Q & A 401-500

Question #401 – How does Satan work?

Does Satan put evil thoughts in our minds? How exactly does he or his evil ones work in our lives? How do we prepare?

Leon’s Response

Yes Satan does tempt us with evil thoughts. In Matthew 4 Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Satan tempted him for 40 days and then at the end of those days came with three major temptations. In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul gives some insight into the how when he pleads with us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places, against the rulers of the darkness of this age.” The point Paul is making is that Satan tempts us through spiritual beings such as demons to pull us into sin. Our way to overcome them is by putting on the whole armor of God. It is truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the knowledge of salvation, faith and the word of God all pulled together through prayer. In James 1:12-15 we are given more insight into the how when James pronounces a blessing on those who endure temptation and then says, “Let no one say when he is tempted that I am tempted by God for God cannot be tempted by evil, neither does he tempt anyone. But everyone is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed and when lust has conceived it brings forth sin and when sin is full grown in produces death.” Finally, in I John 2:15-18 we are told not to love the world or the things in the world for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life are not of the Father but of the world and the world passes away with the lust thereof.” Satan tempts through lust for things of the flesh, through lust of the eye, of things we see and want or greed and through the pride of life.

He comes at us in many ways. But it is always within our power to resist the devil. James said that we should draw near to God and He will draw near to us. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. We must submit to God and resist the devil and we can overcome (James 4:6-8). In I Peter 5:6-9 we are told to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and resist the devil and he will flee from us. Satan is as a roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour. Satan is always looking for a way to pull us into evil thoughts that lead to evil actions and words. God is always there to help us resist the devil and do right. We must choose which we will follow.

Question #402 – God’s favor towards a sinful David – why?

My sister in-law can not understand why God found such favor of David because of the sin’s that he committed. I do not know the answer myself because I too have often thought of that very same thing. I know what God had said about David (1 Sam 16:7) “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Leon’s Response

It was David’s heart that impressed God. God said to Samuel that he was sending him to anoint one who was after His own heart as king. That heart is demonstrated both in the writing of so many of the Psalms and in how David reacted when confronted by his own sins. When Saul sinned and was confronted by the sin he reacted by making excuses. When David sinned against God by adultery and murder, Nathan the prophet confronted him. David’s reaction was “I have sinned”. Read Psalms 51 as David pleads with God in repentance about the sin he had committed. No excuses were made. He noted his horrible guilt and his need for forgiveness. We can have God’s heart even though we sin when we react to the sin in humility and repentance.

God always loves those who rest in His grace for forgiveness.

Question #403 – Woman leading prayer with husband

Is it wrong (within marriage) for the woman to lead a prayer with the husband? Does this break submission principles in the text?

Leon’s Response

The answer to your question is found in I Timothy 2:8-12. Notice Paul told Timothy to have men to pray everywhere. He told women to dress modestly with decency and good sense. He said for women to learn in silence with full submission, that he didn’t allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man. Notice there is a place where it isn’t wrong for a woman to dress in a way that would be considered immodest if it were anywhere else. In the home in the privacy of one’s own family there isn’t anything wrong with a woman dressing in such fashion. In that same situation it isn’t wrong for a woman to lead a prayer. In that family relationship she isn’t overstepping the bounds of her husband’s leadership. She is showing her husband and her children how to pray diligently to God.

Question #404 – Killing in war – right or wrong?

My grandson Kyle (9 years old) asked me tonight if our service men that are engaging in the war that if they kill the enemy would they be able to still go to heaven?

Leon’s Response

It is a very thoughtful one coming from a 9 year old.

When God commanded not to kill He used the word for “Murder”. In Genesis 9:6 it says “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” This is the first mention of capital punishment in the Bible. But notice when the state put a man to death for the crime of murder it was not regarded by God as murder, but as punishment. Even though the Ten Commandments forbids murder, it is in that same Old Testament law that God often demanded of Israel that they go out and utterly destroy their enemies. Even in families, if a person murdered a brother of ours, we were obligated to find them and kill them as punishment, but it wasn’t murder.

Now the New Testament changes that law and says that we aren’t to avenge ourselves but give place to wrath and that God will avenge our enemies for us. This is found in the latter part of Romans 12. In Romans 13 he explained one of the ways God does punish the evil doer. He said that the governmental authorities are there as ministers of God to execute wrath on the children of disobedience and that they do not bear the sword in vain. God gave the government the right to punish evil doers both by means of the police and by means of their armed forces. When a soldier operating for his country kills an enemy, it isn’t murder. It is acting as a minister of God for wrath on the evil doer.

Whether they go to heaven or not doesn’t depend on this act but on their life. Have they obeyed the gospel and are they living faithful to God?

Question #405 – Is there a Paradise?

Would John 3:13 disprove the response given to question #261, that one goes straight to heaven or hell at the time of death? Doesn’t this scripture suggest that there may be a Paradise?

John 3:13

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Leon’s Response

I appreciate your studying the subject. With regard to whether one goes to heaven at death if they are right with God or to an intermediate state there are numerous passages that say that we do such as 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Philippians 1:21-24; Revelation 7. So if John 3:13 says that we don’t really go to heaven at death then there is a problem. Paul said that when Jesus comes again he will bring with him those who are dead in Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). So how do these fit together?

Jesus said in John 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven – the Son of Man.” The word “Ascended” or “Ascension” is never used of the soul or spirit going anywhere. It is only used to refer to a bodily ascension as when Jesus ascended back to heaven in Acts 1 or as when Jesus was talking to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17 and said to her “Don’t cling to Me.” “for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” When He spoke of His descending and referred to His coming as a man to the earth it wasn’t to imply that He had never been to this earth before. He came down on many occasions in the Old Testament. Paul even said that He was the rock that followed them in the wilderness in I Corinthians 10. But He was spoken of as “Descending” when He came in bodily form. He is spoken of as “Ascending” when he was raised from the dead and ascended back to God.

So, no this doesn’t show that we don’t really go to heaven at the point of death when we have lived for Him on the earth.

Question #406 Rahab’s lie

What is your view of Rahab being in Heb 11? Was her lie an expression of her faith? If so, isn’t this contradictory to God’s nature?

Leon’s Response

Both Hebrews 11 and James 2 use Rahab as an example of an obedient faith. Her faith demonstrates a principle seen several times in the Bible of a greater good being of such significance that something that was normally wrong is right. Jesus referred to the same principle in Matthew 15 when questioned about His disciples eating without washing their hands properly. He reminded them of David and his men when they were hungry ate the consecrated bread that was unlawful for anyone but a priest to eat. But because of the situation and their hunger it was the right thing to do. God was interested in saving His people. That was more important and the saving of the lives of the spies was more important than the fact she had to tell a lie to protect them. Think of a thief breaking into your home and asking you where your gun was and where your children are hiding. Would you tell him where they were? It is of greater good to save your children than to tell the truth in such a situation. When God told Samuel to go and anoint David to be the king, Samuel said he was afraid and that Saul would kill him if he found out. God told him to tell Saul he was going down to offer a sacrifice at Jesse’s home. He did that. But it wasn’t his purpose in going. He was deceiving Saul. But a greater good was done in anointing David.

This certainly doesn’t approve one lying about everything that comes along. We are to be people of honor and integrity. But we must sometimes decide what is the greater good that needs to be done. It would normally be wrong to kill a person. But if one were about to rape my wife or daughters and I could stop him by killing him, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment and don’t believe there would be anything wrong with it. While vengeance belongs to the Lord there are times when the Lord uses us to carry it out.

Question #407 – God’s will for provision

Recently I visited a church with a friend and looked on their website to see what their beliefs were. The following concept confused me:

God’s Will for Provision:

It is the Father’s will for believers to become whole, healthy and successful in all areas of life. But because of the fall, many may not receive the full benefits of God’s will while on Earth. That fact, though, should never prevent all believers from seeking the full benefits of Christ’s provision in order to better serve others.

1. Spiritual (John 3:3-11; II Corinthians 5:17-21; Romans 10:9-10).

2. Mental and Emotional (II Timothy 1:7, 2:11; Philippians 4:7-8; Romans 12:2; Isaiah 26:3).

3. Physical (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:17; I Peter 2:24).

4. Financial (Joshua 1:8; Malachi 3:10-11; Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:6-10; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 34:10, 84:11; Philippians 4:19).

What are your views on this concept?

Leon’s Response

This attitude is prevalent today. There have certainly been times when serving God led to people being healthy, wealthy and to have many friends. But the troubling thing about this idea is the glaring exceptions. Saul, who became Paul didn’t have things to work out for him so well. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 he described his life as being pressured in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not to despair, persecuted but not abandoned. He said he was always carrying about in his body the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11 he goes even deeper to talk about his life for Jesus and the difficulties he faced. He counted all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ. Think of Jesus Himself. He had a disciple to come to Him wanting to be one of the chosen ones. Jesus put this obstacle in front of him. “Foxes have holes. The birds of the air have nests. But the Son of man does not have a place to lay his head.” Paul’s declaration was that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself. He could abound and suffer need. He was content whatever may happen

Many refer to 3 John verse 2 where John prayed for his friend Gaius that he may “Prosper and be in health even as his soul prospers.” But this is certainly not a guarantee that everyone who becomes a Christian will have such an abundant life in Christ. It does demonstrate that it is right to pray that we might have such things. God’s promise is that whatever situation we face in life He will cause to work together for our good if we love Him and are called by Him. (Romans 8:28)

Think of these examples and see how they would fit into the idea of their statement of faith. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, a minister of Satan that tormented him and even though he prayed to God to take it away, God’s answer was “NO”. “My strength is made perfect in weakness. I now glory in my weakness, knowing that when I am weak I am also strong. (2 Corinthians 12) Timothy needed to take a little wine for his stomach sake and for his frequent illnesses. (I Timothy 5:23). Trophinus was left in Miletus sick (I Timothy 5:20) Epaphroditus was sick to the point of death but God spared him (Philippians 2:25-30).

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul expressed the attitude we all need. “Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Question #408 – Partaking in the lottery

How do you feel about a Christian buying a lottery ticket? Is this a sin?

Leon’s Response

The Bible doesn’t say anything about gambling as to it being forbidden. Some of the things tied to gambling make it very questionable. For example, we aren’t to be greedy or covetous, but to be content with what we have. The heart of gambling, whether it is buying a lottery ticket or throwing the dice is that desire for something which belongs to another. Gambling of all sorts is built on the notion that you can get something for nothing.

While I wouldn’t say that buying a lottery ticket is sinful, I would say that it is a huge waste of money. In Hebrews 13:5 it says, “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.” Therefore we may boldly say; “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Personally, I would have a hard time reading that verse and turning around to purchase a lottery ticket.

Question #409 – Observing Lord’s supper during the week?

I have a niece who has been newly baptized.  Her job prevents her from coming to church on Sunday morning or Sunday evening to take communion. She works a long weekend shift. Would it be right for her to have communion during the week?

Leon’s Response

I’m very sorry your niece isn’t able to attend worship on Sunday. I do understand that jobs sometimes hinder us from doing what we both want to do and need to do. First, understand that she misses much more than just taking communion when she isn’t able to be in the assembly. The gathering of Christians for worship is a time when they build up each other in the faith. It is a time when they join together to offer worship to God. The whole concept of communion was tied to partaking of it together as a church. Notice, in Acts 20:7 Paul met with the church that came together to break bread or take the communion. In I Corinthians 11:17-ff Paul discusses the Lord’s Supper and says that it is done when the whole church comes together. While one might take of the elements of the communion privately, the sense of communing with each other and with the Lord is lost when it isn’t in the gathering of Christians to worship. Also, it was tied to other elements of worship such as singing, praying, preaching and giving. In Acts 2:42-47 there is some question whether breaking of bread means the Lord’s Supper or eating a meal together. In verse 42 it seems to me to be the Communion. If it is the same when they were gathering from house to house breaking bread then you have an example of taking of the Supper in more private gatherings. I think it is referring to the common meal together in verses 44-46 , but one can’t be certain.

The other thing I would note is that the Bible places far more emphasis on the purpose of the Supper than on when it is taken. Jesus just said, “As often as you eat”. It is a memorial of Jesus death and the establishment of the New Covenant. It is a communion of the body and blood of the Lord (I Corinthians 10:16). It proclaims His death till He comes. It is a time to examine ourselves and discern the Lord’s body. In other words the communion is a time of worship to God and fellowship with each other that has all kind of meaning behind it. I would hope the day would come soon when your niece will have a change in job situations and be able to attend the worship services on Sunday. Until then I would encourage her to study, pray and do the best she can to grow for God.

Question #410 – Remarriage acceptable?

Please help me. I come from a holiness church which does not believe in remarriage.  Today this seems like an accepted choice.  Please show me scriptures to substantiate this.

Leon’s Response

The reason God gave Moses the teaching of giving a wife a certificate of divorce and putting her away was so that she could be married to another (Deuteronomy 24:1-3). In the New Testament Jesus taught us to go beyond that Old Testament idea and pleaded with us not to separate for each other (Matthew 5:28-33; 19-1-11). In both of these one was challenged not to divorce his wife unless it was for sexual immorality or fornication and not to marry another if that wasn’t the reason for the divorce. He does indicate in these verses that if one divorces for the cause of immorality then they have the right of remarriage. Notice, “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife and marries another except for sexual immorality, commit adultery.”

In Romans 7:3-4 it is noted that a wife has the right of remarriage if her husband dies. In I Corinthians 7: there is a lengthy discussion of questions about marriage. In verses 10-11 he talked with Christians married to Christians and told them not to divorce each other and if they couldn’t get along to remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other. In verse 12-17 he discussed a Christian married to a non-Christian and told the Christian to stay in the marriage if the unbeliever was willing. It had a sanctifying affect on both him and the children. If the unbeliever departs, let him depart, the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. It seems clear here that if the unbeliever abandons the believer the believer is free to remarry. Following this Paul talked about remaining in the situation in which we are called. He used the example of circumcision and slavery and noted with both that one could be either way and still be a Christian. Then he makes application to that principle by saying if one is joined to a wife, he shouldn’t seek to get out of the marriage or a divorce. If one is divorced or released from a wife they shouldn’t seek a wife. BUT IF THEY MARRY AND IF A VIRGIN MARRIES THEY HAVE NOT SINNED. In this it is noted that one who has been divorced has the right to remarry. So widows have the right of remarriage and divorced people have the right of remarriage.

Question #411 – Raising our children

I have been reading a book by Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life) & in his chapter on Stewardship of Time he notes that time flies: We see that in raising children. We do not get second chances to raise them correctly. Would you think this statement to be true?

Leon’s Response

Yes I do believe that is right. I’ve often wished it were not, because when we make mistakes we all want to go back and try again. But If you spent too much time on the job and didn’t have time with your children, no amount of remorse later will change the fact they grew up without us being involved with them. One can be forgiven by God for such mistakes and sometimes our children will forgive us. But it won’t change what happened with them along the way and the values they developed in that time.

Question #412 – Once saved, always saved? (Part 1)

Once you’re saved, are you always saved and your salvation secured? The Bible does state that salvation is a gift, so therefore, if it is a gift, then it can’t be taken from you, right?

Leon’s Response

The Bible teaches the security of the believers. In John 10:26-30 Jesus said that the sheep believe on Him and they hear his voice and follow Him. No one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand. He is greater than all and no one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. In I Peter 1:4 it says that we are kept by the power of God through faith. In 2 Peter 1:5-11, Peter said that we as Christians are to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance and to temperance patience and to patience godliness and to Godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love. “If these things are in you and are increasing they make you to be neither barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. If you lack these things you are blind and cannot see afar off. If you do these things you will never fall but will have an abundance entrance into the everlasting kingdom of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Notice in this there is security for the believer as long as they keep on believing and listening to the Lord and obeying His will. How about when the believer stops believing, stops listening to the Lord and stops obeying His will? What about when the believer stops being fruitful for God? The Bible never promises that the believer who turns back can’t fall. When branches in the vine don’t bear fruit they are cut down, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:1-8). When those who have been cleansed go back and are entangled again in the yoke of bondage the latter state with them is worse than the first and it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20-22). Those who justify themselves by the law are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). When we don’t pay attention to the words spoken by the Lord, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-4). Not only can one fall, they can fall so far away they cannot return to the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-6). I need to always put my trust in the Lord and follow Him so grow in His will and be faithful even to death to receive the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Question #413 – Falling from grace

You stated in question 412 that a Christian can fall so far they can’t return, how is this? What if they want to come back, is there no hope for them?

Leon’s Response

There are two answers to that question. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “Leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.” Peter in 2 Peter two spoke of some that could not cease from sin. The passage I was referring to in in Hebrews 6:4-6 It says, “For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit, tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, because to their own harm, they are re-crucifying the Son of God and holing Him up to contempt.” Here he is specific. It was impossible for them to come back because they had gone deep enough into the sin they couldn’t repent or wouldn’t repent. God was willing to forgive. But they weren’t in a position to repent.

Question #414 – Once saved, always saved? (Part 2)

Bro. Leon, please help me explain to a person that believes “once saved always saved” to the point of thinking she could kill and still be saved. I’m speaking of willful act of killing. How can one think we don’t have to live a different lifestyle than the world. Seems to me we are taking our Lord’s death and mocking him. Help!

Leon’s Response

The whole question of whether one who has been saved can so sin as to be eternally lost has been a challenging one for a long time. There are two extremes on the subject. Some believe that not only can a saved person be lost again, they are very likely to fall away. These folks believe that every mistake a person makes after becoming a Christian puts them back into a lost condition. For them salvation is so easily lost that we are saved one minute, lost the next, saved the next and lost the next. That violates Scripture’s teaching on the security of the believer. In I John 1:7 we are told, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all our sins.” The word “cleanses” is in the present tense meaning it continues to cleanse us.as we walk in the light. When we recognize the sin in our lives we turn from it, we truly repent of those sins, confessing them to the Father. But we stay in a saved condition even though we sin because we are walking in the light and the blood is constantly cleansing us.

On the other extreme side of this point are those who believe that nothing one can do after being saved can make them lost again. As you said they think they can kill someone and still be right with God. They point to passages like John 10:27-30 which says that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand, that He is greater than all and therefore we can’t be pulled away from God after being saved. It is certainly true that Satan can’t snatch us out of the Father’s hands. But this text also says, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me.” What happens if the sheep stops hearing God’s voice and following Him, are they still saved? In Ezekiel 18:21-24 the prophet talks about the whole point of a righteous person turning from righteousness and doing wrong and going back into their old life of sin again. In verse 24 he said, “But when a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, committing the same abominations that the wicked do, will he live? None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the sin he has committed.” This is the same point made by Jesus in John 15:1-8 in the story of the vine and the branches. The branch in the vine is clean. But if that branch doesn’t bear fruit it is cut off and cast into the fire and burned. “Without Me you can do nothing.”

In 2 Peter 2:20-22 it says, “For if, having escaped the world’s impurity through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in these things and defeated, the last state is worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to its own vomit, and a sow, after washing itself, wallows in the mud.” Notice they escaped from sin, but went back into it and the last state was worse than the first.

One who is saved can be lost again. The great news is that one who has been saved then lost again, can turn back to God and be saved all over again (James 5:19-20).

Our challenge is to not follow either of the extremes and follow the Bible teaching that a saved person can remain faithful and true to the Lord and never fall (2 Peter 1:5-11). But to not get the idea that being saved means I can become a Judas who betrays the Lord and still be right with God. Every time the Bible puts an “If” into a teaching saying that “If we do them we are right with God that implies that if we don’t do them we will be lost.

Question #415 – Are we becoming Pharisaical?

During some of my studies lately I have become concerned that we in the “Church of Christ” are becoming similar to the Pharisees. The older I get the more it concerns me that I could overlook these behaviors in myself. Weren’t the Pharisees originally well meaning people? Aren’t we? I am concerned about our overall “Church Family”. I feel like since I am concerned about this I will be on my guard. I know this is not a question but an observation, however I feel this could be as dangerous for my Church Family as anything going on in the Church today could. I would enjoy your comments and you don’t have to publish this if you choose not to.

Leon’s Response

I agree a thousand percent. It is absolutely true that the Pharisees started from a very noble purpose and were making an effort to be loyal to the Old Testament Scriptures. Just about every doctrinal belief they had was correct. It was just their heart or attitude that was so disturbing to Jesus that He called them hypocrites. Even though they agreed with His teachings, they were His worst critics because they couldn’t stand the fact He welcomed sinners, spent time with the hurting and the lost and was not at all concerned about the traditions that had been handed down by generations past. We have become, as a body, far too concerned with staying the same and doing things the way we did them 40 to 50 years ago. We are in great danger of making ourselves meaningless to the world because if the gospel doesn’t fit every new age that comes along and becomes married to one generation, it will be of no value with the generations that follow. The gospel of Christ is as modern as tomorrow’s newspaper. It is just our ways of doing things that get hung up in one time. May God richly bless your study.

Question #416 – Are we becoming Pharisaical? (follow-up)

Could you go deeper into your answer on 415?

Leon’s Response

The question you are referring to had to do with how the church is too often like the Pharisees of Jesus day in that we have noble plans and ideas but our attitudes are too often headed in the wrong direction. Jesus never challenged what the Pharisees taught on basic doctrinal matters. He even said to the apostles, “whatever they say to you do it for they sit in Moses seat.” But He went on to say, “Don’t do like they do for they say and do not.” They talked a great religion. But when it came to living the faith they lacked a whole lot getting there.

One of the big problems they had was getting their values all out of whack. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus said of them that they paid tithes of mint, anise and cummin but that they had omitted the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith. These you should have done and not left the other undone.” Some things are far more important than others. When we try to make everything of major importance we tend to overlook the most important matters. Think of things Jesus said were of greater importance. The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is like it to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The things that will abide are faith, hope and love. Think about it, how often have we made things of greatest importance which the Lord would have put in the list of insignificant.

They were so sold on little matters that it caused them to overlook some of the biggest things. In Matthew 15 Jesus’ disciples were eating without washing their hands in the proper ceremonial way. These religious leaders became terribly upset over this failure. Jesus reminded them of what David and his men did when they were hungry. They entered the temple and at the consecrated bread that is only for the priest. He said you have rejected the law of God to do your own things. He gave this example. God said to honor your father and mother. But in order to get around God’s law, they said if you would commit whatever you had to the Temple it would become Corban and you then didn’t have to help your parents when they were old and unable to care for themselves. It was out of that that Jesus said, “In vain they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9).

The Pharisees loved places of honor and being called rabbi or master. Jesus said none of that should go on among us. WE are all brothers in Christ. We aren’t to call any one by names like rabbi, master, teacher, or whatever. He that exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted. How often today do those who follow Christ work for recognition. They want places of honor and titles to be given to them. All such violates what Jesus taught and makes us like the Pharisees.

When we take the position that we are right and everyone else is wrong, we put ourselves into the Pharisaical mind set. God is right. His word is right. We are only right to the degree we follow the Lord and His word.

Question #417 – Bible riddles – Part 1

The Old Testament, spanning the time period from the creation of the world to the return of the what? The New Testament covers the time from Jesus birth to the what? The 39 books of the Old Testament can be divided into how many parts? Name all of them? The Old Testament was written down in what language? Although at first God’s revelations were what? He later commanded that what He had spoken should be what? When reading the Old Testament, it is important that one realize that all the books in it is what? The Books in the Old Testament points to that what? The Old Testament is the story of the nation what? The Bible was written by approximately how many inspired authors? Name the Five major divisions of the New Testaments?

Leon’s Response

The Old Testament ending with the remnants return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the need for them to bring God back to the heart of their lives. The New Testament ends with prophesy of the fall of the Roman Empire and the promise of final judgment and eternity in a new heaven and earth for the redeemed. The Old Testament is divided into Law, History, poetry, prophets which can be divided into the Major and minor prophets. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. At first God’s revelations were oral. He later commanded that what he had spoken be written down. I don’t know what you may be looking for with the question about what is important for us to realize when we read the O.T. There could be many answers to that question. The Books of the Old Testament point to the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom. It is the story of the Nation of Israel. The Bible was written by approximately 40 different human writers. The five major divisions of the N.T. are Gospels, history, Paul’s epistles, the general epistles and prophesy.

Question #418 – The tongue

Please explain to me James 3:8, our tongue, it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Why is this part of our body evil? Are not all our parts from God and why would this part be evil and how must we deal with this?

Leon’s Response

In this context of James 3 the point being made is that they tongue holds such huge potential to do evil. Now it would be equally true that it has the same great potential for good. Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James noted back in chapter one verse 26 that if one seems religious but doesn’t put a bridle on the tongue his religion is useless. Most of the members of our body can be trained to go in a particular way and even without thinking about it those parts perform as we have trained them. The tongue can’t be tamed. It can’t be trained to the degree that you can just allow it to go its own way without fear of it getting out of hand. One must guard the tongue all the time or one will find themselves saying things they never intended and causing great harm when they never meant to at all. As one whose way of life involves speaking to groups of people continually I’m very much aware that you can say things that injure people greatly without even realizing you have done so. So James tells us it is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. If you don’t sin with your tongue you really do have your whole self under control. No other part of the body is as difficult to control and keep headed in the right direction as the tongue. We need to pray constantly for God’s guidance so we can use the tongue for good instead of evil. It can’t be tamed, but it can be bridled and controlled.

Question #419 – Bible riddles, Part 2

The New Testament contains how many books? The New Testament covers the time from Jesus birth to the what? The 39 books of the Old Testament can be divided into how many parts? Name all of them? The Old Testament was written down in what language? Although at first God’s revelations were what? He later commanded that what He had spoken should be what? When reading the Old Testament, it is important that one realize that all the books in it is what? The Books in the Old Testament points to that what? The Old Testament is the story of the nation what? The Bible was written by approximately how many inspired authors? The Old Testament, spanning the time period from the creation of the world to the Return of the what?

Leon’s Response

The New Testament contains 27 books. It closes with the end of Revelation in about AD 96.The Old Testament is divided into Law, history, poetry and prophesy. Some divide the prophets into Major and minor prophets. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. At first God’s revelations were oral. He later commanded that they be written down. When reading the Old Testament it is important to realize that all the books are pointing to Christ and focused on the descendants of Abraham through whom Christ would come. It is the story of Israel. There were approximately 40 different writers of the Bible. It spans a period from creation to Israel returning from bondage to rebuild the temple and walls of Jerusalem.

Question #420 – Why was God silent?

Why did God stop speaking for 400 years?

Leon’s Response

The 400 year period of silence took place between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New with the promise and coming of Jesus into the world. The silence doesn’t mean that God had no witnesses speaking for Him in the world for that period of time. It was silent in the since that there were no prophets or inspired writers who were giving more written revelation from God. It happened because the message of the Old Testament had been completed. There was nothing more that needed to be said at that time. When “The fullness of time” came Jesus Christ came into the world, being born to the virgin Mary. Then the message began to be revealed again to give us the New Testament. When the New Testament was completed in A.D. 96 God became silent again and has remained so since that time since the message of the New Covenant is complete. The Scriptures now give us all we need to know to become a Christian and live for God in the world so we can live with Him eternally after this life is over (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Again, God’s silence only has to do with further revelation since the Word is complete. God continues to speak to people all the time through His creation, through His Word and through the preaching and teaching of those who preach His Word.

Question #421 – Saul, the medium, and Samuel

In 1 Sam. 28 Saul consults a medium and brings Samuel back up from the dead. In verse 15 Samuel asks why Saul “disturbed” him by “bringing me up.” Seems to suggest the deceased Samuel was possibly in some sort of “sleep” or that his spirit was being brought up from the grave – vs 13 says the medium sees a spirit ascending from the earth. How does this fit with the belief that a person goes straight to heaven or hell at death, (as I believe you contend in questions like #405 and the Bible seems to support with the story of Lazurus and the rich man)? Seems like Samuel would have said something more along the lines of “Why have you brought me back down from heaven…”

Leon’s Response

Look at I Samuel 28. Saul went to this woman to have her call up the spirit of Samuel to talk to him. She was afraid to answer because Saul had banned mediums from the kingdom. God had forbidden His people to ever go to the mediums for help and said that one who used them should be stoned to death along with the medium. So Saul disguised himself to get her to help him. Notice first when the woman saw Samuel coming she cried out at the top of her voice and said “Why have you deceived me, you are Saul?” The king told her not to be afraid that she wouldn’t be harmed but to tell him what she saw. She said, “I see a spirit coming up from the ground.” If this had been any normal situation she wouldn’t have seen a spirit coming from the ground. It is the body that returns to the dust. The spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Note secondly when Saul asked what he looked like she said, “An old man wearing a robe.” Does a spirit wear a robe? How does a spirit show age? When Samuel speaks to Saul he says, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” He doesn’t say where or what he was brought up from, but does question why.

It doesn’t seem to me that this instance proves anything about life after death since it was some kind of miracle to bring Samuel back to talk to him. Think of this in comparison to Moses and Elijah coming back to see Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They came back in some kind of bodily form to talk to Jesus about His death. It is very questionable if Samuel’s case was literally him coming back from death or some kind of spirit that God allowed to come to speak to Saul. It was a total shock to the witch that he showed up. It didn’t fit the tricks she had normally pulled. This case certainly shouldn’t be taken to set aside much more clear text such as Luke 16 or 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, since it is very strange all the way through it.

Question #422 – Musical instruments

Concerning your disapproval of musical instruments in worship, it seems that you (if I may say with no disrespect) may be suffering from what I call “New Testament legalism”. I have read all your answers to the questions people have raised on this topic, and your main response seems to be something like, “If God didn’t say we should use instruments in worship in the New Testament, then we shouldn’t and it is therefore wrong to do it.”

Now, this is where I honestly believe you are missing the boat on this one: Jesus said true worshipers must worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. Worship in the New Covenant is no longer about the Law, but about the Spirit. In the Old Covenant, God accepted worship with instruments (ex. King David’s many Psalms). So why in the New Covenant would this suddenly not be acceptable to him? Remember, it is not about the law but about the Spirit, so, as God desires worship in spirit, which transcends the law and any physical means, it does not matter if this worship is with or without instrument. This is why the New Testament is “silent” on this issue, because worship is not about law, but about spirit; and whether you choose to use instrument or not, it is beside the point that worship is in spirit, not law; consequently the Spirit didn’t need to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on this issue. There is “silence” because there is freedom in the Spirit. Just as we are not to judge and condemn believers who consider one day more special than another (Rom 14:5-7) even though we may not, so it is the same with instrumental verses non-instrumental worship–because we know that it is not about law, but about freedom in the Spirit–and thus we do not need a special command from the Lord to tell us it is ok to use an instrument in worship–especially with the Old Covenant pattern and example of this. The heart of God has not changed from Old Covenant to New Covenant, but there was a change from law to spirit and love. This is why I believe you are suffering from what I call New Testament legalism because you have missed the entire point on worship if you think because there is no command from the Lord saying it is ok to use instruments then it is wrong to do it.

It is time to take God out of the box you have put him in. I respectfully challenge your position on “where the bible speaks, we speak; and where it is silent we are silent.” What this strange doctrine does is rob you of your freedom in the Spirit because you are trapped in its clutch. It is a tradition of men that nullifies God’s word in your life because you cannot think outside of its grasp. It is ok to think outside of this box, especially on disputable matters such as instruments in worship.

On a personal note, I do not condemn you if you want to worship without instruments, but it is when you fail to see that it is acceptable to God to worship with instruments that is unacceptable doctrine. I personally prefer worship without instruments more than with them, but I know that I am not in sin whichever I choose and participate in. I hate what the churches of Christ have done with this issue–one virtually thinks it is sin to use instruments, and the other can’t conceive of worship without instruments. Those leaders who perpetuate either side of this issue are building with wood, hay and straw, and thus will be losing whatever reward they may have had on this one, (1 Cor 3:10-15). It is a shame.

When any leader tells someone else that it is sin to use an instrument in worship with no scripture speaking to back it up, what that leader is doing is putting a “law” on them and binding their conscience to it so they think they are in sin if they worship in the presence of instruments. This is why it is dangerous and hurts the church. This displeases the Lord when we bind new, unscriptural laws on people who are meant to worship in spirit and truth.

Just for the record, I am not some “liberal” who is trying to take you out of your church of Christ doctrine, I attend a “instrumental” church of Christ and have done so for years. And I have never bought into their “instrument only” in practice doctrine.

Leon’s Response

I appreciate your reading whatever may have been written on any topic. Let me clarify a few things before trying to answer your letter. First, I don’t think that the use of the instrument in worship is sinful or a matter of salvation. I believe any matter that is a matter of salvation will be far more clear than the teaching on the use of the instrument. It’s true that the instrument was both accepted and commanded in the Old Testament. On many occasions He specifically commanded not only the use of an instrument but of specific instruments. In that time it wasn’t a matter of conscience, but when God commanded the use of the instrument it would have been sinful not to use it. Obviously you do believe there is a change between what the Old Testament taught on the matter and what is taught in the New since you think it is fine to worship without the instrument today.

With regard to John 4:23-24, true worshipers are to worship in Spirit and truth. Spirit is vitally important but so is truth. In Matthew 15:9 Jesus said “In vain they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” So when the teaching is wrong the worship is said to be useless by the Lord. Also, it is a fact of history while the instrument was used in the Old Testament, the New Testament church didn’t use the instrument in worship for the first 800 years of its existence. When it was introduced into the church it brought on a split between the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Orthodox church. The very fact it changed does indicate there was something different in the New. The truth is many things changed about worship in the New Testament. It was no longer a matter of great ritual but was done very simply, often in the homes.

It isn’t just the silence that makes me question the use of the instrument. Notice Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3;16. “Do not be drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Both these passages command singing. They command singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They command singing with grace in our hearts and they command that we sing with our hearts to the Lord. With the voice we sing to each other and with the heart we sing to the Lord. He doesn’t command us not to sing rap, country tunes, or Jazz. But by specifying what we should sing he eliminated any other kind of songs. By telling us to sing with grace in our hearts he eliminated singing with bitter, hate filled hearts out to hurt others around us. Why would it not follow in exactly the same way that by specifying “singing” he eliminated the playing of mechanical instruments in worship?

This isn’t some huge issue with me. The only times I’ve written anything on the topic is when someone writes about it asking questions or challenging what I believe or do.

Question #423 – Peace in our lifetime?

With the condition of our world today, do you think there will ever be peace or will the fighting just continue until our Lord comes? I pray for peace, especially here, things seem to continually get worst.

Leon’s Response

Peace on earth has been the longing of people, especially of God’s people down through the ages. In the Old Testament prophesies of the coming of Christ into the world and of His kingdom that would be established, one of the prime promises was for peace on earth. In Isaiah 2:1-4 the prophet said the word of the Lord would go out from Jerusalem and all nations would flow into it. People would say, “Come let us go up to the house of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths.” Then he gives the outcome of this kingdom’s establishment. “Nation will not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they study war any more. The will beat their spears into pruning hooks and their swords in to plow shears, neither will they study war anymore. Everyone will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree and none will make them afraid.” This prophesy is repeated in many different forms in several other places, including Micah 4. Jesus was prophesied to be the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6. What has happened? We’ve certainly not seen that peace that we thought was coming.

The answer is in the meaning of the prophesies. In the Old Testament era the kingdom of God was a military as well as a spiritual nation. When God was with them they could go out and fight against other nations and destroy the nations around them. God’s blessings came in the form of victories over their enemies. But the new kingdom of God that was established by Jesus was to be entirely different. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The church and the government would be separated in the New Testament era. God’s people would be part of both the civil government and the spiritual government called the church. Governments were given the right to fight and protect themselves and their people (Romans 13:1-8). But the church or spiritual kingdom would only spread by means of preaching the gospel of peace. The Old Testament prophesies of peace on earth and even the promise of the angels to the shepherds when Jesus was born was “Peace on earth, good will toward men”. It wasn’t a promise that there would be an end to wars in this world. It was a promise that those who come into the kingdom of Christ can find peace with God and each other and that the church can spread throughout the world by peaceful means to change the whole world for good.

Will there be peace on earth between nations? Not in this life time. Can we spread peace in the world? Yes we can, by teaching others the peace of God in their lives that comes through forgiveness and God’s graceful blessings in us. We bring peace one person at a time when we bring people to Jesus.

Question #424 – Selection of elders scriptural?

In the New Testament all examples of selecting elders for a congregation was done by men who were not a part of, or members of that congregation. The selection process was never done from within the congregation as we are all doing today. It was always done from the outside. Therefore, my question for you is, why are the churches of Christ not following the teachings of the New Testament in regards to the selection of elders?

Leon’s Response

There are only three mentions of ordaining elders in the New Testament and one mention of setting apart servants who were likely comparable to deacons in Acts 6. The implication of I Timothy 3 was that elders and deacons were to be selected and appointed the same way since Timothy was told to stay in Ephesus and given the qualities to look for in each case. In Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas were returning from their first missionary journey and ordained elders in the churches they had established. In Acts 20 when Paul met with the elders from Ephesus he said to them that they were to oversee the church over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. So the Holy Spirit had a dominant place in setting men apart as elders. In both I Timothy 3 and Titus one these young evangelists were charged with ordaining elders and given the qualities to look for. Since I Timothy 3 ties together the setting apart of elders and deacons, Acts 6 must be noted as to how the job was done. When confusion arose in the Jerusalem church the apostles called all the people together and explained that it wouldn’t be right for them to leave the preaching and teaching of God’s word to serve tables. They challenged the church to “Look out among you and find men full of faith and the Holy Spirit, men of good reputation whom we may appoint over this business.” They chose seven men and the apostles laid their hands on them to do the work.

Now considering all these things, it should be noted that they did involve the people in the choice of people. Also, the incident in Acts 14:23 had to do with young churches just getting going. The choosing of elders by the apostles wasn’t to become the norm for all time, but was a means of getting men started in the work. In I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we aren’t given the details of how the process was carried out to appoint elders or deacons. These preachers were to lead in the job getting done and to assure the fact that those set apart were qualified for the job. The only implication we have as to methods of appointing is given in Acts 6 with choosing the 7 and appointing them. It was led by the preachers, the men were chosen by the church and the preachers set them apart. That is the process I’ve seen take place many, many times in congregations in our time.

In I Timothy 5 Paul warned Timothy about several things with regard to elders. He challenged him not to listen to an accusation against an elder except before two or three witnesses. He also warned him not to lay hands suddenly or quickly on anyone. Two possible points are being made in this. It could be with regard to rebuking the elder who has sinned and Paul is saying be slow and careful in such. It could also mean in choosing men to serve as elders be slow in your actions because some men’s sins are open before hand and others come after. When you think of men being chosen by outsiders to serve as elders it should be remembered we don’t have any apostles around today who can lay hands on people and give them miraculous abilities, nor to miraculously read the heart of the individuals. For an outsider to appoint a man as an elder would often lead to very poor choices being made. Not knowing the people well we would tend to appoint the most outgoing and well spoken people of the church. Often those who had been there for years would know that the very ones the outsider would choose would not be accepted by the church because they would know them all too well and recognize they talked a better life than they lived. Many things that were done in the first century church were done to get things started in the right direction and not to be imitated by people in all ages.

Question #425 – Worry

Is worrying in part due to one’s brain chemistry? When does concern become worry?

Leon’s Response

We are just on the edge of tons of information being learned about the brain of a person. It is certainly true that one’s brain function affects the emotions and the amount of worry that one has. The word translated “worry” is used in several ways. It literally means to chock another person. What the Bible reveals about worry is that it will take over your life if you let it. It has a way of choking one’s life from them. That is the reason Jesus taught that “Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also.” He challenged us to not worry over food, clothes and shelter saying that all of these things were what the Gentiles would seek. His challenge is for us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and these things will be added to you.” He went on to tell us to live one day at a time. It is useless to worry over things about which I have no control at all. If I do have control over a thing, I need to focus on things I can change and set about the task of changing them. In Philippians 4:6-8 Paul laid out further instruction about how to handle worry by saying, “Don’t worry about anything. But in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. He told us that we should think on the right kind of things and the trust God to help us in those times of need.

When does worry take over to the loss of concern? Concern is simply thinking about a thing and being. Worry is to become consumed by the same thing and with the same actions. Worry so takes over the heart and life that it leaves no room for anything else. When we trust God it should lead us to doubting our doubts and fears. Jesus accused the apostles of having a small faith because of the worry that had overtaken them. Concern for others and for things in life is often a good thing. When it turns to worry it chocks out our spiritual being. We are to walk by faith and not by sight. When we do so the worry dies out in our lives.

Question #426 – Marriage & Divorce / Christ knowing our heart

Thanks Leon for the class last night. It was very uplifting and thought provoking. I wanted to ask you a few questions and possibly play “devil’s advocate” for a second.

1. Marriage and divorce has always been an interesting issue to me. Last night in class, the final synopsis was that if the guilty person in the marriage remarried (according to scripture they cannot), they would not need to leave that relationship if they repent. My question would this: Does that make that relationship then -right with God? Do they commit adultery each time they engage in sexual activity OR as we learned – non-sexual activity as well? Even though it’s hard for me to think that God wouldn’t want another divorce, it’s also hard for me to think the otherwise. I try to refrain from relaying on what seems logical in my eyes because that is not always God’s plan. For Naaman, dipping 7 times seemed crazy to him, but obviously it was not to God. Earlier in the class (before we talked about M/D), we focused in the text (Matthew) about getting rid of anything that would hinder us. The inspired writer spoke of the importance of the issue saying if your eye is getting in the way of serving God, gouge it out. Wouldn’t these same applications apply to a relationship that is not of God? Lastly, how would this differ if the guilty party is just living with another person? I imagine the answer would be they would need to get out of the sinful relationship.

2. “Christ’s life reflects his teachings, if not it is not of God” – Of course, God is all-knowing and has the power to do whatever he chooses. He has the capability to know the heart of every man. Can you think of any instances in which what Jesus did, didn’t reflect what he was teaching?

Leon’s Response

First, on the marriage and divorce discussion, focus on Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:6-11. Jesus first told them “What God has joined together let no man separate.” His fundamental point was that marriage is intended by God to last a life time. Even to separate violated God’s will and was thus sinful. They couldn’t accept that point so they went back to Moses on divorce and quoted the parts about giving her a written decree of divorce. Jesus took them back to the beginning and said that wasn’t the plan from the beginning. Then He told them what HE had to say on the matter, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The King James adds, “whoever marries her that is divorced commits adultery”. This was likely taken from 5:32 rather than being a part of this text from the beginning. Jesus made it clear that divorcing an innocent wife to marry someone else was sinful. It was to commit adultery. It broke the covenant of companionship that had been made between the man and his wife. While it wasn’t adultery when he divorced her without marrying another, it was still sinful, since He had said, “What God has joined together let no one separate”. What does it mean then to commit adultery? There are times when it is obvious that it is used interchangeably with “fornication” or sexual immorality. When the religious leaders brought the woman “caught in adultery” in John 8 there was no question it was the sexual aspects that he had in mind. There are other times when the word is used that it is just as certain that it didn’t involve sexual matters. In James 4:4 James talking to Christians said, “You adulterers, don’t you know that your friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Often in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Jeremiah God calls the nation of Israel and adulterous nation. It was that they were being immoral. It was that they were breaking their covenant with Him. They were to worship God and Him alone. But they had built idols and bowed before them, thus committing adultery with them.

What then is the meaning in this text of the word “Adultery”? If it is used in the sexual sense then the meaning is that every time one has sex with the wife he married after divorcing his first wife, he commits adultery all over again. But is that the meaning? It seems to me that we have added something to the text that makes it say something never intended. The passage doesn’t say, “Whoever marries another and has sex with her commits adultery”. It says, that one who has divorced his wife for any reason other than immorality and “Marries another, commits adultery”. Adultery isn’t used here to talk about sex. The point is the man was in a covenant relationship with his wife. It was a covenant to be her companion for a lifetime. But he broke that covenant in divorcing her and in marrying someone else, thus entering a covenant with another woman. Adultery here means the same thing as it did when God charged Israel and the Christian in James 4 with being adulterers because they were breaking their covenant with Him as their one God.

Statements like, “it’s an adulterous relationship” or they are “Living in sin” are completely foreign to the Bible. The man committed adultery when he divorced his wife and married another woman without there being immorality in the first relationship. If it were the sexual use of the word then Jesus statement is wrong. For one could divorce his wife and marry another and not commit adultery as long as he didn’t have sex with the new wife. So if an older couple longed for companionship and decide to divorce their mates and get married to each other and refrain from sex they wouldn’t commit adultery if that were the point being made. If you take Jesus words at face value, it has to mean that if one divorces his wife and marries another whether there is sex or not they commit adultery because they break the covenant with the first wife. The marriage isn’t immoral, but breaking the covenant with his wife. If one just lived with another person it would be the case that every time they had sex together or shared the kind of love that is to be true in marriage only they would be sinning.

On the second question, no I can’t think of any time when his teaching and actions didn’t completely harmonize.

Question #427 – Lot’s wife righteous?

Why is Lot called righteous in 2 Peter 2:7? Is it because he was not a participant in the perversion of his homeland? It seems to me that in Lot’s limited exposure in the Bible, he messes up quite a bit.

Leon’s Response

It does seem strange when we read 2 Peter 2 about Lot. Something is revealed about him in this text that is never mentioned in the Old Testament. He vexed his righteous soul day and night for the sins of the people. We do get the picture of him trying to show the crowd they are wrong in wanting to take the men who were actually angels and to have sex with them. But we get one of the worst pictures of Lot in that connection in his saying, “Take my daughters who have never known a man and do with them as you desire, but don’t harm these men.” That and his allowing his daughters to get him drunk and having sex with them all add to the view that he was an awful person. But God sees the hearts of people and not just their actions. He saw a heart of one who wanted to do right. He was weak and often mistaken in his plans. He was selfish in his choices and his influence over his family wasn’t good. But he had a good heart. It is like so many people that we still see, whose actions are all wrong and they have been weak in their efforts to live for God all along. But they have a sincere heart wanting to do right. God knows the heart and gives credit for the heart that wants to do right so He praised Lot.

When we are judged, we ought to remember that actions will count. We are judged by the deeds done in the body according to what we have done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). It will be righteous judgment (Acts 17:30-31). It will be by the Word of God (John 12:48). But it will also be by the heart of the person. God sees the heart and gives credit for good we wanted to do and planned to do. In the final judgment there will be many who are blessed and told to come on in to the home prepared for them that will be surprising to us and many who will be told to go the other way that will be equally surprising (Matthew 7:21-24). Our judgment of people is always flawed. We can see deeds and hear words, but we can’t see hearts.

Question #428 – Attending on Wednesday nights

Is it a sin to miss Wednesday night classes?

Leon’s Response

Since the Bible doesn’t mention having Bible classes on Wednesday evening I don’t see how it could be sinful to miss them. Having Bible classes on any evening or day serves as an opportunity for us to grow and learn more God God’s will for our lives. Certainly if I’m hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I will want to make as many of those opportunities as I can. But one isn’t going to get the most from them they can if they go simply because they are afraid of going to hell if they don’t go. Our efforts as a church should be to make the classes so beneficial and interesting that people will hate to miss and the crowd will grow.

Question #429 – Extending the Invitation

Does our practice of extending the invitation come solely from Acts 2:38? What about the invitation song?

Leon’s Response

The concept of an invitation is often seen in Scripture. Perhaps the best illustration is the great invitation by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. There is no Biblical basis for what we do in closing every sermon with an invitation and having a song to invite people. It is an expedient way of inviting people to respond to the sermon in some public way. In the New Testament it is far more common for someone to break into the sermon to ask about what they should do to be saved.

In Acts 2 Peter was preaching about Jesus and Him being both Lord and Christ, when the people were cut to the heart and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter answered their question with “Let everyone of you repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In Acts 8 the Eunuch interrupted Philips sermon with, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?”

In Acts 10 Peter’s sermon to Cornelius and family was interrupted by God when He sent the baptism of the Holy Spirit and then asked the ones’ with him, “Who can forbid water that these should be baptized since they have received the Holy Spirit like we did at the beginning?”

The invitation as it is commonly done today became popular during the revival movement in this country and was adopted by our brethren as an effective means of reaching people. With the changes that have gone on in our time and the severe lack of response to the invitation, I suspect there are better means to reach people in our time.

Question #430 – Religious Freedom

That’s one thing I like about our church – Methodists. We believe everyone has the right to worship their God as they see fit. Whether you are a Buddhist, Muslim, Baptist, etc., you have the right to worship freely in this country. Would Jesus ever have spoken these words in the synagogue or in His church? I almost find it as a crutch that Christians use.

Leon’s Response

I have an awfully hard time imagining Jesus saying anything like this at all. Focus on some of the things He did say. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.” “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which you must be saved.”

The truth is you could go on and on with quotes from Jesus and His apostles that all point to the exclusiveness of salvation in Christ and the one way into Christ is an obedient faith in Him. I can’t imagine how anyone can believe the Bible and still think that those who don’t even believe in Jesus as God’s only Son, dying for us so we can be saved, being saved by Him. We have allowed the desire for toleration to run crazy to the degree we lose all faith in what God has said in His word.

Question #431 – Religious Freedom (follow-up)

You missed my point completely. Go back and read what I wrote with the emphasis on the word right. I was trying to express the wonderful right we have in this country – to worship without fear. I believe that Jesus is the “way and the light.” I believe that through his grace – and his grace alone – we will have eternal life with him. However, my point was that each person HAS THE RIGHT AND THE FREEDOM TO WORSHIP in this country. I may not agree with their religion. I may not recognize the spiritual head of their religion, and I may feel that they are totally lost souls, but I would never try to deny them the RIGHT to worship in peace. Some people see this as a great fault of the so called “evangelicals.” The belief is that evangelicals actually want laws that make their beliefs the law of the land. We see in many countries, especially Muslim countries, where religion is the law. There is no religious freedom. At least in this country you are free to worship without fear. I may not agree with your religion, but I would never deny you the right to worship.

Does that make any more sense?

This was my friend reply to question 430!

Leon’s Response

Sorry, I missed the point of your question.

I fully agree that it is a tremendous freedom that we live in a country where one can worship as they see fit even if it is completely wrong. I not only believe that is what our country is all about I believe that was what God was pointing to in the New Testament when He separated church and state. The state remains as a minister of God to execute wrath on the sons of disobedience according to Romans 13. But it doesn’t have the right to dictate religion nor does religion have any right to dictate what kind of government we should have. As a Christian I’m a part of both the kingdom of God and the nation I’m a citizen of. But the church is to be only a part of the spiritual realm and stay out of the political arena all together. I don’t want the government coming in to tell me how to worship and serve God and I don’t want to be part of a church that either thinks it knows best how to run the government or tries to involve itself in what government does.

Question #432 – Women’s Roles as Leaders

Is there a biblical reference for women serving in worship, such as serving communion, standing on stage in a worship team, leading a prayer, making announcements? The Bible mentions women not preaching but what about these other areas? Would this be wrong according to scripture?

Leon’s Response

The Bible doesn’t really talk about anyone in particular doing the things you mentioned. It does say that women aren’t to preach ( I Corinthians 14:33-36) It also says that women aren’t to teach in such a way as to have authority over a man in I Timothy 2:11-16. But when it comes to singing, nothing is really said about who leads singing or how it is done. We are only told to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and to make melody in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Also, there is no mention of who or how the Lord’s Supper was served to people. We know that the church took of the communion from Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 11:17-ff. But there isn’t any indication of how it was served. In all likelihood in that time it was a single loaf passed from one to another and each taking a pinch from it and a single glass or cup of wine passed from which each took a drink. Nothing is said in Scripture about things like making announcements at all.

So, is there anything in the Bible that would give any indications on the matter? I Corinthians 11:1-16 at least offers some insight. This was some kind of gathering of Christians where both men and women were present although it isn’t likely that it was the Sunday worship time, since there seems to be a distinction between this gathering and when the whole church came together to take the Lord’s Supper in verses 17-21. But notice in this gathering women were praying and prophesying with their head uncovered. Paul pleaded with them to wear some kind of veil or covering to show submission to the men since the head of Christ is God and the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is the man. He didn’t tell them that they shouldn’t pray or prophesy in the gathering or that they should only do so when there were no men present. He said it should be done in such a way as to show submission. This certainly fits with the principle of I Timothy 2:11-16 in that the woman is to teach but can’t teach “Over the man”. It wasn’t wrong for a woman to teach a man. Priscilla taught Apollos in Acts 18. Every woman teaches in her singing (Colossians 3:16). But she couldn’t teach Over the man or in such a way to have authority over him.

It seems to me that this is the answer when any topic is discussed with regard to the work of women in the church when there isn’t a specific teaching on the topic. She can work and serve, but must do so in a submissive manner that leaves the place of authority with the man. In that time they could demonstrate such submission by wearing a veil. I don’t think the veil has any such meaning in our time. But there are ways to show such an attitude. Any time the woman is put into a role that could be misunderstood it is vital that she demonstrate her submission to the man.

Question #433 – Fasting

I guess maybe I’m a little confused regarding the definition of a “fast”. I always thought if you committed to “fast” from something, you abstained from it altogether for the predetermined period of time. It doesn’t seem to me to be a “true” fast if you’re going to make up additional rules and exceptions as you go, i.e., on certain days give in for 1 or 2 hours (or more). Jesus was terribly hungry in the desert. He could have turned just one little rock into a small piece of bread. Our family has had many discussions about the current “challenge” put forth to the body at Central, and quite frankly we are struggling with the definition and intent. Our kids, who we have encouraged to fast per the Biblical examples that we see, come home telling us how few in their group are totally doing without, and asking us (their parents) what we think about having “exceptions” or “options” to the fast. (Yes, I know – what others do should be irrelevant, but when you are trying to do something as a body, together, and it is discussed in class when we come together and meet, it’s hard to get around noting how others are approaching this “challenge”.) To me, and maybe I’m all wrong, a fast is a fast. Anything else is simply cutting back on something and not truly fasting. I think both are good – I just believe in calling it what it is. If you’re going to cut back on something, such as media, that is absolutely a good thing – given you are filling in the void with prayer, scripture reading, meditation, service, etc. – but if you continue to partake during the prescribed period of time for the “fast” in “optional” increments, in my mind you are not truly abstaining. I’m not saying this still isn’t a good thing, I’m just thinking it’s not a true fast – it’s more a “cutting back” on something than a “fast”. Am I all wrong on this?

Leon’s Response

In reality there were different levels of fasting even in the Old Testament. The most often discussed is as you mention with Jesus who “Neither ate nor drank” during the 40 days of fasting after His baptism. But there were also fast that cut out solid food but still allowed drinking water or fruit juices. In the New Testament, after the church was established we aren’t given the details of how severe their fast really were. In Acts 6:6-8 they fasted and prayed before setting apart the first deacons. In Acts 13:1-3 the church was fasting when God spoke to them saying to separate Barnabas and Saul to the work He had called them to do. They fasted and prayed, laid their hands on them and sent them out. In Acts 14:23 they fasted before setting apart elders. In I Corinthians 7:1-9 Paul talked about how husband and wife were to give themselves freely to each other sexually, except for short periods of time, by mutual consent that you might give yourself to fasting and prayer. Here it is obvious that part of the fasting was to abstain from sexual relations during the fast and the implication is that it is to completely abstain, not just cut back.

When fasting is talked about in the New Testament the details aren’t stressed as they were in the Old. What is stressed is the use of that time or effort to prayer or devotion to God. It would probably be better if everyone did the same thing. But what we were pushing for was to help people get into a daily habit of prayer and Bible study. The hope is that if one does without TV or other media for a month they will be blessed by it to the degree they will want to continue to some degree from then on. We are hoping this one will go well enough that people will want to do some form of it again in the future. Every indication is that in the New Testament while the church could encourage a joint fast, it was a personal decision as to how much we would participate. Unlike in the Old Testament there are no exact teachings of when and how we should fast today. We are only taught to fast.

Question #434 – Fasting (follow-up)

Let’s say a group of Christians decides that they, as a group (congregation) are going to fast from television for 7 days. Once I get home, and upon second thought, I decide I will watch television during that 7 days for 1 hour a day. Have I broken the fast by doing that? Have I truly fasted from television for 7 days?

Leon’s Response

Yes, if you made the commitment at the first to completely fast from TV for 7 days and then backed away from that commitment then you broke the fast.

Question #435 – Marriage & divorce

If one is unfaithful to a spouse, and that unfaithfulness leads to divorce, does the one who was unfaithful sin or enter into an adulterous relationship by remarrying? The sin of fornication against the first spouse was repented of before the second marriage. Does the “former fornicator” need to separate from his or her second spouse?

Leon’s Response

Look back at Matthew 19:1-11. The religious leaders were asking Jesus the question first if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus answer was, “What God has joined together let no man separate.” They challenged the answer by saying well if that’s it then why did Moses allow one to divorce his wife by giving her a certificate of divorce and putting her away. Jesus declared that this wasn’t God’s law from the beginning but was added because of the hardness of man’s heart. Then He says, Here is what I say to you. “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery.” Only one reason for divorce left the one divorcing without sin. It was the immorality of the one being divorced. To divorce an innocent partner and marry someone else was to commit adultery. Notice neither this text nor any other mentions an adulterous state. It was divorcing and Marrying another that was committing adultery. When we marry we make a covenant of companionship according to Malachi 2. To divorce and marry someone else is to break that covenant.

When one divorces his wife for another woman and later marries the one with whom he had the affair he breaks his covenant with his first wife, committing adultery. That doesn’t mean that the person can’t be forgiven of the sin or that he can’t stay in the marriage and be forgiven. But it does mean that he is guilty of committing the act of adultery, breaking his covenant with his wife and with God who witnessed the covenant and joined the couple in marriage.

Question #436 – Jesus’ curious comment to gentile woman

I am puzzled by Jesus’ reply in Matthew 15:24: “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”

Leon’s Response

This is hard for us to grasp. Jesus was talking to the Syro-phonecian woman whose daughter was very sick. She was pleading with Him to heal her and He first ignored her then said, “I’m sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” Then He said, “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and offer it to the dogs.” She responded with such faith in the Lord when she said, “That’s right but even the dogs get the crumbs from under the table.” He told her that her faith was great and to go her way the daughter had been healed. Sure enough when he got home her daughter was well.

Why did He say what He did? His earthly mission was still under the Old Testament law which still had the Jews as God’s chosen people. Until He died on the cross putting to death that covenant and law He was bound by it’s restrictions which meant He was to go only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. When He died and put to death that Law, He instituted the New Covenant that we are under today (Hebrews 9:13-17). This New Covenant demands that we go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16). In this covenant there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28). He came to change the world and to pay the price for all people to be saved. But while on earth He lived and died under the Old Testament law that was exclusive to the Israelites.

Question #437 – Doctrine of the church?

Does the church have a name and a doctrine? I have been told that it does not have a name or a doctrine.

Leon’s Response

The church talked about in the Bible doesn’t have a specific name. It is called by several different designations which describe who the church is, but none are intended to be a name. Notice it is referred to as “the church” most often, the church of the Lord, the church of God, the churches of Christ, the church of the saints, the church of the living God, the House of God, the body of Christ, the church of the firstborn.

But if you look up all the passages where these phrases are used about the church, none of them start in a capital letter indicating that the translators didn’t see any of them as a name. If any one of them had been different and had been seen as the name it would have started with a capital letter, just like your name does. Also, there is no set doctrine of the church. The word “doctrine” simply means teaching. Our teaching is the Scriptures. You could say our doctrine is whatever the New Testament says. But in the sense of having some creed book that specifies what we believe, and goes through and picks out certain teachings as ones that are our beliefs, that isn’t the case. We believe, as Christians, everything the Bible teaches, and understand that we are under the full law of Christ whether we fully understand that teaching or not.

Question #438 – Fasting & prayer

Acts 13:1-3, does fasting make prayer more effective? Comment on verse 2 the Holy Spirit said!

Leon’s Response

Fasting and prayer often go together in the New Testament. But prayer is often mentioned without the fasting while fasting is almost always pictured with prayer. Our fasting doesn’t affect God’s response to our prayers. It does have the effect of cleansing our hearts and devoting ourselves more fully to God and His will. The point of fasting is to get other things out of the mind and think only of the Lord and His will for us. So, in the sense that fasting affects us and changes our loyalty and devotion to God then it affects our prayers to Him to make them more of what God wants.

In the passage in Acts 13 Christians were meeting together in the church at Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. There were many prophets there who were revealing God’s will to men. The Holy Spirit spoke to them in that setting saying, “send Barnabas and Saul on the mission I’ve called them to do.” They fasted and prayed and sent them out on the first missionary journey to spread the message of Christ among the Gentiles of the world. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit spoke to them. Was it audible? Was it a feeling he placed in the minds of all of them? All we know is that in some way the Holy Spirit communicated his will to the people and they were ready to send out these two men on their mission. Does God still do that today? Certainly the Holy Spirit still leads us to where and what we are to be doing. In Romans 8:13 Paul said if anyone is led by the Holy Spirit then they are the sons of God. How does He lead us? Through the word of God in telling us how to live and make a difference for Him in the world. But I don’t think that is the only way the Spirit communicates His will. It may be with open doors. It may be through another person who tells us what we need to do. It may be with a feeling we don’t understand but we know it is pushing us in one direction. Just remember that any communication given by the Holy Spirit must always harmonize with what He has revealed in His word. He is the Spirit of truth and cannot change his mind about things.

Question #439 – No life after death?

I often hear people say that he or she might be better off just to shut their eyes and be gone. I’m not sure that it is that easy to say when it is someone you know and care about. We seem to always want to hold on to those we love as long as we can. I personally feel that someday I will be with all my loved ones again, but I would hate to see any of them leave me. I don’t know if that is a lack of faith or just human nature. My Mom has tried to be a good person and has attended the church of Christ for years, but I have heard her say that if there is no life after death then she will not feel cheated.

Leon’s Response

It is certainly our human nature to want to hold on to those we love for as long as we can. It is a wonderful blessing when we can anticipate heaven and think that all our loved ones will be there with us to enjoy God’s presences and blessings forever. Anything we’ve never seen and must accept by faith will be questioned at times. Jesus had been in heaven and left to come to earth and dwell with us. He had no doubts since He had been there and knew what it was like. I think Paul was talking about himself in 2 Corinthians 12 when he talked about being caught up into heaven and hearing unspeakable words unlawful for a man to utter. Perhaps the reason he spoke with such assurance saying, “For me to live is Christ and die is gain” or “We know that if our earthly house of this tent is dissolved we have a building with God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” was that he had seen it during that visit. We walk by faith and not by sight. So there are times when we question and wonder about what it will be like.

Think for a moment of how Paul, who had been there thought with regard to there not being anything after this life. “If in this life only we have hope we are of all men most to be pitied.” I think it is because we have some question or doubt about our going to heaven that we say things like, “If there were nothing beyond this life I wouldn’t be disappointed.” Heaven is real and so is hell. God wants to take us all to heaven by His amazing grace. It will make this life better and the next beyond imagination if we live each day in full assurance of heaven when this life is over.

Question #440 – Does God speak directly to us today?

My question is how the Lord speaks to us today. I have had friends and Christian sisters to say that the Lord told them certain things, or gave them certain answers. I want a close relationship with the Father also, but I have not heard the Lord speak to me. Am I missing out on this relationship because of sin in my life or is my faith too weak? I just want to please the Lord and go to heaven when I leave this world.

Leon’s Response

It is a very good one that troubles many, many godly people. First, God speaks to us through His word. The Scriptures are “God breathed” according to 2 Timothy 3:15-17. In them, we are completely furnished with all we need to live a godly life for the Lord. In 2 Peter 1:3 it says, “For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Also, look closely at Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and he sustains all things by His powerful word.” God used to speak to people through dreams, visions and other such things, but He doesn’t do so in these last days or in this last era of time before He comes again. Today God speaks through His Son.

When Jesus came into the word, John says the He was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us that we might behold His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Later in verses 16-18 it says that He came to explain to us the Father. In John 14:8-9 He said He came to show us the Father. God speaks to us through the life of Jesus as we read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and see the heart and life of Jesus God speaks to us to guide us in following Him.

In Romans 1:18-21 Paul explained that God speaks to us through nature, through the things that He has made so that through the creation we might clearly see the Lord.

But I find no evidence in Scripture, nor in my experience, that God speaks to us individually and personally, like we would talk to each other. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and have sought God’s will, word and face for almost 44 years, but like you I’ve never had that voice of God to speak to me directly. The problem I see so often is what people say the Lord told them, doesn’t fit what He said in His word. God hasn’t changed His mind on anything. He is the same Yesterday, today and forever. So I wonder if the voices many hear are really coming from the Lord at all. I’m certainly not the judge of the matter. It makes me suspicious when one person says the Lord told them one way to believe and think and do, and another says the Lord told him to do the opposite. Paul declared in I Corinthians 14:33 that God is not a God of confusion.

I hope this helps. I must admit that I have asked God many times to speak to me on some matter that I was struggling with, but its never happened for me.

Question #441 – What about withdrawing fellowship?

The point was recently made during a Bible class that when church discipline leads to dis-fellowship it doesn’t mean that we “lock the doors and refuse” to allow the person to attend the worship service. There is some disagreement regarding this. Some believe that, we would be, by allowing someone enter the worship service, extending fellowship. What are your thoughts?

Leon’s Response

Focus for a moment on 2 Thessalonians 3. People were walking disorderly not working at all and wanting the church to support them. Paul’s command was to withdraw from these folks. He follows that command with noting that he had given them an earlier command that if one won’t work they shouldn’t eat. He challenges these who were disorderly by saying they were not working and were interfering with others who wanted to work. Then he commands that these folks would work quietly that they might eat their own bread. If anyone doesn’t obey that “Take note of him and don’t associate or have company with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t treat him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (Verses 10-15). When people become Christians we extend to them the right hand of fellowship. They become partners in the cause of Christ and we count them as family. When they refuse to live as they should as Christians we are to withdraw that fellowship and not go on treating them as partners any more. But even during such a time we are to continue to teach and warn them and treat them like brothers in the Lord instead of enemies. If we barred one from coming to the assembly how do we keep on exhorting and teaching them how they should be living and treat them like brothers? The goal of discipline is to cause one to be ashamed and come back. When you treat them like enemies that you don’t want anything to do with it doesn’t bring shame and the desire to return, it makes them mad and causes them to seek revenge. The whole concept is that when people become Christians they should have a rich, full, family fellowship and that if they have to be disfellowshiped that association is removed and they are treated like folks that are outsiders now. When one says they can’t come, it isn’t treating them as one not in fellowship, but like one who is dangerous and our enemy the very thing Paul said not to do. We should be praying, hoping and pleading with the individual to repent and come back into the family. The church is the Lord’s and no one has the right to tell another they can’t attend church. Only the Lord can add one to His church and only the Lord can take someone out.

The problem with withdrawing fellowship is that most of the time there wasn’t any real fellowship ever extended to begin with. People were in some loose relationship seeing one another only on Sundays. That kind of fellowship can be withdrawn and no one ever miss the fellowship that was lost. When fellowship is rich and full, withdrawing it will cause a man to feel the shame and want to come back. To withdraw when there isn’t any real fellowship to begin with is a farce. The problem is that some brethren are far more interested in withdrawing fellowship than they are in extending it.

Question #442 – Being hospitable to troubled family members

My niece whom is 40 years old & lives Fl. has two daughters. My niece is not married but, has been married two other times. Her new boy friend at times stays with her. One daughter is Jr. high & the other is a freshman in high school. The one that is in high school goes with a guy that is a senior in high school. Recently my niece came home & found both of them in the shower together. My niece mother lives with me & my wife in Ill. because of health problems. My niece is coming up with her two girls plus the boy friend to see her mother. My niece also has said that the boy friend smokes pot. My wife & I don’t like the idea of the boy friend coming along & staying at our house plus we will be leaving a few days after they arrive & they will be staying at our house along with the niece’s mother. My niece said that if the guy can’t stay at our house she would just rent a hotel room for all of them. Needless to say my niece & two daughters have no Christian life in Fl. I just feel that my niece is putting herself in a bad situation just by allowing the guy to come along. My niece’s daughter has on a number of occasions cut her wrist. She has sought help for the daughter. My question to you is should we bend on this matter & let my niece, two girls & boyfriend stay at our house?

Leon’s Response

This kind of question is difficult since I can’t turn to a particular Scripture and say there is the answer. In 2 John the elder John wrote to an older lady about her hospitality. He told her to take care about inviting people into her home that taught false doctrines since giving them hospitality was bidding them Godspeed. But that was a matter of teaching and dealt with people who were religious folks in error. I can only answer as to how I would react personally. I would have to say that I’m not at all comfortable with what all could happen in the situation. I think I might say, I’m not going to say you can’t stay here, but it is certain that the boy and girl can’t share a bedroom and if there is any pot smoking that goes on here everyone will have to leave or whoever is guilty be sent home. It sounds like you have a very troubled family in your niece and family. If you can have them there and show them a better way to live it might do good. I just don’t know that I could leave them there while I went somewhere else.

Question #443 – Will Earth be a paradise someday?

Some Jehovah’s witnesses came by the other day and gave me an article entitled “Will Earth Be a Paradise” in which it states the paradise Jesus referred to in Luke 23:43 would be on earth. The article states this “fact” is well supported in the Bible and quotes the following scriptures: Psalm 37:29, Psalm 72:16, Proverbs 2:21, and Isaiah 11:9. It further stated that in harmony with these passages are Jesus statement in Matt. 5:5 (about the meek inheriting the earth) and to John’s words in Rev. 21:3,4. It’s hard to know where to begin when visiting with these folks. Other scriptures such as 2 Peter 3:10-13 come to mind, but where do you start? Do you have any suggestions or insights on effective ways to refute such error?

Leon’s Response

Did you read the Scriptures they gave you to prove their point? Did you notice that nothing was mentioned in any of them about paradise. 3 of the 4 have to do with the Land of Palestine, the promised land for the Israelites in the Old Testament. The one in Proverbs is laying out the principle that the righteous will inherit blessings such as land. The promise of Jesus in the beatitudes that the gentle will inherit the earth has nothing to do with paradise. It is quoting a promise in the Book of Psalms and has to do wiht the tremendous blessings we have from God on this earth when we live for Him, but isn’t referring to eternity.

What about paradise and how is that word used in the rest of the New Testament? In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul tells of a man who was caught up into the third heaven over 14 years ago, whether in the body or out of the body, he didn’t know, only God knew. Such a one was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words unlawful for a man to speak. Notice he used the third heaven and paradise interchangeably. The Jews thought about the first heaven as where the birds fly, the second heaven as where the sun, moon and stars dwell and the third heaven as the place where God dwells. Paul said that was paradise.

The next use of the word Paradise is found in Revelation 2:7 where Jesus was writing to the church in Ephesus and told them that while many things were right in the church there was one thing missing. They had left their first love and needed to remember from where they had fallen, repent of the sin and go back and do what they did in the beginning. In verse seven He concluded, “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Paradise is where the tree of life is found. Then read in Revelation 22:1-2 and notice that the tree of life is in heaven on either side of the river of life. The tree of life bears 12 different kinds of fruit one for each month and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the people.

The word paradise means “beautiful garden”. It first referred to the Garden of Eden. Now it refers to the garden of glory in heaven. Where will heaven be when this life is all over and eternity with Him has begun? It may be that heaven will then be on this earth since Revelation chapters 21 and 22 refer to the place called heaven coming down from God out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband and that we will then have a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. But it won’t be anything like the earth as we know it now. What will make heaven so great is that God will be there, Christ will be there and the Spirit of God will be there. All the holy angels and all the redeemed of God for all the ages will be there.

As to studying with the Jehovah’s witnesses, it is extremely difficult because they do skip all over the place and jump from one subject to another. The real problem is that they don’t respect the Bible as God’s only authority for us to follow and when it goes against their teachings they just declare that this is a miss translation or some corruption of the word by men. The Jehovah’s witnesses are a cult who do not believe in the deity of Christ or the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. They deny that man has an immortal soul and have more errors in their teachings than truth. They talk about the only name for God being “Jehovah” when the word “Jehovah” is one of many words or names for God in the Old Testament and a name that is never used in the New Testament at all. In the New Testament when passages are quoted from the Old that used the word Jehovah it is quoted by the Greek word “Kurios” which is translated “Lord” and is most often used of Jesus Christ as Lord. Read passages like John 8:24 or 2 John 9. To deny Christ is to miss God the Father as well.

Question #444 – Paul’s mother

Can you tell me who the apostle Paul’s mother was?

Leon’s Response

I’m sorry I can’t give you an answer to your question. The Bible doesn’t ever tell us who Paul’s mother was. We know he grew up in Tarsus and was trained at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. But not who his mom was.

Question #445 – God and the lying prophets

In 2 Chron. 18:beginning with vs. 1-22 in vs. 21, it mentions that the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours (King Ahab). I am a bit confused about the whole situation regarding lying, since God cannot be a part of darkness, as 1 John 1:5 explains.

I do not know if you can help me understand 2 Chron. 18:21. My idea was that I know the Lord has punished angels who have followed the ways of the devil and not followed His word and fallen from glory – this might be one of those times. Your thoughts?

Leon’s Response

Many times God does things, especially in the Old Testament that just doesn’t fit our way of looking at things. For example when it is said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart it doesn’t seem to fit the nature of God. But it also says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and some of the explanation may be in that. In this text you are referring to, remember that Ahab is an evil ruler of the nation of Israel. He has rebelled against God, allowed his wife to murdered many of God’s prophets, stolen from his people and tried to murder Elijah the prophet. When we sow a life of rebellion and sin against God we will reap the rewards of that life (Galatians 6:7-8). Because of Ahab’s heart for the devil God asked His angels or messengers to come up with a way to lead him into battle and thus suffer destruction. When one of them said he had a way to lead him astray God asked what it was and he said he would put a lying spirit into the false prophets all around Ahab. These pretend prophets were there to tell Ahab what he wanted to hear rather than to really listen to God. This angel put into these false prophets the lie that Ahab should go into battle against his enemy and he would destroy them. God even in that situation sent one man with the truth. The four hundred and first prophet told him this was all a lie and he was headed into defeat. But Ahab listened to the 400 who told him what he wanted to hear. In the battle he thought he had fooled God’s man again. He had Jehosophat to put on his royal robes to ride into battle while he dressed like an ordinary soldier. It almost worked. The army went after Jehosophat but when he cried out they realized it wasn’t Ahab. But God had an unknown soldier to shoot his arrow into the air without a target in mind, but God guided that arrow to the crevice in Ahab’s armor so that he was killed that day in battle. He was deceived by false prophets who accepted the wrong advise from God’s angel and refused the warning from God’s prophets that revealed exactly what was happening. He paid the price both then and in eternity.

God is a righteous and gracious God. In His righteousness and justice He punishes sin and sinful people who rebel against Him. He often does so by giving them advise they think is good and godly but it leads them into ruin. We determine how we live and we reap what we sow.

Question #446 – Before judgement – Hades? Paradise?

The Great White Throne Judgment – Before this event happens, the Bible tells us that all of the unsaved people are kept in a place called Hades (Hell) until the Millennium Kingdom is over. Hades (Hell) is a temporary place of torment that these souls are kept in until they have to appear before God in this final judgment, which will then determine their eternal fate once and for all.

Would you please expand on these statements as to whether it is actual or represents an earlier event.

Leon’s Response

What you described is usually what is taught by people. Personally, I can’t find much of it actually taught in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t describe all the saints going to Hades between death and the resurrection. The word “Hades” just means the realm of the dead or the unseen realm. It is used in the Bible to refer to the grave just as often as it is to a place for the soul. Think of Jesus when He died on the cross. He told the thief he would be with him in paradise. In Acts 2 Peter quoted David’s psalm saying of him that his soul would not be left in Hades nor his holy one to see corruption. The point was the body wouldn’t rot and the soul wouldn’t remain in Hades. Jesus went into the unseen realm of death, but he never went into a place of punishment. He went to paradise. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 Paul was caught up into paradise, into the third heaven where God is, and he heard unspeakable words. In Revelation 2:7, the Christians at Ephesus were told that if they overcame they would eat of the tree of life in the middle of the paradise of God. In Revelation 22, the tree of life is said to be in heaven. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-6, Paul says that when we leave this body we go to be with the Lord and as long as we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord but when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. He describes the Christian in death going to heaven forever more.

A person who dies does not have to wait until the judgment to know where they are going in eternity. The rich man lifted up his eyes in hell while his brothers were still on earth. Lazarus was being comforted by Abraham from the moment of his death in Luke 16:19-. But if a Christian goes on to heaven when they die why is there a judgment? Read first in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. When the Lord comes again he will bring with him those who are asleep in Jesus. They were with him and he brings the spirits or souls with him in his return at which time the body is raised from the dead and body and soul are joined to spend eternity with him in heaven. Judgment isn’t to determine where one goes. That judgment takes place at the point of death (Hebrews 9:27). The great white throne judgment is a picture of the wicked being sent into punishment eternally. The final judgment scene of 2 Corinthians 5:10 is of God giving rewards for the life lived on the earth. In light of parables like the parable of the talents and the pounds it’s obvious different people are given different rewards based on ability and faithfulness. I don’t think that means some will have a bigger mansion than others, but some will be blessed more and have greater appreciation of the blessings than others. I know that even when a disciple gives a drink of cold water in the name of a disciple they will not lose their reward. Heaven will truly be worth it all. But I believe the the whole theory of paradise, Hades, etc., being a place where the dead go between death and the resurrection is made up with highly questionable use of Scripture and the complete denial of many other text that picture one going to heaven at the point of death.

Question #447 – the Christian & politics

My question is, as a Christian, how am I to vote? I want to do the right thing for our country and as a Christian, please help me know the correct path to follow.

Leon’s Response

Even as Christians we tend to have different values as to what is most important to us. People tend to vote based on family heritage, on what they consider most important, and on which personality they like best. I doubt that any of those are good ways to plan who I would vote for. As a Christian there are some fundamental things that ought to outweigh everything else. Our greatest desire should be that we would have the opportunity to spread the message of Christ to the world. We live in a time when people can say almost anything they think of that is ugly, mean, and untrue about Christians or Christianity and it is alright. But if anyone says anything the least unfavorable to other religions, such as the Muslim religion, then we have committed some great offense. Not just the president, but all leaders in the country should be held accountable for such ideas and should at least give Christianity the same treatment as others.

Second, we should look closely at what any leader stands for with regard to moral matters such as abortion and the care for human life. When one isn’t concerned about protecting the most helpless of people then I’m not interested in them being a leader in the country. Then we ought to look at the individuals themselves. Are they honest? Are they men of integrity? Do they change what they say and present as their belief’s depending on the crowd they are speaking to? If you can’t trust a person you sure don’t need them as the leader of the country. Too often politicians of all sorts make promises they absolutely know they can’t keep. They know that many of the things they say they will do will never be passed by congress no matter how much they say about it. When men try to buy an election with promises they know they can’t keep it is completely dishonest. One of the primary purposes of government is the protection of the people and the punishment of evil doers (Romans 13:1-8). Any candidate for president ought to be judged based on their stand on the basics of what government is all about. When we vote for someone because of what he can give us it shows selfishness and poor values. God said the governmental officers did not bear the sword in vain. They are there to stand for right and against wrong. A weak president who won’t stand up to people who want to destroy the nation is one we can’t afford to have as president now or ever.

I want a president that can see beyond just today. We are in a terrible mess with regard to energy right now because of shortsighted leaders who refused to allow drilling for more oil and the building of more refinery’s or even more nuclear plants and now we are in a mess being held hostage by middle eastern countries that hate us and want our destruction. We can claim it is about the environment from now on but so many of the cures that are offered actually destroy the environment. For example ethanol was a great savior but now it is being realized that it costs more to produce, uses up resources needed for food, and drives up the price of food in producing it.

In other words what we need is a statesmen, not a politician. Politicians are a dime a dozen. Statesmen are rare. I hope we can find one among the men running for president this year. I have to admit I’m not sure one is there.

One final point, please understand that as a Christian we ought to vote, but also realize that our vote is not the most important thing we have. Our influence and our prayers for the leaders of the country will do far more for the future of this nation than the man who is the next president. Paul told Timothy to pray for rulers and all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness (I Timothy 2:1-3). Let’s put God first in everything and then vote our conscience. It will be all right when we do.

Question #448 – the Christian & politics

Last Sunday, for some reason, all the church programs I watched all seemed to have the same idea of the sermon. It had to do with evangelism. How we should all be doing that. That the Lord said, come with me…I will make you fishers of Men.  I am just so timid in that regard. I love to give my testimonies and I do that frequently, as that is my style in evangelizing. But I don’t go to far otherwise because I think I would personally feel like a hypocrite. Cause…I feel I am such a unhappy person. I get so angry with the cards that have been dealt to me in so many areas of my life. I say I forgive and I do…but I don’t forget the hurt, the pain the disappointments, the abandonment. I go along a while after forgiving…and then when similar situations arise again just like before… and I get hurt, afraid and then they all stack up right there in front of my brain… all the hurts, lies, that were said, just huge disappointments. I try to live for each day…but say the wrong words to me and I flip out. It will bring everything else related to those few words and I go nuts. I wish when people said what they say and mean what they say when they say it. Lies are so upsetting. When someone lies to you, serious lies, ok… I can forgive in time… but I really don’t forget. I go along fine until I figure out I have been lied to again and then the first lie becomes as important as the second one and just as fierce as the first. Does that make any sense?

Leon’s Response

I certainly understand your feelings about being evangelistic. It often feels difficult to make those moves in teaching others. Think about two things in this regard. First Jesus told the apostles He wanted them to be “witnesses” for Him in Acts 1:8. If you go through the Book of Acts it’s amazing how often it talks about them witnessing and testifying to the people. Even on Pentecost, Peter testified and exhorted them to save themselves from the crooked generation (Acts 2:40). Most of the times in the book of Acts when it talks about Christians evangelizing others the word that is used literally means they talked about Jesus or it could even be translated “they gossiped” about Jesus. When you testify about what the Lord has done in your life you are being evangelistic. Also notice that they hardly ever told people what they had to do to be saved until they asked. Peter told us in I Peter 3:15 to set apart Christ as Lord and be ready always to give an answer to anyone that asked us about the hope that is in us with gentleness and awe. We are to live a life that holds on to the Lord in the midst of trials and troubles and when people asked how we hold on to our hope in such conditions we tell them about the Lord and what He has done in us. That is evangelism at its best.

About the other half of your question on forgiving others who have wronged us and lied to us. Go back and read Matthew 18. We are to confront those who sin against us. We are then to take others with us and finally take it to the church if they don’t repent. When they do repent our place is to forgive. Unlike God we can’t forget the mistakes of others but we can refuse to bring it back up and we can refuse to allow it to dominate our thinking. Notice here in Matthew 18 Peter wanted to know how many times he had to forgive, up to 7 times. Jesus told him up to 7 times 70. He then told the story of the ruler who called a man who owed him 7,000,000 dollars and the man cried out for mercy saying if the ruler would give him time he would repay. The ruler forgave him completely. Then he went out and found a man who owed him $15.00 and demanded he repay him immediately. When the man pleaded for mercy and asked for more time he refused and demanded that he and his family be thrown into prison until it was all paid. The ruler heard and called the man back and had him delivered to the tormenters. Here is the point. We owe God the $7,000,000. It is a debt we could never repay if we had ten lifetimes. Yet he freely forgives us even to the degree of giving His own Son to die for our sins paying the price for our salvation. Those who sin against us by lying, cheating or any other way are the ones who owe us $15.00. For us not to forgive them whether they ask or not, whether they repent or not is to fail to understand how amazing the grace of God is to freely forgive us. If they don’t repent of the sin they will lose their souls in hell for eternity. That will surely be punishment enough for their sins without me trying to add to it by not forgiving them.

Question #449 – remembering the Sabbath

The Sabbath was the Lord’s day with the Old Law, ours is Sunday now, I guess what I am trying to say, do you think we honor our Father on this day all day with our mind and heart, it seems to me we have so many activities on Sunday.

Leon’s Response

The Sabbath day was a day of rest and worship. God gave them very specific directions on what they could and couldn’t do on that day. In the New Testament He never mentions our needing to observe the Sabbath at any time. He does tell us to worship Him on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2). But there is no indication that God intended for Sunday to become like the Sabbath in the Old Testament. Remember that in the area where the church began Sunday was a work day for all the people. They worked all day then worshiped in the evening as a rule. It is mixing the two days and what is involved when we try to add the rules of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day. The only time it is actually called the Lord’s Day is in Revelation 1:10.

Question #450 – responsible for what I cannot give?

Bro. Leon, my question is, will I be held responsible for what I can not give to the Lord? I receive a check once a month and give from it to church, but my husband is not a Christen and I could do so much more but he would not approve. How does the Lord feel about this situation.

Leon’s Response

I’m sorry you are having problems in the matter of giving because of your marriage. The New Testament doesn’t set a specific amount for our giving as the Old did. We are told to give as prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2) and to give as purposed in our hearts to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). God is much more concerned about you giving your self or your heart to Him than the amount of money. When we give ourselves it will bring on the giving that pleases the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Please don’t feel guilty when you are doing the best you can do under the circumstances. Pray for God’s guidance and blessings. But know that it is your heart that is of most concern to Him. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul challenged us all to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord. That is the greatest gift ever and you don’t need your husbands permission to do that. When you do the money aspects will take care of themselves.

Question #451 – are we born with sin?

When a child is born into this world, it’s not long before parents have to begin the process of discipline. We discipline because the child is doing wrong. Is this ‘wrong’ sin? Or is it something else? If it is sin, then how can you argue that children are not born with sin? Or is it that the child is not born with sin, but with an inclination to sin, or a sinful nature?

Leon’s Response

This is one that has caused lots of discussion through the years. Many have thought that a child inherits sin from Adam and is thus born guilty of not only the sins they will commit but of Adam’s sin as well. But think of what a person inherits from a parent. Do we inherit acquired characteristics of those things that are in the genes of the person? The fact a father has developed the ability to sing, doesn’t mean his child will be born a good singer. But if he has red hair and blue eyes it may well be the case that the child will inherit those. Was sin a part of Adam’s nature, or was it something he acquired later? He was made in the image of God, by God, as are we. God is still called the “father of spirits” so while our physical characteristics come from a parent, our soul or spirit comes from God. Where is sin a problem? In the physical side or spiritual side of man? In the spirit, and God is the father of the spirit of man. If we inherit sin, it would be from God just as it would have been for Adam. But the truth is, Adam wasn’t made as a sinner. He failed. He sinned and lost his innocence in the garden of Eden. His becoming a sinner is on exactly the same basis as it is for us. He was made innocent and we are born innocent. (Matthew 18:1-5; 19:14). In Ezekiel 18 the prophet discussed at length the whole concept of man getting sin from his father or the father suffering for the sins of his son. He notes that the son will not bear the iniquity of his father or the father of his son. The soul that sins, he shall die. The righteousness of the righteous will be upon him and the sins of the sinful will be upon him.

So a child doesn’t inherit sin, nor is he born with a sinful nature, since it is clear that the father of his nature is God (Hebrews 12:9). Why then do children do bad things and need training very early in life? Children come into the world with a blank slate. They are immediately exposed to all kinds of behavior. They can observe rebellion, selfishness, sharing, kindness, consideration, love, hate, fear, doubt, and a multitude of other emotions. What happens to them each day affects how they think and how they will react to the world. God places a child into our care for us to train them in the ways that are right. When they go in the wrong direction it is our place to pull them back into what is right. If we don’t, they will continue down the wrong road. Are the wrong deeds of a child sinful? Yes. Violations of God’s law or transgressions are always sinful no matter who does them. Think of a person who was born with a terrible disease and their mind never develops at all. They remain as children all of their lives even though the body grows and is strong. Will they do wrong things? Yes. Is it a matter of sin? Yes. Does God hold that sin against them? No. God never holds those guilty who have no ability to know and do what is right. Even our own society recognizes this point. If a person commits a crime but they aren’t mentally capable of understanding that what they did was wrong they aren’t punished for the crime. God is a just, righteous, fair and graceful God. Remember in the first part of the Book of Acts when Peter preached to the Jews who had taken part in the crucifixion of Christ. He notes that they did it in ignorance and that God was offering them forgiveness. If there was no difference between the sins if done in ignorance or knowing what I was doing it would have been foolish to make this point over and over again.

All have sinned. But not all our sins are counted against us. In Romans 4 Paul talked about those to whom the Lord did not impute sin or didn’t count the sin against them.

Question #452 – original sin – part 2

Similar to previous question, I’ve been having discussions with a friend who basically believes in original sin. He quotes passages such as Romans 3:23 and 5:12 which say that all have sinned. He argues this would include new born babies. When I try to contend that babies do not yet have the knowledge or ability to discern good from evil and are therefore innocent, he counters with the same scripture again with emphasis on “all”. I can think of several counterpoints to make from a “common sense” perspective, but can you suggest some scripture, specific passages, that support children being innocent until they come to a knowledge of good and evil and are then accountable for their actions and need the saving grace God offers through His Son?

Leon’s Response

One small distinction would help, I think. It is true that children sin from a very early age. It’s not uncommon for a small child to lie or to say words that would be wrong, even though they may not understand them. Children often pick up things that don’t belong to them. Yet it is true that God holds that child as innocent. IN Matthew 18:1-5 Jesus said the greatest in the kingdom was like the child and unless we are converted and become like a little child we can’t enter the kingdom of God. In Matthew 19:13-15 people were bringing their children to Jesus for Him to lay His hands on them. The disciples thought that was beneath His dignity and tried to stop them. Jesus told them to leave the parents alone and allow them to bring the children to Him because “The kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.”

Think of Romans 4:7-8 for a moment. Paul quotes form a Psalm of David first praising God because the lawless deeds are forgiven and sins are covered. Then he says, “How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin.” Notice he speaks of people who were guilty of sin, God forgave them, covered them and then he refused to chalk up their sins against them. Some translations have it, “Blessed is the man to whom God does not impute sin.” In Romans 7:7-12 Paul discusses the whole point of sin in our lives. He notes that the good thing about the law was that it made us aware of our sins. He mentions that he would not have known lust unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” Then in verse 9-10 he says, “Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me.” There was never a time in Paul’s life when the law was not in existence. What then does he mean when he says, “Once I was alive without the law or without the commandment”? While even as a child he violated the law, God did not hold him responsible or accountable for his transgressions until the time came when he could understand or grasp the meaning of the commandments. Then he died spiritually and was in need of salvation in Christ. This is the process that happens in every person who at first doesn’t know what God says and can’t understand the difference between right and wrong. Until we are capable of understanding we aren’t accountable to God and are alive spiritually. We are saved at that point because we aren’t lost or in need of salvation. We are safe until we reach the point of being able to understand. Then spiritual death comes and we need salvation in Christ.

Question #453 – original sin – part 3

In your answer to #451 you said at the last, “All have sinned. But not all our sins are counted against us. In Romans 4 Paul talked about those to whom the Lord did not impute sin or didn’t count the sin against them.

I am assuming you’re talking about this passage:

7 “Blessed are they

whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

8 Blessed is the man

whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

Who is David talking about here? Is he not speaking of us – Christians living on this side of the cross who have forgiveness of our sins by the blood of the Lamb? And if so, how does that tie into the discussion of babies/children having sin?

Leon’s Response

In Romans 4:7-8 Paul quotes Psalms 32:1-2. The body of that Psalm is about David and those who were like in who tried to please God and confess their sins. Notice verse 3-4 speak of the time when he held back and remained silent about God and he became weak and brittle. He then confessed his sins and stopped concealing them and God took away his guilt. “Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You at a time that You may be found. When great flood-waters come, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place, You protect me from trouble, You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.” David praises God for forgiving him and others like him “in whose spirit is no deceit”. He also praises Him for not marking up against him and others like him their sins and failures during the times they are righteous and upright in heart. This is comparable to I John 1:5-9 in the New Testament. God forgave sins in the Old Testament based on what Christ would do on the cross, whereas He now forgives on the basis of what He has done. But He always forgave and blessed those who were trying to faithfully follow His will.

Why would I quote this with regard to children? Only for one reason, to demonstrate that God doesn’t mark up against us every sin that is committed. While the point of Psalms 32 was limited to David and others like him, that doesn’t mean that the principle laid down has only one application. The picture painted by John on this point was that when we are walking in the light of God the blood of Christ is constantly cleansing us for all of our sins.

With regard to children, they do sin and commit acts they shouldn’t and fail to do what they should at times. Yet Jesus said unless we are converted and become like a child we can’t enter the kingdom and “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” There is no teaching in the Bible where little children are told to repent of their sins, or confess them or to be baptized to have their sins washed away. Jesus took children into his arms and blessed them, but there isn’t a time when He pointed to such children to condemn their sinful lives. In all the Book of Acts every illustration of one being preached to and taught the gospel who then would obey in being baptized were adults who could understand their guilt and their need for change.

Although the Bible never mentions an age of accountability, it is implied when Paul said in Romans 7:9, “I was alive once without the law. But then the law came, sin revived and I died.” The law was in existence all of Paul’s life. He was alive without it in that it was outside his ability to understand and God didn’t hold him responsible until he was able to understand it’s teaching. The law came, sin revived and he died spiritually.

Question #454 – predestination

Romans 9:11,13,16,18,22-23, Eph 1:4-6,9,11, Romans 8:30, 2 Tim 1:9, and 1 Thess. 5:9 all seem to suggest God has already determined who is going to be saved and who is not – He already knows. Other than just saying something like, “it is the plan that is predestined and not the actual person”, what other scripture/defenses are there to refute this idea of predestination?

Leon’s Response

Let’s look then at what the Bible says is predestined. In Acts 2:23 Peter said that Christ was delivered to be crucified by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God. This is predestination. But it is specific. It is predestined that Christ would die on the cross. Even though people were involved and guilty such as Judas betraying Him and the high priest lying and conniving for His death, delivering Him to the Romans and even the soldiers who carried out the grizzly act were guilty, but they were also operating inside the plan of God.

Romans 8:29 clearly teaches predestination. But look at what he says is predestined? “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” It wasn’t our salvation that predestined. It was that those who are saved would be conformed to the image of Christ.

The Romans 9 passages talk of God’s mercy and plan saying, “I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” He shows mercy on whom He will and hardens whom He will. He notes how foolish it is for the one that is made to question the maker about how he was made. Verse 23 reveals a purpose behind it all, “And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory.” In verses 25-26 he notes the change when God calls those who were not a people His people and those who were unloved, Beloved. In verses 30-32 you get to his explanation and application of all the points he has made. “What should we say thin? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness – namely the righteousness that come from faith. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the law. Which is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” There is indeed predestination in this passage, but it isn’t unconditional predestination of particular individuals without regard to their lives. He predestined that those who live by faith would be saved.

Ephesians 1:3-6 teach predestination. All who are saved are saved in Christ, “for He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.” He predestined that we would be saved in Christ and that we would be holy and blameless and that we would be adopted as sons into His family. But when it comes to the how of the salvation predestined, he says it is by grace through faith (2:8-9)

I Thessalonians 5:9 teaches predestination but of what? “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What was predestined? Those we would obtain salvation in Christ. The previous verse pleads for us to be sober, put on faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. This isn’t personal, unconditional predestination.

2 Timothy 1:9 “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” Notice God predestined before creation and time that He would save man by grace in Christ Jesus. In Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27 it is said that we get into Christ by being baptized into Him. We are saved by faith that leads us to be baptized into Christ. Nothing in any of these passages teaches individual, unconditional predestination. They clearly teach that God had a plan before time began to save man who hadn’t even been made yet in Christ, based on grace from Him and faith in us.

What about other teachings in the Bible? Look at the great commission given by Jesus to His apostles just before He ascended back to God.

Matthew 28:18-20 – “Go and make disciples in all the nations baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Mark 16:15-16 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized with be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.”

Luke 24:46-47 – “Thus it is written and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise again the third day that repentance and remission of sins might be preached in His name among all nations.”

John 20:30-31 – “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life in His name.”

Besides that the whole book of Acts that tells of the response people had to the preaching of the gospel never leaves the impression it had already been decided and that people couldn’t change anything. On Pentecost in Acts 2 Peter preached to the crowd telling them they had crucified the Son of God. They were cut to their hearts and cried out “what shall we do?” Why didn’t he tell them, “You can’t do anything. It is already predetermined who will be saved and you have nothing to do with it.” What did he say? “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

God predestined how we would be saved, where we would be saved and the kind of life we would live when we were saved. He even predestined where we would spend eternity as the saved. But He didn’t predestine who would be saved.

Question #455 – original sin – part 4

As a follow up to the question on the sinful nature. Please explain these references… Eph 2:3 we were by nature objects of wrath. Col 2:11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

Leon’s Response

I always hate to answer a question by questioning a translation, but one of the worst problems with the NIV is it’s translation of the word “flesh” or “body of flesh” in other translations as “sinful nature”. The Greek word is one that is used simply of flesh and it used of the body or of our physical nature. There is nothing in the word that warrants it being translated as “sinful nature”. In this case the doctrinal beliefs were placed into the translation. Look at the passages you referred to: In Ephesians 2:1-3 We are dead in trespasses and sins in which we previously walked. It was according to the spirit of this worldly age the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience. At that time we lived by our fleshly desires. Now all of this has to do with something that we do wrong, not anything about how we were born or inherited from Adam. We have a fleshly body that is subject to sin and temptation. But this sure doesn’t say we are born in sin. In Colossians 2:11 He said “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah, having been buried with Him in baptism.” This is the same point that the phrase “sinful nature” is translated in the NIV is a horrible translation. The word sinful isn’t in the original text of this verse at all. It is the word “flesh”. I would encourage you to just compare the NIV with some other translations to see that no other translation gives this translation. Generally, the NIV is a good translation. But this is a case where doctrine overruled the scholarship of the translators.

Question #456 – original sin – part 5

One additional follow up on the sinful nature topic. I do agree that children are not born with sin. I think the scripture you reference makes that clear. My question is: Is it fair to state that we are born with a nature that is bent toward being sinful? Maybe better phrased, because of our human nature we are going to sin because our nature is more apt to be selfish and want our own selfish desires. My reasoning is Adam and Eve had every opportunity to live a perfect life but God knew they would choose to sin b/c he had already set salvation’s plan in motion. Does that make any sense and is that consistent with scripture?

Leon’s Response

I think that makes great sense. I think you have stated the point extremely well. We aren’t born in sin. But we are born with human frailties and challenges that will lead us to sin. We then are faced with a choice. Will we take advantage of God’s offer of forgiveness, substitution, redemption, and help, to live for Him. Will we make failure a place to rest and die or will we, by the power of God, live for Him both here and eternally in glory?

Question #457 – adultery, divorce & remarriage

About 15 years ago my brother in-law suffered a brain aneurysm. At that time he was not married to my sister in-law whom was married. She divorced her husband to marry husband number 3. As time went by her husband was not able to have sex with her because of the aneurysm. She in turn starts having sex with a fellow worker from the high school where they both were employed. This in turn caused my sister in-law & husband to move to another state. I’m pretty certain that over the years my sister in-law came back to this state & had sex with ex fellow worker. Five years ago, my brother in-law had a stroke in which he was placed in a nursing home. A few years ago my sister in-law thought about having ex fellow worker move in with her to help with rent. Ex worker had prostate cancer so she there would not be any sex because he was unable to have sex. He did not move there. My sister in-law did take care of her husband while he was in nursing home. My brother in-law passed away April 15 of this year. In less than two months my sister in-law is back to seeing ex fellow worker. She claims it is just friendship only that she is seeing him. Yet she really dresses up when she goes to see him. She lives with us, her sister & me. She had by-pass surgery about a year ago. She is 58 years old. I’ve told her that it’s just not right for her to carry on a relation with this person. Her husband that passed away has 6 brothers & two sisters & I’m certain that she would not tell them about the relation that she had while married to their brother. I realize that we are all sinners yet should she still see the ex fellow worker? She claims she just needs someone to talk to now that her husband has passed away. I know plenty of Christian women that would and that could fill these needs. I just don’t think a male, and one that she has had sex with while married, is the right person for comfort. On top of this, she has a daughter that is divorced plus two grand daughters that also are aware of their mother & grand mother action. Just does not set good example.

Leon’s Response

I appreciate your concern. It was obviously wrong for her to have sexual relations with the man while married to her husband. Now that he is dead, she is free from that relationship and according to Romans 7:3-5 is free to marry again. Since one is free from the time of the death of the former partner, even though it doesn’t feel right to us or seem proper there is nothing wrong with seeing someone else or even in marrying the other person now. Of course it would be wrong for them to have sex before marriage. But what they have done in the past wouldn’t affect their right to marry now and do things right.

Think of the story of David and Bathsheba. David had sex with her while he was married to someone else and while she was married to Uriah. He had her husband murdered so he could have her. As soon as the funeral was past he took Bathsheba as his wife. When God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David for his sin he repented of the sin as mentioned in Psalms 51. But notice that God didn’t tell him to leave her. Instead he blessed the marriage and the next king, Solomon came from that relationship. IF they have repented of the sin then at this point they are free to see each other and to marry if they so desire. The key is whether they have seen the error of the past and repented of that so they can start anew.

Question #458 – what about a burial?

What are the beliefs of iglesia ni cristo when having a burial?

Leon’s Response

The Bible doesn’t give any instructions about the burial of a person in the New Testament. Instead it teaches us that the body returns to the dust awaiting the resurrection day (John 5:28-29; Ecclesiastes 12:7). At the time when Jesus comes again all who are in their graves will come forth. In I Corinthians 15:21-26 it is noted that, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ will all be made alive. But each in his own order, Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end when He will deliver up the kingdom to God, for He must reign until all His enemies are made his footstool.” Many have been concerned about the burial in that they are afraid that cremation may be wrong or that if the body is destroyed it might affect the resurrection. But the God who made us from the dust will certainly be able to bring us back to life no matter what has happened to the body during this time.

Question #459 – worship from home?

I have many friends & people that I really care about. So many of them have no interest in attending a church. They tell me that they do not have to go to a church to be a Christian. Just as long as they love God & believe in Jesus they are okay. I will admit that a number of them are really faithful in reading the bible on a regular base. A few receive their church by way of TV. I just don’t have a good answer to them as to why it’s important to go to a church. I always think of upon this rock I will build my church, knowing that he built his church for a reason, yet I do not have the wisdom on how to explain there is a reason & a need of why he built his church. Is it wrong for man to set himself apart from the church, is there truth to their words you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.

Leon’s Response

It is certainly a popular idea that one can be a faithful servant of God without ever going to church. Can one be a good Christian without attending services with other Christians? Consider these thoughts. First, in Hebrews 10:24-25 says that we are to provoke one another to good works. Then in explaining how that is to be done he said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.” The assembly is a place to exhort and encourage one another in living for God. It isn’t just about hearing the sermon, so that one can tune into a TV sermon and get the same good from it.

Think of all that is done in worship to God that can’t be done at home alone. We are to sing to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16). Sure one can sing at home alone. But you can’t sing to one another or teach and encourage one another to live as they should. In the assembly we pray for each other (Acts 2:42). It keeps us from being selfish in our prayers. We hear of all the problems and concerns that others have so that our prayers become wider with others. In a worship assembly we take the Lord’s Supper together thus communing with each other and with the Lord. Paul emphasized that the Lord’s Supper was to be taken when the whole church comes together in one place (I Corinthians 11:17-25). One might take of the elements of the communion alone, but it wouldn’t be a communion with others since they aren’t there.

Also, one of the prime purposes of the assembly is to “Edify (build up) one another”. Paul even told them in I Corinthians 11 to excel in building up one another. Finally, in that line of thought, when we assemble we give of our financial ability as we have prospered to support the work of the Lord. (I Corinthians 16:1-2). When people allow themselves to be taken in by some religious charlatan on TV that is lining his pockets rather that doing the work of the Lord it is a shame. Local churches are held accountable by the members in using the money given to help people around them and preaching the gospel to the world.

The very meaning of the word “church” means “community, or gathering”. When we don’t get together there is no church. We all need people who can help up grow in our faith in God. By being in classes and worship assemblies we build friendships and we learn to care about others and have them care about us.

There are times when people are ill and they can’t attend services that it is certainly right not to be there. But if one is really devoted to God they want to be in the assembly every time they can. Like David, they say, “I was glad when they said let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Question #460 – losing the Holy Spirit

 Bro. Leon, if you have sinned in the past so bad that the Lord would remove the Holy Spirit from you and you repent, does the Holy Spirit return?

Leon’s Response

It is interesting to look at the times in the Bible when the removing of the Spirit is mentioned. With King Saul it was said that the Holy Spirit left him and he didn’t realize it. In Psalms 51 David is in deep repentance for his sin of adultery and murder. In that Psalm David pleaded with God not to remove His Holy Spirit from him. He asked for God to restore to him the joy of his salvation and he promised that if God did so and forgave all his transgressions he would sing his praise and teach transgressors His ways. David committed awful sins, yet the Holy Spirit hadn’t been removed at this point.

The clearest passage on this point in the New Testament is Hebrews 6:4-6. The writer had been telling them to keep growing spiritually and to leave the basic principles to go on to maturity. He mentioned some of the basic principles as faith, repentance and baptism, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead. Then in verses 4-6 he said that if one didn’t grow up there was a danger of them falling away even though they had been once enlightened, had tasted the spiritual gift, the good words of God and the powers of the age to come then they would fall away and it would be impossible to renew them to repentance since they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.” One can fall from God and come back to be restored to their first love (Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20; Revelation 2:;1-7). But it is possible for one to sin so deeply and go so far away from God that it is impossible to renew them to repentance. Notice, it wasn’t impossible for God to forgive them. The point was that man can go so deep into sin that he can find no place for repentance and falls completely away from God.

God doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). When a brother turns away form God he is in need of conversion all over again. When we are converted the times of refreshing will come upon us (Acts 3:19). That seems to be a parallel to Acts 2:38 where we are told to repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins and we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So when we are converted to Christ either by coming back or by coming the first time we receive the Holy Spirit. So the answer to your question is yes we do receive the Holy Spirit back when we return to the Lord.

Question #461 – divorce for the wrong reason?

 My question, after divorcing without scriptural grounds and remarrying someone who also has unscriptural divorces (two), what is the condition of our lives? I am now a Christian and he is not. I feel very uneasy about my soul.

Leon’s Response

So often we struggle with what the Bible says on this topic. Let’s first look at some things the Bible clearly teaches on the subject and that we will need to be sure about. First God made marriage as something beneficial for man kind. In Genesis 2 God explained that it wasn’t good for man to be alone and he made Eve and brought her to him because of his love for Adam. Adam declared this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will be one flesh.” His intent from the beginning that one man would marry one woman and they will stay together in marriage until one of them died. When God’s people began to violate His plans and divorce each other and marry people who they thought would bring joy and happiness to their lives, most of them found out that marriage was hard work no matter who you had as a partner. God told them He hated divorce in Malachi 2.

When Jesus was born divorce was prevalent both among the Jews and the Gentiles of His day. Some religious teachers were saying that one had the right to divorce for any reason he wanted to. Others were saying that the one right reason for divorce was immorality. It was against that background that the Jews came to Jesus asking about divorce in Matthew 19. They asked: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?” He reminded them of God’s making of them male and female and two became one flesh. His conclusion was, “What God has joined together, man must not separate.” They responded to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give divorce papers and send her away?” They went back to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and asked Jesus why Moses gave such a teaching if God meant for a couple to stay married and never have a divorce. Jesus answered, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” His disciples were so moved by that statement that they said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry.” Jesus responded, “Not everyone can accept this saying but only those it has been given to. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made thus by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Think of some things about what was said. Marriage is a good thing planned by God and He even joins the couple in marriage to make two become one. He wants all marriages to last. The only thing that is sufficient reason for ending a marriage in divorce is sexual immorality on the part of one of the parties. The sexual union is so much a part of what makes two people become one that such immorality breaks the marriage bond. So when one divorces a partner for immorality he doesn’t commit any sin in getting that divorce. But if one divorces his wife or her husband for some other reason there is sin involved. You break the will of God by getting that divorce. You are separating what God joined. Does that mean one can’t be forgiven of the sin of breaking up that marriage by getting a divorce for some other reason than immorality? No, any sin that we repent of can be forgiven. Jesus died on the cross to make it possible for one to be forgiven of all their sins. Look at I Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Notice, you can’t enter the kingdom living in sin and justifying it. But any sinner with any sin in their lives can repent of that sin and be washed, sanctified and justified. What does it mean to repent? It is to change one’s mind or attitude. It is to stop living by my own ideas and standards and start living by the Lord’s will.

One who has gotten a divorce in the past and now repents of that sin, certainly doesn’t need to get another divorce to solve the first problem. Instead determine to make the marriage you are in the best, the fullest the most godly marriage it can be. I hope and pray your mate will decide soon to turn from their old life and give their lives to God like you have. Like everyone else that has sinned and been forgiven you can be great servants of God. Everyone that is a Christian started as a sinner needing forgiveness. Our God longs to forgive our sins so much He had Jesus to pay the price for our sins.

Question #462 – still in the same place?

 Thank you for your answer to question 461. The thing that really lays on my heart is, yes, I believe that God will forgive me, but I am still in the same place that was sinful in God’s eyes before. How does continuing in same situation not continue to be sin? I do not want to always have a doubt that God will say “Why did you stay in the sin you asked forgiveness for?” I want to be sure my soul isn’t lost.

Leon’s Response

Think back at the text in Matthew 19:9 “And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” Notice what the sin was. It was a sin to divorce the partner that wasn’t guilty if immorality. It was a sin to marry the one you married afterward. Are you continuing to divorce anyone? Are you continuing to remarry? Think of this simple illustration. A teenage girl of 16 goes on a date with a young man and they have sexual relations together and she becomes pregnant. Having sex out of wedlock is sin. The act led to having a baby in a sinful way since the pregnancy came from immorality. But when that baby is born it isn’t in sin (Matthew 18:1-5). Every baby is born innocent. In spite of the sin she has committed, she can repent of the sin with the young man, but she is still pregnant. She can bring up that baby either alone or she might even marry the young man and them bring up the baby together. It started in a sinful way. But that doesn’t make their marriage sinful or the child a sinner.

Remember the story of David and Bathsheba. He lusted for her, had sex with her when she was another man’s wife. She became pregnant and told the King. He tried to hide his sin by bringing her husband home from the battlefield but he was an honorable man and wouldn’t go to his wife while the rest of the army were on the battle field. David had him killed to hide his sin. He then took Bathsheba as his wife. The marriage started as sinful. The first child died. But when David went in to comfort her they had sex again and she had a son and named him Solomon. He became God’s chosen leader of the people. The fact that a thing starts wrong doesn’t mean it has to stay wrong. You show repentance of the sin of divorce and remarriage by not divorcing any more and by being the kind of marriage partner you ought to be. It seems as though God has forgiven you but you are having a hard time forgiving yourself. Read Philippians 3:11-16 and think about it.

Question #463 – fools & weak

In light of what Paul has previously said (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5), what is significant about his use of the words “fools” and “weak” (v. 10) to describe himself and the other apostles? What contrast does Paul draw between himself and the Corinthians in verses 8-13? What point is he trying to make?

Leon’s Response

That is an interesting question. While the context has changed somewhat between chapter 1 and 2 to chapter 4:9-10 he does use the same words again. In the first segment he is describing the unusual way God has set up His kingdom. He didn’t choose people as leaders among the highly thought of people of the world. Most of the men God chose as leaders wouldn’t have been seen as the prime prospects for CEO of some going company of the time. Even Paul, who was well educated and had a reputation of zeal for God, had shattered his reputation by leading the persecution of the church. He was in a rage against Christianity until that day on the Damascus Road when his whole life turned around. He was knocked down, blinded by a bright light and then the voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” He responded, “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” What a shock that had to have been. Then the words from Saul who was now humbled, said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” When the message said, “Go into Damascus and it will be told to you what you must do.” He submitted freely and with prayer and fasting he waited for God to send a disciple named Ananias to tell him what to do. Even though Ananias was nervous about the whole idea he was obedient and came to Saul with the message, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord.” In Paul’s words to Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”

So the star of early Christianity who became known as Paul, was also chief of sinners. From any unbiased point of view it seemed that God was calling the ones least qualified to be His witnesses. He chose broken, bruised and battered followers who knew what a mess they had made of their lives and turned them into a army for righteousness. These most unlikely leaders turned the world upside down. They were able in 30 years to declare that they had now preached the gospel of Jesus to the whole world. This is the sense of the first reference in calling them fools for Christ

In the second there is a different angle. He looks at the church at Corinth who had become proud of their gifts and abilities and saw themselves as holding a special place with God and wrote the letter to them to lay out the contrast between them and their pride and the apostles who really had accomplished amazing things for God and said, “I think God has displayed us, the apostles in last place, like men condemned to die: we have become a spectacle in the world and to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise.” He was using sarcasm to try to bring them to their senses. These apostles should cause us to marvel and what God can do through ordinary men. But the Corinthians should amaze us in how the devil can fill the hearts of men with pride who have done so pitifully in His service. They should have been ashamed of themselves and marveling at God’s grace who could save people like them. But they were proud of the fact they had spiritual gifts and could speak in tongues.

So in both text he uses the idea of how God sees people differently and uses them very differently. But the use of the idea of fools for Christ was exactly the opposite in the two passages.

Question #464 – generational curses 

I have heard ministers speak of “generational curses” and how they effect us today. I don’t believe in “generational curses” but, I could be wrong. I just don’t see anything in the New Testament that would support this idea. Am I wrong? I can see in the Old Testament these “curses reported in the old Testament were directed at the enemies of God.

Leon’s Response

You are right that there is nothing in the New Testament that gives any indication that such curses still go on. A good Scripture to read on this whole concept is Ezekiel 18. The whole point of the chapter is that the son will not bear the iniquity of the father, neither will the father bear the iniquity of the son. The soul that sins will die. While the Old Law talked about sins being visited on the children for ten generations that was very specific in its application and not a general principle. From the very beginning the New Testament stresses the idea that we all must stand personally before God to give account for the deeds done in our bodies according to what we have done whether good or bad. I Corinthians 5:10.

Question #465 – the mark of Cain

I’m studying the “mark of Cain”. I know we don’t know for sure, but Gen. 4:15 says the mark was there “so that no one who found him would kill him”. Since 6:4 says there were giants before and after the flood, it seems logical to me that this giant gene was introduced through Cain. Being a giant would certainly stave off relatives wanting to avenge Abel’s blood. If the mark of Cain is not the giant gene, then are there any scriptures that come to mind that helps explain how or why these giants got introduced.

Leon’s Response

There really isn’t much to work from on this whole subject. You have the mention in Genesis, which implies that the giants were born from the union of the “sons of God” with the “daughters of men”. The explanations for what “sons of God” refers to usually is that the sons of God are the descendants of Seth and the daughters of men are the descendants of Cain. The other explanation often given is that the sons of God are the angels and the daughters of men simply refers to mankind. The problem with that explanation is that Jesus said that in the resurrection we would be like the angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage.

When the spies were sent into the promised land to see if it was all God has promised they came back saying “we saw giants over there” and we seemed like grasshoppers beside them. In the promised land the most well known giant of the Old Testament was Goliath from Gath whom David killed with the sling shot. In 2 Samuel 21:15-22 several other giants are mentioned who were descendants of Goliath or of his family. These giants were killed by David’s men on different occasions. What is evident is that the giants seemed to come from a relatively small area and from the same group of people. Could these giants have been descendants of Cain? No, since all Cain’s descendants were killed in the flood that wouldn’t work. Go back to Genesis 11 to see the nations that arose from the three sons of Noah after the flood. The people of the area around Canaan were descendants of Ham. All three of the sons of Noah would have been descendants Adam through Seth.

It could be that the giants of Genesis 6 are from Cain and that could have been something to do with the mark given him. But it couldn’t have gone past that time since they were wiped out in the flood. From there on when we see the giants there has to be some other explanation.

Question #466 – the ultimate sacrifice

I have been having a conversation with two Christians that at one time they both were elders in the church. Also my sister-in-law has also voiced her opinion about not attending church regular. We are looking at Hebrews 10:25 What can you tell us about this chapter of Hebrews that we may get a better understanding of what is meant?

Leon’s Response

The overall topic in chapter ten is how much superior the sacrifices of the New Covenant are to the old. The blood of bulls and goats can’t take away sin. But we have a sacrifice in Jesus Christ that can fully remove the sins in our lives. Beginning in verse 19 the writer starts making applications to the principle of Christ’s Sacrifice being superior. First we have confidence through His sacrifice to enter boldly the holy place of God by the new and living way he opened through the curtain of his flesh. When Jesus was crucified the curtain dividing the holy place from the most holy place was torn in two from the top to the bottom. That was typical of Christ flesh opening the way into heaven itself. From that statement he offers the challenges of, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Then, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Then, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” In verse 25 he gives a specific illustration of how we are to stir one another up to love and good works by saying, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We need to make every effort to gather with the Christians, because that is where we stir each other up to love and good works. That is where we encourage one another in godly living. He isn’t saying that we need to encourage each other to attend all the more as the day draws near, but that as the day draws near we need to be in worship where we can be encouraged and built up in godly living. The Day approaching was the day of the destruction of Jerusalem that would bring great trials on the people. For us it would be the approaching of any day of great trial.

Verses 26 and following is a declaration of what happens in our lives when we stop growing and developing in our faith. Missing services is just one way that we are able to see a danger sign that something is wrong and we had better reach out to help before it is too late. When people begin to sin willfully or purposely, premeditatedly they re-crucify Jesus, reject His sacrifice for their sins and sin against His blood and covenant. When we reject the sacrifice that Jesus gave on the cross we need to be fully aware that there is no other sacrifice coming. He is the ultimate sacrifice that God planned before the foundations were laid of the earth. You could reject the Old Covenant sacrifices and that was bad, but there was another sacrifice coming. When we reject the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we have no such hope. His is the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Question #467 – slavery today?

I would like to have a better understanding as to what kind of slave was Onesimus and from a Christian perspective would slavery be wrong today? I know that some slaves in Bible times chose to stay with their masters, thus the “pierce my ear”.

Leon’s Response

The slavery that was prevalent in Rome at that time was very different from the slavery that was more familiar in the history of our nation. The slave of that day would have been about half way between what we know as an employee and the slavery we have heard of in this country. The principles of the New Testament like “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “In honor give preference to one another” and “Esteem others better than yourself” all would cut the legs right out from under slavery of any sort. The reason the writers of the New Testament didn’t give a frontal attack on slavery is that it would have caused such an uproar and upset the whole workings of the Roman way of life that it would have destroyed the ability of Christianity to grow. From the Biblical point of view God was much more concerned with saving the souls of the people than dealing with their plight as slaves. But when he had Paul to write passages like Galatians 3:26-28 he was preparing for the death of slavery. Notice we are all saved by faith when we are baptized into Christ Jesus where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but we are all one in Christ Jesus. He destroyed slavery just as obedience to this passage destroys any mistreatment of women or considering them in any way inferior to the male.

Question #468 – baptism really necessary?

I am studying with a friend who does not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. One point that he brings up is that in Acts 10 Cornelius receives the Holy Spirit before being baptized so he must have been saved without baptism. The other point that he brings up is that in 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul says that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach. Any thoughts?

Leon’s Response

First let me point to the Biblical proof that baptism is necessary for salvation, then I will look at the two arguments that he has made. First, every time the words baptism and salvation or anything that is equivalent are used together in the Bible, baptism comes first, then salvation. In Mark 16:15-16 it is “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” In Acts 2:38 Peter told the crowd on Pentecost, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 22:16 Ananias said to Saul, “Now why do you wait, arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord.” Even stronger is the point that the Bible declares that salvation and all spiritual blessings are to be found IN CHRIST. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul wrote that all spiritual blessings are found in Christ. Then in describing those blessings he mentioned being accepted in the beloved, redemption, forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit as a deposit. In 2 Timothy 2:10 he said, “Salvation is in Christ”. In I John 5:11 he said that God has given to us eternal life and that life is in His son.” In Ephesians 2:11-12 Paul wrote that out of Christ we are without hope and without God in the world. So, one of the greatest questions anyone can ask is “How does a person get into Christ?” In Galatians 3:26-27 Paul wrote this answer, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Note that the people he was writing to, were children of God. The means by which they became children of God is by faith in Christ. The way faith acted to put one into Christ was by being baptized into Christ. This is in complete harmony with Romans 6:3-5 where Paul said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” If one is saved in Christ and the way faith works to put us into Christ is by being baptized, how could a person possibly be saved without being baptized?

But what about the two arguments given? First in Acts 10 in the story of Cornelius, the first Gentile being converted to Christ, he received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized? Since the Holy Spirit is given as a sign of salvation this demonstrates that Cornelius and his family were saved before baptism. The first thing that must be noted in this passage is, “Why was the Holy Spirit given to Cornelius and his family?” The Holy Spirit is given to people when they become Christians to show their salvation (Acts 2:38-39). But that is only one of the many reasons the Holy Spirit is given to people. In Luke 1:15 it is said that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.” In that same chapter it is also mentioned that both his mother and father were filled with the Holy Spirit (Verses 41, 67). Would that show that John was saved in his mother’s womb? In order to determine the reason for one being given the Holy Spirit it is necessary to look at how it is used in the context in which it is found. In Acts 10:44-48 it says, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them ‘speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” Notice when the Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter didn’t say, “Well these folks must be saved already since they have received the Holy Spirit like we did.” Instead he said, Since these men have received the Holy Spirit, can anyone withhold water from them in their being baptized? These Jewish Christians at that point didn’t think the gospel was available for the Gentiles. They thought Christianity was just an extension of Judaism. God is showing them He wants all people to be saved and the door of the gospel is open to all.

The second point he made from I Corinthians one, when Paul said, God didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel must again be seen in it’s context. Paul was talking about unity. He pleaded with them to be one and lay aside the petty ideas that divided them from other Christians. He noted that some were calling themselves after Peter, some after Apollos, some after Paul and some after Christ. His question to all of them was, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? In that context he said, “I’m thankful I didn’t baptized many of you so you wouldn’t be taking my name and using it to divide. “God didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the gospel of peace.” Now why did he say that? He wasn’t saying that baptism is unimportant or that it didn’t matter if one was baptized or not. He was saying that God didn’t send him to perform the act of baptizing. He preached and when people wanted to be baptized he had other men to do that work because that wasn’t what God called him to do. The New Testament doesn’t place any emphasis on who does the act of baptizing someone. It instead emphasizes that a person out of faith in the Lord gives themselves to be baptized into Christ. Personally, I very seldom do the act of baptizing another person. Almost always, I’ll have someone else there to carry out the action. So, I might say with Paul, The Lord didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the gospel. But I certainly wouldn’t be saying that I don’t think baptism is essential for our salvation. I just don’t think it matters who does the act.

Question #469 – baptism & christening

On question 468 my friend asked this question Mark 16 verse 16 in my Bible says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” If you read that several times you can’t help but wonder why Mark did not say, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” So, the question remains: Must you believe and be baptized to be saved? Or, must you simply believe? It only says that those that do not believe will be condemned. What about those who believe, but for whatever reason were not baptized? Speaking of baptism, in the Methodist Church you can elected to be immersed if you want when you are baptized. Most do not – they are just anointed with water. I elected to be immersed. I believe my wanting to be immersed came from my Church of Christ background. Also, in the Methodist Church children may be Christened. They are anointed with water, but the parents take the vows for the child until such time as the child is able to make his/her own decisions. I am not an expert on the Methodist Church, but I believe this practice is done so that even small children can be baptized (anointed). Typically when the child reaches an age of understanding and accountability he/she is baptized again.

Leon’s Response

With regard to Mark 16:16 think of the teaching. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.” Why not add “And is not baptized to the part about being condemned?” The reason is simple. Baptism is an action of our faith in Christ. In Galatians 3:26-27 Paul said we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Baptism without faith would be useless. But a faith that refused to be baptized would be empty. Baptism is faith obeying God. There is just no reason to say “and is not baptized”. That certainly doesn’t mean that one who has some faith but refuses baptism won’t be condemned. What kind of faith would one have who refused to obey the command God gives to show our faith in him? If would be like Noah saying I believe, but I won’t build the ark or Abraham saying, I believe but I won’t get up and leave the country and kindred as God said. If we have faith we obey what God tells us to do.

With regard to the christening of a child please understand that the Bible teaches that children are born innocent and that we must be converted and become like little children in order to be saved (Matthew 18:3-5). Baptizing of babies rose out of the false teaching that children are born in sin and if they were not baptized it would mean they were lost if they died in that situation. While Christening in our times largely means a dedication of our child to God, it isn’t something taught in Scripture at all. Each person must decide for themselves when they are mature enough to make the decision what they will do with their Lord. As parents we need to make sure to provide our children a good example of parents who live by faith and who teach our children about God and his will and who encourage them to live their whole lives for God.

As parents we all need the help and encouragement of others to grow for God and we need to be part of a great church that will help us live right and train them right.

Question #470 – punishment for actions?

This was a question from my friend. Have you noticed… when you do something bad… that you get punished from the Lord? Has that happened to you where you noticed it for sure?

Leon’s Response

The thing that I’ve seen in my own life is that I’ve been haunted by my conscience when I’ve done something that I know is wrong. I know that God says “Be sure your sins will find you out” and that Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived God is not mocked. What ever a man sows that will he also reap. He who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption and he that sows to the spirit will reap from the Spirit.”

Question #471 – one wife forever?

I would like to know if an Elder is considered scriptural if he has had a previous wife prior to becoming an elder, but had scriptural grounds to put her away. Also the 1st wife is also deceased. When the bible speaks of husband of one wife, it is not my understanding that it means one wife ever. Please enlighten me on this matter.

Leon’s Response

A literal translation of the phrase “Husband of one wife” would be “A one woman man” or “one devoted to one woman”. It isn’t just the idea that one has only married one woman, but that as a husband one has been true and faithful and devoted to his wife. Some never divorce but are never really devoted to their wives. The points being made in this phrase are that one is to be married to only one woman, not a polygamist. One is to be devoted to the wife he has and true to her. I don’t think it forbids a man serving as an elder whose first wife died or who was married and divorced for a Biblical reason and is now married to one to whom they are devoted. If one has a new wife because of death or scriptural divorce they are still “One woman men”. They aren’t still married to the one who is dead or to the one who was divorced because of unfaithfulness so I can’t see how he would be in violation to what the text says.

Question #472 – how do you know the literal translation?

I was reading your question and answer page. I have a question about your response to #471. How do you know the “literal translation” of the phrase “husband of one wife”? I think it means what it says and says what it means. Why should you teach otherwise  – you have not the authority. It is true in the Old Testament that there was more than one wife but we are living under the New Testament law and that is where I read the qualifications for Elders and Deacons.

Leon’s Response

I certainly believe that it is to be taken literally. The New Testament was written originally in Greek and has been translated into English many different times. The fact we have so many translations and they give us different ways of seeing the passage indicates it isn’t always easy to get the point across meant by the writer. My right to say that the original meant something more comes from looking into the Greek text and research on the meaning of different phrases. But I certainly do not ever want to leave the impression that it isn’t to be taken just as it is. This phrase “Husband of one wife” was used of the elders and the deacons and it is used in reverse of the widow in deed in I Timothy 5:9.

One can’t be married to two women and qualify as an elder or a deacon. So what all is involved in that point. First that it must be a man. Second that it must be a married man. Third that he must have only one wife. Does it mean that if he had been married and his first wife had cancer and died young and he married again that he isn’t qualified because he has had two wives? No, I don’t think so. It didn’t say one that had never been married but once. Does it mean that one who had a wife who was unfaithful to him and he divorced her in line with Matthew 19:9 and married another that he isn’t qualified because of that? No he is still the husband of one wife just as the one whose wife had died.

When I made the statement that the original text also indicated that he must be devoted to one wife I was making a point that the original text was stronger on the point than our English translations show. It not only expresses the having of one wife but that one is devoted to her as his wife. It isn’t just a matter of seeing if one is married but how one lives and acts toward his wife. He might have one wife and treat her horribly or act life she is a slave. That’s not the kind of man needed as a leader in the church. But I don’t want to take anything from the text. I just would like for us to get all from it we can.

Question #473 – unwise to cosign?

I think I heard you say, according to the Bible, co-signing is a sin. I remember when I was a teenager, just graduated from high school, trying to buy my first car, and obviously having no credit history yet, had my parents not co-signed for me, I would have had a rough time. I think about my own kids who will someday likely require me, as their parent, to do the same. Could you please refer me to the scripture and maybe expound a little more on this act being a sin?

Leon’s Response

The passages in Proverbs that I was referring to are Proverbs 6:1-3 and Proverbs 17:18 where Solomon warned against being a “surety” for another person. If you look up the background of this idea of surety you’ll find it means to sign a pledge or co-sign a note saying you will repay if the other person isn’t able. As I said in the class, I’ve done this on some occasions, especially for my children or other family and sometimes even for those in church that needed help. But under normal conditions Solomon tells us it isn’t wise. Like you I’ve had times when I had to have someone to co-sign with me for me to be able to purchase a car. But it is still not something that is wise generally.

On one occasion I co-signed a rather large note for a friend that I felt sure would pay the note and I wouldn’t be in any trouble. But his business went down and he wasn’t able to pay it and I ended up having to pay off a note that was for almost 20,000.00. So, even though I’ve needed that help in the past and even though I’ve done it for family and it worked out fine, I would still have to say that Solomon was correct that it isn’t wise. I think it is wise to never co-sign unless you can afford to pay off the note and your relationship with the other person is so close that you would be willing to give them the money if it became necessary.

Since the Book of Proverbs is a book of wise sayings and not intended to be seen as laws most of the time then one shouldn’t take the teaching as a prohibition from ever co-signing but that it is generally not something that we ought to do.

Question #474 – problems in worship

1 Corinthian 14:33, what does this verse mean? For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Also what was wrong with the Corinthian style of worship?

Leon’s Response

In I Corinthians 14 Paul is discussing specifically the gathering of Christians for worship. Earlier in chapter 11 he had discussed gathering in smaller groups in the first half as he talked about women praying or prophesying with their head uncovered or unveiled. Then he began the discussion of the taking of the Lord’s Supper when the whole church came together in one place and corrected some of their errors in the assembly at that point. Then in chapter 14 after going through a discussion of spiritual gifts and the things that would abide he began to discuss how spiritual gifts were to be used in the assembly and in that discussion to talk about some basic principles for making sure the worship is what it ought to be. Instead of looking at the particular problems let’s look at the general principles he laid down that would fit all times and all circumstances.

First, everything that is done should be done for the building up of the body. He makes this point many times in the discussion. In light of that we must make certain that people can understand what we are doing because they can’t be edified if they don’t understand what is happening. Even the non-Christian or the unlearned Christian ought to be able to understand what is being said and be moved to recognize that they are in the presence of God.

Second, we should remember that the assembly is about the whole group and not just some individual doing their own thing. People have different talents and desires, but we should consider each other. Take turns in what is done. Third, God isn’t the author of confusion but of peace so don’t do things in the assembly that bring about more confusion. Obviously some of the wives of the prophets were breaking into the messages being proclaimed to ask questions. He told them to ask the question after they got home instead of causing trouble and confusion in the assembly. Fourth, let all things be done decently and in order. The worship assembly must not look like a drunken brawl or party. It is a time of devotion and worship to God. Put pleasing Him above all else.

As to the problem in the worship at Corinth it was mainly selfishness that had so many people wanting to do their own thing and not about how they could encourage and build up one another. It showed itself in many ways, from turning the communion into a time for those who had plenty to gorge themselves and make the poor feel even worse to singers wanting to perform before the crowd to tongue speakers wanting to speak whether or not there was anyone there who could interpret what they said. Such selfishness continues to be a major problem in our time and will likely continue in all times.

Question #475 – instrumental music – a salvation issue?

This week’s lesson was very thought provoking. As the text expressed, the way you have to deal with a lot of these issues is to address them head on. I understand that the church doesn’t need to keep stewing on the topic of instrumental music, but I wanted to make a comment and wanted to get your take.

I come from a rural, conservative background. The thought of instruments in the assembly would be damnation to the soul. And I did say the thought of it and not the act 🙂

Over the past years, I have studied and prayed about the issue a lot to determine what the Bible says on the topic. And I agree, the New Testament does not address the use of instrumental music in worship. I know with 100% assurance that God is pleased with the act of my singing. I do know that historical records show that the instrument is first shown to be found in the Roman Catholic Church many years later after the est. of the church and thus the split.

I understand someone’s position that the Bible does not address instruments and thus makes it ok – and I respect that. Can I say that God approves/disapproves that with 100% confidence? I can’t. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Furthermore, it’s not a judgment that I’m willing to pass on anyone else.

However, I think we need to be careful to label things “salvation issues” – Do we have the authority to say if it is or not? I am so glad that it’s not my call. I hear that statement “That’s not a salvation issue” and that really bugs me. I feel that is pompous and a self-righteous statement. We do not have the have the authority to make such a claim. I would liken it to a teacher/student relationship. The student may ask the teacher if a certain question or topic may be on the test. Therefore, the teacher has the authority has to say yes/no to the student because they are the author of the test. We have no ownership.

I know that my God demands not only obedience, but strict obedience. I pray that issues such as these are not salvation issues.

I’m reminded of strict obedience such as – offering a strange fire OR touching the ark of the covenant or Naaman dipping in the river… and wonder sometimes…Are we selling God short sometimes by saying… oh, that’s not a salvation issue… once again, I hope not.

In the final analysis of my study, I wanted to err on the side of what I definitely knew God would approve of.

Leon’s Response

You’ve made some very insightful comments. Like you I wouldn’t be comfortable trying to say what was a salvation issue and what isn’t. One of the major thoughts to keep in mind is the fundamental difference between the Old Law and the New. In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul describes the Old Covenant as a ministry of death written and engraved on stones. He says of himself that he is a minister of the New Covenant, not of the letter but of the spirit for the letter kills but the spirit gives life. For one to study and interpret the New Covenant as though it were just a revised version of the old would be completely wrong. In verses 18 he draws this conclusion. “And we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of our God.” When we read the New Covenant as we should we are looking into the mirror of Christ life and are trying to change our lives to be more and more like His all the time. When we look at the New Law as though it were just another set of laws for us to follow we are in grave danger of missing Jesus in it and missing the very point we are to get. Jesus challenged the scribes for their reading of the Old law saying to them “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have life but they are they that testify of me.” They saw the laws, but missed the Lord.

With regard to the use of the instruments in worship to God, remember a couple of things. In the Old Law the use of the instrument was right, good, and sanctioned by the Lord in the temple worship. In so many of the Psalms David described the worship with the instrument such as Psalms 150. By the time Jesus came on the scene the Jews also had synagogues in just about every town. In the synagogues they didn’t use the instruments in the worship at all. When the church was established it was built on the pattern of the synagogue in its worship and organization. What we are told about with regard to the worship of the church was basically what they did. They prayed, sang, gave of their money, preached the word and took of the Lord’s Supper. The emphasis was on what to do that was right and not on what you shouldn’t do.

Certainly it is right to sing praise to God in our worship without the use of the instrument. The New Testament doesn’t ever say not to use the instrument. But it does tell us to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19). It makes sense to me to do what is mentioned as right without considering adding what isn’t mentioned at all. Is that a salvation issue? I would doubt it simply because I believe the God of grace who wants all men to be saved would be one to state clearly that a thing is forbidden if it would affect where we spend eternity. But of course it isn’t my choice to decide on the matter and I’m glad it’s not.

Question #476 – must you “attend church” at a church building?

A friend of mine e-mailed me this [ an article addressing the belief that one must worship God in a physical building called a church ]. He does not attend church. I’ve been encouraging him to attend church. What do you think? Why Believers should not attend Church.

Leon’s Response

It’s true that church buildings aren’t mentioned in the New Testament at all. It was over two hundred years after the church started that the first church building was built. Churches did often meet in homes during the New Testament times. In Romans 16 and Colossians 4 and the Book of Philemon Paul will mention the church that was in the home of Aquila and Pricilla and the church in the home of Philemon. It is saying too much to say that the church always met in such homes. In Acts 20:20-29 Paul meets in Miletus with the elders of the church from Ephesus. He notes that he had preached to them publicly and house to house. In Acts 20:7 Paul had staying in Troas for 7 days waiting to meet with the church. On the first day of the week the disciples came together to take the Lord’s Supper and Paul preached to them and continued his sermon until midnight. This wasn’t in an ordinary house obviously since a boy was sitting in the 3rd floor window and fell asleep and fell out. In I Corinthians 11:17-ff Paul talked to the church about coming together in one place to take of the Lord’s Supper. He noted that when they took of the communion together they proclaimed the Lord’s death until he comes and each person was to wait on the other in taking. IN Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16 they were commanded to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other and make melody in their hearts to God. In I Corinthians 14 Paul spends the whole chapter talking about what the church is to do when it comes together in one place. They are to build up one another. There was preaching and prophesying so that unbelievers were brought to Christ. He told them to make sure everything was done for edification or building up.

It’s certainly true that one can worship in private situations and in gatherings of people. The place where they met was insignificant. All believers are priest of God (I Peter 2:5, 9). It is true the church early on had daily gatherings. But its also true that by the time Paul wrote I Corinthians they were meeting weekly on the first day of every week (16:1-2) It’s true that one can turn worship into some kind of performance. But to say that proclaiming the gospel wasn’t part of worship is a huge misreading of the text. Just look in a concordance at the word preaching and see how often it is used and what it was used to describe. Has it been abused in our time? You bet your life. But let’s not throw out what is good and right with all the things that have been misused.

Worship on Sunday with God’s people is a vital aspect of serving God and is part of what is mentioned in Hebrews 10:24-25. It’s not the whole of Christian living or even of worship but to say it doesn’t matter or is unimportant is totally wrong. Jesus said in John 4:23-24 that its not about where we worship but that we worship the Father in spirit and in truth. That is the key all the time.

Question #477 – Do we have the gift of prophesy today?

My question comes from Roman 12:6 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given in us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.”  I would like to know first, what is prophesying and secondly; does God continue to impart the gift of prophesy today?

Leon’s Response

In Romans 12 Paul has started his application of the powerful teachings he has given about God and serving God. He challenges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God which is our spiritual service or worship. He tells us not to be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can prove the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. Then he begins applying this concept of devoting our bodies to serve God by noting that as members of the body of Christ everyone of us are given spiritual gifts by God through which we serve him. Prophesy is one of the different gifts. The word literally means to “Speak forth God’s revelation”. Many times it is used when it is clearly speaking of one who has received a direct revelation from God and they speak forth that revelation. In this sense it is a miraculous gift and falls into the category of the things that were meant to cease in I Corinthians 13:8-13. It is also used in the sense of one speaking for the revelation of God that is in His word that one gains by study and mediation on the word. Many times it is extremely difficult to know which way it is being used in a given context.

In the sense of giving people the gift to speak forth God’s revelation that they study and learn (2 Timothy 2:15) it is very much around in our time. In the sense of a direct revelation of God’s will as the apostles received God’s word then it has ceased. It is necessary to look at the context each time the word is used to know for sure.

One thing to remember is that Jesus said in the day of judgment many would come to him saying, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons and in your name do many wonderful works and I will profess unto them ‘I never knew you.” In that same context Jesus spoke of the false prophets and said it was by their fruits one could know them. The apostle John warned us to “Test the prophets to see if they are from God since many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1-3).

Question #478 – Human clone and a soul?

If we were to clone a human today, would they have a soul?

Leon’s Response

Obviously the Bible didn’t deal with this subject in any direct way since the idea of cloning didn’t even originate until recently. But I do think there are some principles that apply. Notice in Genesis 1:26-27 God made man in his own image and likeness both male and female. He gave them dominion over all his creation. In chapter 2 it is said that man was made from the dust of the ground and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. It seems to be the case that God’s breathing into one the breath of life and their becoming a living soul was independent of their body being formed. Now it’s obvious from the stories of Jeremiah and John the Baptist that even in the womb they had a living soul and were called by God to their work as prophets even in the womb. John the Baptist even leaped with joy when Mary the mother of Jesus came to visit Elizabeth his mother. Both babies were still in the womb at the time. But God is the only one who can place the soul or spirit or inner man into a person. When the spirit departs the body is dead (James 2:26). When the dust returns to the earth as it was the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). So, how ever the body comes into being, God places the soul into the body and I don’t believe that the fact one is cloned will make him any less a human formed in the image and likeness of God and in need of salvation.

Question #479 – Women’s role in the church

I read in numerous places what you have said about women’s place in Church yet you have a woman minister. Are you not speaking out of both sides of your mouth?

Leon’s Response

Every Christian is a minister as I understand the Bible. The words “minister”, “servant” and “deacon” all come from the same word. There are some like Timothy whose duty as a minister was preaching, (2 Timothy 4:1-4). But Paul also calls Pheobe a minister in Romans 16:1. The New Testament does place limitations on what God’s woman can do in the assembly. She is allowed to preach (I Corinthians 14:34-35) and she isn’t allowed to teach in such a way as to take authority over a man (I Timothy 2:10-16). We don’t have any women whose ministry involves either preaching or teaching men in any public way. We have a paid minister who works with children and planning the classes and programs for children. I don’t think that violates any teaching I’ve ever done nor does it violate any Scripture.

Question #480 – when did the “Church” begin allowing the “World” to judge it?

I just noticed that Central won the 2008 Best of Little Rock Award in Places to Worship…the explanation states that the US Local Business Association granted the award. My question is when did the “Church” begin allowing the “World” to judge it? I’m very confused because the write up states that the USLBA recognizes “businesses” the USLBA identifies “companies” that have achieved exceptional marketing success and so on. Are we calling ourselves a business? What set Central apart from the other Churches of Christ in the area?

Leon’s Response

We don’t have any association with the group. They run some kind of survey every year about all kinds of things that people rate, I think through the newspaper. All the survey means is that more people who took the survey put down that Central was their choice for the best congregation. It was something they sent to us, but it doesn’t have any great value and we had nothing to do with it at all. While I hope everyone likes the church at central the way they did the church in Jerusalem in Acts 2:47. But how people feel doesn’t have any relationship with how the Lord feels and that is what matters.

Question #481 – what does the Bible say about hair?

I’m curious to know what your thoughts are of 1 Corinthians 11 in reference to hair. I have always heard that it’s shameful for men to have long hair, however, you don’t hear much regarding women’s hair. The scripture points out that the prostitutes had short hair.

Secondly, was this a isolated incident within the church at Corinth and thus has no bearing on us today? I tend to believe the latter. I’ve always thought it strange that traditional (at least the conservative CoCs that I have been a part of) churches really brought home the point to the guys, but failed to mention anything regarding hairstyles for the women or the hair coverings. The hair coverings were the only things that were “written off” as specific to the time. Maybe that seemed it would be a little too uncomfortable to put into practice – at least that was my hypothesis.

Leon’s Response

In the latter half of I Corinthians Paul answers specific questions that the church there has sent to him. Any time you have such specific questions raised, whether it is about eating meats in chapter 8, paying the preacher in chapter 9; eating what had been offered to idols in chapter 10 or the discussion of the veil in the first part of 11 and the communion in the latter part of 11 there are always two things to keep in mind. First there is a principle from which he answers the question and the principle is always binding on all people. The second is that there is a local situation involved that only related to them and the particular problem. In interpreting Scripture it is always our job to see what the principle is and then to see how it applies to situations we face in our time.

We don’t face the same problems they did, concerning eating meats, eating what had been offered to idols, paying the preacher, or what women should wear as they pray and prophesy. But there are principles in all those situations that apply to problems and concerns we still face. The principle that Paul starts with in chapter 12 is that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is man and the head of Christ is God. His primary point was that when Christian men and women come together in study and prayer the godly woman is to always do something to demonstrate her submission to the man. This wasn’t a church assembly. Notice the distinction made between this gathering and when the whole church comes together in one place to take the Lord’s Supper in verses 17-34. The means for them to show subjection was for the women to wear a veil. This was part of the custom of the time and area. He backs up the thought by saying that a woman’s hair was given as a glory to her and that man leaving his hear long was a shame for him. To apply either of these to our time and situation is a misapplication. It was a local custom of the time not a general law. Think of all the men who took the Nazarite vow and weren’t ever to cut their hair.

When men and women gather together to study and pray to God, the godly woman will seek a way of showing submission that fits the time and place where she is. That method would certainly be different if one lived in Iraq or Iran as compared to the United States. But it might be just as different between what was right on the East Coast as compared to the West. The principle is bound. The specific application must fit the time and place.

Question #482 – generational curse?

Question #464 covers generational curse – would this be the same as generational sins? I keep hearing from the same source that as our grandfathers & fathers sinned, we will follow in their footsteps with having the same problems. Let’s say there are five kids in the family. Three of them don’t drink yet the other two are always becoming drunk. Just because, say, their dad was a drinker, does that mean they fall under the generational sin? I have a hard time buying into that. What about the three that have nothing to do with alcohol?

Leon’s Response

Thanks for the question. It is certainly a good one that needs our attention. I’ve been reading in the last few days the books of I and 2 Kings and I and 2 Chronicles. One of the amazing things in these books is how often it will tell of the life of some wicked king and his family who reigned in Israel or Judah, then the very next thing said will be that his son became king in his place and he was a good man that followed in the steps of his father David and did right in the eyes of the Lord. It so often is the case that the next thing it tells is that when he died and his son became king after him that he was wicked and followed in the steps of his father Ahab or Jeroboam. The point is simple, no matter how their father’s or grandfather’s lived they might live in exactly the opposite way before God.

In Ezekiel 33 the prophet talks about God’s ways and how people are always saying that God’s ways aren’t equal. But in his discussion he notes these things. The son will not bear the iniquity of the father, neither will the father bear the iniquity of the Son. The soul that sins will die. The righteousness of the righteous will be upon him and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon him. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and begins to live in sin, his righteousness will be forgotten and he will die in his sins. And if a sinful man turns from his sins to do right the sinfulness he lived will be forgotten and he will be forgiven by God.

We may inherit blue eyes, brown hair, and a crooked smile from our parents or grandparents but not a sinful life. In Hebrews 12:9 it notes that the father of our spirits is God. Who would think we inherit our sin from Him? Sin is a choice we make, not something we inherit.

Question #483 – free will… or not?

You know that’s one thing I always wonder about. Everything that happened was told in advance of it’s happening. It was known that Jesus would be betrayed. It was known that He would have to suffer and die like this before hand. Is it known that certain people will become murderers or bad people. Do people really have a choice about their behavior?

Leon’s Response

This question is one that has been a battleground for believers in Christ throughout the years. God is able to know anything He wants to know. But He is the all-powerful God who can choose not to know what will happen in the future as well as He can choose to know what will happen. When the Children of Israel had gone so far in sin and rebellion against God that they were worshiping idols and were even sacrificing their children to these idols. They would throw their child into the river as an offering to these gods. Through Jeremiah God said to them that what they were doing had never entered His mind.

While God could know what will happen to us with regard to salvation, He does not make the choice for us. Think of the Old Testament book of Jonah. God told Jonah the prophet to go down to Nineveh and prophesy to them that God was going to destroy that wicked city in forty days. Jonah didn’t want to go, but God caused some things to happen in his life that convinced him to go and do what God had said. When he preached to the city, the people began to repent of their sins, from the king on his throne to the lowest servant in the city. They put on sackcloth and put ashes on their heads, and cried out to God for forgiveness. God felt compassion for them and forgave them. He turned away from destroying them because they had repented and the city continued to exist for a long time after this. When God sent Jonah with the message that He was about to destroy them for their sin, did He mean it? Was He really intending to destroy them? Yet when they repented God changed His mind and spared the city. God knew the future with Nineveh. But the people repented and He changed His plans.

God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:4-5). Yet most of the world will reject God and be lost (Matthew 7:13-14). He tells us as His people to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned. God provided the way for all people to be saved and He sends out the message for all people. But each person must decide for themselves what they will do with the gospel. In Acts 2 Peter preached to the multitudes in Jerusalem for Pentecost. When they heard that Jesus whom they had crucified had been raised from the dead and was seated at the right hand of God as Lord and Christ it cut them to the heart and they cried out to Peter and the others, “What shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In verse 40 it says the he continued to plead with them to “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Certainly they nor us could save ourselves in the sense of not need a savior. But since God has made the way through Jesus death on the cross for us to be saved, we can save ourselves in the sense of submitting to God and doing what He wants us to do to be saved.

He saves those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9). He invites those who are weary and burdened down to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He will take our sins away, washing us clean when we come. But He doesn’t force anyone to come to Him. We must decide for ourselves who we will serve.

Question #484 – concern for the lost

How to pray for salvation of others it get discouraging some people have not been to worship in years if at all. also at one time I prayed for salvation of a co-worker/ But he never came to church . and he got killed in cross fire in a bar he took a bullet intended for someone he did not know I often think of that. i send out invitations for people to attend worship By the way I am a member of church of Christ for many years but people never come to worship A lot of stores wont let me invite people I have a secret way I do this. I cry hard over lost people who wont respond.

Leon’s Response

You have asked a great question. It is great that you have a great interest in reaching the lost. Keep in mind a few things on this matter. In I Corinthians 3:5-8 Paul says that he and Apollos are servants through whom the people believed. He planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the seed to grow. Our job is always to plant and water but we must leave the growth to God. Paul in Romans 9:1-5 and 10:1-3 talks about his great desire for the people of his background to be saved. But most of them were not. As much as God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), He does not force salvation on anyone even in response to a Christians prayers. Each person must choose for themselves. Our prayers will cause God to give people opportunities to hear the gospel and come to an obedient faith. But the choice is always theirs. Even with our own children we can only teach them and be a good influence before them. Many times they will choose to go a different way. In Luke 15 Jesus told the story of the loving Father who had two sons. One left to live an ungodly life but came home and made it right later. The other left in his heart and never returned as far as we know. This father is God. He is the perfect father. Yet his sons went astray. David was one of the most godly men in the Bible, but all of his children left God. Keep praying. Keep sharing the gospel. But don’t worry about the results. God handles the growth and we must stay out of His side of it. I hope this is helpful.

Question #485 – marriage not recognized due to adultery?

In question 461, you did not answer the question.  The problem is, my mate was guilty of adultery in his previous marriage, that I was not aware of.  Now as I read God’s word, he doesn’t have the right to remarry in God’s eyes. He is still bound to that marriage as long as she lives. As bad and sad as it may be, God doesn’t recognize our marriage.

Leon’s Response

There is not any thing in the Bible that indicates that God does not recognize a marriage when one is guilty of adultery. The Bible tells us not to put away a mate unless they are guilty of adultery and not to marry the one divorced for adultery but it doesn’t indicate that doing so is impossible or that God doesn’t recognize the marriage when one does. In Matthew 19:9 the implication is that God does recognize the marriage by saying “He that marries the one put away commits adultery”. God never was in favor of polygamy yet he recognized the marriages in those cases even when Solomon had wives by the hundreds. The woman at the well had had five husbands and was now just living with a man. Also, the Bible never teaches the idea that one cannot be forgiven of the sin of adultery. In I Corinthians 6:9-11 he named the unrighteousness that keeps one from the kingdom and adultery was on the list. He tells them “such were some of you. But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God.” God forbids lying, stealing, cheating, jealousy, etc. but it doesn’t mean they can’t be forgiven nor that he doesn’t recognize the things that go on afterward in their lives. There is never a time in Scripture when it speaks of one “Living in adultery”. People commit adultery. The word is used both in the sense of one having sexual relations with one who isn’t their marriage partner and of one who violates the covenant of God. In James 4:4 when he calls those Christians adulterers it wasn’t for sexual sin but for putting others things in the place of God.

The real question isn’t what a person has been guilty of but have they repented of the sin and living faithful to God now. God hates divorce according to Malachi 2. It makes no sense to think that He would require one to divorce someone else to take care of the problem of having divorced.

Think of the fact that divorce was extremely prevalent in the New Testament times. Yet there is not a single example of anyone wanting to come to God in the Book of Acts or any of the epistles who was told they had to divorce their present partner to become a Christian. Such a remedy only came to be suggested hundreds of years after the New Testament was written. One needs to stay out of any sin. But we are all guilty as sinners before God. Anyone can repent of the sin in their lives and be forgiven of it. Repentance is a change of mind and will from sin and Satan to God and serving Him.

Question #486 – Christian’s view of the lottery?

In light of the fact that the Lottery is coming in October (’09) to Arkansas, how should a Christian view this? Is it a sin to participate or is it another issue of moderation versus excess?

Leon’s Response

There isn’t any specific Scripture that deals with gambling or the lottery. I don’t think it would be right for the church to condemn the use of the lottery or those who buy the tickets. The real concern I think is that it is a horrible use of money. While the cause of supporting education is a good thing, it seems to be such a foolish way to accomplish it. Paul Harvey once said that anytime you get the government into a good cause it is like a man receiving a blood transfusion by taking the blood from your right arm, running into your left arm and spilling half of it on the way. The fact that so many people who purchase the tickets can’t really afford them makes it even sadder to me. If one ever takes the time to figure how unlikely they are to win anything it demonstrates what a foolish investment it really is. One would be many, many times better off to take the same dollars and put them into a savings account where they would accumulate over time and be worth something.

Scriptures like Romans 12:1-2 about not conforming to the world and I Thessalonians 5:21-22 about putting all things to the test and holding on to the good and abstaining from all forms of evil could be used on such things. But I would suggest that it more likely fits into the category of Romans 14 as a matter of conscience. If it bothers ones conscience it would be wrong to do it. But it is also wrong to judge others on such matters or make a big issue in the church about it. We too often get caught up in making a big deal out of pretty insignificant things and fail to carry out the great commission. Personally, I wouldn’t purchase a ticket. I wouldn’t ever advise anyone else to either. But I wouldn’t say that it is sinful either.

Question #487 –  suffering in temptation

Sometimes in studying the Word, you discover something you have never seen before, never read about in any book or heard in any sermon. For me, this discovery was in regards to suffering. Suffering, to me, has always referred to 1- physical suffering, either by man or Christ, or 2- emotional suffering, either by man or Christ. I believe now there is a third category. Our suffering in temptations, not only ours, but the suffering in temptation of Jesus. Heb. 2:18 says that Jesus suffered when He was tempted. I’ve always known that Christ suffered on the cross, but suffering in temptation? If temptation caused Jesus to suffer, why am I not going to suffer in temptation? I am. So how do I deal with this suffering? Heb. 4:15 says He sympathizes with our weaknesses, because He’s been there and done that. I believe Jesus’ temptations were throughout His life, not just on the mountain with the Devil. Jesus suffered through temptations and always said no to those temptations, but He suffered. And it was in those temptations, in that suffering, that He learned obedience. (Heb. 5:7-10). Well, if an alcoholic is tempted by booze and he says no to it–I believe he is suffering. When he takes a drink, I believe he stops suffering, but if he doesn’t take that drink–I believe that “for a time” or “for a season” he is suffering. When someone is angry about something, and he bites his tongue and says nothing, I believe he is going through an type of suffering, and in time if he holds his tongue, his anger subsides. When someone is addicted to pornography and says no to that addiction, I believe he is suffering, and in time if he continues to say no, his temptation will subside and the suffering will diminish. When someone is a gossiper and desperately wants to impress a friend with a juicy piece of questionable facts, I believe he too is suffering–it is killing him not to tell what he knows–but in time the …

Leon’s Response

I think your thoughts were cut off before you finished what you were saying. I believe you are right in your analysis on suffering. Let me suggest you go ahead and read I Peter with your present thoughts in mind. Peter specially talks about the suffering we go through because we are Christians. In Chapter 2:20-25 he encourages us to suffer for good not for doing wrong. He tells us that Jesus left us an example in his suffering and that we are called to suffer for good, following his footsteps. It is amazing to me to think that God calls us to suffer for Him. In chapter 4 beginning in verse 12 he said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler, yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” Then in verse 19 he said, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

All of this indicates that we not only suffer for temptations when we resist them, but that we suffer as Christians because of our doing good and following Christ. God leads us into suffering at times for our good. Also, consider 2 Corinthians 12 when Paul received the thorn in the flesh so that he would not glory in his visions and revelations from God. When he asked God to take them away, God told him no that his strength was perfected in weakness. So Paul gloried in his weakness knowing that when he was weak, he was strong. Two other passages that I struggle with are Philippians 3:10 when Paul wants to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, to share in his suffering. And in Colossians 1:24 where he said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church.”

As you delve into the whole theme you might want to get the book by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Bland on the blessing of pain. I can’t remember off hand the exact name of it. But it is a powerful book on paid and its benefits to us. Dr. Bland spent most of his life working with people with leprosy.

Question #488 – a new earth rather than annihilation?

It has always been my belief that when Jesus returns the dead in Christ and those alive in Christ will meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4-5). At this event, the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3). However, based upon Rom 8:21-23, some make the argument that the earth will not be annihilated, but rather purified and become the “new earth” discussed in Revelation. What is your take?

Leon’s Response

Thanks for your question.

It is certainly one that has brought lots of discussion in the last few years. I have struggled with Romans 8:21-23 on this point. The thing that keeps ringing back to me is that you always need to interpret difficult and indefinite passages in light of the very clear statements in Scripture. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 does seem clear to me and it fits well with the things said by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 that when Jesus comes with all his holy angels all nations will be gathered before him for separation and those on the right are told to come inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the earth. Also, Jude 14-16 tells of Enoch’s prophesy that Jesus coming with 10,000 of his saints to execute judgment on all the ungodly. In I John 3:1-4 John tells us that when Jesus comes we will be changed and our bodies will become like his. He declares we don’t know how we will appear at that time, but we know that he will appear and we will be like him. Philippians 3:20-21 declares we are citizens of heaven from which we look for a Savior, the Lord Jesus who will transform our lowly bodies to be fashioned like his glorious body. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 Paul pictures the second coming when he will come with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who don’t know God and don’t obey the gospel who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. “When he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”

All these different text have some things in common. Jesus is coming. All will be raised (John 5:28-29). All will be judged at that time and the result will be eternal punishment or eternal blessings. The final reward will be the extension of his kingdom forever (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Peter 1:5-11). The phrase “new heaven and new earth” is used several times in the Bible, and generally means “dwelling place”.

There are things that do look like the eternal heaven being on this earth in a renewed setting as per Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3. Revelation 21:1-ff does picture heaven coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. But it is obvious from this passage that many of the things said are figurative and not literal. It seems to me that the evidence points to this earth being destroyed and the new earth and new heaven being a place for the immortal and incorruptible. (I Corinthians 15:20-48). But it seems more significant that God’s emphasis wasn’t on where or even on what will happen to the earth, but on the fact the Lord will come and the judgment will happen and all will receive an eternal reward, rather than on where it will be and what life will be like in that place. It seems to me that the clearest statement of what lies beyond is Luke 16:19-ff in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It is obvious they went to some kind of punishment or reward immediately upon death, since he still had five brothers on the earth. If it turns out that heaven is on earth and God remakes it for us as an eternal dwelling that will be wonderful. But if it is something we ascend to and meeting the Lord in the air we go on to the place prepared, that will also be wonderful. I sure want to be one of the ones who goes wherever the Lord is. If God, Christ and The Holy Spirit are in any place along with all the redeemed and all the holy angels, that will be heaven. If they are absent from any place that will be hell.

Looking back now to Romans 8:18-25, all of creation has been affected by sin and goes through the futility of a world in waiting. As we suffer waiting from the redemption of the body, the creation suffers waiting for the glory of the Lord and the fulfillment of God’s promises. As we live in hope, so all creation exist in hope, having not fulfilled the plan God made it all for. The earth waits the day that it can be the Garden of Eden as a wonderful place for people to live and be with God enjoying life to the fullest. Does that mean that Garden will be reestablished here? I don’t think so. I think it isn’t the place involved but the plan of God for all creation.

Question #489 – Passover or Day of Preparation?

What is your view of when Jesus was crucified; Passover (Sabbath) or the Day of Preparation? Are there other possibilities?

Leon’s Response

It seems to me that the evidence is stronger for it being the Day of Passover. In John 13:1 he met with the disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover and said that his hour had come. Luke also mentions that they gather that night to celebrate Passover and told of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. It was later that night when he was arrested and early the next morning when he was taken to Pilate and later crucified. Following the Jewish time scale of 6:00 to 6:00 they celebrated that night at Passover’s beginning and he was arrested and tried through the night, crucified the next morning. John’s mention of the next day being a high Sabbath probably is significant.

There are many different ideas on all of it. And there are difficulties in just about every idea. But it seems to me that the significance of Jesus being the Passover lamb pushes every other possibility aside. He was fulfilling what Passover had signified all along.

Question #490 – Forgiveness

Please add this comment to my previous question. Is it possible that the definition of forgiveness for I Cor. 5 tied to II Cor. 2:5-11 is to “fellowship”, and the definition of forgiveness for Mark 11:25 and Luke 11:4 is to “release, not hold against, not be angry toward” basically to forgive in the sense we think of forgiveness. If this word can mean two slightly different things in two contexts, then I could drop the “fellowship” definition into Luke 17:3-4. Are there other occasions you know of where the same Greek word can mean different things?

Leon’s Response

Richard it’s good to hear from you. I must not have received the first question you refer to or I don’t remember it one. About the words for “forgiveness”. There are three different Greek Words translated “Forgive” in the New Testament. One of those is the word used in 2 Corinthians 2. According to A Critical Lexicon and Concordance by Bullinger the different words have these different meanings. Charizomai (2 Corinthians 2) means “To do a person a favor, be kind to. In the N.T. sense of Chris, it denotes, to be gracious to; to give or bestow a thing willingly or graciously, hence, the meaning peculiar to the N.T. To graciously remit a person’s debt or sin; hence to pardon, forgive graciously.” Athinui (the word used in both the Mark and the two Luke passages means: “To send away, dismiss, to set free. To express the discharge or acquittal of a defendant, whether the appellant is non-suited by verdict or otherwise, esp. to remit the punishment, where the guilty person is dealt with as if he were innocent.”

The third word, not used in any of the passage referred to but is used in Luke 6:37 twice and in Luke 7:42 is apoluo, “to let loose from, to loosen, unbind; set at liberty, e.g. a debtor, hence, overlook, forgive.”

As you see there is some overlap in each of the words but there is a basic concept in the use of each word. Your explanations on the different passages is good and is a good illustration of the different words used. As to the question of examples of one Greek word being used in more than one way in different context there are many examples of such. One simple example would be the word “Church” from ecclesia. Context must determine whether it is used of a gathering with no religious background to it as in Acts 19:32; or about the church as a whole in Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23 and many others, or it may be used of the assembly of Christians as in I Corinthians 11:17-24 and I Corinthians 14. The context is always the best means of determining how any word is used at a given time.

Question #491 – Forgiveness without repentance?

Please help me reconcile Mark 11:25 which seems to say if I hold anything against ANYONE, I should forgive them, and Luke 11:4 which says forgive us

our sins and we forgive EVERYONE who sins against us. Help me reconcile those two verses with Luke 17:3-4 which says IF he repents forgive him. This implies if he doesn’t repent I should not forgive him. I think Luke 17 is saying repentance demands forgiveness (and quite frankly, from Mark and Luke, I should forgive ANYONE and EVERYONE) II Cor. 2 muddies the water even more when Paul tells the Corinthians to forgive the man who repented from the sins of I Cor. 5. I’m not so sure they shouldn’t have already forgiven that man. It seems like we can rebuke a brother in sin, and at the same time forgive him for past offenses and yet judge him to be lost for future offenses. Quite frankly the more I think about this the more confused I get.

Leon’s Response

All right now I understand the other e-mail better after getting this one that was written first. Jesus is always our best example of what we should do in given situations. He did confront people when they were in sin as he did in Matthew 16 with Peter and told him he was minding the things of the devil and not of God. He also often forgave people before they did anything to indicate forgiveness as in Mark 2 with the man let down through the ceiling. Jesus said to him “Your sins are forgiven.” It made the religious leaders mad so they said, “He is blaspheming. No one can forgive sins but God.” Jesus declared, “Which is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven or to say arise take up your bed and walk, but that you may know the son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say, arise take up your bed and walk.” And the man did. On the cross he prayed “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.” But when we read Acts 2 Peter told many of the same ones they needed to repent and be baptized to have the forgiveness of sins.

I think by looking at Jesus actions along with His words the implication is this. We should be forgiving people who don’t hold a grudge against anyone. We should care so much for a person that when they sin we care more about them repenting and being forgiven by God than we fear hurting their feeling so we rebuke the one who sins. Since we have no ability to see into a person’s heart as He did, when anyone says they repent we should freely forgive them. Our forgiving the person doesn’t mean that God has forgiven them because God knows the heart and knows if the repentance is real or just pretending. We should pray for the guilty even when they aren’t thinking about repentance that they may be forgiven with view to God bringing about situations in their life which would lead them to repent. As a church or as a Christian our place is to be so forgiving that any indication of repentance would be sufficient for us to forgive and begin treating the person as if they had not sinned at all. If it turns out the repentance isn’t for real the deeds will show it in time and we are to begin again with rebuking the person and going so far that we would take others with us to confront them and even go to the church as a whole about the matter so the whole church may pray for the person and confront them about their sin. If that doesn’t lead to repentance the church should withdraw from them to try to get them to see what their sin is doing to them.

Question #492 – Is life fair?

Is life fair?

Leon’s Response

From a human standpoint life isn’t fair at all. Read the Book of Job and see the most righteous man of the time being put through so many trials. He didn’t think it was fair at all. What we must keep in mind is that many things will not be made right in this life. This life is intended by God to be about our relationship with Him and not about us having good health and success in this life. What we must remember is that God is working in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:26-30). His goal is that we will be conformed to the image of His son. It is often the trials and problems of life that help us most to become more like Him.

Question #493 – Two questions in one…

The John who was at Jesus’ crucifixion, was he of any kin to Jesus?

After Saul’s conversion did he spend any time preparing himself to spread God’s word?

Leon’s Response

It is possible that John and his brother James were cousins of Jesus.

After Saul’s conversion he went down into Arabia according to Galatians 1:15-17. After he returned he went to Jerusalem for a couple of weeks and didn’t get a very good reception and was sent back to his home town of Tarsus where he stayed until Barnabas went after him and brought him back to Antioch to work alongside him with the new congregation made up of Gentiles in that city. They stayed there and worked together for a year before the Holy Spirit called them to begin their missionary journeys (Acts 11:25-30; 13:1-4).

Question #494 – Wrong to have a choir?

Do you believe it’s wrong to have a choir in church – no musical instruments – just a choir?

Leon’s Response

In the Old Testament worship in the temple there were choirs and bands. When Nehemiah had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and started the worship back to God in the temple he chose singers and people to play different instruments in their worship. In the New Testament there is no mention of either a choir or a band. The places where singing is mentioned in I Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16, 17; Hebrews 2:12 and I Corinthians 14:26 it is noted that they sang praise to God in the assembly. They were to sing with the Spirit and the understanding. They were to teach and admonish one another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord.

It is obvious from both the Ephesians and Colossians passages that every one was to be involved in the singing so that they sang and taught one another. The concern we have shouldn’t be to do the same things they did in the first century but to be sure that we do all the things that the New Testament says we are to do in singing as worship to Him. If a choir were there to help the congregation sing praise to God it wouldn’t violate any Scriptural teaching. If it is used to sing for the people it doesn’t fulfill what we are told to do. We aren’t to just listen to singing but to sing. But I don’t think that means we must sing every word that is sung or it would be wrong to have different parts in singing where one group led for a section. The New Testament seems to me to place much more emphasis on what is sung that anything else since it is a way of teaching one another.

We must be sure that what we sing teaches what is right. Then we must take the words of the song into our heart and be changed by it.

Question #495 – Sin defined

Is there such a thing as mortal and venial sins? Are there sins known as the 7 deadly sins?

Leon’s Response

I think the two concepts you are thinking of are dealt with in Proverbs 6:16-19 where it tells of the seven sins that God hates that have been referred to as the 7 deadly sins. The other is answered in I John 5:16-17 where John says we are to pray for a brother who is guilty of a sin that doesn’t lead to death. But there is a sin that leads to death and we aren’t to pray about that. In light of I John 1-7-10 where we are challenged to walk in the light and God will cleans all our sins and told that we all sin and if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, the sin that doesn’t lead to death is the one a person will confess. The one that leads to death is the one a person will not confess.

Question #496 – Supporting orphans unscriptural?

I have been told that to help with orphans homes out of the church money is wrong use of the Lord’s money. Do you agree it is not scriptural?

Leon’s Response

No I absolutely do not agree. In James 1:27 we are told that pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unspotted from the world. In Galatians 6:10 we are told to do good for all, especially the household of faith. Just a few verses before that statement he told those who had received the gospel to support those who preached it to them (Galatians 6:6). It’s in the same context.

I wonder if the one who told you that would say that it is wrong to give money to a preacher out of the church treasury. In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 Paul talked about the contribution being raised among the Gentile churches for the benefit of the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. The churches of Macedonia had given generously to help even more than they were able to do. (8:1-7) In chapter 9:12-13 he told them how thankful the people were for the gifts already given and for their generosity to “them and for all others.” The “them” refers to the saints in Jerusalem. “All Others” refers to those who were not Christians who were helped. In I Timothy 5:1-16 Paul taught Timothy how to teach the church in Ephesus about the care of widows. First, he was to teach families to take care of their own when there was family. “If a man does not provide for his own, especially his own family he denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” He said the church should only take one in for constant support who was a widow in deed. She had to be at least 60 years old, married only once, had to have relieved the afflicted and shown hospitality and washed the saint’s feet. In verse 16 he again stated the principle that if a widow had family they should take care of them and not let the church be charged so the church could take care of widows in deed or widows who didn’t have anyone else.

Since James 1:27 said pure religion is to visit or care for orphans and widows, would there be a different plan for taking care of orphans than widows? God didn’t say how we were to do the job. He commanded that we do it. For anyone to say that we can’t take money from the treasury of the church to support the care of orphans and then not personally take orphaned children into their own home to care for them is the very essence of hypocrisy. If people take them into their own homes, I think that would be the very best thing. But that isn’t always possible. The church must follow the example of Jesus Christ and take care of those who hurt or we really aren’t His church at all.

Question #497 – Kitchen unscriptural?

Do you think that having a kitchen in the building or a part of the church site is unscriptural use of the Lord’s money, and by some brethren called the social gospel, and will it cause the brethren to be lost?

Leon’s Response

The Bible never mentions anything about church buildings of any sort. The early church met in homes, public places, and later in caves to hide from the Roman authorities. It was almost 300 years after the church began before there is any record of a church building a building for worship. Also there is no mention in the New Testament of a church even having a treasury. The closest thing to it is in I Corinthians 16:1-2 where Paul told them to “Lay by in store on the first day of the so there would not be a need to gather up the money after he arrived there.” While this could refer to them putting in a treasury together, it is just as likely that each Christian was to save the money to bring it to Paul the the others when they arrived in Corinth to go on to Jerusalem.

The answer then must be found in what a church is supposed to do. The reason a church has the right to build a building at all is that we are commanded to meet together (Hebrews 10:25) and it is an expedient way for us to meet. But it would be just as right for us to rent a place to meet or any other means of finding a place for us to gather. From Acts 2:42 the church and its new members were to continue in the apostles teaching, in fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. As one reads on through verse 47 it is obvious that they got involved quickly in taking care of each other where there was a need. They met together in different houses with joy and gladness and broke bread or ate together in doing so. The Lord added those who were saved to the church. In the first century church it was common for people when they met in homes for worship to have a meal together referred to as a “love feast” and in the midst of doing so to take of the Lord’s Supper together. That is what Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 11:17-ff. He corrected them for not caring about one another and being selfish in those times. Some were leaving hungry while others were leaving stuffed. He told them that such division among them wasn’t right. In that context he asked, “What, do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Why are you bringing shame on the church of God?” Some have taken that phrase to mean that one shouldn’t eat in the church building and that they should only do such eating in their homes. When you realize that it was in homes where they were meeting for worship, it quickly becomes obvious that such teaching is mistaken. If it were wrong to eat in a church building it would also be wrong to drink in one.

The truth it the building is only a place where the church meets. It is holy, sacred or different from any other building. It is what we do in worship to God that matters, not where we do it. Remember in John 4:23-24 when the woman asked Jesus whether the mountain of Gerazim was the right place to worship or was Jerusalem the right place. He told her that at that time it was Jerusalem but the time was upon when it wouldn’t b e either one. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is seeking for such true worshipers.” In the Book of Acts the church met in Synagogues, on the river bank, in a school and wherever else they could find.

I would encourage you to read and think about Romans 14 where Paul talks about how to deal with things that have not been legislated in Scripture and on which people who love God have different opinions. He told them to accept each other, but not to discussions over doubtful matters. He told them not to judge one another since we are all the Lord’s servants and he will do the judging. He said that those who worry about what they can eat are weak in faith but God would still save them. The kingdom isn’t about food and drink but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. “Pursue the things that make for peace and for building one another up.” If something bothers our conscience we shouldn’t do it. But we must not bind our conscience on others and we must not judge those who differ.

Finally, read I Timothy 4:1-5 where Paul talked about people falling away because they were teaching doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy and their conscience was seared with a hot iron. Notice what it was that was so awful. They were “forbidding people to marry and commanding people to abstain from meats that God had created to be received with thanksgiving.” There is nothing wrong with anyone not marrying and nothing wrong with anyone not eating meat. Yet for one to make a law on the matter and bind it on others was not only wrong, it led people away from God. Making a law about what a church can do in a building that the Bible says nothing of to begin with or what we can put in such a building is wrong.

Question #498 – Is the Bible really the Word of God?

On what do you base the idea that the Bible is the ‘word of God’? From my studies it seems that it is a collection of Christian writers, not necessarily the apostle to which they are ascribed. It seems to me that these can be valuable teachings for Christians to read but not the actual word of God.

Leon’s Response

First, I say that the Bible is the word of God because that is what it says of itself. In 2 Timothy 314-17 Paul writing to his young friend Timothy said, “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness so the man of God is completely equipped, for every good work.” In Hebrews 4:12 it says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In 2 Peter 1:20-21 Peter declared, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Later in chapter 3:14-16 Peter refers to things Paul had written by the wisdom given him as Scripture.” In Ephesians 3:1-4 Paul said God had given him a stewardship of His grace so that the mystery that had been hidden for ages might be made known. He said it was made known to him by revelation and he wrote it down so that those who read what he wrote could understand it.

Beyond the claim to be the word of God, the message given us through the different writings give evidence of being from God. The Bible was written by over 40 different people over a period of over 1500 years, yet the message runs throughout of God’s love for us and desire for our salvation. All through the Old Testament the phrase is common, “The Word of the Lord came to me.” Especially in Books of prophesy such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel God speaks through the prophets to correct or encourage His people. Often the information given is beyond anything they could have known on their own. Read Isaiah 40 and see if you think a man living 2600 years ago would have known it. In the Book of Daniel God tells Daniel what empires were going to arise through the next 6oo years. He told of the Babylonian empire that was powerful at the time, and after them would be the Medo-Persian empire that Darius the king of Media and Cyrus the king of Persian would join together to conquer Babylon. After them would arise the Greek Empire under Alexander the great and he even told how it would be split among four leaders none of which would be his offspring. After then the Roman Empire would arise to conquer the known world. (Daniel chapters 6-8).

The Bible strongly condemns dishonesty both in the Old and New Testament. Why would one who was making a false claim that he was speaking under God’s leadership condemn what he was doing? The whole message of Scripture goes against all the prejudices that were common at the time. For example, Jews and Gentiles had strong hatred of each other, yet the commission of Jesus was to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. In Ephesians 2:12-21 it is said that God has torn down the wall between us and brought both Jew and Greek together in one body by the cross. In that day wives were considered property for the man, yet the New Testament says that now there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female but you are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28).

Finally, there are parts of the Bible that are given by revelation in which the writer tells or preaches things that they didn’t understand and sometimes didn’t believe (I Peter 1:10-12). That was the case when Peter preached to the multitudes in Acts 2 and said the promise of God was “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord would be saved. He said, the promise is for you, your children and all who are far way, as many as the Lord, our God shall call (Acts 2:38-40). Yet in chapter 10 God had to prove to Peter that the Gentiles could be saved.
Inspiration is not the same as revelation. Inspiration refers to God’s leading and guiding the writer or speaker in what they say. Many times an inspired person would tell of things they were very familiar. Inspiration isn’t dictation. It is guiding the person in what to say. Inspiration works through the mind and personality of the one writing. It keeps one on the message God wants delivered.

Question #499 – Anti-church?

I have been told there is a church of Christ that is called anti-church. Do you know what there teachings are?

Leon’s Response

The words anti church have been applied to different groups of people who are opposed to something that others think is right. It isn’t a name that anyone would accept for themselves yet it could be applied to any church because every church is opposed to something.

Among the churches of Christ there have been groups who are against having Bible classes, to those opposed to missionary societies, to those opposed to the use of instrumental music in worship and to those who are opposed to congregations supporting orphan homes out of the treasury, or congregations cooperating to support a missionary and even to people opposed to eating in a church building. So you see that anyone could be called anti, since it just means to be against something.

The same kind of thing has been done by calling different churches “liberal” which means in our language a church that is willing to do things we don’t approve of. That isn’t a correct use of the word, since liberal actually refers to one who rejects the Bible as the authority. When two people disagree on something said in Scripture but both believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and the authority for us to follow, it doesn’t mean that either is liberal but that they disagree.

Neither liberal or anti is being used in a kind or complimentary way. It is used as a way to label people we disagree with. Such labeling has brought about tremendous harm and lots of division in the body of Christ. We aren’t God and can’t see another person’s heart.

Question #500 – Why so many churches?

We all believe in Jesus. So why is there so many different churches/denominations?

Leon’s Response

There are so many different answers to your question. Many of the different groups have very different views or beliefs about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Many see Jesus as just a good man, a prophet but not as God in the flesh as the Bible teaches in such Scripture as Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3, 14-17; Colossians 2:9.

Also the cause of much of the divisions goes back to different attitudes toward the Bible. While it claims to be God’s very word, inspired and trust worthy in all situations in Scriptures such as 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Then many of the different groups do truly believe in Jesus as Christ and Savior and the Bible to be inspired of God but disagree over some basic doctrines or sometimes they have divided over insignificant matters and personal differences. It is sad that people who do have similar beliefs and faith yet can’t get along with each other. Some make laws on matters of opinion or conscience and separate from everyone who won’t submit to their notions. If we all really followed Jesus and His teachings in places like John 17:20-21; 13:34-35 or to the writings of Paul in I Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-6.

With all the challenges the followers of Christ face today from all sides it is certainly time that we tear down the walls between us. But there can be no coming together with those who reject Jesus as Christ and the Bible as God’s Word. Such a faith wouldn’t be worth having. It would just be a man-made faith with man trying to be his own God.

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