Q & A 301-400

Question #301

Please help me understand in 2 Cor.9:7-8.  How will we always have everything we need and left over to share with others?

Leon’s Response

This whole segment in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9 deal with the subject of giving. Paul was taking up a contribution from Gentile churches for the aid of the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. It was intended to have both a physical and spiritual benefit. It would help the needy and tear down the walls between the Jewish congregations and the Gentile congregations. The church had Corinth had made a sizable commitment a year before to give to the cause. Paul was now ready to return to pick up that gift and go on to Jerusalem along with some men they would send with him. He is now pleading with the church there to fulfill their commitment and to have it ready when he arrived. In that context he said they needed to know that those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly and those who sow generously will reap generously. In explaining how they would reap generously he said, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” He quotes from Psalms 112:9 to back up his point and then gives this explanation as to how God would do such, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.” (Verses 10, 11).

God doesn’t rain down from heaven prosperity for those who give liberally to His cause. He does bless the efforts at their work and even in what they are paid when they give. God blesses us in helping us with jobs, income, health and opportunities. This same kind of promise has been made by God for His people all through the years. For example, Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-11; Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:15-20. It is a matter of our faith in the Lord to trust Him to bless our efforts when we are ready to give to His cause and to help those who are needy as He tells us to.

Question #302

Do you believe we go to heaven when we die or at rest somewhere waiting for the judgment of God? If we each must stand before the Lord, what happens to us?

Leon’s Response

I do believe that the Christian goes directly to heaven at death. In Acts 7 when Stephen was being stoned to death he looked up into heaven to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul talks about the time between death and the resurrection and says that when we lay aside this body we have a building with God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. He went on to say that as long as we are present in this body we are absent from the Lord but when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. In Philippians 1:18-22 Paul talked about his death as departing to be with the Lord. In I Thessalonians 4:13-18 in talking about the second coming of Jesus he said that when Jesus returns he will bring with him those who are asleep in Jesus. This refers to the souls of the dead. Their bodies are raised when He comes and both body and soul then go to be with Him forever in heaven. Read Revelation 7 about the souls of those who died for the Lord and they were with the Lord being led by everlasting fountains of water and God wiped away all their tears. For these and many other reasons I believe that one goes directly to heaven.

Question #303

Please explain 1 Cor.11:11-16, should women wear their hair long today and men wear their hair short? Sometimes I don’t know if I am doing all I need to do, I know the Bible is the Lord’s letter to us also today and I wouldn’t intentionally misuse it but some things I am unsure about.

Leon’s Response

The first half of I Corinthians 11 is quite difficult. Paul was addressing a problem in the church in Corinth but we aren’t told exactly what that problem was. Most likely it related to the fact that in Corinth there was a huge idols temple to the goddess of sex and part of the worship to that idol was prostitution with the temple priestesses. It seems that these priestesses went out unveiled and with their hair cropped. Paul thus tells the Christian women that if they go out in their worship and service to the Lord and participate in worship unveiled they might as well be shaven or have their hair cropped as these priestesses as well. The principle is always valid that we should not do the things that identify us with the world and with sinful behavior. The particular application was only practiced in the church at Corinth even at that time, so far as we know. It wouldn’t be correct to teach that women had to be veiled or have long hair today or that men had to have their hair short. But we are to watch our influence and make certain we are leading others toward the Lord and not away from Him.

Question #304

Please explain about fasting and why it is not taught and used in the church today. Thank-you.

Leon’s Response

Fasting is taught in the New Testament and was a practice of the church in the Bible. The difference is that Jesus said that when we fast it is not to be like the hypocrites who make a show of it. Instead we are to fast in private, between us and God and God will reward it. (Matthew 6:16-18) In Matthew 9:14-17 Jesus was questioned as to why He and His disciples didn’t fast and He said it wasn’t the right time and that it wasn’t appropriate to attach a new piece of cloth to an old garment or pour new wine into old wine-skins. In other words He said it wasn’t right to take the Old Testament concepts of fasting and apply them to the New. But the early church fasted before sending out missionaries in Acts 13:1-4 and before appointing elders in Acts 14:23.

It is appropriate for churches to encourage their members to fast and pray before any very important event such as appointing elders, hiring preachers or sending out missionaries. We have encouraged fasting at different times for different reasons. It just isn’t appropriate to make it a law and set up standards like in the Old Testament.

Question #305

I have a friend who is a devote believer in the Gifts of the Spirit, ie: healing, tongues, prophesying, etc. We have “argued” back and forth about the 13th chapter of I Cor., (she says “that which is perfect” means Jesus’ second coming), and just about every other verse we could locate that talked about these gifts. Will you please forward me some direction on this subject? She also quotes John 14:12 “…greater works than these…” We also discuss the meanings of “false teachers and prophets.” She says that her denomination always puts Christ in the center of their teaching and, therefore, are not false. I say that if a church is teaching things contrary to the Bible then they are false. Of course, she believes (as we do) that her church is following the Bible’s true teachings. Will you please expand and clarify this subject too?

Leon’s Response

First, let’s look at I Corinthians 13. Paul had just described the miraculous spiritual gifts in chapter 12 and noted at the conclusion that not everyone had all of the gifts (I Corinthians 12:28-30). In chapter 13 he shows a more excellent way of love. He noted that if one had all the spiritual gifts and didn’t have love it would be worthless. He then described the aspects of this love. Then beginning in verse 8 he said, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Notice three points that Paul makes in this. First, these gifts will cease when that which is perfect comes. What is that which is perfect? It is the same thing that was then in part. Then they knew in part and prophesied in part. But when the perfect came they would have the whole thing. At that time different inspired men had different parts of God’s revelation and inspiration for the world. No one had the whole thing.

But the time was coming when the knowledge would be complete in that God’s revelation would be complete (See James 1:24, 25; Jude 3). It is certainly not the case that Jesus was in part at that time and the whole point falls apart if the perfect is Jesus. Besides the wording doesn’t fit Jesus. He didn’t say, “When He who is perfect is come” but “when that which is perfect is come.”

The second point was that the time they were in with the miraculous gifts of the Spirit was a time of spiritual childhood. They were looking into a dim mirror. But when the perfect revelation was come, they would be able to see themselves just as they were seen and know as they were known. To want to keep all the miraculous gifts was to remain in spiritual immaturity. Remember this church at Corinth had all kinds of spiritual gifts yet Paul had to write to them as babies in Christ (I Corinthians 3:1-3).

Third, he laid down a contrast between what was to abide or remain and what was to cease or come to an end. Faith, hope and love would abide.

Tongues, prophesy and miraculous knowledge would vanish away. Now notice that if this is referring to when Jesus comes again, the contrast doesn’t work. When He comes again faith will turn into knowledge and hope will be fulfilled. We won’t need to hope for what we already have.

But if the perfect is the completion of God’s revelation then all three of his points fit and are applicable.

As to John 14:12 notice He was talking to the apostles and what they would do when He went back to the Father. It wasn’t that they performed greater miracles. How could anyone do greater miracles than He did.

They did greater works in that they carried the gospel to all people and not just the Jews around them.

As to teaching false doctrines, think again of Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 7. He told us to avoid false prophets that come in sheep’s clothes but inwardly are ravenous wolves. He said we could know them by their fruits. Then In verse 21 He said, “No everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of God, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven, for many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord , Lord have we not prophesied in your name, in your name cast out demons and in your name done many wonderful works. Then I will say to them ‘I Never knew you.” In I John 4 the question raised to detect a false teacher was what they said about Christ, because the error that was bothering the church then was teaching that Christ didn’t really come in the flesh. He wasn’t really a man. So that was the question John sought an answer about. In 2 John 9-11 he warned about the false teachers who went on past the teachings of Christ and said they didn’t have God. It wasn’t just the teaching about Christ that mattered, but the teachings of Christ. Read Galatians 1:8, 9.

Question #306

What does the bible teach about a woman baptizing someone, (not teaching but doing the baptism)?

Leon’s Response

The Bible doesn’t say anything about women baptizing people.

It really does not put the emphasis on who does the baptizing but on the one being baptized and their faith. All disciples are told to go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that God has commanded and he promises to be with us all the time (Matthew 28:18-20).

It would seem to me that this text includes all disciples as being ones who were to make disciples and baptize them and teach them to obey God.

I can’t see any problem to anyone doing that baptizing.

Question #307

When the Bible says to tithe 10% – does that have to go to your church or could you use some of the money for people in need of financial help?

Leon’s Response

Tithing was taught throughout the Old Testament. The Jews were required to give several different tithes for different purposes. When they withheld their tithes and offerings in Malachi 3 God said they were robbing Him and they they should bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse. The New Testament never specifically teaches that we should tithe. It may be implied in that we are taught to give liberally to the church in I Corinthians 16:1,2. In Acts 11:27-30 they all gave as they had been prospered.

It seems to me that a tithe is a good place to begin in our giving, but it is not specifically commanded. We are commanded to give to the church in I Corinthians 16:1-2. But I don’t think it would be wrong to give part of what I’m able to give to someone in need. God is after our hearts and not our money. Our giving is a way of showing our love and devotion to him (2 Corinthians 8:1-7).

Question #308

Is it okay for a lady to wear pants?

Leon’s Response

In the Old Testament women were forbidden to wear men’s clothes and men were forbidden to wear women’s clothes. But the New Testament says nothing along those lines at all. The only restriction the New Testament gives with regard to dress is in I Timothy 2:9-16 where women are told to dress modestly. A godly woman ought to dress as becomes women professing godliness. She should not dress in such a way as to attract lust. So it wouldn’t be wrong to wear pants if they are modest. It would if they were tight, revealing and caused lust.

Question #309

A friend of mine has a nine year old son. Yesterday after he came home from school he told his dad that he likes his friends at school a lot more than the kids his age at church. The dad felt bad that his son would like the kids at school more than the ones at church. What are we to say to these young kids that do spend more time with kids at school than church. As adults we can see that the friendships that we have with those in the church far outweigh and are more lasting than those from our school days. Yet with them they cannot see the (big) picture because of their youth. We know that the outside world (Satan) is also competing for their souls!

Leon’s Response

That is certainly a difficult situation. You can’t force a child to like the ones you want them to and when you try it usually means they will rebel and go in the other direction entirely. I would encourage the child to invite his friends at school to come to church with him. They might be willing to come and might even be reached.

Through the years I’ve known many young people to bring their friends to church and see them converted to Christ and sometimes their whole family with them. Instead of pushing him to be friends with those at church, I would encourage him to live right and be a good example to them and to others he knows at school. You never know the power of one young person’s influence when they are committed to doing right.

Question #310

Brother Leon, my question comes with a much needed heart searching answer. I’ve been a Christian now for many years but fell away for a couple of years due to lack of faith on my part and disappointment on the church’s part when I reached out for help and didn’t get it. My husband at the time was unfaithful to our marriage but I fell into sin and regret and have asked the Lord for forgiveness. My concern is that I have married a man that isn’t a Christian and has two living wives. Am I living in an adulterous marriage and stand to lose my soul? I have prayed to my Father for forgiveness and want my personal relationship with my Father. I don’t want on the day of judgment to find out I’m lost. Thank you.

Leon’s Response

I hope I can help in your search for the Lord’s will. From your description it sounds as though you are free with regard to the first marriage since he was unfaithful. You had the right to remarry at that time. I would encourage you to read I Corinthians 7 from beginning to end and underline the different points made by Paul with regard to marriage. Think about these points that he made. First, we need marriage to keep us from getting involved in immoral situations. In marriage we must freely give ourselves to each other so that the sexual needs of each partner is met and there is no need to go outside of marriage to satisfy one’s desires. Sometimes it is better to stay single, if one has the gift of being single and not burning with passion for a sexual partner. If one does not have that gift they should marry and give themselves fully to their partner.

Then in verses 10-11 Paul referred back to what Jesus taught during His earthly ministry. A couple with both partners Christians should stay married. If they separate they are to remain unmarried or be reconciled to their mate. Then Paul starts talking about matters that Jesus didn’t deal with during His earthly ministry and gives us his inspired instructions on the matter. When a Christian is married to a non-Christian, if the unbeliever is willing to stay married, they should stay in the marriage. It will have a sanctifying affect on the husband and on the children, if there are any. If the unbeliever abandons the Christian, the Christian is not under bondage to the marriage any more and is free to marry someone else.

Then, beginning in verse 17 Paul lays out a huge principle. A person is to remain in the state or situation in which they are called or become a Christian. He used two illustrations of the point. First, was circumcision and the second was slavery. In either case, remain as you were called, but if a slave can gain his freedom he should do so. In verse 25 he begins to apply the principle. If one becomes a Christian as a single person, during the present distress, they should remain single. If one is bound to a wife, don’t seek to be free from the marriage. If you are released from a wife or husband, you are not to seek a wife or husband. (Note this is referring to one who is divorced from a marriage partner). Then look closely at verse 28. “But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a single person marries they have not sinned.”

Now how does this all apply to your situation? You had the freedom to get out of the first marriage and marry again. Paul does tell Christians when they are remarrying to marry a Christian. (Verses 39, 40). So, in marrying someone who isn’t a Christian you did wrong. But that wouldn’t mean you should leave them now that you are married to them but you should live in such a way before them as to try to win them to God (I Peter 3:1-7). You don’t tell anything about your husband’s previous marriages or what the situation was in his getting out of them. If he had the right to remarry then you need to stay and try to lead him to God. If he leaves you are free and should then make certain you marry someone who is a Christian.

Since Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6), the important question is, “Did God join you two in marriage and made you one?” (See Malachi 2:13-16) A marriage doesn’t have to be ideal for the Lord to join people in marriage. In the Old Testament God joined many with a multitude of different wives. Generally it seems that God joins people in marriage as long as they meet the requirements of the law of the land. Remember Jesus talking to the woman at the well. He said to her, “You have had five husbands and the one you have is not your husband.”

Question #311

Thank you for your answer to question 310. At the time of my marriage to my husband was the same time I left the church. I have returned to my faith and ask for forgiveness.  My husband did not have scripture reason to divorce either wives before me, so where does that leave me?  I am so confused inside and want to do what is right even though I know it might mean some sadness on my part. I know now how easy falling into sin is. The price you pay isn’t worth losing your soul!

Leon’s Response

Since your husband was not a Christian when he got the previous divorces and since you were unfaithful during the time you two were married, it seems to me you fit into the teachings Paul offered in I Corinthians 7. Two things I would encourage you to consider. First, in verses 12-16 Paul talks about the Christian married to the unbeliever. He said for the Christian not to leave. If the unbeliever is pleased to stay in the marriage, the Christian is to stay and live in such a way as to try to reach the unbeliever. The second principle is of remaining in the condition in which you were called. You married him while unfaithful to God. Then, you came back to the Lord. It seems to me that Paul’s instruction would be to remain in the marriage.

Nowhere in the Bible does it ever mention someone having an adulterous marriage or living in adultery. These are concepts we have come up with. Read and think about I Corinthians 6:9-11. Among these Christians at Corinth were some who had been adulterers, but now they are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God. Consider the fact divorce and remarriage were extremely prevalent during the first century, yet there isn’t a single time in the New Testament when anyone was told to get out of a marriage because they were living in adultery.

What we are told to do is to repent of the sins in our lives. Since repentance means to change our mind, heart and will about sin, wouldn’t that mean that repenting of divorcing would mean to stop divorcing? Surely God doesn’t command us to get another divorce to cure a previous divorce. Consider giving yourself fully to this marriage and make it so good that it influences your husband toward God.

Question #312

We studied today about James1, I understand that through our faith we can depend on Christ when trials comes but it’s hard for me to understand terrible diseases especially with children. The Lord wants us to become like a child, so why must they suffer?

Leon’s Response

Suffering came into the world as a result of sin. IN the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve and she gave in to the temptation. Then she gave Adam the fruit and he also ate it. God met with Adam, Eve and the Serpent and pronounced a curse on each of them. The snake would crawl on it’s belly and eat dust from then on. The woman would have the pains of childbirth drastically increased and her desire would be to her husband. To the man God said, that his punishment would be that he would eat with the sweat of his face. The ground would produce briars, thorns and thistles. Adam and Eve were forgiven, but their punishment was great. They faced difficulties for the rest of their lives on earth and then the punishment would pass on to their children. It isn’t that God chooses each person to have sicknesses and diseases. We face such trials because we live in a world cursed by sin. If we stay faithful to God, there will come a day when the trials will cease and we can go be with God from then on, for eternity. Think of the blind man in John 9. When Jesus and the disciples came upon this man that was born blind, the disciples quickly asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents.” Notice Jesus first corrected their wrong thinking on what had happened to the man. It wasn’t sin that caused it. Well why then was he born blind? “But that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

Think about this passage. It wasn’t sin that caused the man to be blind. Why was it then? Jesus didn’t say. He instead said, we need to focus on what we can do about it. We must work while the opportunity is here and he healed the man by spitting on the ground, making mud from the saliva and telling him to “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” The man did what Jesus said and was healed.

God doesn’t explain why sickness and disease come on children.

But he does tell us through James 1:27 that as God’s people we must be about “Visiting the orphans and widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unspotted from the world.” We know that we suffer because we live in a world cursed by sin. But we don’t understand each individual case as to why it happens.

I would suggest that you reread the book of Job. This is the most thorough study on human suffering to ever be written. But it concludes with God telling Job to trust Him, but never explains the why.

Question #313

Today I was shopping at the supermarket and I noticed two young men approaching certain people and handing them some printed pamphlets. I overheard them talking of the Mormon doctrine. They didn’t approach me but can you tell of their beliefs and how to return our faith in God so they will see where they have missed the mark. I need to be prepared. Thank you.

Leon’s Response

I appreciate your question and your desire to be able to answer those who approach you. The Mormon doctrine is varied. I will mention a few things that you should keep in mind. The most serious problem with their teaching relates to the Godhead. They teach that Jehovah was once a man like we are but through living a good life he was promoted to the degree he is now God. They teach that you too could become a God if you do well. Their thinking about Christ and the Holy Spirit are equally flawed in that they deny the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The fact is Genesis 1:1-3, 26-28 is a good place to start. God was there in the beginning. He is everlasting. Isaiah 40 talks a great deal about the nature of God. Jesus Christ is also God who became flesh (John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-10; Colossians 1:13-18; 2:9). In Acts 5: 1-5 the Holy Spirit is called God.

The second problem with their teaching is their belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and the book of Mormon as inspired revelation from God. They claim to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, (in so far as it is translated correctly), but every time the Bible contradicts the teachings of the Book of Mormon they claim the Bible was incorrectly translated in that place. The Scriptures furnish us all we need to live for God (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The New Testament is the final revelation the Lord has given (Hebrews 1:1-3; Jude 3).

They believe that one person can be baptized on behalf of another person who is now dead and cause them to be able to go to heaven. They believe that the husband is so dominate over the wife that in the resurrection the husband will be raised first and then he decides whether or not his wife will be raised.

There are multitudes of other areas where their teachings are far a field. But this will give you a taste of the problems.

Question #314

When you’ve been married for a number of years and have children and divorce, how do you Scripturally explain reconciling (without remarriage) and living together and doing all the same things as when you were married previously without the certificate?

Leon’s Response

In I Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul talks about two Christians being married and tells them not to get a divorce. But if they do, they should remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other. It is certainly true that God wants reconciliation when it is possible so that the marriage can be saved and so the children will have both parents. In Malachi 2:10-16 God told the Israelites that their divorcing their wives and marrying others caused their worship to not be acceptable to Him. He said He hated divorce. Part of the reason He gave for hating divorce was because it brought tears and affected their ability to bring up their children for God.

God wants reconciliation. But when a divorce takes place you are no longer husband and wife. For a couple to just go back together and start living as husband and wife without remarriage would be to commit fornication or immorality. In Hebrews 13:4 God said, “Marriage is honorable in all and the marriage bed is undefiled, but the sexually immoral and adulterers God will judge.” In being reconciled a couple needs to go ahead and remarry so that they won’t give their children the wrong message and lead them to think it is all right just to live together without being married to each other.

Question #315

Leon you have always given good answers on questions I’ve asked. I want to share one on those that feel they can stay at home and watch Church on TV on Sundays. Thinking you can just watch church on TV and be a Christian is like thinking you can be married by watching the Cosby’s. Church isn’t something you watch, it’s the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual members who are like eyes and hands and feet. We are called “living stones” of a temple for Christ and we are the dwelling place of God. Driving by a beautiful mansion is not the same as living in it. Christ wants to take up residence in the hearts of His followers and wherever they are gathered together, He is there in their midst. I wonder if those who feel watching church on TV is ok will feel it’s ok to be in hell and just watch heaven on TV! ?

Leon’s Response

You make an excellent point. I don’t think your question needs any comment from me. Thanks for writing.

Question #316

This is a little embarrassing to ask, but in the marriage relation, is woman only made for man’s sexual needs and her feelings are of no interest?

Leon’s Response

Don’t be embarrassed about your question. It is an excellent one to ask. The answer is absolutely not. In Hebrews 13:4 we are told that marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. The point is that the marriage bed or sexual relationship in marriage is blessed by God and for the benefit of both parties. In I Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul is answering questions about marriage. Look at verses 2-5 “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his of body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control.” Notice each person has authority over the other one’s body. They are not to defraud each other. They are to give themselves freely to one another. Read the Song of Solomon in one of the new translations, such as the NIV. It is a tremendous love story and shows how the sexual relationship is to be fully enjoyed by both parties. One place where we all need to observe the golden rule is in our sexual relations with our wife or husband. Each should be trying to bring as much joy and pleasure to the other partner as possible.

Question #317

I’ve really been struggling to understand the Bible. I hope maybe you could give me some words of advice.

Our home Bible Study group has been studying a wide range of topics. Some of these topics are very debatable.

Question 1#: What does the text say about fellow-shipping with other faiths? Ex. Can a member of the New Testament church feel that his/her worship is acceptable to God if they worship with a Methodist, Baptist….congregation? I have heard from more “liberal” ministers in the churches of Christ that they consider anyone who believes in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ brothers in Christ and would feel fine to worship at any of their assemblies. The issue of instrumental music was not a “salvation” issue. However, if we sin when we use instruments, is that not a salvation issue? I guess the fine line for me in fellow-shipping with other faiths is when do we start condoning false teaching by our involvement?

Question #2: Can someone partake of the Lord’s Supper more than one time on the first day of the week?

Question #3: Instrumental music – I understand that the New Testament does not state that we cannot use instruments, nor does it give us the authority to use them. However, how can we justify that point of view when other things that the Church practices are not mentioned in text….ex. full-time preacher, organized collection…etc.

Leon’s Response

I hope your Bible Study does you good. As to the three questions. First, one is added to the church by the Lord when they through faith repent and are baptized in order to have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38-47). Certainly God is graceful and gives people time to learn better and grow out of beliefs and behaviors that need to be changed. But there comes a time when one must separate from the ways that are wrong and live differently (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Remember in 2 John 9-11 we are challenged not to fellowship with those teaching error and told that if we do we are wrong. Read Galatians 1:7-9. If we teach a different gospel than what the Bible teaches it leads us away from God.

#2. With regard to taking the Lord’s Supper, nothing in the Bible indicates how many times it could be taken on a Lord’s Day. Once would be enough. But I don’t know of anything that would suggest it is wrong to take of it more than once. (Read Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 10:16; 11:17-32)

#3. A thing may be authorized in more than one way. Some things are authorized by direct statements of Scripture. For example the commands just read about taking the Lord’s Supper. But there are many aspects of taking the Supper that aren’t specifically mentioned in the Bible. By telling us to all partake of the communion he authorized whatever method we choose that just takes of the Supper. It authorizes the use of trays, cups and it being passed among the people. Throughout the Old Testament instrumental music was a basic part of their worship to God. In the New Testament church he not only doesn’t mention the instrument, he specifically says we are to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16). The word Translated “Making melody” is the common word for playing an instrument. He says we are to sing and play our hearts to the Lord. He thus named the instrument we are to use in our worship to God. We are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, playing our hearts to the Lord. Notice the singing is to each other and the playing is to God. We need to follow what the text says on this and all other matters.

Question #318

Brother Leon, I am Christian and love the Lord with all my heart. My heart’s desire is to go to heaven. My concern is my heart  – the more I pray and try to grow closer to my Father, the more my mind becomes polluted with evil thoughts. I am constantly in battle with this. I know Satan works on us and I pray always for help but can’t find the peace the Lord wants us to have. Is there hope for me?

Leon’s Response

Yes there is hope for you. You are going through a struggle right now like the one Paul described in Romans 7. He talked about his desire to do right and follow God’s will, but that he failed over and over again. He had the will to do right, but still did wrong. He finally cried out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” He thanked God that the deliverance comes through Jesus Christ. Then in chapter 8 of Romans he describes how by the power and help of the Holy Spirit we can set our minds on Christ and overcome the devil.

Let me suggest a plan of action for you to help you overcome.

First, read Romans chapters 7 and 8 and pray for God’s wisdom to understand and apply them to your life. Then read Ephesians 6:10-19; James 4:1-9; Philippians 4:4-13 and Psalms 1 and Psalms 119:1-24. All of these passages have things in them that address the problems you describe. After reading these, start a daily practice of reading at least a chapter of the Bible a day, preferably 2. Read one of the Psalms and start the gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Get a good devotional book, such as “My Utmost for His Highest” which is available at most bookstores and start reading in it daily. Attend worship in a good church every week. Get involved in a Bible study or class that will help you grow. Find a way of helping someone else that focuses on their needs and involves you in being a good Samaritan. There are worlds of opportunities for such service. You will find that as you help others you conquer your own problems.

Question #319

I am the one and only deacon in our congregation (church of Christ). At this time, no other men are qualified, according to the scriptures. An interesting question came up in a meeting with the elders that we did not have a scriptural answer for. Since no other men are qualified to serve as deacons, is it okay to ask men to do the duties of a deacon? For example, there is a man that can do the work of the deacon of building and grounds, but he does not meet the qualifications to be appointed a deacon. Is it right for the elders to ask men to do the work of a deacon without appointing them as a deacon? If your answer is yes, then why appoint deacons? What is the difference between an appointed deacon doing the work and the man doing the work without holding the office of a deacon? My answer to the elders was it is the higher level of commitment and responsibility to the congregation, but I could not come up with scriptures to validate my point. Any help would be appreciated.

Leon’s Response

First notice in I Timothy 3:10 in the qualifications of the deacon that they must first be tried or tested before they are appointed for the office. That would mean that one is given a job to do to see how well they do the job over some period of time before they are appointed as deacons. So it would certainly be right to give men jobs to see how they would do if they were later appointed.

A second thought is that while there are special servants who are deacons, the word translated deacon is used of every Christian. In Ephesians 4:11-16 Paul said God gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry fro the building up of the body of Christ. Verse 16 declares that every member must do their part so the body can grow. The word translated “Minister” in this text is the same one translated “Deacon”. So every member is to be equipped to serve or deacon or minister in the body.

The reason men are set aside as special leaders or deacons is for them to be over certain works getting others involved in the actual work. In Acts 6:1-6 when confusion arose in the church, the apostles called the people to them and said it would not be right for them to leave the word of God and serve tables. They were to look out among them and find seven men full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, men of good reputation whom they could appoint OVER THIS BUSINESS. Deacons aren’t just doers of the work but are over the business assigned to them.

Question #320

If I hear the Word, if I believe the Word, if I repent, if I confess His name and am baptized for the forgiveness of my sins, am I a member of the church of Christ?

Leon’s Response

Yes you are.

In light of the great commission given by Jesus and recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, 16, and Luke 24:43-44, we are to preach and teach the gospel to make disciples of people. Those who believe are to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached Jesus to the crowd (Acts chapter 2) they heard his powerful message and were cut to their hearts and cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Three thousand of them believed and obeyed and were added to their number. The end of the chapter in verse 47 is “Praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” That is all that was required to be added to the church. It didn’t matter who taught them or who baptized them or where they were baptized. It only mattered that they through faith submitted to God in obedience and were saved. According to Hebrews 12:23 it is still the case that the Lord is the one adding people to the church. When we add other stipulations we make the church into nothing more than a denomination established by men and missing the will of God.

Question #321

In reference to question #320, would I still be a member of the church of Christ if this all happened in a denominational church?

Leon’s Response

Yes you would. The Bible makes no mention of where you obeyed or who helped. It only teaches that one must hear the gospel, believe it, turn from sins in repentance and be baptized in Christ name to have forgiveness of sins. If one continued in a way that was wrong in it’s teaching and worship they would eventually fall from grace, but it would not affect their being in the church. The Lord is the one who adds our names to his book and the only one who can take our names out.

Question #322

When the Bible talks about the dead in Christ rising, does this mean that my set of twins will have to leave the glory of heaven, or does it mean that their soul is still inside their body that is in the ground?

Leon’s Response

The passage you are referring to is I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Paul here describes what happens with those who have died in Christ. Their spirits or soul has gone on to be with the Lord already, (2 Corinthians 5:1-9). When Jesus comes again he will bring with him those who are asleep in Jesus, that is their souls. At that time their bodies will be raised from the dead. The corruptible will put on incorruptibility, the mortal will put on immortality and death will be swallowed up in victory, (I Corinthians 15). So the body will be raised at that time and will be joined with the soul that has already gone to the Lord and both body and soul will spend eternity with God in heaven. Notice that this all takes place in an hour, (John 5:28-29). It isn’t as though your twins will leave heaven for a long time. They simply return with Jesus to receive the resurrected bodies and remain with him forever.

Question #323

Brother Leon, my question is coming from Romans 11:24-26. Does this mean we should fill our life with Christ or our present will be worst than our past? I hope this makes sense.

Leon’s Response

Romans 11:24-26 is part of a longer discussion of God’s saving of the Gentiles and the Jews rejecting Christ. The Jews as a whole didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ. So Gentiles who did have faith in Christ were grafted into the cultivated olive tree which is a way of referring to God’s chosen people. The Jews were rejected as a whole because of their lack of faith and any Jews who had faith were accepted into God’s family. The Gentiles who had faith were grafted in, but if they didn’t continue to live by faith they would be rejected just as the unbelieving Jews had been. The point of verse 26 “And in this way” isn’t that all Jews were going to be saved, but that all the Jews who were saved would be saved in the same way as the Gentiles had been, by faith.

The point is that faith makes the difference. It isn’t enough to just believe to be saved; we must continue to live by faith to continue among the saved. If God would reject His chosen people, the Jews when they didn’t believe, we should be sure He will reject us if we don’t continue in our faith in Him.

Question #324

Brother Leon, I am a Christian and a question was brought up concerning having a ladies bible study in your home. She thinks the elders have to approve of the study before you can, is this correct? I study the scriptures daily and have not found anything to verify this.

Leon’s Response

It is a shame that so many people take such a horrible view of the elder-ship. We never need approval from any men or human body to do things God has already authorized us to do. We are all to go and make disciples in the whole word, baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded and He will be with us forever (Matthew 28:18-20). To few Christians take seriously the role the Lord has given us and run to a group of men for permission. Let’s remember that Jesus is the head of the church and has all the authority (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23).

Question #325

Brother Leon, could you please explain I Corinthians 15:29? I am confused.

Leon’s Response

I Corinthians 15:29 is a difficult text for sure. It says, “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?”

Notice the context is about the resurrection of the dead and how it will take place. He had noted that Christ was the first fruits of the resurrection and as he was raised so will all of those who belong to him in the resurrection. Notice when he gets to verse 29 the subject moves from Christ and all things being subjected to God to what “They” are doing. Immediately after this in verse 30 he talks about “We”. Verse 29 refers to something going on among the people in the church at Corinth. Obviously among those who denied the resurrection of the dead there were those who were being baptized on behalf of people who were dead hoping to affect their destiny. Paul points to their inconsistency by asking why they would be baptized on behalf of those who are dead if there is no resurrection.

He was not authorizing the practice of baptizing people on behalf of the dead. He was simply noting their inconsistent actions. Baptism is only of value if one is already a believer (Mark 16:16), already repenting of their sins (Acts 2:38) and it is for the remission of your sins, not someone else’s.

Question #326

In a sermon we received a point was brought out about men and long hair being a disgrace. If we use that part of God’s word ,shouldn’t women wear their hair long for it’s glory? It seems we pick a lot of verses and leave out others. Isn’t God’s word the same today as yesterday? I don’t want to misuse scripture, but I do want to follow it with a believing heart.

Leon’s Response

This passage is found in I Corinthians 11 where Paul is discussing a cultural problem that they were dealing with in that city. Corinth was the home of the temple to the goddess of sex and had over 500 priestesses who served as prostitutes in their idol worship. These women cut their hair short and went out in public unveiled. Paul’s point was that in that city and time it wasn’t appropriate for women to go out in public worship dressed like these prostitutes. It brought shame on the church. The whole point about the length of hair, whether for the women or men, had to do with the cultural situation in Corinth at that time. The lesson to learn from this text is that we must be conscious of the cultural norms in any city and time so as not to bring shame on the church of the Lord.

To apply the specific point to our time is a misuse of the text since we don’t have that situation today. He appealed to what was natural in that time and place to make his point. It isn’t natural in our day for women to always have long hair or men to always have short hair. To make this an over riding point applied to all men everywhere would condemn men like Samson, whom God told not to cut his hair. When Paul wrote Timothy to give diligence to show himself approved to God handling aright the Word of God he made a point all of us need to apply.

Scripture must be handled correctly or we may be making laws where God didn’t make any.

Question #327

Paul speaks of how we are to be not of this world and how we are to love everyone no matter whether they are of a different religion. Is it wrong for us to be at war or for use to try and keep our borders from illegals entering? Or having same sex marriage? Are we to have nothing to do with politics but just seek God and his kingdom?

Leon’s Response

As Christians we are citizens of two worlds. We are citizens of our country and of the kingdom of Christ (Philippians 3:20). Both the church and the government are divine institutions with a divine mission. The church operates in the realm of the soul or spiritual things and I primarily concerned about winning people for God. The government is set up by God to punish evil doers and for the protection of the people (Romans 13:1-7). The church has no right at all to be involved in the political arena. Every time it does so it loses its focus from spiritual matters. But the government has every right to go to war against an enemy nation that is trying to harm us and to protect its borders from illegal entry. As a citizen of both the church and the government, I as an individual may be involved in both sides and that be right. But, just as it is wrong for the government to get involved in spiritual things and start trying to say where and how we can worship and serve God, it is wrong for the church to get involved in governmental things and tell the government how to rule it’s people. As Christians we aren’t to avenge ourselves but give place for God to avenge those who harm us.

We can be good citizens of both worlds as individuals. But the church and the government are both obligated to do their own work and leave the other alone. Under the Old Testament era, the government and church were mixed with God ruling in both realms as a theocracy. In the New Testament he separated the two and made a clear distinction.

Question #328

I’ve been studying the role of women in worship. I have read past responses that you have included regarding this topic. However, I still have a hard time arriving at a conclusion regarding what is “in worship.” During Bible times, any time that they would assemble or come together could range from different settings: in homes, synagogues, etc… I don’t see how a woman could not speak in what “we call worship” (preaching service) and then 10 minutes later in the same room with the same teacher it’s ok for her to speak because it’s not worship assembly. Shouldn’t anytime we assemble be worship to God? Couldn’t I argue that “in the worship service” it is wrong to use a piano, but in Bible class it’s not? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a tough question. It opens up many questions such as: Can women read a scripture? Pass the collection tray? I would appreciate your response.

Leon’s Response

It is certainly difficult. We may worship God at any time and place since it is true worshipers that God seeks, who worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23,24). In I Corinthians 11 and 14 there is an obvious distinction between groups getting together and the whole church coming together. In 11:1-16 it was a gathering that had both men and women present and women were told in that situation to have a sign of submission when they prayed and prophesied. He didn’t forbid either the praying or prophesying, but said submission to the man had to be obvious. Beginning in verse 17 as he talked about taking the Lord’s Supper it had to do with the whole church assembly. In verse 17 he said, “When you come together”. Verse 18, “When you come together as a church”. In verse 20 “When you come together”. In chapter 14 he used the same idea. They were encouraged to prophesy for the building up of the church (1-5). In verse 12 they were told to excel in building up the church. They were to be careful that what they did was understandable even to the unlearned so they could see that God was among them (13-25). In verse 23 he talks about when the whole church comes together in one place. In the assembly he made several points about speaking and being silent. He told tongue speakers to keep silent in the assembly unless there was someone there who could translate it, (26-28). He told prophets to speak, but to take turns and not to have more than two or three so people would be encouraged. If a prophet had a revelation from God the one speaking was to keep silent until that one spoke. The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.

In both these applications the speaking had to to with speaking before the whole church, as in preaching. It wasn’t about saying anything or making a comment or even singing and praying. In that context he said, “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the law also says. If they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” This passage has nothing to do with women making comments even in the assembly, or with making an announcement or reading a Scripture or passing the communion. It is about them leading the congregation or preaching. It is used in the very same way we so often do today. When someone ask on Monday who spoke at church yesterday, we don’t name everyone who said anything, but give the name of the one who preached.

It is obvious that some of this chapter has to do with present situations in Corinth and we must find the principles that apply to us today. It is also obvious that when Paul talks about this being what the law also says and what is to be done in all the churches and it is a shame for women to speak in church that he is dealing with much more than a local situation. It is very obvious that too often people have simply dismissed this passage because they didn’t like it and others have carried it to extremes that hurt the cause of Christ. We must seek for balance and apply principles correctly.

Question #329

Do you believe in miracles today or will God perform miracles today?

Leon’s Response

The answer depends on your definition of “Miracles”. I believe God is still working today as He always has.

He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, by the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20) Like Paul, I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) and that “God works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) I believe that God continues to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

At the same time I don’t believe that God continues to give inspiration and revelations today as He did when the Scriptures were being written. At that point God was revealing things to Paul about the mystery that had been hidden in the ages past and he was writing them down so that when we read we can understand his knowledge of the mystery (Ephesians 3:1-6). The miracles done by the apostles and those on whom they had laid their hands were for a purpose. In Mark 16:17-20 Jesus promised miraculous powers to his apostles “To confirm the word” they were going to preach. In Hebrews 2:3-4 the writer said the great salvation had been revealed by the Lord and was attested to by those who heard while “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Miracles given to confirm the word are no longer needed since the Scriptures are complete and furnish us completely with what we need for teaching, for instruction in righteousness, for reproof and correction so the man of God may be perfect completely furnished to every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

In I Corinthians 13 Paul had been telling the church about the miraculous gifts they had from God and how they were all for the building up of the body. Then he said, “I will show you a still more excellent way.” No matter what miracles could be performed if one doesn’t have love it is worth nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3). He described love and its works in verses 4-8. He finished that discussion with the statement “Love never ends.’ “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Notice he described the time when the miraculous was going on as a time when you see yourself dimly as in a faded mirror, as a childhood time and a time which was partial. These things were to cease or pass away when the perfect came. Now what does that mean? What is the perfect he mentions? The perfect that was to come was the same thing that was partial then. Then the knew in part and prophesied in part. They had small segments of God’s revelation revealed to different men. When God’s revelation was complete this partial method of giving one man some revelation and another a different part would stop. The revelation would be complete so one could look into a clear mirror and see himself as he was.

Has that happened? Will it happen soon? The truth is the revelation is complete and has been since the first century. Many have tried to make this refer to the canon of Scriptures being assembled. That isn’t the point. It was when the revelation had been given and put down in writing that it was finished. In Jude 3 he said the faith had been once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

So in the since of miracles that confirm the message of God, miracles have ceased. In the since of God working in our lives and doing things we can’t comprehend, no miracles have not nor will they ever cease.

Question #330

Brother Leon, my question concerns the small group classes we are having. I understand that unity is most important but why must we separate the family of believers in homes and other areas?  I understand that the first believers met in homes, but they didn’t have a building to come together in. I feel closer to my Father when we are all worshiping together. I love my church family, and yes, I don’t know everyone personally, but we are still of kindred hearts and praising God together. I must say we have lost a lot of our members, aren’t we going to have to give account for this?

Leon’s Response

The choice of whether to meet all together at the building or in small groups in homes is one being made in many places today. It wasn’t all that many years ago that we had similar discussions about meeting in classes at the building. At the time we started having individual classes for different age groups some felt it was wrong to divide up the groups and others felt equally strong that this was the means of reaching more people where they were at the time. Now the question is about meeting in small groups in the home instead of at the building. The truth is that it is a matter of judgment that must be decided in each local church for what is best for them. Certainly there is to be a time when the whole church comes together in one place as is described in I Corinthians 11:17-32 and I Corinthians 14. But it is certainly all right to have other meetings of small groups at other times. It would be right for a small church to meet in homes altogether as was the case in the New Testament.

Buildings are a matter of expediency not a matter of law.

An elder-ship in each local area has to decide what is best not just for the members they already have but for reaching more people for the Lord. As long as they stay in the area of judgment and don’t violate principles given by the Lord in Scripture then it is right (Hebrews 13:17; I Thessalonians 5:12-14). May I encourage you to get involved in one of those small groups and help them to grow and reach more people for God. Make the times you come together as a whole group as great as it can be. But be one who helps every thing that is for good and it will amaze you how you grow as well as how the church grows.

Question #331

This is a very hard question to ask, but I need some understanding about this. My husband of two years is a Christian but his thoughts are continuously on sex, speaking of it in inappropriate ways and comments about things he sees in the world and television. Sexual jokes and behavior that I feel isn’t in form of being a Christian. With this behavior it puts a strain on my feelings. How am I to handle this, I need some guidance and help.

Leon’s Response

First, understand that it is normal for a young man to think a whole lot about sex. You didn’t give his age, and I’m assuming since you have been married for two years that he is young. It isn’t wrong for him to think about sex, as long as it focuses on sexual relations with you. Remember when God made Eve and brought her to Adam he said “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will be one flesh and they were both naked and not ashamed.” Notice the plan for the couple to be one flesh. The primary thought behind this is being joined together sexually. In I Corinthians 7:1-9, Paul explained that the way for one to avoid sexual immorality for for everyone to have their own wife and husband and for them to give themselves to each other fully. He said our bodies do not belong to us anymore but to our mates and that we should not defraud one another by with holding ourselves from each other. In Hebrews 13:5 God said that marriage was honorable in all and the marriage bed is undefiled.

So, step one would be to freely give yourselves to each other and talk about your love and relationship with each other. At the same time it is important to remember that for us to look at any other woman besides our wives with lust is to commit adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:28). It would be right for you to talk to him and tell him that his jokes and constant talk about things that should be private between the two of you hinder your love for him. You might point him to Ephesians 4:29 to remind him that unwholesome speech isn’t right for a Christian. It is fine to talk about sexual things between the two of you but it isn’t right to talk about such matters with anyone else.

Take care to pick the appropriate time for such a conversation. Perhaps the best time would be right after you have had sex together and he feels secure and then talk openly about your feelings. Most of the time this problems gets better with time and security of ones relationship with their wives. I hope and pray things get much better for you in the future.

Question #332

My question has to do with Christian music. I understand in the church we use a Capella, but I listen to a lot of Christian music on the radio that has musical instruments.  For me this doesn’t seem to be wrong, but in a sermon it was said that it is. How is it wrong is my question.

Leon’s Response

I don’t see anything wrong with listening to Christian music with instruments. I listen just about every day to Contemporary Christian songs most of which have instruments being played. That isn’t in an assembly of worship and is, as a rule, these are very uplifting, encouraging songs. When we take stands like that, we may unintentionally be turning young people and even some older ones to secular music that has no redeeming qualities about it. I would encourage you to keep listening and never accept any teaching that cannot be demonstrated from the Bible. Remember Acts 17:11. It’s a great verse to keep in mind all the time.

Question #333

I find nothing in the scriptures concerning a “home” Church or “placing membership” with a congregation. Many times at the invitation I have seen people come forward to “place membership”. I can see nothing wrong with this but I can not find anything scriptural about it either or the necessity for it. This seems to be something that man has started.

Leon’s Response

The terminology is certainly not found in the Bible. In Acts 9:26 after Saul had been baptized in Damascus he returned to Jerusalem and “Attempted to join the disciples.” Some translations have it, he “attempted to join the church”. In Romans 16:1-2 Paul writes the church in Rome about Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea, who was coming to Rome and he encourages them to welcome her and help her in whatever she may need from them. Placing membership is an expedient way of letting the church know that you plan to be a part of the congregation and work as a part of the church. One becomes a member of the church by being saved (Acts 2:47; Hebrews 12:23). Since each local congregation is self governed it is a practical way of getting involved with that church when you move into an area or become a part of a new work. It isn’t a command, nor is it essential for one to do. But it certainly does help the church to know who is in and who isn’t.

Question #334

In Ephesians 6:12, in speaking about our fight with Satan, can you explain a little more about this verse and especially about the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms?

Leon’s Response

This segment of Ephesians is especially powerful. In order to understand his reference to the the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil in this text it is important to bring in the whole context of Ephesians. From the beginning Paul has talked about the spiritual realms. Back in 1:3 he said that we have in Christ all spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. In chapter 2:6 he talked about those saved by grace and says we are raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In chapter 3:10 he said through the church was the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. So he has talked about heavenly realms or places all through this book.

His point in chapter 6 10-17 is that our strength comes only through the Lord. Our enemy isn’t other people. It is the powers of the devil in the heavenly realms. When he mentions rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, he is pointing to the spiritual powers of the devil in spiritual realms. Satan has imitated the powers God has around his throne. The Bible mentions archangels, Cheribim and Seraphim as well as angels in general that are at work serving God and working on behalf of Christians. Satan took the same structure God has in heaven and organized his forces of evil in the same way. Satan’s angels and demons come with a power structure which has rulers, authorities, powers and authorities in the spiritual world to try to pull us away from God.

Two things should stand out for us. Satan is certainly after us with all his different powers but the way for us to overcome him is in the power of God, not our own power. Our defense is in putting on God’s armor of knowing we are saved, having faith to shield us, having our hearts covered with righteousness, our belt is truth, our feet are covered and protected by having a readiness to share the gospel of peace and constant use of the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. It isn’t knowing some magic trick or some secrets codes that gives us power for protection. It is a close relationship with God and a godly life that leans heavily on Him.

For other Scriptures that might help, read Hebrews 1:1-14; I Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 9; Matthew 25:41; Isaiah 6:1-9; In Ezekiel 28:11-19 is a prophesy about the fall of Satan and the king of Tyre. The teaching is spiritualized and some applies to Satan’s fall and some to the King’s fall. But it does talk about Satan being created as an angel with great honor and power. But he sinned and fell. We do not have any detailed description of the spiritual powers of Satan. We only have references that give little bits of understanding. But we must always be aware of Satan’s efforts to get control of our lives and lean heavily on God’s power and His spiritual servants to help us stay right. The one thing we have to help us that Satan has nothing comparable to is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26, 27; Ephesians 3:18-21).

Question #335

Can you provide me with scriptural proof that spiritual gifts such as healing, prophecy and talking in tongues no longer exist?

Leon’s Response

When the Bible talks about spiritual gifts, it is worth noting that it makes little distinction between miraculous spiritual gifts and those that are not miraculous. I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:1-9; Ephesians 4:8-16; and I Peter 4:7-11 all deal with spiritual gifts. In each list there are both gifts and works that are miraculous and non-miraculous. In the ordinary gifts, every Christian is blessed with a gift and is challenged to use them as faithful stewards of God.

Evidence of the passing of the miraculous gifts would be that they were passed from one to another by the laying on of the apostles hands (Acts 8:18) so when the apostles died that gift would pass with them. In I Corinthians 13 Paul had described the spiritual gifts in chapter 12 and then proceeds to show us a more excellent way. He tells how vital love is and that without it no gift is of any value (Verses 1-3). Then he described the elements of love in verse 4-8. In verses 8-13 he said, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think like a child, reason like a child, when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

These miraculous gifts were intended to cease, stop and be done away. The question is when? Was it when the Lord comes again, or in heaven or when love is perfected? All of these have been given as understandings of what “When the perfect comes”. But look closely at the text. Tongues, prophesy and miraculous knowledge are to stop when “The perfect comes”. What is the perfect? Notice in the context what ever the perfect is that is to come, was what was in part then. What was in part then was their knowledge or understanding fo the word of God. Inspired teachers and churches “Knew in part and prophesied in part”. No one person had the fullness of revelation. One gave one part and another something else. But when the revelation of God’s will was complete, the partial would be done away. He compared the time when the knowledge of God’s will was incomplete as a time of childishness. Maturity comes when we can know fully God’s will. Also notice he gave a general contrast between what was going to cease and what was to abide. Tongues, prophesy and knowledge were to cease and faith, hope and love were to abide. The nature of the contrast demands that the stopping of the gifts would be in this life time because it is while faith, hope and love abide. But faith or hope will not abide in heaven since they will be fulfilled in knowledge at that time.

When God’s word was complete the miraculous was to stop. Notice before Paul’s death it was obvious that miraculous powers were fading. He wanted Timothy to bring hi the books and parchments to study while he was in prison. He told Timothy he needed to give diligence in his study of the word to handle it rightly. He left Trophimus in Malitum sick and Timothy dealt with on going stomach problems.

One of the primary purposes of the miracles was to confirm the word of God (Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:3,4). Now that the word has been completed that work is no longer needed.

Does that mean God works less among us today? Certainly not. He continues to work both in the world and in us to mold us into the image of Christ. Many things go on that are beyond our understanding. But we don’t have the spiritual gifts to lay hands on a man born blind and make him see, or one cripple for 38 years and make him walk. God today works through men and methods to both heal and guide us in service Him.

Question #336

Could you please explain I Corinthians 7:17 and verse 20. Verse 17 says we should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned and to which God called. Verse 20 says each should remain in the situation which he was when God called.

Leon’s Response

This whole chapter is given to answering questions that had been asked of Paul by the church in Corinth. In this section Paul is laying a foundation for points he is about to make on the subject of marriage. His principle was “Remain in the state where you are called.” He used two illustrations to make his point. First, circumcision and then slavery. If one came to God as a circumcised person they were not to try to have in undone and if they came to God uncircumcised they were not to try to become circumcised. It had no affect on one’s place and service to God so remain where called. Then with regard to slavery he noted that if one was called as a slave they were God’s free person and if they were free they were God’s slave. If one could become free after becoming a Christian that was great, but if they couldn’t don’t worry about it. You can be just as right with God either way.

His application was then made in verses 25-28. He points to two situations. One is a person who has never been married and is a virgin. They can stay unmarried and be pleasing to God. But if they marry they are still pleasing to God. Then he applied the principle to one who became a Christian who had been married but was now divorced. If you are married, don’t try to become single. Make the marriage work and remain in the state you were called. If you are divorced, don’t marry again, but remain in the situation you were called. But if you do marry, it isn’t a sin and if a virgin marries they have not sinned. His teaching related to a distress they were under at the time and did not bind some regulation for all time. So remain in the situation called, is a good principle. But it should not be used to teach that if one changes after becoming a Christian they sin. He wanted those who were single either because they had never married or had been divorced to know they could be fully pleasing to God as one who is unmarried. But he also wanted them to know that if they did marry it wasn’t wrong.

Question #337

Please help me understand 2 Corinthians 6:14. This verse covers everything in a Christian’s life’s, from marriage to friendships, careers, the world and everything in it. I do understand the part about marriage, mine is of such, It’s hard and light and dark and truly doesn’t mix on anything. Sometimes I feel helpless.

Leon’s Response

2 Corinthians 6:14 is in a context about fellowship. Do understand it isn’t saying that every marriage between a Christian and non-Christian isn’t unequal as a yoke. If it was then this text would teach that every Christian married to a non-Christian would be supposed to get out of it. Both I Corinthians 7:10-15 and I Peter 3:1-8 teach that the Christian in such a marriage isn’t to leave but to try to be an influence on the non-Christian. If the unbeliever departs the brother or sister is no longer under bondage. An unequal yoke would be one in which one could not continue to live for God and stay in the relationship. For example if you were in a business partnership and the other partner is a non-Christian and they demand that you do some things that aren’t honest, you would be obligated to get out to the relationship. Even in marriage the believer would be obligated to get out if they can’t live for God and stay in that relationship. We are to put God so far in first place that any relationship that would hinder our commitment to God, we would get out of it.

Question #338

Please explain Romans 8:28-29, especially verse 29.

Leon’s Response

Romans 8:28-29 is a tremendous passage. It says, ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

The context of this started all the way back at verse 18 about God’s plan for deliverance for the earth, for Christians and for life. He notes that we are saved by hope and that the Holy Spirit works on our behalf to help us with our weaknesses and intercedes for us. From that he stated that God causes all things to work together for our good. Notice he didn’t say that all things are good or that God causes all things. He said that whatever happens in the world, God works through that happening to bring about good for His servants. He takes the joys and sorrows, the blessing and the curse and works through them all to bring about some good.

He ties with that promise the fact that God’s plan for His people is that we would be conformed to the image of His Son. What the good is of verse 28, is that of becoming more and more like Jesus. So when God works in the world, it is to shape us into that image. He takes all that He has foreknown and works to produce that effect in our lives. The reason is that Christ wants to be the firstborn of many brothers. He works on our behalf as His children to make us like Christ so that more people will come to God through Christ and become His brothers in the community of believers. Back in verse 14-17 he talks about who these brethren are and God’s help for them.

So the point is that whatever happens in the world, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, terrorism or taxes, God will work through that to help all His children become more like Christ so more people can come to Him and be members of His family.

Question #339

I am reading in Ephesians and I need some understanding of verse 18 of Eph. 6. Do I not pray in the the spirit being I have God’s spirit in me at all times?

Leon’s Response

Paul had just explained to them that they needed to be strong in the Lord by putting on the whole armor of the Lord. The final piece of armor was “The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” The next point is tied to this one. Just as we are to take the sword of the Spirit to fight our spiritual enemies we are to pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Think back to what all Paul had said to them about the work of the Spirit in their lives. They received the Spirit as a deposit when they became Christian (1:13-14). We have access to God in the Spirit (2:18). Both the church as the body of Christ and Christians are the dwelling place of God by the Spirit (2:20-21). We are strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being (3:16). We are to live in such a way that it doesn’t grieve the Spirit (4:30). We are to be filled with the Spirit (5:18). Then we are to fight and pray in the Spirit in 6:17-18.

The Spirit helps us in all our weakness even in our prayers and intercedes with God on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). It is true that the Holy Spirit in us is involved in our prayer life all the time. Paul was here just reminding them of their relationship with God through the Spirit. To pray “In the Spirit” is to pray with the presence of the Spirit clearly on our minds. We are to note His nudging and pray in harmony with His will as revealed in His word, the Spirit’s sword. When we live and walk in the Spirit we bear the fruit of the Spirit and become a spiritual person (Galatians 5:21-6:2). It isn’t that our prayers are just in harmony with Him but that we accept His leading and follow His urging.

Question #340

Scripturally speaking, is consuming alcohol a sin, even if it is in moderation?

Leon’s Response

The easiest answer would be to just say no it isn’t. But let me add a little more information. In Romans 14 Paul deals strongly with matters that are not wrong in and of themselves but are matters of conscience. He talks about things like eating meats and observing days in that regard. Down in verse 21 he said “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to stumble.” The fact this is found in a text about conscience shows it isn’t condemned in Scripture. It was his advise not to eat meat or drink wine because it might cause someone to stumble. But it wasn’t condemned.

Another text that is important is Matthew 11:18-19. Jesus was discussing how people had reacted to the preaching of John as compared to their reaction to him. John came neither eating or drinking wine. They called him a demon. Jesus came both eating and drinking and they called him a drunkard and a glutton. It is obvious from this that Jesus did drink wine while on the earth. He certainly didn’t get drunk. But his moderate drinking caused some to call him a drunkard. It is certainly not wrong to do what Jesus did.

Is it wise to drink in moderation? That depends. It is probably healthy. But alcohol has had such a devastating affect on society that I could never recommend it’s use to anyone. But I won’t go beyond Scripture to condemn it.

Question #341

Read (question) number 45 and the response. I have to ask “How can it be justified at any other time; such as immediately before and after worship?”

Leon’s Response

This question is relating to the use of instrumental music in worship to God. I talked in this earlier question about Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16. Each teach that we should teach one another through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. Instruments were commonly used during the Old Testament temple worship. They were not common in the synagogue worship during Jesus earthly ministry. They were not used by the early church for several hundred years after the church began. When they began to be used it brought on a split between the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Orthodox church.

Instrumental music isn’t wrong in and of itself. If it were they would not have been used in the temple or in heaven. But they aren’t mentioned in the New Testament with regard to worship in the church. With regard to the question about their use before or immediately after worship what would be wrong with it? It wouldn’t be right during worship to laugh and talk about family things or visit with each other, but both are all right just before worship and immediately afterward. The truth is that the Bible says nothing about what should be done just before or right after worship. If a thing is morally right, it would be right during that time. It might not be advisable. But what the Bible teaches about singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to teach and admonish one another relates to worship. We aren’t allowed to sing patriotic songs in worship, but there isn’t anything wrong with them and much right with them at other times. God is specific about what we do in worship. If you apply that to all time, you would also be required to sing nothing but psalms, hymns and spiritual songs at all times.

Question #342

My question is about the thief on the cross. Every time, I talk about water baptism being important and I have questioned others why do they wait for days or even weeks before they are baptized. Is water baptism important? They teach that it is not the water that saves you. They say, well, what about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized. I could not say anything to that. I am confused about baptism. I know that Jesus commanded it. Please tell me about the thief on the cross/water baptism.

Leon’s Response

First, the Bible does teach that baptism is an action of our faith and that it puts us into Christ and that our sins are forgiven or washed away at that point. Read the following Scriptures: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12; I Peter 3:21.

Second, what about the thief on the cross? There are a couple of points on this man’s salvation. First, how do we know that he wasn’t baptized at some earlier time? All Jerusalem and Judea went out to John to be baptized. How can we assume that this man wasn’t among them? He sure knew a lot about the Lord and His kingdom. He knew that Christ didn’t deserve to die. He knew he had a kingdom coming. He may have been baptized and then fell into a life of crime.

But the next point is more significant. The thief lived and died under the Old Testament covenant. Read Hebrews 9:15-18. Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant that went into effect after he died. The thief died while the Old Law was still bound. It is no more reasonable to want to be saved like the thief than like the rich young ruler. When he asked the Lord how to be saved he was told first to keep the commandments and then told to go see all he had and give to the poor and come follow Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh. During his earthly ministry he saved people in different ways. But now the New Covenant is here. Under it those who believed were told to arise and be baptized and wash away their sins (Acts 22:17).

It isn’t that the water saves us. God saves us through the blood of Christ. The question is when does he save us? It is when our faith leads us to obey the Lord in baptism that our sins are taken away.

Question #343

In reading Romans 9,especially 1-18, I am confused. What does it mean when it says in verse 18, God will have mercy on who he wants and hardens whom he wants?  Does this mean that some will be lost no matter what they do?

Leon’s Response

Romans 9 is a very difficult segment of Scripture. It must be seen from the light of the whole book. Paul started by showing the need of everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, for the gospel of Christ. All have sinned in chapters 1-3. He noted that God made the way for us to be saved by giving Christ as a ransom for many. In chapter 4 he shows that our salvation is by faith in Christ and those who have faith are walking in the steps of Abraham. In chapter 5 he tells how grace made the way, with Christ dying for the ungodly. In chapter 6 he shows how obedience to Christ fits with being saved by faith. A faith that will not submit to God in obedience isn’t a saving faith. In chapter 7 he notes that we are dead to the Old Law and that man on his own cannot be pleasing to God. In Romans 8 he shows how God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us live for Him and how the whole Godhead works for our salvation.

Then in chapter 9 he discusses how much he longs for the salvation of his fellow Jews. It isn’t that they are all lost or he too would be lost. But as a whole nation they have rejected Christ. God made choices all through history of those who would be blessed by him. He chose Abraham and his descendants. But he chose particular ones in the generations. His choices related to through whom Jesus Christ would come into the world, not to which ones would go to heaven. God’s purpose, plan and desire is for all people to be saved (Hebrews 2:9; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:44-48; Acts 1:8; 2 Peter 3:9). What then is the point of Romans 9:18? Start reading with verse 14 – 18. Is God unjust? NO! He will have mercy on whom he will and compassion on whom he will. It doesn’t depend on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Think first of the illustration of Pharaoh. Did God’s choice refer to his salvation? NO, but God chose to use the personality and character of pharaoh to both deliver Israel and show his amazing power through Pharaoh’s rebellion. God is moving, operating all the time in the affairs of this world. He leads certain people to power in nations and brings others down. Always his actions are looking to the long term effect of bringing people back to him. But he may be merciful to one to give them wealth, power or place in life and he may be hard on another to bring poverty, illness and difficulties into their life. It is always looking to the end of bringing salvation to the world. But he doesn’t determine which ones will have faith in him and obey his will and which ones will reject his will. He shows his power to all. It is our choice how we will react to that word (Romans 10:9-17).

It helps to think of the Old Testament and God’s raising up the nation of Babylon with the ruler Nebuchadnezzar. He conquered the world at that time and led Israel in to captivity for 70 years. God’s blessing him wasn’t for his salvation. It was to try to turn his people back to him. In the same way, God still works in our world. Sometimes he works by showing mercy to some and sometimes he shows hardness and rejection to others. But all the time he is working and hoping for the salvation of all.

Question #344

Please explain chapter 4:7-8 of I Peter. How does love cover a multitude of sins? The only thought I had was if we deeply love each other we will not want to sin.

Leon’s Response

In this section of I Peter we are being encouraged to use the spiritual gifts God has given us even during times of great trials. In the section you mentioned Peter is quoting from Proverbs 10:12 which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” The point is how love affects us. If we have hate toward a person we will see evil in everything they do. But if we love someone we won’t see all the wrongs in their life. We will focus on the good things about them and not on the faults. God teaches us to have this love for each other as husband and wife, as brothers and sisters in Christ and even toward our enemies. Love will keep us from magnifying the sins of other people and looking for what is good about them.

Question #345

I am confused about Matthew 5:31-32. If anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery, then is that sin with them until that marriage is dissolved or how is forgiveness obtained? I am in a marriage similar, if I am or have committed adultery by marrying this man, how do I make things right with God?

Leon’s Response

Notice the passage you refer to is part of the great Sermon on the Mount that Jesus preached. He said back in verse 20 “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of God.” He then laid out several areas in which we should exceed their righteousness. In regard to murder we are not to get angry at a brother without cause and work to solve problems as quickly as possible. With regard to adultery, it isn’t just the act of having sexual relations with someone else’s partner that is wrong. We aren’t to look at another person with lust. If we start having lustful attitudes toward another we are to cut it off as quickly as possible. If we allow the lust to continue and grow it will lead to our divorcing our marriage partner and marrying the one we lusted for thus committing adultery against the other woman, against my wife who I treated as an adulterer and even against the man who will later marry the one I divorced.

Jesus was trying to get us to see it isn’t just the single act that is wrong. The principle should lead us to stay out of things which will lead us into adultery and into destroying our marriages. In this whole segment from verse 27-32 the only one actively committing adultery is the man who lusted, then divorced his innocent wife and married the one he lusted for and then committed adultery against the one who would later marry the innocent one put away. When referring to the adultery of the innocent wife and the one who marries her it is in passive voice indicating that this is something done to them and not something they did. Since the only right reason for divorcing a partner is if they have been unfaithful to you, when you put away an innocent mate you make her appear as an adulteress.

How do you repent of being in a marriage with one in this situation? By stopping the unfaithfulness and being true to the one you are married to. You certainly don’t solve the divorce problem by getting another one. Think back to the Old Testament story of David. He lusted for the wife of Uriah and had her brought to him. They committed adultery and she became pregnant. David tried to cover the sin by bring her husband home from his duty as a soldier thinking he would go home and have sex with his wife and no one would be the wiser. Uriah refused to go to his wife. David had his army to put Uriah in the thickest part of the battle so he would be killed. Then he took Bathsheba his wife to be his own wife. When the child was born God brought evil on David’s house and the child died. David was confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet and David repented of the evil he did. The repentance is described in Psalms 51. After that repentance, God blessed the marriage of David and Bathsheba and they had another child, whom they named Solomon and God chose him among all the sons of David to be the next king over Israel. When we change our hearts toward a sin and determine to live as God desires from then on we are pleasing Him.

Question #346

I have had conflicting explanations given to me regarding consumption of alcohol. One argument says that the Bible only forbids drunkenness and that consumption that does not lead to intoxication is acceptable. The other argument says that any consumption of alcohol is wrong except for medical purposes.

The argument for consumption used the fact that drunkenness is always forbidden but never drinking. Also the argument sites Matthew 11:19 as proof that Jesus consumed alcohol.

The argument against consumption sites Paul’s instruction to Timothy to take some wine for his stomachs sake to mean that other consumption is forbidden.

Could you please help clarify what the Bible really teaches on this matter?

Leon’s Response

It certainly can be a confusing question. Drunkenness is certainly wrong (Ephesians 5:18; I Corinthians 6:9-11). Think of I Timothy 3 as Paul gave the qualities one needed to serve as an elder or deacon in the church. About elders he said that they were not to be “Addicted to wine” in verse 3. Some translations have “Not given to wine”. About the deacons in verse 8 the English Standard Version says, “Not drinking a lot of wine”. The King James has “Not given to much wine.” The point is that with these leaders in the church who should be held to the highest standard Paul said they should not be addicted to wine or drink a lot of wine. It sure seems that he isn’t telling them that drinking a little without getting drunk or becoming addicted to wine is wrong. Jesus did turn water into wine in John 2 at the wedding feast. If you try to turn that into grape juice it just doesn’t sound right in the text.

I think the strongest point is made in Romans 14 when Paul discussed things that were matters of conscience instead of matters of law. He talked about eating meats and observing days and says that we shouldn’t put a stumbling block before others or judge those who disagree with us. Down near the end of the chapter in verses 19-23 he challenged them to do things that build up each other and make for peace with each other.

He told them not to tear down the kingdom of God over insignificant matters. Then in verse 21 he said, “It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” Notice he put drinking of wine in the same category as eating meats. We must be careful not to do anything that would cause another to stumble. So I need to take care of my influence. But if one makes a law that we cannot drink any wine or strong drink they go further than the Bible goes. If one says, but you shouldn’t drink wine because it may cause another to stumble then I would ask, have you stopped eating any meat so you might not lead a brother to stumble? If you wouldn’t quit eating steak to keep one from falling then I shouldn’t push the idea of not drinking any thing for the same reason.

Question #347

The teenagers at our church download music and swap music with other teens and brush over the fact that it is wrong to do this. How would you explain to them that this is wrong both with our own laws and the laws of God. I know with copyright now days I too even have to examine what I do with DVDs or copying programs from TV. I am not even certain that it is legal for me to take a DVD on Matthew and show it to a class in church.

Leon’s Response

In our society so many of the young, and a lot of the older ones as well, see the corporate world as evil. The thought is that these recording artist and companies are filthy rich already and that the price of the CD’s is far to high and that that somehow justifies our downloading the songs and giving them to others without any cost. Any time we take material others have worked to prepare and have put on the market without paying the cost of the product we are stealing from that person. Through the years, I’ve had many people and quite a number of churches to take books that I have written and copy them to use in their classes. This is the same kind of action. When you look back at the Ten Commandments, God said not to steal. He also commanded us not to covet that which belongs to someone else. In the New Testament, Paul declared in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole, steal no more. But let him labor, working with his hands, the thing that is good, that he may have to give to those in need.” In Titus 2:9-10 Paul was telling Titus how different people were to conduct themselves in the kingdom. He talked about older men, older women, younger men and younger women, about evangelist and then about slaves.

He said to tell the slaves not to steal but to demonstrate utter faithfulness, “So that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” When Christians steal by downloading music or whatever against the will of the one who produced it, they are stealing and making the whole Christian cause look bad.

Question #348

In 1st John chapter 1 verse 7, when we have fellowship one with another, is this the church he is speaking of, and if so, does that mean those who are not in the church, their sins are not forgiven?  It seems as though he is saying he has fellowship with God and being that he is the head of the church and in order to have fellowship with Jesus we have to have fellowship with those that are in the church.

Leon’s Response

In I John 1 the writer identified the light in verses 5-6. “God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” If we claim fellowship with Him and walk in darkness we are lying. To walk in the light means that our life is lived in God’s light. Often people say that we need to give God a place in our lives. God tells us that He must be allowed to shine in all parts of our life and change who we are on the job, in the home, in school, out fishing or whatever may be going on. If we act right at church but don’t change at home we are being hypocrites and walking in darkness.

When we walk in God’s light it leads us to fellowship others who are walking in the light. In chapter 2 and verses 9-11 he said “The one who says he’s in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

The brothers in this passage and the “One another” in 1:7 are the same ones. It refers to others who have given their lives to God and are living a Christian life. Sometimes there are people who are in the church whom we are not to fellowship because of their behavior (I Corinthians 5). But we are to be in partnership or fellowship with those who live the Christian life that we may encourage them and them encourage us in living for the Lord. This often involves the same people since the saved are added to the church (Acts 2:47). But it may well be the case that God has added people to the church that aren’t on any of our church rolls. And He may not have added some that we thought He did. He is the one who knows who is saved and who isn’t.

Question #349

What do you tell people who say, “You Church of Christ people think that you are the only ones that will make it to heaven?”  I’ve been told by other members of the body that since we are Church of Christ, we are in the right church, or the church that Christ built. Personally, I don’t tell people that they are going to hell.

Leon’s Response

Jesus promised to build His church in Matthew 16:16-19. When Peter preached on Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 3,000 people believed in Christ and turned from their sins in repentance and were baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of their sins. In verse 47 God had Luke to say, “Praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord added to the church those who were being saved.” In Hebrews 12:23 the writer talks about the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. Since everyone who is saved is added by the Lord to His church and keeps that record in heaven, it is certainly true that all the saved are in the church. But please understand this isn’t talking about any earthly denomination, no matter what their name. It is talking about the church that is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18), purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28) and the one Christ is the head of (Ephesians 1:22-23). If a person picked up a Bible in the darkest corner of Africa and began to read that Bible believing what it says and learning what God had done for them in giving His Son to die for their sins, they turned from their sins in repentance and were baptized to have their sins forgiven they would be added to the church you read about in the Bible. That is true even if they had never heard of the church of Christ before. The church doesn’t save us but all the saved are added to the church.

The Bible doesn’t ever give a name for the church. It is given many descriptions such as church of God, church of the firstborn, the house of God, the church of the Living God, the church of the saints and the churches of Christ. None of these are the name of the church. The fact that the translators always started the word “church” with a small “c” shows that they didn’t see these as a name. Each describes some aspect of the church.

Denominational-ism is contrary to the plan of the Lord. He prayed before His death that all the disciples might be one as He and The Father were one (John 17:20-21). Paul told the church not to call themselves after different men but to be one (I Corinthians 1:10-17). He told the church in Ephesus to “Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We should today be working for oneness among those who follow Christ and stop elevating men or ideas above what God teaches.

Question #350

Would you please explain the difference in praying to God and praying to Jesus, praising God and praising Jesus, and thanking God and thanking Jesus? John 14:1-14 implies that Jesus and God are one; yet when we pray, we typically pray to God in the name of Jesus. Also, it is not uncommon to hear believers give praise and thanks to Jesus when they receive a blessing. Please help me to reconcile the two.

Leon’s Response

Remember when the disciples saw Jesus praying and asked Him to “Teach us to pray even as John also taught his disciples to pray.” Jesus responded by saying “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4) Over in John 15 Jesus described Himself as the true vine and the Father as the gardener and His disciples as branches in the vine. Down in verse 16 He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

In the text you referred to in chapter 14 Jesus told the disciples He was going to be with the Father and that He was the way, truth and the life and no one can come to the Father except through Jesus (Verse 6). It was out of that that Philip said, “Lord show us the Father and that will be enough.” Jesus said, “Have I been with you all this time and you don’t know who I am. He who has seen me has seen the Father.” I know that Jesus and the Father are one according to John 17:20-21. But how are they one? Are they one and the same person? No, that isn’t what the Bible pictures at all. Remember when Jesus was being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. He was in the water, the Holy Spirit was descending on Him like a dove and the Father was speaking from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We are to baptize people into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). But how are they one? Over in 2 John 9 the Bible says, “Whoever goes on and does not abide in the teachings of Christ does not have God. He that abides in the teachings of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” In Ephesians 4:4-6 it is said there is one Lord, one Spirit and one God, the Father.

In John 17 when Jesus is praying shortly before He was to be crucified, He prayed urgently for the apostles and for all that would believe in Him through their word “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” (Verses 20-22). Jesus prayed that we might be one AS they are one. How are we to be one? In the sense of unity, not in the sense of all being the same. God, Christ and The Holy Spirit aren’t the same person. But they are one in nature, plans, directions and goals.

It isn’t wrong to pray to Jesus. Stephen prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” and John the apostle prayed, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” But generally prayer is to the Father in the name of or by the authority of Christ, with the Holy Spirit serving as an intercessor (Romans 8:26-28).

Question #351

While studying in Ephesians, especially Eph. 6:18, we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Are there times when we do not pray in the spirit? How do we pray in the spirit and how do we know if we are not?

Leon’s Response

The New Testament describes several things that we are to do “In the Spirit”. We are to worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3), we are to sing in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19), John says, he was “In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10, we are baptized “In the Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13).

In everyone of these cases the point is the action including prayer is to be carried out under the influence or leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God inspired apostles and others in the first century to write the New Testament. Through that word from God the Spirit leads us and through making us aware of needs, situations and opportunities. Anytime one prays for something that is out of God’s will it would be praying out of the Spirit. Solomon said that “Whoever turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer will be an abomination to God.” In the model prayer Jesus told us how to pray and when we follow his plan we are praying in the Spirit.

Question #352

Have you read the book, “90 Minutes in Heaven” and do you think people really have near death experiences like he talks about or is it just the body’s way of shutting down?

Leon’s Response

I enjoyed reading the book “90 Minutes in Heaven”. I found it very interesting. I have no doubts at all of the honesty of the man who wrote it and what he saw. Whether it was actually in heaven or a trip God allowed him to take in his mind I don’t know. But in over 40 years of preaching and working with people at or near the end of life, I’ve met many who have had amazing experiences. Many are like this man and see wonderful things and feel a tremendous peace. But I’ve met others who were given some glimpse of the beyond and it wasn’t of the heavenly sort at all. Some of those actually changed their lives after the experience. The thing about anyone’s experience is that they are personal and unchallengeable. The best we can do is compare what people have seen in such times with what God says in His Word. If they don’t fit with what God says in the Word they need to be rejected.

It would be worthwhile to read 2 Corinthians 12:1-6 as Paul talked about one caught up into Paradise or the third heaven. He couldn’t tell if it was in the body or out of it. He knew that it was something that God had allowed him to see. There he heard “Unspeakable words that are unlawful for a man to speak.” What in the world was that? We have no way of knowing.

Also, read the end of Acts 7. Stephen was preaching to the crowd and they became so angry at his message they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. As he was dying he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He made two pleas. He asked God not to hold this sin against the people and to receive his spirit. So, it is possible for one to see the beyond before going there.

Did it happen in this case? I don’t know. I sure believe that he believes it did.

Question #353

Bro. Leon, in question 352 your answer made me wonder about the book “23 minutes in hell”. Is this a tool you would recommend for teaching on hell?

Leon’s Response

I really don’t know. I think I’ve read the book “23 minutes in hell” but I don’t remember enough about it to say one way or the other. I believe the clearest teaching on hell is found in Luke 16 when Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus and what happened after their deaths. I believe Jesus is telling of something He saw before He came into the world as a man and as our savior. It took place when “The Law” was still bound since Abraham said to the rich man, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.” I believe this is a literal description of one man going to hell at death and another going to heaven or paradise and what happened with them. I hope this is helpful.

Question #354

Does a water baptism save a person? What really can save a person – Christ or baptism?

Leon’s Response

There are many different things that are said to save us. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Paul told the jailer in Acts 16 to believe on the Lord with his family and he would be saved. God’s mercy saves us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-5). Baptism is said to save us in I Peter 3:20-21. Jesus Christ is our Savior and He certainly is the one that saves us. When we believe and are baptized we are saved (Mark 16:15-16). The point is that God saves us out of His amazing grace. He saves us through the blood of Christ. Our part in taking advantage of God’s offer of salvation is to believe on the Lord, turn from our sins and obey the Lord in baptism. We are saved at the point our faith leads us to be baptized to put us into Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27). This is the present salvation given us in this life. The Bible also talks about the future, ultimate salvation that will take place when the Lord comes again and we go home to heaven. It would be a mistake to take any one thing and say that is the only thing that saves us. Look at James 2:19-26. We are saved by faith, but it isn’t by faith alone. To be finally saved in heaven requires us to come to Christ and then live for Him until we die or He comes again.

Question #355

The Lord has blessed so many people with beautiful voices and they use them to praise Him. I guess what I’m trying to say ,is praising with music sin?

Leon’s Response

It isn’t wrong to praise God in almost any way. But let me remind you that in some areas God is very specific about how a thing is to be done. When Nadab and Abihu made an offering to God they were doing a good thing. But in doing so they took the fire from a different spot than what God commanded and He struck them dead immediately, (Leviticus 10).

It is right for example for people to give what they want to the Lord. But in Acts 5 a couple sold their land and kept back part of it and gave the rest to God. But they pretended they were giving it all. God struck them dead on the spot.

It is right to praise God in all kinds of songs and instruments. But God has been specific about the music we use in worship to Him in this era of time. We are to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19. We shouldn’t move from what He commanded.

Question #356

I am a Christian and love the Lord with all my heart, as I continue to try and grow in God’s word I find Satan is constantly battling for control of my mind by placing evil thoughts.I pray for forgiveness but how do I win this battle? This is tormenting me and I don’t want go to hell.What hope do I have?

Leon’s Response

Satan does stay after us to try to pull us away from the Lord. The first step in conquering him is in submitting to God, (James 4:6-8). When we submit to God we gain the strength to resist the devil.

Second, remember I Corinthians 10:12-13. We can certainly fall. But God always makes a way for us to escape from sin and live for God.

Third, read Ephesians 6:10-18. Notice we are challenged to be strong in the Lord and to know the devil is trying to deceive us. The means of being strong in the Lord is to put on the whole armor of God. When we armor ourselves with truth, integrity, righteousness, confidence of our salvation, faith and the readiness to share the gospel with others and when we take the word of God as our sword we are able to hold the devil away from us. You seal the whole thing up with regular prayers to God.

Finally, know that you grow for God in spiritual strength by developing habits that train you in living for the Lord. Have a time each day for Bible reading, meditation and prayer. Spend some time fasting or doing without food or some other benefit in order to focus your whole self on the Lord and His will. Talk to others about the Lord and what He has done and is doing in your life. These will help you grow.

Question #357

I have always been puzzled by the reason for which the church of Christ believes instrumental music to be not authorized by scripture. In regards to your reference of Eph 5:19 as a reason to exclude instrumental music, this has never made much sense to me in light of the text. To properly define psalms, hymns and spiritual songs we should take a look at their meanings from the original language in which they were written. The Greek word used in the Pauline epistles for psalms is psalmos. Psalmos is defined as a set piece of music, a sacred ode accompanied with the voice, harp or other instruments. It seems the very definition of a psalm refutes that idea. Reference Psalm 150

1 Praise the LORD. [a] Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

I am not suggesting that the way these denominations worship is unacceptable, just that their theology of worship is incomplete. That is great news to all of us minstrels who desire to play our instruments for the glory of God in worship. Therefore, if Eph 5:19 says we are to sing Psalms, do we exclude those that reference instrumental music? When by their very definition it was proper to praise with them. I believe whether it is a Capella music, instrument, preaching, teaching, etc…it must be done with an honest heart for God to be glorified. Thank you for listening.

Leon’s Response

According to church history, instrumental music in worship wasn’t used in the early church at all. As a matter of fact it wasn’t introduced until the eighth century and the fuss about it caused the Greek Orthodox church to pull away from the Roman Catholic church. The Greek Orthodox church still doesn’t use the instrument. Also, if it is so foreign to the teaching for one to sing without the instrument, how do you explain that Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon and Adam Clark all said the use of the instrument in worship was not acceptable. Spurgeon, who has been called the greatest Baptist preacher of all time, said he had just as soon pray with an instrument as sing with one.

But what about Ephesians 5:19. It’s true in the very passage you mentioned that God told them to sing and play the instrument. But notice, He didn’t just use the word Psalm to include both the singing and playing. He used the word for Psalm and then named the instrument. But look at Ephesians 5:19 from the English Standard Version. “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” We are told to “Sing and make melody”. The words translated “Making melody” come from the Greek word “psalontas” which was used for singing psalms and is a form of the word “Psallo”. When this word is used in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, the instrument to be played is always named, just as it is here. We are to sing and play (Make melody) “with all your heart” or “in your heart to the Lord.” We are certainly to use an instrument and the instrument we are commanded to use is our hearts.

I know this is a very big question today. Personally, I don’t believe the evidence on either side is sufficient to cause one to lose their soul either way. But to claim that the instrument is demanded in Ephesians or any other place in the New Testament would condemn the early church for not using it.

Question #358

What is your take on 1 John 5:16-17; The sin that leads to death vs. the sin that does not lead to death?

Leon’s Response

This is an unusual text. We are to prayer for one who sins a sin not unto death, but not to pray for one who commits a sin unto death. In light of I John 1:7-10 which told us to walk in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Christ would keep cleansing us from all sins and not to ever claim that we had no sin. When we realize we are guilty we are to confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive the sins. So the sin not unto death is the sin one confesses to God the sins. The sin unto death is a sin I try to hide or pretend isn’t there. We aren’t to pray for God to forgive that kind of sin because our hearts aren’t right on the matter yet.

Question #359

I’m a member of the Lord’s church and trying very hard to live as the Lord would have me to. How do you think it looks to the Lord, and the world we are trying to save, if a group of young women of the church celebrate a gathering together by serving alcohol, in a members home?

Leon’s Response

I don’t think it looks good at all. It seems to me that one is failing as salt of the earth and light of the world in such actions (Matthew 5:13-16). We need to focus on Romans 14 where Paul talked about matters of judgment and told us to take care in matters like eating meat, observing days or drinking wine. We should show concern for our brothers for whom Christ died. We aren’t to judge the other person since they are God’s servants and not ours. But it sure seems like a failure to judge correctly when Christian youth or older persons follow such ways.

Question #360

What exactly is Blasphemy?

Leon’s Response

The word “blasphemy” just means to “Speak against”. When one blasphemes God he is bringing him down to our level. Jesus said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven. But if one blasphemes the Holy Spirit it won’t be forgiven. The point was that they were looking at the miracles Jesus did and attributing that power to the devil, saying that Jesus did the miracles by the power of the devil. Those miracles were done to show that He was the Son of God (John 20:30-31). So when they attributed them to the devil they were taking the very evidence to prove who He was and giving it to Satan. So, Jesus said, that sin wouldn’t be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31-32). In I Timothy 1:12-17 Paul said he had been guilty of blaspheming and God had forgiven him. But he hadn’t blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

Question #361

What evidence is there that “all sins are equal”? Does God have different judgment values on sins? Any biblical insight here would be helpful.

Leon’s Response

Actually the Bible doesn’t teach that all sins are equal. Jesus pointed to the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit as a worse sin (Matthew 12:31-32). In John 19:11 Jesus said to Pilate that those who delivered Him to Pilate were guilty of the greater sin. The very fact that some commands are greater than others demonstrates that all sin isn’t equal. The greatest command is to love God with all our hearts, soul, minds and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus told the religious leaders that they paid tithes of mint, anis and commine but had omitted the more important parts of God’s law, justice, mercy and faith.

Any sin is bad and any sin unforgiven will cause us to be lost (Romans 6:23). But all sins are not equal.

Question #362

1 John 5:16- If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.

What is the life that God gives to the one who sins not unto death and how does the one who prays get such a blessing for his brother? Clearly our prayers do not save other people.

Your thoughts?

Leon’s Response

The life one gains when he has committed a sin not unto death is the eternal life mentioned in I John 1:7-10. When the Bible speaks of heaven as our eternal home He uses many different figures of speech aimed at giving us a glimpse of what our eternal home will be like. Look at Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 or 2 Corinthians 5:1-9. Every means of speaking of the eternal home helps us see it clearer. This life here is given in contrast to spiritual death as mentioned in Ephesians 2:1-5. Before salvation we were all dead in sin but God gave us life in our forgiveness.

With regard to our prayer bringing them life, remember back in chapter one he had said that the one who confesses his sin will be forgiven (1:7-10). The point John is making here in chapter five is that if one confesses his sin we are to pray for him and God will give him life or salvation that leads to the eternal home with God. If one will not confess their sins God won’t forgive them and we aren’t to pray that He will. Our prayer is powerful in this regard because it fits the plan and puts us into God’s flow of Power. Compare Matthew 18:15-20. We we rebuke one for sins if they repent we have gained a brother. If he wont’ take others with you. If he still won’t repent take it to the church. God promises His presence with us when we obey Him.

Question #363

What is the meaning of John 15:1-17?

Leon’s Response

In John 15 Jesus is with eleven of the apostles, probably walking from the upper room toward the Garden of Gethsemane and He is teaching them powerful lessons to get them ready for His crucifixion. He may have seen a grape vine or vineyard beside the road. The vine had great value in Israel. Even the temple gates had a vine embedded along the way. Israel was known as the vine of God. Jesus set aside many wrong notions when He said, “I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener and you are the branches.” It is the Father’s job to prune the branches so that they will bear more fruit. If we don’t bear fruit he cuts us away and we are cast into the fire and burned.

He told them they were already clean. He challenged them and us to “Abide in the vine and to allow the Word to abide in us so we can bear much fruit. He pointed to fruitfulness when He said, “In this My Father is glorified if you bear much fruit and so shall you be my disciples. Notice two major points He made. One is that in order for us to be fruitful we must keep a close connection with Him. We can’t do it on our own. Second, we are to stay away from the pruning of others. That is God’s job and He will do it well. When we try to cut others back we often cut too deep or not enough or cut the wrong ones. Jesus told them that the way to joyful living for Him was in bearing fruit, abiding in His love. We aren’t just slaves of the Lord. We become a part of a loving joy filled family and He chooses us and calls us His friends. One aspect of such fruitful living is that we can ask whatever we desire of the Father, in the name of Christ and it will be done. The great command for us as branches is to Love one another.

This passage tells us to make certain we are in the vine and that we abide there, staying close all the time to Him. God will bless us when we stay connected to Him. One of the greatest blessings will be answered prayer. Does that mean everything we ask for from God is granted. No, that can’t be, since Jesus ask for the cup of crucifixion to be removed from Him and the Father’s answer was “No”. When Paul asked for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, God told him know. God does hear our prayers and answers them, it’s just that His answer is sometimes, “No”.

Question #364

In response to question 360 on Blasphemy, can you provide some more clarification on the term and what it means for Christians today? Would attributing works of God/”miraculous events” in today’s society to medical sciences etc, be considered “bringing God down to our level” in attributing it to man and not God? Or am I misunderstanding that? Thanks for the clarification.

Leon’s Response

In Bullinger’s Critical Concordance of the Greek to English New Testament he defines blaspheme as: “To drop evil or profane words, revile, calumniate; esp. to revile God or divine things.” Remember that Jesus said “All manner of sin and blaspheme will be forgiven a man, but if one blasphemes the Holy Spirit it will not be forgiven neither in this age or the one to come.” Paul described himself as one who blasphemed the Lord by persecuting the church and saying all manner of evil against the church. (I Timothy 1:12-17). Paul blasphemed by running down Jesus Christ and denying that He really was divine. As to whether or not it is blaspheming to say that a person being healed today by the doctors or must we go back to the original source of all healing and give the glory to God. If isn’t blaspheming to give a doctor credit when God used the treatment or medicine they gave to help. It would be blaspheming to deny God had anything to do with a person’s healing. He works through doctors and treatments to help those who are hurting. If we deny His involvement we are blaspheming. That doesn’t mean we are committing sin that can’t be forgiven. But we are bringing Christ down, by leaving Him out of our thinking and conversation. But if we repent of the sin and confess it to the Lord He will freely forgive it. The very thought that we can bring Jesus down to our level in our speech ought to cause us to step back and think hard about how we speak of all things divine.

Question #365

How do you interpret “take up your cross daily” from Luke 9:23?

Leon’s Response

In the context of this verse Jesus had just foretold the fact he was going to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priest and scribes, be killed and be raised the third day. It was with this picture of his death on the cross clearly in front of them that he said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” He goes ahead to say if one wants to save his life, he will lose it and if one loses his life for the Lord’s sake he will find it.

The primary point is that just as Jesus would die for us so we can be saved, we must be willing to follow Him, not just in the good times, when things are going well and people are saying nice things about us. WE must be willing to follow Him when it leads to a cross. It isn’t so much that we must go to the literal cross to die, even though we must be willing to do that if that is what is called for, as it is the willingness to die to our selfish ways and desires to live for Him. Paul would later say of himself, “I die daily”. When we take up our cross we die to the desires, the lust, the fears, the riches and ambitions of our own lives to live for Him. In Galatians 2:20 Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me so that the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in Him who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the very same point. We die to self and live for Christ. The fact that Jesus said “daily” shows that it is a decision I must make every day. God doesn’t call upon us to decide for Him once and forget it. He calls on us to daily decide for Him and live it out every day.

Question #366

Do we know where we got the Bible from, (HISTORY)?

Leon’s Response

I’m not sure whether you want to know about the original manuscripts of the Bible or of where we got the English Bible. If you are talking about the Bible in its original manuscripts, note that all Scripture is giving by God’s inspiration (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Peter said “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). The original manuscripts of the Old Testament were written in Hebrew and were translated into Greek during the 400 years between the close of Malachi and the opening of the New Testament. It was during that time that the different books of the Old Testament were gathered into a whole and the accepted books were put together.

The New Testament was written down by at least 8 different human writers who wrote what God led them to write. The New Testament was completed near the end of the first century. It was another 200 years before any group of books were collected and affirmed to be the message from God. There were many other books written about Jesus and the church during that period of time. But there were good reasons for accepting the twenty seven books we know as the New Testament and rejecting others that people wanted to be accepted. One of the really good books that records the history of the text is “How we got the Bible” by Neil Lightfoot which I would heartily recommend to you.

Question #367

Is my niece right in her thinking? She writes…

This is exactly why I don’t think government and religion should mix. Our country is one of many religions and Christians should not have a majority rule over them.

Homosexuals are denied the basic rights that are supposed to be granted to each and every citizen of this country. They are denied or fired from their employment, housing in certain areas and are regularly beaten or killed in hate crimes. These are things we take for granted.

I agree that homosexual behavior and fornication is against the Bible. But the Bible also says “Thou Shall Not Judge” and we are judging them by denying them the same rights that we have.

Christine and Rob lived together outside of marriage. Would you be upset if Christine had to move because she had Rob living with her at her condo, or if she lost her job because of it? And I’m sure you would be upset if she were attacked and beaten because of it too.

As Christians, it is our duty to help those who need help, not judge them. Sin is sin, no matter what it is…from lying to homosexuality. There’s no degree of sin. Right now in this country, we treat homosexuals no better than pond scum. If there is going to be a law passed that will protect them in some way, then I’m for it. How many people have to have their human rights guaranteed by our Constitution violated before they are protected? As for gay marriage and polygamy…on a basic Christian level, I think it’s wrong. But whether it should be allowed as a law, I don’t see a problem. Those people will come before God on Judgment Day and have to account for their actions. It is not for us to judge here on earth.

There is a book (and movie) called “And The Band Played On” about the rise of AIDS in the United States, and how the government didn’t take an aggressive approach to the virus because it was considered a “gay disease”. Thousands of people who were innocent died because the top medical country in the world refused to research it, because it was only homosexuals that were dying at first. The French…who discovered the HIV virus…said that only Americans would think that a virus would pick out only a certain group of people. Hundreds of people died because they got transfusions from surgeries or they were hemophiliacs…and the blood was tainted with the virus. The CDC fought the FDA for years on getting them to test the blood supply.

No one deserves to be treated like that…or to die like that. Simply because of a life choice that is against the most powerful religion in the country.

However AIDS is NOT a homosexual disease. In Africa, where it is a pandemic, 90% infected are heterosexuals.

Leon’s Response

In the things that were written, there are many things I think are right and many that I believe she is confused about. I’ll try to make those clear. Homosexual sex is wrong, not just from a Christian point of view, but from the Bible’s teaching, (Read Romans 1:22-27; I Corinthians 6:9-11). Homosexual living is immoral and must not be justified, any more than sexual immorality between a man and woman or sexual relations with a child. The comparison on how those living with each other are treated by the government should be made between a homosexual couple and a heterosexual couple living together, but who aren’t married. They should have the same rights and be viewed the same way. Both are living in a sinful relationship. It is impossible from a Biblical point of view for a homosexual couple to be married. Go back and read Malachi 2 beginning in verse 10 – 16. Why did God make marriage and why does He make two one? Because He wants to raise up a godly seed. One of the primary purposes of marriage is to produce children and bring them up for God. Homosexual couples can’t fulfill that plan.

Should people be mistreated, lose jobs or be beaten because of homosexuality? Certainly not! Neither should they be treated as married couples bringing up a family. They should be treated the same way we would treat a man and woman who are living together outside of marriage. But what if they are born that way and can’t change it? Wouldn’t that put them in the very same position as the man or woman who desires sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex but is unmarried? Even though their desire is normal, it would be wrong to fulfill the desire outside of marriage.

It would be wrong for Christianity to be made the legal religion and to demand the whole world to follow it. But it is also wrong for a country to make laws that are immoral and that would justify horrible behavior.

One other thought, not all sins are equal. It’s true that the wages of sin are death, (Romans 3:23). But just as some commands are more important than others, some sins are worse than others. (Matthew 22:34-40; 23:23-24; John 19:11) Jesus told Pilate that those who delivered Him to him committed the “greater sin”.

We ought to treat all people with kindness and respect, showing them the love of God and Christ for them. He loves the whole world, (John 3:16). Even among the Christians in Corinth were some who had lived immorally but their lives had changed and they were now washed from the old way, (I Corinthians 6:9-11). It never helps people to be drawn to God when those who follow Him live more like the devil.

Question #368

What is your take on degrees of punishment in Hell and of reward in Heaven? Doesn’t this doctrine contradict Matt 20:1-16? What Scriptures are used for this idea?

Leon’s Response

I don’t see anything in Scripture that indicates hell will be hotter in some parts than others or that heaven will have bigger mansions in some parts than others. Matthew 20:1-16 does indicate the same rewards are given to all. Luke 12:42-48 is probably the strongest passage indicating degrees. Jesus said the servant who knew what was right and did wrong any way would be severely beaten but the one who didn’t know and did wrong would be beaten lightly. This indicates that the punishment is based on one’s ability to know what is right and their attitude toward God’s will. The answer, I believe to the problem is that part of the punishment of hell and of the reward of heaven is in our minds. In Luke 16 when Jesus described the rich man in torment, Abraham told him, “Son remember that you in your lifetime had the good things and Lazarus the evil, but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” If one had many opportunities to learn right and to do it but constantly turned them down, his mental anguish in hell would be much greater than the one who never had the opportunities to learn and do what God wanted them to do. Part of the rich man’s anguish was thinking of his brothers on the earth who were following him. Likewise, in heaven one has all the memories of what has happened and of their opportunities on earth. In Revelation chapters 6 and 7 John pictures those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus as under the altar crying out “How long O Lord, holy and true, do you not avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Later they are being led by the everlasting fountains of water and God is wiping away all their tears.

Think of two people going to an art museum looking at the same paintings. One is a great lover of art who has studied the different artist and knows the background of most of the paintings. The other has no appreciation of art and sees it only in terms of how it would look on the wall in their home. They would see the same things, but they would not be moved in the same ways. One has far greater capacity to enjoy what is going on. In the same way, one like Paul who studied, prayed and worked constantly for the cause of Christ and suffered greatly for the cause would obviously have a greater appreciation of the wonders of heaven than one who became a Christian just before they died and had never studied the Bible at all. The same rewards are offered. But the capacity to appreciate it are very different.

Question #369

What happens to the people who have never been taught about Jesus? Do they go to heaven or hell? It doesn’t seem fair if never hearing of Jesus to be condemned. Also, do our loved ones that have died see us here on earth and can they come around us and cause strange things to happen in our homes, i.e. lights come on and off, or feel their presence?

Leon’s Response

They are challenging questions. First with regard to those who have never been taught. Keep in mind it isn’t what we know or don’t know that brings salvation or the lack of it. A person is lost because of sin in their life. It is the wages of sin that is death (Romans 6:23). Man was lost because everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). God made a way for any of us to have our sins forgiven through His Son coming into the world as a man, going through our temptations and not giving in to them and then being executed on a cross for our sins. (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Christians are taught to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature so that they may come to faith and be baptized into Christ to have their sins forgiven and live for Him for the remainder of their lives (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46-48). God’s grace makes the way for anyone to be forgiven of any sin. If one doesn’t take advantage of the grace they are lost. In Acts 17:30-31 Paul was preaching in Athens when he said, God once overlooked the ignorance of people. But now he commands all men everywhere to repent. If the save ignore the commands to preach the gospel to the whole world it will have horrible results for many. Please read Luke 12:42-48 where Jesus deals with this whole topic. He said those who knew and did wrong would be punished severely, but those who didn’t know any better and did wrong would be punished lightly. Also, in Romans 2:12-16 Paul talked about the gentiles who didn’t have the law in comparison to the Jews that had God’s law. When the Gentiles that didn’t have the law, do instinctively what is right they are a law to themselves. Their conscience serves as their guide and accuses or else excuses them.

All of these Scriptures are important on this subject. It would be a mistake to take any one and base everything on it. Certainly those who are lost because they never knew are treated with mercy. But they aren’t excused for their sins even then.

On the second question, the Bible gives no indication that our loved ones after death come back around in mysterious ways to communicate with us or that they have miraculous powers after leaving here. There are many Scriptures that talk about the situation with a person between death and the resurrection. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told a story of a rich man who died lost and a beggar who died saved. The rich man lifted up his eyes in torment immediately and remembered how things were in the past. He pleaded for mercy but none was given. There was a great chasm between the place where the lost were and those who were saved. The beggar was comforted. Nothing would indicate that either had any ability with regard to those on the earth. Abraham told the rich man that the poor man could not go back and warn his brothers not to come where he was. He told him that they had the word of God and should listen to it. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 God describes what happens with the righteous after death. They go on to heaven and are blessed greatly. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 the Bible tells of a man who was caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words, unlawful for a man to say. He didn’t know if it was in the body or out of it. In Revelation 6 Christians that have been murdered for their faith are described as under the altar and they are crying out to the Lord, “How long O Lord, Holy and True, do you not avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” In the latter half of chapter 7 these same people are led by the Lord as their Shepherd by everlasting fountains of water and God wipes all tears from their eyes. There isn’t any thing in any of these that indicate that those who have died are still hanging around the earth. They have gone to another world. If they are lost they certainly won’t have opportunities to come back and have contact with anyone. If they are saved, the joy and wonder of heaven will be so overwhelming that one would not have any long interest in what is happening down here. They will trust that the Lord who leads them will take care of their family.

Question #370

Will we ever know how the “Spirit” affects us today? I know I can read scriptures and know that the spirit lives in me and know that I’ve been baptized in the Spirit, but how can we recognize it? I would give the example of knowing that I have bone marrow in my body, but then I have no resources to tell me what it does or how it works. Is it possible for the Spirit to “overtake” during the worship assembly? Any comments to make this clear?

Leon’s Response

The Bible gives two clear ways for us to know of the Spirit’s presence and work in our lives.

First, we know by faith. Since God promised His Spirit would come to live in us when we are His we can know that when we through faith commit to Him in obedience that God gives us His Spirit, (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). We know by faith that He helps us with our weaknesses (Romans 8:26-28), that He strengthens us in the inner man (Ephesians 3:14-21), that He guides us (Romans 8:14-16).

We also know by fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul said the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If one thinks the Spirit is in them and working in them but they don’t bear the fruit then they are mistaken. Is there more? Yes, at times. It is obvious all through the Bible that men under the influence of the Spirit knew it and talked about it. But it is also clear that the Spirit at times left people and they didn’t know it. Look at Psalms 51 and David prays about his sin when he had turned from God and became an adulterer and murderer. He pleaded with God not to take His Spirit from him. In I Samuel 10:9-10 Saul was given the Spirit of God and even prophesied. In I Samuel 16:14 the Spirit had left Saul and an evil spirit came upon him. After the Spirit left Saul, he continued to think He was there for some time.

With regard to our knowing the Spirit’s work in us during worship, two things are important to notice. One is the Spirit does convict people of sin often during worship to get us see what needs to change as in Acts 2:36-38. Also, in I Corinthians 14 Paul describes the assembly of the church and talks about how it should be done. In verses 23-25 he made the point that all things should be clear so an unbeliever might be touched and realize that God is really among us. There are many times in worship that we know that God is there. I would think this is the work of the Spirit. Being in God’s presence should be the most moving thing in worship and the most life changing.

Question #371

In question #365, I know we must live for the Lord, and I want to, but how do we die to the desires of lust, fears, riches, and ambitions of our lives to live for him? I want to always be in his presence.

Leon’s Response

Dying to passions, lust, fears, riches and ambitions is not an easy thing or a one time action. Any time we begin to think we have overcome the devil and that he will never be a problem again, we have fallen into his trap. Even Jesus, in facing Satan’s temptations after his baptism, was tempted 40 days by Satan. Then Satan came with three big temptations to pull him away. He challenged him to be selfish and turn stones into bread to take care of his hunger, to showboat and jump off the pinnacle of the temple to draw a crowd and to bow down to him to avoid all the persecution and pain he was about to go through. After Jesus resisted the devil, Satan left for a little while to come back at a better time.

Think of some principles given in Scripture as to how we conquer these sinful desires. First, in James 1:12-15 we are told to endure the temptations and not to blame them on God. God does not tempt anyone and He isn’t tempted. Everyone is drawn away by his own lust. When lust conceived it brings forth sin and when sin is full grown it brings forth death. From this we learn that temptations will keep coming. We can stay away from sin. But temptations will always be there. Our challenge is not to give in to the temptation.

Second, in James 4:7-9 we are told to submit to God and resist the devil. It must start by submission to God. As our heart is set on doing God’s will and making Him Lord and king of our lives we gain strength to overcome the devil. The closer we are to God the further we will be from Satan. We need to get out of the sin, wash our hands, purify our hearts and grieve and mourn over the sins in our lives.

Third, when we realize we are guilty in any area we need to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other that we might be healed (James 5:16).

Jesus told the story of a man who drove the demon out of his life. The demon went looking for a new place to live but couldn’t find one so he came back to look at the place he had left and found it “empty, swept, and clean”. So the demon went out and found 7 other demons worse than him and brought them back and they moved into the man’s heart. The last state of the man was worse than the first. The point of this parable is that it will never work to just try to get rid of the sin. We must fill our lives with God and service to God. If one wants to stop the “works of the flesh” he must have the “fruit of the Spirit” filling his life (Galatians 5:19-22).

The final passage I would encourage you to look closely at is the latter part of Romans 7 and all of chapter 8. In Romans 7 Paul describes trying to live right on his own power. He wants to do right. He resolves he will stay true. But every time he finds another law in him pulling him back into sin so he cries out, “O wretched man that I am who will deliver me from the body of this death?” God answers him in chapter 8 by telling him to walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh. He promises to fill him with the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit will help in his weaknesses and that God will cause all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. God gives us his own Spirit to strengthen us, lead us and keep us in the right way. We must lead on God and find power in Him to overcome.

Question #372

Is the Holy Spirit ever specifically mentioned in the Old Testament?

Leon’s Response

Yes, the Old Testament does specifically mention the Holy Spirit. In Psalms 51:11 David prayed for God not to take His Holy Spirit from him. Most of the time the Spirit is referred to as either “The Spirit” or “The Spirit of God” or “The Spirit of the Lord”. In Genesis 1:1-3 “The Spirit of God hovered over the waters”.

Question #373

How can we know God’s will?

A good friend e-mailed me the following question and comments concerning how God works in our lives relative to the decisions we make. I’m pondering my answer.  What do you think? (Note: This is a paraphrased version of the e-mail my friend sent.)

I’ve heard people say, “It just wasn’t meant to be” or “God, give me a sign if you want me to do this.”

Does God reveal himself to Christians this way? Personally, I wrestle with this. For the most part, I think God wants us to pray about it and give him all of our cares – and then we should make decisions based on our educated guesses.

I have a hard time hearing people say, “Well this or that happened, so God wants me to do this.”

What are your thoughts? I think we could drive ourselves crazy figuring out what is a sign and not a sign. Is this type of mentality a sign of weak faith?

Leon’s Response

Many times all we need to do to know God’s will is to pick up the Bible and begin to read. Often He specifically tells us this is his will. For example in I Thessalonians 4:1-8 Paul wrote, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” He went on to explain what was involved in living that life. But there are also many times when there is no specific text to turn to by which we can know and in such times we need to use great caution. First we need to be sure that we have given ourselves completely to the Lord and are living transformed lives. By doing so we prove the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Also, when we make plans for the future we should say that “If it is God’s will I will do thus and so.” (James 4:12-17). If one could always be certain what God’s will is, we wouldn’t need to lay out such a condition. Jesus taught us to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It is worth noting that Paul, an inspired apostle wasn’t always sure of God’s will. In Acts 16 when they were trying to decide where to go to preach the gospel, they attempted to go into two areas and the Spirit forbade them to go. Then he had a dream of a man from Macedonia saying to him, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Luke says, we supposed that it was God’s will that we go to Macedonia and set out for that area. Another time was in the book of Philemon. Paul was writing about the runaway slave, Onesimus. He said, “Perhaps it was God’s will that he escape so he might be converted and come to the Lord.”

We need to be aware that things don’t always go as God wills for them to go. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) but many will be lost.

In Romans 8:26-29 Paul noted that the Spirit in us helps us with our weaknesses, even in things like prayer. He intercedes for us to the Father. Then he said that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Then he explained God’s will as being that we might be conformed to the image of his son. God is working in our lives. He takes the good, bad and ugly and causes them to work together in such a way that good comes out of it. Many things that happen aren’t good at all. They may be horrible. But God makes them come together for good. The words translated, “work together” were the words used to describe an orchestra playing music together. They work together to play beautiful music. God is working in our lives and produces wonderful things, when we are among the called of God and those who love God.

God may well have a will at work in our lives that looks way down the line and allows us to go through many things that aren’t what he would like or that we like, but that will bring on the ultimate good. Think of the life of Joseph. He went through terrible things, being sold as a slave by his brothers, lied about by the master’s wife, thrown into prison, forgotten be men he helped. All of these went on over a period of about 15 years. But then God got him out of the prison and he was made the governor of Egypt.

God’s will must not be pushed into a small bottle that can’t see past this week. Finally, there are many things about which God has no will. They aren’t right or wrong and he doesn’t care one way or the other what we do in those areas. When people turn the will of God into which shoes or coat one wears or which way they go to work or who lives and dies in a plane crash, they trivialize God and miss the whole point of who He is.

Question #374

In John 20:2, whom is the disciple that Jesus loved & why is his name not mentioned?

Leon’s Response

It is likely that this is John himself. In chapter 21:24 it says, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” Exactly why John doesn’t identify himself as the writer of the book we aren’t sure. But it was likely a matter of humility, desiring to elevate the name of Jesus, rather than focusing on any man.

Question #375

What is the difference between lust and desire? Someone asked me and though I thought I knew, I guess I really didn’t.

Leon’s Response

Lust is an illegal strong desire. Many things we desire aren’t wrong for us to have and thus wouldn’t be lust. It is only when the desire is for something I have no right to have that it becomes lust and it is only when the desire is very strong, almost to the point of being overwhelming. The word lust and the word covet come from the same root word.

Question #376

When Matthew list the generation from Abraham to Jesus whom are the names that would fall into the 400 year time frame between the Old Testament & the New Testament? Is this the only time their names are mentioned?

Leon’s Response

We can’t be absolutely sure, but it is likely from Abiud the son of Zerubbabel forward these men are of that inter-testament period. Some of the names are found earlier but these seem to be different people and that these refer to ones we know nothing of other than their being in the genealogy of Jesus.

Question #377

I just saw the news on TV about the Virgin Mary statue in Florida that had a tear running from the eye. People were on their knees before this statue and my thought on this flashed thru my mind on what does God think of this and those that have a cross around their neck and they place it in their hands and pray then often kiss the cross after. From a scripture standpoint, how does God view these acts? I view the bible that I read as Gods inspired words but I still do not kiss the Bible.

Leon’s Response

When I hear of things like the statue I think of Jesus when he was being tempted by the devil after his baptism. Satan first tried to get him to turn stones into bread and he said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Then Satan took him to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “If you are the Christ, cast your self down for it is written that he shall give his angels charge to watch over you lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.” Satan’s temptation was to do something amazing, something fantastic that would cause everyone to be amazed and follow him. Jesus refused, saying, “It is written that you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

From that time on Satan has continued to try to get Christ and the church to do something sensational to get more followers. Jesus always rejects such a temptation knowing that if one is brought to Christ on such a basis, they will only stay as long as such fantastic deeds are being done and as long as the next one is bigger than the last. Jesus performed miracles while on the earth, but never just to show off his power. He fed the hungry, he healed the sick, he stilled the storm, he cast demons out of people. Every miracle was for the benefit of someone. Such deeds as this one where a block of stone has tears running from its eyes is not the kind of thing ever described by God as part of His work. How it happens, I do not know. But it doesn’t lead me to more faith in Jesus or anyone else.

Question #378

I would like for you to explain Rom;14-13,21. This does not have anything to do with Easter.

Leon’s Response

In Romans 14 Paul is talking about matters of conscience on which God has not given any specific teaching. They were concerned about things such as eating meats, drinking wine and observing certain days (Verses 5-6). He made several points on the whole theme. He said first that the kingdom of God wasn’t about food and drink but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit and that we ought to pursue the things that make for peace and for building up each other (Verses 17-19). He also said that in such matters we aren’t to judge each other but to understand that God is the judge (Verses 10-12). He then warns us to observe two things. First, we are to be careful not to offend a weak brother for whom Christ died over such matters of conscience. It would be better to forego some liberties we have in Christ than to offend a brother in the Lord. Secondly, we must take care not to violate our own conscience. There may be things that feel wrong to us about which God has not said anything at all. We are to follow the conscience in such matters. If we learn we are wrong and that the Bible doesn’t forbid a thing we should train our conscience to not feel guilty in such things.

As to how this relates to Easter, it would be in the area of observing days. The Bible doesn’t mention our observing Easter at all. The only time the word appears in the Bible is in the King James Version and there it is a mistranslation and really was about the Passover. The only day we have any instructions about observing is the Lord’s Day or first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1-2; Revelation 1:10). If one observed Easter as a matter of personal taste and didn’t bind it on other Christians it wouldn’t be wrong. But neither is it wrong to not observe it at all. We must show concern for those around us who do so that we do not wound their conscience so that they fall away.

Question #379

What are Ephesians 4:3-6 & Psalm 62 about?

Leon’s Response

Psalms 62 is a Psalm written by David as a poem intended to be made into a song about our dependence on God. In the heading it is mentioned that it is for Jeduthun who was the director of the chorus which sang in the temple during David’s reign. It is laid out in four stanzas each declaring that God is the only one we can lean on for refuge and help. He notes that we can not lean on men of high estate or low estate but that God is his fortress to keep him from being shaken. We are encouraged not to trust in extortion, or take pride in stolen goods or to set our hearts on riches. Trust and follow God,

As to Ephesians 4:3-6 it is written by Paul from the Roman prison to a group of churches in the area of Asia Minor starting with Ephesus. He had laid before them the teachings that were so vital for them to learn and follow. In this chapter he begins to apply those truths to daily life. In that regard the first plea is for unity. He tells them to have an humble, long-suffering attitude that leads to unity. He tells them it takes lots of work in order to have unity so they are to extend every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Then he notes that any unity worth attaining must be build on 7 foundations or truths. These 7 ones are: One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith and one baptism and one God who is above all, in all and through all. Even if we attain complete unity on a basis of something other than these 7 it won’t be worth having.

Question #380

The verses in 1 Cor.7 about marriage has a sentence in verse 15, “God has called us to live in peace”. Please explain how this applies today and especially in a marriage bond of one who is not a Christian.

Leon’s Response

Paul is answering questions the church in Corinth have submitted to him on the subject of marriage. One had to do with a Christian married to a non-Christian. He told the Christian partner not to depart but stay in the marriage if the non-Christian partner was willing for the marriage to last. In doing so they had a sanctifying effect on the husband and the children. But if the unbeliever departs or abandons his spouse, then let them go – a brother or sister isn’t under bondage in such cases. For God has called us to peace. When the non-Christian partner wants out of the marriage, the Christian is to let them go and not continue to fight to keep it together. When a partner is wanting out and has no desire to live with a Christian it makes for a war in the family and God doesn’t want the Christian to life like that. They are to get out and recognize they are no long bound to that marriage.

Question #381

1 John5:14-15, please explain, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. How do I know if I am asking as I should? Am I approaching God wrong by opening my heart? What should I ask in prayer? Many of my prayers go unanswered but I’ve always thought it wasn’t the right time or not the best for me. Help me to understand.

Leon’s Response

The promises of God about prayer and His answering them are many. One must be careful to take every promise in light of other teachings that have been given in other places. In this text John lays out the confidence all Christians should have, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Even Jesus in praying in the Garden of Gethsemane asked boldly for God to take away the cup he was about to drink but added, “Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.” Certainly, there has never been anyone else so close to God as Jesus, His unique Son, yet His prayer for deliverance from the cross was answered with, “No”.

God hears every prayer, but that doesn’t mean that He answers every prayer with a “Yes”. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul prayed to God three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed but God’s answer was “No”. He told Paul that His strength was made perfect in weakness so that Paul learn to glory in his weakness instead of complaining about it.

Think of God as our Father in Heaven, desiring what is best for us as His children. When we have children who ask all kinds of things of us, if we really love them, often our answers will have to be “No” because to give them what they ask would be harmful to the child. God doesn’t answer all prayers because He knows what is best for us and often sees that to give what we ask would harm us rather than help us. In James 4:13-17 we are challenged even in making plans to always pray, “If it’s the Lord’s will”.

When it comes to asking according to His will, these things should be noted. First, when we know His will from reading and studying His word, we should always pray in harmony with His will. Second, when we don’t know what His will is, we should pray conditioned on His will. Third, when we know a thing is His will, we should pray recognizing His timing may be different from our own. Fourth, He knows everything and sometimes He answers our prayers by substituting what is better for what we have asked.

God always hears. He always answers. But His answers may be very different from what I asked.

Question #382

What is the difference between the Holy Spirit that the disciples received and the Holy Spirit that we receive? Must you be baptized in order to receive the Holy Spirit?

Leon’s Response

The Holy Spirit has been active with God’s people all through time. In John 14:16-17 Jesus explained that something different was coming. The Holy Spirit was now with them, but He would be in them. He promised not to leave them as orphans. Much of what is described in John chapters 14-16 refer to special gifts of the Holy Spirit for the apostles. He would guide them into all truth. He would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance what He had said to them (John 14:25-26). He would testify of Jesus when He came (John 15:26-27). He would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come (John 16:7-11). He would disclose to them what is to come (John 16:12-15). John the Baptist had foretold about the apostles that while he could baptize in water Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. This was fulfilled in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon them in the upper room and they all spoke with tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them the languages. Peter told the crowd that this was the fulfillment of what Joel had prophesied that God would pour out of His spirit on all flesh and his sons and daughters would prophesy, his old men would dream dreams and see visions and the he would pour out of his spirit on his handmaids and whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Peter then said that Jesus had been raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and had sent the Holy Spirit which they could see and hear.

Then Peter spoke to the crowd who were convicted for their sins to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are afar off even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The baptism of the Spirit was limited to the apostles and a few others in that time. But the gift of the Holy Spirit or the receiving of the Holy Spirit as a gift was for all who through faith in Christ, turn from their sins in repentance and are baptized for the remission of their sins in the name of Jesus Christ. That gift is for all who obey Him (Acts 5:32). That is the gift talked about in Romans 8 that shows we are God’s children and heirs of His promise. It is that gift of the Spirit that leads to one bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

We don’t receive the special gifts given to the apostles today, but we receive God’s Holy Spirit as a gift and He strengthens us through the Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-21). The Spirit strengthens us in all our weaknesses and helps us in our prayers to the Father (Romans 8:26-28).

Question #383

What is the kingdom of God? What is Noah’s Ark a picture of in the New Testament? As Christians, should we be trying hard to get to heaven? How did God get to be king and how/where is it found in the Bible?

Leon’s Response

First, what is the kingdom of God? The phrase “kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of heaven” both refer to the same thing and basically refer to the reign of God in our lives. There are times when the kingdom means the same thing as the word “church” such as Matthew 16:16-19. But the kingdom is generally broader than the church and goes beyond this life into heaven (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Peter 1:5-11). When Jesus told us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” in Matthew 6:33, his point was that we should seek for God to rule our lives and to live a life that is righteous and holy before him.

What is Noah’s ark a picture of in the New Testament? In I Peter 3:18-21 said that Noah’s salvation by water is typical of our salvation by baptism. I can’t think of any other use of the ark in the New Testament to symbolize anything.

Should we as Christians be trying to get to heaven? Yes God wants us to long for the day when we can go to be with Him in heaven. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul said our outward man was perishing daily and the inward man was being renewed daily so we don’t look at the things that are seen but the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporary and the things that are not seen are eternal. Then he goes in in chapter 5:1-10 to talk about our going to heaven. He said we groan as long as we are in this body desiring to be clothed upon with heaven. He said we were made for this very thing and that the Holy Spirit was given to us as a deposit for what we would receive in heaven.

How did God get to be king and where is that found in the Bible? God is creator and ruler over all the universe. He formed man in his own image and likeness and gave him authority over all the earth (Genesis 1:1-3; 26-27). His rule as king is shown throughout the Bible as he called Israel as a nation apart to be his people and as he gave commands for them to have no other gods before him or not to make for themselves any kind of image to bow down to. He was the only one they were to worship (Exodus 20). In the New Testament he fulfilled the promise he had made to Israel that he would establish a spiritual kingdom for which there would be no end (Daniel 2:44-45; Isaiah 7:14; 2:1-4; 9:6-7). Both John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand or near. In Acts 2:29-36 Peter said that Jesus had been raised from the dead to sit on David’s throne and be both Lord and Christ. In Colossians 1:13-18 it is said that we are translated out of the rule of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear son. He said that Christ was the creator of all and that he is now preeminent in all things. In I Timothy 6:15 Jesus is called “king of kings and lord of lords”. In I Corinthians 15:20-28 Paul told of the resurrection of Christians from the dead and Christ would then delivered the kingdom back to God that he might rule over all.

Question #384

Who is the kings of kings and lords of lords? As Christians, should we be trying h-a-r-d to get to heaven?

Leon’s Response

Jesus Christ is the king of kings and Lord of lords (I Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 17:14).

Should we be trying hard to get to heaven? It should be our longing to go to heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). The greatest reason for wanting to go there is to be in the presence of the Lord. As to the trying hard, please remember we are saved by grace and not by earning our way in (Ephesians 2:8-9). That ought to result in our doing good works (Ephesians 2:10). We are challenged to “Seek the things that are above and set our affections on the things above” (Colossians 3:1-3). Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that we ought to make it our ambition to be pleasing to the Lord. If we do that we will go to heaven, but just going to heaven isn’t the primary motivation.

Question #385

Ok, a question I asked earlier – what is Noah’s Ark a picture of in the New Testament? You told me that 1 Peter 3:18-21 said that Noah’s salvation by water is typical of our Salvation by baptism. Can it also be that it was destroy by water then, now it will be destroy by fire. I don’t know, now, I’m just asking. Care to comment?

Leon’s Response

Yes, I believe it can and that the ark also serves as a representative or type of the church that as God saved people through the ark, He now saves in the church, (Ephesians 5:23-28). These are all things that are implied in the New Testament but not specifically stated. In Hebrews 11:7 the writer said that Noah was saved by faith in building the ark and in doing so he judged or condemned the world. The thought seems to be that by his being obedient to God he judged those who were not. When you go back to Genesis 6 to read of his actions, it says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. Putting them all together it shows that he was saved by grace, by faith, and by obedience to God.

Question #386

Reading Eph. in verse12 what does this mean for us today? Also I understand submit but in verse 24, what is this meaning “in everything” and if you are married to a non-Christian is the meaning still the same?

Leon’s Response

I’m guessing you are talking about Ephesians 5:21-24 by the thoughts on submission. The Bible talks a whole lot about submission. We must submit to God (James 4:7). Submit to the elders in the church (I Peter 5:4-6). And we must submit to each other. The point in this verse is that no one is to go through life demanding their own way all the time. A good explanation of the point is found in Philippians 2:3-4. We are challenged not to look after our own interest alone but also after the interest of others and consider others better than ourselves. With regard to wives submitting to husbands, notice it is in the context of husbands loving their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. It is an illustration of submitting to each other. I Peter 3:1 tells the wife whose husband is not a Christian to submit to him and to try to win him to God by the way she lives and not by her words. Submitting doesn’t mean we allow someone to run over us. We are to submit to all civil authorities (Romans 13:1-3). But there are times when the governing authorities tell us to do things that go against God’s will and we must refuse to obey. Submitting just means to allow the husband to be the leaders in the family. It never means to allow anyone to lead you into sin.

Question #387

It seems like there were two separate creations of women… In Genesis chapter 1 verse 27 it says God created male and female. But in chapter 2 verses 18-23 God says that man should not live alone and he created woman out of Adam’s rib. Who was created in verse 27 of chapter one? Were there two creations of women?

Leon’s Response

Genesis one and two are giving very general explanations of the beginning of all things. In chapter one the focus is on all aspects of creation concluding with humans made in the image of God. Chapter two goes back and focuses more on mankind and tells of God’s thoughts about man alone and the creation of woman. Chapter two is not intended to be seen as a second creation but as an explanation of how and why the woman was created by God. Both are made in the image of God. God made the woman in particular to be a helper fit for the man in that she was to be the perfect match for what He made man to be. I hope this is helpful. Just remember there could have been huge volumes of books written just about how creation took place and especially of man and woman. It is told in a few verses. We will have to wait to find out all those details. I can’t wait to see what it was all like.

Question #388

What does 2 Corn. 6:14 mean? How does this apply to me today?

Leon’s Response

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Paul is discussing the fact that Christians are to be devoted to God. They are the very temple of the Lord. As a result they are not to enter into relationships with those in the world that would lead them astray. If a Christians goes into a business partnership with a non-Christian who has no concern for honesty and integrity, but only with making more money it will result in them being pulled into the same kind of dishonesty or the loss of their reputation. It isn’t a teaching that we aren’t to have relationships with unbelievers. It is that they should not be so unbalanced or unequal that they result in our leaving the right way to get along with them. This text must be looked at in light of I Corinthians 7:10-16. In discussing marriage in particular Paul said if a Christian was married to a non-Christian they were not to leave them but that if the unbeliever was pleased to dwell with them to stay in the marriage. I Peter 3:1-5 tells Christian wives whose husbands aren’t Christians to live in such a way that they are more likely to lead their husbands to the Lord. He said it would be by their pure behavior and not by their outward beauty of clothes, hair and jewelry.

The text does apply to today. But it didn’t ever mean what many have tried to make it mean. Every Scripture must be looked at in light of what all other Scripture on that same subject has to say.

Question #389

In 1 Corn. 3:3-35, women should be silent in church. Please explain these verses and what if you don’t have a Christian husband to ask things at home? How does all this apply to us today?

Leon’s Response

I Corinthians 14 34-35 falls in a context where Paul was trying to correct many problems in the church at Corinth. They had made such a mess of their church gatherings that it was resulting in more problems than answers. He laid out the place of tongue speaking and prophesy in the first part and emphasized how that all things had to be done to build up the people in the assembly. Then beginning in verse 26 he gave three specific instructions relating to tongues, prophesy and women in the assembly. In each case he commanded some to “Keep silent”. If you wanted to speak in tongues but there wasn’t anyone who could interpret them so that all could be built up you were to “Keep silent”. If you were prophesying and another prophet received a revelation from God you were to “Keep silent” and allow him to speak. In that context he said, “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

The problem here was with a particular group of women, likely the wives of the prophets who were speaking. They were interrupting the service to ask questions as the man was trying to speak. He told them to wait and ask their husbands at home because they were both Christians and the ones doing the speaking. It wasn’t that they were not allowed to say anything. It was that they were not to speak in the sense talked about in the context. They couldn’t be the one preaching or leading the worship. Women are to sing in worship. They were praying and prophesying in the presence of men back in chapter 11, but were to show some form of submission.

This does apply to today, but must be seen in the context in which it is found. Women are to be in subjection and they aren’t allowed to be preacher or leader in the assembly. But it is a misuse of this text to limit women in ways God never taught at all.

Question #390

After hearing tonight’s guest speak on “Hearing the Voice of God”, I have a question.

Hebrews 1:1-2 states: “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

Does this imply that Christians should give more credence to the words of Jesus (in the gospels and in the beginning of Acts) than to the words of the other New Testament writers?

Leon’s Response

While all Scripture is inspired of God and to be followed, Jesus is the clearest revelation of God to be found. He came to show us the Father (John 14:6-9). It is also true that we learn things about Christ and His actions and words from the writings of Paul, Peter and John that aren’t revealed in the gospels and should be given the same credence since John said that even the world couldn’t contain all the books needed to tell all Jesus said and did. Also, keep in mind that what Jesus did was just as much His teaching as what He said. If my understanding of something He said doesn’t fit with what He did, then I’m not seeing what He said correctly or not interpreting what He did correctly. He is the only one that gives us an exact image of the Person of the Father.

Question #391

My friend Virginia has asked me a number times about death. She is scared of dying. She prays a lot and reads her Bible, plus listens to the Bible on CD. She does not attend any church & she was baptized as a baby. I really don’t understand the mind set of not meeting with the Saints on a weekly basis. Nor of not being baptized. Now that I think of it, I have a lot of friends like that, even one of my own children. What do you say to a person who is reluctant? On one hand they say they love God but yet are not willing to do His will. Could this be tied into her fear of death?

Leon’s Response

People are inconsistent. Jesus said, “If you love me keep My commandments.” Among those commands would be to be baptized to have our sins washed away (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16) and to gather with the Christians on to worship (Hebrews 10:25).

There is certainly reason to fear death when one has not lived as the Bible teaches one to live (Matthew 7:21-23). Only God can judge anyone and He is a loving and graceful God. But wanting to die right while living wrong doesn’t make much sense.

The truth is that many have listened to false teaching as they grew up and think that all that matters is that they believe in Jesus, not understanding that the faith that saves is an obedient faith, (James 2:19-26; Galatians 5:6).

I hope she will see the need for change before facing death.

Question #392

1 Cor.15:29, where certain people being baptized for other people who were already dead? I understand Paul’s main point throughout chapter 15, being our very faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus – His victory over death, and that we will likewise be resurrected. But vs. 29 is confusing to me.

Leon’s Response

It is a challenging passage. Notice in verse 29 the difference between it and the verse before and after. He had been talking about “we” and then he talks about “I” in verse 30. But in verse 29 it is “What will ‘they’ do who are baptized on behalf of the dead if the dead are not raised?” This wasn’t an action of the church or of Paul and the other apostles. It was the action of some of the people in Corinth who were among the false teachers promoting the idea that there was no resurrection from the dead. Evidently some of them were being baptized on behalf of some who were already dead. His point was their inconsistency. Why would they be baptized on behalf of the dead if the dead aren’t raised? It wasn’t intended to sanction their actions. Baptism is never authorized on behalf of someone else. It is a personal action from one who believes in Christ (Mark 16:15-16) and repents of their sins (Acts 2:38). It is a burial in water with Christ to start a new life and put one into Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Baptism without faith and repentance would be of no value for anyone.

Also, once an individual has died, their destiny is sealed and there is no way it can be changed. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus who had lived and died before He came into the world. The rich man lifted up his eyes in torment in the flames. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue and was told that couldn’t happen. There was a great gulf fixed between the two places and there was no way one could cross it. We are judged by the deeds done in the body (2 Corinthians 5:10). One would be foolish to depend for their salvation on the actions of others after their death.

Question #393

1 Cor. 15:24-28 are challenging verses to me, particularly verse 25 which many say means Christ will reign again on earth for a time until He has put all enemies under His feet. In verse 24, isn’t the end the 2nd coming? And Jesus delivering the kingdom to God, isn’t that the church, or the saved, being brought before God in judgment? In vs. 24, “when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and all power” and vs. 25, “…until He has put all enemies under His feet” – are these things that will happen at Christ’s 2nd coming?

Leon’s Response

This is truly an amazing section about the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. Paul had just given the order of things. Christ is the first fruits of those who are asleep. The rest will be raised when he comes again. The the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God he Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. He must reign until all his enemies are subdued. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. He notes that at the end when everything is delivered to God that Christ himself will be made subject to God so that He will be all and in all. All of these events center around the second coming of Christ. He now reigns on David’s throne as king of kings and Lord of Lords (Acts 2:29-36). The kingdom is made up of those who have delivered from the realms of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13). This kingdom is one that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28-29). It is used at times interchangeably with the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Hebrews 12:25-29).

The Bible never gives a picture of a premillenial reign of Christ. The idea that the kingdom is still future and that we are in the church age now and that the kingdom will be established when Jesus comes again is completely foreign to the Bible. In Daniel 2:44 the kingdom was to be set up during the days of the Roman Empire and was to last forever. It is a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36). One enters the kingdom by a new birth (John 3:3-5). This kingdom is within you (Luke 17:20-21). When the Lord comes again, instead of establishing the kingdom, he will deliver the kingdom up to God and be made subject to Him at that time.

This is a powerful text which points to the victory we will have in Christ when He comes for His own.

Question #394

Please explain Luke11:13, if we ask the Lord for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives will we receive it? I never want to miss out on anything the Lord has for us. If I can do greater things for the Father, and don’t, then I have failed him.

Leon’s Response

Luke 11:13 is in a context where Jesus had told them to “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. He gave the illustration of a son asking his dad for a fish and asked if the father would in that situation give him a serpent or if he asked for an egg would he give him a scorpion? Jesus concluded, “If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” In Matthew 7:7-11 we have Matthew’s record of the same speech and he puts the last phrase, “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” The implication is that it isn’t the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us that is being asked for, but the good and beneficial things that the Holy Spirit gives to those who follow the Lord that is being asked for. We receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in us at the point of being baptized into him (Acts 2:38-39).

But there are many things about the work of the Holy Spirit that we can and should pray about. In Ephesians 3:14-21 Pal prayed to be strengthened with might by the Spirit that lives in us. Later in chapter 5:18 we are challenged to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is obvious that we should pray for this filling of the Spirit in our lives. In Romans 8:26-28 the Holy Spirit is said to help us with our weaknesses among which is to intercede for us in prayer to the Father. According to Romans 8:14-16 the Spirit leads us and bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God. Surely then it is right to pray for the Spirit to lead and guide us in the right way.

Question #395

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Leon’s Response

The word “Christian” is only found three times in the Bible. First, in Acts 11:26 where the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Second in Acts 26:28 when Agrippa said, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian and Paul responded, I would to God that you were both almost and altogether persuaded to be such a one as I am, except for these bonds. The third time is in I Peter 4:16 where we are told, “If anyone suffers as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

From these it is clear that a Christian is a disciple or learner of Christ. It is one trying to learn both how He lived and what He taught with view to imitating it. We are becoming more like Him all the time. Second, from Acts 11:26 we learn that Christians assembled with the church. Third they were people that were like Paul, except for the chains he was in. Then they were people who were not thieves, extortioners, evildoers or busybodies in other people’s matters. Instead they suffer as a Christian without shame. They glorify God in the name of Christ.

There are other lessons that could be learned from the context of these different passages, but these show us a whole lot about being a Christian.

Question #396

Do you think all that’s happening in the world is a part of God’s plan or does Satan have a hand in this also?

Leon’s Response

The Bible calls Satan the “god of this world”. In Romans 1 Paul talks about his desire to go to Rome to preach the gospel but notes that Satan had hindered him so far. I think these indicate that Satan has at least some control over what goes on in the world at all times. I also know that God is sovereign and that all things are within His power. In Romans 8:28 Paul said, “For we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” God has ultimate control. He sets the limits on how far the devil is allowed to go and do. Ultimate God guides and carries things according to His plan. But not everything that happens in the world is according to God’s will. He isn’t willing for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but many do. God’s will according to I Thessalonians 4 is our sanctification. But many live unholy and godless lives.

So, God is behind what happens in the world. But Satan may well be causing many of the things that happen to take place. God gives each person the choice of who they will live for. We need to be aware of the power of both God and Satan in our world.

Question #397

Please help me find peace in my soul. God’s word says if you marry a man with a living spouse, with no scriptural reason for divorce, you have sinned. I did and now I am in mental pain about what to do. I also have a living spouse unfaithful to the marriage bonds but this doesn’t take away what I have done. Do I leave this marriage in to order worship God in truth? I just don’t know which way to go.

Leon’s Response

I’m sorry for the dilemma you are dealing with. According to what you said, you realize you have sinned even though you were free to divorce your husband and remarry since your husband had been unfaithful to you. You indicate you sinned in marrying your husband who was divorced for some reason other than sexual immorality. There are some things that I need to know in order to be able to answer fully. Is your present husband a Christian? Has he repented of the sin of divorcing his first wife. Is he penitent about the sin of marrying you?

One thing is obvious, where there is sin there is a clear obligation to repent. (Luke 13:3; 17:1-5). Read 2 Corinthians 7 to learn what all is involved in repentance. The word means to change your mind. It is comes from sorrow for the sin we committed and a willingness to turn away from the sin and to God. God’s forgiveness is based on our repentance and on His amazing grace. We don’t earn our way back into His fellowship. When we are dead in our trespasses and sin, God in His mercy gives us a way out (Ephesians 2:1-10). If your husband has repented of his sin and committed his life to God then why couldn’t you repent of your sin and determine to be faithful to this marriage bond. It hardly seems right for repentance for one sin around the break up of a marriage to lead to the break up of another marriage.

Think back to the story of David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament. David committed adultery with her. When she told him she was pregnant he tried to hide it by bringing her husband who was serving in his army home to allow him to go home to his wife and think that the baby that would be born was his. But Uriah was too honorable man to do that. He refused to go to his wife and have pleasure while the army he was part of were out in battle. David arranged to have Uriah killed in the battle. He is guilty of adultery, lying, and murder. He married Bathsheba when Uriah was killed. God caused the child born to them to die. But he didn’t require David to divorce her. Instead he chose the next king to be the son of David by Bathsheba, Solomon. David was truly penitent about his sin. Read Psalms 51 about his repentance. But God didn’t have him to break up another home or marriage.

I would encourage you to read I Corinthians 7. Sometimes we do things that are wrong that can’t be undone. Those people who murdered Jesus on the cross couldn’t bring him back to life. But they could repent of their sins and obey the Lord and have their sins forgiven. So can you.

Question #398

My boyfriend and I started living together a little over 2 years ago after my ex-husband left, when I told him to leave even though he didn’t want to. My ex-husband was smoking dope a lot by then and not at home much. I started my relationship with my boyfriend over the internet. When my ex found out he tried to commit suicide by taking pills and drove the car to my workplace with my son who was 4 years old then, endangering his welfare. I was an outcast to my family and church as a result of my sin. Before I got out of the relationship my ex-husband started throwing things at me and the baby that we took care of, who we were supposed to adopt.

A few years back when we were drinking before I stopped, when I got drunk he would let this other man make love to and watch. I started to feel very dirty, I wasn’t right with God anymore. When I told him he stopped, but he didn’t repent, because he would whisper names when we made love which made me feel dirty. I started to look for love from somewhere else and this is how I met my boyfriend. I didn’t realize how sad my mother was from this break-up. My ex-husband was an usher at church but he was not a Christian. According to everyone he was because he worked at church and his family name was well respected. His grandfather and uncle were previous Pastor’s of our church.I got tired of his behavior and decided to change my life. I realize it was not good, but I have confessed and repented of this awful sin that I did.

My brother and his wife have been preaching a lot about adultery and fornication making it sound like if I get re-married to this young Christian man that I am condemned. We are getting married to make it right with God. I know we are and we need your prayers to help us stay on the right path to raise my two remaining children in a Christian home. The older two are on their own now.

Leon’s Response

I’m sorry for all you have been through and I’m glad you have decided to change your life and get your life back on track with God and with yourself. Obviously you don’t need for me to tell you all the mistakes you’ve made. But what I would remind you of is that God is willing and able to save a person no matter how far down they have gone or what they have done (Read I Corinthians 6:9-11). When Jesus was on this earth he taught and converted the woman at the well who had been married 5 times and was living with a man she hadn’t married in John 4. I would encourage you to read that chapter. There are some very important things for you to remember. One is that repenting involves changing your life to live for God and be a different kind of person. I would certainly encourage you to either get out of the relationship you are in or get married but not go on living in the sin. I would strongly encourage you to get into church somewhere that preaches and teaches the Bible as God’s Word and tries hard to live by it. You will need the encouragement of people in church to live as you are called to live. Make your mother proud of your life by showing her a whole new life that you are living. Put God first and allow Him to guide you.

Question #399

My husband is not a Christian and isn’t interested in my faith.

Leon’s Response

I’m sorry. It is certainly a challenge to live for God when you don’t have the support and encouragement of your husband or wife. It is usually much more difficult to bring our mates to Christ than we ever thought it would be. The Bible talks about a Christian married to a non-Christian in a couple of places. First, in Peter 3:1-8 Peter talks to the wife whose husband isn’t a Christian and tells her that she won’t win her husband by trying to talk him into doing right or nagging him. He told her to win him by the way she lived in front of hi each day. He said she would do that by putting the emphasis on the inside rather than the outside. Don’t worry about fixing your hair, wearing fine jewelry or expensive clothes, but focus on the hidden person of the heart, a gentle and quiet spirit that is very precious in God’s sight. He went on to tell the husband to live with his wife with understanding, giving honor to his wife as the weaker vessel and as being heirs of the grace of life.

In I Corinthians 7:12-16 Paul talked about the Christian married to the non-Christian. He told the Christian to not leave and stay in the marriage if the other partner was willing. It would have sanctifying effects on him and the children. If he abandoned the wife, let him go, the believer isn’t in bondage in such cases.

So, the best thing to do is to stay in the marriage and live so close to God that you have a good chance of winning your partner to the Lord. Show them how much joy and peace is brought into your life by living for God. Pray often that they will be reached for the Lord.

I hope that in time you will be able to bring him to Christ and your life will be much better.

Question #400

A dear, close friend and a deacon in our church has been struggling with drug addiction for many years, beginning in his college days. He has begun using again and although he is attending AA meetings and seeing a psychiatrist (or psychologist-I’m not sure which) he has been unable to be clean for more than a few months at a time. He’s very open to our congregation with his struggle. But lately it has gotten worse. I know this first hand from his wife. My father was an alcoholic; I personally know the trauma having an abuser can do to a family. But I also wonder how this will effect our church. I see that he’s scheduled to teach the adult class on Wednesday this coming term. I know our elders are aware of his condition and his struggle. I fear that they are keeping him on as a deacon and a teacher with the thought that it gives him something positive in his life. I’m very worried both about my friend but also what keeping him as a deacon and teacher will do to our church. I have been praying about this for weeks now. Then I remembered how much your Q&A section has helped me indirectly in the past. I would really appreciate any thoughts, suggestions and verses you would have on this matter.

Leon’s Response

You are right that this is such a difficult problem. I’m thankful that the church has been supportive and helpful to the man who has the problem. But I don’t believe that anyone with an addiction problem is qualified to be a deacon. Paul said specifically that they must not be addicted to much wine. The same principle would apply to any form of addiction. Also, they are to be men who are worthy of respect or blameless, In the words of Acts 6:1-6 a deacon is to have a good reputation. None of these would be the case for one continuing to struggle with addiction. If they can overcome the problem then they could certainly qualify but not while in the midst of the struggle. With regard to teaching, Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 that he was to commit the things he had learned from Paul to “Faithful men who would be able to teach others also.” No one is to teach others who isn’t first of all faithful to God themselves. One who lacks self-control isn’t bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). James warned that we ought not to have many of us as teachers knowing we would be under stricter judgment (James 3:1). Unless there are circumstances that you either aren’t aware of or haven’t told, then it would be a mistake to have this man at present, either as a deacon or as a teacher in the church.

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