from all walks of life. Some were fishermen; some were politicians. Others were generals or kings, shepherds or historians. They were from three different continents, and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects yet they wrote with agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet their words sound like they came from the same source. So even though 10 people today couldn’t write on one controversial subject and agree, God picked 40 different people to write the Bible—and it stands the test of time.

2. It is unique in its circulation.

The invention of the printing press in 1450 made it possible to print books in large quantities. The first book printed was the Bible. Since then, the Bible has been read by more people and printed more times than any other book in history. By 1930, over one billion Bibles had been distributed by Bible societies around the world. By 1977, Bible societies alone were printing over 200 million Bibles each year, and this doesn’t include the rest of the Bible publishing companies. No one who is interested in knowing the truth can ignore such an important book.

3. It is unique in its translation.

The Bible has been translated into over 1,400 languages. No other book even comes close.

4. It is unique in its survival.

In ancient times, books were copied by hand onto manuscripts which were made from parchment and would decay over time. Ancient books are available today only because someone made copies of the originals to preserve them. For example, the original writings of Julius Caesar are no longer around. We know what he wrote only by the copies we have. Only 10 copies still exist, and they were made 1,000 years after he died. Only 600 copies of Homer’s The Iliad exist, made 1,300 years after the originals were written. No other book has as many copies of the ancient manuscripts as the Bible. In fact, there are over 24,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts, some written within 35 years of the writer’s death.

5. It is unique in withstanding attack.

No other book has been so attacked throughout history as the Bible. In A.D. 300 the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered every Bible burned because he thought that by destroying the Scriptures he could destroy Christianity. Anyone caught with a Bible would be executed. But just 25 years later, the Roman emperor Constantine ordered that 50 perfect copies of the Bible be made at government expense. The French philosopher Voltaire, a skeptic who destroyed the faith of many people, boasted that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth. Voltaire died in 1728, but the Bible lives on. The irony of history is that 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his former house and used his printing presses to print thousands of Bibles.

The Bible has also survived criticism. No book has been more attacked for its accuracy. And yet archeologists are proving every year that the Bible’s detailed descriptions of historic events are correct. See Matthew 4:4 and 1 Peter 1:25 footnotes.

Contradictions in the Bible—Why Are They There?

The Bible has many seeming contradictions within its pages. For example, the four Gospels give four differing accounts as to what was written on the sign that hung on the cross. Matthew said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37). However, Mark contradicts that with “The King of the Jews” (15:26). Luke says something different: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38), and John maintains that the sign said “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19).

Those who are looking for contradictions may therefore say, “See—the Bible is full of mistakes!” and choose to reject it entirely as being untrustworthy. However, those who trust God have no problem harmonizing the Gospels. There is no contradiction if the sign simply said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”

The godly base their confidence on two truths: 1) “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); and 2) an elementary rule of Scripture is that God has deliberately included seeming contradictions in His Word to “snare” the proud. He has “hidden” things from the “wise and prudent” and “revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21), purposely choosing foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).

The Bible and All it Contains

A young man once received a letter from a lawyer stating that his grandmother had left him an inheritance. To his astonishment, it was $50,000 plus “my Bible and all it contains.”

The youth was delighted to receive the money. However, he knew what the Bible contained, and because he wasn’t into religion he didn’t bother to open it. Instead, he put it on a high shelf. He gambled the $50,000, and over the next fifty years he lived as a pauper, scraping for every meal. Finally he became so destitute, he had to move in with his relatives. When he cleaned out his room, he reached up to get the dusty old Bible from the shelf. As he took it down, his trembling hands dropped it onto the floor, flinging it open to reveal a $100 bill between every page.

The man had lived as a pauper, simply because of his prejudice. He thought he knew what the Bible “contained.”

"Didn’t men write the Bible?"

Absolutely. When you write a letter, do you write the letter, or does the pen? Obviously you do; the pen is merely the instrument you use. God used men as instruments to write His "letter" to humanity. They ranged from kings to common fishermen, but the 66 books of the Bible were all given by inspiration of God. Proof that this Book is supernatural can been seen with a quick study of its prophecies. See Psalm 119:105 footnote.

"Isn’t it blasphemous to call the Bible ‘God’s Word’ when it makes Him look so bad?"

I am going to tell you some things about my father that will make him look bad. He regularly left my mother to fend for herself. I was once horrified to hear that he deliberately killed a helpless animal. Not only that, but he hit me (often). Here’s the information that’s missing: The reason he left my mom during the day was to work to earn money to take care of her and their children. He killed the animal because it had been run over by a car and was suffering. He regularly chastened me because he loved me enough to teach me right from wrong (I was a brat). Portions of the Bible that "make God look bad" merely reveal that we lack understanding. I never once questioned my dad’s integrity, because I trusted him (see Mark 10:15).

"I’ve tried to read the Bible, but I can’t understand it."

The Scriptures tell us that the "natural man" cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. Most Americans would find it difficult to understand the Chinese language. However, a child who is born into a Chinese family can understand every word. That’s why you must be born again with God’s Spirit living within you (John 3:3). The moment you become part of God’s family, the Bible will begin to make sense.

"When the Bible says ‘an eye for an eye,’ it encourages us to take the law in our own hands by avenging wrongdoing."

Matthew 5:38 is so often misquoted by the world. Many believe it is giving a license to take matters into our own hands and render evil for evil. In reality, it is referring to civil law concerning restitution. If someone steals your ox, he is to restore the ox. If someone steals and wrecks your car, he is to buy you another one...a car for a car, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The spirit of what Jesus is saying here is radically different from the "sue the shirt off the back of your neighbor" society in which we live.

BOOK OF LIFE

"What is the Book of Life?"

Revelation 20:15 declares, “If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The Book of Life is the set of names of those who will live with God forever in heaven. It is the roll of those who are saved. This Book of Life is also mentioned in Revelation 3:5; 20:12; and Philippians 4:3. The same book is also called the Lamb’s Book of Life because it contains the names of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 13:8; 21:27).

How do you get your name written in the Book of Life? Simply by repenting of sin and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5). The moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10), your name is written in the Book of Life, never to be erased (Revelation 3:5; Romans 8:37-39). No true believer should doubt his eternal security in Christ (John 10:28-30).

The Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15 is a judgment for unbelievers. That passage makes it clear that no one at that judgment has his name in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12-14). Since their names are not in the Book of Life, their fate is sealed, their punishment is sure.

Some people point to Revelation 3:5 as “proof” that a person can lose his salvation. However, the promise of Revelation 3:5 is clearly that the Lord will not erase a name: “He who overcomes . . . I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.” An overcomer is one who is victorious over the temptations, trials, and evils of this world—in other words, one who is redeemed. The saved are written in God’s registry and have the promise of eternal security.

Another passage over which confusion sometimes arises is Psalm 69:28: “Let them [David’s enemies] be blotted out of the book of the living.” This “book of the living” should not be confused with the Lamb’s Book of Life. David is referring to earthly, physical life, not eternal life in heaven. The same is true of the “book” mentioned in Exodus 32:32-33.

God keeps good records. He knows His own, and He has set the names of His children permanently in His book.

BUDDHISM

Founder: Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from northern India near modern Nepal who lived about 563–483 B.C.

Scriptures: Various, but the oldest and most authoritative are compiled in the Pali Canon.

Adherents: 613 million worldwide; 1 million in the United States.

General Description:

Buddhism is the belief system of those who follow the Buddha, the Enlightened One, a title given to its founder. The religion has evolved into three main schools:

1. Theravada or the Doctrine of the Elders (38%) is followed in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia (Kampuchea), and Vietnam.

2. Mahayana or the Greater Vehicle (56%) is strong in China, Korea, and Japan.

3. Vajrayana, also called Tantrism or Lamaism, (6%) is rooted in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia. Theravada is closest to the original doctrines. It does not treat the Buddha as deity and regards the faith as a worldview—not a type of worship. Mahayana has accommodated many different beliefs and worships the Buddha as a god. Vajrayana has added elements of shamanism and the occult and includes taboo breaking (intentional immorality) as a means of spiritual enlightenment.

Growth In The United States:

Buddhists regard the United States as a prime mission field, and the number of Buddhists in this country is growing rapidly due to surges in Asian immigration, endorsement by celebrities such as Tina Turner and Richard Gere, and positive exposure in major movies such as Siddhartha, The Little Buddha, and What’s Love Got to Do with It? Buddhism is closely related to the New Age Movement and may to some extent be driving it. Certainly Buddhist growth is benefiting from the influence of New Age thought on American life.

Historic Background:

Buddhism was founded as a form of atheism that rejected more ancient beliefs in a permanent, personal, creator God (Ishvara) who controlled the eternal destiny of human souls. Siddhartha Gautama rejected more ancient theistic beliefs because of difficulty he had over reconciling the reality of suffering, judgment, and evil with the existence of a good and holy God.

Core Beliefs:

Buddhism is an impersonal religion of self-perfection, the end of which is death (extinction)—not life. The essential elements of the Buddhist belief system are summarized in the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and several additional key doctrines. The Four Noble Truths affirm that (1) life is full of suffering (dukkha); (2) suffering is caused by craving (samudaya); (3) suffering will cease only when craving ceases (nirodha); and (4) this can be achieved by following the Noble Eightfold Path consisting of right views, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation. Other key doctrines include belief that nothing in life is permanent (anicca), that individual selves do not truly exist (anatta), that all is determined by an impersonal law of moral causation (karma), that reincarnation is an endless cycle of continuous suffering, and that the goal of life is to break out of this cycle by finally extinguishing the flame of life and entering a permanent state of pure nonexistence (nirvana).

Bridges For Evangelizing Buddhists

The gospel can be appealing to Buddhists if witnessing focuses on areas of personal need where the Buddhist belief system is weak. Some major areas include:

Suffering: Buddhists are deeply concerned with overcoming suffering but must deny that suffering is real. Christ faced the reality of suffering and overcame it by solving the problem of sin, which is the real source of suffering. Now, those who trust in Christ can rise above suffering in this life because they have hope of a future life free of suffering. "We fix our eyes not on what is seen [suffering], but on what is unseen [eternal life free of suffering]. For what is seen [suffering] is temporary, but what is unseen [future good life with Christ] is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18, NIV).

Meaningful Self: Buddhists must work to convince themselves they have no personal signifi- cance, even though they live daily as though they do. Jesus taught that each person has real significance. Each person is made in God’s image with an immortal soul and an eternal destiny. Jesus demonstrated the value of people by loving us so much that He sacrificed His life in order to offer eternal future good life to anyone who trusts Him. "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, NIV). Future Hope: The hope of nirvana is no hope at all—only death and extinction. The hope of those who put their trust in Christ is eternal good life in a "new heaven and new earth" in which God "will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [suffering] has passed [will pass] away" (Rev. 21:4, NIV). Moral Law: Because karma, the Buddhist law of moral cause and effect, is completely rigid and impersonal, life for a Buddhist is very oppressive. Under karma, there can be no appeal, no mercy, and no escape except through unceasing effort at self- refection. Christians understand that the moral force governing the universe is a personal God who listens to those who pray, who has mercy on those who repent, and who with love personally controls for good the lives of those who follow Christ. "In all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Rom. 8:28, NIV). Merit: Buddhists constantly struggle to earn merit by doing good deeds, hoping to collect enough to break free from the life of suffering. They also believe saints can transfer surplus merit to the undeserving. Jesus taught no one can ever collect enough merit on his own to earn everlasting freedom from suffering. Instead, Jesus Christ, who has unlimited merit (righteousness) by virtue of His sinless life, meritorious death, and resurrection, now offers His unlimited merit as a free gift to anyone who will become His disciple. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8–9, NIV). Desire: Buddhists live a contradiction—they seek to overcome suffering by rooting out desire, but at the same time they cultivate desire for self- ontrol, meritorious life, and nirvana. Christians are consistent—we seek to reject evil desires and cultivate good desires according to the standard of Christ. "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22, NIV).

Jesus And The Eightfold Path

Because Buddhists think a good life consists of following the Eightfold Path, the stages of the path can be used to introduce them to Christ as follows:

Right views: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). Right aspiration: Fights and quarrels come from selfish desires and wrong motives (Jas. 4:1–3); right desires and motives honor God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Right speech: A day of judgment is coming when God will hold men accountable for every careless word they have spoken (Matt. 12:36). Right conduct: The one who loves Jesus must obey Him (John 14:21), and those who live by God’s wisdom will produce good acts/fruit (Jas. 3:17).

Right livelihood: God will care for those who put Him first (Matt. 6:31,33), and all work must be done for God’s approval (2 Tim. 2:15). Right effort: Like runners in a race, followers of Christ must throw off every hindrance in order to give Him their best efforts (Heb. 12:1–2).

Right mindfulness: The sinful mind cannot submit to God’s law (Rom. 8:7), and disciples of Christ must orient their minds as He did (Phil. 2:5).

Right contemplation: The secret of true success, inner peace, self-control, and lasting salvation is submission to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and setting your heart and mind on things above where He now sits in glory waiting to bring the present order of sin and suffering to an end (Col. 3:1–4).

When Witnessing To Buddhists

1. Avoid terms such as "new birth," "rebirth," "regeneration," or "born again." Use alternatives such as "endless freedom from suffering, guilt, and sin," "new power for living a holy life," "promise of eternal good life without suffering," or "gift of unlimited merit."

2. Emphasize the uniqueness of Christ. 3. Focus on the gospel message and do not get distracted by details of Buddhist doctrine.

4. Understand Buddhist beliefs enough to discern weaknesses that can be used to make the gospel appealing (see "Bridges for Evangelizing Buddhists" and "Jesus and the Eightfold Path").

5. While using bridge concepts (see "Bridges for Evangelizing Buddhists"), be careful not to reduce Christian truth to a form of Buddhism. Buddhism has been good at accommodating other religions. Do not say "Buddhism is good, but Christianity is easier."

6. Share your own testimony, especially your freedom from guilt, assurance of heaven (no more pain), and personal relationship with Christ.

7. Prepare with prayer. Do not witness in your own strength.

CASTING LOTS

"What was the practice of casting lots?"

The practice of casting lots is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

The practice of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapter 14-21), a procedure that God instructed the Israelites on several times in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2). God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will for a given situation (Joshua 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5,31). Various offices and functions in the Temple were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5,31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). The sailors on Jonah's ship (Jonah 1:7) also cast lots to determine who had brought God's wrath upon their ship. The 11 Apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Casting lots eventually became a game people played and made wagers on. This is seen in how the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).

The New Testament nowhere instructs Christian to use a method similar to casting lots to help with decision making. In Acts chapter 1, when the apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas, this likely was not God’s desire for the apostles. Jesus had repeatedly told the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), who would instruct them and give them wisdom. That is how we are to discern God’s will today – not by casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin.

CATHOLICISM

"I am a Catholic, why should I consider becoming a Christian?"

First, please understand that we intend no offense in the wording of this question. We genuinely receive questions, from Catholics, along the lines of: “What is the difference between Catholics and Christians?” In face-to-face conversations with Catholics, we have literally heard, “I am not a Christian, I am Catholic.” To many Catholics, the terms “Christian” and “Protestant” are synonymous. With all that said, the intent of this article is that Catholics would study what the Bible says about being a Christian, and would perhaps consider that the Catholic faith is not the best representation of what the Bible describes. A key distinction between Catholics and Christians is the view of the Bible. Catholics view the Bible as having equal authority with the Church and tradition. Christians view the Bible as the supreme authority for faith and practice. The question is, how does the Bible present itself? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture, of itself, is sufficient for the Christian to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This text tells us that Scripture is not “just the beginning,” or “just the basics,” or the “foundation for a more complete church tradition.” On the contrary, Scripture is perfectly and fully sufficient for everything in the Christian life. Scripture can teach us, rebuke us, correct us, train us, and equip us. Bible Christians do not deny the value of church tradition. Rather, Christians uphold that for a church tradition to be valid, it must be based on the clear teaching of Scripture, and must be in full agreement with Scripture. Catholic friend, study the Word of God for yourself. In God’s Word you will find God’s description of, and intention for, His Church. 2 Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

A second key difference between Catholics and “Bible Christians” is the understanding of how we can approach God. Catholics tend to approach God through intermediaries, such as Mary or the saints. Christians approach God directly, offering prayers to no one other than God Himself. The Bible proclaims that we ourselves can approach God’s throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). The Bible is perfectly clear that God desires us to pray to Him, to have communication with Him, to ask Him for the things we need (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 7:7-8; 1 John 5:14-15). There is no need for mediators or intermediaries, as Christ is our one and only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), and both Christ and the Holy Spirit are already interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27; Hebrews 7:25). Catholic friend, God loves you intimately and has provided an open door to direct communication through Jesus.

The most crucial difference between Catholics and “Bible Christians” is on the issue of salvation. Catholics view salvation almost entirely as a process, while Christians view salvation as both a completed status and a process. Catholics see themselves as “being saved,” while Christians view themselves as “having been saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:2 tells us, “…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root. This verse is declaring that Christians are both sanctified and called to be sanctified. The Bible presents salvation as a gift that is received the moment a person places faith in Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:16). When a person receives Christ as Savior, he/she is justified (declared righteous – Romans 5:9), redeemed (rescued from slavery to sin – 1 Peter 1:18), reconciled (achieving peace with God – Romans 5:1), sanctified (set apart for God’s purposes – 1 Corinthians 6:11), and born again as a new creation (1 Peter 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Each of these are accomplished facts that are fully received at the moment of salvation. Christians are then called to live, practically (called to be holy), what is already true, positionally (sanctified).

The Catholic viewpoint is that salvation is received by faith, but then must be “maintained” by good works and participation in the Sacraments. Bible Christians do not deny the importance of good works or that Christ calls us to observe the ordinances in remembrance of Him and in obedience to Him. The difference is that Christians view these things as the result of salvation, not a requirement for salvation, or a means of maintaining salvation. Salvation is an accomplished work, purchased by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:2). God offers us salvation and assurance of salvation because Jesus’ sacrifice was fully, completely, and perfectly sufficient. If we receive God’s precious gift of salvation, we can know that we are saved. 1 John 5:13 declares, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

We can know that we have eternal life and we can have assurance of our salvation because of the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice does not need to be re-offered or re-presented. Hebrews 7:27 says, “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.” Hebrews 10:10 declares, “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” 1 Peter 3:18 exclaims, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…” Christ’s once for all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient. Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was the full payment for all of our sins (1 John 2:2). As a result, all of our sins are forgiven and we are promised eternal life in Heaven the moment we receive the gift God offers us – salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Catholic friend, do you desire this “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:6)? If so, all you must do is receive it (John 1:12), through faith (Romans 5:1). God loves us and offers us salvation as a gift (John 3:16). If we receive His grace, by faith, we have salvation as our eternal possession (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once saved, nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing can remove us from His hand (John 10:28-29). If you desire this salvation, if you desire to have all your sins forgiven, if you desire to have assurance of salvation, if you desire direct access to the God who loves you – receive it and it is yours. This is the salvation that Jesus died to provide and that God offers as a gift.

"What is the origin of the Catholic Church?"

The Roman Catholic Church contends that its origin is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ in approximately 30 A.D. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the Church that Jesus Christ died for, the Church that was established and built by the Apostles. Is that the true origin of the Catholic Church? On the contrary. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus, or His apostles. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship / adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in Heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture. So, if the origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, what is the true origin of the Catholic Church?

For the first 280 years of Christian history, Christianity was banned by the Roman empire, and Christians were terribly persecuted. This changed after the “conversion” of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine “legalized” Christianity at the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Later, in A.D. 325, Constantine called together the Council of Nicea, in an attempt to unify Christianity. Constantine envisioned Christianity as a religion that could unite the Roman Empire, which at that time was beginning to fragment and divide. While this may have seemed to be a positive development for the Christian church, the results were anything but positive. Just as Constantine refused to fully embrace the Christian faith, but continued many of his pagan beliefs and practices, so the Christian church that Constantine promoted was a mixture of true Christianity and Roman paganism.

Constantine found that with the Roman Empire being so vast, expansive, and diverse – not everyone would agree to forsake their religious beliefs and instead embrace Christianity. So, Constantine allowed, and even promoted, the “Christianization” of pagan beliefs. Completely pagan and utterly unbiblical beliefs were given new “Christian” identities. Some clear examples of this are as follows:

The Cult of Isis, an Egyptian mother-goddess religion, was absorbed into Christianity by replacing Isis with Mary. Many of the titles that were used for Isis, such as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” and “theotokos” (God-bearer) were attached to Mary. Mary was given an exalted role in the Christian faith, far beyond what the Bible ascribes to her, in order to attract Isis worshippers to a faith they would not otherwise embrace. Many temples to Isis were, in fact, converted into temples dedicated to Mary. The first clear hints of Catholic Mariology occur in the writings of Origen, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which happened to be the focal point of Isis worship.

Mithraism was a religion in the Roman Empire in the 1st through 5th centuries A.D. It was very popular among the Romans, especially among Roman soldiers, and was possibly the religion of several Roman emperors. While Mithraism was never given “official” status in the Roman empire, it was the de-facto official religion until Constantine and succeeding Roman emperors replaced Mithraism with Christianity. One of the key features of Mithraism was a sacrificial meal, which involved eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a bull. Mithras, the god of Mithraism, was “present” in the flesh and blood of the bull, and when consumed, granted salvation to those who partook of the sacrificial meal (theophagy, the eating of one’s god). Mithraism also had seven “sacraments,” making the similarities between Mithraism and Roman Catholicism too many to ignore. Constantine and his successors found an easy substitute for the sacrificial meal of Mithraism in concept of the Lord’s Supper / Christian Communion. Sadly, some early Christians had already begun to attach mysticism to the Lord’s Supper, rejecting the Biblical concept of a simple and worshipful remembrance of Christ’s death and shed blood. The Romanization of the Lord’s Supper made the transition to a sacrificial consumption of Jesus Christ, now known as the Catholic Mass / Eucharist, complete.

Most Roman emperors (and citizens) were henotheists. A henotheist is one who believes in the existence of many gods, but focuses primary on one particular god, or considers one particular god supreme over the other gods. For example, the Roman god Jupiter was supreme over the Roman pantheon of gods. Roman sailors were often worshippers of Neptune, the god of the oceans. When the Catholic Church absorbed Roman paganism, it simply replaced the pantheon of gods with the saints. Just as the Roman pantheon of gods had a god of love, a god of peace, a god of war, a god of strength, a god of wisdom, etc., so the Catholic Church has a saint who is “in charge” over each of these, and many other categories. Just as many Roman cities had a god specific to the city, so the Catholic Church provided “patron saints” for the cities.

The supremacy of the Roman bishop (the papacy) was created with the support of the Roman emperors. With the city of Rome being the center of government for the Roman empire, and with the Roman emperors living in Rome, the city of Rome rose to prominence in all facets of life. Constantine, and his successors, gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church. Of course it is best for the unity of the Roman empire that the government and state religion be centered in the same location. While most other bishops (and Christians) resisted the idea of the Roman bishop being supreme, the Roman bishop eventually rose to supremacy, due to the power and influence of the Roman emperors. When the Roman empire collapsed, the popes took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors – Pontificus Maximus.

Many more examples could be given. These four should suffice in demonstrating the true origin of the Catholic Church. Of course the Roman Catholic Church denies the pagan origin of its beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church disguises its pagan beliefs under layers of complicated theology. The Catholic Church excuses and denies its pagan origin beneath the mask of “church tradition.” Recognizing that many of its beliefs and practices are utterly foreign to Scripture, the Catholic Church is forced to deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surrounded it. Instead of proclaiming the Gospel and converting the pagans, the Catholic Church “Christianized” the pagan religions, and “paganized” Christianity. By blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions, yes, the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the people of the Roman empire. One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the “Roman world” for centuries. However, another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the true proclamation of God’s Word.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 declares, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

"What does the Bible say about confession of sin to a priest?"

The concept of confession of sin to a priest is nowhere taught in Scripture. First, the New Testament does not teach that there are to be priests in the New Covenant. Instead, the New Testament teaches that all believers are priests. 1 Peter 2:5-9 describes believers as a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.” Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 both describe believers as “a kingdom and priests.” In the Old Covenant, the faithful had to approach God through the priests. The priests were mediators between the people and God. The priests offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. That is no longer necessary. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now approach God’s throne with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). The temple veil tearing in two at Jesus’ death was symbolic of the dividing wall between God and humanity being destroyed. We can approach God directly, ourselves, without the use of a human mediator. Why? Because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15; 10:21), and the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:15). The New Testament teaches that there are to be elders (1 Timothy 3), deacons (1 Timothy 3), bishops (Titus 1:6-9), and pastors (Ephesians 4:11) – but not priests.

When it comes to confession of sin, believers are told in 1 John 1:9 to confess their sins to God. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins as we confess them to Him. James 5:16 speaks of confessing our trespasses “to one another,” but this is not the same as confessing sins to a priest as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Priests / church leaders are nowhere mentioned in the context of James 5:16. Further, James 5:16 does not link forgiveness of sins with the confession of sins “to one another.”

The Roman Catholic Church bases their practice of confession to a priest primarily on Catholic tradition. Catholic do point to John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." From this verse, Catholics claim that God gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, and that authority was passed on to the successors of the apostles, e.g. the bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church. There are several problems with this interpretation. (1) John 20:23 nowhere mentions confession of sin. (2) John 20:23 nowhere promises, or even hints, that the authority to forgive sins would be passed on to the successors of the apostles. Jesus’ promise was specifically directed to the apostles. (3) The New Testament nowhere states that the apostles would even have successors to their apostolic authority. Similarly, Catholics point to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (binding and loosing) as evidence for the Catholic Church’s authority to forgive sins. The same three above points apply equally to these Scriptures.

Again, the concept of confession of sin to a priest is nowhere taught in Scripture. We are to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9). As New Covenant believers, we do not need mediators between us and God. We can go to God directly because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

"Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?"

The most crucial problem with the Roman Catholic Church is its belief that faith alone in Christ is not sufficient for salvation. The Bible clearly and consistently states that receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, by grace through faith, grants salvation (John 1:12; 3:16,18,36; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10,13; Ephesians 2:8-9). The Roman Catholic Church rejects this. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that a person must believe in Jesus Christ AND be baptized AND receive the Eucharist along with the other sacraments AND obey the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church AND perform meritorious works AND not die with any mortal sins AND etc., etc., etc. Catholic divergence from the Bible on this most crucial of issues, salvation, means that yes, Catholicism is a false religion. If a person believes what the Catholic Church officially teaches, he/she will not be saved. Any claim that works or rituals must be added to faith in order for salvation to be achieved is a claim that Jesus’ death was not sufficient to fully purchase our salvation.

While salvation by faith is the most crucial issue, in comparing Roman Catholicism with the Word of God, there are many other differences and contradictions as well. The Roman Catholic Church teaches many doctrines that are in disagreement with what the Bible declares. These include apostolic succession, worship of saints or Mary, prayer to saints or Mary, the pope / papacy, infant baptism, transubstantiation, plenary indulgences, the sacramental system, and purgatory. While Catholics claim Scriptural support for these concepts, none of these teachings have any solid foundation in the clear teaching of Scripture. These concepts are based on Catholic tradition, not the Word of God. In fact, they all clearly contradict Biblical principles.

In regards to the question “Are Catholics saved?”, this is a more difficult question to answer. It is impossible to give a universal statement on the salvation of all members of any denomination of Christianity. Not ALL Baptists are saved. Not ALL Presbyterians are saved. Not ALL Lutherans are saved. Salvation is determined by personal faith in Jesus alone for salvation, not by titles or denominational identification. Despite the unbiblical beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, there are genuine believers who attend Roman Catholic churches. There are many Roman Catholics who have genuinely placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. However, these Catholic Christians are believers despite what the Catholic Church teaches, not because of what it teaches. To varying degrees, the Catholic Church teaches from the Bible and points people to Jesus Christ as the Savior. As a result, people are sometimes saved in Catholic churches. The Bible has an impact whenever it is proclaimed (Isaiah 55:11). Catholic Christians remain in the Catholic Church out of ignorance of what the Catholic Church truly stands for, out of family tradition and peer pressure, or out of a desire to reach other Catholics for Christ.

At the same time, the Catholic Church also leads many people away from a genuine faith relationship with Christ. The unbiblical beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church have often given the enemies of Christ opportunity to blaspheme. The Roman Catholic Church is not the church that Jesus Christ established. It is not a church that is based on the teachings of the Apostles (as described in the Book of Acts and the New Testament epistles). While Jesus’ words in Mark 7:9 were directed towards the Pharisees, they accurately describe the Roman Catholic Church, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”

"What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?"

There are several very important differences between Catholics and Protestants. While there have been some attempts over the last several years to find common ground between the two groups, the fact is that the differences remain, and they are just as important today as they were at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Following is brief summary of some of the more important differences.

One of the first major differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is the issue of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the sole source of God’s special revelation to mankind, and as such it teaches us all that is necessary for our salvation from sin. Protestants view the Bible as the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. This belief is commonly referred to as “Sola Scriptura” and is one of the “Five Solas” (sola being Latin for “alone”) that came out of the Protestant Reformation as summaries of some of the important differences between Catholics and Protestants.

While there are many verses in the Bible that establish it’s authority and it’s sufficiency for all matters of faith and practice, one of the clearest is 2 Timothy 3:16 where we see that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Catholics on the other hand reject the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” and do not believe that the Bible alone is sufficient. They believe that both the Bible and sacred Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding upon the Christian. Many Roman Catholics doctrines, such as purgatory, praying to the saints, worship or veneration of Mary, etc. have little or no basis at all in Scripture, but are based solely on Roman Catholic traditions. Essentially the Roman Catholic Church’s denial of “Sola Scriptura” and their insistence that both the Bible and their “Sacred Tradition” are equal in authority undermines the sufficiency, authority and completeness of the Bible. The view of Scripture is at the root of many of, if not all, the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

Another major but closely related difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the office and authority of the Pope. According to Catholicism the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” (a vicar is a substitute), and takes the place of Jesus as the visible head of the Church. As such he has the ability to speak “ex cathedra” (with authority on matters of faith and practice), and when he does so his teachings are considered infallible and binding upon all Christians. On the other hand, Protestants believe that no human being is infallible, and that Christ alone is the head of the church. Catholics rely on apostolic succession as a way of trying to establishing the Pope’s authority. But Protestants believe that the church’s authority does not come from apostolic succession, but instead is derived from the Word of God. Spiritual power and authority does not rest in the hands of a mere man, but in the very Word of God recorded in Scripture. While Catholicism teaches that only the Catholic Church can properly and correctly interpret the Bible, Protestants believe that the Bible teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all born again believers, enabling all believers to understand the message of the Bible.

This is clearly seen in passages such as John 14:16-17: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (See also John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27). While Catholicism teaches that only the Roman Catholic Church has the authority and power to interpret the Bible, Protestantism acknowledges the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and that individual Christians can trust the Holy Spirit for guidance in reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves.

A third major difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is how one is saved. Another of the “Five Solas” of the reformation was “Sola Fide” (faith alone), which affirms the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). However, according to Roman Catholicism, man cannot be saved by faith alone in Christ alone. They teach that the Christian must rely on faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Essential to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation are the Seven Sacraments, which are: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, anointing of the sick, Holy Orders, and matrimony. Protestants believe that on the basis of faith in Christ alone, believers are justified by God as all their sins are paid for by Christ on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to them. Catholics on the other hand believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer by “grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must “supplement” the righteousness of Christ imparted to him with meritorious works.

Catholics and Protestants also disagree on what it means to be justified before God. To the Catholic, justification involves being made righteous and holy. They believe that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation, and that the individual must build upon that with good works because “man has to merit God’s grace of justification and eternal salvation.” Of course this view of justification contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in passages such as Romans 4:1-12; Titus 3:3-7, as well as many others. On the other hand, Protestants distinguish between the one time act of justification (when we are declared righteous and holy by God based on our faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross), and sanctification (the ongoing process of being made righteous that continues throughout our lives on earth.) While Protestants recognize that works are important, they believe they are the result or fruit of salvation, but never the means to it. Catholics blend justification and sanctification together into one ongoing process, which leads to confusion about how one is saved.

A fourth major difference between Catholics and Protestants has to do with what happens after men die. While both believe that unbelievers will spend eternity in hell, there is significant and important differences as to what happens to believers. From their church traditions and their reliance of non-canonical books, the Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” On the other hand, Protestants believe that because we are justified by faith in Christ alone, and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us – when we die we will go straight to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord (Corinthians 5:6-10 and Philippians 1:23).

Yet even more disturbing about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is the fact that they believe that man must or even can pay or make satisfaction for his own sins. This along with their misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about how man is justified before God, results in a low view of the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross. Simply put, the Roman Catholic viewpoint on salvation implies that Christ’s atonement on the cross was not sufficient payment for the sins of those who believe in Him, and that even a believer must atone or pay for his own sins, either through acts of penance, or time in purgatory. Yet the Bible teaches over and over again that it is Christ’s death alone that can satisfy or propitiate God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). Our works of righteousness cannot add to what Christ has already accomplished.

While there are numerous other differences between what Catholics and Protestants believe, these four should be adequate to establish that there are serious differences between the two. In much the same way as the Judiziers (Jews who said that Gentile Christians had to obey the Old Testament law to be saved) that Paul wrote about in Galatians, Catholics, by making works necessary for one to be justified by God, end up with a completely different gospel. The differences between Catholicism and evangelical Protestants are important and significant.

It is our prayer that God will open up the eyes of anyone reading this article who is putting their faith or trust in the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is our hope that everyone will understand and believe that their “works of righteousness’ cannot justify them, or sanctify them (Isaiah 64:6). It is our prayer that all will instead put their faith solely in the fact that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” (Romans 3:24-25). God saves us, “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

CHRISTIAN

"What is a Christian?"

Webster’s Dictionary defines a Christian as “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teaching of Jesus.” While this is a good starting point in understanding what a Christian is, like many secular definitions, it falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian.

The word Christian is used three times in New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. It was originally used by the unsaved people of Antioch as a kind of contemptuous nickname used to make fun of the Christians. It literally means, “belonging to the party of Christ” or an “adherent or follower of Christ,” which is very similar to the way Webster’s Dictionary defines it.

Unfortunately over time, the word "Christian" has lost a great deal of its significance and is often used of someone who is religious or has high moral values instead of a true born again follower of Jesus Christ. Many people who don’t believe and trust in Jesus Christ consider themselves Christians simply because they go to church or they live in a "Christian" nation. But going to church, serving those less fortunate than you, or being a good person does not make you a Christian. As one evangelist once said, “Going to church doesn’t make one a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes one an automobile.” Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church cannot make you a Christian.

The Bible teaches us that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God. Titus 3:5 tells us that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” So, a Christian is someone who has been born-again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” A true Christian is someone who has repented of his or her sin and put faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone. Their trust is not in following a religion or a set of moral codes, or a list of do’s and don’ts.

A true Christian is a person who has put his or her faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ and fact that He died on the cross as payment for sins and rose again on the third day to obtain victory over death and to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. John 1:12 tells us: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” A true Christian is indeed a child of God, a part of God’s true family, and one who has been given new life in Christ. The mark of a true Christian is love for others and obedience to God’s Word (1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:10).

"What is Christian leadership?"

What is Christian leadership? What should a Christian leader be like? There is no finer example for Christian leadership than our Lord Jesus Christ. He declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). It is within this verse that we see the perfect description of a Christian leader. He is one who acts as a shepherd to those “sheep” in his care.

When Jesus referred to us as “sheep,” He was not speaking in affectionate terms. In truth, sheep rank among the dumbest animals in creation. A stray sheep, still within earshot of the herd, becomes disoriented, confused, frightened, and incapable of finding its way back to the flock. Unable to ward off hungry predators, the stray is perhaps the most helpless of all creatures. Entire herds of sheep are known to have drowned during times of flash flooding even in sight of easily-accessible higher ground. Like it or not, when Jesus called us His sheep, He was saying that without a shepherd, we are helpless.

The shepherd is one who has several roles in regard to his sheep. He leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects and protects. The shepherd of the Lord’s flock leads by modeling godliness and righteousness in his own life and encouraging others to follow his example. Of course, our ultimate example—and the One we should follow—is Christ Himself. The Apostle Paul understood this: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Christian leader is one who follows Christ and inspires others to follow Him as well.

The Christian leader is also a feeder and a nourisher of the sheep, and the ultimate “sheep food” is the Word of God. Just as the shepherd leads his flock to the most lush pasture so they will grow and flourish, so the Christian leader nourishes his flock with the only food which will produce strong, vibrant Christians. The Bible—not psychology or the world’s wisdom—is the only diet that can produce healthy Christians. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Christian leader also comforts the sheep, binding up their wounds and applying the balm of compassion and love. As the great Shepherd of Israel, the Lord Himself promised to “bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16). As Christians in the world today, we suffer many injuries to our spirits, and we need compassionate leaders who will bear our burdens with us, sympathize with our circumstances, exhibit patience toward us, encourage us in the Word, and bring our concerns before the Father’s throne.

Just as the shepherd used his crook to pull a wandering sheep back into the fold, so the Christian leader corrects and disciplines those in his care when they go astray. Without rancor or an overbearing spirit, but with a “spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:2), those in leadership must correct according to scriptural principles. Correction and discipline is never a pleasant experience for either party, but the Christian leader who fails in this area is not exhibiting love for those in his care. “The LORD disciplines those he loves” (Proverbs 3:12), and the Christian leader must follow His example.

The final role of the Christian leader is that of protector. The shepherd who was lax in this area soon found that he regularly lost sheep to the predators who prowled around—and sometimes among—his flock. The predators today are those who try to lure the sheep away with false doctrine, dismissing the Bible as quaint and old fashioned, insufficient, unclear, or unknowable. These lies are spread by those against whom Jesus warned us: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Our leaders must protect us from the false teachings of those who would lead us astray from the truth of the Scripture and the fact that Christ alone is the way of salvation: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

A final word on Christian leaders comes from the article “Wanted: A Few Good Shepherds (Must Know How to Wash Feet)” by John MacArthur:

“Under the plan God has ordained for the church, leadership is a position of humble, loving service. Church leadership is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as leaders are called not to be governing monarchs, but humble slaves; not slick celebrities, but laboring servants. Those who would lead God's people must above all exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness. Jesus Himself gave us the pattern when He stooped to wash His disciples' feet, a task that was customarily done by the lowest of slaves (John 13). If the Lord of the universe would do that, no church leader has a right to think of himself as a bigwig.”

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE

"What is Christian Science?"

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) pioneered new ideas about spirituality and health. Inspired by her own experience of healing in 1866, Eddy's spent years in Bible study, prayer, and research into various healing methods. The result was a system of healing she dubbed Christian Science in 1879. Her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, broke new ground in the understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection. She went on to found a college, a church, a publishing enterprise, and the respected newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.

The faith teaches that God, Father-Mother of all, is completely good and wholly spiritual, and that all God's creation, including the true nature of every person, is the flawless, spiritual likeness of the Divine. Since God’s creation is good, evils such as disease, death, and sin cannot be a part of fundamental reality. Rather, these evils are the result of living apart from God. Prayer is a central way to come closer to God and heal human ills.

Christian Science teaches that these and other spiritual facts undergirded Jesus' healing work - and form the basis on which others can heal physical and spiritual problems today. Jesus’ ministry is their paradigm for healing and demonstrates the centrality of healing to salvation. Christian Scientists pray to realize more of the reality of God and God's love daily, and to experience and help others experience the harmonizing, healing effect of this understanding.

For most Christian Scientists, spiritual healing is an effective first choice and, as a result, they turn to the power of prayer in lieu of medical treatment. Government authorities have occasionally challenged this approach, especially in certain circumstances where they have interpreted this as withholding medical treatment from minors. However, there is no church policy mandating members' health care decisions.

Christian Science has no ministers. Rather, the Bible and Science and Health act as pastor and preacher. Bible lessons are studied daily and read aloud on Sunday by two elected lay members of each local congregation. Churches also hold weekly testimonial meetings, at which congregation members relate experiences of healing and regeneration.

Eddy made Boston the headquarters of the church in 1881. In 1892, the church was named The First Church of Christ, Scientist, or The Mother Church; local churches are considered branches. The Christian Science Board of Directors runs The Mother Church and local branches function on a democratic basis. The Mother Church and its branches operate under the guidance of the Manual of the Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy.

"Is Scientology Christian or a cult?"

Scientology is a very difficult religion to summarize in just a few paragraphs, let alone in a few pages. It was founded in 1953 by fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, just four years after he made the statement, "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is," to Lloyd Eshbach; quoted by Eshbach in Over My Shoulder. That's where he found wealth, also--Hubbard became a multi-millionaire. An easier question to ask would be, "What are the similarities between Christianity and Scientology?" The answer to that would be, "There are no similarities."

Scientology teaches that mankind is an immortal being (called a Thetan) not originally from this planet that is trapped by matter, energy, space, and time (MEST). Salvation for a Scientologist comes through a process called 'auditing,' whereby 'engrams' (basically, memories of past pain and unconsciousness that create energy blockage) are removed. Auditing is a very lengthy process and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. When all engrams are finally removed, the Thetan can once again control MEST instead of being controlled by it. Until salvation, each Thetan is constantly reincarnated.

Scientology is a very expensive religion to associate with. Every aspect of Scientology has some sort of fee associated with it. This is why Scientology's "pews" are filled only with the wealthy. It is also a very strict religion, and very punitive against those who would try to leave behind its teachings and membership. Its "scriptures" are limited solely to the writings and teachings of L. Ron Hubbard.

Scientology is, without a doubt, a cult: Its teachings are taken from science fiction and eastern mythologies; It promotes man as the ultimate power in the universe--he just hasn't realized it yet; Salvation comes through an extremely expensive process of mind games; and it categorically denies the existence of the God of the Bible, Heaven, and Hell. To a Scientologist, Jesus Christ was just another nice guy who unfortunately was wrongfully put to death, and whose story ends at that death.

Though Scientologists will claim that Scientology is compatible with Christianity, the Bible counters each and every point of belief they hold to: God is the sovereign and only creator of the universe (Genesis 1:1); Mankind was created by God (Genesis 1:27); the only salvation available to man is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:8); salvation is a free gift that mankind can do nothing to earn (Ephesians 2:8-9); and Jesus Christ is alive and well, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father even now (Acts 2:33; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3), awaiting the time when He will gather His children to Himself to reside with Him for eternity in Heaven. Everybody else will be cast into a very real Hell, separated from God (Revelation 20:15).

Scientology differs from Biblical Christianity on every important doctrine. Some of the most important differences are summarized below.

God: Scientology believes that there are multiple gods and that some gods are above other gods. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, recognizes the One and Only True God who revealed Himself to us in the Bible and through Jesus Christ. Those that believe in Him cannot believe the false concept of God as taught in Scientology.

Jesus Christ: Like almost all other cults, Scientology denies the deity of Christ. Instead of having a biblical view of who Christ is and what He did, they assign to Him the characteristics of some sort of lesser God who has obtained a sort of legendary status over the years. On the other hand, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was God in the flesh and through His incarnation He could act as a sacrifice for our sins. It is through Christ’s death and resurrection that we can have the hope of eternal life with God.

Sin: Scientology believes in the inherent goodness of man and that “It is despicable and utterly beneath contempt to tell a man he must repent, that he is evil.” On the other hand, the Bible teaches that man is a sinner and the only hope for him is that he repent of his sins and acknowledge Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Salvation: Scientology believes in reincarnation and that personal salvation in one's lifetime is freedom from the cycle of birth and death associated with reincarnation. They believe that religious practice of all faiths is the universal way to wisdom, understanding, and salvation. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that there is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

When one looks at the teaching of Scientology in comparison with the Bible, he will see that the two have little if anything in common. Scientology will only lead you away from God and eternal life, and the Bible will lead you to God and eternal life. There is nothing to gain by associating with scientology and everything to lose.

COVENANTS

"What are the covenants in the Bible?"

The Bible speaks of six different covenants, five of which God made with the nation of Israel. Four of the covenants are unconditional in nature. That is, regardless of Israel's obedience or disobedience God still will fulfill these covenants with the nation of Israel. One of the covenants is conditional in nature. That is, this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on the Israel's obedience or disobedience.

The Adamic covenant can be thought of in two parts: the Edenic Covenant (innocence) and the Adamic Covenant (grace) (Genesis 3:16-19). The Edenic Covenant is found in Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, as well as God’s provision for that sin (Genesis 3:15).

Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15; 17:1-14; 22:15-18). In this covenant, God promised many things to Abraham. He personally promised that he would make Abraham’s name great (Genesis 12:2), that he would have numerous physical descendents (Genesis 13:16), and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5). God also made promises regarding a nation called Israel. In fact, the geographical boundaries of the Abrahamic covenant are laid out on more than one occasion in the book of Genesis (12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21). Another provision in the Abrahamic covenant is that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). This is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The Palestinian covenant amplifies the land aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. In this covenant, God, because of their disobedience, would cause the people of the nation to be scattered around the world (Deuteronomy 30:3-4), and that God would eventually restore the nation together (verse 5). When the nation is restored, then the nation will obey him perfectly (verse 8), and God will cause them to prosper (verse 9).

Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 11; et al). The Mosaic covenant was a conditional covenant that either brought God's direct blessing for obedience or God's direct cursing for disobedience upon the nation of Israel. Part of the Mosaic covenant was the ten commandments found in Exodus 20, but also the rest of the law which contained over 600 commands—roughly 300 positive and 300 negative. The history books of the Old Testament (Joshua-Esther) detail how Israel succeeded at obeying the law or how Israel failed miserably at obeying the law. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 details specifically the blessing/cursing motif.

Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16). The Davidic covenant amplifies the seed aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. The promises to David in this passage are very significant. God promised that David's physical line of descent would last forever and that his kingdom would never pass away permanently (verse 16). This kingdom, furthermore, would have a ruling individual exercising authority over it (verse 16). Obviously, the Davidic throne has not been in place at all times. There will be a time, however, when someone from the line of David will again sit on the throne and rule as king. This future king is Jesus (Luke 1:32-33).

New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New covenant is a covenant made with the nation of Israel which speaks about the blessings which are detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. In the new covenant, God promises to forgive sin and there will be a universal knowledge of the Lord (verse 34). It even appears that the nation of Israel will have a special relationship with their God (verse 33).

Within the discussion of the biblical covenants, there are a few issues that Christians are not agreed upon. First, some Christians think that all of the covenants are conditional in nature. If the covenants are conditional, then Israel failed miserably at fulfilling them. Others believe that the unconditional covenants have yet to be totally fulfilled and regardless of Israel's disobedience will come to fruition sometime in the future. Second, how does the church of Jesus Christ relate to the covenants? Some believe that the church fulfills the covenants and God will never deal with Israel again. This is called replacement theology and has little scriptural evidence. Others believe that the church initially or partially will fulfill these covenants. While many of the promises towards Israel are still in the future, many believe that the church shares in the covenants in some way. Others believe that the covenants are for Israel and for Israel alone, and that the church is absent from these covenants.

CREATION

"What does the Bible say about Creation vs. evolution?"

It is not the purpose of this article to present a scientific argument in the Creation vs. evolution debate. If you are looking for scientific arguments for Creation and/or against evolution, we highly recommend Answers in Genesis - http://www.answersingenesis.org, and the Institute for Creation Research – http://www.icr.org. The purpose of this article is to explain why, according to the Bible, the Creation vs. Evolution debate even exists. Romans 1:25 declares, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen."

A key factor that we all must recognize is that the vast majority of scientists who believe in evolution are also atheists or agnostics. There are some who hold to some form of theistic evolution, and others who take a deistic view of God (God exists but is not involved in the world...everything proceeds along a natural course). There are some who genuinely and honestly look at the data and arrive at the conclusion that evolution betters fits with the data. Again, though, these represent an insignificant portion of scientists who advocate evolution. The vast majority of evolutionary scientists hold that life evolved entirely without ANY intervention of a higher Being. Evolution is by definition a naturalistic science.

For atheism to be true, there must be an alternate explanation for how the universe and life came into existence. Although beliefs in some form of evolution predated Charles Darwin, Darwin was the first to develop a plausible model for how evolution could have occurred - natural selection. Darwin once identified himself as a Christian, but later renounced the Christian faith and the existence of God as a result of some tragedies that took place in his life. Evolution was "invented" by an atheist. Darwin's goal was not to disprove God's existence, but that is one of the end results of the theory of evolution. Evolution is an enabler of atheism. Evolutionary scientists today likely would not admit that their goal is to give an alternate explanation of the origins of life, and thereby to give a foundation for atheism. However, according to the Bible, that is exactly why the theory of evolution exists.

The Bible tells us, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The Bible also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in a Creator God, "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" (Romans 1:20). According to the Bible, anyone who denies the existence of God is a fool. Why, then, are so many people, including some Christians, willing to accept that evolutionary scientists are unbiased interpreters of scientific data? According to the Bible, they are all fools! Foolishness does not imply a lack of intelligence. Most evolutionary scientists are brilliant intellectually. Foolishness indicates an inability to properly apply knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 tells us, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Evolutionary scientists mock Creation and/or Intelligent Design as unscientific and not worthy of scientific examination. In order for something to be considered a "science," they argue, it must be able to be observed and tested, it must be "naturalistic." Creation is by definition "supernatural." God, and the supernatural, cannot be observed or tested (so the argument goes), therefore Creation and/or Intelligent Design cannot be considered a science. As a result, all data is filtered through the preconceived, presupposed, and pre-accepted theory of evolution, without alternate explanations being considered.

However, the origin of the universe and the origin of life cannot be tested or observed. Both Creation and evolution are faith-based systems when they speak of origins. Neither can be tested because we cannot go back billions (or thousands) of years to observe the origin of the universe and life in the universe. Evolutionary scientists reject Creation on grounds that would logically force them to also reject evolution as a "scientific" explanation of origins. Evolution, at least in regards to origins, does not fit the definition of “science” any more than Creation does. Evolution is supposedly the only explanation of origins that can be tested; therefore, it is the only theory of origins that can be considered "scientific." This is foolishness! Scientists who advocate evolution are rejecting a plausible theory of origins without even honestly examining its merits, because it does not fit their illogically narrow definition of "science."

If Creation is true, then there is a Creator to Whom we are accountable. Evolution is an enabler for atheism. Evolution gives atheists a basis for explaining how life exists apart from a Creator God. Evolution denies the need for a God to be involved in the universe. Evolution is the “creation theory” for the “religion” of atheism. According to the Bible, the choice is clear. We can believe the Word of our omnipotent and omniscient God, or we can believe the illogically biased, "scientific" explanations of fools.

"Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden?"

God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice – to obey Him or disobey Him. Adam and Eve were free to do anything they wanted, except eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” If God had not given Adam and Eve the choice, they would have essentially been robots, simply doing what they were programmed to do. God created Adam and Eve to be “free” beings, able to make decisions, able to choose between good and evil. In order for Adam and Eve to truly be “free” – they had to have a choice.

There was nothing essentially evil about the tree or the fruit of the tree. It is unlikely that eating the fruit truly gave Adam and Eve any further knowledge. It was the act of disobedience that opened Adam and Eve’s eyes to evil. Their sin of disobeying God brought sin and evil into the world and into their lives. Eating the fruit, as an act of disobedience against God, was what gave Adam and Eve knowledge of evil. Genesis 3:6-7, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

God did not want Adam and Eve to sin. God knew ahead of time what the results of sin would be. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, and would thereby bring evil, suffering, and death into the world. Why, then, did God put the tree in the Garden of Eden and allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve? God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice. God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to force them to make the choice. Adam and Eve chose, of their own free wills, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The result – evil, sin, suffering, sickness, and death have plagued the world ever since. Adam and Eve's decision results in each and every person being born with a sin nature, a tendency to sin. Adam and Eve's decision is what ultimately required Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed His blood on our behalf. Through faith in Christ, we can be free from sin's consequences, and ultimately free from sin itself. May we echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

"What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? Are there dinosaurs in the Bible?"

The topic of dinosaurs in the Bible is part of a larger ongoing debate within the Christian community over the age of the earth, the proper interpretation of Genesis, and how to interpret the physical evidences we find all around us. Those who believe in an older age for the earth tend to agree that the Bible does not mention dinosaurs, because according to their paradigm, dinosaurs died out millions of years before the first man ever walked the earth. The men who wrote the Bible down couldn’t have seen dinosaurs alive.

Those who believe in a younger age for the earth tend to agree that the Bible does mention dinosaurs though it never actually uses the word “dinosaur.” Instead, it uses the Hebrew word tanniyn (pronounced tan-neen; Strong’s #08577). Tanniyn is translated a few different ways in our English Bibles; sometimes it’s “sea monster,” sometimes it’s “serpent.” It is most commonly translated “dragon.” The tanniyn appear to have been some sort of giant reptile. These creatures are mentioned nearly thirty times in the Old Testament and are found both on land and in the water.

In addition to mentioning these giant reptiles in general nearly thirty times throughout the Old Testament, the Bible describes a couple of creatures in such a way that some scholars believe the writers may have been describing dinosaurs. Behemoth is said to be the mightiest of all God’s creatures, a giant whose tail is likened to a cedar tree (Job 40:15ff). Some scholars have tried to identify Behemoth as either an elephant or a hippopotamus. Others point out that elephants and hippopotamuses have very thin tails, nothing comparable to a cedar tree. Dinosaurs like the Brachiosaurus and the Diplodocus on the other had huge tails which one could easily compare to a cedar tree.

Nearly every ancient civilization has some sort of art depicting giant reptilian creatures. Petroglyphs, artifacts and even little clay figurines found in North America resemble modern depictions of dinosaurs. Rock carvings in South America depict men riding Diplodocus-like creatures and, amazingly, bear the familiar images of Triceratops-, Pterodactyl- and Tyrannosaurus Rex-like creatures. Roman mosaics, Mayan pottery and Babylonian city walls all testify to man’s trans-cultural, geographically-unbounded fascination with these creatures. Sober accounts like those of Marco Polo’s Il Milione mingle with fantastic tales of treasure-hoarding beasts. Modern day reports of sightings persist though they are usually treated with overwhelming skepticism.

In addition to the substantial amount of anthropic and historical evidences for the coexistence of dinosaur and man, there are other physical evidences, like the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs found together at places in North America and West-Central Asia.

So, are there dinosaurs in the Bible? The matter is far from settled. It depends on how you interpret the available evidences and how you view the world around you. Here at GotQuestions.org we believe in a young earth interpretation and accept that dinosaurs and man coexisted. We believe that dinosaurs died out sometime after the Flood due to a combination of dramatic environmental shifts and the fact that they were relentlessly hunted to extinction by man.

"Did God use the "big bang" to create the universe?"

Some Christians are vehemently opposed to the "Big Bang Theory." They view it as an attempt to explain the origin of the universe apart from God. Others ascribe to the Big Bang Theory, with the view that it was God Himself who caused the "Big Bang." God, in His infinite wisdom and power, could have chosen to use a Big Bang method to create the universe, but He did not. The reason that can be absolutely stated is that the Bible argues against such a method. Here are some of the contradictions between the Bible and the Big Bang theory:

In Genesis 1, God created the earth before the sun and stars. The Big Bang theory requires it to be the other way around. In Genesis 1, God creates the earth, sun, moon, stars, plant life, animal life, and mankind in a span of six 24-hour days. The Big Bang theory requires billions of years. In Genesis 1, God created all matter by His spoken word. The Big Bang theory begins with matter already in existence and never explains the initial source or cause of matter.

In Genesis 1, God breathed life into the body of the perfectly created Adam. The Big Bang theory requires billions of years, and billions of chance circumstances, to get around to the first human; and it never can explain how the first microscopic life form happened to "evolve" from a non-living atom. In the Bible, God is eternal and the matter and the universe are not. There are different versions of the Big Bang theory, but in most of them the universe and/or matter is eternal. In Genesis 1, the existence of God is assumed, "In the beginning God..." The true purpose of the Big Bang theory is to deny His existence. We can accept certain aspects of the Big Bang Theory - but the theory itself is entirely atheistic.

"Why is the science community so opposed to creationism?"

It is important to distinguish between the terms "science" and "scientific community." Science is a discipline concerned with observing, experimenting with, and explaining phenomena. The scientific community is composed of the living human persons who participate in this discipline. The distinction is important, because there is no logical contradiction between science and creationism. Science is a generic term for a type of study, while creationism is a philosophy applied to the interpretation of facts. The scientific community, as it exists today, holds naturalism as the preferred philosophy, but there is no overt reason why naturalism should be preferred by science over creationism.

In general, there is a perception that creationism is "unscientific." This is partly true, in the sense that creationism entails certain assumptions that cannot be tested, proven, or falsified. However, naturalism is in exactly the same predicament, as an untestable, unprovable, non-falsifiable philosophy. The facts discovered in scientific research are only that: facts. Facts and interpretations are two different things. The current scientific community rejects, in general, the concepts of creationism, and so they define it as "unscientific." This is highly ironic, given the scientific community's preference for an interpretive philosophy, naturalism, that is just as "unscientific" as creationism.

There are many reasons for this tendency towards naturalism in science. Creationism involves the intervention of a supernatural being; and science is primarily concerned with tangible and physical things. For this reason, some in the scientific community fear that creationism will lead to a "God of the Gaps" dilemma, where scientific questions are shrugged off by the explanation, "God did it." Experience has shown that this is not the case. Some of the greatest names in scientific history were staunch creationists. Their belief in God inspired them to ask, "How did God do it?" Among these names are Pascal, Maxwell, and Kelvin. On the other hand, an unreasonable commitment to naturalism can degrade scientific discovery. A naturalistic framework requires a scientist to ignore results that do not fit the established paradigm. That is, when new data does not correlate to the naturalistic view, it is assumed to be invalid and discarded.

There are distinct religious overtones to creationism. Science is only as objective as those who participate in it, and those persons are just as subject to bias as any other field. There are those who reject creationism in favor of naturalism purely for personal "moral" reasons. In fact, this number is probably much higher than would be admitted to. Most people who reject the concepts of God do so primarily because they disagree with some perceived restriction or unfairness, despite claims to the contrary, and this is as true for those in lab coats as those in coveralls.

In the same way, an unfriendly attitude in the scientific community has had its impact on the perception of creationism. Science has benefited from creationist contributors for centuries; yet today the scientific community, at large, takes a hostile and condescending attitude towards anyone who doesn't take a naturalistic perspective. This open hostility towards creationist views, and religion in general, creates a strong incentive for persons with those views to avoid scientific study. Those who do often feel compelled to remain silent for fear of ridicule. In this way, the scientific community has degraded and "pushed out" a segment of the population, and then had the audacity to claim that a lowered percentage of creationists in their ranks is evidence of naturalism's superior scientific merit.

There are also political reasons for the scientific community's hostility towards creationism and religion in general. Christianity, more so than any other religious system, places immense value on every individual human life. This causes tensions with the scientific community when that concern for life gets in the way of some type of scientific process. Christian values tend to act as a brake on experiments or position that cause harm to people, or destroy or damage human life. Examples include embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and euthanasia. In other cases, Christian values butt heads with secular ones when science promotes certain sinful activities by making them easier. While naturalistic scientists may see this as an unnecessary hindrance, they should consider what happens when scientific research is conducted with no regard for morality or conscience. Echoing this idea was actor Jeff Goldblum's character in the movie Jurassic Park. He stated, "your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

There is also a level of competition between the scientific community and the religious community over power, producing additional tensions between science and creationism. As even some leading skeptic scientists have admitted, there is a tendency for the scientific community to position itself, even subconsciously, as a priesthood. This secular priesthood has the wondrous and elite knowledge that the laymen need for salvation, and cannot be questioned by any outsiders. In plain terms, religiously-tinged ideas, such as creationism, impinge on the scientific community's claim to superior knowledge of the universe.

While there may be many reasons for tension between the scientific community and creationism, there are plenty of reasons why they should be able to coexist peacefully. There are no logically valid reasons to reject creationism in favor of naturalism, as the scientific community has done. Creationism does not inhibit discovery, as evidenced by the titans of science who believed strongly in it. The derisive attitude spewed at Creationists has diminished the number of capable and willing minds in many fields. Creationism has much to offer science, and the scientific community. The God who made the universe revealed Himself through it (Psalm 19:1); the more we know about His creation, the more glory He receives!

DEATH

How to Preach at a Funeral for Someone You Suspect Died Unsaved

By Mike Smalley

1. Start in the natural realm and swing to the spiritual.

2. Say something positive about the person who has died—either personally, or their marriage, kids, work ethic, their generation, etc. This should build rapport with the audience. Use a humorous story that relates to the above.

3. Don’t feel pressured to mention where the deceased may have gone after death (God is the only One who truly knows).

4. Never insinuate that he went to heaven.

5. Use this as a springboard: "Good friends often remind us of things that we don’t want to deal with, but that are very important. Bob, today, reminds us that we all must die."

6. Use anecdotes that convey eternal truths.

7. Go quickly but thoroughly through each of the Ten Commandments.

8. Warn briefly about sin, death, judgment, and eternity.

9. Give a clear gospel presentation.

10. Appeal to the audience to repent today. "When anyone dies, I ask myself, ‘Was I faithful?’ Did I speak all the truth? And did I speak it from my very soul every time I preached?"-Charles Spurgeon

"What does the Bible say about the death penalty / capital punishment?"

The Old Testament law commanded the death penalty for various acts: murder (Exodus 21:12), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:19); adultery (Leviticus 20:10); homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), prostitution (Leviticus 21:9) and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24-25), and several other crimes. However, God often showed mercy when the death penalty was due. David committed adultery and murder, yet God did not demand his life be taken (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 14-17; 2 Samuel 12:13). Ultimately, each and every sin we commit should result in the death penalty (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, God demonstrates His love for us in not condemning us (Romans 5:8).

When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and asked Him if she should be stoned, Jesus replied, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7). This should not be used to indicate that Jesus rejected capital punishment in all instances. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into breaking the Old Testament Law...they truly did not care about the woman being stoned (where was the man who was caught in adultery?) God was the One who instituted capital punishment: “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Jesus would support capital punishment in some instances. Jesus also demonstrated grace when capital punishment was due (John 8:1-11). The Apostle Paul definitely recognized the power of the government to institute capital punishment where appropriate (Romans 13:1-5).

So, basically, we are back to where we started. Yes, God allows capital punishment. But at the same time, God does not always demand the death penalty when it is due. What should a Christian’s view on the death penalty be, then? First, we must remember that God has instituted capital punishment in His Word; therefore, it would be presumptuous of us to think that we could institute a higher standard than He or be more kind than He. God has the highest standard of any being since He is perfect. This standard applies not only to us but to Himself. Therefore, He loves to an infinite degree, and He has mercy to an infinite degree. We also see that He has wrath to an infinite degree, and it is all maintained in a perfect balance.

Second, we must recognize that God has given the government the authority to determine when capital punishment is due (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-7). It is unbiblical to claim that God opposes the death penalty in all instances. Christians should never rejoice when the death penalty is employed, but at the same time, Christians should not fight against the government’s right to execute the perpetrators of the most evil of crimes.

DISCIPLINE

"How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?"

Decades ago, the spanking of children was a commonly accepted practice. In recent years, though, spanking (and other forms of corporal punishment) have been replaced with “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline. Spanking of children has actually been deemed illegal in some countries. Many parents fear spanking a child and being reported to the government and having their children taken away. Do not misunderstand – we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to an extent that it causes physical damage to the child. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing, and contribute to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death." There are also other verses that support physical correction (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have to be productive people and is much easier learned when we are younger. Children who aren't disciplined grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result obviously won't be readily willing to obey and follow God. He uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path, and to encourage repentance for our actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7, 6:23, 12:1, 13:1, 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9). These are just a few verses about the good of discipline.

Here is where the problem lies; a lot of times parents are either too passive or too aggressive when it comes to raising their children. The ones who don't believe in spanking sometimes lack the ability to correct and discipline properly, causing their children to grow up unruly and defiant. This hurts the children the most in the long run. "To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child" (Proverbs 29:15). Then there are also some parents who can misconstrue the Bible's definition of discipline (or they may just be abusive people) and use it to justify the abuse and mistreatment of their children.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. "No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way" (Hebrews 12:11). God's discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Spanking should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain, but a quick swat (on the bottom where there is the most padding) to teach the child that what he did was wrong is acceptable. Never should it be used to vent our anger and frustrations, or be uncontrolled.

"And now a word to you fathers. Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Raising a child in the “discipline and instruction approved by the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and yes loving, physical discipline.

DISPENSATIONALISM

"What is dispensationalism and is it Biblical?"

Dispensationalism is a system of theology that has two primary distinctives. (1) A consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy. (2) A distinction between Israel and the Church in God's program.

Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. "Literal interpretation" means giving each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. Even symbolisms and figurative sayings have literal meanings behind them.

There are at least three reasons why this is the best way to view scripture. First, philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require that we interpret it literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate with man. The second reason is Biblical. Every prophesy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus' birth, Jesus' ministry, Jesus' death, and Jesus' resurrection all occurred exactly and literally as the Old Testament predicted. There is no non-literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament. This argues strongly for the literal method. If literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each and every person would be able to interpret the Bible as they saw fit. Biblical interpretation would denigrate into "what this passage says to me..." instead of "the Bible says..." Sadly, this is already the case is much of what is called Biblical interpretation today.

(2) Dispensational Theology believes that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by faith (in God in the Old Testament; specifically in God the Son in the New Testament). Dispensationalists hold that the Church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the Church. They believe that the promises God made to Israel (for land, many descendants, and blessing) in the Old Testament will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1,000 year period spoken of in Revelation 20. They believe that just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (Romans 9-11).

Using this system as a basis, Dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized in seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1 – 3:7), Conscience (Genesis 3:8 – 8:22), Human Government (Genesis 9:1 – 11:32), Promise (Genesis 12:1 – Exodus 19:25), Law (Exodus 20:1 – Acts 2:4), Grace (Acts 2:4 – Revelation 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4 – 20:6). Again, these dispensations are not ways of salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Dispensationalism, as a system, results in a premillennial interpretation of Christ’s Second Coming, and usually a pretribulational interpretation of the Rapture.

EVOLUTION

 

"Missing Link" Still Missing

Imaginations certainly took flight over Archaeoraptor Liaoningensis, a birdlike fossil with a meat-eater’s tail that was spirited out of northeastern China, ‘discovered’ at a Tucson, Arizona, gem and mineral show last year, and displayed at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. Some 110,000 visitors saw the exhibit, which closed January 17; millions more read about the find in November’s National Geographic. Now, paleontologists are eating crow. Instead of ‘a true missing link’ connecting dinosaurs to birds, the specimen appears to be a composite, its unusual appendage likely tacked on by a Chinese farmer, not evolution.

"Archaeoraptor is hardly the first ‘missing link’ to snap under scrutiny. In 1912, fossil remains of an ancient hominid were found in England’s Piltdown quarries and quickly dubbed man’s apelike ancestor. It took decades to reveal the hoax." U.S. News & World Report, February 14, 2000

"Darwin admitted that millions of ‘missing links,’ transitional life forms, would have to be discovered in the fossil record to prove the accuracy of his theory that all species had gradually evolved by chance mutation into new species. Unfortunately for his theory, despite hundreds of millions spent on searching for fossils worldwide for more than a century, the scientists have failed to locate a single missing link out of the millions that must exist if their theory of evolution is to be vindicated." Grant R. Jeffery, The Signature of God

"There are gaps in the fossil graveyard, places where there should be intermediate forms, but where there is nothing whatsoever instead. No paleontologist . . . denies that this is so. It is simply a fact. Darwin’s theory and the fossil record are in conflict." David Berlinsky

"Scientists concede that their most cherished theories are based on embarrassingly few fossil fragments and that huge gaps exist in the fossil record." Time magazine, Nov. 7, 1977

"The evolutionists seem to know everything about the missing link except the fact that it is missing." G. K. Chesterton

Questions for Evolutionists

by Dr. Kent Hovind

The test of any theory is whether or not it provides answers to basic questions. Some well-meaning but misguided people think evolution is a reasonable theory to explain man’s questions about the universe. Evolution is not a good theory—it is just a pagan religion masquerading as science.

1. Where did the space for the universe come from?

2. Where did matter come from?

3. Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)?

4. How did matter get so perfectly organized?

5. Where did the energy come from to do all the organizing?

6. When, where, why, and how did life come from dead matter?

7. When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself?

8. With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce?

9. Why would any plant or animal want to reproduce more of its kind since this would only make more mouths to feed and decrease the chances of survival? (Does the individual have a drive to survive, or the species? How do you explain this?)

10. How can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.)

11. Is it possible that similarities in design between different animals prove a common Creator instead of a common ancestor?

12. Natural selection only works with the genetic information available and tends only to keep a species stable. How would you explain the increasing complexity in the genetic code that must have occurred if evolution were true?

13. When, where, why, and how did: a) Single-celled plants become multicelled? (Where are the two- and threecelled intermediates?) b) Single-celled animals evolve? c) Fish change to amphibians? d) Amphibians change to reptiles? e) Reptiles change to birds? (The lungs, bones, eyes, reproductive organs, heart, method of locomotion, body covering, etc., are all very different!) How did the intermediate forms live?

14. When, where, why, how, and from what did: a) Whales evolve? b) Sea horses evolve? c) Bats evolve? d) Eyes evolve? e) Ears evolve? f) Hair, skin, feathers, scales, nails, claws, etc., evolve?

15. Which evolved first (how, and how long, did it work without the others)? a) The digestive system, the food to be digested, the appetite, the ability to find and eat the food, the digestive juices, or the body’s resistance to its own digestive juice (stomach, intestines, etc.)? b) The drive to reproduce or the ability to reproduce? c) The lungs, the mucus lining to protect them, the throat, or the perfect mixture of gases to be breathed into the lungs? d) DNA or RNA to carry the DNA message to cell parts? e) The termite or the flagella in its intestines that actually digest the cellulose? f) The plants or the insects that live on and pollinate the plants? g) The bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or muscles to move the bones? h) The nervous system, repair system, or hormone system? i) The immune system or the need for it?

"Doesn’t the Big Bang theory disprove the Genesis account of creation?"

Try to think of any explosion that has produced order. Does a terrorist bomb create harmony? Big bangs cause chaos. How could a Big Bang produce a rose, apple trees, fish, sunsets, the seasons, hummingbirds, polar bears—thousands of birds and animals, each with its own eyes, nose, and mouth? A child can see that there is "grand design" in creation.

Try this interesting experiment: Empty your garage of every piece of metal, wood, paint, rubber and plastic. Make sure there is nothing there. Nothing. Then wait for ten years and see if a Mercedes evolves. Try it. If it doesn’t appear, leave it for 20 years. If that doesn’t work, try it for 100 years. Then try leaving it for 10,000 years. Here’s what will produce the necessary blind faith to make the evolutionary process believable: leave it for 250 million years.

"New scientific revelations about supernovas, black holes, quarks, and the big bang even suggest to some scientists that there is a ‘grand design’ in the universe." (U.S. News & World Re-port, March 31, 1997)

"The universe suddenly exploded into being...The big bang bears an uncanny resemblance to the Genesis command." Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal science writer

"Evolution disproves the Bible!"

The Book of Genesis tells us that everything was created by God—nothing "evolved." Every creature was given the ability to reproduce after its own kind as is stated ten times in Genesis. Dogs do not produce cats. Neither do cats and dogs have a common ancestry. Dogs began as dogs and are still dogs. They vary in species from Chihuahuas to Saint Bernards, but you will not find a "dat" or a "cog" (part cat/dog) throughout God’s creation. Frogs don’t reproduce oysters, cows don’t have lambs, and pregnant pigs don’t give birth to rabbits. God made monkeys as monkeys, and man as man.

Each creature brings forth after its own kind. That’s no theory; that’s a fact. Why then should we believe that man comes from another species? If evolution is true, then it is proof that the Bible is false. However, the whole of creation stands in contradiction to the theory of evolution.

Dr. Kent Hovind of Florida has a standing offer of $250,000 to "anyone who can give any empirical evidence (scientific proof) for evolution." Evolution— true science fiction. His website is www.drdino.com.

"Where do all the races come from?"

Some have wondered, if we are all descendents of Adam and Eve, why are there so many races? The Bible informed us 2,000 years ago that God has made all nations from "one blood." We are all of the same race—the "human race," descendents of Adam and Eve, something science is slowly coming to realize.

Reuters news service reported the following article by Maggie Fox: Science may have caught up with the Bible, which says that Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all humans alive today. Peter Underhill of Stanford University in California remarked on findings published in the November 2000 issue of the journal Nature Genetics . . . Geneticists have long agreed there is no genetic basis to race—only to ethnic and geographic groups. "People look at a very conspicuous trait like skin color and they say, ‘Well, this person’s so different’ ...but that’s only skin deep," Underhill said. "When you look at the level of the Y chromosome you find that, gee, there is very little difference between them. And skin color differences are strictly a consequence of climate."

EXCUSES

"If God gives me some ‘sign,’ then I will believe."

The unsaved often want a "sign" from God. This is in spite of the testimony of creation, their conscience, the Bible, and the Christian. The cross is the only thing that can truly convince a sinner of the reality of who Jesus is. Once they understand that the holes in His hands and His feet are there because of their own sin, they will fall at His feet and cry, "My Lord and my God!"

"I made a commitment, but nothing happened."

Some people don’t get past "square one" because they trust in their feelings rather than God. His promises are true, despite our feelings. If I make a promise to my wife, that promise is true whether she is feeling happy or sad. If she doubts my word, then she brings a slur to my integrity. Anyone who genuinely repents and trusts in Christ will be saved. The Bible makes this promise: "He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" [John 14:21]. There’s the promise, and there’s the condition. Any person who loves and obeys Jesus will begin a supernatural relationship with Him and the Father. He said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

That doesn’t mean you will hear voices or see visions. God will instead make you a new person from within. He will send His Spirit to live within you. You will have a new heart with new desires. You will suddenly become conscious of God and His creation. The Bible will open up to you and become a living Word, and you will have an inner witness that you are saved, that your name is written in heaven, and that death has lost its sting (1 John 5:10–12).

"I will believe if God will appear to me."

A proud and ignorant sinner who says this has no understanding of the nature of His Creator. No man has ever seen the essence of God. (When God "appeared" to certain men in the Old Testament, He manifested Himself in other forms, such as a burning bush or "the Angel of the Lord.")

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God told him, "I will make all my goodness pass before you,...[but] you cannot see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live" (Exodus 33:18–23). If all of God’s "goodness" were shown to a sinner, he would instantly die. God’s "goodness" would just spill wrath upon evil man. However, the Lord told Moses, "It shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by." The only way a sinner can live in the presence of a holy God is to be hidden in the Rock of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).

"If I submit to God, I’ll just become a puppet!"

"A brilliant young man questioned Dr. Henrietta Mears about surrendering his life to God. He was convinced that becoming a Christian would mean the destruction of his personality, that he’d be altered in some strange way, and that he’d lose control of his own mind. He feared becoming a mere puppet in God’s hands.

"So Miss Mears asked him to watch as she turned on a lamp. One moment it was dark, then she turned on the switch. She explained, ‘The lamp surrendered itself to the electric current and light has filled the room. The lamp didn’t destroy its personality when it surrendered to the current. On the contrary—the very thing happened for which the lamp was created: it gave light.’"

Vonette Bright, Renew a Steadfast Spirit Within Me

"I’ll wait until I am old, then I’ll get right with God."

You may not get the chance. God may just lose patience with you and end your life. Perhaps you don’t think He would do such a thing. Then read Genesis 38:7 to see how God killed a man who was wicked. Jesus told of a man who boasted that he had so many goods that he would have to build bigger barns. God called the man a fool and took his life that night.

Those who say they will repent in their own time lack the fear of God. Their understanding of His nature is erroneous. If they caught a glimpse of His holiness, His righteousness, and His consuming justice, they wouldn’t trifle with His mercy. Such arrogance needs to be confronted with the thunders of Mount Sinai. He is not wise who thinks he can outwit his Creator, enjoy a lifetime of sin, and repent at the last minute. Deathbed repentance is very rare. God killed a husband and wife because they told a lie (Acts 5:1–10). He lost patience with them. Most people think that God’s patience is eternal. It evidently is not.

The Bible says that it is through the fear of the Lord that men depart from sin (Proverbs 16:6). If they don’t fear God, they will be complacent about their eternal salvation (Matthew 10:28).

"I was once a born-again Christian. Now I believe it’s all rubbish!"

When a person maintains that he was once a Christian, but came to his senses, he is saying that he once knew the Lord (see John 17:3). Ask him, "Did you know the Lord?" He will then be forced to say, "I thought I did!" This gives you license to gently say, "If you don’t know so, then you probably didn’t." If he didn’t know the Lord, he was therefore never a Christian (1 John 5:11–13,20).

Explain to him that the Bible speaks of false conversion, in which a "stony ground" hearer receives the Word with joy and gladness. Then, in a time of tribulation, temptation, and persecution, falls away. If he is open to reason, take him through the Ten Commandments, into the message of the cross, and the necessity of repentance and faith in the Savior.

"Seeing is believing. If I can’t see it, I don’t believe it exists."

We believe in many things that we can’t see. Ask a skeptic if he has ever seen the wind. Has he seen history? Has he ever seen his brain? We see the effects of the wind, but the wind is invisible. We have records of history, but it is by "faith" that we believe certain historical events happened. Television waves are invisible, but an antenna and a receiver can detect their presence. The unregenerate man likewise has a "receiver." However, the receiver (his spirit) is dead because of sin (Ephesians 2:1). He needs to be plugged into the life of God; then he will come alive and be aware of the invisible spiritual realm.

"When you’re dead, you’re dead."

What if you are wrong? What if God, Jesus, the prophets, the Jews, and Christians are right and you are wrong? If there is no afterlife, no Judgment Day, no heaven, and no hell, then God is unjust and each of the above is guilty of being a false witness. It means that Almighty God couldn’t care less about the fact that a man rapes a woman, then cuts her throat and is never brought to justice. If you are right, and there is no ultimate justice, you won’t even have the joy of saying, "I told you so." However, if you are wrong, you will lose your soul and end up eternally damned. You are playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.

EVANGELISM

"What is Evangelicalism?"

Evangelicalism is a somewhat broad term used to describe a movement within Protestantism that is characterized by an emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship begins when a person receives Christ's forgiveness and is spiritually reborn. Those who ascribe to this belief are called Evangelicals.

The word “evangelicalism” is derived from the Greek words (euangelion), which means "good news," and (euangelizomai), which means "to proclaim as good news." This good news is that "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:3b-5). This good news, which is the Gospel of Christ, and the preaching of it, is what Evangelicalism was based upon.

The roots of Evangelicalism go back to the Protestant Reformation, during which time the Bible was brought to the masses. Formerly neglected biblical truths were rediscovered and taught. It wasn't until the great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America, though, that Evangelicalism truly began as a movement. As happened during the Reformation, the Evangelicalism movement and its focus on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brought a renewed vigor in accurately interpreting and applying God's Word. This has carried through to this day, though the term has come to be misused and misapplied.

Traditionally, Evangelicalism has been theologically conservative. This has become less and less distinctive, however. Its current use is no longer limited to actual born-again Christians, nor to those considered to be conservatives or fundamentalists. In fact, some simply equate Evangelicalism with Protestantism itself, liberal or otherwise. Sadly, Evangelicalism is now most often equated with conservative politics. While an Evangelical Christian worldview will result in conservative political views, politics is definitely not the focus of true Evangelicalism.

So, the definition of Evangelicalism varies in the eyes of the world. The true heart of Evangelicalism, though, is in proclaiming the Gospel message in both word and deed. To an Evangelical Christian, there is no higher calling than to live out and share this message and the truth of God's love.

FAITH (Biblical)

What is Biblical "Faith" ?

  The Bible word "faith" is one of the most misunderstood words in the Scriptures.


   The truth concerning this word "faith" is MOST IMPORTANT to Christian growth and success in the Christian life. Most people seem to think of "faith" as simply "believing". The stronger you can "believe", the more "faith" you are having. People say "I sure wish I had your faith", and "just have faith", as if Biblical faith is a quality that we have control over, and that we can work up more "faith" by just "believing harder"! That misconception comes from assuming that the Bible word "faith" is a verb.


  The common word for "faith" in the New Testament is the Greek word "pistis". This word is used 244 times in the New Testament, and it is a NOUN, not a verb! "Faith", the noun, in the New Testament is a three stage process:


1. God's Word is taken into our mind through hearing or reading, and by means of the Holy Spirit.

2. God tests us on that Word which is taken in, to see if we really "believe" it.


3. When the test is passed, God makes that Word a permanent part of our human soul, and we "grow". (God's Word resident in your soul is the only thing you can take to heaven with you).

   Noun and verb examples:


  I have come to see that the English language is one of the least precise and expressive languages on planet Earth. Our English dictionary often contains 10 or more definitions for the same word. Just for example, what do I mean when I say "bark"; do I mean the noise from a dog? Is it a boat? To hurt your shin? The covering on a tree? To speak sharply and loudly? To verbally advertise?


   Not only do we have many definitions for one English word, but each usage and definition can be a noun OR verb, or some other part of speech! Bark - The noise a dog makes, can be a NOUN OR a VERB! When we tell the dog to "bark", it is a verb which tells the dog to ACT, and when we describe the dog's "bark", it is a noun describing the "thing" that the dog did.  If you work crossword puzzles, I'm sure that you are very aware of this weakness in the English language.

 

   Another example my wife and I recently bumped into is the word "author". We struggled with a crossword assuming that the word "author" was a noun, and we were looking for a "man's name". But, in the end, the word "author" was a VERB, meaning "to author" or write something.


   An excellent Bible example, and one that has actually spawned religious denominations, is in 1 Pet 3:21, where the Greek word "baptisma" is translated "baptism". Some religious denominations believe this verse teaches "baptismal regeneration", that the "ACT" of water baptism itself regenerates or makes a person a born again child of God.


   The Greek word "baptisma", in 1 Pet 3:21 is a NOUN, meaning the "THINGS" SIGNIFIED BY BAPTISM, it is NOT A VERB as the English reader would naturally assume! Peter is saying that "baptism doeth save us (is presently saving) ", meaning that the "things", or "Bible teachings", or "doctrines" CONCERNING baptism are now saving us.

 

   What are those things, or teachings that baptism signifies? We are buried with Christ, sins washed away, raised in newness of life, the great doctrines of soteriology, or salvation, these are the "things" now saving us, not the verb, the ACT of baptism! The ACT of water baptism is a beautiful ritual that outwardly PORTRAYS what God HAS ALREADY DONE for us. The REALITY is what God does , the RITUAL is what we do to publicly acknowledge what God has done.


   One of the many beauties of the Greek language of the New Testament is that the ending on the Greek word tells us the part of speech. Whether a word is a noun or verb is not up for grabs in the New Testament Greek, as it is in our English language. "Baptisma" is the noun, the things signified, and "baptizo" is the verb, meaning the "act" of baptism.


Our word "faith" is not ambiguous in the Greek:


--- "pistuo" is the VERB, meaning the "ACT of BELIEVING" and is translated 248 times in the KJV as "believe", "trust", and "commit". "Pistuo" means "to trust in and rely on".


--- "pistis", the misunderstood NOUN for "faith", used 244 times in the New Testament, means not the "act of believing", but "THE THINGS BELIEVED". "Pistis" is used two ways in the New Testament:


1. I find 30 times where "Pistis" is used for the Bible itself, the whole relm of Christian doctrine, when it is preceded by the article "the", as in Jude 3, where we are admonished to fight for "the faith " which was once for all delivered to the saints.


2. The remaining 214 uses of "pistis" speak of personal faith, the "things believed", God's Word

permanently resident in the human soul.


Now, lets look at "pistis", our personal faith, "the things believed":

--- I only find ONE way for us to acquire "faith" in the New Testament, Rom 10:17, "so then faith (cometh) by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God". One way only, from hearing, reading, or being taught the Word of God. It cannot be "worked up", "bought", "desired", "prayed for", or "invoked" on someone.

--- Faith is being "measured out" by God to each of His children, Rom 12:3, 1 Cor 12:9, and 2 Cor 10:15.

--- Not everyone has Biblical faith, 2 Thess 3:2, only God's children have it.


--- We are presently "being saved" by faith and it doesn't come from us, it comes from God, Eph 2:8.

--- We grow in stages or plateaus of faith, Rom 1:17, from "faith to faith".


--- In Heb 11:1 personal faith gives us "the assurance (hupostasis) of things hoped for, and the conviction (elengkhos) of things that cannot be seen. The rest of Hebrews chapter eleven is a wonderful list of Bible heros who accomplished the things they did through the Spirit of God and the Word of God resident in their souls (faith).


--- God gives us a test on the Scriptures we take in, and the testing increases our patience (endurance), Jas 1:3.

--- Do not fight against God's testing, but let it work, that we may "be perfect (mature) and wanting (lacking) nothing". Jas 1:4, 2:22 and 26.


--- The testing of our faith is more precious to God than pure gold! 1 Pet 1:7.


--- It is our "faith", God's Word resident in our soul, that enables us to live a godly, successful, Christian life in this world full of evil, 1 Jn 5:4.


--- CHRISTIAN FAITH IS NOT BLIND There is no "blind faith" in the Christian life. Abraham, in Heb 11:17-19, and Gen 22:1-19, is an excellent example:


--- Abraham only had one child, named Isaac, when his faith (noun) was tested. Isaac, you remember, was a "miracle baby", born to Abraham and Sarah long after Sarah had passed child bearing age. The name Isaac means "laughter". Abraham fell on his face and laughed when God told him he and Sarah were going to have a son.



--- Sarah did have Isaac, at age 90. She had laughed also in Gen 18:12-15, but she denied it. --- Abraham's name means "father of many nations", and God had promised him in Gen 17:17-20, that he would be the father of a great nation. But, now at this great time of testing, he has just one son, Isaac.

--- God told Abraham in Gen 22:1-18 to take his only son, Isaac, and go to a mountain in the land of Moriah, which means "chosen of Jehovah", and to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord. (This is an EXTREME test of Abraham's "faith").


--- Abraham has God's Word resident in his soul. As he goes to the mountain that God had pointed out, he believes that God will either provide a substitute sacrifice and spare his son Isaac, or that God will raise him from the dead:


       a. In verse 5, Abraham told the young men that traveled with them "You stay here with the ass, and I AND THE LAD will go yonder and worship, AND COME AGAIN TO YOU".


       b. In verses 9-14, Abraham makes a wooden altar, places his only son on it, and raises the knife to slay his only son. As his hand and knife are raised, the Angel of the Lord calls out from heaven and tells him to stop.


       c. In verse 12, The Angel of the Lord says "now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son" .


       d. In verse 13, Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and offered the ram instead of his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord. (All the offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament spoke of Jesus and his death on the Cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. God DID sacrifice His only begotten Son to save us).


       e. How was Abraham able to obey God in such an extreme test? He had God's Word resident in his soul! God had told him that he would be the father of many nations through his son Isaac. So, he could be confident in the face of extreme testing.


       f. In verse 14, Abraham named the place "Jehovah-jireh", meaning "the Lord will provide".


   The bottom line for successful Christian living: Stay in fellowship, take in God's Word, and seek to live by it. Your growing "faith" - God's Word resident in your soul - and the Spirit of God will be the strength required to live in this world filled with troubles.


   When you see the word "faith" in God's Word, or hear someone say "I wish I had your faith", remember that it is a noun, and the issue is how much of God's Word is permanently resident in the soul. This is why the psalmist, in Psalms 119:11, says "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee".

THE FLOOD / NOAH’S ARK

"How long did it take Noah to build the ark? How long was Noah on the ark?"

How long did it take Noah to build the ark? The Bible does not specifically say how long it took Noah to build the ark. When Noah is first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, he was 500 years old. When Noah entered the ark, he was 600 years old. The time it took to build the ark would depend on how much time had passed between Genesis 5:32 and the time that God commanded Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:14-21). At the absolute most, it took 100 years.

How long was Noah on the ark? Noah entered the ark in the 600th year of his life, on the 17th day of the 2nd month (Genesis 7:11-13). Noah left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14-15). Therefore, assuming a lunar calendar of 360 days, Noah was on the ark for approximately 370 days.

How many of each type of animal did Noah take on the ark? Seven of each kind of clean animal and two of each kind of other animals were taken on the ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:2-3). By “clean” the Bible means animals that were "acceptable for sacrifice." That is why seven of the clean animals were taken – so they could be sacrificed after the Flood was over. Obviously if there were only two of an animal, a male and a female, and one was sacrificed - that species of animal would become extinct.

How many people were on Noah's ark? According to Genesis chapters 6-8, Noah, his wife, Noah's three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives were on the ark. Therefore, there were eight people on the ark.

Who was Noah's wife? The Bible nowhere specifically gives us the name or identity of Noah's wife. There is a tradition that she was Naamah (Genesis 4:22). While possible, this is not explicitly taught in the Bible.

Points to Ponder About the Flood and Noah’s Ark

By Dr. Kent Hovind

Second Peter 3:3–8 tells us that people who scoff at the Bible are "willingly ignorant" of the Creation and the Flood. In order to understand science and the Bible, we must not be ignorant of those two great events in Earth’s history.

1. Over 500 Flood legends from all parts of the world have been found. Most have similarities to the Genesis account.

2. Noah’s ark was built only to float, not to ail anywhere. Many ark scholars believe that the ark was a "barge" shape, not a pointed "boat" shape. This would greatly increase the cargo capacity. Scoffers have pointed out that the largest sailing ships were less than 300 feet because of the problem of twisting and flexing the boat. These ships had giant masts and sails to catch the wind. Noah’s ark needed neither of those and therefore had far less torsional stress.

3. Even using the small 18-inch cubit (my height is 6'1" and I have a 21- nch cubit), the ark was large enough to hold all the required animals, people, and food with room to spare.

4. The length-to-width ratio of 6 to 1 is what shipbuilders today often use. This is the best ratio for stability in stormy weather.

5. The ark may have had a "moon-pool" in the center. The larger ships would have a hole in the center of the bottom of the boat with walls extending up into the ship. There are several reasons for this feature: a) It allowed water to go up into the hole as the ship crested waves. This would be needed to relieve strain on longer ships. b) The rising and lowering water acted as a piston to ump fresh air in and out of the ship. This would prevent the buildup of dangerous gasses from all the animals on board. c) The hole was a great place to dump waste into the ocean without going outside.

6. The ark may have had large drogue (anchor) stones suspended over the sides to keep it more stable in rough weather. Many of these tones have been ound in the region where the ark landed.

7. Noah lived for 950 years. Many Bible scholars believe the pre-Flood people were much larger than modern man. Skeletons over 11 feet tall have been found. If Noah were taller, his cubit (elbow to fingertip) would have been much larger also. This would make the ark larger by the same ratio.

8. God told Noah to bring two of each kind (seven of some), not of each species or variety. Noah had only two of the dog kind, which would include the wolves, coyotes, foxes, mutts, etc. The "kind" grouping is probably closer to our modern family division in taxonomy, and would greatly reduce the number of animals on the ark. Animals have diversified into many varieties in the last 4,400 years since the Flood. This diversification is not anything similar to great claims that the evolutionists teach.

9. Noah did not have to get the animals. God brought them to him (Genesis 6:20, "shall come to thee").

10. Only land- welling, air-breathing animals had to be included on the ark ("in which is the breath of life," Genesis 7:15,22).

11. Many animals sleep, hibernate, or become very inactive during bad weather.

12. All animals (and people) were vegetarian before and during the Flood according to Genesis 1:20–30 with Genesis 9:3.

13. The pre-Flood people were probably much smarter and more advanced than people today. The longer life spans, Adam’s direct contact with God, and the fact that they could glean the wisdom of many generations that were still alive would greatly expand their knowledge base.

14. The Bible says that the highest mountains were covered by 15 cubits [20 feet] of water (Genesis 7:20). This is half the height of the ark. The ark was safe from scraping bottom at all times.

15. The large mountains, as we have them (today, did not exist until after the Flood when "the mountains arose and the valleys sank down" (Psalm 104:5–9; Genesis 8:3–8).

16. There is enough water in the oceans right now to cover the earth 8,000 feet deep if the surface of the earth were smooth.

17. Many claim to have seen the ark in recent times in the area in which the Bible says it landed. There are two primary schools of thought about the actual site of the ark. Much energy and time have been expended to prove both views. Some believe the ark is on Mt. Ararat, covered by snow (CBS showed a one-hour special in 1993 about this site). Others believe the ark is seventeen miles south of Mt. Ararat in a valley called "the valley of eight" (eight souls on the ark). The Bible says the ark landed in the "mountains" of Ararat, not necessarily on the mountain itself.

18. The continents were not separated until 100–300 years after the Flood (Genesis 10:25). The people and animals had time to migrate anywhere on earth by then.

19. The top 3,000 feet of Mt. Everest (26,000 –29,000 feet) is made up of sedimentary rock packed with seashells and other oceandwelling animals.

20. Sedimentary rock is found all over the world. Sedimentary rock is formed in water.

21. Petrified clams in the closed position (found all over the world) testify to their rapid burial while they were still alive, even on top of Mount Everest.

22. Bent rock layers, fossil graveyards, and polystrata fossils are best explained by a Flood.

23. People choose to not believe in the Flood because it speaks of the judgment of God on sin (2 Peter 3:3–8). (24:38,39 continued)

FORGIVENESS

"Because Jesus died on the cross, we are all forgiven of every sin."

The forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ is conditional upon "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). It is a gift that God offers to everyone, but individuals must receive it by repenting and trusting in Christ, or they will remain dead in their sins. No one has biblical grounds to continue in sin, assuming that they are safe just because Jesus died on the cross. See 1 John 3:4–6.

"God couldn’t forgive my sin."

Those who think they are too sinful for God to accept them don’t understand how merciful God is. The Bible says that He is "rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4). The Scriptures also tell us that "the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to ever-lasting upon them that fear him" (Psalm 103:17). God was merciful to King David and forgave him when he committed adultery and murder. He forgave Moses when he committed murder. He also forgave Saul of Tarsus for murdering Christians (Acts 22:4).

God promises to save "all" who call upon the name of Jesus (Romans 10:13). Those who think this promise isn’t worth the paper it’s written on are calling God a liar (see 1 John 5:10). Jesus shed His precious blood to pay for their sins. Wasn’t it good enough for them? It was good enough for God. God commands them to repent. To offer any excuse is to remain in rebellion to His command—no matter how "noble" it may seem to say that they are too sinful.

"I know I’m a sinner, but I confess my sins to God daily. I tell Him that I’m sorry and I won’t sin again."

If you find yourself in court with a $50,000 fine, will a judge let you go simply because you say you’re sorry and you won’t commit the crime again? Of course not. You should be sorry for breaking the law and, of course, you shouldn’t commit the crime again. But only when someone pays your $50,000 fine will you be free from the demands of the law. God will not forgive a sinner on the basis that he is sorry. Of course we should be sorry for sin—we have a conscience to tell us that adultery, rape, lust, murder, hatred, lying, stealing, etc., are wrong. And of course we shouldn’t sin again.

However, God will only release us from the demands for eternal justice on the basis that someone else paid our fine. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. His words on the cross were, "It is finished!" In other words, the debt has been paid in full. All who repent and trust in Him receive forgiveness of sins. Their case is dismissed on the basis of His suffering death.

"What should I say to someone who acknowledges his sins, but says, ‘I just hope God is forgiving’?"

These people could be referred to as "awakened, but not alarmed." explain that God is forgiving—but only to those who repent of their sins. Ask him, "If you died right now, where would you go?" If he says, "Hell," ask if that concerns him. If it does concern him, ask, "What are you going to do?" Then tell him that God commands him to repent and trust the Savior. If it doesn’t concern him, speak of the value of his life, the threat of eternal damnation, and the biblical description of hell. Caution him that he doesn’t have the promise of tomorrow, and plead with him to come to his senses.

"How can I forgive those who sin against me?"

Everyone has been wronged, offended, and sinned against at some point in life. How are we to respond when such offenses occur? According to the Bible, we are to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 proclaims, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both Scriptures is that we are to forgive others, as God as forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!

Forgiveness would be simple if we only had to grant it to those who come asking for it in sorrow and repentance. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us, without condition. Refusing to truly forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger – none of which should be the traits of a Christian. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to forgive us our sins, just as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” In light of other Scriptures that speak of God’s forgiveness, Matthew 6:14-15 is best understood to be saying that people who refuse to forgive others have likely not truly experienced God’s forgiveness themselves.

Whenever we miss the mark by disobeying one of God's commands, we sin against Him. Whenever we wrong another person, we not only sin against them, but also against God. When we take a look at the enormity of God's mercy to forgive us of ALL of our transgressions, we realize that we do not have the right to withhold this grace from others. We have sinned against God infinitely more than any person can sin against us. If God forgives us of so much, how can we refuse to forgive others for so little? Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35 is a powerful illustration of this truth. God promises that when we come to Him asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it (1 John 1:9). The forgiveness we extend should know no bounds, in the same way that God's forgiveness is limitless (Luke 17:3-4).

"I have committed _____ sin. Will God forgive me?"

Insert whatever sins you have committed into the ______. Yes, God can and will forgive any sin. The doctrine of atonement is what explains salvation and forgiveness of sin. God imputed Christ’s righteousness to those who humbly ask for forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He paid the full price for our sin, and believers are forgiven fully for every sin they commit—past, present, and future. There is also daily forgiveness as we confess our sins and forsake them for our sanctification. If you compare any sin to the murder of Jesus, they all pale in comparison, and yet Jesus said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The concepts of salvation and forgiveness are inextricably linked. Fortunately, God’s grace is sufficient for any and all sins, whatever sin you put in the blank. Receiving forgiveness is up to the individual. That is the first issue; will you receive the salvation (forgiveness of sin) that Christ is offering? If the answer is yes, then you are fully forgiven of all debt of sin (Acts 13:38-39). This forgiveness comes by faith in Jesus and God’s grace alone, not by works or good deeds (Romans 3:20,22). Salvation begins by humbly acknowledging that we will never be good enough to get into heaven on our own merit and that we need forgiveness. Accepting Jesus Christ means believing that His death and resurrection paid the penalty for all sin ever committed and that it is sufficient to cover all sin (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, God has already forgiven all your sins. If you have not, confess your sins to God and He will cleanse you and restore you to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:8-9). Even with forgiveness, though, you may still experience feelings of guilt. Guilt over sin is actually a natural response of our conscience, and it is there to remind us not to repeat sinful patterns. Understanding that Jesus is fully capable of forgiving any measure of sin is the hope of our salvation. Understanding forgiveness is the cure for guilt.

Knowing that forgiveness is really a beautiful, graceful gift from a God who loves us allows us to see how truly wonderful He is. When we contemplate our own sin and how wretched and unworthy of forgiveness we are, it becomes clear that God is loving, compassionate, and worthy of our worship. Our sinful pride about needing forgiveness is what stands between us and a relationship with a caring Savior. But for those who ask for forgiveness, they can believe in faith that Jesus is sufficient and eager to forgive and save them from their sin and ultimately enter into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).

"Does the Bible instruct us to forgive and forget?"

The phrase "forgive and forget" is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known their decision to forgive.

In some senses, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively "delete" events from our memory. The Bible states that God does not "remember" our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). God is all-knowing. God knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, He treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must "forgive and forget." If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

FOSSILS

"The number of fossils in some areas is enormous. How could earth have supported all those creatures at the same time?"

This question shows a common false assumption that many people make. They assume the earth today is the same as it has always been. Today’s earth is seventy percent under water. There are scriptural and scientific indications that the pre-Flood world had greater air pressure, higher percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide, much more land (above sea level), less water (on the earth’s surface), and a canopy of water to filter out the harmful effects of the sun. This would cause there to be many times more plants and animals on the earth than there are today. The added air pressure would diffuse more gasses into the water and support a much greater fish population. Aquatic plant life per cubic mile would multiply also.

Second Peter 3 tells us that the scoffers in the last days will be willingly ignorant of how God created the heavens and the earth. They would also be ignorant of the Flood. These two great events must be considered before making any statements about the conditions on earth today.

Only about three percent of the earth today is habitable for man. The rest is under water, ice, deserts, mountains, etc. If the earth before the Flood were, say, seventy percent habitable, it could have supported a huge population. The vast amount and worldwide distribution of fossils shows that the Flood was global and that God hates sin enough to judge the entire world."

Dr. Kent Hovind "About 85% of the rock surface around the world is made up of sedimentary rock, indicating that at some time in the past, the world was covered by water."

Peter and Paul Lalonde, 301 Startling Proofs & Prophecies

FREE WILL

"Is God sovereign or do we have a free will?"

When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of salvation. Few are interested in whether we have the free will to choose salad or steak for our dinner tonight. Rather, we are troubled over who exactly is in control of our eternal destiny.

Any discussion of man’s free will must begin with an understanding of his nature because man’s will is bound by that nature. A prisoner has the freedom to pace up and down in his cell, but he is constrained by the walls of that cell and can go no further, no matter how much his will might desire it. So it is with man. Because of sin, man is imprisoned within a cell of corruption and wickedness which permeates to the very core of our being. Every part of man is in bondage to sin – our bodies, our minds, and our wills. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the state of man’s heart: it is “deceitful and desperately wicked.” In our natural, unregenerate state, we are carnally minded, not spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Romans 8:6-7). These verses tell us that before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not submit to God and His law, neither can we. The Bible is clear that, in his natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is not free. It is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained by his cell.

How then can anyone be saved? Ephesians 2:1 describes the process. We who are “dead in our trespasses and sins” have been “made alive” through Christ. A dead man cannot make himself alive because he lacks the necessary power to do so. Lazarus lay in his tomb four days unable to do a thing to resurrect himself. Christ came along and commanded him to come to life (John 11). So it is with us. We are spiritually dead, unable to rise. But “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He calls us out of our spiritual graves and gives us a completely new nature, one undefiled by sin as the old nature was (2 Corinthians 5:17). God saw the desperate and helpless state of our souls, and in His great love and mercy, He sovereignly chose to send His Son to the cross to redeem us. By His grace we are saved through the gift of faith which He gives us so that we can believe in Jesus. His grace is a free gift, our faith is a free gift, and our salvation is a free gift given to those whom God has chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Why did He chose to do it this way? Because it was “according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). It’s important to understand that the plan of salvation is designed to glorify God, not man. Our response is to praise Him for the “glory of His grace.” If we chose our own salvation, who would get the glory? We would, and God has made it clear that He will not give the glory due to Him to anyone else (Isaiah 48:11).

The question naturally arises, how do we know who has been saved “from the foundation of the world”? We don’t. That is why we take the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, telling all to repent and receive God’s gift of grace. Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us we are to be pleading with others to be reconciled to God before it is too late. We cannot know who God will choose to release from their prison cells of sin. We leave that choice to Him and present the Gospel to all. The ones who come to Jesus He “will in no way cast out” (John 6:37).

"How does God's sovereignty and mankind's free will work together in salvation?"

It is impossible for us to fully understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Only God truly knows how those two work together.

Scripture is clear that God knows who will be saved (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2). Ephesians 1:4 tells us that God chose us “before the foundation of the world.” The Bible repeatedly describes believers as the “chosen” (Romans 8:33; 11:5; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9) and the “elect” (Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Romans 11:7; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). The fact that believers are predestined (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5, 11) and elected (Romans 9:11; 11:28; 2 Peter 1:10) for salvation is plainly clear.

The Bible also says that we have the free will choice – all we have to do is believe in Jesus Christ and we will be saved (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). God knows who will be saved, God chooses who will be saved, and we must choose Christ in order to be saved. How these three facts work together is impossible for a finite mind to comprehend (Romans 11:33-36). Our responsibility is to take the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We should leave the foreknowledge, election, and predestination part up to God and simply be obedient in sharing the Gospel.

GAMBLING

"Is gambling a sin? What does the Bible say about gambling?"

Gambling can be defined as “risking money in an attempt to multiply the money on something that is against the odds.” The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting, or the lottery. The Bible does warn us, however, to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to "get rich quick" (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). Gambling most definitely is focused on the love of money and undeniably tempts people with the promise of quick and easy riches.

What’s wrong with gambling? Gambling is a difficult issue because if it is done in moderation and only on occasion, it is a waste of money, but it is not necessarily "evil." People waste money on all sorts of activities. Gambling is no more or less of a waste of money than seeing a movie (in many cases), eating an unnecessarily expensive meal, or purchasing a worthless item. At the same time, the fact that money is wasted on other things does not justify gambling. Money should not be wasted. Excess money should be saved for future needs or given to the Lord's work - not gambled away.

Gambling in the Bible: While the Bible does not explicitly mention gambling, it does mention games of "luck" or "chance." As an example, casting lots is used in Leviticus to choose between the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat. Joshua cast lots to determine the allotment of land to the various tribes. Nehemiah cast lots to determine who would live inside the walls of Jerusalem and who wouldn’t. The apostles cast lots to determine the replacement for Judas. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Nowhere in the Bible is gambling or "chance" used for entertainment or presented as an acceptable practice for followers of God.

Casinos and lotteries: Casinos use all sorts of marketing schemes to entice gamblers to risk as much money as possible. They often offer inexpensive or even free alcohol, which encourages drunkenness, and thereby a decreased ability to make wise decisions. Everything in a casino is perfectly rigged for taking money in large sums and giving nothing in return, except for fleeting and empty pleasures. Lotteries attempt to portray themselves as a way to fund education and/or social programs. However, studies show that lottery participants are usually those who can least afford to be spending money on lottery tickets. The allure of "getting rich quick" is too great a temptation to resist for those who are desperate. The chances of winning are infinitesimal, which results in many peoples’ lives being ruined.

Why lottery proceeds do not please God: Many people claim to be playing the lottery or gambling so that they can give the money to the church, or to some other good cause. While this may be a good motive, reality is that few use gambling winnings for godly purposes. Studies show that the vast majority of lottery winners are in an even worse financial situation a few years after winning a jackpot than they were before. Few, if any, truly give the money to a good cause. Further, God does not need our money to fund His mission in the world. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” God is sovereign and will provide for the needs of the church through honest means. Would God be honored by receiving donated drug money, or money stolen in a bank robbery? Neither does God need or want money that was "stolen" from the poor by the temptation for riches.

1 Timothy 6:10 tells us, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Hebrews 13:5 declares, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Matthew 6:24 proclaims, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

GOD

"Does God exist? Is there evidence for the existence of God?"

Does God exist? I find it interesting that so much attention is given to this debate. The latest surveys tell us that over 90% of people in the world today believe in the existence of God or some higher power. Yet, somehow the responsibility is placed on those who believe God does exist to somehow prove that He really does exist. To me, I think it should be the other way around.

However, the existence of God cannot be proven or disproved. The Bible even says that we must accept by faith the fact that God exists, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply appear and prove to the whole world that He exists. But if He did that, there would be no need for faith. "Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'” (John 20:29).

That does not mean, however, that there is not evidence of God’s existence. The Bible declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset – all of these things point to a Creator God. If these were not enough, there is also evidence of God in our own hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” There is something deep down in our beings that recognizes that there is something beyond this life and someone beyond this world. We can deny this knowledge intellectually, but God’s presence in us and through us is still there. Despite all of this, the Bible warns us that some will still deny God’s existence, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1). Since over 98% of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all civilizations, on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of God – there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.

In addition to the Biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are logical arguments. First, there is the ontological argument. The most popular form of the ontological argument basically uses the concept of God to prove God’s existence. It begins with the definition of God as “that than which no greater can be conceived.” It is then argued that to exist is greater than to not exist, and therefore the greatest conceivable being must exist. If God did not exist then God would not be the greatest conceivable being - but that would contradict God's very definition. A second is the teleological argument. The teleological argument is that since the universe displays such an amazing design, there must have been a Divine designer. For example, if earth were even a few hundred miles closer or further away from the sun, it would not be capable of supporting much of the life it currently does. If the elements in our atmosphere were even a few percentage points different, every living thing on earth would die. The odds of a single protein molecule forming by chance is 1 in 10243 (that is a 10 followed by 243 0’s). A single cell is comprised of millions of protein molecules.

A third logical argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. Every effect must have a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there must be something “un-caused” in order to cause everything else to come into existence. That “un-caused” something is God. A fourth argument is known as the moral argument. Every culture throughout history has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality are almost universally rejected. Where did this sense of right and wrong come from if not from a holy God?

Despite all of this, the Bible tells us that people will reject the clear and undeniable knowledge of God and instead believe a lie. Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.” The Bible also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in God, “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” (Romans 1:20).

People claim to not believe in God because it is “not scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once people admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to God and in need of forgiveness from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). If God exists, then we are accountable for our actions to Him. If God does not exist, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. I believe that is why evolution is so strongly clung to by many in our society - to give people an alternative to believing in a Creator God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an argument for His existence.

Allow me one last argument for God’s existence. How do I know God exists? I know God exists because I speak to Him every day. I do not audibly hear Him speaking back to me, but I sense His presence, I feel His leading, I know His love, I desire His grace. Things have occurred in my life that have no other possible explanation other than God. God has so miraculously saved me and changed my life that I cannot help but to acknowledge and praise His existence. None of these arguments in and of themselves can persuade anyone who refuses to acknowledge what is so plainly clear. In the end, God’s existence must be accepted by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith in God is not a blind leap into the dark, it is safe step into a well-lit room where 90% of people are already standing.

"Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?"

Jesus is never recorded in the Bible as saying the exact words, “I am God.” That does not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Take for example Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God. However, look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood Jesus’ statement to be a claim to be God. In the following verses, Jesus never corrects the Jews by saying, “I did not claim to be God.” That indicates Jesus was truly saying He was God by declaring, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" Again, in response, the Jews take up stones in an attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59). Why would the Jews want to stone Jesus if He hadn’t said something they believed to be blasphemous, namely, a claim to be God?

John 1:1 says that “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh.” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, "...Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. Acts 20:28 declares that God purchased the church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!

Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior - Jesus Christ (see also 2 Peter 1:1). In Hebrews 1:8, the Father declares of Jesus, "But about the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."

In Revelation, an angel instructed the Apostle John to only worship God (Revelation 19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9,17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation had. There are many other verses and passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.

The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected - proving His victory over sin and death.

"God is unfair in that Hitler and a dear old lady (who never accepted Jesus) will both go to hell."

Sinners often accuse God of being unjust, because they assume that everyone will receive the same punishment in hell. God’s judgment, however, will be according to righteousness (Acts 17:31). This verse shows that there will be degrees of punishment. See also Mark 6:11.

"God told Joshua to kill every man, woman, and child, and He killed masses of people in Revelation. If that’s your ‘God of love,’ I want nothing to do with Him!"

God didn’t confine His wrath to the Canaanites, or to those mentioned in Revelation. He proclaimed the death sentence upon the whole of humanity. We will all die because we have broken God’s Law. Every one of us is waiting on death row. Instead of standing in moral judgment over Almighty God, we need to judge ourselves according to the Law of God. We will find that we have a multitude of sins and therefore are deserving of punishment. Yet God, out of love, paid the penalty for our sin so we would not have to.

"Where was God on September 11?"

On September 11, 2001, God was exactly where He always is – in Heaven in total control of everything that happens in the universe. Why, then, would a good and loving God allow such a tragedy to happen? This is a more difficult question to answer. First, we must remember, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). It is impossible for finite human beings to understand the ways of an infinite God (Romans 11:33-35). Second, we must realize that God is not responsible for the wicked acts of evil men. The Bible tells us that humanity is desperately wicked and sinful (Romans 3:10-18, 23). God allows human beings to commit sin for His own reasons and to fulfill His own purposes. Sometimes we think we understand why God is doing something, only to find out later that it was for a different purpose than we originally thought.

God looks at things from an eternal perspective. We look at things from an earthly perspective. Why did God put man on earth, knowing that Adam and Eve would sin and therefore bring evil, death, and suffering on all mankind? Why didn’t He just create us all and leave us in Heaven where we would be perfect and without suffering? It must be remembered that the purpose for all creation and all creatures is to glorify God. God is glorified when His nature and attributes are on display. If there were no sin, God would have no opportunity to display His justice and wrath as He punishes sin. Nor would He have the opportunity to show His grace, His mercy, and His love to undeserving creatures. The ultimate display of God’s grace was at the Cross where Jesus died for our sins. Here was unselfishness and obedience displayed in His Son who knew no sin but was “made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This was all to the “praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14).

When thinking of September 11, we tend to forget the thousands of miracles that occurred on that day. Hundreds of people were able to flee the buildings just in the nick of time. A small handful of firemen and one civilian survived in a tiny space in a stairwell as the one of the towers collapsed around them. The passengers on Flight 93 defeating the terrorists was a miracle in and of itself. Yes, September 11 was a terrible day. Sin reared its ugly head and caused great devastation. However, God is still in control. His sovereignty is never to be doubted. Could God have prevented what happened on September 11? Of course He could, but He chose to allow the events to unfold exactly as they did. He prevented that day from being as bad as it could have been. Since September 11, how many lives have been changed for the better? How many people have placed their faith in Christ for salvation as a result of what happened? The words of Romans 8:28 should always be in our minds when we think of 9-11, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.”

"I don’t believe that God is knowable."

It is amazing how it’s human nature to assume that because we believe or don’t believe something, that makes it true. Some may not believe in the law of gravity, and may feel they have "evidence" to back up their belief. However, gravity exists whether they believe in it or not. The truth is, God is knowable. Jesus testified, "And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). We not only have the testimony of the Scriptures to tell us this, but we have the testimony of multitudes of Christians who know the Lord personally. It is more truthful to say, "I don’t want to know God." Sinful man runs from Him as did Adam in the garden of Eden.

"If God is a God of love, why hasn’t He dealt with evil?"

In Dr. Robert Morey’s book The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom, he talks with an atheist about this issue. The atheist assumes that everything is relative, and there are no absolutes (he is absolutely sure of that). Morey replies that the first thing an atheist must do is prove the existence of evil. By what process can an atheist identify evil? He must have a universal absolute to do so. Without an absolute reference point for "good" (which only God can provide), no one can identify what is good or evil. Thus without the existence of God, there is no "evil" or "good" in an absolute sense. Everything is relative. The problem of evil does not negate the existence of God. It actually requires it.

Many assume that because evil still exists today, God has not dealt with it. How can atheists assume that God has not already solved the problem of evil in such a way that neither His goodness nor omnipotence is limited? On what grounds do they limit what God can and cannot do to solve the problem? God has already solved the problem of evil. And He did it in a way in which He did not contradict His nature or the nature of man. We assume God will solve the problem of evil in one single act. But why can’t He deal with evil in a progressive way? Can’t He deal with it throughout time as we know it, and then bring it to the climax on the Day of Judgment?

God sent His Son to die on the cross in order to solve the problem of evil. Christ atoned for evil and secured the eventual removal of all evil from the earth. One day evil will be quarantined in one spot called "hell." Then there will be a perfect world devoid of all evil. If God declared that all evil would, at this moment, cease to exist, you and I and all of humanity would go up in a puff of smoke. Divine judgment demands that sin be punished.

By Ron Meade

"Does God still perform miracles?"

When God performed amazing and powerful miracles for the Israelites, did that cause them to obey Him? No, the Israelites constantly disobeyed and rebelled against God even though they saw all the miracles. The same people who saw God part the Red Sea later doubted whether God was able to conquer the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Read the account in Luke 16:19-31. In the story, a man in hell asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham informed the man, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Jesus performed countless miracles, yet the vast majority of people did not believe in Him. If God performed miracles today like He did in the past, the same result would occur. People would be amazed and would believe in God for a short time. That faith would be shallow and would disappear the moment something unexpected or frightening occurred. A faith based on miracles is not a mature faith. God performed the greatest miracle of all time in coming to earth in the Man Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8), so that we could be saved (John 3:16). God does still perform miracles - many of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. However, we do not need more miracles. What we need is to believe in the miracle of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Another important concept to understand is the fact that the purpose of miracles was to authenticate the performer of the miracles. Acts 2:22 declares, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” The same is said of the Apostles, “The things that mark an apostle — signs, wonders and miracles — were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Speaking of the Gospel, Hebrews 2:4 proclaims, “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.” We now have the truth of Jesus recorded in Scripture. We now have the writings of the Apostles recorded in Scripture. Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in Scripture, are the cornerstone and foundation of our faith (Ephesians 2:20). In this sense, miracles are no longer necessary, as the message of Jesus and His apostles has already been attested to, and accurately recorded in the Scriptures. Yes, God still performs miracles. At the same time, we should not necessarily expect miracles to occur today just as they did as recorded in the Bible.

 

"If God is perfect, why did He make an imperfect creation?"

The Bible tells us that the Genesis creation was "good." There was no sin and therefore no suffering or death. Why then did God give Adam and Eve the ability to sin, knowing full well that they would sin and bring death and pain to the human race? Some believe that if Adam had been created without the ability to chose, then he would have been a "robot." A father cannot make his children love him. They choose to love him because they have a free will. Others point out that humanity would never have seen the depth of the love of God, as displayed in the cross, unless Adam had sinned, and that fact could be one reason why God allowed sin to enter the world.

"Does God love everyone or just Christians?"

There is a sense in which God loves everyone in the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:8). This love in not conditional – it is based only on the fact that God is a God of love (1 John 4:8,16). God’s love for all of mankind results in the fact that God shows His mercy by not immediately punishing people for their sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). If God did not love everyone, we would all be in hell right now. God’s love for the world is manifested in the fact that He gives people the opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9). However, God’s love for the world does not mean that He will ignore sin. God is also a God of justice (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Sin cannot go unpunished forever (Romans 3:25-26).

The most loving act of eternity is described in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Anyone who ignores God’s love, who rejects Christ as Savior, who denies the Savior who bought him (2 Peter 2:1) – that person will be subject to God’s wrath for eternity (Romans 1:18), not His love (Romans 6:23). God loves everyone unconditionally in that He shows mercy to everyone. God conditionally loves only those who place their faith in His Son for salvation (John 3:36). Only those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will experience God’s love for eternity.

Does God love everyone? Yes. Does God love Christians more than He loves non-Christians? No. Does God love Christians differently than He loves non-Christians? Yes. God loves everyone equally in that He is merciful to all. God only loves Christians in that Christians have His eternal grace and mercy – the promise of His forever love in Heaven. It is God’s love for all that should draw us all to receive His eternal love.

"My God would never create hell."

Those who say that are right: their "god" would never create hell, because he couldn’t. He doesn’t exist. He is a figment of their imagination, a god they have created to suit themselves. It’s called "idolatry," and it’s the oldest sin in the Book. Idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God. The one true God, however, could and did create hell for those who reject His mercy. They will reap His just wrath. (For the reasonableness of hell, see Psalm 55:15 footnote.)

"Who made God?"

To one who examines the evidence, there can be no doubt that God exists. Every building has a builder. Everything made has a maker. The fact of the existence of the Creator is axiomatic (self-evident). That’s why the Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’" (Psalm 14:1). The professing atheist denies the common sense given to him by God, and defends his belief by thinking that the question "Who made God?" can’t be answered. This, he thinks, gives him license to deny the existence of God.

The question of who made God can be answered by simply looking at space and asking, "Does space have an end?" Obviously, it doesn’t. If there is a brick wall with "The End" written on it, the question arises, "What is behind the brick wall?" Strain the mind though it may, we have to believe (have faith) that space has no beginning and no end. The same applies with God. He has no beginning and no end. He is eternal.

The Bible also informs us that time is a dimension that God created, into which man was subjected. It even tells us that one day time will no longer exist. That will be called "eternity." God Himself dwells outside of the dimension He created (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2). He dwells in eternity and is not subject to time. God spoke history before it came into being. He can move through time as a man flips through a history book.

Because we live in the dimension of time, logic and reason demand that everything must have a beginning and an end. We can understand the concept of God’s eternal nature the same way we understand the concept of space having no beginning and end—by faith. We simply have to believe they are so, even though such thoughts put a strain on our distinctly insufficient cerebrums.

"Why does God allow evil?"

Why does God allow evil men and women to live? Should He instead kill them before they do evil deeds? Should He judge murderers and rapists now? What about thieves and liars, adulterers, fornicators, those who lust, and those who hate? If God judged evil today, all unconverted men and women would perish under His wrath. Thank God that He is patiently waiting for them to turn to the Savior and be saved from His terrible wrath.

"Why does the Old Testament show a God of wrath and the New Testament a God of mercy?"

The God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. The Bible says that He never changes. He is just as merciful in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. Read Nehemiah 9 for a summary of how God mercifully forgave Israel, again and again, after they repeatedly sinned and turned their back on Him. The psalms often speak of God’s mercy poured out on sinners.

He is also just as wrath-filled in the New Testament as He is in the Old. He killed a husband and wife in the Book of Acts, simply because they told one lie. Jesus warned that He was to be feared because He has the power to cast the body and soul into hell. The apostle Paul said that he persuaded men to come to the Savior because he knew the "terror of the Lord." Read the dreadful judgments of the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. That will put the "fear of God" in you, which incidentally is "the beginning of wisdom."

Perhaps the most fearful display of His wrath is seen in the cross of Jesus Christ. His fury so came upon the Messiah that it seems God enshrouded the face of Jesus in darkness so that creation couldn’t gaze upon His unspeakable agony. Whether we like it or not, our God is a consuming fire of holiness (Hebrews 12:29). He isn’t going to change, so we had better ...before the Day of Judgment. If we repent, God, in His mercy, will forgive us and grant us eternal life in heaven with Him.

"Why does God allow evil men like Hitler and Saddam to come into power?"

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same" (Romans 13:1-3). One thing that is important here is that the teaching of this portion of Scripture is not on the ruler but our reaction to whatever ruler is in power. Therefore our focus is not to contemplate why God does what He does but our reaction or behavior to whatever God's decision is.

An interesting thing is that the book of Romans was probably written about 56-57 AD. The Emperor or Ruler at that time in Rome was Nero, who ruled from AD 54-68. Nero was an evil ruler, and during that time it is told that there was a terrible fire in Rome that destroyed a big portion of the city. It is told that Nero himself started that fire so he could expand his building projects. The problem was that he had to put the blame on someone, and he decided to blame the Christians. This started one of the biggest persecutions in the history of the church. Therefore, when Paul wrote this portion of Scripture, he was aware of the evil ruler of Rome, yet he does not wonder why God would put him in power. In fact Paul never mentions Nero at all. This also began to spread Christianity. It seems that throughout history whenever evil rulers came to power the gospel would spread.

"Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, just as I punished the king of Assyria'" (Jeremiah 50:18). God at times has used evil rulers to bring judgment on His people, but many times those countries or rulers would overstep their bounds with God, as did Assyria and Babylon, then God would punish them. God, even though He allows evil rulers or kings, would always set boundaries for them. When they would overstep those bounds, they would be punished. The greatest punishment is eternity in hell, and both Hitler and Lenin, who abused the people of God, have been serving their punishment in hell for a long time.

God does not explain why He allows evil rulers in His program, but He does tell us how to respond to them. If we live right in their eyes, we will often live and prosper as Daniel and his friends. At the same time, Peter and Paul both suffered hard deaths at the hands of evil emperors. Persecution is a part of life, but God can use that for good, as in the spread of the gospel.

"Why does God allow birth defects?"

The ultimate answer to this difficult question is that when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis chapter 3), they brought evil, sickness, disease, and death into the world. Sin has been wreaking havoc on the human race ever since. Birth defects occur because of sin...not because of sins the parents or the baby have committed, but because of sin itself. The hard part of the question is why God allows people to be born with terrible birth defects and/or deformities. Why doesn't God prevent birth defects from occurring?

The book of Job deals with the issue of not understanding why God allows certain things to occur. God had allowed Satan to do everything he wanted to Job except kill him. What was Job’s reaction? “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Job didn’t understand why God had allowed the things He did, but he knew that God was good and therefore continued to trust in Him. Ultimately, that should be our reaction as well. God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Ultimately, the answer to this question has to be “I don’t know.” We will never be able to fully understand God and His ways. It is wrong for us to question why God allows something to occur. We simply have to trust that He is loving, good, and merciful – just like Job did – even when the evidence seems to indicate the opposite. Sickness and disease are the result of sin. God provided the “cure” for sin in sending Jesus Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8). Once we are in heaven, we will be free from sickness, disease, and death. Until that day, we will have to deal with sin, its effects, and its consequences. We can praise God, though, that He can and will use birth defects and other tragedies for our good and His glory. John 9:2-3 declares, "His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'

"Why is there suffering? That proves there is no ‘loving’ God."

Study the soil for a moment. It naturally produces weeds. No one plants them; no one waters them. They even stubbornly push through cracks of a dry sidewalk. Millions of useless weeds sprout like there’s no tomorrow, strangling our crops and ruining our lawns. Pull them out by the roots, and there will be more tomorrow. They are nothing but a curse!

Consider how much of the earth is uninhabitable. There are millions of square miles of barren deserts in Africa and other parts of the world. Most of Australia is nothing but miles and miles of useless desolate land. Not only that, but the earth is constantly shaken with massive earthquakes. Its shores are lashed with hurricanes; tornadoes rip through creation with incredible fury; devastating floods soak the land; and terrible droughts parch the soil. Sharks, tigers, lions, snakes, spiders, and disease-carrying mosquitoes attack humanity and suck its life’s blood.

The earth’s inhabitants are afflicted with disease, pain, suffering, and death. Think of how many people are plagued with cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, emphysema, Parkinson’s, and a number of other debilitating illnesses. Consider all the children with leukemia, or people born with crippling diseases or without the mental capability to even feed themselves. All these things should convince thinking minds that something is radically wrong. Did God blow it when He created humanity? What sort of tyrant must our Creator be if this was His master plan?

Sadly, many use the issue of suffering as an excuse to reject any thought of God, when its existence is the very reason we should accept Him. Suffering stands as terrible testimony to the truth of the explanation given by the Word of God. But how can we know that the Bible is true? Simply by studying the prophecies of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3. A few minutes of openhearted inspection will convince any honest skeptic that this is no ordinary book. It is the supernatural testament of our Creator about why there is suffering...and what we can do about it.

The Bible tells us that God cursed the earth because of Adam’s transgression. Weeds are a curse. So is disease. Sin and suffering cannot be separated. The Scriptures inform us that we live in a fallen creation. In the beginning, God created man perfect, and he lived in a perfect world without suffering. It was heaven on earth. When sin came into the world, death and misery came with it. Those who understand the message of Holy Scripture eagerly await a new heaven and a new earth "wherein dwells righteous-ness." In that coming Kingdom there will be no more pain, suffering, disease, or death. We are told that no eye has ever seen, nor has any ear heard, neither has any man’s mind ever imagined the wonderful things that God has in store for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Think for a moment what it would be like if food grew with the fervor of weeds. Consider how wonderful it would be if the deserts became incredibly fertile, if creation stopped devouring humanity. Imagine if the weather worked for us instead of against us, if disease completely disappeared, if pain was a thing of the past, if death was no more.

The dilemma is that we are like a child whose insatiable appetite for chocolate has caused his face to break out with ugly sores. He looks in the mirror and sees a sight that makes him depressed. But instead of giving up his beloved chocolate, he consoles himself by stuffing more into his mouth. Yet, the source of his pleasure is actually the cause of his suffering. The whole face of the earth is nothing but ugly sores of suffering. Everywhere we look we see unspeakable pain. But instead of believing God’s explanation and asking Him to forgive us and change our appetite, we run deeper into sin’s sweet embrace. There we find solace in its temporal pleasures, thus intensifying our pain, both in this life and in the life to come.

THE GOSPEL

How to Confront Sinners

When David sinned with Bathsheba, he broke all of the Ten Commandments. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, lived a lie, stole her, committed adultery, murdered her husband, dishonored his parents, and thus broke the remaining four Commandments by dishonoring God. Therefore, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to reprove him (2 Samuel 12:1–14).

There is great significance in the order in which the reproof came. Nathan gave David (the shepherd of Israel) a parable about something that David could understand— sheep. He began with the natural realm, rather than immediately exposing the king’s sin. He told a story about a rich man who, instead of taking a sheep from his own flock, killed a poor man’s pet lamb to feed a stranger. David was indignant, and sat up on his high throne of self-righteousness. He revealed his knowledge of the Law by declaring that the guilty party must restore fourfold and must die for his crime. Nathan then exposed the king’s sin of taking another man’s "lamb," saying, "You are the man...Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?" When David cried, "I have sinned against the Lord," the prophet then gave him grace and said, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die."

Imagine if Nathan, fearful of rejection, changed things around a little, and instead told David, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. However, there is something that is keeping you from enjoying this wonderful plan; it is called ‘sin.’" Imagine if he had glossed over the personal nature of David’s sin, with a general reference to all men having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. David’s reaction may have been, "What sin are you talking about?" rather than to admit his terrible transgression. Think of it — why should he cry, "I have sinned against the Lord" at the sound of that message? Instead, he may have, in a sincere desire to experience this "wonderful plan," admitted that he, like all men, had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If David had not been made to tremble under the wrath of the Law, the prophet would have removed the very means of producing godly sorrow, which was so necessary for David’s repentance. It is "godly sorrow" that produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). It was the weight of David’s guilt that caused him to cry out, "I have sinned against the Lord." The Law caused him to labor and become heavy laden; it made him hunger and thirst for righteousness. It enlightened him as to the serious nature of sin as far as God was concerned.

Personal Witnessing—How Jesus Did It

How to address the sinner’s conscience and speak with someone who doesn’t believe in hell John chapter 4, verses 7–26 give us the Master’s example of how to share our faith. Notice that Jesus spoke to the woman at the well when she was alone. We will often find that people are more open and honest when they are alone. So, if possible, pick a person who is sitting by himself. From there, we can see four clear principles to follow:

First: Jesus began in the natural realm (v. 7). This woman was unregenerate, and the Bible tells us "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:14). He therefore spoke of something she could relate to—water. Most of us can strike up a conversation with a stranger in the natural realm. It may be a friendly "How are you doing?" or a warm "Good morning!" If the person responds with a sense of warmth, we may then ask, "Do you live around here?" and from there develop a conversation.

Second: Jesus swung the conversation to the spiritual realm (v. 10). He simply mentioned the things of God. This will take courage. We may say something like, "Did you go to church on Sunday?" or "Did you see that Christian TV program last week?" If the person responds positively, the question "Do you have a Christian background?" will probe his background. He may answer, "I went to church when I was a child, but I drifted away from it." Another simple way to swing to the spiritual is to offer the person a gospel tract and ask, "Did you get one of these?" When he takes it, simply say, "It’s a gospel tract. Do you come from a Christian background?"

Third: Jesus brought conviction using the Law of God (vv. 16–18). Jesus gently spoke to her conscience by alluding to the fact that she had transgressed the Seventh of the Ten Commandments. He used the Law to bring "the knowledge of sin" (see Romans 3:19,20). We can do the same by asking, "Do you think that you have kept the Ten Commandments?" Most people think they have, so quickly follow with, "Have you ever told a lie?" This is confrontational, but if it’s asked in a spirit of love and gentleness, there won’t be any offense. Remember that the "work of the Law [is] written in their hearts" and that the conscience will bear "witness" (Romans 2:15). Jesus confronted the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–21 with five of the Ten Commandments and there was no offense. Have confidence that the conscience will do its work and affirm the truth of each Commandment. Don’t be afraid to gently ask, "Have you ever stolen something, even if it’s small?" Learn how to open up the spirituality of the Law and show how God considers lust to be the same as adultery (Matthew 5:27,28) and hatred the same as murder (1 John 3:15). Make sure you get an admission of guilt. Ask the person, "If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on Judgment Day, do you think you will be innocent or guilty?" If he says he will be innocent, ask, "Why is that?" If he admits his guilt, ask, "Do you think you will go to heaven or hell?" From there the conversation may go one of three ways: 1. He may confidently say, "I don’t believe in hell." Gently respond, "That doesn’t matter. You still have to face God on Judgment Day whether you believe in it or not. If I step onto the freeway when a massive truck is heading for me and I say, ‘I don’t believe in trucks,’ my lack of belief isn’t going to change reality." Then tenderly tell him he has already admitted to you that he has lied, stolen, and committed adultery in his heart, and that God gave him a conscience so that he would know right from wrong. His conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will do the rest. That’s why it is essential to draw out an admission of guilt before you mention Judgment Day or the existence of hell. 2. He may say that he’s guilty, but that he will go to heaven. This is usually because he thinks that God is "good," and that He will, therefore, overlook sin in his case. Point out that if a judge in a criminal case has a guilty murderer standing before him, the judge, if he is a good man, can’t just let him go. He must ensure that the guilty man is punished. If God is good, He must (by nature) punish murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterers, fornicators, and those who have lived in rebellion to the inner light that God has given to every man. 3. He may admit that he is guilty and therefore going to hell. Ask him if that concerns him. Speak to him about how much he values his eyes and how much more therefore he should value the salvation of his soul. (For the biblical description of hell, see Revelation 1:18 footnote.) If possible, take the person through the linked verses in this Bible, beginning at the Matthew 5:21,22 footnote.

Fourth: Jesus revealed Himself to her (v. 26). Once the Law has humbled the person, he is ready for grace. Remember, the Bible says that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The gospel is for the humble (see Luke 4:18 footnote). Only the sick need a physician, and only those who will admit that they have the disease of sin will truly embrace the cure of the gospel. Learn how to present the work of the cross —that God sent His Son to suffer and die in our place. Tell the sinner of the love of God in Christ; that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. Take him back to civil law and say, "It’s as simple as this: We broke God’s Law, and Jesus paid our fine. If you will repent and trust in the Savior, God will forgive your sins and dismiss your case." Ask him if he understands what you have told him. If he is willing to confess and forsake his sins, and trust the Savior with his eternal salvation, have him pray and ask God to forgive him. Then pray for him. Get him a Bible. Instruct him to read it daily and obey what he reads, and encourage him to get into a Bible-believing, Christ preaching church.

The Firefighers

Imagine seeing a group of firefighters polishing their engine outside a burning building with people trapped at a top floor window. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with cleaning a fire engine—but not while people are trapped in a burning building! Instead of ignoring their cries, the firefighters should have an overwhelming sense of urgency to rescue them. That’s the spirit that should be behind the task of evangelism. But according to Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, “Only 2 percent of believers in America regularly share their faith with others.” That means that 98 percent of the professing Body of Christ are “lukewarm” when it comes to obeying the Great Commission (Mark 16:15).

Oswald J. Smith said, “Oh my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the Church, that of evangelizing and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected.” We have polished the engines of worship, prayer, and praise and neglected the sober task given to us by God. A firefighter who ignores his responsibilities and allows people to perish in flames is not a firefighter; he is an impostor. How could we ignore our responsibility and allow the world to walk blindly into the fires of hell? If God’s love dwells in us, we must warn them. The Bible tells us to “have compassion...save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 22,23). If we don’t have love and compassion, then we don’t know God—we are impostors (1 John 4:8).

Charles Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” Please, examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Don’t be part of the great multitude who called Jesus “Lord,” but refused to obey Him. It will be professing believers who will hear those fearful words, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:21–23).

Backward Christian Soldiers

Backward Christian soldiers, fleeing from the fight

With the cross of Jesus nearly out of sight.
Christ, our rightful master, stands against the foe
But forward into battle, we are loathe to go.

Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God
Brothers we are treading where we’ve always trod.
We are much divided, many bodies we
Having many doctrines, not much charity.

Crowns and thorns may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus hidden does remain.
Gates of hell should never ‘gainst the Church prevail
We have Christ’s own promise, but think that it will fail.

Sit here then ye people, join our useless throng
Blend with ours your voices in a feeble song.
Blessings, ease and comfort, ask from Christ the King
With our modern thinking, we don’t do a thing.
(Anonymous)

If God is speaking to you about your lack of evangelistic concern, pray something like this now: Father, please forgive me for my lack of love for this dying world. From this day forward I will strive to be a “true and faithful witness.” Please give me the wisdom to know what to say to reach the lost. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

"When were the Gospels written?"

It is important to understand that the dating of the Gospels and other New Testament books is at best an educated guess and at worst foolish speculation. For example, suggested dates for the writing of the Gospel of Matthew range from as early as A.D. 40 to as late as A.D. 140. This wide range of dates from scholars indicates the subjective nature of the dating process. Generally, one will find that the presuppositions of the scholars greatly influence their dating of the Gospels.

For example, in the past many liberal theologians have argued for a later dating of many of the New Testament books than is probably warranted or valid, in an attempt to discredit or cast doubts upon the content and authenticity of the Gospel accounts. On the other hand, there are many scholars who look to a much earlier dating of the New Testament books. There are some that believe there is good evidence to support the view that the whole New Testament, including Revelation, was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It is our contention that the evidence supports the earlier dating more than it does the later dating.

There are scholars who believe the Gospel of Matthew was written as early as ten to twelve years after the death of Christ. Those who hold to this earlier dating of Matthew believe he first wrote his Gospel in Aramaic, and then it was later translated into Greek. One of the evidences of this earlier dating of Matthew’s Gospel is that early church leaders such as Irenaeus, Origen, and Eusebius recorded that Matthew first wrote his gospel for Jewish believers while he was still in Palestine. In fact Eusebius, (a bishop of Caesarea and known as the father of church history), reported that Matthew wrote his Gospel before he left Palestine to preach in other lands, which Eusebius says happened about 12 years after the death of Christ. Some scholars believe that this would place the writing of Matthew as early as A.D. 40-45 and as late as A.D. 55.

Even if the Gospels were not written until 30 years after Christ’s death, that would still place the writing of them prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This presents no major problem with their authority or accuracy. Passing on oral traditions and teachings was commonplace in the Jewish culture of that day, and memorization was highly cultivated and practiced. Also, the fact that even at that time there would have been a considerable number of eyewitnesses around to dispute and discredit any false claims, and the fact that none of the “hard sayings” of Jesus were taken from the Gospel accounts, further supports their accuracy. Had the Gospels been edited before being written down, as some liberal scholars contend, then it was a very poor job. The writers left far too many “hard sayings,” and culturally unacceptable and politically incorrect accounts that would need explaining. An example of this is that the first witnesses of the resurrection were women, who were not considered reliable witnesses in the culture of that day.

The bottom line for Christians is this—whether the Gospels were written soon after the death of Christ, or not until 30 years after his death, does not really matter, because their accuracy and authority does not rest on when they were written but on what they are: the divinely inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). We should also remember that one of the promises Jesus gave His disciples was that He would send them “another helper,” the Holy Spirit, who would teach them all things and ‘bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). So, whether it was few years or many after Jesus' death that the Gospels were written, we can have total confidence and faith in their completeness and accuracy, knowing that they were written by “men moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), who accurately recorded the very words of God.

The Great Commission

"Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
- Mark 16:15

"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that."
- Charles Spurgeon

"If you do not make it a matter of study, how you may successfully act in building up the kingdom of Christ, you are acting a very wicked and absurd part as a Christian."
- Charles Finney

"The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest"
- Matthew 9:37,38

"Oh my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected!"
- Oswald J. Smith

"Why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
- Luke 6:46

The Key to Reaching the Lost

Have you ever thought, "There must be a key to reaching the lost"? There is—and it’s rusty through lack of use. The Bible does actually all it "the key," and its purpose is to bring us to Christ, to unlock the Door of the Savior (John 10:9). Much of the Church still doesn’t even know it exists. Not only is it biblical, but it can be shown through history that the Church used it to unlock the doors of revival. The problem is that it was lost around the turn of the twentieth century. Keys have a way of getting lost.

Jesus used it. So did Paul (Romans 3:19,20), Timothy (1 Timothy 1:8–11), and James (James 2:10). Stephen used it when he preached (Acts 7:53). Peter found that it had been used to open the door to release 3,000 imprisoned souls on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus said that the lawyers had "taken away" the key, and even refused to use it to let people enter into the kingdom of God. The Pharisees didn’t take it away. Instead, they bent it out of shape so that it wouldn’t do its work (Mark 7:8). Jesus returned it to its true shape, just as the Scriptures prophesied that He would do (Isaiah 42:21). Satan has tried to prejudice the modern Church against the key. He has maligned it, misused it, twisted it, and, of course, hidden it—he hates it because of what it does. Perhaps you are wondering what this key is. I will tell you. All I ask is that you set aside your traditions and prejudices and look at what God’s Word says on the subject.

In Acts 28:23 the Bible tells us that Paul sought to persuade his hearers "concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets." Here we have two effective means of persuading the unsaved "concerning Jesus." Let’s first look at how the prophets can help persuade sinners concerning Jesus.

Fulfilled prophecy proves the inspiration of Scripture. The predictions of the prophets present a powerful case for the inspiration of the Bible. Any skeptic who reads the prophetic words of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, etc., or the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 cannot but be challenged that this is no ordinary book.

The other means by which Paul persuaded sinners concerning Jesus was "out of the law of Moses." The Bible tells us that the Law of Moses is good if it is used lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8). It was given by God as a "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Paul wrote that he "had not known sin, but by the law" (Romans 7:7). The Law of God (the Ten commandments) is evidently the "key of knowledge" Jesus spoke of in Luke 11:52. He was speaking to "lawyers"—those who should have been teaching God’s Law so that sinners would receive the "knowledge of sin," and thus recognize their need of the Savior.

Prophecy speaks to the intellect of the sinner, while the Law speaks to his conscience. One produces faith in the Word of God; the other brings knowledge of sin in the heart of the sinner. The Law is the God-given "key" to unlock the Door of salvation. See Matthew 19:17–22 footnote and Romans 3:19,20. "I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law. The Law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the Law to make way for it." Charles Spurgeon

"What are the four spiritual laws?"

The Four Spiritual Laws are a way of sharing the good news of the salvation that is available through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a simple way of organizing the important information in the Gospel into four points.

The first of the Four Spiritual Laws is, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 10:10 gives us the reason that Jesus came, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." What is blocking us from God's love? What is preventing us from having an abundant life?

The second of the Four Spiritual Laws is, "Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God's wonderful plan for our lives." Romans 3:23 affirms this information, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23 gives us the consequences of sin, "the wages of sin is death." God created us to have fellowship with Him. However, humanity brought sin into the world, and is therefore separated from God. We have ruined the relationship with Him that God intended us to have. What is the solution?

The third of the Four Spiritual Laws is, "Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God." Romans 5:8 tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 informs us of what we need to know and believe in order to be saved, "...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..." Jesus Himself declares that He is the only way of salvation in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." How can I receive this wonderful gift of salvation?

The Fourth of the Four Spiritual Laws is, "We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God's wonderful plan for our lives." John 1:12 describes this for us, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." Acts 16:31 says it very clearly, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!" We can be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you want to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, say the following words to God. Saying these words will not save you, but trusting in Christ will! 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 Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"

"Why do the four Gospels seem to present a different message of salvation than the rest of the New Testament?"

We must keep in mind that the Bible is intended to be taken as a whole. The books preceding the Four Gospels are anticipatory, and the books which follow are explanatory. Throughout the whole Bible, what God requires is faith—Genesis 15:6; Psalm 2:12; Habakkuk 2:4; Matthew 9:28; John 20:27; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 10:39. Salvation comes not by our own works but by trusting what God does on our behalf.

Each of the Gospels has its own emphasis on the ministry of Christ. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, emphasizes Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, proving that He is the long-awaited Messiah. Mark writes a fast-paced, condensed account, recording Jesus’ miraculous deeds and not recording His long discourses. Luke portrays Jesus as the remedy of the world’s ills, emphasizing His perfect humanity and humane concern for the weak, the suffering, and the outcast. John emphasizes Jesus’ deity by selecting many conversations and sayings of Jesus on the subject and also including “signs” that prove He is the Son of God.

The Four Gospels work together to provide a complete testimony of Jesus, a beautiful portrait of the God-Man. Although the Gospels differ slightly in theme, the central Subject is the same. All present Jesus as the One who died to save sinners. All record His resurrection. Whether the writers presented Jesus as the King, the Servant, the Son of Man, or the Son of God, they had the common goal—that people believe in Him.

We’ll delve into the theology of the Gospels now. John includes many statements of faith and commands to believe. These inclusions fit his stated purpose, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name” (20:31). The other Gospels (the Synoptics) are no less concerned that we trust in Christ. Their appeals to faith are less overt but are just as genuine.

Jesus proclaims the need for righteousness, and He warns of the penalty of sin, which is hell. However, Jesus always presents God as the standard of righteousness and Himself as the means of righteousness—without Christ, righteousness is unattainable and hell is inevitable. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a case in point:

- Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with a description of the blessed life (5:1-12). The Beatitudes are not telling us “how to” be righteous, but are simply describing righteousness.

- He presents Himself as the fulfillment of the Old Testament law (5:17-18). This is a key verse because, to earn our own righteousness, we must fulfill the law; here, Jesus says that He will do it for us.

- He says that no amount of our own good works will gain us entrance to heaven (5:20). This is another important statement in the sermon. The Pharisees were the most religious people of the day, but Jesus says even they are not good enough to enter heaven. Jesus will go on to say that it’s not a religious system that saves, but He Himself.

- He “raises the bar” for righteousness according to God’s standard, instead of man’s interpretation of the law (5:21-48). He explains God’s intent behind seven Old Testament laws. The bar is raised so high as to make everyone, even the most dedicated religious practitioner, guilty before God.

- He describes three popular religious activities—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—as hypocritical when practiced by the outwardly religious (6:1-18). Jesus’ focus, as with the seven laws He just mentioned, is the heart condition of man, not the works we can see.

- He warns that there will be “many” in the day of judgment who will have performed great works for God yet will be turned away from heaven (7:21-23). The reason given is that Jesus never “knew” them. There was no familial relationship, only “good” works, which is not enough.

- Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with the audacious statement that He alone is the foundation for building one’s religious life (7:24-27). It is an appeal to trust “these sayings of Mine” enough to abandon all other foundations.

To summarize, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus meticulously deconstructs the pharisaical religion of good works, points to a holiness greater than our own, and offers Himself as the sole basis of religion. Accepting what Jesus says in this sermon requires faith in His Person.

Matthew’s Gospel goes on to emphasize faith in the following verses: 8:10, 13, 26; 9:2, 22, 28-29; 12:21; 13:58; 14:31; 15:28; 16:8; 17:17; and 18:6. Also, Matthew includes a very clear presentation of Jesus as the Son of God in this exchange: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” (Matthew 16:15-17).

Mark’s Gospel contains the following references to faith in Christ: 1:15; 2:5; 4:40; 5:34, 36; 6:6; 9:19, 23, 42; 10:52; 11:23; and 16:14. In Luke’s Gospel we see these verses promoting faith in Christ: 1:1; 5:20; 7:9, 50; 8:12, 25, 48, 50; 9:41; 12:28, 46; 17:19; 18:8, 42; and 24:25. As we continue to see scripture as a unified whole, we will see that there is only one message of salvation, and the Four Gospels provide the basis for that message.

The Epistles which follow the Gospels elaborate upon the same theme: salvation by faith in Christ. The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes through God and the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. The central theme of Galatians and Colossians is the same same. The book of Hebrews stresses the pre-eminence and perfection of Christ, the “author and perfecter of our faith.” First and Second Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the pastoral epistles of Timothy and Titus, Philemon, James, 1 and 2 Peter, all describe the holy living, both personally and corporately within the church, and the hope for the future which should be the natural result of life in Christ. The three epistles of John reiterate the basics of the faith and warn against those who would call them into question, also the main theme of Jude. Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, presents the last act of God’s plan for mankind and the fate of those who hold onto the same faith expounded in the entirety of the New Testament—faith in Christ alone.

The Parable of the Fishless Fishermen  Anonymous

Fellowship. They were surrounded by streams and lakes full of hungry fish. They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, the abundance of fish, and the thrill of catching fish. They got excited about fishing!

Someone suggested that they needed a philosophy of fishing, so they carefully defined and redefined fishing, and the purpose of fishing. They developed fishing strategies and tactics. Then they realized that they had been going at it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point of view of the fisherman, and not from the point of view of the fish. How do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do fish eat, and when? These are all good things to know. So hey began research studies, and attended conferences on fishing. Some traveled to faraway places to study different kinds of fish with different habits. Some got doctorates in fishology. But no one had yet gone fishing.

So a committee was formed to send out fishermen. As prospective fishing places outnumbered fishermen, the committee needed to determine priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin boards in all of the fellowship halls. But still, no one was fishing. A survey was launched to find out why. Most did not answer the survey, but from those who did, it was discovered that some felt called to study fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment, and several to go around encouraging the fishermen. What with meetings, conferences, and seminars, they just simply didn’t have time to fish.

Now, Jake was a newcomer to the Fisherman’s Fellowship. After one stirring meeting of the Fellowship, he went fishing and caught a large fish. At the next meeting, he told his story and was honored for his catch. He was told that he had a special "gift of fishing." He was then scheduled to speak at all the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it.

With all the speaking invitations and his election to the board of directors of the Fisherman’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing. But soon he began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the tug on the line once again. So he cut the speaking, he resigned from the board, and he said to a friend, "Let’s go fishing." They did, just the two of them, and they caught fish. The members of the Fisherman’s Fellowship were many, the fish were plentiful, but the fishers were few!

GUILT

"I don’t feel guilty."

People often don’t feel guilty when they sin because they have "seared" their conscience. They have removed the batteries from the smoke detector of their conscience, so that they can sin without interruption. The way to resurrect a deadened conscience is to go through each of the Ten Commandments, reminding the person that they know that it’s wrong to lie, steal, commit adultery, etc. Always preach the Law along with future punishment, then pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and cause them to be convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.

"You are trying to make me feel guilty by quoting the Ten Commandments."

Ask the person which one of the Ten Commandments makes him feel guilty. Simply state, "The Bible says, ‘You shall not steal.’ If you feel guilty when you hear that, why do you think that is? Could it be because you are guilty?" God gave us our conscience so we would know when we break His Law; the guilt we feel when we do something wrong tells us that we need to repent. See also Romans 2:15 footnote.

HARE KRISHNA

"Who are the Hare Krishnas and what do they believe?"

The origin of the Hare Krishnas (International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKON) dates back to the fifteenth century (1486), when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu first taught that Krishna was the supreme Lord above every other god. Mahaprabhu advocated a devotional method of faith where adherents to Krishna entered into a relationship with Krishna expressing adoration to Krishna through dancing and chanting. His public displays of adoration earned a large following, in part, due to its sharp contrast with dispassionate and ascetic expressions which common to Hinduism. This Hindu sect however distinct it is in its unique adherence to Krishna , is still quite Hindu since even Krishna is but a manifestation (or "Avatar") of Vishnu—one of the classic deities of Hinduism. Moreover, Hare Krishnas retain the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu Scripture, as well as the doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma. The ultimate goal for Hare Krishnas however is a transcendental loving relationship with Lord Krishna. "Hare" itself refers to "the pleasure potency of Krishna," similar to the Christian idea of man's highest goal being to worship God and enjoy Him forever. Some Christian overtones should be obvious at this point, even though the ISKON is a distinctly Hindu cult. Due to the mystical "devotion" expressed in chanting and dancing, the Hare Krishnas can be compared to Sufi Muslims ("Whirling Dervishes") and some mystical expressions of Christianity which emphasize ecstatic experiences and mystical transcendence.

In 1965, The Hare Krishna movement came to America by means of Abhay Charan De Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, an aged Indian exponent of the worship of Krishna. The Swami forsook the world in 1959 at the age of 63 to be a guru in total devotion to Krishna. At the age of 70 he traveled to New York to popularize his views. The Hare Krishna movement sprouted quickly in the ready soil of the 60's. Western values were being questioned and Eastern thought was becoming fashionable. The larger culture of the United States was shifting to a new religious paradigm of which ISKON was another player. A tireless evangelist, the Swami founded ISKON and remained its leader until his death in 1977. The ISKON is a wealthy organization today, having gained its wealth largely through soliciting funds and distributing its lavishly illustrated literature, including the Bhagavad-Gita and its periodical Back to Godhead. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hare Krishnas were so prevalent in public places such as airports that laws had to be passed to prevent them from accosting people with their often aggressive and intimidating requests for money.

The ISKON is quite demanding of its adherents. Becoming a member involves choosing a guru and becoming a disciple to him. This guru is so critical that it is said, "without [the Guru] the cultivation of Krishna consciousness is impossible. From the devotee's side, initiation means that he accepts the guru as his spiritual master and aggress to worship him as God." (Ron Rhodes, The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions 2001, pg. 176). And the whole of one's life is to be encompassed by Krishna centered practice and devotion. As such, ISKON pulls its members into commune-type settings where all discussion and life is deliberately centered around Krishna. Very intricate rules are established in these communities to make sure that all activity is Krishna centered. Much of Indian/Hindu culture is imported into these communes. It must be noted that these communities have been questioned by ex-members and outsiders alike alleging illegal and immoral practices within the safety of their relative isolation. The ISKON has been accused of great evils in this regard even though such allegations, were they true, should not be hastily attributed to ISKON doctrine specifically but rather to the practices of some Hare Krishnas. A similar example could be made, for Christians, with the moral downfall of certain Christian Leaders and Televangelists.

The beliefs of the Krishnas are typically Hindu and are largely incompatible with biblical Christianity. First, the view of God is basically pantheistic, meaning that they believe God is all. For Hare Krishnas, God is everything and everything is God. For the Christian, God is transcendent – He is above all that He created. One of the tenets of ISKON thought is that we actually achieve relational unity with God ourselves. Christians can relate somewhat to this idea since Bhakti Hinduism, to which ISKON subscribes, is nearly theistic in its view of God and admittedly teaches that man can enter into a loving relationship with God. The Hare Krishna however is a little blurry on how relational this ultimate goal actually is. The goal of the Hare Krishna is to reach a "Krishna consciousness," a kind of enlightenment. This is the deepest identification with Krishna. In so far as ISKON is truly Hindu, it can ascribe to a Pantheist view of God and therefore teach that man is ultimately identical to God. The Christian may recognize in these words a faint and deceptive whisper dating back to the Garden of Eden, "you will be as God" (Genesis 3:5).

Like many false religions, salvation for the Hare Krishna reduces to a series of works. Yes, devotion and relationship are packed into their belief system. But these are built up from works. And, in practice there remains a push to chant more, dance more, and always work harder lest one retain some bit of karmic debt and fail to enter into Krishna Consciousness. Self-denial and sacrifice are also crucial for salvation in ISKON. Salvation for the Hare Krishna is thoroughly entwined with the Hindu concept of karma, or retributive justice. This teaching requires belief in reincarnation and/or transmigration of the soul. One's works, good and bad, are measured and judged either for or against him. He continues to be reincarnated into higher life forms if his deeds are good, or lower life forms if his deeds are bad. It is only when his good deeds have counterbalanced his bad deeds that he can cease the cycles of rebirth and realize his oneness with Krishna.

How different this is from the compassionate and merciful God of the Bible who "so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) who bore our sin on the cross so that we could bear His righteousness. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). No amount of good deeds can ever achieve salvation for anyone. And even where Hare Krishnas rightly assert that a loving relationship is necessary for Salvation, Krishna is still the wrong object of devotion. Hare Krishnas, like all humanity, have only one hope for eternal life: Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected and exalted forever. All other paths , we regret to say, lead to destruction. Jesus Himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me " (John 14:6) for "there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

HEAVEN & HELL

"Is Heaven real?"

Heaven is indeed a real place. The Bible tells us that heaven is God’s throne (Isaiah 66:1, Acts 7:48-49, Matthew 5:34-35). After Jesus’ resurrection and appearance on earth to His disciples, “He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19, Acts 7:55-56). “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence“ (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus not only went before us, entering on our behalf, but He is alive and has a present ministry in heaven, serving as our high priest in the true tabernacle made by God (Hebrews 6:19-20, 8:1-2).

We are also told by Jesus Himself that there are many rooms in God’s house and that he Has gone before us to prepare a place for us. We have the assurance of His word that he will one day come back to earth and take us to where He is in heaven (John 14:1-4). Our belief in an eternal home in heaven is based on an explicit promise of Jesus. Heaven is most definitely a real place. Heaven truly does exist.

When people deny the existence of heaven, they deny not only the written Word of God, they also deny the innermost longings of their own hearts. Paul addressed this very issue to the Corinthians, encouraging them to cling to the hope of heaven so that they would not lose heart: “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4 NLT). He urged them to look forward to their eternal home in heaven, a perspective that would enable them to endure hardships and disappointments in this life. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Just as God has put in men’s hearts the knowledge that He exists (Romans 1:19-20), so too are we “programmed” to desire heaven. It is the theme of countless books, music and works of art. Unfortunately, our sin has barred the way to heaven. Since heaven is the abode of a holy and perfect God, sin has no place there, nor can it be tolerated. Fortunately, God has provided for us the key to open the doors of heaven—Jesus Christ. All who believe in Him and seek forgiveness for sin will find the doors of heaven swung wide for them. “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart full of assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

"What is Heaven like?"

Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word heaven is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. Scripture refers to three heavens. The Apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven," but he was prohibited from revealing what he experienced there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9).

If a third heaven exists, there must also be two other heavens. The first is most frequently referred to in the Old Testament as the "sky" or the "firmament," which appears as an arch that is spread over our earth. This is the heaven that contains clouds, the area that birds fly through. The second heaven is the interstellar space, which is the abode of supernatural angelic beings and celestial objects (Genesis 1:14-18).

The third heaven, whose location is unrevealed, is the abode of the Triune God. God's plan is to fill heaven with believers in Jesus Christ. No wonder the word heaven is interchangeable with eternal life! Jesus promised to prepare a place for true Christians in heaven (John 14:2). Heaven is also the destination of Old Testament saints who died trusting God's promise of the Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). Whoever believes in Christ shall never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Apostle John was privileged to see and report on the heavenly city (Revelation 21:10-27). John witnessed that heaven possesses the "glory of God" (Revelation 21:11). This is the Shekinah glory or the presence of God. Because heaven has no night and the Lord is the light, the sun and moon are no longer needed (Revelation 22:5).

The city is filled with the brilliance of costly stones and crystal clear jasper. Heaven has 12 gates (Revelation 21:12) and 12 foundations (Revelation 21:14). The paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored: the river of the water of life flows freely and the tree of life is available once again, yielding fruit monthly with leaves that "heal the nations" (Revelation 22:1-2). However eloquent John was in his description of heaven, the reality of heaven is beyond the ability of finite man to describe (1 Corinthians 2:9). Yet it is more real than this earth, which will pass away.

Heaven is a place of "no mores." There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). There will be no more separation because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of our Lord and Savior. We will be face to face with the Lamb of God Who loved us and sacrificed Himself so that we can enjoy His presence for eternity.

"Will there be marriage in heaven?"

The Bible tells us, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). This was Jesus’ answer in response to a question concerning a woman who had been married multiple times in her life – who would she be married to in heaven (Matthew 22:23-28)? Evidently, there will be no such thing as marriage in heaven. This does not mean that a husband and wife will not longer know each other in heaven. This also does not mean that a husband and wife could not still have a close relationship in heaven. What it does seem to indicate, though, is that a husband and wife will no longer be married in heaven. There is likely no purpose for marriage in heaven since there is no procreation or loneliness.

"Is hell real? Is hell eternal?"

Is hell real? Studies show that over 90% of people in the world believe in a "heaven" while less than 50% believe in an eternal hell. According to the Bible, hell is most definitely real! The punishment of the wicked in hell is as never-ending as the bliss of the righteous in Heaven. The punishment of the wicked dead in hell is described throughout Scripture as "everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41), "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12), "shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2), a place where "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44-49), a place of "torments" and "flame" (Luke 16:23,24), "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9), a place of torment with "fire and brimstone" where "the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever" (Revelation 14:10,11), and a "lake of fire and brimstone" where the wicked are "tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10). Jesus Himself indicates that the punishment in hell itself is everlasting - not merely the smoke and flames (Matthew 25:46).

The wicked are forever subject to the fury and the wrath of God in hell. They consciously suffer shame and contempt and the assaults of an accusing conscience -- along with the fiery wrath of an offended deity -- for all of eternity. Even those in hell will acknowledge the perfect justice of God (Psalms 76:10). Those who are in the very real hell will know that their punishment is just and that they alone are to blame (Deuteronomy 32:3-5). Yes, hell is real. Yes, hell is a place of torment and punishment that lasts forever and ever, with no end! Praise God that through Jesus, we can escape this eternal fate (John 3:16,18,36).

"What does the Bible say about Purgatory?"

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” To summarize, in Catholic theology, Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. Is this doctrine of Purgatory in agreement with the Bible? Absolutely not!

Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Romans 5:8). Isaiah 53:5 declares, “but He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could be delivered from suffering. To say that we must also suffer for our sins is to say that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient. To say that we must atone for our sins by cleansing in Purgatory is to deny the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (1 John 2:2). The idea that we have to suffer for our sins after death is contrary to everything the Bible says about salvation.

The primary Scriptural passage Catholics point to for evidence of Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:15, which says, “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” The passage (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) is using an illustration of things going through fire as a description of believers’ works being judged. If our works are of good quality “gold, sliver, costly stones,” they will pass through the fire unharmed, and we will be rewarded for them. If our works are of poor quality “wood, hay, and straw,” they will be consumed by the fire, and there will be no reward. The passage does not say that believers pass through the fire, but rather that a believer’s works pass through the fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15 refers to the believer “escaping through the flames,” not “being cleansed by the flames.”

Purgatory, like many other Catholic dogmas, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Catholics view the Mass / Eucharist as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice because they fail to understand that Jesus’ once for all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient (Hebrews 7:27). Catholics view meritorious works as contributing to salvation due to a failure to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial payment has no need of additional “contribution” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Similarly, Purgatory is understood by Catholics as a place of cleansing in preparation for Heaven because they do not recognize that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are already cleansed, declared righteous, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and sanctified.

The very idea of Purgatory, and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, meritorious works on behalf of the dead, etc.) all fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for our sin. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2). To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. If we must in any sense pay for, atone for, or suffer because of our sins – that indicates Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

For believers, after death is to be "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say "away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire." No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord's presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

"Could you be wrong in your claims about Judgment Day and the existence of hell?"

The existence of hell and the surety of the judgment are not the claims of fallible man. The Bible is the source of the claim, and it is utterly infallible. When someone becomes a Christian, he is admitting that he was in the wrong, and that God is justified in His declarations that we have sinned against Him.

However, let’s surmise for a moment that there is no Judgment Day and no hell. That would mean that the Bible is a huge hoax, in which more than forty authors collaborated (over a period of 3,000 years) to produce a document revealing God’s character as "just." They portrayed Him as a just judge, who warned that He would eventually punish murderers, rapists, liars, thieves, adulterers, etc. Each of those writers (who professed to be godly) therefore bore false witness, transgressing the very commandments they claimed to be true.

It would mean that Jesus Christ was a liar, and that all the claims He made about the reality of judgment were there-fore false. It would also mean that He gave His life in vain, as did multitudes of martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ. Add to that the thought that if there is no ultimate justice, it means that the Creator of all things is unjust—that He sees murder and rape and couldn’t care less, making Him worse than a corrupt human judge who refuses to bring criminals to justice.

Here’s the good news, though, if there is no hell: You won’t know a thing after you die. It will be the end. No heaven, no hell. Just nothing. You won’t even realize that it’s good news.

Here’s the bad news if the Bible is right and that there is eternal justice: You will find yourself standing before the judgment throne of a holy God, who has seen every sin you have ever committed. Think of it. A holy and perfect Creator has seen your thought-life and every secret sin you have ever committed. You have a multitude of sins, and God must by nature carry out justice. Ask Him to remind you of the sins of your youth. Ask Him to bring to remembrance your secret sexual sins, the lies, the gossip, and other idle words. You may have forgotten your past sins, but God hasn’t. Hell will be your just desert (exactly what you deserve), and you will have no one to blame but yourself. This is the claim of the Bible. If you don’t believe it, it is still true. It will still happen.

Yet, there is good news—incredibly good news. We deserve judgment, but God offers us mercy through the cross. He paid our fine so that we could leave the courtroom. He destroyed the power of the grave for all who obey Him. Simply obey the gospel, and live. By doing that you will find out for yourself that the gospel is indeed the "gospel truth." Jesus said that if you obey Him, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (see John 8:31,32).

Get on your knees today, confess and forsake your sins. Tell God you are truly sorry, then trust the Savior as you would trust yourself to a parachute. Then you will find yourself in a terrible dilemma. You will know for certain that hell is a reality. When you get up the courage to warn people you care about, they will smile passively, and say, "Could you be wrong in your claims about Judgment Day and the existence of hell?"

How can a compassionate God send people to Hell?

God desires that every man escape Hell and find salvation . Hell is intended for the rebellious angel, and for Satan - the once Angel of Light who thought to supplant God , and in whom there is no good. Anyone who regrets his evil deeds and repents, and turns to God through Christ will be saved from hell. But those who persist in evil, because they love it, or are too proud to submit to God, or are just plain foolish enough to disregard God, will not escape condemnation. 

God is just, hearing the cry of those oppressed by sinners, and so will not let evil persist forever. For this reason, we are under a physical death sentence, our ancestors being evicted from Eden to prevent our perpetuity as a doers of evil. But even as this judgment was pronounced, God gave the first promise of redemption through the descendent of woman, who is Jesus Christ, so that we have hope of salvation, and can escape the second death of the soul. 

How many lost souls are in Hell today?

“The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2:9). There is not one single soul in hellfire today. The Bible says that God reserves, or holds back, the wicked until the day of judgment to be punished.

“When will sinners be cast into Hell?

Sinners will be cast into hell at the great judgment day at the end of the world, not when they die. God wo8uld not punish a person in fire untilhis case was tried and decided in court at the end of the world. Nor would God burn a murderer who died 5,000 years ago 5,000 years longer than one who dies and deserves punishment for the same sin today. (Matthew: 13:40-42, John 12:48).

“Where are sinners who have died now?”

The Bible is specific. Both the wicked and the righteous who have died are in their graves “sleeping” until the resurrection day. (John 5:28, 29, Job 21:30, 32).

“What will happen to the ones in Hell?”

The wicked died the second death. If the wicked lived forever being tortured in hell, the would be immortal. But this is impossible, because the Bible says God “only hath immortality”. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, an angel was posted to guard the tree of life so that sinners would not eat of the tree and “live forever.” (Gen. 3:22-24). [Fire shall devour them (Ps. 21:9; God will destroy them (Ps. 145.20; they “shall perish” (Ps. 37:20).

 “Will Satan be in charge of Hell?”

Absolutely not! Satan will be cast into the fire and it will turn him into ashes. [“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:10); “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee…And never shall thou be anymore.” Ezekiel 28:18, 19)].

"Does someone go to hell for committing suicide?"

Those who are adamant that a person who takes his life is committing a mortal sin, and will go to hell, are basing their belief on church doctrine rather than on the Bible. Scripture is silent on the subject. There are no verses that say "He who takes his own life shall be damned." According to Scripture, only one sin does not have forgiveness, and that is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (see Mark 3:29 footnote). That means there is forgiveness for every other sin.

Some quote 1 Corinthians 3:17, which says that God will destroy someone who "defiles" the temple of the Holy Spirit. Yet, there is disagreement about what it means to defile the temple. Does this include suicide? Does it include illicit drug abuse (slow suicide), prescription drug abuse, cigarettes (deliberately breathing in poisons that will eventually kill), tattoos, over-eating (digging a grave with your spoon), or alcohol abuse?

God forbid that we add to the pain of someone who has lost a loved one through the tragedy of suicide, by making a judgment about their eternal destiny. God is the ultimate Judge, and we should therefore leave the issue in His hands. It would be wise to follow the biblical example and not come to any verdict in the case of suicide.

"Hell is just a metaphor for the grave."

There are three words translated "hell" in Scripture:

Gehenna (Greek): The place of punishment (Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; and James 3:6) Hades (Greek): The abode of the dead (Matthew 11:23; 16:18, Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27) Sheol (Hebrew): The grave (Psalm 9:17; 16:10)

There are those who accept that hell is a place of punishment, but believe that the punishment is to be annihilated—to cease conscious existence. They can’t conceive that the punishment of the wicked will be conscious and eternal. If they are correct, then a man like Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions, is being "punished" merely with eternal sleep. His fate is simply to return to the non-existent state he was in before he was born, where he doesn’t even know that he is being punished.

However, Scripture paints a different story. The rich man who found himself in hell (Luke 16:19–31) was conscious. He was able to feel pain, to thirst, and to experience remorse. He wasn’t asleep in the grave; he was in a place of "torment." If hell is a place of knowing nothing or a reference to the grave into which we go at death, Jesus' statements about hell make no sense. He said that if your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, it would be better to remove it than to "go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43–48).

The Bible refers to the fate of the unsaved with such fearful words as the following:

  • "Shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2)
  • "Everlasting punishment" (Mathew 25:46)
  • "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:51)
  • "Fire unquenchable" (Luke 3:17)
  • "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (Romans 2:8,9)
  • "Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
  • "Eternal fire...the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 7,13)

Revelation 14:10,11 tells us the final, eternal destiny of the sinner: "He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone...the smoke of their torment ascended up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night."

"Hell isn’t a place. This life is hell."

Skeptics who say this are trying to dismiss the reality of hell. They might like to think that life as we know it couldn’t get any worse, but the sufferings in this life will be heaven compared to the suffering in the next life—for those who die in their sins. This life is the closest thing to hell that Christians will ever know, and the closest thing to heaven that sinners will ever know. For a biblical description of hell, see Revelation 1:18 footnote.

"How can people be happy in heaven, knowing that their unsaved loved ones are suffering in hell?"

Those who ask such questions fall into the category of those who asked Jesus a similar question. The Pharisees said that a certain woman had seven consecutive husbands, so whose wife will she be in heaven (Mark 12:23)? Jesus answered by saying that they neither knew the Scriptures nor the power of God. The unregenerate mind has no concept of God’s mind or His infinite power. If God can speak the sun into existence; if He can see every thought of every human heart at the same time; if He can create the human eye with its 137,000,000 light-sensitive cells, then He can handle the minor details of our eternal salvation.

John writes that in heaven "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2), so perhaps we will be fully satisfied that God is perfectly just and merciful, and that He gave every individual the opportunity to accept or reject Him. However He works it out, God promises that there will not be sorrow or crying in heaven. Our focus in heaven won’t be on our loss, but on our gain.

"I don’t mind going to hell. All my friends will be there."

Obviously, those who flippantly say such things don’t believe in the biblical concept of hell. Their understanding of the nature of God is erroneous. The slow-witted criminal thinks that the electric chair is a place to put up his feet for a while and relax. It may be wise therefore to speak with him for a few moments about the reasonableness of a place called hell.

Reason with him by saying, "If a judge in Florida turns a blind eye to the un-lawful dealings of the Mafia, if he sees their murderous acts and deliberately turns the other way, is he a good or bad judge? He’s obviously corrupt, and should be brought to justice him-self. If he is a good judge, he will do everything within his power to bring those murderers to justice. He should make sure that they are justly punished.

"If Almighty God sees a man rape and strangle to death your sister or mother, do you think He should look the other way, or bring that murderer to justice? If He looks the other way, He’s corrupt and should be brought to justice Himself. It makes sense then, that if God is good, He will do everything in His power to ensure justice is done. The Bible tells us that He will punish murderers, and the place of punishment—the prison God will send them to—is a place called hell.

"God should punish murderers and rapists. However, God is so good, he will also punish thieves, liars, adulterers, fornicators, and blasphemers. He will even punish those who desired to murder and rape but never took the opportunity. He warns that if we hate someone, we commit murder in our hearts. If we lust, we commit adultery in the heart, etc."

Then take the time to tell him of the reality of hell. Sinners like to picture hell as a fun, hedonistic, pleasure-filled place where they can engage in all the sensual sins that are forbidden here. But Jesus said that it is a place of torment, where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched (Matthew 9:45-47). We tend to forget what pain is like when we don’t have it. Can you begin to imagine how terrible it would be to be in agony, with no hope of relief? Many human beings go insane if they are merely isolated for a long time from other people. Imagine how terrible it would be if God merely withdrew all the things we hold so dear—friendship, love, color, light, peace, joy, laughter, and security. Hell isn’t just a place with an absence of God’s blessings, it is punishment for sin. It is literal torment, forever. That’s why the Bible warns that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

God has given His Law to convince men of their sins, and unless a sinner is convinced that he has sinned against God, he won’t see that hell is his eternal destiny. He may consider it a fit place for others, but not for himself. That’s why we mustn’t hesitate to open up the Law and show that each individual is personally responsible for sin, and that God’s wrath abides on him because of it. Ask him to consider why you would say such things to him if it wasn’t true. Tell him to examine your motives. You are so concerned for his eternal welfare that you are prepared to risk offending him.

Then ask him if he would sell an eye for a million dollars. Would he sell both for ten million? No one in his right mind would. Our eyes are precious to us. How much more then is our eternal soul worth? (For a biblical description of hell, see Revelation 1:18 footnote.)

"Is ‘hell-fire’ preaching effective?"

Preaching the reality of hell, without using the Law to bring the knowledge of sin, can do a great deal of damage to the cause of the gospel. A sinner cannot conceive of the thought that God would send anyone to hell, as long as he is deceived into thinking that God’s standard of righteousness is the same as his. Paul "reasoned" with Felix regarding righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come (Acts 24:25). This is the righteousness that is of the Law and judgment by the Law. Felix "trembled" because he suddenly understood that his intemperance made him a guilty sinner in the sight of a holy God. The reality of hell suddenly became reasonable to him when the Law was used to bring the knowledge of sin.

Imagine if the police burst into your home, arrested you, and shouted, "You are going away for a long time!" Such conduct would probably leave you bewildered and angry. What they have done seems unreasonable. However, imagine if the law burst into your home and instead told you specifically why you were in trouble: "We have discovered 10,000 marijuana plants growing in your back yard. You are going away for a long time!" At least then you would understand why you are in trouble. Knowledge of the law you have transgressed furnished you with that understanding. It makes judgment reasonable.

Hell-fire preaching without use of the Law to show the sinner why God is angry with him will more than likely leave him bewildered and angry—for what he considers unreasonable punishment.

"Will people who have never heard the gospel all go to hell because they haven’t heard about Jesus Christ?"

No one will go to hell because they haven’t heard of Jesus Christ. The heathen will go to hell for murder, rape, adultery, lust, theft, lying, etc. Sin is not failing to hear the gospel. Rather, "sin is the transgression of the Law" (1 John 3:4). If we really care about the lost, we will become missionaries and take the good news of God’s forgiveness in Christ to them. See John 16:9 footnote.

"You are using scare tactics by talking about hell and Judgment Day."

In the late 1980s, TV commercials in the U.S. asked, "What goes through the mind of a driver who is not wearing a seat belt in a head- n collision?" Then they showed a crash dummy having its head crushed by a steering wheel in a collision, and said, "The steering wheel!" Those were scare tactics, but no one complained because they were legitimate scare tactics. That’s what happens in a head-on collision if you are foolish enough to not put on a seat belt. To warn of hell is fearful, but it is absolutely legitimate, because the Bible says that it is a fearful thing for a sinner to fall into the hands of the living God.

HERMENEUTICS

"What is Biblical hermeneutics?"

Biblical hermeneutics is perhaps summarized best by 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Biblical hermeneutics is the science of knowing how to properly interpret the various types of literature found in the Bible. For example, a psalm should often be interpreted differently than a prophecy. A proverb should be understood and applied differently from a law. This is the purpose of biblical hermeneutics - to help us to know how to interpret, understand, and apply the Bible.

The most important law of biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally. Literal Bible interpretation means you understand the Bible in its normal/plain meaning. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Many make the mistake of trying to read between the lines and come up with meanings for Scriptures that are not truly in the text. Yes, of course, there are some spiritual truths behind the plain meanings of Scripture. That does not mean that every Scripture has a hidden spiritual truth, or that it should be our goal to find all such spiritual truths. Biblical hermeneutics keeps us faithful to the intended meaning of Scripture and away from allegorizing and symbolizing Bible verses and passages that should be understood literally.

A second crucial law of biblical hermeneutics is that a verse or passage must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Historical interpretation refers to understanding the culture, background, and situation which prompted the text. Grammatical interpretation is recognizing the rules of grammar and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages and applying those principles to the understanding of a passage. Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine the meaning.

Some mistakenly view biblical hermeneutics as limiting our ability to learn new truths from God's Word or stifling the Holy Spirit's ability to reveal to us the meaning of God's Word. This is not the case. The goal of biblical hermeneutics is to point us to the correct interpretation which the Holy Spirit has already inspired into the text. The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to protect us from improperly applying a Scripture to a particular situation. Biblical hermeneutics points us to the true meaning and application of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 declares, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Biblical hermeneutics is keeping the sword sharp!

HINDUISM

Origin: India, about 1500 B.C. to 2500 B.C.

Founder: No single person

Adherents:  1998 worldwide: 825–850 million; India 780 million; Bangladesh 20 million; Nepal 20 million; Indonesia 7 million; Sri Lanka 3 million; Pakistan 2 million. In Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago, over 20 percent of their people practice Hinduism. A considerable number of Hindus live in Africa, Myanmar, and the United Kingdom.

U.S.: Estimated 1.5 to 2 million.

Scriptures:
Vedas, Upanishads, epics, Puran-as, and the Bhagavad Gita explain the essence of Hinduism. Hinduism is the world’s oldest surviving organized religion. It is a complex family of sects whose copious scriptures, written over a period of almost 2,000 years (1500 B.C.–A.D. 250), allow a diverse belief system. Hinduism has no single creed and recognizes no final truth. At its core, Hinduism has a pagan background in which the forces of nature and human heroes are personified as gods and goddesses. They are worshiped with prayers and offerings. Hinduism can be divided into Popular Hinduism, characterized by the worship of gods through offerings, rituals, and prayers; and Philosophical Hinduism, the complex belief system understood by those who can study ancient texts, meditate, and practice yoga.

God:
God (Brahman) is the one impersonal, ultimate, but unknowable, spiritual Reality. Sectarian Hinduism personalizes Brahman as Brahma (Creator, with four heads symbolizing creative energy), Vishnu (Preserver, the god of stability and control), and Shiva (Destroyer, god of endings). Most Hindus worship two of Vishnu’s 10 mythical incarnations: Krishna and Rama. On special occasions, Hindus may worship other gods, as well as family and individual deities. Hindus claim that there are 330 million gods. In Hinduism, belief in astrology, evil spirits, and curses also prevails.

Christian Response: If God (Ultimate Reality) is impersonal, then the impersonal must be greater than the personal. Our life experiences reveal that the personal is of more value than the impersonal. Even Hindus treat their children as having more value than a rock in a field. The Bible teaches that God is personal and describes Him as having personal attributes. The Bible regularly describes God in ways used to describe human personality. God talks, rebukes, feels, becomes angry, is jealous, laughs, loves, and even has a personal name (Gen. 1:3; 6:6, 12; Ex. 3:15; 16:12; 20:5; Lev. 20:23; Deut. 5:9; 1 Sam. 26:19; Ps. 2:4; 59:9; Hos. 1:8–9; Amos 9:4; Zeph. 3:17). The Bible also warns Christians to avoid all forms of idolatry (Gen. 35:2; Ex. 23:13; Josh. 23:7; Ezek. 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:20). No idol or pagan deity is a representation of the true God. They are all false deities and must be rejected.

Creation:
Hindus accept various forms of pantheism and reject the Christian doctrine of creation. According to Hinduism, Brahman alone exists; everything is ultimately an illusion (maya). God emanated itself to cause the illusion of creation. There is no beginning or conclusion to creation, only endless repetitions or cycles of creation and destruction. History has little value since it is based on an illusion.

Christian Response: Christianity affirms the reality of the material world and the genuineness of God’s creation. The Bible declares that all is not God. God is present in His creation but He is not to be confused with it. The Bible teaches that in the beginning God created that which was not God (Gen. 1:1ff; Heb 11:3). The Bible contradicts pantheism by teaching creation rather than pantheistic emanation. The Bible issues strong warnings to those who confuse God with His creation (Rom. 1:22–23). God created the world at a definite time and will consummate His creation (2 Pet. 2:12–13). Christianity is founded upon the historical event of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ (John 1:1–14).

Man:
The eternal soul (atman) of man is a manifestation or “spark” of Brahman mysteriously trapped in the physical body. Samsara, repeated lives or reincarnations, are required before the soul can be liberated (moksha) from the body. An individual’s present life is deter-mined by the law of karma (actions, words, and thoughts in previous lifetimes). The physical body is ultimately an illusion (maya) with little inherent or permanent worth. Bodies generally are cremated, and the eternal soul goes to an intermediate state of punishment or reward be-fore rebirth in another body. Rebirths are experienced until karma has been removed to allow the soul’s re-absorption into Brahman.

Christian Response: People are created in God’s image (Gen. 12:7). The body’s physical resurrection and eternal worth are emphasized in John 2:18–22 and 1 Corinthians 15. The Bible declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:27–28, KJV). Since we die only once, reincarnation cannot be true. Instead of reincarnation, the Bible teaches resurrection (John 5:25). At death, Christians enjoy a state of conscious fellowship with Christ (Matt. 22:32; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23) to await the resurrection and heavenly reward. A person’s eternal destiny is determined by his or her acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (John 3:36; Rom. 10:9–10).

Sin:
Hindus have no concept of rebellion against a holy God. Ignorance of unity with Brahman, desire, and violation of dharma (one’s social duty) are humanity’s problems.

Christian Response: Sin is not ignorance of unity with Brahman, but is rather a willful act of rebellion against God and His commandments (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 1:28–32; 2:1–16; 3:9,19; 11:32; Gal. 3:22; 1 John 1:8–10). The Bible declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, NIV).

Salvation:
There is no clear concept of salvation in Hinduism. Moksha (freedom from infinite being and self-hood and final self-realization of the truth) is the goal of existence. Yoga and meditation (especially raja-yoga) taught by a guru (religious teacher) is one way to attain moksha. The other valid paths for moksha are: the way of works (karma marga), the way of knowledge (jnana marga), and the way of love and devotion (bhakti marga). Hindus hope to eventually get off the cycle of reincarnation. They believe the illusion of personal existence will end and they will become one with the impersonal God.

Christian Response: Salvation is a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8–10). Belief in reincarnation opposes the teaching of the Bible (Heb. 9:27). The Christian hope of eternal life means that all true believers in Christ will not only have personal existence but personal fellowship with God. It is impossible to earn one’s salvation by good works (Titus 3:1–7). Religious deeds and exercises cannot save (Matt. 7:22–23; Rom 9:32; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8–9).

Worship:
Hindu worship has an almost endless variety with color symbolism, offerings, fasting, and dance as integral parts. Most Hindus daily worship an image of their chosen deity, with chants (mantras), flowers, and incense. Worship, whether in a home or temple, is primarily individualistic rather than congregational.

Hindus In The United States

• Traditional movements include the Ramakrishna Mission and Vedanta Societies, Sri Aurobindo Society, Satya Sai Baba Movement, Self-Realization Fellowship, and International Sivananda Yoga Society.
• Hindu-based sects include the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna), Transcendental Meditation, Vedanta Society, Self-Realization Fellowship, Theosophy, and Eckankar.
• Sects that have “Americanized” Hindu concepts include Church of Christ, Scientists (Christian Science); Unity School of Christianity; and several groups within the New Age Movement.

Witnessing To Hindus

• Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to use the gospel message to reach the heart and mind of your Hindu friend.
• Share your personal faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Keep your testimony short.
• Stress the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as God’s revelation of Himself.
• Stress the necessity of following Jesus to the exclusion of all other deities.
• Keep the gospel presentation Christ-centered. • Share the assurance of salvation that God’s grace gives you and about your hope in the resurrection. Make sure you communicate that your assurance is derived from God’s grace and not from your good works or your ability to be spiritual (1 John 5:13). • Give a copy of the New Testament. If a Hindu desires to study the Bible, begin with the Gospel of John. Point out passages that explain salvation.

HOLY

"What does the Bible say about holiness? What does it mean to be holy?"

In 1 Peter 1:13-16, Peter writes to believers, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" Peter is quoting from Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 19:2.

First, let's look at God's holiness. What does it mean that God is holy? Passages like 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3 are just two of many examples of passages about God’s holiness. Another way to say it is absolute perfection. God is unlike any other (see Hosea 11:9) and His holiness is the essence of that “otherness.” His very being is completely absent of even a trace of sin (James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath. These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp, just as God is difficult for us to understand in His entirety.

Next, what does it mean for us to be holy? When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus 11 and 19, He was instructing them to be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific regulations to govern their lives. Israel is God's chosen nation and God has set them apart from all other people groups. They are His special people, and consequently they were given standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him. When Peter repeats the Lord's words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers. As believers, we need to be "set apart" from the world unto the Lord. We need to be living by God's standards, not the world's. God isn't calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. First Peter 2:9 describes believers as "a holy nation." It is a fact! We are separated from the world; we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day lives, which Peter tells us how to do in 1 Peter 1:13-16.

Finally, how can we become holy? Holiness only results from a right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior (accepting His gift of eternal life). If we have not placed our faith in God's Son alone to save us from our sins, then our pursuit of holiness is in vain. So we must first make sure we are born-again believers (see John 3). If we truly are believers, then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9). After all, we have a relationship with the living God! Then we must daily live a set-apart life, not trying to "blend in" with the world, but instead, living according to God's Word as we study the Bible and grow in it.

HOLY SPIRIT

"Who is the Holy Spirit?"

There are many misconceptions on the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put - the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, a Being with a mind, emotions, and a will.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he had lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had “not lied to men but to God.” It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the attributes or characteristics of God. For example, the fact that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”

We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third “Person” of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 4:16,26; 15:26).

"What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?"

The case of "blasphemy against the Spirit" in the New Testament is mentioned in Mark 3:22-30 and in Matthew 12:22-32. The term blasphemy may be generally defined as "defiant irreverence." We would apply the term to such sins as cursing God, or willfully degrading things relating to God. It is also attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This case of blasphemy, however, is a specific one, called "THE blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 12:31. In Matthew 12:31-32, the Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that the Lord was possessed by the demon "Beelzebub" (Matthew 12:24). Now notice that in Mark 3:30 Jesus is very specific about what exactly they did to commit "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."

This blasphemy has to do with someone accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. There are other ways to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but this was "THE" unpardonable blasphemy. As a result, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be duplicated today. Jesus Christ is not on earth. but seated at the right Hand of God. No one can witness Jesus Christ performing a miracle and then attribute that power to Satan instead of the Spirit. Although there is no blasphemy of the Spirit today, we should always keep in mind there is an unpardonable state of existence--the state of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. Continual rejection of the Holy Spirit’s promptings to trust in Jesus Christ is the unpardonable blasphemy. Remember what is stated in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." The only condition when someone would have no forgiveness is if that someone is not among the "whoever believes in Him."

"When / How do we receive the Holy Spirit?"

The Apostle Paul clearly taught that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. 1 Corinthians 12:13 declares, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ - "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory."

These three Scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit must be received at the moment of salvation. Paul could not say that we all were baptized by one Spirit and all given one Spirit to drink if not all of the Corinthian believers possessed the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 is even stronger. If a person does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ. Therefore, the possession of the Spirit is an identifying factor of the possession of salvation. Further, the Holy Spirit could not be the “seal of salvation” (Ephesians 1:13-14) if He is not received at the moment of salvation. Many Scriptures make it abundantly clear that our salvation is secured the moment we receive Christ as Savior.

This discussion is controversial because the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused. The receiving / indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life. While we hold that the baptism of the Spirit also occurs at the moment of salvation, some Christians do not. This sometimes results in the baptism of the Spirit being confused with “receiving the Spirit” as an act subsequent to salvation. In conclusion, how do we receive the Holy Spirit? We receive the Holy Spirit by simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 3:5-16). When do we receive the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe.

"What is the gift of speaking in tongues?"

The first occurrence of speaking in tongues occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. The apostles went out and shared the Gospel with the crowds, speaking to them in their own languages, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (Acts 2:11). The Greek word translated "tongues" literally means "languages." Therefore, the gift of tongues is speaking in a language a person does not know in order to minister to someone who does speak that language. In 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, where Paul discusses miraculous gifts, he comments that, “Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?" (1 Corinthians 14:6). According to the Apostle Paul, and in agreement with the tongues described in Acts, speaking in tongues is valuable to the one hearing God’s message in his/her own language, but it is useless to everyone else – unless it is interpreted / translated.

A person with the gift of interpreting tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30) could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he/she did not know the language that was being spoken. The tongues-interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues-speaker to everyone else, so all could understand. “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (1 Corinthians 14:13). Paul’s conclusion regarding un-interpreted tongues is powerful, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19).

Is the gift of tongues for today? 1 Corinthians 13:8 mentions the gift of tongues ceasing, although it connects the ceasing with the arrival of the "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Some point to a difference in the language in prophecy and knowledge "ceasing" with tongues "being ceased" as evidence for tongues ceasing before the arrival of the "perfect." While possible, this is not explicitly clear from the text. Some also point to passages such as Isaiah 28:11 and Joel 2:28-29 as evidence that speaking in tongues was a sign of God's oncoming judgment. 1 Corinthians 14:22 describes tongues as a "sign to unbelievers." According to this argument, the gift of tongues was a warning to the Jews that God was going to judge Israel for rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah. Therefore, when God did in fact judge Israel (with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), the gift of tongues would no longer serve its intended purpose. While this view is possible, the primary purpose of tongues being fulfilled does not necessarily demand its cessation. Scripture does not conclusively assert that the gift of speaking in tongues has ceased.

At the same time, if the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God's Word with a person of another language (Acts 2:6-12). It would be in agreement with the command that God gave through the Apostle Paul, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). It would also be in submission to 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

God most definitely can give a person the gift of speaking in tongues to enable him/her to communicate with a person who speaks another language. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the dispersion of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11). Just imagine how much more productive missionaries could be if they didn’t have to go to language school, and were instantly able to speak to people in their own language. However, God does not seem to be doing this. Tongues does not seem to occur today in the form it did in the New Testament despite the fact that it would be immensely useful. The vast majority of believers who claim to practice the gift of speaking in tongues do not do so in agreement with the Scriptures mentioned above. These facts lead to the conclusion that the gift of tongues has ceased, or is at least a rarity in God's plan for the church today.

"How do I know what my spiritual gift is?"

There is no magic formula or spiritual gift test that can tell us exactly what our spiritual gifts are. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). At the same time, God does not want us to be ignorant of how He wants us to serve Him. The problem is that it is very easy for us to get so caught up in spiritual gifts that we only seek to serve God in the area in which we feel we have a spiritual gift. That is not how the spiritual gifts work. God calls us to obediently serve Him. He will equip us with whatever gift or gifts we need to accomplish the task or tasks He has called us to.

Identifying our spiritual giftedness can be accomplished in various ways. Spiritual gift tests or inventories, while not to be fully relied upon, can definitely help us understand where our gifting might be. Confirmation from others also gives light to our spiritual giftedness. Other people who see us serving the Lord can often identify a spiritual gift in use that we might take for granted or not recognize. Prayer is also important. The one person who knows exactly how we are spiritually gifted is the gift-giver Himself – the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to show us how we are gifted, that we might better use our spiritual gifts for His glory.

Yes, God calls some to be teachers and gives them the gift of teaching. God calls some to be servants and blesses them with the gift of helps. However, specifically knowing our spiritual gift does not excuse us from serving God in areas outside our gifting. Is it beneficial to know what spiritual gift(s) God has given us? Of course it is. Is it wrong to focus so much on spiritual gifts that we miss other opportunities to serve God? Yes! If we are dedicated to being used by God, He will equip us with the spiritual gifts we need.

"What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"

The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the Body of Christ at the moment of salvation. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Romans 6:1-4 are the central passages in the Bible where we find this doctrine. 1 Corinthians 12:13 states, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Romans 6:1-4 states, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." Even though Romans 6 does not mention specifically the Spirit of God, it does describe believers positionally before God and 1 Corinthians 12 tells us how that happens.

Three facts are necessary to look into that help solidify our understanding of Spirit baptism. First, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly states that all have been baptized just as all have made to drink (the indwelling of the Spirit). Second, nowhere in Scripture does it exhort believers to be baptized with / in / by the Spirit. This indicates that all believers have experienced this ministry. Last, Ephesians 4:5 seems to refer to Spirit baptism. If this is the case, Spirit baptism is the reality of every believer, just as “one faith” and “one Father” are.

In conclusion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit does two things, (1) it joins us to the Body of Christ, and (2) it actualizes our co-crucifixion with Christ. Being in His body means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). We should then exercise our spiritual gifts to keep that body functioning properly as stated in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing the one Spirit baptism serves as the basis for keeping the unity of the church, as in the context of Ephesians 4:5. Being associated with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism establishes the basis for realizing our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10, Colossians 2:12).

"What is the fruit of the Holy Spirit?"

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." The fruit of the Holy Spirit are the results of the Holy Spirit taking a role in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian's life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit's job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit are in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21 is what people are like, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces types of fruit (Galatians 5:19-21), and the Holy Spirit produces types of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life is a battle of the acts of the sinful nature with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As fallen human beings, we are still trapped in a body that desires sinful things (Romans 7:14-25). As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us and the Holy Spirit's power available to us to conquer the acts of the sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13). A Christian will never be completely victorious in always demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the main purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives - and to allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to look like...and with the Holy Spirit's help, it is possible!

"Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?"

Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer. This truth is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” This verse is very clear that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then he/she is not saved; therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, he/she would have lost his/her relationship with Christ and lost his/her salvation. Yet this is clearly contrary to what the Bible teaches about the “eternal security” of Christians. Another verse that speaks clearly to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper and that “He may be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment of their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezaleel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers. The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us, and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.

HOME SCHOOL

"Should Christians homeschool their children?"

The Bible tells us that children are a gift from the Lord, specially created for His pleasure and divine purpose (Psalm 127:3-5, 139:13-16). God has entrusted us with our children for a very short time, during which parents have the responsibility of training, instructing, nurturing, and disciplining them. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

It is imperative that Christian parents teach their children the Word of God from a young age, showing them how to incorporate it into their daily lives, trusting continually in God. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NAS). Spiritual training is even more important than academic training, and it doesn't happen by accident; it must be purposeful and habitual.

There are many excellent reasons to decide to educate your children at home, as an alternative to public schooling. The freedom that parents have in choosing homeschool curricula allows for the subjects to be taught through a biblical worldview rather than a secular one. Instead of being taught the theory of evolution, for example, children can learn how God created the heavens and the earth. In biblical times, children were primarily educated and socialized by their families and simply by living and working in society. Instead of being put in age-segregated classrooms for the majority of the day, they learned to communicate with adults and children of all ages.

They were taught to respect and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1). In the same way, home-schooled children who are not around their same-age peers who model disrespect for adults and younger children, learn to socialize and get along with multiple age groups, including adults. Family bonds are strengthened instead of weakened. Public schools are spiritual battlegrounds for our children. They are inundated with anti-Christian doctrine, relative morality, and secular humanistic theories. The Bible says, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (1 Corinthians 15:33, NAS). Children tend to adopt the values of those whom they spend the most time around. In school, they are daily exposed to the value systems of non-Christian students, teachers, and faculty. They will be told that homosexuality is simply an "alternative lifestyle," that abortion is acceptable, and sex before marriage is normal, and even healthy.

Academically, studies have shown that children fare better at home than they do at school. Even the best public school teachers do not have the ability to spend quality one-on-one time teaching each student. And although there are some poor educators out there, I believe the majority of teachers are hard-working and dedicated, and have the best interests of their students at heart. But nothing can compare to the love and investment that parents can provide their children.

There are very few things we can do in this world that will be more important than praying for our children and raising them to have hearts that love and desire to serve God. Parents should not opt out of home-schooling because they do not want to sacrifice their time or put in the effort it takes to successfully teach their children. Ultimately, parents are going to have to answer to God for how they raise and educate their children. Home-schooling may not be His answer for every family, and we should not impose one "right" way to educate on all of Christendom. Every family needs to prayerfully consider whether or not home-schooling is right for them through their own personal relationship with God.

HOMOSEXUALITY

"God made me like this. Sin is His fault!"

If this won’t work in a civil court, it certainly won’t work on Judgment Day. Even with an expert defense lawyer, it would take a pretty inept judge to fall for the old "God made me do it" defense. We are responsible moral agents. The "buck" stopped at Adam. He tried to blame both God and Eve for his sin; Eve blamed the serpent. It is human nature to try, but it doesn’t work with God.

"God made me to be a homosexual, so He doesn’t want me to change."

Homosexuals argue that they did not make a conscious decision to be that way, so it must be natural. They are born that way—just as all of us are born with a sin nature and sinful desires (Ephesians 2:1– ). Tell them that it is natural for them, and for all of us, to be tempted to do things that God says are wrong. In the same way, pedophiles and adulterers (alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.) don’t make a conscious decision to "choose" that self-destructive lifestyle, they simply give in to their sinful desires. However, although sin is natural for unbelievers, that doesn’t mean God wants them to remain that way. God can set them free from their sinful nature (Romans 7:23–8:2), give them new desires (Ephesians 4:22–24), and help them withstand temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). See 1 Corinthians 6:9– 1 footnote.

"What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Is homosexuality a sin?"

The Bible consistently tells us that homosexual activity is a sin (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9). Romans 1:26-27 teaches specifically that homosexuality is a result of denying and disobeying God. When a person continues in sin and disbelief, the Bible tells us that God “gives them over” to even more wicked and depraved sin in order to show them the futility and hopelessness of life apart from God. 1 Corinthians 6:9 proclaims that homosexual “offenders” will not inherit the kingdom of God.

God does not create a person with homosexual desires. The Bible tells us that a person becomes a homosexual because of sin (Romans 1:24-27), and ultimately because of their own choice. A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person choosing to sin by giving into their sinful desires. If a person is born with a greater susceptibility to anger / rage, does that make it right for then to give into those desires? Of course not! The same is true for homosexuality.

However, the Bible does not describe homosexuality as a “greater” sin than any other. All sin is offensive to God. Homosexuality is just one of the many things listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that will keep a person from the kingdom of God. According to the Bible, God’s forgiveness is just as available to a homosexual as it is to an adulterer, idol worshipper, murderer, thief, etc. God also promises the strength for victory over sin, including homosexuality, to all those who will believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

HYPOCRISY

"The church is full of hypocrites."

Hypocrites may show up at a church building every Sunday, but there are no hypocrites in the Church (Christ’s body). Hypocrite comes from the Greek word for "actor," or pretender. Hypocrisy is "the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold."

The Church is made up of true believers; hypocrites are "pretenders" who sit among God’s people. God knows those who love Him, and the Bible warns that He will sort out the true converts from the false on the Day of Judgment. All hypocrites will end up in hell (Matthew 24:51).

"Religion has caused more wars than anything else in history."

It is true that man has used religion for political gain. Nazi Germany had "God with us" engraved in German on the belts of Nazi soldiers. America said, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." The law may even allow you to start the Christian Nazi Party, if you so desire. You can become a "reverend" for a few dollars through the tabloid classifieds and then further your political agenda with the world’s blessing, no matter how much it smears the name of Christ.

Jesus tells us in John 16:2,3 that there will be some who, in their error, commit atrocities and murder in the name of God: "The time is coming that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service." However, He informs us that these are not true believers: "And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." (See also 1 John 3:15.)

Jesus told His followers to love their enemies. So if a man puts a knife into someone’s back in the name of Christianity, something obviously isn’t right. If we human beings can detect it, how much more will God? He will deal with it on Judgment Day.

"I know that the Lord is always on the side of right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I—and this nation—should be on the Lord’s side."
-Abraham Lincoln

"Why are all Christians hypocrites? Are all Christians hypocrites?"

Perhaps no accusation is more provocative than that of “hypocrite.” Unfortunately, some feel justified in their view that all Christians are hypocrites. The term “hypocrite” enjoys a rich heritage in the English language. The term comes to us via the Latin hypocrisies meaning “play-acting, pretense.” Further back, the word is in both Classical and New Testament Greek, possessing virtually the very same idea—to play a part, pretend.

This is the way the Lord Jesus employed the term. For example, when Christ taught the significance of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving for kingdom people, He discouraged us from following the examples of those who are hypocrites (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). By making long public prayers, employing extreme measures to ensure others noticed their fasts and parading their gifts to the Temple and the poor, they revealed only an outward attachment to the Lord. While the Pharisees performed well their dramatic role as public examples of religious virtue, they failed miserably in the inner world of the heart where Judeo-Christian virtue resides (Matthew 23:13-33; Mark 7:20-23).

Jesus never called His disciples hypocrites. That name was given only to misguided religious zealots. Rather He called His own “followers,” “babes,” “sheep,” and His “church.” In addition, there is a warning in the New Testament about the sin of hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1), which Peter calls “insincerity.” Also, two blatant examples of hypocrisy are recorded in the Church. In Acts 5:1-10, two disciples are exposed for pretending to be more generous than they were. The consequence was not pretty. And, of all people, Peter is charged with leading a horde of hypocrites in their treatment of Gentile believers (Galatians 2:13).

From the New Testament teaching, then, we may draw at least two conclusions. First, there is the existence of hypocrites among professing Christians. They were present in the beginning and, given Jesus’ parable of the tares and wheat, they will certainly exist until the end of the age (Matthew 13:18-30). In addition, if even an apostle may be guilty of hypocrisy, there is no reason to believe “ordinary” Christians will be free from it. We must always be on our guard that we don’t fall into the very same temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Of course, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. Perhaps all or most of the famous hypocrites among Christians were in fact pretenders and deceivers. To this day, prominent Christian leaders have fallen into terrible sins. Financial and sexual scandals sometimes seem to plague the Christian community. However, instead of taking the actions of a few and using them to denigrate the whole community of Christians, it needs to be asked whether those who claim to be Christians, yet prove themselves to be hypocrites, are truly Christians. Numerous biblical passages confirm that those who truly belong to Christ will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus’ parable of the seed and the soils in Matthew 13 makes it clear that not all professions of faith in Him are genuine. Sadly, many who profess to belong to Him will be stunned to one day hear Him say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).

Secondly, while it should not take us by surprise that people who pretend to be more holy than they are claim to be Christians, we cannot conclude that the Church is made up almost entirely of hypocrites. One surely may concede that all of us who name the name of Jesus Christ remain sinners even when our sin is forgiven. That is, even though we are saved from sins’ eternal penalty (Romans 5:1; 6:23), we are yet to be saved and delivered from the presence of sin in our lives (1 John 1:8-9), including the sin of hypocrisy. Through our living faith in the Lord Jesus, we continually overcome sin’s power until we are finally delivered (1 John 5:4-5).

All Christians fail to perfectly live up to the standard the Bible teaches. No Christian has ever been perfectly Christ-like. However, there are MANY Christians who are genuinely seeking to live the Christian life and are relying more and more on the Holy Spirit to convict, change and empower them to do so. There have been multitudes of Christians who have lived their lives free from scandal. No Christian is perfect, but making a mistake and failing to reach perfection in this life is not the same thing as being a hypocrite.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN

"What is the Intelligent Design Theory?"

The Intelligent Design Theory says that “intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable” (William Dembski, Intelligent Design, Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1999, p. 106).

Certain biological features defy the standard Darwinian “random-chance” explanation. They appear to have been designed. Since design logically necessitates an intelligent designer, the appearance of design is cited as evidence for a Designer. There are three primary arguments in the Intelligent Design Theory: (1) irreducible complexity, (2) specified complexity, and (3) the anthropic principle.

Irreducible complexity is defined by Michael Behe in his book "Darwin's Black Box" as "...a single system which is composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." Simply put, life is comprised of intertwined parts that rely on each other in order to be useful. Random mutation may account for the development of a new part, but it cannot account for the concurrent development of multiple parts necessary for a functioning system. For example, the human eye is obviously a very useful system. Without the eyeball (which is itself an irreducibly complex system), the optic nerve, and the visual cortex, a randomly mutated eye would actually be counterproductive to the survival of a species, and would therefore be eliminated through the process of natural selection. An eye is not a useful system unless all its parts are present and functioning properly at the same time.

(2) Specified complexity is the concept that since specified complex patterns can be found in organisms, that some form of guidance must have accounted for their origination. The specified complexity argument states that it is impossible for complex patterns to be developed through random processes. For example, a room filled with 100 monkeys and 100 typewriters may eventually produce a few words, or maybe even a sentence, but it would never produce a Shakespearean play. And how much more complex is biological life than a Shakespearean play?

(3) The anthropic principle states that the world and universe are "fine-tuned" to allow for life on earth. If the ratio of elements in the air of the earth was altered slightly, many species would very quickly cease to exist. If the earth were a few miles closer or further away from the sun, many species would cease to exist. The existence and development of life on earth requires so many variables to be perfectly in tune that it would be impossible for all the variables to come into being through random, uncoordinated events.

While the Intelligent Design Theory doesn’t presume to identify the source of intelligence (whether it be God or UFOs, etc.), the vast majority of Intelligent Design Theorists are Theists. They see the appearance of design which pervades the biological world as evidence for the existence of God. There are however a few Atheists who can’t deny the strong evidence for design, but aren’t willing to acknowledge a Creator God. They tend to interpret the data as evidence that earth was seeded by some sort of master race of extraterrestrial creatures (space aliens).

The Intelligent Design Theory is not Biblical Creationism. There is an important distinction between the two positions. Biblical Creationists begin with a conclusion: that the Biblical account of creation is reliable and correct; that life on Earth was designed by an Intelligent Agent (God). They then look for evidence from the natural realm to support this conclusion. Intelligent Design Theorists begin with the natural realm and reach their conclusion subsequently: that life on Earth was designed by an Intelligent Agent (whoever that might be).

ISLAM

Key Figure In History: Muhammad (A.D. 570–632)

Date Of Its Establishment: A.D. 622

Adherents: Worldwide: Estimated 800 million to 1 billion; 58 percent live in South and Southeast Asia; 28 percent in Africa; 9 percent in Near and Middle East; 5 percent other. U.S.: Estimated 6.5 to 8 million.

What Is Islam?

Islam is the world’s youngest major world religion. It claims to be the restoration of original monotheism and truth and thus supersedes both Judaism and Christianity. It stresses submission to Allah, the Arabic name for God, and conformity to the "five pillars" or disciplines of that religion as essential for salvation. From its inception, Islam was an aggressively missionary-oriented religion. Within one century of its formation, and often using military force, Islam had spread across the Middle East, most of North Africa, and as far east as India. While God is, in the understanding of most Muslims, unknowable personally, His will is believed to be perfectly revealed in the holy book, the Qur’an. The Qur’an is to be followed completely and its teaching forms a complete guide for life and society.

Who Was Muhammad?

Muhammad is believed by Muslims to be the last and greatest prophet of God—"the seal of the prophets." It was through him that the Qur’an was dictated, thus according him the supreme place among the seers of God. A native of Mecca, Muhammad was forced to flee that city in A.D. 622 after preaching vigorously against the paganism of the city. Having secured his leadership in Medina, and with several military victories to his credit, Muhammad returned in triumph to Mecca in A.D. 630. There, he established Islam as the religion of all Arabia.

What Is The Qur’an?

The Qur’an is the sacred book of Islam and the perfect word of God for the Muslim. It is claimed that the Qur’an was dictated in Arabic by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad and were God’s precise words. As such, it had preexisted from eternity in heaven with God as the "Mother of the Book" and was in that form uncreated and co-eternal with God. Islam teaches that it contains the total and perfect revelation and will of God. The Qur’an is about four-fifths the length of the New Testament and is divided into 114 surahs or chapters. While Islam respects the Torah, the psalms of David, and the four Gospels, the Qur’an stands alone in its authority and absoluteness. It is believed to be most perfectly understood in Arabic and it is a religious obligation to seek to read and quote it in the original language.

What Are The "Five Pillars"?

They are the framework for the Muslims’ life and discipline. Successful and satisfactory adherence to the pillars satisfies the will of Allah. They form the basis for the Muslim’s hope for salvation along with faith and belief in Allah’s existence, the authority of Muhammad as a prophet, and the finality and perfection of the Qur’an. The five pillars are:

The confession of Faith or Shahada: It is the declaration that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Sincerity in the voicing of the confession is necessary for it to be valid. It must be held until death, and repudiation of the Shahada nullifies hope for salvation.

Prayer of Salat: Five times a day, preceded by ceremonial washing, the Muslim is required to pray facing Mecca. Specific formulas recited from the Qur’an (in Arabic), along with prostrations, are included. Prayer is, in this sense, an expression of submission to the will of Allah. While most of Islam has no hierarchical priesthood, prayers are led in mosques by respected lay leaders. The five times of prayer are before sunrise, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and prior to sleep.

Almsgiving or Zakat: The Qur’an teaches the giving of two-and-a-half percent of one’s capital wealth to the poor and/or for the propagation of Islam. By doing so, the Muslim’s remaining wealth is purified.

The Fast or Sawm: during the course of the lunar month of Ramadan, a fast is to be ob- served by every Muslim from sunrise to sunset. Nothing is to pass over the lips during this time, and they should refrain from sexual relations. After sunset, feasting and other celebrations often occur. The daylight hours are set aside for self-purification. The month is used to remember the giving of the Qur’an to Muhammad.

Pilgrimage or Hajj: All Muslims who are economically and physically able are required to journey to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The required simple pilgrim’s dress stresses the notion of equality before God. Another element of the Hajj is the mandatory walk of each pilgrim seven times around the Kaabah—the shrine of the black rock, the holiest site of Islam. Muhammad taught that the Kaabah was the original place of worship for Adam and later for Abraham. The Kaabah is thus venerated as the site of true religion, the absolute monotheism of Islam.

The Doctrines Of Islam

God: He is numerically and absolutely one. Allah is beyond the understanding of man so that only his will may be revealed and known. He is confessed as the "merciful and compassionate one."

Sin: The most serious sin that can be ascribed to people is that of shirk or considering god as more than one. Original sin is viewed as a "lapse" by Adam. Humankind is considered weak and forgetful but not as fallen.

Angels: Islam affirms the reality of angels as messengers and agents of god. Evil spirits or Jinn also exist. Satan is a fallen angel. Angels perform important functions for Allah both now and at the end of time.

Final Judgment: The world will be judged at the end of time by Allah. The good deeds and obedience of all people to the five pillars and the Qur’an will serve as the basis of judgment.

Salvation: It is determined by faith, as defined by Islam, as well as by compiling good deeds primarily in conformity to the five pillars. Marriage: Muslims uphold marriage as honorable and condemn adultery. While many Muslim marriages are monogamous, Islamic states allow as many as four wives. Men consider a woman as less than an equal, and while a man has the right to divorce his wife, the wife has no similar power (see Surah 2:228, 4:34). Nonetheless, the female has a right to own and dispose of property. Modesty in dress is encouraged for both men and women.

War: The term jihad or "struggle" is often considered as both external and internal, both a physical and spiritual struggle. The enemies of Islam or "idolaters," states the Qur’an, may be slain "wherever you find them" (Surah:5). (See Surah 47:4). Paradise is promised for those who die fighting in the cause of Islam (see Surah 3:195, 2:224). Moderate Muslims emphasize the spiritual dimension of Jihad and not its political element.

Answering Muslim Objections To Christianity

Christians and Jews are acknowledged as "people of the book," although their failure to conform to the confession of Islam labels them as unbelievers. Following are several questions that Muslims have about Christianity.

Is the Trinity a belief in three gods? Christians are monotheistic and believe that God is one. But both in His work in accomplishing salvation through the person of Jesus Christ and through biblical study it has become clear that His oneness in fact comprises three persons —Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Mary is not part of the Godhead. The notion of God, who is three-in-one, is part of both the mystery and greatness of God. God is in essence one while in persons three. This truth helps us understand God as truly personal and having the capacity to relate to other persons. As well, Christians confirm the holiness, sovereignty, and greatness of God. How can Jesus be the Son of God? Scripture affirms that Jesus was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. It does not in any way claim that Jesus was directly God the Father’s biological and physical son. It rejects the notion of the Arabic word for son, walad, meaning physical son, for the word ibin, which is the title of relationship. Jesus is the Son in a symbolic manner designating that He was God the Word who became man in order to save humankind from its sin. The virgin birth was supernatural as God the Holy Spirit conceived in Mary, without physical relations, Jesus the Messiah. In this manner even the Qur’an affirms the miraculous birth of Christ (see Surah 19:16–21). Jesus was in this sense "God’s unique Son." During His earthly ministry He carried out the will of the Father. Notably the Qur’an affirms Jesus’ supernatural birth, life of miracles, His compassion, and ascension to heaven (see Surah 19:16–21,29–31, 3:37–47, 5:110).

How could Jesus have died on the cross especially if He’s God’s son? The testimony of history and the Injil, or the four Gospels, is that Jesus died on the cross. If it is understood that God is love, and that humankind is lost in sin, then is it not likely that God would have provided a sacrifice for sin? Jesus is God’s sacrifice for all the sins of the world and is a bridge from a holy God to fallen and sinful humans. This truth is revealed in the Injil, John 3:16. Even the Qur’an states in Surah 3:55 that "Allah said: O Isa [Jesus], I am going to terminate [to put to death] the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me." What other way could this concept have any meaning apart from Jesus’ death for sin and His subsequent resurrection? Muslims believe that God took Jesus from the cross and substituted Judas in His place, or at least someone who looked like Jesus. He was then taken to heaven where He is alive and from where one day He will return.

Answering Muslims’ Questions To Christians About Islam

What do you think about the prophet Muhammad? Muhammad was apparently a well-meaning man who sought to oppose paganism and evil in his day. While he succeeded in uniting the Arabian Peninsula and upheld several important virtues, we do not believe he received a fresh revelation from God. Jesus Christ fulfilled not only the final prophetic role from God, but He is the Savior or the world and God the Son. While Islam believes that some Bible passages refer to Muhammad (see Deut. 18:18–19; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7), that is clearly not the meaning of the texts. Other passages may help in understanding and interpreting the previous texts (see Matthew 21:11; Luke 24:19; John 6;14; 7:40; Acts 1:8–16; 7:37).

What is your opinion of the Qur’an? It is a greatly valued book for the Muslim. It is not received or believed to be a divine book by the Christian. The statements of the Qur’an are accepted only where they agree with the Bible.

What is your opinion about the five pillars? Salvation is from God and comes only through the saving work of Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Him, we may be saved (see John 3:16–21,31–36).

Witnessing To Muslims

Be courteous and loving.

Reflect interest in their beliefs. Allow them time to articulate their views.

Be acquainted with their basic beliefs.

Be willing to examine passages of the Qur’an concerning their beliefs.

Stick to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith but also take time to respond to all sincere questions.

Point out the centrality of the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation.

Stress that because of Jesus, His cross, and resurrection, one may have the full assurance of salvation, both now and for eternity (see 1 John 5:13).

Share the plan of salvation with the Muslim. Point out that salvation is a gift and not to be earned.

Pray for th fullness of the Holy Spirit. Trust Him to provide wisdom and grace.

Be willing to become a friend and a personal evangelist to Muslims.

How to Witness to Muslims

In Acts 17:22–31 the apostle Paul built on areas of "common ground" as he prepared his listeners for the good news of the gospel. Even though he was addressing Gentiles whose beliefs were erroneous, he didn’t rebuke them for having a doctrine of devils— "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God" (1 Corinthians 10:20). Neither did he present the great truth that Jesus of Nazareth was Almighty God manifest in human form. This may have initially offended his hearers and closed the door to the particular knowledge he wanted to convey. Instead, he built on what they already knew. He first established that there is a Creator who made all things. He then exposed their sin of transgression of the First and Second of the Ten Commandments. Then he preached future punishment for sin.

There are three main areas of common ground upon which Christians may stand with Muslims. First, that there is one God—the Creator of all things. The second area is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet of God. The Bible makes this clear: "And He shall send Jesus Christ,…For Moses truly said to the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brethren, like to me; him shall you hear in all things whatsoever he shall say to you" (Acts 3:20–22). The Qur’an (Koran) says: "Behold! The angel said ‘O Mary! Allah giveth you Glad Tidings of a word from Him. His name will be (Christ Jesus) the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah’" (Surah 3:45). In Surah 19:19, the angel said to Mary, "I am only a messenger of thy Lord to announce to you a gift of a holy son." Surah 3:55 says, "Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself." It is because of these and other references to Jesus in the Qur’an that a Muslim will not object when you establish that Jesus was a prophet from God.

This brings us to the third area of common ground. Muslims also respect Moses as a prophet of God. Therefore, there should be little contention when Christians speak of God (as Creator), Jesus the prophet, and the Law of the prophet Moses. Most Muslims do have some knowledge of their sinfulness, but few see sin in its true light. It is therefore essential to take them through the spiritual nature of the Ten Commandments. While it is true that the Law of Moses begins with, "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me," it may be unwise to tell a Muslim, at that point, that Allah is a false god. Such talk may close the door before you are able to speak to his conscience. It is wise rather to present the Law in a similar order in which Jesus gave it in Luke 18:20. He addressed the man’s sins of the flesh. He spoke directly to sins that have to do with his fellow man.

Therefore, ask your hearer if he has ever told a lie. When (if) he admits that he has, ask him what that makes him. Don’t call him a liar. Instead, gently press him to tell you what someone is called who has lied. Try to get him to say that he is a "liar." Then ask him if he has ever stolen something, even if it’s small. If he has, ask what that makes him (a thief). Then quote from the Prophet Jesus: "Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27). Ask if he has ever looked at a woman with lust. If he is reasonable, he will admit that he has sinned in that area. Then gently tell him that, by his own admission, he is a "lying, thieving adulterer-at-heart." Say, "If God judges you by the Law of Moses on Judgment Day, will you be innocent or guilty?"

At this point, he will more than likely say that he will be innocent, because he confesses his sins to God. However, the Qur’an says: "Every soul that has sinned, if it possessed all that is on earth, would fain give it in ransom" (Surah 10:54). In other words, if he possessed the whole world and offered it to God as a sacrifice for his sins, it wouldn’t be enough to provide atonement for his sins. Imagine that a criminal is facing a 50,000 fine. He is penniless, so he sincerely tells the judge that he is sorry for a crime and vows never to do it again. The judge won’t let him go on the basis of his sorrow, or his vow never to commit the crime again. Of course, he should be sorry for what he has done, and of course, he shouldn’t break the law again. The judge will, however, let him go if someone else pays the fine for him.

Now tell him that Moses gave instructions to Israel to shed the blood of a spotless lamb to provide a temporary atonement for their sin; and that Jesus was the Lamb that God provided to make atonement for the sins of the world. Through faith in Jesus, he can have atonement with God. All his sin can be washed away—once and for all. God can grant him the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ on the basis of His death and resurrection.

The uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth was that He claimed He had power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2–6). No other prophet of any of the great religions made this claim. Only Jesus can provide peace with God. This is why He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

God commands sinners to repent and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, or they will perish. To try to justify himself, your listener may say something like, "The Bible has changed. It has been altered. There are many different versions, but the Koran has never changed." Explain to him that there are many different versions, printed in different languages and in modern English, to help people understand the Bible, but the content of the Scriptures remains the same. The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that God has preserved the Scriptures.

Tell him that the 100% accurate prophecies of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3 prove that this is the Book of the Creator. Your task is to present the truth of the gospel. It is God who makes it come alive (1 Corinthians 3:6,7). It is God who brings conviction of sin (John 16:7,8). It is God who reveals who Jesus is (Matthew 16:16,17). All God requires is your faithful presentation of the truth (Matthew 25:21).

"Why do Jews and Arabs / Muslims hate each other?"

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 Arab Muslims.

Second, it is important to remember that not all Arabs hate Jews, that not all Muslims hate Jews, and that not all Jews hate Arabs and Muslims. We must be careful to avoid stereotyping people. However, generally speaking, Arabs and Muslims have a dislike 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 promises to Abraham (Genesis 21:1-3), animosity between the two sons was almost inevitable. As a result of Ishmael 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 toward Isaac. An angel even prophesied to Hagar that Ishmael would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).

The religion of Islam, of which a majority of Arabs are adherents, has made this hostility more profound. The Qur'an contains conflicting instructions for Muslims regarding Jews. At one point it instructs Muslims to treat Jews as brothers, but at another point it 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 that 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 toward 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 against the nation of Israel occupying that land. Arab nations united and attacked Israel in an attempt to wipe them out of the land, but they were defeated by Israel.

Ever since, there has been great hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors. If you look on a map, Israel has one tiny little sliver of land and is surrounded by much larger Arab nations, i.e. Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. It is our viewpoint that, biblically speaking, Israel has a right to exist as a nation with its own land because God gave the land of Israel 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. Psalms 122:6 declares, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure."

ISRAEL

"Why did God choose Israel to be His chosen people?"

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 chosen people. God did not have 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 of people the 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 for the Messiah and Savior, was fulfilled perfectly – in the Person of Jesus Christ.

"What is the land that God promised to Israel?"

In regards to the land that God has promised Israel, Genesis 15:18 declares, "To your descendants (Abraham's) I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates." God later confirms this promise to Abraham's son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel). When the Israelites were about to invade the promised land, God reiterated the land promise, as recorded in Joshua 1:4, "Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates — all the Hittite country — to the Great Sea on the west."

With Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4 in mind, the land God gave to Israel included everything from the Nile river in Egypt to Lebanon (North to South) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (West to East). So, what land has God stated belongs to Israel? All of the land modern Israel currently possesses, plus all of the land of the Palestinians (the West Bank and Gaza), plus some of Egypt and Syria, plus all of Jordan, plus some of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Israel currently possesses only a fraction of the land God has promised.

"Should Christians support the nation of Israel?"

We must remember that Israel, the nation, is very special to God. We read in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 these words: "For you are a holy people (that is, a separated people, people set apart) unto Jehovah, your God: Jehovah your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. Jehovah did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all people; but because Jehovah loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, He brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

God's eternal purpose is to bless the world through Israel. Already He has done so in measure, for "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), but the fullness of future blessing is indicated in the wondrous promise of Isaiah 27:6; "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit."

The declaration that "salvation is of the Jews,” suggests our immeasurable debt to Israel. All that we have worth having has come to us through the Jews. Our Bible is a Jewish Book, and our Savior is a Jewish Savior. Let us never forget to pray for God's chosen people. It is true, that Israel, today, is in the place of rejection. The nation today is a secular, unbelieving (as to the claims of Scripture and their Messiah, Jesus Christ) nation; but "even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5). Some Jews are being saved and are becoming members of the body of Christ, the church.

Jews are, biblically speaking, the "chosen people of God" and dearly loved by Him. Another reason for Christians to support the nation of Israel is because of the Abrahamic Covenant. We read in Genesis 12:2-3, "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing: and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (see also Genesis 27:29; Numbers 24:9).

One of the United States’ most worthwhile accomplishments has been its consistent regard for the plight of the Jewish nation. No nation in the history of the world has a better record of treating individual Jews with respect than does America. The same can be said for our befriending Israel as a nation. America has committed many sins, for which we may well deserve judgment, but as a nation, we have been a consistent friend of the Jews and the nation of Israel. America by contrast has been a benefactor for the Jewish state. In 1948, President Harry Truman helped persuade the United Nations to recognize Israel as a nation. Since then, the United States has contributed billions of dollars in aid to Israel.

From the biblical declarations of God's love and care for His chosen people, the nation of Israel; and from the history of nations being destroyed because of their evil dealings with God's chosen people, the Jews - Christian believers should give support to the chosen people of God. This is not to say that we support necessarily the methods they use in their relationships with the Arab nations. The Bible warned that conflict would always characterize the relations between the descendents of Isaac and Ishmael. Sadly, this conflict will continue until Jesus comes back to judge the nations and sets up his 1,000 year reign of peace on earth. We must look at the "big picture” with a biblical worldview. While we do not have to support everything Israel does as a nation, we most definitely should support Israel’s right to exist. God will fulfill His promises and covenants with Israel. God still has a plan for Israel. Woe to anyone who seeks to defeat that plan, “the one who curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:2-3).

JACOB’S LADDER

"What is Jacob's Ladder?"

The term "Jacob's Ladder" has become a common phrase in many aspects of our daily lives -- it has been used as a movie title, a book title, a name of a flower, and even as a name of an electrical device. But from where did this phrase originate?

Genesis 28:10-12 first mentions "Jacob's Ladder" when it says: "Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway/ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."

It is in this passage that God reveals Himself to Jacob and reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham, promising Jacob (who will later be named Israel) that his offspring will be many and that the promised land will one day belong to his descendants.

In this vision Jacob sees something similar to a ladder or a stairway (Hebrew word: Sullam) which signifies a connection between God and man. In this instance, it was God who provided the means necessary to link Himself to man as opposed to the men of Babel in Genesis 11 who tried to reach heaven by their own actions, aside from the help of God.

These two passages of Scripture reflect differing schools of thought over the issue of salvation: One group tries to reach heaven based on their own actions aside from God's help, but the other group has access to heaven based on the provisions of God and only the provisions of God.

As Christians we see this dream of Jacob's as highly symbolic, representing the Mediator, Jesus Christ, who came to earth and became that ladder or stairway for us to reconnect the relationship with God that was severed because of sin. Romans 5:1-2 says: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."

According to the Bible, Jesus was our ideal "Jacob's Ladder" who came to earth, from the line of Jacob, through the provisions of God, and redeemed us so that we may live in heaven for eternity.

JEHOVAH’S WITNESS

"Who are the Jehovah's Witnesses and what are their beliefs?"

The sect known today as the Jehovah's Witnesses started out in Pennsylvania in 1870, as a Bible class started by Charles Taze Russell. Russell named his group the "Millennial Dawn Bible Study." Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called "The Millennial Dawn," which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. After Russell's death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, Russell's friend and successor, wrote the seventh and final volume of the "Millennial Dawn" series, "The Finished Mystery," in 1917. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded in 1886 and quickly became the vehicle through which the "Millennial Dawn" movement began distributing their views to others. The group was known as the “Russellites” until 1931 when, due to a split in the organization, it was renamed the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The group from which it split became known as the “Bible students.”

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? Close scrutiny of their doctrinal position on such subjects as the Deity of Jesus, Salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Atonement, etc., shows beyond a doubt that they do not hold to orthodox Christian positions on these subjects. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being. This contradicts many Scriptures which clearly declare Jesus to be God (John 1:1,14; 8:58; 10:30). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. This contradicts countless Scriptures which declare salvation to be received by faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the power of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to a ransom theory of the atonement, in which Jesus' death paid only for what mankind lost when Adam sinned - namely, the right to perfect life on earth. Thus, they believe in a faith + works arrangement, where sin and death are freely atoned for by Christ, but physical perfection is attained through personal effort, coupled with faith in Christ.

How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify these unbiblical doctrines? (1) They claim that the church has, over the centuries, corrupted the Bible, and (2) They have re-translated the Bible in what they call the New World Translation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society altered the text of the Bible to make it fit their false doctrine – rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.

Jehovah's Witnesses are readily shown to be a cult that is only loosely based upon Scripture. The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the original and expanded teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. In other words, what the Governing Body says concerning any Scriptural passage is viewed as the last word, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. This is in direct opposition of Paul's admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to show yourself approved of God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of God. This admonition, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, is a clear instruction from God to each of His individual children in the Body of Christ to be like the Berean Christians and search the Scriptures daily to see if the things they are being taught line up with what His Word has to say on the subject.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses should be commended for their “evangelistic efforts.” There is probably no religious group that is more faithful than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at getting their message out. Unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the truth of the Gospel and the true teaching of God’s Word.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: Witnessing Tips

By David A. Reed, Ex-Jehovah’s Witness elder

Encounters between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses typically revolve around a discussion of deity. The reason for this is twofold. First, this is the area where Watchtower theology deviates most dramatically from orthodox Christianity. In contrast to the Trinitarian concept of one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the JWs have been taught to believe that God the Father alone is "Jehovah," the only true God; that Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God; and that the Holy Spirit is neither God nor a person, but rather God’s impersonal "active force."

Second, the subject of deity is a frequent confrontational focus because both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians (at least those who like to witness to JWs) feel confident and well-prepared to defend their stand and attack the opposing viewpoint. Due to the profound theological differences, such discussions often take the form of spiritual trench warfare—a long series of arguments and counterarguments, getting nowhere and ending in mutual frustration. But this need not be the case, especially if the Christian will "become all things to all men" by taking a moment to put himself in the Witness’s shoes, so to speak (see 1 Corinthians 9:22).

In the JW’s mind he himself is a worshiper of the true God of the Bible, while you are a lost soul who has been misled by the devil into worshiping a pagan three-headed deity. He is, no doubt, quite sincere in these beliefs and feels both threatened and offended by the doctrine of the Trinity. To give any serious consideration to your arguments in support of the Trinity is simply unthinkable to the JW; he would be sinning against Jehovah God to entertain such a thought. So, in order to make any headway with the Witness, it is necessary to bridge the gap—to find common ground that will enable him to rethink his theology. Rather than plunging into a defense of "the doctrine of the Trinity," which can be mind-boggling even to a Christian, take things one step at a time. A good first step would be to consider the question, "Is Jesus Christ really an angel?" It will be frightening to the Jehovah’s Witness to open this cherished belief of his to critical reexamination, but not nearly as frightening as to start off discussing evidence that God is triune.

Since the Watchtower Society speaks of "Jesus Christ, whom we understand from the Scriptures to be Michael the archangel" (The Watchtower, February 15, 1979, p. 31), put the JW on the spot and ask him to show you "the Scriptures" that say Jesus is Michael. There are none.

The Watchtower Society New World Translation (NWT) mentions Michael five times as: 1) "one of the foremost princes" (Dan. 10:13); 2) "the prince of [Daniel’s] people" (Dan. 10:21); 3) "the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of [Daniel’s] people" (Dan. 12:1); 4) "the archangel" who "had a difference with the devil and was disputingabout Moses’ body" but "did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms" (Jude 9); and 5) a participant in heavenly conflict when "Michael and his angels battled with the dragon" (Rev. 12:7).

Ask the Jehovah’s Witness which one of these verses says that Michael is Jesus Christ. Help him to see that it is necessary to read Scripture plus a complicated Watchtower argument to reach that conclusion. Rather than being merely "one of the foremost princes," Jesus Christ is "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14, NWT) and is "far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come" (Ephesians 1:21, NWT). And, unlike "Michael who did not dare condemn the Devil with insulting words, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’" (Jude 9, Today’s English Version), Jesus Christ displayed His authority over the devil when He freely commanded him, "Go away, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10, NWT).

In arguing that Jesus is Michael the archangel, the Watchtower Society also points to another verse that does not use the name Michael but says that "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet . . ." (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NWT). However, the expression "with an archangel’s voice" simply means that the archangel, like God’s trumpet, will herald the coming of the Lord, not that the Lord is an archangel. Point out to the JW that none of the verses he has attempted to use as proof-texts even comes close to stating that Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel. In fact, Scripture clearly teaches the opposite: namely, that the Son of God is superior to the angels. The entire first chapter of Hebrews is devoted to this theme.

Have the Witness read Hebrews chapter one aloud with you, and, as you do so, interrupt to point out the sharp contrast between angels and the Son of God. "For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou are my Son . . .?’ And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’" (vv. 5,6, Revised Standard Version). Remind the JW that angels consistently refuse worship ("Be careful! Do not do that! . . .Worship God," Revelation 22:8,9, NWT), but the Father’s command concerning the Son is, "Let all God’s angels worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). That is how the Watchtower’s own New World Translation read for some 20 years until, in 1970, the Society changed it to read "do obeisance to him" instead of "worship him"—part of their consistent campaign to eliminate from their Bible all references to the deity of Christ.

True, you have not yet proved the "doctrine of the Trinity" in this discussion. But you have laid a good foundation by giving the Jehovah’s Witness convincing evidence that Jesus Christ is not an angel (he is now faced with the question of who Jesus really is), and you have shown that the Watchtower Society has misled him, even resorting to altering Scripture to do so. Now you are in a much better position to go on to present the gospel.

Speaking the Truth in Love to Jehovah’s Witnesses        By Clint DeBoer

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and remained one until age 11. Coming out of this cult, I entered my teenage years as a bitter atheist where I remained until I graduated from college. Through God’s amazing grace I was saved in 1994 after reading the Bible and realizing that it was indeed the true Word of God. Repeatedly God has blessed me with the passion and privilege to witness to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You’ve almost certainly had them come knocking on your door on a Saturday afternoon and you may have even engaged a Jehovah’s Witness in a theological discussion. In talking to other Christians I find that when presented with a face-to-face encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness there are usually two responses: 1) A "frontal assault" via debate or heated discussion; or 2) A polite "no thanks, I’m already a Christian" followed by an all too abrupt closing of the door. For the mature Christian, what’s usually missing is the realization that this is a true witnessing opportunity—one that has arrived right at your doorstep. In my earliest attempts at grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns, I tried engaging them in direct debates, often quoting from several texts I had studied regarding the cultic practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After several failed "conversion" attempts, often ending with thoroughly frustrated Jehovah’s Witnesses unwilling to ever return to my residence, I arrived at a startling realization: Jehovah’s Witnesses are real people, with real needs and real feelings. They can feel frustration, anger, fear, and confusion. I then realized that the reason my frontal assaults on the Jehovah’s Witnesses never seemed to work was because I had not put myself in their place and taken their feelings into account. A wise man once said, "When you want to get someone’s attention, you don’t shine a flashlight in their eyes." In presenting my arguments and facts without giving them time to prepare, I had forgotten that they were human beings searching for the truth. I had not been speaking this truth in love.

Months later, when I was again presented with an opportunity to speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door, I engaged them in conversation, and agreed to do a weekly Bible study with them in order to further discuss what exactly they believed. They agreed, with the understanding that along the way I would ask questions whenever we arrived at a topic or subject with which I disagreed or failed to understand. The amazing difference was that instead of blindsiding them with questions and points of contention, I was giving them an opportunity to prepare themselves for a topic of discussion. More importantly, though, I began to care about them personally and yearn for their salvation. In this way, I am able to meet with Witnesses on a weekly basis and take them off the streets, focusing on critical topics such as the requirement that one be born again to enter the kingdom of God, the unbiblical theology of a two-class system of believers, and the true identity of Jesus Christ.

JESUS CHRIST

The Deity of Jesus          From Christ Before the Manger by Ron Rhodes

A strong argument for the deity of Christ is the fact that many of the names, titles, and attributes ascribed to Yahweh are also ascribed to Jesus Christ.

DESCRIPTION

FATHER

JESUS

Yahweh (“I AM”)

Exodus 3:14
Deuteronomy 32:39
Isaiah 43:10

John 8:24
John 8:58
John 18:4–6

God

Genesis 1:1
Deuteronomy 6:4
Psalm 45:6,7

Isaiah 7:14
Isaiah 9:6
John 1:1,14
John 20:28
Titus 2:13
Hebrews 1:8
2 Peter 1:1
Matthew 1:23
1 John 5:20

Alpha and Omega (First and Last)

Isaiah 41:4
Isaiah 48:12
Revelation 1:8

Revelation 1:17,18
Revelation 2:8
Revelation 22:12–16

Lord

Isaiah 45:23

Matthew 12:8
Acts 7:59,60
Acts 10:36
Romans 10:12
1 Corinthians 2:8
1 Corinthians 12:3
Philippians 2:10,11

Savior

Isaiah 43:3
Isaiah 43:11
Isaiah 49:26
Isaiah 63:8
Luke 1:47
1 Timothy 4:10

Matthew 1:21
Luke 2:11
John 1:29
John 4:42
2 Timothy 1:10
Titus 2:13
Hebrews 5:9

King

Psalm 95:3
Isaiah 43:15
1 Timothy 6:14–16

Revelation 17:14
Revelation 19:16

Judge

Genesis 18:25
Deuteronomy 32:36
Psalm 50:4,6
Psalm 58:11
Psalm 75:7
Psalm 96:13

John 5:22
2 Corinthians 5:10
2 Timothy 4:1

Light

2 Samuel 22:29
Psalm 27:1

John 1:4,9
John 3:19
John 8:12
John 9:5

Rock

Deuteronomy 32:3,4
2 Samuel 22:32
Psalm 89:26

Romans 9:33
1 Corinthians 10:3,4
1 Peter 2:4–8

Redeemer

Psalm 130:7,8
Isaiah 43:1
Isaiah 48:17
Isaiah 49:26
Isaiah 54:5

Acts 20:28
Ephesians 1:7
Hebrews 9:12

Our
Righteousness

Isaiah 45:24

Jeremiah 23:6
Romans 3:21,22

Husband

Isaiah 54:5
Hosea 2:16

Matthew 25:1
Mark 2:18,19
2 Corinthians 11:2
Ephesians 5:25–32
Revelation 21:2,9

Shepherd

Genesis 49:24
Psalm 23:1
Psalm 80:1

John 10:11,16
Hebrews 13:20
1 Peter 2:25
1 Peter 5:4

Creator

Genesis 1:1
Job 33:4
Psalm 95:5,6
Psalm 102:24,25
Isaiah 40:28
Isaiah 43:1
Acts 4:24

John 1:2,3,10
Colossians 1:15–18
Hebrews 1:1–3,10

Giver of Life

Genesis 2:7
Deuteronomy 32:39
1 Samuel 2:6
Psalm 36:9

John 5:21
John 10:28
John 11:25

Forgiver of Sin

Exodus 34:6,7
Nehemiah 9:17
Daniel 9:9
Jonah 4:2

Matthew 9:2
Mark 2:1–12
Acts 26:18
Colossians 2:13
Colossians 3:13

Lord our Healer

Exodus 15:26

Acts 9:34

Omnipresent

Psalm 139:7–12
Proverbs 15:3

Matthew 18:20
Matthew 28:20
Ephesians 3:17
Ephesians 4:10

Omniscient

1 Kings 8:39
Jeremiah 17:10,16

Matthew 9:4
Matthew 11:27
Luke 5:4–6
John 2:25
John 16:30
John 21:17
Acts 1:24

Omnipotent

Isaiah 40:10–31
Isaiah 45:5–13
Revelation 19:6

Matthew 28:18
Mark 1:29–34
John 10:18
Jude 24

Preexistent

Genesis 1:1

John 1:15,30
John 3:13,31,32
John 6:62
John 16:28
John 17:5

Eternal

Psalm 102:26,27
Habakkuk 3:6

Isaiah 9:6
Micah 5:2
John 8:58

Immutable

Malachi 3:6
James 1:17

Hebrews 13:8

Receiver of worship

Matthew 4:10
John 4:24
Revelation 5:14
Revelation 7:11
Revelation 11:16
Revelation 19:4,10

Matthew 2:8,11
Matthew 14:33
Matthew 28:9
John 9:38
Philippians 2:10,11
Hebrews 1:6

Hope

Jeremiah 17:7

1 Timothy 1:1

Speaker with divine authority

“Thus saith the Lord . . .”
—used hundreds of times

Matthew 23:34–37
John 3:5
John 7:46
“Truly, truly, I say . . .”

Who raised Jesus from the dead?

Acts 2:24,32
Romans 8:11
1 Corinthians 6:14

John 2:19–22
John 10:17,18
Matthew 27:40

Who gets the glory?

Isaiah 42:8
Isaiah 48:11

Hebrews 13:21
John 17:5

 

The Hands of the Carpenter

It was Joseph of Arimathaea who had the honor of taking the body of Jesus down from the cross. Think what it would be like to have to pull the cold and lifeless hands of the Son of God from the thick, barbed Roman nails.

These were carpenter’s hands, which once held nails and wood, now being held by nails and wood. These were the hands that broke bread and fed multitudes, now being broken to feed multitudes. They once applied clay to a blind man’s eyes, touched lepers, healed the sick, washed the disciple’s feet, and took children in His arms. These were the hands that, more than once, loosed the cold hand of death, now held firmly by its icy grip.

These were the fingers that wrote in the sand when the adulterous woman was cast at His feet, and for the love of God, fashioned a whip that purged His Father’s house. These were the same fingers that took bread and dipped it in a dish, and gave it to Judas as a gesture of deep love and friendship. Here was the Bread of Life itself, being dipped in the cup of suffering, as the ultimate gesture of God’s love for the evil world that Judas represented.

Joseph’s shame, that he had been afraid to own the Savior, sickened him as he tore the blood-sodden feet from the six-inch cold steel spikes that fastened them to the cross. These were the "beautiful feet" of Him that preached the gospel of peace, that Mary washed with her hair, that walked upon the Sea of Galilee, now crimson with a sea of blood.

As Joseph reached out his arms to get Him down from the cross, perhaps he stared for an instant at the inanimate face of the Son of God. His heart wrenched as he looked upon Him whom they had pierced. This face, which once radiated with the glory of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, which so many had looked upon with such veneration, was now blood-stained from the needle-sharp crown of thorns, deathly pale and twisted from unspeakable suffering as the sin of the world was laid upon Him. His eyes, which once sparkled with the life of God, now stared at nothingness, as He was brought into the dust of death. His lips, which spoke such gracious words and calmed the fears of so many, were swollen and bruised from the beating given to Him by the hardened fists of cruel soldiers. As it is written, "His visage was so marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14).

Nicodemus may have reached up to help Joseph with the body. As the cold blood of the Lamb of God covered his hand he was reminded of the blood of the Passover lamb he had seen shed so many times. The death of each spotless animal had been so quick and merciful, but this death had been unspeakably cruel, vicious, inhumane, and brutal. It seemed that all the hatred that sin-loving humanity had for the Light formed itself into a dark and evil spear, and was thrust with cruel delight into the perfect Lamb of God.

Perhaps as he carefully pried the crown from His head, looked at the gaping hole in His side, the deep mass of abrasions upon His back, and the mutilated wounds in His hands and feet, a sense of outrage engrossed him, that this could happen to such a Man as this. But the words of the prophet Isaiah rang within his heart: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . as a lamb to the slaughter . . . for the transgression of my people he was stricken . . . yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him . . .by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:5–11).

Jesus of Nazareth was stripped of His robe, that we might be robed in pure righteousness. He suffered a deathly thirst, that our thirst for life might be quenched. He agonized under the curse of the Law, that we might relish the blessing of the gospel. He took upon Himself the hatred of the world, so that we could experience the love of God. Hell was let loose upon him so that heaven could be let loose upon us. Jesus of Nazareth tasted the bitterness of death, so that we might taste the sweetness of life everlasting. The Son of God willingly passed over His life, that death might freely pass over the sons and daughters of Adam.

May Calvary’s cross be as real to us as it was to those who stood on its bloody soil on that terrible day. May we also gaze upon the face of the crucified Son of God, and may shame grip our hearts if ever the fear of man comes near our souls. May we identify with the apostle Paul, who could have gloried in his dramatic and miraculous experience on the road to Damascus. Instead, he whispered in awe of God’s great love: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14). (23:53 continued)

"Who is Jesus Christ?"

Who is Jesus Christ? Unlike the question,”Does God Exist?", very few people have questioned whether Jesus Christ existed. It is generally accepted that Jesus was truly a man who walked on the earth in Israel almost 2000 years ago. The debate begins when the subject of Jesus' full identity is discussed. Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity writes the following: "I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse .... You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to."

So, who did Jesus claim to be? Who does the Bible say He was? First, let's look at Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God. However, look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood Jesus’ statement to be a claim to be God. In the following verses, Jesus never corrects the Jews by saying, “I did not claim to be God.” That indicates Jesus was truly saying He was God by declaring, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). John 8:58 is another example. Jesus proclaimed, “I tell you the truth, Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I am!” Again, in response, the Jews take up stones in an attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59). Jesus announcing His identity as “I am” is a direct application of the Old Testament name for God (Exodus 3:14). Why would the Jews again want to stone Jesus if He hadn’t said something they believed to be blasphemous, namely, a claim to be God?

John 1:1 says that “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh.” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh. Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. The Apostle Paul describes Him as, “…our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The Apostle Peter says the same, “…our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). God the Father is witness of Jesus’ full identity as well, “But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.” Old Testament prophecies of Christ announce His deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

So, as C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be a good teacher is not an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If He is not God, then He is a liar, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. In attempts to explain the words of Jesus away, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to Him. Who are we to argue with God’s Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can a “scholar” two-thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus Himself (John 14:26)?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God? The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Only God could pay such an infinite penalty (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ! Jesus’ deity is why He is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity is why He proclaimed, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

"Did Jesus really exist? Is there any historical evidence of Jesus Christ?"

Typically when this question is asked, the person asking qualifies the question with "outside of the Bible." We do not grant this idea that the Bible cannot be considered a source of evidence for the existence of Jesus. The New Testament contains hundreds of references to Jesus Christ. There are those who date the writing of the Gospels in the second century A.D., 100+ years after Jesus' death. Even if this were the case (which we strongly dispute), in terms of ancient evidences, writings less than 200 years after events took place are considered very reliable evidences. Further, the vast majority of scholars (Christian and non-Christian) will grant that the Epistles of Paul (at least some of them) were in fact written by Paul in the middle of the first century A.D., less than 40 years after Jesus' death. In terms of ancient manuscript evidence, this is extraordinarily strong proof of the existence of a man named Jesus in Israel in the early first century A.D.

It is also important to recognize that in 70 A.D., the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and most of Israel, slaughtering its inhabitants. Entire cities were literally burned to the ground! We should not be surprised, then, if much evidence of Jesus' existence was destroyed. Many of the eye-witnesses of Jesus would have been killed. These facts likely limited the amount of surviving eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

Considering the fact that Jesus' ministry was largely confined to a relatively unimportant backwater area in a small corner of the Roman Empire, a surprising amount of information about Jesus can be drawn from secular historical sources. Some of the more important historical evidences of Jesus include the following:

The first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentioned superstitious "Christians " ("named after Christus" which is Latin for Christ), who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, wrote that there was a man named Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century (Annals 15.44 ).

Flavius Josephus is the most famous Jewish historian. In his Antiquities he refers to James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” There is a controversial verse (18:3) that says, "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats. . . . He was [the] Christ . . . he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him." One version reads, "At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

Julius Africanus quotes the historian Thallus in a discussion of the darkness which followed the crucifixion of Christ (Extant Writings, 18).

Pliny the Younger, in Letters 10:96, recorded early Christian worship practices including the fact that Christians worshiped Jesus as God and were very ethical, and includes a reference to the love feast and Lord’s Supper.

The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus' crucifixion on the eve of Passover, and the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who admits that Jesus was worshiped by Christians, introduced new teachings, and was crucified for them. He said that Jesus' teachings included the brotherhood of believers, the importance of conversion, and the importance of denying other gods. Christians lived according to Jesus’ laws, believed themselves immortal, and were characterized by contempt for death, voluntary self-devotion, and renunciation of material goods.

Mara Bar-Serapion confirms that Jesus was thought to be a wise and virtuous man, was considered by many to be the king of Israel, was put to death by the Jews, and lived on in the teachings of his followers.

Then we have all the Gnostic writings (The Gospel of Truth, The Apocryphon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, The Treatise on Resurrection, etc.) that all mention Jesus.

In fact, we can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources: Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus), did “magic,” led Israel into new teachings, and was hanged on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus), but claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed - worshipping Him as God (Pliny the Younger).

In conclusion, there is overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, both in secular and Biblical history. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Jesus did exist is the fact that literally thousands of Christians in the first century A.D., including the 12 apostles, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ. People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

Is Jesus Real (Experiential Faith)

Our faith isn’t intellectual; it is experiential. We don’t know about God, we know Him. At the University of Chicago Divinity School, each year they have what is called “Baptist Day.” It is a day when the school invites all the Baptists in the area to the school because they want the Baptist dollars to keep coming in.

On this day each one is to bring a lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. Every “Baptist Day” the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education center. One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for two-and-a-half hours proving that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection, the religious tradition of the Church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions.

After about 30 seconds, an old preacher with a head of short-cropped, woolly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium. “Docta Tillich, I got one question,” he said as all eyes turned toward him. He reached into his lunch sack and pulled out an apple and began eating it. “Docta Tillich (crunch, munch), my question is a simple one (crunch, munch). Now, I ain’t never read them books you read (crunch, munch), and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek (crunch, munch). I don’t know nothin’ about Niebuhr and Heidegger (crunch, munch).” He finished the apple. “All I wanna know is: This apple I just ate—was it bitter or sweet?”

Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: “I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.” The white-haired preacher dropped the apple core into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, “Neither have you tasted my Jesus.”

The 1,000-plus in attendance could not contain themselves. The auditorium erupted with applause and cheers. Dr. Tillich thanked his audience and promptly left the platform. “Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him” (Psalm 34:8). It has been well said, “The man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.”

"Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?"

Jesus is never recorded in the Bible as saying the exact words, “I am God.” That does not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Take for example Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God. However, look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood Jesus’ statement to be a claim to be God. In the following verses, Jesus never corrects the Jews by saying, “I did not claim to be God.” That indicates Jesus was truly saying He was God by declaring, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" Again, in response, the Jews take up stones in an attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59). Why would the Jews want to stone Jesus if He hadn’t said something they believed to be blasphemous, namely, a claim to be God?

John 1:1 says that “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh.” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, "...Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. Acts 20:28 declares that God purchased the church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!

Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior - Jesus Christ (see also 2 Peter 1:1). In Hebrews 1:8, the Father declares of Jesus, "But about the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."

In Revelation, an angel instructed the Apostle John to only worship God (Revelation 19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9,17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation had. There are many other verses and passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.

The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected - proving His victory over sin and death.

"Did Jesus have brothers and sisters (siblings)?"

Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in several Bible verses. Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31 say that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56). In John 7:1-10, His brothers go on to the festival while Jesus stays behind. In Acts 1:14, His brothers and mother are described as praying with the disciples. Later, in Galatians 1:19, it mentions that James was Jesus’ brother. The most natural conclusion of these passages is to interpret that Jesus had actual blood siblings.

Some Roman Catholics claim that these “brothers” were actually Jesus’ cousins. However, in each instance, the specific Greek word for “brother” is used. While the word can refer to other relatives, its normal and literal meaning is a physical brother. There was a Greek word for cousin, and it was not used. Further, if they were Jesus’ cousins, why would they so often be described as being with Mary, Jesus’ mother? There is nothing in the context of His mother and brothers coming to see Him that even hints that they were anyone other than His literal, blood-related half-brothers.

A second Roman Catholic argument is that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage, before he married Mary. An entire theory of Joseph's being significantly older than Mary, having been previously married, having multiple children, and then being widowed before marrying Mary is invented. The problem with this is that the Bible does not even hint that Joseph was married or had children before he married Mary. If Joseph had at least six children before he married Mary, why are they not mentioned in Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) or their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) or their trip back to Nazareth (Matthew 2:20-23)?

There is no Biblical reason to believe that these siblings are anything other than the actual children of Joseph and Mary. Those who oppose the idea that Jesus had half-brothers and half-sisters do so, not from a reading of Scripture, but from a preconceived concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is itself clearly unbiblical: "But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) UNTIL she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus" (Matthew 1:25). Jesus had half-siblings, half-brothers and half-sisters, who were the children of Joseph and Mary. That is the clear and unambiguous teaching of God’s Word.

"What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?"

Jesus is referred to as the "Son of Man" 88 times in the New Testament. What does this mean? Does not the Bible say Jesus was the Son of God? How then could Jesus also be the Son of Man? A first meaning of the phrase "Son of Man" is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." The description "Son of Man" was a Messianic title. Jesus is the one who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase related to Himself, He was assigning the “Son of Man” prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. He was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

A second meaning of the phrase "Son of Man" is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel "son of man" 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. A son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but He was also a human being (John 1:14). 1 John 4:2 tells us, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God." Yes, Jesus was the Son of God – He was in His essence God. Yes, Jesus was also the Son of Man – He was in His essence a human being. In summary, the phrase "Son of Man" indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is truly a human being.

"What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father and a son. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14). Jesus is God's Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 declares, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" In Bible times, the phrase “son of man” was used to describe a human being. The son of a man is a man.

During His trial before the Jewish leaders, the High Priest demanded of Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (Matthew 26:63). Jesus responded, “Yes, it is as you say, ‘but I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). The Jewish leaders responded by accusing Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew 26:65-66). Later, before Pontius Pilate, “The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God’” (John 19:7). Why would claiming to be the “Son of God” be considered blasphemy and be worthy of a death sentence? The Jewish leaders understood exactly what Jesus meant by the phrase “Son of God.” To be the “Son of God” is to be of the same nature as God. The “Son of God” is “of God.” The claim to be of the same nature as God, to in fact “be God,” was blasphemy to the Jewish leaders; therefore, they demanded Jesus’ death. Hebrews 1:3 expresses this very clearly, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…”

Another example can be found in John 17:12 where Judas is described as the "son of perdition." John 6:71 tells us that Judas was the son of Simon. What does John 17:12 mean by describing Judas as the "son of perdition"? The word "perdition" means "destruction, ruin, waste." Judas was not the literal son of "ruin, destruction, and waste" - but those things were the identity of Judas' life. Judas was a manifestation of perdition. In this same aspect, Jesus is the Son of God. The Son of God is God. Jesus is God made manifest (John 1:1,14).

"What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?"

Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." But the question arises, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which meant He was of the seed of David. Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 gives Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary. Primarily though, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.

Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22), the two blind men by the wayside (Matthew 20:30), and blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), all cried out to the son of David for help. The titles of honor they gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him Lord expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and by calling Him “son of David,” they were professing Him to be the Messiah.

The Pharisees, too, understood what was meant when they heard the people calling Jesus “son of David.” But unlike those who cried out in faith, they were so blinded by their own pride and lack of understanding of the Scriptures that they couldn’t see what the blind beggars could see – that here was the Messiah they had supposedly been waiting for all their lives. They hated Jesus because He wouldn’t give them the honor they thought they deserved, so when they heard the people hailing Jesus as the Savior, they became enraged (Matthew 21:15) and plotted to destroy Him (Luke 19:47).

Jesus further confounded the scribes and Pharisees by asking them to explain the meaning of this very title. How could it be that the Messiah is the son of David when David himself refers to Him as “my Lord” (Mark 12:35-37)? Of course the teachers of the law couldn’t answer the question. Jesus thereby exposed the Jewish spiritual leaders’ ineptitude as teachers and their ignorance of what the Old Testament taught as to the true nature of the Messiah, further alienating them from Him.

Jesus Christ, the only son of God and the only means of salvation for the world (Acts 4:12), is also the son of David, both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense.

"Who was responsible for Christ's death?"

The answer to this question has many facets. First, there is no doubt the religious leaders of Israel were responsible for Jesus’ death. Matthew 26:3-4 tells us that “the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, assembled together to the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas. And they consulted so that they might take Jesus by guile and kill Him.” The Jewish leaders demanded of the Romans that Jesus be put to death (Matthew 27:22-25). They couldn’t continue to allow Him to work signs and wonders because it threatened their position and place in the religious society they dominated (John 11:47-50), so “they plotted to put Him to death” (John 11:53).

The Romans were the ones who actually crucified Him (Matthew 27:27-37). Crucifixion was a Roman method of execution, authorized and carried out by the Romans under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who sentenced Jesus. Roman soldiers drove the nails into His hands and feet, Roman troops erected the cross and a Roman solider pierced His side (Matthew 27:27-35).

The people of Israel were also complicit in the death of Jesus. They were the ones who shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” as He stood on trial before Pilate (Luke 23:21). They also cried for the thief Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus (Matthew 27:21). Peter confirmed this in Acts 2:22-23 when he told the men of Israel “you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death” Jesus of Nazareth. In fact the murder of Jesus was a conspiracy involving Rome, Herod, the Jewish leaders and the people of Israel, a diverse group of people who never worked together on anything before or since, but who came together this one time to plot and carry out the unthinkable – the murder of the son of God.

Ultimately, and perhaps somewhat amazingly, it was God Himself who put Jesus to death. This was the greatest act of divine justice ever carried out, done in “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23) and for the highest purpose. Jesus’ death on the cross secured the salvation of countless millions and provided the only way God could forgive sin without compromising His holiness and perfect righteousness. Christ’s death was God’s perfect plan for the eternal redemption of His own. Far from being a victory for Satan, as some have suggested, or an unnecessary tragedy, it was the most gracious act of God’s goodness and mercy, the ultimate expression of the Father’s love for sinners. God put Jesus to death for our sin so that we could live in sinless righteousness before Him, a righteousness only possible because of the cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So we who have come to Christ in faith are guilty of His blood, shed on the cross for us. He died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8; 6:23-24). In the movie "The Passion of the Christ," the director, Mel Gibson, was the one whose hands you see actually driving the nails through Christ's hands. He did it that way to remind himself, and everyone else, that it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross.

"What was Jesus like as a person?"

Although He had "no beauty that we should desire Him..." (Isaiah 53:2), it was His "personality" that drew men to Him. He was a man of great character.

He had a COMPASSIONATE nature. He had compassion on the crowds “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Because of His compassion for them, He healed their diseases (Matthew 14:14; 20:34), and because of their hunger, He compassionately created enough food to feed more than 5000 (Matthew 15:32).

Jesus was SERIOUS and FOCUSED. He had a mission in life and never got sidetracked from it, knowing the weightiness of it and the shortness of time. His attitude was that of a SERVANT. "He did not come to BE served, but to SERVE" (Mark 10:45). KINDNESS and SELFLESSNESS characterized His personality.

Jesus was SUBMISSIVE to His Father's will when He came to earth and subsequently went to the cross. He knew that dying on the cross was the only payment His Father could accept for our salvation. He prayed the night of His betrayal by Judas, "O My Father, if it be possible, take this cup of suffering from Me: but LET WHAT YOU WANT BE DONE, NOT WHAT I WANT" (Matthew 26:39). He was a SUBMISSIVE Son to Mary and Joseph, as well. He grew up in a normal (sinful) household, yet, “He continued in subjection to them..." (Luke 2:51). He was OBEDIENT to the Father’s will. “He learned obedience through the things that He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus had a heart of MERCY and FORGIVENESS - "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). "...If we admit that we have sinned, He will forgive us our sins..." (1 John 1:9). He was also LOVING in His relationships - "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5). John was known as the disciple "whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23).

He had a reputation for being GOOD and CARING. He healed often and in most places where He went IN ORDER THAT they might know who He was! Truly He proved to be the Son of the living God by all the miracles He did, all the while showing concern for the afflictions of those around Him.

HONEST/TRUTHFUL - He never violated His own Word. He spoke TRUTH wherever He went. He lived a life we could follow explicitly. "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE..." (John 14:6). At the same time, He was PEACEABLE. He did not argue His case, nor try to bully His way into people's hearts.

Jesus was INTIMATE with His followers. He spent quality and quantity time with them. He coveted their fellowship, taught them, and helped them focus on what was eternal. He was also intimate with His Heavenly Father. He prayed to Him regularly, listened, obeyed, and cared about God's reputation. (Angered at the moneychangers who were buying and selling in the temple, He said firmly and AUTHORITATIVELY, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you have made it a robbers den!") He was obviously a STRONG, but quiet LEADER. Everywhere He went (until the inevitable decline), the people followed Him, eager to listen to His teaching.

He was PATIENT, knowing and understanding our frailties. He was and is "patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

These are traits that all believers should desire to become a part of their "personality" and character. The things that drew people to Jesus should be the very things that draw people to us. Jesus has given those who believe in Him His Holy Spirit, who enables us to be constantly changing into His image (Romans 8:29). This will only come about as we YIELD to Him for who He truly is...LORD of the universe! We must BELIEVE that He is conforming us into His image, and not resist His will for us. Even as Jesus never drew attention to Himself, (but rather to His Father), even so, we ought to say as John the Baptist did, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

"Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?"

"I'm basically a good person, so I'll go to heaven." "OK, so I do some bad things, but I do more good things, so I'll go to heaven." "God won't send me to hell just because I don't live by the Bible. Times have changed!" "Only really bad people like child molesters and murderers go to hell."

These are all common rationales among most people, but the truth is, they are all lies. Satan, the ruler of the world, plants these thoughts in our heads. He, and anyone who follows his ways, is an enemy to God (1Pet 5:8). Satan always disguises himself as good (2 Corinthians 11:14), but he has control over all the minds that do not belong to God. "Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them. They don't understand the message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

It is a lie to believe that God doesn't care about small sins, and that hell is reserved for "bad people." All sin separates us from God, even a “little white lie”. Everyone has sinned, and no one is good enough to get to heaven on their own (Romans 3:23). Getting into heaven is not based on whether our good outweighs our bad; we will all lose out if that is the case. "And if they are saved by God's kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God's wonderful kindness would not be what it really is - free and undeserved" (Romans 11:6). We can do nothing good to earn our way to heaven (Titus 3:5).

"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way" (Matthew 7:13). Even if everyone is living a life of sin, and trusting in God is not popular, God will not excuse it. "You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God" (Ephesians 2:2).

When God created the world, it was perfect. Everything was good. Then he made Adam and Eve, and gave them their own free will, so they would have a choice whether to follow and obey God or not. But Adam and Eve, the very first people God made, were tempted by Satan to disobey God, and they sinned. This separated them (and everyone that came after them, including us) from being able to have a close relationship with God. He is perfect, and holy, and must judge sin. As sinners, we couldn't make it there on our own. So, God made a way that we could be united with Him in heaven. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Jesus was born so that He could teach us the way and die for our sins so that we would not have to. Three days after His death, He rose from the grave (Romans 4:25), proving Himself victorious over death. He bridged the gap between God and man so that we may have a personal relationship with Him if we would only believe.

"And this is the way to have eternal life - to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth" (John 17:3). Most people believe in God, even Satan does. But to receive salvation, we must turn to God, form a personal relationship, turn away from our sins, and follow Him. We must trust in Jesus with everything we have and everything we do. "We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this way, no matter who we are or what we have done" (Romans 3:22). The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ. Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

Jesus is the only way of salvation because He is the only One who can pay our sin penalty (Romans 6:23). No other religion teaches the depth or seriousness of sin and its consequences. No other religion offers the infinite payment of sin that only Jesus Christ could provide. No other “religious founder” was God become man (John 1:1,14) – the only way an infinite debt could be paid. Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

"How is Jesus different from other religious leaders?"

In a sense asking this question is sort of like asking how the sun differs from other stars in our solar system—the point being that there are no other stars in our solar system!

The point is that no other "religious leader" even compares to Jesus Christ. Every other religious leader is either alive or dead. Jesus Christ is the only one who was dead (He died in our place, for our sins, according I Corinthians 15:1-8) and is now alive. Indeed, He proclaims in Revelation 1:17-18 that He is alive forevermore! No other religious leader even makes such a claim, a claim that is either true or utterly preposterous.

Another important difference is found in the very nature of Christianity. The essence of Christianity is Christ. Crucified, resurrected, ascended into Heaven, returning someday. Without Him—and without His resurrection—there is no Christianity. Compare that with other major religions. Hinduism, for example, can stand or fall entirely apart from any of the "great Swamis" who founded it. Buddhism is the same story. Even Islam is based upon the sayings and teachings of Mohammed, not upon the claim that he came back to life from the dead.

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19, says that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then our faith is empty and we are still in our sins! What he is saying is that the truth claims of Christianity are based simply and solely upon the resurrected Jesus Christ! If He did not, in fact, come back from the dead—in time and space—then there is no truth to Christianity whatsoever. Over and over again throughout the New Testament the apostles and evangelists base the truth of the Gospel upon the Resurrection.

One other significant point that we dare not overlook is the exceedingly important fact that Jesus Christ claimed to be the "Son of God" (a Hebraism meaning "characterized by God") as well as the "Son of Man" (a Hebraism meaning "characterized by Man"). In many varied passages, He makes claims to be equal with the Father (see, for example, John 10:29-33). To Him are ascribed all of the prerogatives and attributes of Deity. Yet He was also a man, born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56). Having lived a sinless life, He was crucified in order to pay for the sins of all men: "He Himself is the satisfaction of God's wrath for our sins; and not for ours only, but for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2), and then He was resurrected from the dead three days later. He is fully God and fully Man, the "theanthropos" [from the Greek for God (theos) - Man (anthropos)]; yet He is one person.

The very Person and Work of Christ poses for us a question that we cannot avoid: What will you do with Jesus? We cannot simply dismiss Him. We cannot ignore Him. He is the central figure in all of human history, and if He died for the sins of the whole world, then He died for yours as well. The Apostle Peter tells us in Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." If we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, we will be saved.

The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew Chapter 5

This sermon not only reveals God’s divine nature, it puts into our hands the most powerful of evangelistic weapons. It is the greatest evangelistic sermon ever preached by the greatest evangelist who ever lived.

The straightedge of God’s Law reveals how crooked we are:

  • Matt. 5:3: The unregenerate heart isn’t poor in spirit. It is proud, self-righteous, and boastful (every man is pure in his own eyes—Proverbs16:2).
  • Matt. 5:4: The unsaved don’t mourn over their sin; they love the darkness and hate the light (John 3:19).
  • Matt. 5:5: The ungodly are not meek and lowly of heart. Their sinful condition is described in Romans 3:13–18.
  • Matt. 5:6: Sinners don’t hunger and thirst after righteousness. Instead, they drink iniquity like water (Job 15:16).
  • Matt. 5:7: The world is shallow in its ability to show true mercy. It is by nature cruel and vindictive (Genesis 6:5).
  • Matt. 5:8: The heart of the unregenerate is not pure; it is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Those who are born again manifest the fruit of the Spirit, live godly in Christ Jesus (Matt. 5:3–9), and therefore suffer persecution (Matt. 5:10–12). However, their purpose on earth is to be salt and light: to be a moral influence, and to bring the light to those who sit in the shadow of death (Matt. 5:13–16).

Look now at how the Messiah expounds the Law and makes it "honorable" (Isaiah 42:21). He establishes that He didn’t come to destroy the Law (Matt. 5:17); not even the smallest part of it will pass away (Matt. 5:18). It will be the divine standard of judgment (James 2:12; Romans 2:12; Acts 17:31). Those who teach it "shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19). The Law should be taught to sinners because it was made for them (1 Timothy 1:8–10), and is a "schoolmaster" that brings the "knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:19,20; 7:7). Its function is to destroy self-righteousness and bring sinners to the cross (Galatians 3:24). The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was merely outward, but God requires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). Jesus shows this by unveiling the Law’s spiritual nature (Romans 7:14).

The Sixth Commandment forbids murder. However, Jesus shows that it also condemns anger "without cause," and even evil- speaking (Matt. 5:21–26): "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).

The Seventh Commandment forbids adultery, but Jesus revealed that this also includes lust, and it even condemns divorce, except in the case of sexual sin of the spouse (Matt. 5:27–32).

Jesus opens up the Ninth Commandment (Matt. 5:33–37), and then shows that love is the spirit of the Law—"The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart . . ." (1 Timothy 1:5). This is summarized in what is commonly called the Golden Rule: "All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12, emphasis added).

"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:8–10).

When a sinner is born again he is able to do this (Matt. 5:38–47). He now possesses "the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). In Christ he is made perfect and thus satisfies the demands of a "perfect" Law (Psalm 19:7; James 1:25). Without the righteousness of Christ he cannot be perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48). The Law annihilated his self-righteousness leaving him undone and condemned. His only hope was in the cross of Jesus Christ. After his conversion, knowledge of the Law that brought him there keeps him at the foot of the cross. John Wesley said, "Therefore I cannot spare the Law one moment, no more than I can spare Christ, seeing I now want it as much to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to Him. Otherwise this ‘evil heart of unbelief’ would immediately ‘depart from the living God.’ Indeed each is continually sending me to the other—the Law to Christ, and Christ to the Law."

The Significance of the First Miracle

1. The turning of water into blood was the first of the public miracles that Moses did in Egypt (Exodus 7:20), and the water into wine was the first of the public miracles that Jesus did in the world (John 2:11).

2. The signs that God gave to Egypt in the Old Testament were plagues, destruction, and death, and the signs that Jesus did in the world in the New Testament were healings, blessings, and life.

3. The turning of water to blood initiated Moses (a type of the Savior— Deuteronomy 18:15) leading his people out of the bondage of Egypt into an earthly liberty; the turning of water into wine initiated Jesus taking His people out of the bondage of the corruption of the world into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21).

4. The turning of water to blood culminated in the firstborn in Egypt being delivered to death, while turning the water into wine culminated in the life of the Firstborn being delivered from death (Colossians 1:18).

5. The Law was a ministration of death, the gospel a ministration of life. One was written on cold tablets of stone, the other on the warm fleshly tablets of the heart. One was a ministration of sin unto condemnation and bondage, the other a ministration of righteousness unto life and liberty (2 Corinthians 3:7–9).

6. When Moses changed the water into blood, we are told that all the fish in the river died. When Jesus initiated the new covenant, the catch of the fish are made alive in the net of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:19).

7. The river of blood was symbolic of death for Egypt, but the water into wine is symbolic of life for the world. The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit makes alive (2 Corinthians 3:6).

8. When Moses turned the waters of Egypt into blood, the river reeked and made the Egyptians search for another source of water supply (Exodus 7:21,24). When the Law of Moses does its work in the sinner, it makes life odious for him. The weight of sin on his back becomes unbearable as he begins to labor and be heavy laden under its weight. Like the Egyptians, he begins to search for another spring of water; he begins to "thirst for righteousness," because he knows that without a right standing with God, he will perish.

9. Moses turned water into blood, and Jesus’ blood turned into water (1 John 5:6). They both poured from His side (John 19:34), perhaps signifying that both Law and grace found harmony in the Savior’s death—"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10).

10. The water of the old covenant ran out. It could do nothing but leave the sinner with a thirst for righteousness. But as with the wine at Cana, God saved the best until last. The new wine given on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:13; Ephesians 5:18) was the Bridegroom giving us the new and "better" covenant

The Witness

An interesting insight into what may have been...       By Danny Hotea

As was my custom, I rose early that day to pay homage to the gods by prayers and burnt offerings. To which I vowed my obedience on that fateful morning, I cannot now remember. There were so many. Leaving the place of worship, I endeavored to sit quietly and read the creeds of Rome as written by the emperor himself. It was my duty not only as a centurion, but as a Roman citizen, to understand the purpose of almighty Caesar and Rome. However, just as I began pouring over the open scroll, a nameless messenger came panting with word from Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, ordering my garrison to his palace immediately. I arrived with three hundred men as if by flight. The sun had hardly risen, and the airheld an unseen weight, as if to distinguish this day from all others. The men, all clad in leather and metal with swords swaying from their belts and spears stabbing at the sky in protest of their unusually early arousal, wobbled restlessly in rigid formation, awaiting my command. The sound of spiked sandals scraping he stone palace floor echoed down the long, stone hallway adding tension to mystery. They undoubtedly supposed that I knew the reason for it all. But I didn’t—until another messenger came with another scroll describing our purpose exactly. Jerusalem was a place known for its concentrated reserve of mindless zealots. And I had experience in stamping out the feeble efforts of disorderly vagrants and disorganized militias meant to unshackle the Jews from Rome’s iron grip. One in particular came to mind as I read the final sentence of that day’s orders. It was the most recent and pathetic uprising. A small army of poorly armed religious rebels managed to assassinate an insignificant gatekeeper in the governor’s palace. The idea that a handful of superstitious peasants could overthrow Rome was ridiculous and, if it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable. Their leader had been a thin, sweaty man with hardly any beard, balding head and shifting eyes. A Jew. A brainless dreamer suffering from resentment. His name was Barabbas. He was hardly a match for Rome. I caught him in the streets attempting to hide beneath a vendor’s blankets after his pitiful militia had been butchered and left for the dogs. I was his judge and jury. And since only Romans have the right to a trial, I stuffed him in a smaller-than- sual cell after the garrison had their day’s exercise of beating him with rods and slapping him with gloved fists. That day had another experience for me altogether. As we pushed our way into the Praetorium hauling the scourged offender to the platform, where another Man stood, the mob sang out in a chorus of hatred, "Crucify Him!" The governor addressed the riotous masses with careful words, offering them a choice between the bloodied and uncondemned Man now occupying the platform with him, or the pathetic zealot, Barabbas, who had failed an attempt to destroy Rome. Immediately they sent out blood-curdling screams consenting to he murder of the One and the release of the other. It was apparent, by their screams, that this Man had not offended Rome. He had offended the Jews. A messenger interrupted the procedure, which was doubtlessly an urgent matter, after which I was signaled to bring Him into the governor’s inner court. The conversation that took place proved this Man’s character. He spoke only when questioned and claimed that the governor’s authority was given to him by the Offender’s Father, which made little sense to me at the time. When He said He was a King, I wondered whether Barabbas, the sweaty zealot, had similar thoughts. But, all in all, this Man had authority incomparable to any I had seen before. This fact was startling considering I had seen the Caesar and all his delegates more often than Pontius himself. What seemed like moments later, my garrison had elbowed their way through the riotous crowds to the place of execution, hauling two offenders of Rome and One offender of the Jews. His head had been crowned with thorns, no doubt a torturous invention of the guiltless soldiers in my garrison. His beard replaced with bleeding flesh. His back opened wide by a Roman scourge to an infectious environment full of illness bred in the hearts of vehement enemies. Yet, it seemed that these were the slightest of His pains judging by the weight of grief He bore on His countenance. His visage carried an eternal load of unfamiliar burdens. As was my custom, I drove the first nail into the left wrist of each offender inaugurating their torturous departure from this world and instructing my garrison how to proceed with the crucifixion. The two vagrants wrestled pathetically against the soldier’s grip that held their filthy arms against the knotted wood, spitting out blasphemies against the gods of Rome and sprinkling our faces with bloody specs of mucus. But they could do little more than wiggle their palms and claw at my wrists with their broken nails until the iron spike impaled the wrist and its owner’s arm was pinned against the wood, twitching like a wounded animal. I often delighted in the sound of their ear-splitting screams and hellish moans that filled the air and the sight of their epileptic convulsions of agony as their crosses were set upright. It became somewhat of a drama to which I looked forward with secret pleasure, even more than the gladiators and the chariot races where countless men had lost their lives to entertain Rome. I could hardly keep from smiling, at times. But this Man, although He was innocent, displayed no reluctance in placing His arm against the wood. His eyes fastened on the soldier holding His arm and on me, His sadistic executioner. I expected the typical reaction as the iron penetrated His skin. But this Man was not typical in any sense of the word. Instead of spraying my face with spittle, He groaned and looked away, scrapping His thorny crown against the lumber behind His head. Unlike the other two, this Man did not moan in melodies of agony as the cross sat upright, disjointing its resident. Tears ran down His scabbed face as He viewed the masses streaming past the foot of His cross. Their venomous words struck the air like frothy waves pounding some seaside cliff. And, unlike the other two, whose hoarse-voiced cursing baptized each passerby with vulgar threats and swollen words of every sort, He spoke kindly to a few standing at the foot of His cross. Had He not been a Jew, I would have been compelled to defend His dying reputation for sheer sympathy’s sake. At the instant before He died, the sky blackened as if it had been split open like a carcass and all its guilt bled out onto the clouds. The earth convulsed, shaking and tossing my men and I like mere toys. At that instant I knew this Man was no mere Man. He wielded an exclusive power. The image of Rome, as if it were a colossal statue carved of iron, lay in heaps beneath His cross as a mound of chaff vulnerable to the slightest breath of wind. The sight of His emaciated corpse stabbed at my conscience. Had I done wrong? If not, then why such agony of heart? I was bleeding now and my zeal for Rome poured from the bowels of my heart like the streamlets coursing from His side and brow. He had slain me; not I Him. His naked body, reduced to shards of stinking flesh hanging lifelessly on the cross, seemed more alive than I did standing with my hand-polished helmet and Roman embroidery hanging like empirical curtains from my shoulders. I was ashamed of myself. I turned away toprevent my tears from being noticed. Regret welled up in my soul and poured out onto my cheeks with burning tears. I tried desperately to compose myself to no avail. Once more, I turned to look at Him, and my knees betrayed me to the ground beneath. My forehead kissed the ground in an unguarded slump. I gritted my teeth and formed the words, "Truly, this was the Son of God!" I have never been the same since.

"Is it possible that Jesus simply fainted on the cross, and revived while He was in the tomb?"

Jesus had been whipped and beaten, and was bleeding from His head, back, hands, and feet for at least six hours. While he was on the cross, a soldier pierced His side with a spear and blood and water gushed out. Professional soldiers would certainly have completed their assigned task and ensured his death.

"It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life: an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship." Strauss, New Life of Jesus (quoted in Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison)

"It’s intolerant to say that Jesus is the only way to God!"

Jesus is the One who said that He is the only way to the Father. For Christians to say that there are other ways to find peace with God is to bear false testimony. In one sweeping statement, Jesus discards all other religions as a means of finding forgiveness of sins. This agrees with other Scriptures: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), and "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).

"Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery, but condemned those who judged her. Therefore you shouldn’t judge others."

The Christian is not "judging others" but simply telling the world of God’s judgment —that God (not the Christian) has judged all the world as being guilty before Him (Romans 3:19,23). Jesus was able to offer that woman forgiveness for her sin, be-cause He was on His way to die on the cross for her. She acknowledged Him as "Lord," but He still told her, "Go, and sin no more." If she didn’t repent, she would perish.

"Jesus taught hatred by saying that a Christian should ‘hate’ his father and mother."

This is called "hyperbole"—a statement of extremes, contrasting love with hate for emphasis’ sake. The Bible often does this (Proverbs 13:24; 29:24). Jesus tells us that the first and greatest Commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37,38). As much as we treasure our spouse and family, and even our own life, there should be no one whom we love and value more than God, no one who takes precedence in our life. To place love for another (including ourselves) above God is idolatry.

"Jesus wasn’t sinless—He became angry when He cleared the temple."

The temple of God was filled with the day’s equivalent of money-grabbing televangelists. Jesus called it a "den of thieves" (v. 17), because the moneychangers were not interested in God but in taking financial advantage of those who came to worship. Anger at hypocrisy isn’t a sin—it’s a virtue.

"On the cross, Jesus cried, ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ This proves He was a fake. God forsook Him."

Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 were the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 22:1. Verse 3 of this psalm then gives us in-sight into why God forsook Jesus on the cross: "But You are holy . . ." A holy Creator cannot have fellowship with sin. When Jesus was on the cross, the sin of the entire world was laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21), but Scripture says God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look on iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13).

JUDIASM

"What is Judaism and what do Jews believe?"

What is Judaism, and who or what is a Jew? Depending upon whom you talk to, or the selection of books you read, you will come away with very different answers to this most provocative question. Is Judaism simply a religion? Is it a cultural identity or just an ethnic group? Are Jews only a clan of people or are they a nation?

According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary a “Jew” is: 1a: a member of the tribe of Judah b: Israelite 2: a member of a nation existing in Palestine from the 6th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. 3 : a person belonging to a continuation through descent or conversion of the ancient Jewish people 4 : one whose religion is Judaism.

According to rabbinical Judaism, a Jew is one who has a Jewish mother, or one who has formally converted to Judaism. Leviticus 24:10 is often cited to give this belief credibility, although the Torah makes no specific claim for this tradition. Some rabbis say that it has nothing to do with what that individual actually believes. These rabbis tell us that a Jew does not need to be a follower of Jewish laws and customs to be considered Jewish. In fact, a Jew can have no belief in God at all and still be Jewish based on the above rabbinical interpretation.

Other rabbis make it clear that unless the person follows the precepts of the Torah and accepts the “Thirteen Principles of Faith” which Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars) so clearly expresses, he cannot be a Jew. Although this person may be a “biological” Jew, he has no real connection to Judaism.

In the first book of the Torah, Genesis 14:13 teaches us that Abram, commonly recognized as the first Jew, (his name was later changed to Abraham) was described as a “Hebrew.” The name “Jew” comes from the name Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, and one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Apparently the name “Jew” originally referred to those who were only a member of the tribe of Judah, but when the kingdom was divided (Israel in the north and Judah in the South) after the reign of Solomon (1 Kings, chapter 12) it referred to anyone in the kingdom of Judah which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Today, many believe that a Jew is anyone who is a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, regardless of which of the original twelve tribes they descend from.

So what is it that Jews believe, and what are the basic precepts of Judaism? There are five main forms or sects of Judaism in the world today. They are Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, Reconstructionist and Humanistic. The beliefs and requirements in each group differ dramatically; however, a short list of the traditional beliefs of Judaism would include the following:

God is the creator of all that exists; He is one, incorporeal (without a body), and He alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe.

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible were revealed to Moses by God. It will not be changed or augmented in the future.

God has communicated to the Jewish people through prophets.

God monitors the activities of humans; He rewards individuals for good deeds and punishes evil.

Although Christians base much of their faith on the same Hebrew Scriptures as Jews, there are major differences in belief: Jews generally consider actions and behavior to be of primary importance; beliefs come out of actions. This conflicts with conservative Christians for whom belief is of primary importance and actions tend to be secondary.

Jewish belief does not accept the Christian concept of original sin (the belief that all people have inherited Adam and Eve's sin when they disobeyed God's instructions in the Garden of Eden).

Judaism affirms the inherent goodness of the world and its people as creations of God.

Jewish believers are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by fulfilling mitzvoth (divine commandments).

No savior is needed or is available as an intermediary.

Beliefs about Jesus vary considerably. Some view him as a great moral teacher. Others see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity. Some sects of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition against saying an idol's name.

The Jews are often referred to as God's chosen people. This does not mean that they are in any way to be considered superior to other groups. Biblical verses such as Exodus 19:5 simply imply that God has selected Israel to receive and study the Torah, to worship God only, to rest on the Sabbath, and to celebrate the festivals. Jews were not chosen to be better than others; they were simply selected to receive more difficult responsibilities, and more onerous punishment if they fail.

The 613 commandments found in Leviticus and other books regulate all aspects of Jewish life.

The Ten commandments, as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, form a brief synopsis of the Law.

The Messiah (anointed one of God) will arrive in the future and gather Jews once more into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, will be rebuilt.

"Are Jews saved because they are God's chosen people? Do Jews have to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved?"

The last Book of the Torah teaches that the Jews are God’s chosen people. “For you are a holy people unto the LORD your God: the LORD your God hath chosen you to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers…” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

From all the nations and people on the earth, why exactly did God “choose” the Jews? John Gill, in his “Exposition of the Entire Bible” says the Jews were “chosen for special service and worship, and to enjoy special privileges and benefits, civil and religious; though they were not chosen to special grace…or eternal glory.” The Jews were chosen to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12). The Jews were chosen to be a light to the gentiles. So then, are all Jews “saved” just because they are Jews?

According to many modern rabbinical scholars the Christian concept of salvation from sin has no equal in Judaism. Judaism does not believe that man, by his nature, is evil or sinful and therefore has no need to be “saved” from an eternal damnation. In fact, most Jews today do not believe in a place of eternal punishment or a literal hell. The Hebrew root word for “sin” is chayt, which literally means to “miss the mark.” It is a term commonly used in archery, of one who “misses the mark” of the bulls eye. When a Jew misses the mark, and occasionally falls into the sin of failing to fulfill the laws of God, the belief is that one can obtain forgiveness through prayer, repentance and doing good deeds.

The Book of Leviticus (17:11), the third Book of the Torah, clearly gives the prescription for forgiveness. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” The Temple sacrifice was always the centerpiece for Jewish atonement. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Levitical High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat. Through this yearly act, atonement was made for the sins of all Israel, but the Holy Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and for almost 2000 years Jews have been without a Temple, a sacrifice, and a means of atonement.

The Brit Chadasha (The New Covenant or New Testament) teaches us that the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) precisely at the time preceding the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. “But when Messiah arrived as a High Priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more complete Tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered into the Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been made common, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14).

The New Testament teaches that all of us, Jews and gentiles, have “missed the mark.” (Romans 3:23) All of us are under the consequences of sin, and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) We are all in need of salvation from our sin; we are all in need of a Savior. The New Testament teaches that Jesus the Messiah is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father”, but through Him. (John 14:6) And most importantly, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which it is necessary for us to be saved." (Acts 4:12).

For the Jews, Jesus the Messiah has come as High Priest, and through His once-for-all sacrifice for sin offers complete atonement to all people. For there is “no distinction” between Jew and gentile. (Romans 10:12) Yes, the Jews are God’s chosen people, and through them come the Jewish Messiah to bless all the nations of the earth. And it is only through Jesus that Jews can find God’s complete atonement and forgiveness.

"Why do most Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah?"

The Jews rejected Jesus because He failed, in their eyes, to do what they expected their Messiah to do--destroy evil and all their enemies, in this case the Romans, and establish an eternal kingdom with Israel as the preeminent nation in the world. The prophecies in Isaiah and Psalm 22 described a suffering Messiah who would be persecuted and killed, but they chose to focus on those prophecies that discussed His glorious victories, not His crucifixion.

The commentaries in the Talmud, written before the onset of Christianity, clearly discuss the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and puzzle over how these would be fulfilled with the glorious setting up of the Kingdom of the Messiah. After the Church used these prophecies to prove the claims of Christ, the Jews took the position that the prophecies did not refer to the Messiah, but to Israel or some other person.

The Jews believed that the Messiah, the prophet which Moses spoke about, would come and deliver them from Roman bondage and set up a kingdom where they would be the rulers. Two of the disciples, James and John, even asked to sit at Jesus' right and left in His Kingdom when He came into His glory. The people of Jerusalem also thought He would deliver them. They shouted praises to God for the mighty works they had seen Jesus do, and called out "Hosanna, save us" when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:9). They treated Him like a conquering king. Then when He allowed Himself to be arrested, tried and crucified on a cursed cross, the people quit believing that He was the promised prophet. They rejected their Messiah (Matthew 27:22).

Note that Paul tells the Church that the spiritual blindness of Israel is a "mystery" that had not previously been revealed (Romans chapters 9-11). For thousands of years Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness. Israel and her inspired prophets revealed monotheism--one God who was personally interested in mankind's destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments. Yet Israel rejected her prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed. A veil of spiritual blindness fell upon the eyes of the Jews who previously were the most spiritually discerning people. As Paul explained, this hardening in part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

2000 years after He came to the nation of Israel as their Messiah, Jews still (for the most part) reject Jesus Christ. Many Jews today (some say at least half of all living Jews) identify themselves as Jewish but prefer to remain “secular.” They identify with no particular Jewish movement, and have no understanding or affiliation with any Jewish Biblical roots. The concept of Messiah as expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures or Judaism’s “13 Principles of Faith” is foreign to most Jews today.

But one concept is generally held as universal: Jews must have nothing to do with Jesus! Most Jews today perceive the last 2000 years of historical Jewish persecution to be at the hands of so-called “Christians.” From the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the pogroms in Europe, to Hitler’s holocaust – Jews ultimately believe that they are being held responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, and are being persecuted for that reason. They, therefore, reject Him today for this reason and for the other historical reasons mentioned above.

The good news is that many Jews are turning to Christ today. The God of Israel has always been faithful to keep a “remnant” of believing Jews to Himself. In the United States alone, some estimates say that there are over 100,000 Jewish Believers in Jesus, and the numbers are growing all the time.

"If the Jews are God’s ‘chosen people,’ why have they been so oppressed?"

Israel’s blessings were dependent upon her obedience. If the nation sinned, it would be chastened. This is God’s warning to the Jews, followed by His promised restoration: "The Lord shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shall you find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the Lord shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing eyes, and sorrow of mind" (Deuteronomy 28:64,65).

"In the latter years you shall come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them" (Ezekiel 38:8).

"Jews don’t need to be ‘saved’; they’re already God’s chosen people. Even the New Testament says ‘so all Israel shall be saved.’"

The gospel was first preached to the Jews. They were commanded to repent and trust the Savior (Acts 2:38), and warned that if they didn’t repent, they would perish (Luke 13:3). John the Baptist preached fearful words to those who, simply because they were Jews, thought that they need not repent. The Bible says, "Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Luke 3:7–9).

JUSTIFICATION

"What is justification?"

Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous; to make one right with God. Justification is God declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ. Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26:

"But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight - not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus."

We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces our righteousness. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous--He justifies us.

Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: "Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life. Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God's sight." Why is this pronouncement of righteousness so important? "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us" (Romans 5:1). It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of the FACT of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the FACT of justification that enables God to begin the process of sanctification – the process of God making us in reality, what we already are positionally.

KABALLAH

"What is Kabbalah?"

Kabbalah has many different ways of being spelled in English. It can be as you have spelled it, or one of the following: Kaballah, Qabalah, or Cabalah.

Kabbalah developed between the 6th and 13th centuries among Jews in Babylonia, Italy, Provence, and Spain. The word Kabbalah means "to receive" and refers revelation from God received by Jews and passed to succeeding generations through oral tradition. The word was first used by mainstream Judaism but later came to refer to those who believed that only a select few were given the secret knowledge from God as to the "true" meaning of Scriptures. Kabbalah uses occultic practices and is considered to be a cult.

Kabbalah resembles closely some of the beliefs held by the Greek Gnostics in that both groups held that only a select few were given deeper understanding or knowledge. Also, Kabbalah teaches that emanations from God did the work of creation rather than creation being directly from God. With each descending emanation, the emanation became further away from God. The final emanation took the personal form of angels. This would be like God created a lesser god, and that one then created a lesser god, and this kept happening until the end result were angels. This directly contradicts God's revelation of Himself in the Bible. In the Bible, God teaches that He is both separate from all of His creation and yet is directly accessible by those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Kabbalah does hold to the inspiration of Scripture, but does not seek the plain meaning of Scripture. The Kabbalah approach is mystical and very subjective, using such things as numerology to find "hidden" meaning. Through this method, almost any teaching that one desires could be "found" in Scripture. This goes against the very heart of communication. God provided Scripture that He might communicate with mankind and teach humanity of Himself. It is obvious that Scripture is meant to be taken at face value and Not mystical interpretation. This can be demonstrated by fulfilled prophecy. God said something would happen, and it happened as He said it would. The greatest example of this is the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the first coming of Jesus Christ. The were hundreds of verses referring to His coming, and they were fulfilled literally (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 53. This is why the Bible should be interpreted literally or normally.

Kabbalah even has a pantheistic characteristic. Pantheism is the idea that God and His creation are one. This of course is not what God has told us in the Bible. God created all that exists from nothing (the Hebrew word "bara"). Kabbalah says that creation is one of God's emanations - this is the pantheistic quality that Kabbalah has.

Of course I do not know why you have asked this question, but if you are seeking to know God and have a personal relationship with Him, look no further that Jesus Christ and the Bible. Jesus is God in the flesh, and He came to die for every person's sins. If an individual trusts in Christ -- that He is God (John 1:1-3) and paid for sin (Romans 8:3) -- then that person is forgiven and becomes a child of God (John 1:12).

LAW

"Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?"

The key to understanding this issue is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to make the Israelites know how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments for example), some of them were to show them how to worship God (the sacrificial system), some of them were to simply make the Israelites different from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law applies to us today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) which is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we do these two things, we will be fulfilling all that Christ wants for us to do, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Technically, the Ten Commandments are not even applicable to Christians. However, 9 of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God we won't be worshipping other gods or worshipping idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we won't be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. So, we are not under any of the requirements of the Old Testament law. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we do those two things faithfully, everything else will fall into place.

"Do Christians have to obey the laws of the land?"

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."

That passage makes it abundantly clear. 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, showing respect, etc. 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 Romans 13:1-7, he was under the government of Rome, during the reign of Nero, perhaps that most evil of all the Roman Emperors. Paul still recognized that government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?

The next question is: "Is there a time when we should not obey 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, we can plainly see that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey. 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).

LOVE

God’s Love: The Biblical Presentation

The modern message of the gospel is "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." However, our idea of "wonderful" and the world’s may be a little different. Take a sinner through the pages of the Book of Acts and show him the terrifying scene of boulders breaking the bones of Stephen. Then smile and whisper, "Wonderful..." Listen together to the sound of a cat-o’-nine-tails as it rips the flesh off the back of the apostle Paul. Follow together the word "suffering" through the Epistles, and see if you can get the world to whisper, "Wonderful!"

After such a ride down Honesty Road, they may think the pleasures of sin are a little more attractive than the call to "suffer affliction with the people of God." John MacArthur said, "We need to adjust our presentation of the gospel. We cannot dismiss the fact that God hates sin and punishes sinners with eternal torment. How can we begin a gospel presentation by telling people on their way to hell that God has a wonderful plan for their lives?"

Who in the world is going to listen if we are so blatantly honest about the Christian life? Perhaps not as many as are attracted by the talk of a wonderful plan. However, the answer to our dilemma is to make the issue one of righteousness, rather than happiness. This is what Jesus did. He used the Ten Commandments to show sinners the righteous standard of God (Luke 10:25,26; 18:18– 0). Once the world sees the perfect standard by which they will be judged, they will begin to fear God, and through the fear of the Lord, men depart from sin (Proverbs 16:6). They will begin to hunger and thirst after the righteousness that is in Jesus Christ alone.

If you study the New Testament you will see that God’s love is almost always given in direct correlation to the cross: herein is love, for God so loved, God commended His love, etc. (See John 3:16; Romans 5:5,6,8; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4,5; 5:2,25; 1 John 3:16; 4:10; and Revelation 1:5, among others.) The cross is the focal point of God’s love for the world. How can we point to the cross without making reference to sin? How can we refer to sin without the Law (Romans 7:7)?

The biblical way to express God’s love to a sinner is to show him how great his sin is (using the Law—see Romans 7:13; Galatians 3:24), and then give him the incredible grace of God in Christ. This was the key to reaching so many on the Day of Pentecost. They were "devout" Jews who knew the Law and its holy demands, and therefore readily accepted the mercy of God in Christ to escape its fearful wrath. When you use the Law to show the world their true state, get ready for sinners to thank you. For the first time in their lives, they will see the Christian message as an expression of love and concern for their eternal welfare, rather than of merely proselytizing for a better lifestyle while on this earth.

MASTURBATION

"Masturbation - is it a sin according to the Bible?"

The Bible never specifically mentions masturbation or states whether masturbation is a sin. There is no question, however, as to whether the actions that lead to masturbation are sinful. Masturbation is the end result of lustful thoughts, sexual stimulation, and/or pornographic images. It is these problems that need to be dealt with. If the sins of lust and pornography are forsaken and overcome - the problem of masturbation will become a non-issue.

The Bible tells us to avoid even the appearance of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). I do not see how masturbating can pass that particular test. Sometimes a good test for whether something is a sin or not is whether you would be proud to tell others what you had just done. If it is something you would be embarrassed or ashamed about if others found out, it is very likely that it is a sin. Another good test is to determine whether we can honestly, in good conscience, ask God to bless and use the particular activity for His own good purposes. I do not think masturbation qualifies as something we can be "proud" of or can genuinely thank God for.

The Bible teaches us, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). If there is room for doubt as to whether it pleases God, then it is best to give it up. There is definitely room for doubt in regards to masturbation. "For whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). I do not see how, according to the Bible, masturbation could be considered glorifying to God. Further, we need to remember that our bodies, as well as our souls, have been redeemed and belong to God. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do and where we go with our bodies. So, in light of these principles, I would definitely have to say that masturbation is a sin according to the Bible. I do not believe that masturbation is pleasing to God, avoids the appearance of immorality, or passes the test of God having ownership over our bodies.

MORMONISM

Official Name: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons) FOUNDER: Joseph Smith Jr., on April 6, 1830 CURRENT LEADER: Gordon B. Hinckley (b. 1910)

Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah

Membership (1998): Worldwide: 10.3 million in 28,670 wards and branches in 162 countries; United States: 5.1 million in all 50 states and D.C.; Canada: 152,000.

Missionaries (1998): 58,700

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph F. Smith Jr. (1805–1844). Smith claimed to have had a visitation from God in 1820 in which God directed him to establish the true church. Consequently he organized the Mormon Church on April 6, 1830, with six original members. Beginning with a few hundred followers the church moved to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before Smith’s death at the hands of a mob at the Carthage, Ill., jail. Smith had been arrested for encouraging the destruction of the Expositor, a Nauvoo, Ill., newspaper. After Smith’s death, Brigham Young was affirmed as president of the church by a majority of the church’s leaders and led several thousand followers to Utah where they established Salt Lake City in 1847. Joseph Smith’s widow, Emma, resided in Independence, Mo. Those who affirmed her son, Joseph Smith, as the true successor of his father and as prophet of the church helped found the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now headquartered in Independence, Mo., in 1852.

MAJOR BELIEFS OF MORMONS

One True Church:

The Mormon church claims to be the only true church. In God’s supposed revelation to Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ told him to join no other church for "they were all wrong . . . their creeds were an abomination . . . those professors [members] were all corrupt" (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History —1:19). Mormons teach that after the New Testament all churches became heretical and no true saints existed until the "Church of the Latter-day Saints" was organized, hence their name. Non-Mormons are thus called "Gentiles." The new revelations given to Smith, the institution of the prophet and apostles in the church, the restoration of the divine priesthoods, and the temple ceremonies make the church authentic. True and full salvation or exaltation is found only in the LDS Church. Biblical Response: The true church of Jesus Christ has had an ongoing presence and witness in the world since Pentecost. Jesus Christ promised that His church, true baptized and regenerate believers, would not fail (Matt. 16:17– 18). The marks of a true church include faithfulness to the teaching of the first apostles (Acts 2:42)—not the creation of new doctrines.

Authority Of The Prophet:

The president or prophet of the Church is thought to be the sole spokesman and revelator of God. Joseph Smith was the initial prophet, but each successive president holds that position. Through him God’s will can be made known to the church. All revelations are made scripture and no Mormon can attain godhood without accepting Joseph Smith as a true prophet. The Mormon scriptures state that Latter-day Saints "shalt give heed unto all his [the prophet’s] words andcommandments . . . For his word ye shall receive as if from mine [God’s] own mouth" (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5).

Biblical Response: Old and New Testament prophets were God’s spokesmen. Their words were always consistent with the Bible and pointed to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. A test of genuineness for prophets was that any prediction they proclaimed would come true (Deut. 18:20–22). For example, Joseph Smith predicted that the temple of the church would be built in Independence, Mo., within his lifetime (Doctrine and Covenants 84:2–5). No temple has yet been built there. New Testament prophets spoke, along with teachers, pastors, and evangelists, in evangelizing with and edifying the church (Eph. 4:11–13).

Mormon Scripture:

Mormons accept four books as scripture and the word of God. The King James Version of the Bible is one of them, but only "as far as it is translated correctly" —seemingly allowing for possible questions about its authority. Joseph Smith made over 600 corrections to its text. Other "standard works" are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is missing "plain and precious parts" according to the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:26) which the other three volumes complete. The Book of Mormon has the "fullness of the gospel" and tells the story of a supposed migration of Israelites in 600 B.C. to the American continent. These Israelites subsequently lapsed into apostasy although their story was preserved on golden plates written in Reformed Egyptian. Joseph Smith, it is said, translated the plates by the "gift and power of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3). Reformed Egyptian does not exist as a language. The golden plates were returned to the angel Moroni after they were transcribed and Moroni returned them to heaven. The Book of Mormon does not contain explicit Mormon doctrine. Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations of the Mormon prophets—138 in number along with two "declarations." Here most of Mormon doctrine can be found including the priesthood, baptism for the dead, godhood, and polygamy. The Pearl of Great Price contains Smith’s religious history, the Articles of Faith, the Book of Abraham, and the Book of Moses. Biblical Response: The Bible explicitly warns against adding to or detracting from its teaching (Rev. 22:18; Deut. 4:2). The New Testament contains the inspired and totally accurate witness of contemporary disciples and followers of Jesus. It alone claims to be fully inspired of God and usable for the establishment of doctrine (2 Tim. 3:15–17; 2 Pet. 1:19–21).

Establishment Of Temples:

The first Mormon temple was constructed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. Subsequently, a temple was constructed in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846. Presently there are at least 53 operating temples throughout the world including the one finished in Salt Lake City in 1893. The purpose and function of temples is for the practice of eternal ordinances including primarily baptism for the dead, endowments, and celestial marriages. Baptism in the Mormon church, for both the living and the dead, is essential for the fullness of salvation. The dead often are baptized by proxy which affords them after death the opportunity to become Mormons. Celestial marriage for "time and eternity" is also a temple ordinance. It is necessary for godhood and seals the marriage forever. Temples form an essential part of Mormon salvation. Only Mormons in possession of a "temple recommend" by their bishop may enter a temple.

Biblical Response: The Temple of the Old Testament was a place of symbolic sacrifice forefiguring the sacrifice of Christ. Worship in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was a practice of early Jewish believers (Acts 2:46). Otherwise there is no mention of any such practice in the New Testament. Never was the Jewish temple used for baptism for the dead, marriage, or other secret ceremonies. It was the place in the Old Testament where the glory of God occasionally dwelt. Today the individual believer is God’s dwelling place and not a physical building (1 Cor. 3:16).

God Is An Exalted Man:

Elohim, the god of this universe, was previously a man in a prior existence. As a result of having kept the requirements of Mormonism, he was exalted to godhood and inherited his own universe. God is confined to a "body of flesh and bones" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22) and yet is thought to be omniscient and omnipotent. He obviously cannot be omnipresent. There are an nfinite number of gods with their own worlds—these too were previously men. The Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, and "Heavenly Father" comprise three separate and distinct gods. Heavenly Father sires spiritual children in heaven destined for human life on earth. All humans, as well as Jesus Christ and Lucifer, are god’s heavenly children. (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; God, Jesus, and the Spirit thus had beginnings.)

Biblical Response: God is Spirit and is not confined to a physical body (John 4:24). Jesus Christ was incarnated through a miraculous and non-physical conception through the Virgin Mary. He was fully God from the beginning (John 1:1). Together with the person of the Holy Spirit they form the triune (three-in-one) eternal God. JESUS IS GOD’S "SON": Jesus was Heavenly Father’s firstborn spirit child in heaven. He was begotten by God through Mary as in a "literal, full and complete sense" in the same "sense in which he is the son of Mary" (Bruce McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 67). These two elements of Jesus being literally God’s son form his uniqueness in Mormon theology. In the Garden of Gethsemane as well as on the cross Jesus atoned for Adam’s sin and guaranteed all humankind resurrection and immortality. Jesus visited the Israelites or Indians of North America after his resurrection and established the true church among them. We are the spiritual, but literal, younger brothers and sisters of Christ. Some Mormon documents claim that Jesus was married at Cana in Galilee (Mark 2) and had children himself.

Biblical Response: Jesus is viewed as God, the Word or Son, eternally existent with the Father and worthy of identity as God (John 1:1–14). He was born of the Virgin Mary who had conceived him supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was raised from the dead. He will come again and reign as Lord of lords.

Humans Are Gods In Embryo:

Every human being has the potential of becoming a god by keeping the requirements of Mormonism. A well-known statement within Mormonism is, "As man is god once was, as god is man may become." From a prior spirit existence in heaven, humans may be born on earth in order to exercise freedom to choose good or evil and to have a body for the resurrection. Basically humans are good, but they will be punished for their sin. But by keeping Mormon teaching and obeying the church and the Prophet, after the resurrection worthy Mormon males may pass the celestial guards, bring their wives with them, and achieve a status similar to Elohim—the god of this world. The consequences of their sin are erased by their allegiance to the tenets of Mormonism. In resurrection faithful Mormons receive exaltation to godhood and will exercise dominion over their world. Biblical Response: Human beings are God’s special creation. There is no evidence from Scripture of preexistence, rather God acknowledges that it was in the womb of our mothers that He formed us (Isaiah 44:2). A sinful nature is part of humanity’s experience. Liberation from the power and presence of sin is experienced as a result of faith in Christ. At that point God’s image is begun to be remade in every Christian. Although the believer is being transformed to Christlikeness, the Bible does not teach literal godhood as the inheritance of the saints (Rom. 8:29; Rev. 1:5– ).

Mormon Plan Of Salvation:

The Mormon plan of salvation is built on the idea that all people have eternal life, but only the most faithful Mormons have godhood or enter the celestial Kingdom. In order to obtain this ultimate step, Mormons must exercise faith in the God of Mormonism, its Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; exercise repentance; and be baptized in the LDS Church. Additionally Mormons must keep the "Word of Wisdom" by abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; tithe to the church; attend weekly sacrament meetings; support the Mormon prophet; do temple works; and be active in their support of the church.

Biblical Response: Salvation, according to the Bible, is due to God’s grace and love. He provided Jesus as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus that we may be saved. Works are excluded (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9–13; Eph. 2:8–9).

Evangelizing Mormons


Know clearly the Christian faith and the gospel.

Be aware of the unique Mormon doctrines as presented here.

Remember, Mormons use Christian vocabulary (gospel, atonement, god) but radically redefine their meanings. Define clearly what you mean when you use biblical words.

Present a clear testimony of your faith in Christ alone for your salvation.

Show your Mormon friend that the Bible teaches salvation alone through the cross of Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 10:4,10–13; Eph. 2:8–9). Emphasize that salvation is a gift to be received, not a merit to be earned.

Warn the Mormon about trusting in feelings (i.e., the burning in the bosom) for a validation of Mormonism’s truth claim. Without historical, objective verification, feelings are useless.

When Mormons use a Bible verse, read carefully the verses before and afterward to make clear the exact meaning and purpose of the passage. Don’t let them take Bible verses out of context. Read carefully the full reference in the Bible before deciding what any one verse means.

Keep the central doctrines of the faith as the focus of your discussion.

Do the basics: pray, trust the Holy Spirit, and be loving, patient, and steadfast.

How to Witness to Mormons

There are at least two approaches to use in witnessing to Mormons. We can either debate the doctrines of Mormonism (baptism for the dead, "burning" in the bosom, Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, the validity of the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, "God was once a man," "protective" underwear, etc.), or we can present the gospel biblically. One creates an atmosphere of contention and often leaves the Christian feeling frustrated, while the other creates an atmosphere of concern for the eternal welfare of the Mormon. Our goal should be to win a soul to Christ rather than merely win a doctrinal argument.

One point of frustration for the Christian is that Mormons often agree when they hear words such as "salvation," or Jesus as "Savior." The problem is that their understanding of the words differs from the biblical revelation of the words. "Salvation" for a Mormon can mean the salvation of all humanity—when the "Savior" will eventually raise everyone from the dead. Rather than speak of "going to heaven," the Christian should ask what the Mormon has to do to be at peace with the "heavenly Father." This is language they can understand, and will reveal the basis for their salvation. Are they trusting in self-righteousness, or solely in the righteousness of Christ?

Mark J. Cares writes: "Although Mormons commonly appear self-assured and self-righteous, many are undergoing great stress. This is because Mormonism holds up perfection as an attainable goal. The one Bible passage the Mormon church constantly holds up before its membership is Matthew 5:48: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ They then expound on it with numerous exhortations to strive for perfection. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, wrote: ‘Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal’ (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

"This emphasis on perfection permeates every aspect of a Mormon’s life. Its most common form is the unending demand on them to be ‘worthy.’ Every privilege in Mormonism is conditioned on a person’s worthiness. Kimball wrote: ‘All blessings are conditional. I know of none that are not’ (Remember Me, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

"Christians need to recognize that this constant striving for perfection—and the resultant stress it produces—offers an excellent opening to talk to Mormons about Jesus and the imputed perfection we receive through Him.

"Reinforce their predicament. Average hard-working Mormons view this striving for perfection as a heavy but manageable burden. They can cultivate illusions of perfection because the Mormon church has greatly watered down the concept of sin. Consequently, the Christian witness needs to show Mormons both the severity of their predicament and the impossibility of their becoming perfect. In other words, they need to have a face-to-face confrontation with the stern message of God’s Law, because ‘through the Law we become conscious of sin’ (Romans 3:21).

"The Law must first convince Mormons of the severity of their predicament. The best way to accomplish this is to tell them, lovingly but firmly, that they are going to ‘outer darkness.’ (Outer darkness is the closest concept in Mormonism to an eternal hell.) Most Mormons have never been told this, nor have they ever considered that possibility for themselves, since Mormonism teaches that nearly everyone will enter one of Mormonism’s three kingdoms of heaven. Therefore, until you introduce the thought of eternal suffering, they will not feel any real urgency to take your witness to heart. On the contrary, most, if they are willing to talk at all, will view any religious conversation as nothing more than an interesting intellectual discussion.

"Christians often hesitate to be this blunt. They feel that if anything will turn Mormons off, telling them that they are going to outer darkness surely will. I shared that fear when I began using this approach. To my amazement, however, rejection wasn’t the reaction I received. Most have been shocked, but they were also eager to know why I would say such a thing. The key is to speak this truth with love, in such a way that our concern for their souls is readily apparent.

"Alerting Mormons to the very real danger of their going to outer darkness opens the door to telling them the basis for that judgment —which is, they are not meeting God’s requirement for living with Him (they are not presently perfect). The key to explaining this is the present imperative, be perfect, in Matthew 5:48." See Luke 18:20 footnote for how to go through the Law, and 1 Corinthians 15:58 footnote on how not to be discouraged in witnessing.

"Is Mormonism a cult? What do Mormons believe?"

The Mormon religion was founded less than two hundred years ago by a man named Joseph Smith. He claimed to have received a personal visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ and told that all churches and their creeds were an abomination. Joseph set out to impose a brand-new religion that claims to be the “only true church on earth.” The problem with Mormonism is that it contradicts, modifies, and expands on the Bible. Christians have no reason to believe that the Bible is not true and adequate. To truly believe in and trust God means to believe in His Word. And all Scripture is inspired by God, which means it comes from Him (2 Timothy 3:16).

Mormons believe that there are in fact four sources of divinely inspired words, instead of just one. 1) The Bible “as far as it is translated correctly.” Which verses are incorrectly translated are not always made clear 2) The Book of Mormon was “translated” by Smith and published in 1830. Smith claimed it is the “most correct book” on earth, and that a person could get closer to God by following its precepts, “than by any other book.” 3) The Doctrine and Covenants is considered scripture by Mormons, containing a collection of modern revelations regarding the “Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored.” 4) The Pearl of the Great Price is considered by Mormons to “clarify” doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and adds its own information about the earth's creation.

Mormons believe these things about God: that He has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent effort. They believe God the Father has a “body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Though abandoned by modern Mormon leaders, Brigham Young taught that Adam actually was God and the father of Jesus Christ. Christians know this about God: there is only One true God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8), that He always has and always will exist (Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 90:2, 1 Timothy 1:17), and that He was not created, but is the Creator (Genesis chapter1, Psalm 24:1, Isaiah 37:16). He is perfect and no one else is equal to Him (Psalm 86:8, Isaiah 40:25). God the Father is not a man, nor was He ever (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hosea 11:9). He is Spirit (John 4:24), and Spirit is not made of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39).

Mormons believe that there are different levels or kingdoms in the afterlife: The Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, the Telestial Kingdom and outer darkness. Where mankind will end up depends on what they believe and do in this mortal life. The Bible tells us that after death, we go to Heaven or Hell based on whether we had faith in Jesus or not. To be absent from our bodies as believers means we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Unbelievers are sent to Hell, or the place of the dead (Luke 16:22-23). When Jesus comes for the second time, we will receive new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). There will be a New Heaven and New Earth for believers (Revelation 21:1), and unbelievers will be thrown into an everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). There is no second chance for redemption after death (Hebrews 9:27).

Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. They believe Jesus is a God, but that any human can also become a god. Christians historically have taught that God is Triune and that He exists eternally as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). No one can achieve the status of God, only He is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). We can only be made holy in God's sight through faith in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16) and is the only one ever to have lived a sinless, blameless life, who now has the highest place of honor in Heaven (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus and God are one in essence, Jesus being the only One existing before physical birth (John 1:1-8, 8:56). Jesus gave Himself to us as a sacrifice, and God raised Him from the dead, and one day everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11). Jesus tells us it is impossible to get to Heaven by our own works, only with faith in Him is it possible (Matthew 19:26). And many will not choose Him. “You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way” (Matthew 7:13). We all deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but God's infinite love and grace has allowed us a way out. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Clearly there is only one way to receive salvation; to know God and His Son, Jesus (John 17:3). It is not done by works, but by faith (Romans 1:17, 3:28). When we have this faith, we will automatically be obedient to God's laws and become baptized out of love for Him, but not because it is a requirement for salvation. We can receive this gift no matter who we are or what we have done (Romans 3:22). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Although Mormons are usually friendly, loving, and kind people - they are involved in a false religion that distorts the nature of God, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the means of salvation.

PACIFIST

"Was Jesus a pacifist?"

According to Webster’s dictionary, a pacifist is someone who is opposed to violence, especially war, for any purpose, often accompanied by the refusal to bear arms by reason of conscience or religious conviction.

While Jesus is the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), He was not, and is not, a pacifist. Revelation 19:15, speaking of Jesus, declares, "Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3, & 8 say, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heaven…a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” Daniel 9:26 says that “war will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” Matthew 24:6-8 says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Jesus Himself said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law---a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36). “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12).

We are commanded to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). In doing so we must take a stand against what is evil in this world and pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22). Jesus did this and, in so doing, spoke openly against the religious and political rulers of His time because they were not seeking a righteousness from God, but rather of their own making (Luke 20:1-2, Romans 9:31-33). Zeal for God’s righteousness consumed Jesus, and He was not afraid to stand up against those who opposed and dishonored His Father (John 2:15-17, see also Numbers 25:11). “Those who hate Him He will repay to their face by destruction; He will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate Him” (Deuteronomy 7:10). “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The Old Testament is full of examples of how God used his people in war to bring judgment upon nations whose sin had reached its full measure (only a few examples: Genesis 15:16, Numbers 21:3, 31:1-7, 32:20-21, Deuteronomy 7:1-2, Joshua 6:20-21, 8:1-8, 10:29-32, 11:7-20). In raising the moral consciousness of the world, God must take the people as He finds them and introduce principles of righteousness within the moral framework with which the people can identify. We can be assured though, that it is always with justice that God judges and makes war (Revelation 19:11). “For we know Him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31). What we can learn from these and other Biblical examples is that we are only to wage war when it is the will of God and not at our own discretion (John 18:11, Numbers 14:41-45). It is God’s choice as to how and when He brings judgment of sin upon this world and its inhabitants, to display His holiness. We are simply called to follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25).

All of this may sound contradictory to the teachings of Jesus, God Himself, in which He instructs us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19), turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), as well as the command, “you shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). After all, we are told that God is love (1 John 4:16) and “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). The Bible also says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine powers to demolish strongholds.“ While all this is indeed true, it helps in examining these seemingly contradictory concepts from an eternal perspective, that we may gain a more complete understanding for Jesus’ purpose in coming to this earth.

At the beginning of human history, God commanded mankind to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:26-31; Hebrews 2:6-8). When man disobeyed God, sin entered the world (Genesis 2:17, 3:6-7). By this one action, man sold his right to rule this world to Satan and at the same time became captive to sin himself (John 8:34, 12:31; Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:2, 6:12). As a result, sinful men live in a world full of corruption, each person doing what is right in his own eyes, the whole time being led astray by their own evil desires (Psalm 8:6, 51:5; Proverbs 14:12; Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20, James 1:14-15). It isn’t hard to see that the whole world lies in Satan’s power (1 John 5:19). Even Jesus did not dispute with him over the fact that he ruled the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-10). Therefore, there can be no lasting peace or restoration of the land until Jesus returns to redeem the land and man (Galatians 4:4-5).

Jesus came in the likeness of mankind, while still retaining his full authority as God, in order that He might redeem men from their sentence of death, and re-establish, for the believer, man’s authority to rule (Philippians 2:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 54-57, Revelation 20:6). When Jesus died on the cross, He purchased back the land and men’s souls from the dominion of Satan through the shedding of His own blood, the purchase price for redemption of man’s sin (Hebrews 9:22, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Corinthians 6:20). A day is coming, after severe judgment upon the earth, when Jesus will break the seal of the deed and end Satan’s rule (Revelation 5:1-10, 6-18, 19:11-21). At the end of Jesus’ 1,000 year reign upon this earth, Satan will be set free for a short time and war once again will be waged (Revelation 20:7-10). It is only at the end of that war, once the murderer of man, Satan, is destroyed by Jesus and His servants’ blood is finally avenged, that wars will cease and peace will once again be established in the new heaven and new earth (John 8:44, Deuteronomy 32:43, Daniel 7:13-14, 2 Peter 3:3-13, Revelation 21:1-4). Until that time we are called to fight the good fight and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

PARABLES

"Why did Jesus teach in parables?"

It has been said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Lord Jesus frequently used parables as a means of illustrating profound, divine truths. Stories such as these are easily remembered, the characters bold, and the symbolism rich in meaning. Parables were a common form of teaching in Judaism. Before a certain point in His ministry, Jesus had employed many graphic analogies using common things that would be familiar to everyone (salt, bread, sheep, etc.) and their meaning was fairly clear in the context of His teaching. Parables required more explanation, and at one point in His ministry, Jesus began to teach using parables exclusively.

The question is why Jesus would let most people wonder about the meaning of His parables. The first instance of this is in His telling the parable of the seed and the soils. Before He interpreted this parable, He drew His disciples away from the crowd. They said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matthew 13:10-17).

Here Matthew seems to suggest that their own unbelief is the cause of their spiritual blindness. The same event as told by Luke, however, emphasizes God’s initiative in obscuring the truth from these unbelievers (“to the rest it is given in parables, [so] that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand’” (Luke 8:10). Both things are true, of course. Yet we are not to think that God blinds them because He somehow delights in their destruction. This judicial blinding may be viewed as an act of mercy, lest their condemnation be increased. He employed parables to obscure the truth from unbelievers while making it clearer to His disciples. For the remainder of His Galilean ministry, He did not speak to the multitudes except in parables (v. 34). Jesus’ veiling the truth from unbelievers this way was both an act of judgment and an act of mercy. It was judgment because it kept them in the darkness that they loved (John 3:19), but it was mercy because they had already rejected the light, so any exposure to more truth would only increase their condemnation.

Our Lord Jesus understood that truth is not sweet music to all ears. Simply put, there are those who have neither interest nor regard in the deep things of God. So why, then, did He speak in parables? To those with a genuine hunger for God, the parable is both an effective and memorable vehicle for the conveyance of divine truths. Our Lord’s parables contain great volumes of truth in very few words—and His parables, rich in imagery, are not easily forgotten. So, then, the parable is a blessing to those with willing ears. But to those with dull hearts and ears that are slow to hear, the parable is also an instrument of both judgment and mercy.

PHARISEES / SADDUCEES

"Who were the Sadducees and the Pharisees?"

The Sadducees - During the time of Christ and the New Testament era, those who were Sadducees were aristocrats. They tended to be wealthy and held powerful positions, including that of chief priests, the position of high priest, and they held the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They worked very hard to keep the peace by going along with the decisions of Rome (Israel at this time was under Roman control), and in fact they seemed to be more concerned with politics than religion. Because they were accommodating to Rome, and the fact that they were 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 Pharisaical minority, again because the Pharisees were popular with the masses.

Religiously, the Sadducees were more conservative in one large area of doctrine than the Pharisees. 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 worked very hard to preserve 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 are a brief list of beliefs they held that contradict Scripture:

They were extremely self sufficient to the point of denying God's involvement in everyday life.

They denied any resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8).

They denied any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, therefore believing there is no penalty or reward after the earthly life.

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 to put Christ to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53ff; Mark 15:1ff). Other mentions of the Sadducees are found in Acts 4:1ff, Acts 5:17ff, and the Sadducees are implicated in the death of James by the historian Josephus (Acts 12:1-2).

The Sadducees ceased to exist in A.D. 70. Since this party existed because of their political and priestly ties, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70, the Sadducees were also destroyed.

The Pharisees - In contrast to the Sadducees, the Pharisees were not upper class. Most were middle-class businessmen, and therefore were in contact with the common man. The Pharisees were hold in a much higher opinion 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. This was nothing less than legalism. These traditions had evolved over centuries. These traditions added to God's Word, which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19), and the Pharisees sought to strictly obey these traditions equally along with the Old Testament. The Gospels abound with examples of the Pharisees treating these traditions as equal to God's Word (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:5; Matthew 9:14; Matthew 23:16). However, they did remain true to God's Word with reference to certain other important doctrines. In contrast to the Sadducees, they held the following:

They believed that God controlled all things, and yet decisions made by individuals also contributed to the course of a person' s life.

They believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6ff).

They believed in an afterlife, with appropriate reward and punishment on an individual basis.

They believed in the existence of angels and demons (Acts 23:8).

Though the Pharisees were rivals with the Sadducees, they managed to set aside their differences on one occasion--the trial of Christ. It was at this point in time that the Sadducees and Pharisees united to put Christ to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53ff; Mark 15:1ff).

While the Sadducees ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple because they were largely political in nature, the Pharisees, who were much more concerned with the religious state of Israel, continued in existence well beyond the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, the Pharisees were against the rebellion that brought on Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70, and 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 central place of worship, 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.

PORNOGRAPY

Ten Ways to Break the Stronghold of Pornography

Before you go through these... have you looked at yourself under the penetrating light of God's Law? Have you come to a place of genuine repentance? Do you know that your heart is desperately wicked; that it's an enemy of God? Do you see your Adamic nature as a Judas living within you, raising his hands and crying "Master, Master," but at the same time betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? Then put that traitor to death. Never trust your own heart again. It cares for nothing but self. The instant gratification of thirty pieces of silver is better than Heaven's approval. It is self-serving, self-gratifying, and self-deceiving. It is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). Look at what Philippians 2:12 says about the "self" nature:

"...work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ)" (The Amplified Bible).

1. Would you ever take pornography to church and look at it during worship? You may as well, because God is just as present in your bedroom as He is in the church building.

2. Face the fact that you may not be saved. Examine yourself to ensure that Christ is living in you (2 Corinthians 13:5). See Romans 6:11–22; 8:1–14; Ephesians 5:3–8.)

3. Realize that when you give yourself to pornography, you are committing adultery (Matthew 5:27,28).

4. Grasp the serious nature of your sin. Jesus said that it would be better for you to be blind and go to heaven, than for your eye to cause you to sin and end up in hell (Matthew 5:29).

5. Those who profess to be Christians yet give themselves to pornographic material evidently lack the fear of God (Proverbs 16:6). Cultivate the fear of God by reading Proverbs 2:1–5.

6. Read Psalm 51 and make it your own prayer.

7. Memorize James 1:14,15 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. Follow Jesus’ example (Matthew 4:3–11) and quote the Word of God when you are tempted (see Ephesians 6:12–20).

8. Make no provision for your flesh (Romans 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11). Get rid of every access to pornographic material—the Internet, printed literature, TV, videos, and movies. But don't just stop there... you also need to begin to think about how high God's standard of holiness and purity really is. What the general public would have called "pornographic" just 60 to 70 years ago is plastered through your Sunday morning newspaper, the billboards you see on your way to work, and the magazines that line the counters at the grocery checkout. Even television commercials are filled with images that if you printed them off and stood in front of an elementary school showing them to children... you would be arrested. The fire is being fed from all different directions... not just those that the world lables as "pornographic." You must stop feeding the fire.

9. Guard your heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Don’t let the demonic realm have access to your thought-life. The Bible commands you to get control of your thoughts; read what Romans 13:14 says, "But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)" (The Amplified Bible - bold added for emphasis). If you give yourself to it, you will become its slave (Romans 6:16). Read the Bible daily, without fail. As you submit to God, the devil will flee (James 4:7,8).

10. The next time temptation comes, do fifty push-ups, then fifty sit-ups. If you are still burning, repeat the process (see 1 Corinthians 9:27, and 1 Corinthians 7:9). This is not just a random "get your mind off it" exercise. This produces a physical reaction that is the equivalent of what is often called a "cold shower."

"How can I overcome an addiction to internet porn? Can addiction to pornography be defeated?"

Studies show that terms relating to porn are by far the most commonly searched for terms in the internet search engines. Every day, literally millions of people search for terms related to the porn industry. The powerful imagery of internet pornography is highly addictive. Many men (and women) have been caught in the snare of internet porn and find themselves helplessly addicted to its visual stimulation. This results in uncontrollable lust, an inability to experience true sexual intimacy in marriage, and often intense feelings of guilt and despair. Pornography is the #1 cause of masturbation, sexual assault, and sexual deviancy. Most importantly, pornography is offensive to God, and therefore is a sin that must be confessed, repented from, and overcome.

There are two primary aspects in the battle to overcome an addiction to internet porn: spiritual and practical. Spiritually, addiction to pornography is a sin that God desires you to overcome and therefore will enable you to do so. The first step is to make sure you have genuinely placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you are unsure, please visit our page on salvation and forgiveness. Without salvation through Jesus Christ, there is no possibility of a true and lasting victory over pornography, “…apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

If you are a believer in Christ and are struggling with an addiction to internet porn, there is hope and help for you! The power of the Holy Spirit is available to you (Ephesians 3:16). The cleansing of God’s forgiveness is available to you (1 John 1:9). The renewing capacity of God’s Word is at your disposal (Romans 12:1-2). Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord (1 John 2:16). Ask God to strengthen you and help you to overcome pornography (Philippians 4:13). Ask God to protect you from further exposure to porn (1 Corinthians 10:13), and to fill your mind with these that are pleasing to Him (Philippians 4:8). These are all requests that God will honor and answer.

Practically speaking, there are numerous tools to combat an addiction to internet pornography. There is a great program available at www.PureOnline.com. There are several quality internet filtering programs that will completely block your computer from accessing pornography, such as www.BSafeOnline.com. Another fantastic tool is available at www.X3Watch.com. X3watch is accountability software. It tracks your internet browsing and sends a report of any objectionable websites you have visited to an accountability partner of your choosing. Your temptation to view internet porn would be greatly reduced if you knew your youth pastor, parent, friend, pastor, or spouse would receive a detailed report about it. There are also quite a few good books on overcoming porn addiction: Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Purity One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn, Pure Freedom: Breaking the Addiction to Pornography by Mike Cleveland, and The Game Plan by Joe Dallas.

Do not despair! An addiction to internet porn is not an “unforgivable sin.” God can and will forgive you. Do not despair! An addiction to internet porn is not an “unconquerable sin.” God can and will enable you to overcome it. Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord. Commit yourself to filling your mind with God’s Word (Psalm 119:11). Take the practical steps listed above to keep yourself accountable and block access to internet porn. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

PRAYER

"Why pray? What is the point of prayer when God knows the future and is already in control of everything. If we cannot change God's mind, why should we pray?"

Why pray? Why pray when God is already in perfect control of everything? Why pray when God knows what we are going to ask before we ask it?

Prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38). We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7).

Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also.

God intends for prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations:

a) Preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13)

b) Overcoming demonic barriers in lives (Matthew 17:14-21)

c) The gathering of workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2)

d) The gaining of strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41)

e) The means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19)


We have God's promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we don't receive specifically what
we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27).

He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15).

Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God's will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.

In situations for which we do not know specifically what God's will is, prayer is a means of discerning God’s will. If Peter had not asked for Jesus to call for him to come out of the boat and onto the water, he would have missed that opportunity (Matthew 14:28-29). If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside of Jericho would not have called out to Christ, he would have still been blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that often we go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. It is the same with prayer: we will never see the results of answered prayer until we pray.

A lack of prayer demonstrates the a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word, and will bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others' lives. Because it is our means of "plugging into" God's power, it is our means of defeating a foe and his army (Satan and his army) that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a High Priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer.

"Who are we to pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?"

All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are One. To the Father we pray with the Psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:2). To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus assured his disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23). Similarly, we are told to pray to the Holy Spirit and in His power. Paul asked the Spirit to join the hearts of the Corinthian believers together (2 Corinthians 13:13). In addition, the Spirit helps us to pray, even when we don’t know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 1:20). Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.

Equally important is who we are not to pray to. Some non-Christian religions encourage their adherents to pray to a pantheon of gods, dead relatives, saints, and spirits. Roman Catholics are taught to pray to Mary and various saints such as Peter. Such prayers are not scriptural and are, in fact, an insult to our heavenly Father and against His expressed will. To understand why, we need only look at the nature of prayer. Prayer has several elements and if we look at just two of them—praise and thanksgiving—we can see that prayer is, at its very core, worship. When we praise God, we are worshipping Him for His attributes and His work in our lives and in the world. When we offer prayers of thanksgiving, we are worshipping His goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness to us. Worship gives glory to God, the only One who deserves to be glorified. The problem with praying to anyone other than God is that He is a jealous God who has declared He will share His glory with no one. In fact, to do so is nothing less than idolatry. "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Other elements are prayer—such as repentance, confession and petition—are also forms of worship. We repent knowing that God is a forgiving and loving God and He has provided a means of forgiveness in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. We confess our sins because we know “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we worship Him for it. We come to Him with our petitions and intercessions because we know He loves us and hears us, and we worship Him for His mercy and kindness in being willing to hear and answer. When we consider all this, it’s easy to see that praying to someone other than our triune God is unthinkable because prayer is a form of worship, and worship is reserved for God and God alone.

"What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?"

Prayer in Jesus’ name is taught in John 14:13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Some mistakenly apply this verse by believing that saying “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer results in God always granting what is asked for. This is essentially treating the words “in Jesus’ name” as a magic formula. This is absolutely unbiblical!

Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus' name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify Jesus.

Saying, “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer is not a magic formula. If what you asked for or said in prayer was not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying “In Jesus’ name” is meaningless. Genuinely praying in Jesus' name and for His glory is what is important, not attaching certain words to the end of a prayer. It is not the words in the prayer that matter, but the purpose behind the prayer. Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name.

"How should a Christian view prayer in public schools?"

Prayer in public schools is a delicate, sensitive issue. In a perfect situation, all people would graciously and humbly acknowledge the biblical view of God and His control and rulership over the entire world. In this case, there would be prayer in all public facilities and places. As Psalm 33:12 states, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,..." Praise the Lord that when Jesus returns to reign over this earth, this will be the case.

However, although our country was founded upon biblical principles and the culture was directed by the Judeo-Christian ethic for the first 150+ years, the US is currently not a Christian nation. We are marked by great diversity of opinion and religion. One of the absolute blessings of this country is the government-mandated freedom of expression and religion. There are so many countries in this world where the government mandates the practice of one religion or outlaws the practice of another. Our country may one day outlaw Christianity, but it hasn't and for this we should be thankful. In this diverse, tolerant, freedom-based country, one of the sticky issues regarding formalized, school-sponsored religious events is that if the school sponsors Christian events, they have to sponsor events from all religions. It is easy to say that we want prayer in schools until we realize that those prayers may not just include Christian prayers. This is definitely an issue to think about as we develop our opinions regarding this issue.

How should a Christian view prayer in public schools? 1. According to Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 2, we are to submit to and pray for all authority. An application of this would be to pray that we as a culture return to our Christian heritage through revival and salvation of our country.

Although Christian-based prayer is not sponsored in public schools, Christian kids can and should pray while attending school and pray for other kids, teachers and administrators. The believing children should view their schools as a field for evangelism and receive training from parents and churches for this purpose.

Christian parents of immature Christian kids or unbelieving kids may want to consider some alternatives to sending their children to public school. Perhaps home-schooling or a Private Christian School would be a more appropriate choice for kids who don't view the public school as a field for evangelism.

One thing we as Christians shouldn't do is look to government-sponsored organizations, such as the public schools, to reinforce our Christian values and beliefs. The Bible tells us that the world, including government, is opposed to things of God. If our hope for our country is based upon electing the right officials, more than likely, we will be disappointed. Our hope for our country is based upon God's spiritual intervention through proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost in all places...including the public schools.

"What does it mean to pray without ceasing?"

Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing,” can be very confusing. Obviously, it cannot mean we are to be in a head-bowed, eyes-closed posture all day long. Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions.

When our thoughts turn to worry, fear, discouragement and anger, we are to consciously and quickly turn every thought into prayer and every prayer into thanksgiving. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commands us to stop being anxious and instead, "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (4:6). He taught the believers at Colosse to "devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to see prayer as a weapon to use in fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:18). The famous 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, described the Christian's prayer life, saying it is "Like the old knights, always in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances raised to unhorse an adversary, but always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them . . . Those grim warriors often slept in their armor; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God.”

As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, to every anxious thought, to every undesired task that God commands. John MacArthur warns that a lack of prayer will cause us to stop depending on God's grace and depend on ourselves instead. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, dependence upon and communion with the Father.

For Christians, prayer is like breathing. You don't have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That's why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we're born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God's presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer. Only then can we survive in the darkness of the world.

Unfortunately, many believers hold their spiritual breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, to be fully functional.

Because ours is such a free and prosperous society, it is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on—instead of depending on—God's grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual blessings. Having become so dependent on their physical resources, they feel little need for spiritual resources. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. Christians can actually behave like practical humanists, living as if God were not necessary. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing, as will His empowerment. Because of this great and common danger, Paul urged believers to "pray at all times" (Ephesians 6:18) and to "devote yourselves to prayer" (Colossians 4:2). Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.

The "Sinner’s Prayer"—To Pray or Not To Pray?

The question often arises about what a Christian should do if someone is repentant. Should we lead him in what’s commonly called a "sinner’s prayer" or simply instruct him to seek after God? Perhaps the answer comes by looking to the natural realm.

As long as there are no complications when a child is born, all the doctor needs to do is guide the head. The same applies spiritually. When someone is "born of God," all we need to do is guide the head—make sure that they understand what they are doing. Philip the evangelist did this with the Ethiopian eunuch. He asked him, "Do you understand what you read?" (Acts 8:30). In the parable of the sower, the true convert (the "good soil" hearer) is he who hears "and understands." This understanding comes by the Law in the hand of the Spirit (Romans 7:7). If a sinner is ready for the Savior, it is because he has been drawn by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). This is why we must be careful to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work and not rush in where angels fear to tread.

Praying a sinner’s prayer with someone who isn’t genuinely repentant may leave you with a stillborn in your hands. Therefore, rather than lead him in a prayer of repentance, it is wise to encourage him to pray himself. When Nathan confronted David about his sin, he didn’t lead the king in a prayer of repentance.

If a man committed adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back, should you have to write out an apology for him to read to her? No. Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should spill from his lips. She doesn’t want eloquent words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies to a prayer of repentance. The words aren’t as important as the presence of "godly sorrow." The sinner should be told to repent—to confess and forsake his sins. He could do this as a whispered prayer, then you could pray for him. If he’s not sure what to say, perhaps David’s prayer of repentance (Psalm 51) could be used as a model, but his own words are more desirable.

Two Prayers

“DEAR GOD, I have sinned against You by breaking Your Commandments. Despite the conscience You gave me, I have looked with lust and therefore committed adultery in my heart. I have lied, stolen, failed to love You, failed to love my neighbor as myself, and failed to keep the Sabbath holy. I have been covetous, harbored hatred in my heart and therefore been guilty of murder in Your sight. I have used Your holy name in vain, have made a god to suit myself, and because of the nature of my sin, I have dishonored my parents. If I stood before You in Your burning holiness on Judgment Day, if every secret sin I have committed and every idle word I have spoken came out as evidence of my crimes against You, I would be utterly guilty, and justly deserve hell. I am unspeakably thankful that Jesus took my place by suffering and dying on the cross. He was bruised for my iniquities. He paid my fine so that I could leave the courtroom. He revealed how much You love me. I believe that He then rose from the dead (according to the Scriptures). I now confess and forsake my sin and yield myself to Him to be my Lord and Savior. I will no longer live for myself. I present my body, soul, and spirit to You as a living sacrifice, to serve You in the furtherance of Your Kingdom. I will read Your Word daily and obey what I read. It is solely because of Calvary’s cross that I will live forever. I am eternally Yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”


“Choose you this day whom you will serve..."


“SATAN, the Bible tells me that you are the god of this world. You are the father of lies. You deceive the nations and blind the minds of those who do not believe. God warns that I cannot enter His Kingdom because I have lied, stolen, looked with lust and therefore committed adultery in my heart. I have harbored hatred, which the Bible says is the same as murder. I have blasphemed, refused to put God first, violated the Sabbath, coveted other people’s goods, dishonored my parents, and have been guilty of the sin of idolatry—I even made a god to suit myself. I did all this despite the presence of my conscience. I know that it was God who gave me life. I have seen the splendor of a sunrise. I have heard the sounds of nature. I have enjoyed pleasures of an incredible array of food, all of which came from His generous hand. I realize that if I die in my sins I will never know pleasure again. I know that Jesus Christ shed His life’s blood for my sins and rose again to destroy the power of death, but today I refuse to confess and forsake my sins. On the Day of Judgment, if I am cast into the Lake of Fire I will have no one to blame but myself. It is not God’s will that I perish. He commended His love toward me through the death of His Son, who came to give me life. It was you who came to kill, steal, and destroy. You are my spiritual father. I choose to continue to serve you and do your will. This is because I love the darkness and hate the light. If I do not come to my senses, I will be eternally yours. Amen.”

PREMILLENNIALISM

"What is premillennialism?"

Premillennialism is the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to his Millennial Kingdom, and that the Millennial Kingdom is a literal 1,000-year reign. In order to understand and interpret the passages in Scripture that deal with end times events, there are two things that must be clearly understood: (1) a proper method of interpreting Scripture, and (2) the distinction between Israel (the Jews) and the Church (the body of all believers in Jesus Christ).

First, a proper method of interpreting Scripture requires that Scripture be interpreted in a way that is consistent with its context. This means that a passage must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the audience to which it is written, those it is written about, whom it is written by, and so on. It is critical to know the author, intended audience, and historical background of each passage one interprets. The historical and cultural setting will often reveal what the correct meaning of a passage is. It is also important to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. That is, often a passage will cover a topic or subject that is also addressed elsewhere in the Bible. It is important to interpret all of these passages consistently with one another.

Finally, and most importantly, passages must always be taken in their normal, regular, plain, literal meaning unless the context of the passage indicates that it is figurative in nature. A literal interpretation does not eliminate the possibility of figures of speech being used. Rather, it encourages the interpreter to not read figurative language into the meaning of a passage unless it is appropriate for that context. It is crucial to never seek a “deeper, more spiritual” meaning than is presented. This is dangerous, because when it takes place, the basis for accurate interpretation is placed in the mind of the reader, rather than coming from the Scriptures. In this case there can be no objective standard of interpretation, but instead, Scripture becomes subject to each and every person’s own impression of what it means. 2 Peter 1:20-21 reminds us “… that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Applying these principles of Biblical interpretation, it must be seen that Israel (Abraham’s physical descendants) and the Church (all the believers) are two distinct groups. It is crucial to recognize and understand that Israel and the Church are distinct, because if this is misunderstood, Scripture will be misinterpreted. Specifically, passages that deal with promises made to Israel (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) are prone to be misunderstood and misinterpreted if one tries to make them apply to the Church, and vice versa. Remember, the context of the passage will determine to whom it is addressed, and will point to the most correct interpretation!

With those concepts in mind, a look will now be taken at various passages of Scripture that deal with the Premillennial view. Let’s start in Genesis, with chapter 12, verses 1-3. They read, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

God promises Abraham three things here: that Abraham would have many descendants, that this nation would own and occupy a land, and a universal blessing will come to all mankind, out of Abraham’s line (the Jews). In Genesis 15:9-17, God ratifies His covenant with Abraham. In the way this is done, God places sole responsibility for the covenant upon Himself. That is, there was nothing Abraham could do or fail to do that would void the covenant God made. Also in this passage, the boundaries are set for the land that the Jews will eventually occupy. For a detailed list of the boundaries, see Deuteronomy 34. Other passages that deal with the promise of land: Deuteronomy 30:3-5 and Ezekiel 20:42-44.

2 Samuel chapter 7 deals with Christ’s rule during the millennium. 2 Samuel 7, verses 11-17 record a promise made by God to King David. Here, God promises David that he will have descendants, and out of those descendants God will establish an eternal Kingdom. This is referring to the rule of Christ during the Millennium, and forever. It is important to keep in mind that this promise must be fulfilled literally, and has not yet taken place. Some would believe that the rule of Solomon was the literal fulfillment of this prophesy, but there is a problem with that: The territory over which Solomon ruled is not held by Israel today, and Solomon does not rule over Israel today, either! Remember that God promised Abraham that his decedents would possess a land forever, which has not happened yet. Also, 2 Samuel 7 says that God would establish a King who would rule for eternity. Solomon therefore could not be a fulfillment of the promise made to David. Therefore, this is a promise that has yet to be fulfilled!

Now, with all this in mind, examine what is recorded in Revelation 20:1-7, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.”

The thousand years which is repeatedly mentioned in Revelation 20:1-7 corresponds to Christ’s literal 1,000-year reign on the earth. Recall that the promise made to David regarding a ruler had to be fulfilled literally, and has not yet taken place. Premillennialism sees this passage as describing the future fulfillment of that promise with Christ on the throne. God made unconditional covenants with both Abraham and David. Neither of these covenants have been fully or permanently fulfilled. A literal, physical rule of Christ is the only way the covenants can be fulfilled as God promised they would.

Applying a literal method of interpretation to Scripture results in the pieces of the puzzle coming together. All of the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled literally. Therefore, we should expect the prophecies regarding His second coming to be fulfilled literally as well. Premillennialism is the only system that agrees with a literal interpretation of God’s covenants and end times prophecy.

POSTMILLENNIALISM

"What is postmillennialism?"

Postmillennialism is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the biblical book of Revelation which sees Christ's second coming as occurring after (Latin post-) the "Millennium", a Golden Age or era of Christian prosperity and dominance. The term subsumes several similar views of the end times, and it stands in contrast to premillennialism (the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to his Millennial Kingdom, and that the Millennial Kingdom is a literal 1,000-year reign) and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism (no literal millennium).

Postmillennialism refers to a belief that Christ returns after a period of time, but not necessarily 1,000 years. Those who hold this view do not interpret unfulfilled prophecy using a normal, literal method. They believe that Revelation 20:4-6 should not be taken literally. They believe that 1,000 years simply means a long period of time. Furthermore, the prefix "post" in postmillennialism denotes the view that Christ will return after Christians (not Christ Himself) have established the kingdom on this earth.

Those who hold to postmillennialism believe that this world will become better and better—all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding—with the entire world eventually becoming "Christianized." After this happens, Christ will return. However, this is not the view of the world in the end times that Scripture presents. From the book of Revelation, it is easy to see that the world will be a terrible place during that future time. Also, in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul describes the last days as “terrible times.”

Those who hold to postmillenialism use a non-literal method of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy, assigning their own meanings to words. The problem with this is that when you start assigning meanings to words other than their normal meaning, a person can decide that a word, phrase, or sentence means anything they want it to mean. All objectivity concerning the meaning of words is lost. When words lose their meaning, communication ceases. However, this is not how God has intended for language and communication to be. God communicates to us through His written word, with objective meanings to words so that ideas and thoughts can be communicated.

A normal, literal interpretation of Scripture rejects postmillennialism and holds to a normal interpretation of all Scripture, including unfulfilled prophecy. Concerning the interpretation of prophecy, we have hundreds of examples from Scripture of prophecies being fulfilled. Take for example the prophecies concerning Christ in the Old Testament. Those prophecies were fulfilled literally. Consider the virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again, consider His death for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-9; 1 Peter 2:24). These were fulfilled literally. This is reason enough to assume that God will continue in the future to literally fulfill His Word, His prophecies of future events.

PRIDE

"Man is the master of his own destiny!"

If man is in total control of his future, then he should at least be in control of his own body. Instead, he is subject to involuntary yawning, sneezing, breathing, swallowing, sleeping, salivating, dreaming, blinking, and thinking. He can’t even control hair and nail growth. He automatically does these things, irrespective of his will. God has set his body in motion and there is little he can do about it. He also has minimal control over his daily bodily functions. His kidneys, bladder, intestines, heart, liver, lungs, etc., work independently of his will. It is ludicrous to say that man controls his future when he has trouble predicting the stock market, political outcomes, earthquakes, and even the weather, let alone having control over these things.

PROPITIATION

"What is propitiation?"

The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him, had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

The word propitiation is used in several key verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example, in Romans 3:24-25 we see that believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the Book of Romans and are really at the heart of the Gospel message.

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul has made the argument that everybody, both Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. God in His infinite grace and mercy has provided a way that His wrath can be appeased and we can be reconciled to Him. That way is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement or payment for sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice, foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament, that we can be reconciled to God. It is only because of Christ’s perfect life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection on the third day that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a Holy God. The wonderful truth of the Gospel message is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. This truth is also communicated in 1 John 2:2; “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” An important part of Christ’s saving work includes deliverance from God’s wrath that the unbelieving sinner is under, because Jesus’ atonement on the cross is the only thing that can turn away God’s divine wrath. Those that reject Christ as their Savior and refuse to believe in Him have no hope of salvation. They can only look forward to facing the wrath of God that they have stored up for the coming day of judgment (Romans 2:5). There is no other propitiation or sacrifice that can be made for their sins.

QUOTES FROM LEADERS

Great Leaders Speak About the Bible

"Here is a Book worth more than all the other books which were ever printed." Patrick Henry

"That book, Sir, is the Rock upon which our republic rests." Andrew Jackson "The more profoundly we study this wonderful Book, and the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a nation." William McKinley

"The best religion the world has ever known is the religion of the Bible. It builds up all that is good." Rutherford B. Hayes

"There are a good many problems before the American people today, and before me as President, but I expect tofind the solution of those problems just in the proportion that I am faithful in the study of the Word of God." Woodrow Wilson

"The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life." Herbert Hoover

"I say to you, Search the Scriptures! The Bible is the book of all others, to be read at all ages, and in all conditions of human life; not to be read once or twice or thrice through, and then laid aside, but to be read in small portions of one or two chapters every day, and never to be intermitted, unless by some overruling necessity." John Quincy Adams

"We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic." Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems men face. The Bible can touch hearts, order minds and refresh souls." Ronald Reagan "In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength." Robert E. Lee

"I have read the Bible through many times, and now make it a practice to read it through once every year. It is a book of all others for lawyers, as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought and of rules for conduct. It fits a man for life —it prepares him for death." Daniel Webster

Assurance of Salvation:

Jonathan Edwards: “Trust in God and you shall have nothing to fear.”

Patrick Henry: “Doctor, I wish you to observe how real and beneficial the religion of Christ is to a man about to die . . .” In his will he wrote: “This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ which will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”

John Owen: “I am going to Him whom my soul loveth, or rather who has loved me with an everlasting love, which is the sole ground of all my consolation.”

D. L. Moody: “I see earth receding; heaven is opening. God is calling me.”

Lew Wallace (author of Ben Hur): “Thy will be done.”

Alexander Hamilton: “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy.”

William Shakespeare: “I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Savior, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth, whereof it was made.”

Martin Luther: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit! Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth.”

John Milton (British poet): “Death is the great key that opens the palace of Eternity.”

Sir Walter Raleigh (at his execution): “So the heart be right, it is no matter which way the head lieth.”

Daniel Webster (just before his death): “The great mystery is Jesus Christ—the gospel. What would the condition of any of us be if we had not the hope of immortality? . . . Thank God, the gospel of Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light.” His last words were: “I still live.”

General William Booth (to his son): “And the homeless children, Bramwell, look after the homeless. Promise me . . .”

David Livingstone: “Build me a hut to die in. I am going home.”

Charles Dickens: “I commit my soul to the mercy of God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I exhort my dear children humbly to try and guide themselves by the teaching of the New Testament.”

Andrew Jackson: “My dear children, do not grieve for me . . . I am my God’s. I belong to Him. I go but a short time before you, and ...I hope and trust to meet you all in heaven.”

Isaac Watts (hymn-writer): “It is a great mercy that I have no manner of fear or dread of death. I could, if God please, lay my head back and die without terror this afternoon.”

RAPTURE

"What is the Rapture of the church?"

The word "rapture" does not occur in the Bible. The concept of the Rapture, though, is clearly taught in Scripture. The Rapture of the church is the event in which God removes all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the Tribulation period. The Rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Rapture as God resurrecting all believers who have died, giving them glorified bodies, and then departing the earth with those believers who were still alive, who have also been given glorified bodies. "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

1 Corinthians 15:50-54 focuses on the instantaneous nature of the Rapture and on the glorified bodies we will receive. "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Rapture is the glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God's presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the Rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, in regards to the Rapture, God wants us to “encourage each other with these words.”

"When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?"

The timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation is one of the most controversial issues in the church today. The three primary views are Pretribulational (the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation), Midtribulational (the Rapture occurs at the mid-point of the Tribulation), and Posttribulational (the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation). A 4th view, commonly known as Pre-wrath, is a slight modification of the Midtribulational position.

First, it is important to recognize the purpose of the Tribulation. According to Daniel 9:27, there is a seventieth “week” (7 years) that is still yet to come. Daniel’s entire prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:20-27) is speaking of the nation of Israel. It is a time period in which God focuses His attention especially on Israel. The seventieth week, the Tribulation, must also be a time when God deals specifically with Israel. While this does not necessarily indicate that the church could not also be present, it does bring into question why the church would need to be on the earth during that time.

The primary Scripture passage on the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It states that all living believers, along with all believers who have died, will meet the Lord Jesus in the air and will be with Him forever. The Rapture is God removing His people from the earth. A few verses later in 5:9 Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Book of Revelation, which deals primarily with the time period of the Tribulation, is a prophetic message of how God will pour out His wrath upon the earth during the Tribulation. It would seem inconsistent for God to promise believers that they will not suffer wrath and then leave them on the earth during the Tribulation. The fact that God promises to deliver Christians from wrath shortly after promising to remove His people from the earth seems to link those two events together.

Another crucial passage on the timing of the Rapture is Revelation 3:10. There, Christ promises to deliver believers from the “hour of trial” that is going to come upon the earth. This could mean two things: (1) Christ will protect believers in the midst of the trials, or (2) Christ will deliver believers out of the trials. Both are valid meanings of the Greek word translated “from.” However, it is important to recognize what believers are promised to be kept “from.” It is not just the trial, but the “hour” of trial. Christ is promising to keep believers from the very time period that contains the trials, namely the Tribulation. The purpose of the Tribulation, the purpose of the Rapture, the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and the interpretation of Revelation 3:10 all give clear support to the Pretribulational position. If the Bible is interpreted literally and consistently, the Pretribulational position is the most Biblically consistent interpretation.

RELIGION

"Why are there so many denominations?"

In the early 1500s, a German monk named Martin Luther was so conscious of his sins that he spent up to six hours in the confessional. Through study of the Scriptures he found that salvation didn’t come through anything he did, but simply through trusting in the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. He listed the contradictions between what the Scriptures said and what his church taught, and nailed his "95 Theses" to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Martin Luther became the first to "protest" against the Roman church, and thus he became the father of the Protestant church.

Since that split, there have been many disagreements about how much water one should baptize with, how to sing what and why, who should govern who, etc., causing thousands of splinter groups. Many of these groups are convinced that they alone are right. These have become known as Protestant "denominations."

Despite the confusion, these churches subscribe to certain foundational beliefs such as the deity, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19). Thomas Jefferson once wrote of a preacher, Richard Mote, who "exclaimed aloud to his congregation that he did not believe there was a Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist in heaven, having paused to give his hearers time to stare and to wonder. He added that, in heaven, God knew no distinctions."

"Why are there so many different religions?"

It has been well said that "religion" is man’s way of trying to deal with his guilt. Different religions have different ways of attempting to rid their adherents of sin and its consequences. They fast, pray, deny themselves legitimate pleasures, or chasten themselves, often to a point of inflicting pain. They do this because they have a concept of what they think God (or "the gods") is like, so they seek to establish their own righteousness, being "ignorant of God’s righteousness." The Good News of the Christian faith is that no one need suffer the pains of religious works. Christ’s blood can cleanse our conscience from the "dead works" of religion (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus took our punishment upon Himself, and He is the only One who can save us from sin and death. See Acts 4:12 and John 14:6.

"Why is Christianity better than other religions?"

In all major religions, the followers strive to rid themselves of sin through various practices. They may pray in a prescribed way, do various good works, deny themselves legitimate sexual pleasure, follow dietary restrictions, lie on beds of nails, etc. The uniqueness of Jesus is shown in His statement, "The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins." No other religious leader has ever made this claim. Jesus Christ alone can wash away every sin anyone has ever committed, be-cause of what He did on the cross. By paying the penalty for our sin, He can release us from the torture of guilt. We cannot do anything in the way of religious works to wash away our sins. Forgiveness is a free gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9).

RELATIVISM

“There is no absolute truth. You can’t be sure of anything!”

Those who say that there are no absolutes are often very adamant about their belief. If they say that they are absolutely sure, then they are wrong because their own statement is an absolute. If they are not 100 percent sure, then there is a chance that they are wrong and they are risking their eternal salvation by trusting in a wrong belief. God tells us that there is an objective, absolute truth that is not subject to man’s interpretations or whims, on which we can base our eternity. That truth is the Word of God (John 17:7).

REPENTANCE

"What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation?"

Many understand the term “repentance” to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the Biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word “repent” means to "change your mind." The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full Biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regards to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah, to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection, or repentance from ignorance or disinterest – it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ, to faith in Christ.

It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Him (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives – it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God's drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God's longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

RESURRECTION

Does Circumstantial Evidence Confirm It?

Timothy McVeigh, the man behind the Oklahoma City bombing, has a date with death. He’ll receive a lethal injection for killing 168 innocent people, even though no one saw him commit this heinous crime. All the evidence against McVeigh was circumstantial. Indirect testimony: That’s what circumstantial evidence is. It’s an accumulation of facts from which one can draw intelligent conclusions.

As a newspaper reporter covering the courts, former journalist Lee Strobel saw how circumstantial evidence is used to expose what really happened during a crime. So, in the midst of a spiritual quest, Strobel began to wonder: Could circumstantial evidence verify that the resurrection of Christ really happened?

Well, he took his question to philosopher J. P. Moreland. In a challenging voice, Strobel asked Moreland: “Can you give me five pieces of solid circumstantial evidence that convince you Jesus rose from the dead?” Certainly, Moreland responded. First, there’s the evidence of the skeptics. Some of those who were most hostile to Jesus prior to his death became his most ardent supporters afterwards.

Second, the ancient Jews had a number of immensely important religious rituals. These included the offering of animal sacrifices, obeying the Mosaic law, and keeping the Sabbath. But within five weeks of Jesus’ death, more than 10,000 Jews had suddenly altered or abandoned these rituals. Moreland asked: Why would they relinquish rites that had long given them their national identity? The implication is that something enormously significant had occurred.

Third, we see the emergence of new rituals: the sacraments of Communion and Baptism. The early Jews baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, “which,” Moreland said, “meant they had elevated Jesus to the full status of God.”

Fourth, we see the rapid rise of a new church, beginning shortly after the death of Jesus. Within twenty years this new church (begun by the companions of a dead carpenter) had reached Caesar’s palace in Rome, and eventually spread throughout the Roman empire.

And fifth, Moreland said, there’s the most convincing circumstantial evidence of all: the fact that every one of Jesus’ disciples was willing to suffer and die for his beliefs. These men spent the rest of their lives witnessing about Christ. They frequently went without food; they were mocked, beaten, and thrown into prison. In the end, all but one died a painful martyr’s death. Would they have done this for a lie? Of course not. They did it because they were convinced beyond a doubt that they had seen the risen Christ.

Even if we doubted 2,000-year-old evidence, we have all the circumstantial evidence we could possibly want—right in front of us. It is, Moreland said, “the ongoing encounter with the resurrected Christ that happens all over the world, in every culture, to people from all kinds of back-grounds and personalities. They all will testify that more than any single thing in their lives, Jesus Christ has changed them.”

Circumstantial evidence earned Timothy McVeigh a death sentence. But sacred circumstantial evidence about the resurrection of Jesus Christ can lead all of us, including McVeigh, to a much better verdict: everlasting life in the presence of God.

"Is the resurrection of Jesus Christ true?"

Scripture presents conclusive evidence that Jesus Christ was in fact resurrected from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is recorded in Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; and John 20:1-21:25. The resurrected Christ also appeared in the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1-11). From these passages you can gain several "proofs" of Christ’s resurrection. First, look at the dramatic change in the disciples. They went from scared and hiding in a room, to courageous and sharing the Gospel throughout the world. What else could explain this dramatic change other than the risen Christ appearing to them?

Second, look at the life of the Apostle Paul. What changed him from being a persecutor of the church into an apostle for the church? It was when the risen Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). Third, another convincing "proof" is the empty tomb. If Christ were not raised, then where is His body? The disciples and others saw the tomb where He was buried. When they returned, His body was not there. Angels declared that He had been raised from the dead as He had promised (Matthew 28:5-7). Fourth, additional evidence of His resurrection is the many people He appeared to (Matthew 28:5,9,16-17; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:19,24,26-29; 21:1-14; Acts 1:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:5-7).

Another key truth to why the resurrection of Jesus must be true is the great amount of weight the Apostles gave to Jesus' resurrection. A key passage on Christ’s resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul explains why it is crucial to understand and believe in Christ’s resurrection. The resurrection is important for the following reasons: (1) If Christ was not raised from the dead, believers will not be either (1 Corinthians 15:12-15). (2) If Christ was not raised from the dead, His sacrifice for sin was not sufficient (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Jesus’ resurrection proved that His death was accepted by God as the atonement for our sins. If He had simply died and stayed dead, that would indicate His sacrifice was not sufficient. As a result, believers would not be forgiven for their sins, and they would still remain dead after they die (1 Corinthians 15:16-19) – there would be no such thing as eternal life (John 3:16). "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20 NAS). Christ has been raised from the dead – He is the first fruits of our resurrection.

(3) All those who believe in Him will be raised to eternal life just as He was (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). 1 Corinthians 15 goes on to describe how Christ’s resurrection proves His victory over sin, and provides us the power to live victoriously over sin (1 Corinthians 15:24-34). (4) It describes the glorious nature of the resurrection body we will receive (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). (5) It proclaims that as a result of Christ’s resurrection, all who believe in Him have ultimate victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). What a glorious truth the resurrection of Christ is! "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). According to the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is most definitely true. The Bible records Christ's resurrection, records that it was eye-witnessed by over 400 people, and proceeds to build crucial Christian doctrine on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection.

"There are contradictions in the resurrection accounts. Did Christ appear first to the women or to His disciples?"

Both Matthew and Mark list women as the first to see the resurrected Christ. Mark says, "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene" (16:9). But Paul lists Peter (Cephas) as the first one to see Christ after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5). Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, and then to Peter. Paul was not giving a complete list, but only the important one for his purpose. Since only men’s testimony was considered legal or official in the first century, it is understandable that the apostle would not list the women as witnesses in his defense of the resurrection here. The order of the appearances of Christ is as follows:

CHRIST’S RESURRECTION APPEARANCES

APPEARED TO: REFERENCES:

1. Mary John 20:10–18

2. Mary and women Matthew 28:1–10

3. Peter 1 Corinthians 15:5

4. Two disciples Luke 24:13–35

5. Ten apostles Luke 24:36–49; John 20:19–23

6. Eleven apostles John 20:24–31

7. Seven apostles John 21

8. All apostles Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–18

9. 500 brethren 1 Corinthians 15:6

10. James 1 Corinthians 15:7

11. All apostles Acts 1:4–8

12. Paul Acts 9:1–9; 1 Corinthians 15:8

SABBATH

Freedom from Sabbath-keeping

Some today insist that Christians must keep the Sabbath day, that those who worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) are in great error. They reason that "Sun-day" comes from the pagan worship of the Sun god, that Jesus and Paul kept the Sabbath day as an example for us to follow, and that the Roman Catholic church is responsible for the change in the day of worship. Those who continue to worship on Sunday will receive the mark of the beast.

Let’s briefly look at these arguments. First, nowhere does the Fourth Commandment say that Christians are to worship on the Sabbath. It commands that we rest on that day: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work . . . For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:8–11). Sabbath-keepers worship on Saturday. However, the word "Satur-day" comes from the Latin for "Saturn’s day," a pagan day of worship of the planet Saturn (astrology).

If a Christian’s salvation depends upon his keeping a certain day, surely God would have told us. At one point, the apostles gathered specifically to discuss the relationship of believers to the Law of Moses. Acts 15:5–11, 24–29 was God’s opportunity to make His will clear to His children. All He had to do to save millions from damnation was say, "Remember to keep the Sabbath holy," and millions of Christ-centered, God-loving, Bible-believing Christians would have gladly kept it. Instead, the only commands the apostles gave were to "abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication."

There isn’t even one command in the New Testament for Christians to keep the Sabbath holy. In fact, we are told not to let others judge us regarding Sabbaths (Colossian 2:16), and that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was given as a sign to Israel (Exodus 31:13–17); nowhere is it given as a sign to the Church. Thousands of years after the Commandment was given we can still see the sign that separates Israel from the world—they continue to keep the Sabbath holy.

The apostles came together on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). The collection was taken on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). When do Sabbath-keepers gather together to break bread or take up the collection? It’s not on the same day as the early Church. They tell us that the Roman Catholic church changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, but what has that got to do with the disciples keeping the first day of the week? That was the Roman Catholic church in the early centuries, not the Church of the Book of Acts.

Romans 14:5–10 tells us that one man esteems one day of the week above another; another esteems every day alike. Then Scripture tells us that everyone should be fully persuaded in his own mind. We are not to judge each other regarding the day on which we worship.

Jesus did keep the Sabbath. He had to keep the whole Law to be the perfect sacrifice. The Bible makes it clear that the Law has been satisfied in Christ. The reason Paul went to the synagogue each Sabbath wasn’t to keep the Law; that would have been contrary to everything he taught about being saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). It was so he could preach the gospel to the Jews, as evident in the Book of Acts. Paul had an incredible evangelistic zeal for Israel to be saved (Romans 10:1). To the Jew he became as a Jew, that he might win the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:19,20). That meant he went to where they gathered on the day they gathered.

D. L. Moody said, "The Law can only chase a man to Calvary, no further." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law so we are no longer in bondage to it. If we try to keep one part of the Law (even out of love for God), we are obligated to keep the whole Law (Galatians 3:10)—all 613 precepts. If those who insist on keeping the Sabbath were as zealous about the salvation of the lost as they are about other Christians keeping the Sabbath, we would see revival.

SACRIFICE

"Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?"

God required animal sacrifices so that mankind could receive forgiveness for their sins (Leviticus 4:35; 5:10). To begin, animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture. When Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain's was unacceptable because he brought fruit, while Abel's was acceptable because it was the "firstlings of his flock" (Genesis 4:4-5). After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God. This sacrifice from Noah was an aroma that was soothing to the Lord (Genesis 8:20-21). God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeyed God, but just as Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, God intervened and provided a ram to die in the place of Isaac (Genesis 22:10-13).

The sacrificial system reaches its climax with the nation of Israel. God commanded the nation to perform numerous different sacrifices. According to Leviticus 1:1-4, a certain procedure was to be followed. First, the animal had to be spotless. Next, the person offering the sacrifice had to identify with the animal. Then the person offering the animal had to inflict death upon it. When done in faith, this sacrifice provided forgiveness of sins. Another sacrifice called the day of atonement, described in Leviticus 16, demonstrates forgiveness and the removal of sin. The high priest was to take two male goats for a sin offering. One of the goats was sacrificed as a sin offering for the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:15), while the other goat was released into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). The sin offering provided forgiveness, while the other goat provided the removal of sin.

Why, then, do we no longer offer animal sacrifices today? Animal sacrifices have ended because Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice. John the Baptist recognized this when he saw Jesus for the first time, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). You may be asking yourself, why animals? What did they do wrong? That is the point, in that since the animals did no wrong, they died in place of the one performing the sacrifice. Jesus Christ also knew no wrong but willingly gave Himself to die for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). Many people call this idea of dying in place of someone else substitution. Jesus Christ took our sin upon himself and died in our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, the individual can receive forgiveness.

In summation, the animal sacrifices were commanded by God so that the individual could experience forgiveness of his sins. The animal served as a substitute--that is, the animal died in place of the sinner. Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute and is now the only mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis on which an animal sacrifice could provide forgiveness of sins is the fact that Christ would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow.

SALVATION

"What is salvation? What is the Christian doctrine of salvation?"

Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering. To save is to deliver or protect. The word carries the idea of victory, health, or preservation. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words saved or salvation to refer to temporal, physical deliverance, such as Paul’s deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19).

More often, the word salvation concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. When Paul told the Philippian jailer what he must do to be saved, he was referring to the jailer’s eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31). Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25).

What are we saved from? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from “wrath”; that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.

Who does the saving? Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

How does God save? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, God has rescued us through Christ (John 3:17). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

How do we receive salvation? We are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe—fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation would be “The spiritual, eternal deliverance which God immediately grants to those who accept His conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.” Salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and is dependant on God alone for provision, assurance, and security.

"How can you know that you are saved?"

A two-year-old boy was once staring at a heater, fascinated by its bright orange glow. His father saw him and warned, "Don’t touch that heater, son. It may look pretty, but it’s hot." The little boy believed him, and moved away from the heater. Some time later, after his father had left the room, the boy thought, "I wonder if it really is hot." He then reached out to touch it and see for himself. The second his flesh burned, he stopped believing it was hot; he now knew it was hot! He had moved out of the realm of belief into the realm of experience.

Christians believed in God’s existence before their conversion. However, when they obeyed the Word of God, turned from their sins, and embraced Jesus Christ, they stopped merely believing. The moment they reached out and touched the heater bar of God’s mercy, they moved out of belief into the realm of experience. This experience is so radical, Jesus referred to it as being "born again." The Bible says that those who don’t know God are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18). We are born with physical life, but not spiritual life. Picture unbelievers as corpses walking around who, by repenting and placing their faith in Christ, receive His very life. There is a radical difference between a corpse and a living, breathing human, just as there is when sinners pass from spiritual death to life. The apostle Paul said if you are "in Christ," you are a brand new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Those who now have God’s Spirit living in them will love what He loves and desire to do His will; they will have a hunger for His Word, a love for other believers, and a burden for the lost. The Holy Spirit also confirms in their spirit that they are now children of God (Romans 8:16). Those who believe on the name of the Son of God can know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:12,13).

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:4,5). What Paul was saying was, "I deliberately didn’t talk you into your faith, but I let God’s power transform you." He didn’t reach them through an intellectual assent, but through the realm of personal experience.

Suppose two people—a heater manufacturer and a skin specialist—walked into the room just after that child had burned his hand on the heater. Both assured the boy that he couldn’t possibly have been burned. But all the experts, theories, and arguments in the world will not dissuade that boy, because of his experience. Those who have been transformed by God’s power need never fear scientific or other arguments, because the man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument. "For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance . . ." (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

There are so many voices out there, and so much confusion. It was a joy for me to discover the following ten assurances of our salvation from God's Word.

   I believe God wants His people to KNOW FOR SURE that they are born again children of God. As John wrote in 1 John 1:4, "these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." 

1. We know we are saved when we find that we are able to believe the Gospel! 

    a. The Gospel is foolishness to the natural man. Until a person is born again, they cannot receive anything from the Spirit of God. ("Gospel" means "good news") 

        (1) 1 Cor 1:18 and 2:14 say "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are (being) saved it is the power of God." and "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned." 

        (2) John 5:24 says "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that (presently) heareth my word, and believeth (trusts and relies) on him that sent me, hath (is presently possessing) everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is (has already been) passed from death (spiritual) unto life (spiritual)." 

        (3) 1 John 5:1 says " Whosoever (presently) believeth that Jesus is the Christ is (has already been) born of God. 

        (4) 1 John 5:12 & 13 say "He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe (trust and rely) on the name of the Son of God."

2. We know we are saved because we can love our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. (No matter what "denomination" they "belong" to). 

    a. 1 John 3:14 says "We know that we have passed from death (spiritual) unto life (spiritual), because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth (presently) in death (is spiritually dead)." 

    b. John 13:35, Jesus said "By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." 

3. We know we are saved because we can confess that Jesus is God himself come in the flesh. 

    a. 1 John 4:1&2 says "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 

    b. 1 John 5:13 says "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." ("believe" in the Scriptures means "trust in and rely on"). 

4. We know we are saved because God's children hear us. 1 John 4:6 says "We are of (out from the source of) God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." 

5. We know we are saved because we desire to keep his commandments (the imperatives of the New Testament epistles to the Churches). 1 John 2:3&5 says "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." 

6. We know we are saved because His Spirit is in us. (Internal evidence). 

    a. 1 John 4:13 says "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." 

    b. Romans 8:16 says "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God". 

7. We know we are saved because we can hear and love God's truth. 

    a. John 8:41-44&47 Jesus is speaking to scoffers and he says "Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; (accusing Jesus of being an illegitimate child) we have one Father, [even] God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? [even] because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell [you] the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear [them] not, because ye are not of God." 

    b. In John 10:26-29 Jesus said "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand. I and [my] Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him." 

8. We know we are saved because we can confess that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 4:15 says " Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (Notice THE Son of God) 

9. We know we are saved because we can confess that Jesus is the Lord Himself. 1 Cor 12:3 says "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is THE Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (In the Church at Corinth, someone was claiming to be speaking by the Spirit of God, but cursing Jesus). (Jesus is not just "Lord", but "THE Lord") 

10. We know we are saved, because the faith that saves us is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: 

    a. Ephesians 2:5 says "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God" 

    b. 2 Thess 3:2 states that all men do not have faith. Only God's children have true faith. Are you still reading this paper on salvation evidence? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God Himself come in the flesh? Do you find yourself loving God's Word and His people? Rejoice! That is evidence that you are a Born Again Child of God! 

"What are the steps to salvation?"


 
“In [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).


Giving steps to salvation can be misleading because it implies that a person can work his way to heaven by completing "steps." As the above verse says, salvation is by His grace; we cannot earn it (Titus 3:5). Being dead in sin, an unbeliever doesn’t have the capacity to love God (Ephesians 2:1).

Thankfully, “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), God redeemed us. Redemption is paying the price to loose from bondage. By sacrificing His Son on the cross, God paid the price for sin (which is death), freeing believers from sin’s oppression. By resurrecting Christ from the grave, God proved the sacrifice was effective, giving the Lord Jesus authority to rule and intercede at His right hand (Romans 4:25; Mark 16:19).


Although we cannot merit heaven by taking steps to salvation, we are called to respond to Christ’s redemption with repentance and faith. Even that response is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thus, the question is correctly worded, “What are God’s steps to salvation of sinners?” He did it all through Christ!

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified [declared righteous/not guilty] as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; . . . Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:23-24; 27-29).


The next question is, “What should be our response, by God’s grace, to Christ’s death and resurrection? Let’s review the following three responses. Discern whether you need to respond to God’s grace to be saved from sin and its sentence of hell.



Steps to Salvation (i.e. Response to Christ’s Redemption)

  1. Recognize need: Before receiving Jesus as Savior, you must understand why you need a Savior. Most people think if they live a law-abiding life, they deserve heaven. The problem is their definition of law-abiding. On Judgment Day after death, we won’t stand before a fallible, human judge. We will answer to a holy God, who rightly judges our thoughts, words, and actions.

    God gives His law in the Bible, summarized by the Ten Commandments. Have you kept them? You might be thinking, “Well, I’ve never murdered anyone.” But Jesus revealed the true meaning of the law. He equated hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15). Looking at someone with lust, Jesus taught, was adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-29).

    Besides, all of us have broken the two greatest commands: loving God wholeheartedly and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). By loving possessions more than God and loving ourselves more than others, we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).


Are you guilty? “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The penalty for sin that we all deserve is death, eternal separation from God in hell (Romans 6:23). Do you realize your need for a Savior from sin? That is God’s grace in convicting you!

  1. Repent of sin: In believing in Jesus as Savior, you must change your mind. Repentance isn’t a “Sorry I got caught” reaction. It is a change of mind, a heartfelt sorrow of how sin grieves God, resulting in turning away from it to Christ who gives the power to overcome sin. You cannot embrace both sin and Christ.


Although repentance leads to a change of behavior, it doesn’t mean we’ll never sin again. But we will have a different attitude toward it. Instead of craving the gratification of sin’s enticements, we’ll learn to detest it. God changes the lure of sin for the pure desire of delighting in Himself.

After convicting us of sin (first response), God’s grace gives us the repentant desire to change (second response). Turning from sin, we turn in faith to the only Savior from sin. This trust in Christ’s payment for and triumph over sin involves the third response to God’s grace.

  1. Receive Christ: For repentant sinners, God provides salvation from the penalty and power of sin through Jesus. Our response must be faith in who Christ is and what He has done. Jesus lived a perfect life for He was God in the flesh; Jesus died a redemptive death for He is the Savior from sin; Jesus resurrected as the Victor over sin and death for He is Lord over all.

    By God’s grace, we repent of sin, trusting Christ as Savior from sin and following Him as Lord of life. We’re born again to new life by the Holy Spirit. Thus, He changes our desires to joy in glorifying the Lord.

In conclusion, a person cannot merit heaven through taking certain steps to salvation. Rather, God calls a sinner to respond to Christ’s redemption. Even the response of repentance and faith is His grace. Christians have nothing to be proud about; they boast only in the Lord!

 

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

 

Note that God saves Christians unto good works. All other religions require earning salvation by good works. Islam, for example, requires keeping the Five Pillars as steps to salvation.

In our pluralistic society, claiming one religion as truth seems arrogant. But God is not confined by men’s wishes and beliefs. As sovereign Judge, He could have let the law condemn us, resulting in eternal separation from Him in hell. But in love, God sent Christ to save His own from sin. Glory to God alone! How do you respond?

"Do I have eternal life?"

The Bible presents a clear path to eternal life. First, we must recognize that we have sinned against God: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all done things that are displeasing to God, which makes us deserving of punishment. Since all our sins are ultimately against an eternal God, only an eternal punishment is sufficient. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

However, Jesus Christ, the sinless (1 Peter 2:22), eternal Son of God became a man (John 1:1,14) and died to pay our penalty. "God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ died on the cross (John 19:31-42), taking the punishment that we deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21). Three days later He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving His victory over sin and death. "In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

By faith, we must change our mindset regarding Christ - who He is, what He did, and why - for salvation (Acts 3:19). If we place our faith in Him, trusting His death on the cross to pay for our sins, we will be forgiven and receive the promise of eternal life in heaven. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross is the only true path to eternal life! "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that 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 Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"

"I have been born again many times."

Like Nicodemus, many people have no concept of what it means to be born again. He thought Jesus was speaking of a physical rebirth. Others see the experience as being a spiritual "tingle" when they think of God or a warm fuzzy feeling when they enter a building they erroneously call a "Church." Or maybe they are of the impression that one is born again when one is "christened" or "confirmed."

However, the new birth spoken of by Jesus is absolutely essential for sinners to enter heaven. If they are not born again, they will not enter the kingdom of God. Therefore it is necessary to establish the fact that one becomes a Christian by being born again, pointing out that Jesus Himself said that the experience was crucial. The difference between believing in Jesus and being born again is like believing in a parachute, and putting one on. The difference will be seen when you jump. (See Romans 13:14.)

How is one born again? Simply through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess and forsake your sins, and trust in Jesus alone for your eternal salvation. When you do, you receive spiritual life through the Holy Spirit who comes to live within you. See Ephesians 4:18 and 1 Peter 1:23 footnotes.

"Is water baptism essential to salvation?"

While we should preach that all men are commanded to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), adding any other requirement to salvation by grace becomes "works" in disguise. Even though numerous Scriptures speak of the importance of water baptism, adding anything to the work of the cross demeans the sacrifice of the Savior. It implies that His finished work wasn’t enough. But the Bible makes clear that we are saved by grace, and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). Baptism is simply a step of obedience to the Lord following our repentance and confession of sin. Our obedience— water baptism, prayer, good works, fellowship, witnessing, etc.—issues from our faith in Christ. Salvation is not what we do, but Who we have: "He that has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12). See Acts 2:38 footnotes.

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

It is true that there are numerous Bible verses that speak of the promise of salvation, with no mention of repentance. These merely say to "believe" on Jesus Christ and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). However, the Bible makes it clear that God is holy and man is sinful, and that sin makes a separation between the two (Isaiah 59:1,2). Without repentance from sin, wicked men cannot have fellowship with a holy God. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ.

The Scriptures speak of "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). We turn from sin to the Savior. This is why Paul preached "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). The first public word Jesus preached was "repent" (Matthew 4:17). John the Baptist began his ministry the same way (Matthew 3:2). Jesus told His hearers that without repentance, they would perish (Luke 13:3).

If belief is all that is necessary for salvation, then the logical conclusion is that one need never repent. However, the Bible tells us that a false convert "believes" and yet is not saved (Luke 8:13); he remains a "worker of iniquity." Look at the warning of Scripture: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (1 John 1:6). The Scriptures also say, "He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them [repentance] shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). Jesus said that there was joy in heaven over one sinner who "repents" (Luke 15:10). If there is no repentance, there is no joy because there is no salvation.

When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he commanded his hearers to repent "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Without repentance, there is no remission of sins; we are still under His wrath. Peter further said, "Repent . . . and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). We cannot be "converted" unless we repent. God Himself "commands all men everywhere [leaving no exceptions] to repent" (Acts 17:30). Peter said a similar thing at Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" (Acts 2:38).

If repentance wasn’t necessary for salvation, why then did Jesus command that repentance be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47)? With so many Scriptures speaking of the necessity of repentance for salvation, one can only suspect that those who preach salvation without repentance are strangers to repentance themselves, and thus strangers to true conversion.

Is Suffering the Entrance to Heaven?

In January 2000, a well-known ex-televangelist said on a worldwide TV talk show, "I believe that every person who died in the Holocaust went to heaven." He was very sincere, and if he was seeking the commendation of the world, he surely got it with that statement. Who wouldn’t consider what he said to be utterly compassionate?

However, let’s look at the implications of his heartfelt beliefs. His statement seemed to limit salvation to the Jews who died in the Holocaust, because he added that "their blood laid a foundation for the nation of Israel." If the slaughtered Jews made it to heaven, did the many Gypsies who died in the Holocaust also obtain eternal salvation? If his statement includes Gentiles, is the salvation he spoke of limited to those who died at the hands of Nazis? Did the many Frenchmen who met their death at the hands of cruel Nazis go to heaven also?

Perhaps he was saying that the death of Jesus on the cross covered all of humanity, and that all will eventually be saved— something called "universalism." This means that salvation will also come to Hitler and the Nazis who killed the Jews. However, I doubt if he was saying that. Such a statement would have brought the scorn of his Jewish host, and of the world whose compassion has definite limits. If pressed, he probably didn’t mean that only the Jews in the camps went to heaven, because that smacks of racism.

He was likely saying that those who died were saved because they died in such tragic circumstances. Then Jesus was lying when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). There is another way to heaven—death in a Nazi concentration camp. Does that mean that the many Jews who died under communism went to heaven? Or is salvation limited to German concentration camps? If their salvation came because of the grim circumstances surrounding their death, does a Jew therefore enter heaven after suffering for hours before dying in a car wreck . . . if he was killed by a drunk driver who happened to be German? Bear in mind that his suffering may have been much greater than someone who died within minutes in a Nazi gas chamber.

Many unsaved think we can merit entrance into heaven by our suffering. Their error was confirmed by this sincere, compassionate man of God. They may now disregard the truth, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). They can now save themselves by the means of their own death . . . if they suffer enough.

The ex-televangelist was concerned that his indiscretions of the 1980s brought discredit to the kingdom of God. However, those actions fade into history compared to the damage done by saying that there is another means of salvation outside of Jesus Christ, on a program watched by untold millions around the world. Who on earth needs to repent and trust in Jesus, if millions entered the kingdom without being born again? No one.

"Can a Christian lose salvation?"

Before this question is answered, the term “Christian” must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer, or walked down an aisle, or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what “makes” a Christian. A Christian is a person who has, by faith, received and fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? Perhaps the best way to answer this crucially important question is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation, and to study what losing salvation would therefore entail. Here are a few examples:

A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse speaks of a person becoming an entirely new creature as a result of being “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be canceled and reversed.

A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The word “redeemed” refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase that He paid for with the precious blood of Christ.

A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To “justify” means to “declare righteous.” All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and undeclare what He had previously declared.

A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is a promise of eternity (forever) in Heaven with God. God promises, “believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be taken away. If a Christian is promised to live forever, how then can God break this promise by taking away eternal life?

A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). As we learned in Romans 5:1, justification is declared at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification is guaranteed for all those whom God justifies. Glorification refers to a Christian receiving a perfect resurrection body in Heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.

Many more illustrations of what occurs at salvation could be shared. Even these few, though, make it abundantly clear that a Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says occurs to a person when he/she receives Jesus Christ as Savior would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation cannot be reversed. A Christian cannot be un-newly created. Redemption cannot be undone. Eternal life cannot be lost and still be considered eternal. If a Christian can lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and change His mind - two things that Scripture tells us God never does.

The most frequent objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation are: (1) what about those who are Christians and continually live an immoral lifestyle? – and – (2) what about those who are Christians but later reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these two objections is the assumption “are Christians.” (1) The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a continually immoral lifestyle (1 John 3:6). (2) The Bible declares that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he/she never truly was a Christian (1 John 2:19).

No, a Christian cannot lose salvation. Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28-29). God is both willing and able to guarantee and maintain the salvation He has given us. Jude 24-25, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

"Is eternal security a "license" to sin?"

The most frequent objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it supposedly promotes the idea that Christians can live any way that they want to - and still be saved. While this is "technically" true, that is not the "essence" of eternal security. A person who has truly accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior "can" live a sinful life - but he or she "will" not do so. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live - and what a person must do in order to receive salvation.\

The Bible is abundantly clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6). A person is saved by faith - faith alone. The moment a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, he/she is saved and secure in that salvation. It is not that salvation is gained by faith, but then maintained by works. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" If we are saved by faith, our salvation is also maintained and secured by faith. We cannot earn our own salvation. Therefore, we cannot earn the maintenance of our salvation either. It is God who maintains our salvation (Jude verse 24). It is God's hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29). It is God's love that nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).

Any denial of eternal security is, in its essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works. This is completely antithetical to salvation by grace. We are saved because of Christ's merits, not our own (Romans 4:3-8). To claim that we must obey God's Word or live a godly life to maintain our salvation is equal to saying that Jesus' death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus' death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins - past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

So, with all that said, does this mean that a Christian can live any way he/she wants to and still be saved? This is essentially a hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live "any way he/she wants to." Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). 1 John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin. In response to the accusation that grace promotes sin, the Apostle Paul declared, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).

Eternal security is not a "license" to sin. Rather, it is the security of knowing that God's love is guaranteed for those who trust in Christ. Knowing and understanding God's tremendous gift of salvation accomplishes the opposite of giving a "license" to sin. How could anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin (Romans 6:15-23)? How could anyone who understands God's unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God's face? Such a person is demonstrating not that eternal security has given him or her a license to sin, but rather that he or she has not truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ. "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him" (1 John 3:6).

"What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?"

All people are accountable to God whether they have “heard about Him” or not. The Bible tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem is that the human race is sinful; we all reject this knowledge of God and rebel against Him (Romans 1:21-23). Apart from God's grace, God would give us over to the sinful desires of our hearts, allowing us to discover how useless and miserable life is apart from Him. This He does for those who reject Him (Romans 1:24-32).

In reality, it is not that some people have not heard about God. Rather, the problem is that they have rejected what they have heard and what is readily seen in nature. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This verse teaches an important principle: everyone who truly seeks after God will find Him. If a person truly desires to know God, God will make Himself known.

The problem is, “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). People reject the knowledge of God that is present in nature and in their own heart, and instead decide to worship a “god” of their own creation. It is foolish to debate the fairness of God sending someone to hell who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ. People are responsible to God for what God has already revealed to them. The Bible says that people reject this knowledge, and therefore God is just in condemning them to hell.

Instead of debating the fate of those who have never heard, we, as Christians, should be doing our best to make sure that they hear. We are called to spread the Gospel throughout the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The fact that we know people reject the knowledge of God revealed in nature must motivate us to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Only through accepting the Gospel of God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can people be saved from their sins and rescued from an eternity apart from God in hell.

If we assume that those who never hear the Gospel are granted mercy from God, we will run into a terrible problem. If people who never hear the Gospel are saved…we should make sure that no one ever hears the Gospel. The worst thing we could do would be share the Gospel with a person and have him or her reject it. If that were to happen, he or she would be condemned. People who do not hear the Gospel must be condemned, or else there is no motive for evangelism. Why run the risk of people possibly rejecting the Gospel and condemning themselves – when they were previously saved because they had never heard the Gospel?

"What happened to those who believed in God before Jesus?"

Since the fall of man, the basis of salvation has always been the death of Christ. No one, either prior to the cross or since the cross, would ever be saved without that one pivotal event in the history of the world. Christ's death paid the penalty for past sins of Old Testament saints and future sins of New Testament saints.

The requirement for salvation has always been faith. The object of one's faith for salvation has always been God. The psalmist wrote, "Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:12). Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and that was enough for God to account it to him for righteousness (see also Romans 4:3-8). The Old Testament sacrificial system did not take away sin, as Hebrews 9:1-10:4 clearly teaches. It did, however, point to the day when the Son of God would shed His blood for the sinful human race.

What has changed through the ages is the content of a believer's faith. God's requirement of what must be believed is based on the amount of revelation He has given mankind up to that time. This is called progressive revelation. Adam believed the promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the woman would conquer Satan. Adam believed Him, demonstrated by the name he gave Eve (v.20) and the Lord indicated His acceptance immediately by covering them with coats of skin (v.21). At that point that is all Adam knew, but he believed it.

Abraham believed God according to the promises and new revelation God gave him in Genesis 12 and 15. Prior to Moses, no Scripture was written, but mankind was responsible for what God had revealed. Throughout the Old Testament, believers came to salvation because they believed that God would someday take care of their sin problem. Today, we look back, believing that He has already taken care of our sins on Calvary (John 3:16; Hebrews 9:28).

What about believers in Christ's day, prior to the cross and resurrection, what did they believe? Did they understand the full picture of Christ dying on a cross for their sins? Late in his ministry, "Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day" (Matthew 16:21). What was the reaction of His disciples to this message? "Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, '‘Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!'" (16:22). Peter, and the other disciples, did not know the full truth, yet they were saved because they believed that God would take care of their sin problem. They didn't exactly know how He would accomplish that, any more than Adam, Abraham, Moses, or David knew how, but they believed God.

Today, we have more revelation than did people living before the resurrection of Christ, we know the full picture. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). Our salvation is still based on the death of Christ, our faith is still the requirement for salvation, and the object of our faith is still God. Today for us the content of our faith is that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

"What does it mean for salvation to be a gift from God?"

The word gift is an important one in the Bible, and it is good that we understand its definition and implications.

In the New Testament, there are several Greek words translated “gift.” Some of these words are used in contexts other than God’s gift of salvation, such as the reciprocal gift-giving of celebrants (Revelation 11:10), the things received from fathers (Matthew 7:11), offerings to a ministry (Philippians 4:17), and the gifts of the magi (Matthew 2:11).

However, when it comes to the matter of our salvation, the New Testament writers use different Greek words—words that emphasize the gracious and absolutely free quality of the gift. Here are the two words most commonly used for the gift of salvation:

Dorea, meaning “a free gift.” This word lays particular stress on the gratuitous nature of the gift—it is something given above and beyond what is expected or deserved. Every New Testament occurrence of this word is related to a spiritual gift from God. It is what Jesus offers to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10). It is called the “free gift” in Romans 5:15. It is the “unspeakable [or indescribable] gift” in 2 Corinthians 9:15. This gracious gift is identified as the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38; 8:30; and 11:17.

The adverb form of this word is dorean, translated “freely” in Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 11:7; Revelation 21:6; 22:17. In Romans 3:24, immediately following God’s pronouncement of our guilt, we have this use of dorean: “Being justified FREELY by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The gift of salvation is free, and the motive for the gift is nothing more than the grace of the Giver.

2) Charisma, meaning “a gift of grace.” This word is used to define salvation in Romans 5:15-16. Also, in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT [charisma] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This same word is used in conjunction with the gifts of the Spirit received after salvation (Romans 12:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10).

Obviously, if something is a “gift of grace,” it cannot be earned. To work for something is to deserve it, and that would produce an obligation—a gift of debt, as it were. That is why works destroy grace (Romans 4:1-5; 11:5-6).

When presenting salvation, the New Testament writers carefully chose words that emphasize grace and freedom. As a result, the Bible could not be more clear—salvation is absolutely free, the true gift of God in Christ, and our only responsibility is to receive the gift by faith (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

"Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"

This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation - the split between the Protestant church and Catholic church. This question is a key difference between Biblical Christianity and most of the "Christian" cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?

The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). In reality, Paul and James did not disagree at all. The only point of disagreement some people claim is over the relationship between faith and works. Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his life – then he likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).

Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17)! James and Paul do not disagree on their teaching on salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that faith in Christ produces good works.

"What is the Romans Road to salvation?"

The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

The first verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. The second Scripture on the Romans Road to salvation, Romans 6:23, teaches us about the consequences of sin - "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death!

The third verse on the Romans road to salvation picks up where Romans 6:23 left off, "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:8 declares, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus Christ died for us! Jesus' death paid for the price of our sins. Jesus' resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus' death as the payment for our sins.

The fourth stop on the Romans road to salvation is Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins - and we will be saved! Romans 10:13 says it again, "for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rescue us from eternal death. Salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The final aspect of the Romans road to salvation is the results of salvation. Romans 5:1 has this wonderful message, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Through Jesus Christ we can have a relationship of peace with God. Romans 8:1 teaches us, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins. Finally, we have this precious promise of God from Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Would you like to follow the Romans road to salvation? If so, here is a simple prayer you can pray to God. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation! "God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"

"Is baptism necessary for salvation? What is baptismal regeneration?"

Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. It is our contention that baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, but we adamantly reject baptism as being required for salvation. We strongly believe that each and every Christian should be water baptized by immersion. Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-4 declares, “Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The action of being immersed in the water illustrates being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection.

Anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ as being required for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add ANYTHING to the Gospel is to say that Jesus' death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say that we must be baptized in order to be saved is to say that we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ's death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus' death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus' payment for our sins is appropriated to our "account" by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation, but cannot be a requirement for salvation.

Yes, there are some verses that seem to indicate baptism as a necessary requirement for salvation. However, since the Bible so clearly tells us that salvation is received by faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), there must be a different interpretation of those verses. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. In Bible times, a person who converted from one religion to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he did not have true faith.

If baptism is necessary for salvation, why would Paul have said, "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius" (1 Corinthians 1:14)? Why would he have said, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Corinthians 1:17)? Granted, in this passage Paul is arguing against the divisions that plagued the Corinthian church. However, how could Paul possibly say, “I am thankful that I did not baptize…” or “For Christ did not send me to baptize…” if baptism were necessary for salvation? If baptism is necessary for salvation, Paul would literally be saying, “I am thankful that you were not saved…” and “For Christ did not send me to save…” That would be an unbelievably ridiculous statement for Paul to make. Further, when Paul gives a detailed outline of what he considers the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), why does he neglect to mention baptism? If baptism is a requirement for salvation, how could any presentation of the Gospel lack a mentioning of baptism?

Baptismal regeneration is not a Biblical concept. Baptism does not save from sin, but from a bad conscience. Peter clearly taught that baptism was not a ceremonial act of physical purification, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (cf. Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). To make the source of salvation perfectly clear, Peter added, “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Peter 1:3). Baptism is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take. Baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation. To make it such is an attack on the sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"What does it mean to be a born again Christian?"

What does it mean to be a born again Christian? The classic passage from the Bible that answers this question is John 3:1-21. The Lord Jesus Christ is talking to Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (a ruler of the Jews). Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night. Nicodemus had questions to ask Jesus.

As Jesus talked with Nicodemus, He said "...Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again...." (John 3:3-7).

The phrase "born again" literally means "born from above." Nicodemus had a real need. He needed a change of his heart--a spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-4, 18). John 1:12,13 indicates that "born again" also carries the idea "to become children of God" through trust in the name of Jesus Christ.