What is a pastor and how does one become a pastor?

(Answered on 10/24/2015 Program)

Ephesians 4:11-12  11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

We see here pastors are among a list of specific roles God gave to accomplish things with the saints and church (verses 12-13). Common ideas of what a Pastor is can include the one who gives sermons, minsters to the members of a church, and is a leader of a congregation. Some might understand it to be a title given to someone with special religious training or a title like Reverend that shows respect. Let’s look to the actual definitions of some Biblical terms to see if we can validate these ideas that the term pastor evokes:

Definitions

  • Pastor: from the Greek word poimēn, meaning “a herdsman or shepherd of animals, also an officer or manager of an assembly” (See Strong’s number G4166). Metaphorically, it describes one who oversees an assembled group of Christians and is most often translated shepherd.
  • Elder: from the Greek word presbyteros, meaning “advanced in life (older) or having a rank” (See Strong’s number G4245). Elder is also translated bishop and presbyter. It was used by the Jews and by Christian to describe a mature man who presided over others.
  • Overseer: from the Greek word episkopos, meaning “a man with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly” (See Strong’s number G1985)

The definition of the term pastor depicts one of leadership and oversight of others just as a shepherd would guide sheep. Of the only two leadership offices that are defined in the New Testament (Overseer and Deacon), a Pastor would correspond to an Overseer. Paul gave detailed qualifications for an Overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and a very similar qualifications in Titus 1:5–9 that uses the term Elder.

These three terms are almost synonymous in the role they define, but describe different aspects just as we see God is given different names to describe different things about Him (Elohim: “power”, Adonai: “Master”, Yahweh-Jireh: “The Lord Will Provide”, etc.). Elder would suggest maturity and wisdom, Overseer describes the administrative responsibility of a leader, and Pastor suggests the care for and responsibility over others. Peter, who Jesus called to feed His sheep, (John 21:15-17), included the responsibility to sheperd (Strongs number G4165) and exercise oversight (Strongs number G1983) in exhorting the elders to serve God willingly

1 Peter 5:1-2, 5 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.(NASB)

Qualifications Of A Pastor

We’ve got a high-level look at what a “Pastor” is, though let’s look at scripture to know what is required to become a Pastor/Elder/Overseer. God has given specific qualities a man must have grown to obtain to accept this role as an elder. Note the extent of qualities God expects the Overseers are to have:

1 Timothy 3:1-7  1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (NASB)

Here are the qualifications of Elders:

Titus 1:5-9 5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (NASB)

Looking at the broad aspects of life that are included in the qualities God expects, what is clear is that an elder is to be characterized by maturity and integrity. These types of qualities only come from many years of love for God’s ways and service to others they are to guide. So to become an elder, one must be a man who is married with children and show diligence to acquire these virtues and character conveyed in these passages. When we realize how great their responsibilities are and how they will be held to a higher standard as teachers (James 3:1), we can understand how important these attributes are. They even are held accountable for the souls of those under their oversight:

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NASB)

Acts 20:28  Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (NASB)

These days many assume a pastor must have a theological education to be “qualified”, but these passages say nothing of a formal education but rather those virtues any man can acquire with God. Certainly, some mature Jewish converts may have become elder with a background of religious traditions and guidance from God’s laws, though this is not a requirement seeing Peter was a fisherman (Acts 4:13).

Proper Titles

Often some will call a preacher or teacher of God’s word a Pastor. A pastor may very well preach the Gospel of Christ and teach as they are to be able to do (2 Timothy 2:24), but because one preaches or teaches does not mean they would qualify as a pastor/elder. Have you seen some young preacher fresh out of college called “Pastor”? It is possible he is married and may even have young children, but it is not likely he meets the qualifications God requires of an elder man.

Most understand that a Pastor is one who leads, teaches, serves the members of the body, yet by tradition we mistakenly call some “Pastor” who do not meet the qualifications for that office. There will be cases where mature men are qualified and accomplishing many of the duties of a pastor but have not been installed as an elder. There may also be young men truly serving a community that have been expected to fulfill the many duties of an elder but just aren’t as well equipped as they might at a later stage in life. Just as you would not call a student teacher a “professor” or call an apprentice a “Master Artisan”, we would not want to give titles that God would see as inappropriate.

Even Christians may accept titles and responsibilities when we aught not. For men who love titles and being elevated over others, Jesus gives these words:

Matthew 23:8-12 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Some have a tradition of calling religious leaders “Father” while Jesus speaks against this. The word “leader” in this passage translated “guide, master or teacher” (Strong’s number G2519) indicates only Christ should be the founding head of our religion. Even Paul’s rebuke of those who called themselves disciples of certain teachers (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) which should be a caution to us who are enamored with a charismatic teacher or follow after a religion named after some person. Consider how problematic the term denomination is considering Paul’s rebuke of division.

Jesus describes as all as brothers while some make distinctions of clergy and laity as though there are different classes of people in the church. While God gives distinct roles (Ephesians 4:11-12) and some are to be given special honor (1 Timothy 5:17), God wants all to have the humble view of self as all just members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Some will also say only a select few were “Saints” as having greater piety whereas by definition, all Christians/believers are holy and thus called “saints” (Strong’s number G40).

Simply Servants

Pastors are essentially believers who are recognized as men who have grown to be mature Christians. As Christ came to serve and act as an example of loving service to others (John 13:5-17), so too the elder is one having those traits of a servant that make them suitable to guide other Christians in their walk. God has purpose for Pastors as with the various other roles He’s designated for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. God’s design is for the church to grow and in time, to be organized with multiple elders (not just one) once men are found to be qualified.

Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (NASB)

My pastor says we should tithe. What does the Bible say?

(Answered on 10/17/2015 Program)

Tithing is a Hebrew term sometimes used today to describe the Christian’s giving money to the congregation they attend. While it is used twice in the New Testament to describe the religious payments made by Jews to the temple (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42), we want to know if this term is used in the various passages that instruct Christian’s about giving.

Let’s first look at tithing in the Old Testament the Lord said He was due:

Leviticus 27:30-34 30 ‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32 For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.’” 34 These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai. (NASB)

There are several interesting details here but notice that a tenth of the sustenance from the land and even live stock were to be dedicated to the Lord (holy – set aside for a purpose). These were commandments for the Israelites to keep.

Definitions

  • Tithe: from the Hebrew ma’aser, meaning “A tenth part or payment of a tenth” (See Strong’s number h4643). The corresponding Greek term used in Matthew 23:23 is apodekatoō, having a similar meaning as it relates to the Old Testament law calling for giving a tenth (See Strong’s number G586)
  • Holy: from the Hebrew qodesh, meaning “set-apartness, sacredness, separateness” (See Strong’s number H6944). In this context of giving, their offerings were to be designated for the sacred uses of the Lord.

We learn more about how this gift from the people was to be used in Numbers:

Numbers 18:21-24 21 “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. 22 The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. 23 Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’” (NASB)

God explains His arrangement to support the Levite tribe and those of the Levitical priesthood was to give them the tithe (the tenth given to the Lord). The Levite tribe did not receive the inheritance of land and possessions the other 11 tribes would, but they would have the offering to the Lord for their use because they were responsible to serve in worship activities (in the tent of meeting). While some suspect the combined amount given in tithing for various things could have totaled more than 10%, it appears the amount God specified for giving was in principal 10%.

Are We Bound To The Old Law?

This tithe offering was mandatory (commanded) under the old law and was for the particular purpose to fulfill the need to support the Levites serving in worship. This might appear like an example for Christians (God’s people) to support those serving in worship (preachers, teachers, pastors, etc.) with the giving of 10% of their possessions (tithing). Giving 10% as seen in the old law is a reasonable guide to know what God has historically expected of His people, yet is this specified in the new law that replaced the old law (Hebrews 8:13)?

Under the old law that God had Moses deliver to His people, it required animal sacrifice (Leviticus 9:3-4), scheduled feast days (1 Chronicles 23:30-31), extensive process for cleansing the sick (Leviticus 14:1-32), restrictions on types of animals that could be eaten (Leviticus 11:1-47), and several passages regarding tithing among many other religious ordinances. But the new testament doesn’t call for priests from the Levite tribe or tithes to support them since this priesthood was replaced with the superior high priest (Jesus) and new law:

Hebrews 7:11-12 11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. (NASB)

The book of Hebrews discusses how Jesus was a unique type of priest of the order of Melchizedek that brought about a better system and of necessity, replaced the old law. The old law or first covenant has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:7-13) with the arrival of God’s “new” covenant making those who have died with Christ therefore released from the law (Romans 7:1-6). So if we are not bound to the extensive things proscribed in the old laws, what is expect in the new law regarding giving?

New Testament Instructions On Giving

In 1 Cor 16:1-15, Paul gives instruction to the Corinthian church regarding making a collection to provide for Christians (saints) in need:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (NASB)

From these verse we learn:

  • When they were to give: on the “first day of the week” (implying weekly on that day)
  • Who is to give:Each one” of them (assembled Christians)
  • How much they should set aside in their gift:as he may prosper” suggesting one gives as they deems they are able to give. Note how this allows personal discretion considering their ability and does not specify 10% (tithing as required in the OT)
  • Why they should set things aside over time (regularly): so “that no collections [needs to] be made when I come“, that is, so they’d be prepared with the assembled gift when Paul arrived

2 Corinthians 8:1-13 is another good passage that points to the example of the Macedonian’s in their generosity and voluntary giving:

2 Corinthians 8:1-4 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints (NASB)

Here we learn:

  • Even in hardship and poverty, they were joyfully about giving help
  • They gave very generously, even sacrificially (beyond their ability)
  • They gave willingly (of their own accord)

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 is a passage that encourages a helpful attitude about giving. It brings to mind that the members are thoughtful enough about their giving that they have consciously thought about what they have intended to give to the church

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. (NASB)

We learn from these verses:

  • One’s reward is proportionate to the what is invested
    • It implyies one might expect generous rewards if they are generous (Note that the rewards may be in heaven and not on earth)
  • Giving should be done:
    • with forethought (“as he purposes in his heart“)
    • without feeling hesitation or reluctance
    • not out of a feeling of obligation
  • God loves those who willingly and gladly give for others benefit
  • We can give with confidence knowing we will not be left with out what we need. God will provide abundantly for our needs and enable you to have everything needed to accomplish works that God approves (Matthew 6:25-34Do not worry“)

God’s Guide To Christian For Giving

A principal to guide those faithful to God in understanding most things He expects of us is His desires that we obediently respond to Him out of a willing heart. (Isaiah 1:19-20). Though God setup a formal system of tithing to meet a need, there are examples of “freewill offerings” that were given by those “whose hearts moved them” to provide materials and service for building things God specified for worship (Exodus 35:20-29). In the New Testament, we find God does not specify an amount but does appeal to the principal of a willing heart.

What we’ve discovered is that the Christian is not under the old law that expected tithing (giving 10%) to provide as an offering to God to support the priesthood. Instead, the Christian is under the new covenant and to provide for needs of others in their giving as an offering to God. To answer the question raised, the Christian is not required to tithe but is to give with the attitude God loves. So whether your gift is at or around 10%, you now understand from scripture that the Christian is to plan their giving, give generously, give regularly, give in proportion to the abundance they have, give cheerfully, without fear of need, and give willingly.

Though I’m a Christian, why don’t I feel that “peace that surpasses understanding”?

(Answered on 10/10/2015 Program)

This believer in Christ who asks this question is referring to this passage:

Philippians 4:6-7 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

With stresses and real hardships in life, all people have a natural desire for peace. The hope of the Christian is that there is a peace they may have that is much greater than any if they did not believe in Christ. Let’s consider the context of this passage about the peace of God  to help understand what is associated with this peace. After Paul urges two Christians to work out a personal conflict they have in verses 2-3, he gives these instructions:

Philippians 4:4-9  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There is much to gain by thoroughly studying this passage, though we’ll just consider a few things that may answer the question at hand. First of all, the broader context of this passage is that Paul says a lot about rejoicing and peace in this letter even when he wrote it while in prison. This is key to his message that this peace and joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Consider some keywords in this passage:

Definitions:

  • Peace: from the Greek word eirēnē, meaning “A sense of security, safety, harmony;  tranquility associated with a soul who is assured of their salvation through Christ” (See Strong’s number G1515)
  • Comprehension: from the Greek word nous, meaning “The mind’s ability to fully perceive and understand” (See Strong’s number 3563)

The peace described as beyond our ability to understand is to distinguish it from any other sense of security or tranquility we can find in life. Many people in our world understand peace as merely the absence of trouble. But the peace that Jesus offers is not based on the absence of problems, but rather the presence of Christ in our life brings a peace that prevails in the face of adversity.

This peace of God (originating from Him as the source) will not just be transient but goes so deep it “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“. The preposition “in Christ Jesus” links one’s relationship to Christ (God’s anointed One) with this protection of our heart and mind. From these observations we can know:

  1. God is the one providing this special peace, and
  2. It is when I am in Christ Jesus that I may experience this peace. Other translations use through Christ Jesus indicating it is only through His agency that those having a confident faith in Jesus may receive the security God offers

We see even more good things we are to have when we look at the preceding verses that give commands to “rejoice” and “be anxious for nothing” showing God expects a cheerful outlook and freedom from worry (See Matthew 6:25-34 about worrying). So what in this passage tells how we are to obtain these things?

My Part In Obtaining God’s Peace

In the Philippians passage we notice the exhortation to be constantly aware of the Lord.

  • Rejoice in the Lord always – In any circumstance the Christian has something eternally valuable to rejoice about: salvation in the Lord
  • The Lord is near – Knowing Jesus’ is near or anticipating His coming helps keep in mind the conduct the Lord might expect
  • The God of peace will be with you – God who gives peace is present with those who follow a walk of life Paul exemplified

So the assurance of this peace is associated with my constantly rejoicing about the salvation Jesus brought, being mindful of the Lord who I will give an account, and knowing the God who provides this peace will be with me. I see my part here is keeping the Lord in my thoughts which gives perspective on the daily toils of my life.

In the verse immediately precedes the obtainable peace, God requires an alternative activity and attitude to being anxious:

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Regarding everything, we are to pray to God and give supplication which is the call to God that arises out of deep need (See Strong’s number G1162). The instructions for us is to let God know about all our concerns if not simply to get it off our mind but so He may do something about our needs. I also see how I am to pray is to be done with an attitude of thankfulness. The discontent in the world often can be found to be ungrateful for what they have, whereas those who have a view of thankfulness will be outwardly more pleasant and inwardly experiencing contentment no matter what they have or don’t have.

Based On What We Dwell And Practice

These verses show that this peace from God will be ours if we follow His instructions. These are not complicated, but are challenging for us.

Definitions:

  • Dwell: from the Greek word logizomai, meaning “To reckon inward, to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on” (See Strong’s number G3049)
  • Practice: from the Greek word prassō, meaning “To do, exercise, practice, undertake, accomplish, perform, commit, perpetrate” (See Strong’s number G4238)

The instructions in verves 8 and 9 are to meditate on virtuous things and practice the godly ways they had learned. This meditation is not just wishful or positive thinking, but careful study to understand these things enough to put them in practice. Each of the terms listed are worthy of deep study since they encompass all aspects of life and are qualities God values. Beyond simply the activity of our mind, we are to perpetuate these as a way of life; just as Paul had in his life. A commitment to making these qualities part of who we are will result in bringing us close to the God of peace.

Connecting Peace With Faith

Central to all of the gospel is that God’s blessings come to those who embrace Jesus as the One who gave His life for all of mankind. Peace is a blessing, but the greatest blessing is salvation from the punishment due everyone who has broken God’s laws. The Old Testament foretold of Jesus suffering for us that results in a peace we have:

Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (NKJV)

We may have a temporal form of peace when we feel good, have health, have wealth, and happiness. But true peace is when man is at peace with God. We learn in the New Testament this peace comes from faith in Jesus through whom our relationship with God is made right:

Romans 5:1-2  1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (NKJV)

Apparently, it takes faith to be justified in God’s eyes which is necessary to be at peace in our relationship with Him. By our breaking God’s laws (sin), we have been separated from God but can be viewed as innocent (justified) and brought into a peaceful relations by Jesus giving His life.

Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (NKJV)

When one comprehends the consequence of life knowing we will be held accountable to God, we can understand a more genuine peace comes from knowing our damaged relationship with God has been reconciled.

Colossians 1:19-22 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister
(NASB)

The hope of the gospel is that we can have peace with God. God has graciously provided a way for this to be possible, but we must respond in faith in order to have this genuine peace that comes in knowing we are no longer alienated with God.

Obtainable Peace

For those seeking this special gift of peace, remember God is the source. He is called “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20) so is the fountainhead and the bringer of peace. Follow His command to rejoice and give thankful prayer to God who is the protector of your heart and mind. We can understand always keeping our mind aware of matters greater than our circumstance; such as our salvation from our sin, can bring peace and perspective.

The Philippians 4 passage gave action items for those wanting to obtain this peace that include dwelling on virtuous things and put them into practice. When we seek peace, talk to God about it, meditate on godly qualities and make them part of your walk. With this, God has assured us His peace will guard our hearts.

What does it mean for Jesus to be my Lord?

(Answered on 10/03/2015 Program)

His Rightful Place

The one asking this question is pondering the depths of what it means to call Jesus “Lord”.  More than just giving a proper title, to state Jesus is MY Lord says something about who He is and what my relationship is to Him. Some will state “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” which may be so (See Romans 10:9), but He is only your savior if He is truly the Lord of your life. That is, if my belief and life does not reflect Jesus has His appropriate place of honor in my life, I likely am not going to be a recipient of the salvation He offers.

Definitions

  • Lord: from the Greek kyrios, meaning “the owner; one who has control over other people” (See Strong’s number G2962). This conveys someone else is a master to us who has the power to decide what we do.

It is easy to say that “I’m a Christian” or “Jesus is my Lord”. Yet are we fully aware of what it means to say someone is the Lord over us? First, consider who the Bible states Jesus is as Lord:

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (NASB)

Here Jesus is described as Creator (we exist through Him) which is reason enough for Him to be master or an authority over all things. He is called “Lord” in the ultimate sense of the word knowing Jesus is God:

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

John 8:58 I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Definitions

  • I am: from the Greek words egō and eimi, meaning “a primary pronoun of the first person” with “to be, to exist” (See Strong’s number G1473 and Strong’s number G1510). This definition may seem intuitive, but to the Jewish audience it was clearly a reference to what God said of Himself to identify Him as being ever-present without respect to time (eternal). The Lord of the Old Testament (Yahweh) told Moses “I AM” was to be the name of the one who sent him in Exodus 3:14 (See also Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 47:8)

Regardless what I think or say Jesus is, if He is the one through whom we exist (God), He appropriately should have dominion over all things:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;

Mind And Heart

Perhaps the one asking this question intellectually believes in Jesus but wonders if they have fully committed their whole heart to putting the Lord’s interest before their own. Some may thoroughly know their scripture yet lack a heart willing to submit to Jesus as Lord. Jesus rebuked the Jew for lacking the heart to accept Jesus even while they took care to know the scriptures:

John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life

Is there some reason why we would resist calling Him Lord? If it is true we are naturally self-interested, one’s heart might not want to fully yield their own will to someone else who would be their “master”. To call Him Lord means I will put His priorities (My Lord’s priorities) before my own. My impulsive when faced with making a choice that would please God instead of myself might not be much different from a child refusing to eat his vegetables; I don’t want to.

If it is not enough to acknowledge who He is (God) to do all for Him, what might motivate us to want to obey a Master? Love. He knows we are willing to surrender our will to His when we realize what a loving Master He is. Not only to we read about God as the source of love where we learn to love others (1 John 4:7-21), but God  as described in the Old Testament has always desired we obey Him out of love:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (NASB)

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (NASB)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 12 “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (NASB)

To obey these command means we must understand He is God and love Him. Love Him with all our heart. God requires things of us though He has qualities we can love such as His faithfulness and loving kindness toward His people. A loving God we can rely on eternally is one we can lovingly submit to; especially when we know these things He requires are “for (y)our good“.

Does He Know Me?

God wants His followers to have assurances of their salvation though Jesus gave a real warning to those who might call Him Lord but not do things according to His Father’s will:

Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness. (NASB)

Here are people actually calling Jesus “Lord” and doing things in the name of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus dismisses them because the things they were doing were not doing “the will of My Father”. From this we learn being a servant to the Lord means you must know and do what is expected in order to be approved. That is, do His will. Merely calling Him Lord is not enough. We must truly be His servants.

The outcome of not accepting Jesus as Lord is a serious matter for everyone since all will be held accountable to Him at some point. The special position of Jesus over all will be recognized by all; willing or not:

Philippians 2:9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NASB)

Claiming Jesus is Lord is more than a slogan on a bumper sticker but an acknowledgement of the ultimate power and authority Jesus has over all (in heaven/earth/buried). So when God eventually holds me accountable for my life, I want the Lord to say He knows me as one who has done His Father’s will. From 1st John, I understand I need to truly acknowledge Jesus as the son of God the Father.

1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (NASB)

1 John 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (NASB)

1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (NASB)

God the Father has designated Jesus as His Son who must be acknowledged for who He is: True God and source of eternal life. Paul wanted believers to show the extent of our willingness to live or die as a servants of Christ knowing how Christ died for us:

Romans 14:8-9 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (NASB)

He Is Your Lord

Those truly asking the question if Jesus is their Lord, will show Him they love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23-24). By our walk of life that shows we are keeping His commands, we can know the love of God is mature in us and we abide in Him (See 1 John 2:3-6).

There will be times when we learn what Jesus expects of us and we reply: “this is a hard teaching” and choose not to follow Him any more as Jesus saw happen in John 6:60-66. Jesus illustrated the level of commitment He desired of His disciples when He said:

Matthew 16:24-28 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.(NASB)

God has given us the opportunity to choose Him as our Lord. I can choose whether or not Jesus is my Lord; but if I do call Him Lord, then I intend to put myself in the role of servant. Jesus is Lord and it should be known in how I view Him, in my attitude to what He expects of me and in my willingness to yield to what He requires of me. May you truly call Him Lord and do as He tells you (Luke 6:46).

If I was baptized as an infant, do I have to be baptized again?

(Answered on 10/03/2015 Program)

Infant baptism has been a common practice among many Christian denominations for centuries. To answer this, let’s look at some passages and think about who is being baptized and what preceded it by the listener who was baptized:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

From this passage we see those who were baptized heard Philip’s preaching, believed and then were baptized. In this case, it was men and women who were baptized.

Acts 2:36-38, 41 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Definitions

  • Pierced to the heart: from the Greek terms katanyssomai and kardia, meaning “to cause pain or metaphorically, emotional sorrow” and “the center of all physical and spiritual life” (See Strong’s number G2660 and Strong’s  number G2588).
  • Repentance: from the Greek word metanoeō, meaning “a change of mind, that leads amending sinful behavior (See Strong’s number G3340). Repentance always precedes baptism.

Here, these souls heard the message Peter preached (Acts 2:14-40) and were “pierced to the heart” suggesting their conscience was affected by what they heard. Then Peter instructed them what they must do to be forgive their sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized.

Acts 18:7-8 And he departed from there, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Titus Justus, one who worshipped God, whose house was next to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized.

We see a pattern here for who was being baptized and what lead to the baptism. These people were old enough to hear the message and understand it. In believing the message, they responded by willingly being baptized. The times I’ve seen an infant being sprinkled with water; they’ve more often been tearful than a willing participant. So far with these Biblical examples, an infant would not be one who is able to hear, believe and respond to the command of baptism.

Considering the call to repentance, there is an appeal to a conscience that knows right from wrong. An infant who is not mature enough to have a trained conscience does not know right from wrong and could be considered innocent. They have no sin to repent of (yet) and no ability to comprehend what is “right”. It appears it takes enough maturity to choose to change your ways (repent) and also there is an element of the heart where the Bible describes as the place we hold things that are important to us. When a eunuch ask Philip about being baptized, Philip even puts a condition of belief “with all your heart”:

Acts 8:35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (NASB)

Whatever Philip was teaching the eunuch when he “preached Jesus to him”, it must have included a need to be baptized and believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Notice the condition here: Philip makes it clear that if the eunuch believes with all his heart, then he can be baptized.

Sprinkled, Poured or Immersed

The questioner say they were baptized as an infant. Let’s look at the definition of the Greek word for baptism.

Definitions

  • Baptism: from the Greek word baptizō, meaning “to dip, to plant, to cover, to overwhelm, to immerse” (See Strong’s number G907). The term “baptism” used in the Bible is one of the few transliterated words (Mapping the characters of a word from one language to form a word in another language)

Note there are other Greek words that are not used when describing baptism:

It is dip (baptize) that Jesus used in Matthew 28:18-20 “teaching them and baptizing them

Listen for the reason why John the Baptism chose this place to baptize:

John 3:23 “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.”

The baptism of the first century required “much water”. This was not a little sprinkling process; it was immersion. Listen to these passages that draw a picture of baptism as a “covering” or “planting”:

Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (NASB)

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (NASB)

Baptism is a burial and a resurrection. Here also an indication of age: To be “raised up with Him through faith”, implies they were old enough to have faith. There is much more to learn about baptism from these passages that you should study further.

Households

An argument is sometimes made to suggest infants were baptized point out passages where there are “households” being baptized. Let’s look at the bible to see what we can observe. This is the account of Lydia who was merchant from Thyatira (Acts 16:11-15) selling in Macedonia where Paul was:

Acts 16:15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (NASB)

And here is a passage that is a part of the story of the Philippian jailer.

Acts 16:31-34 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized

The first observation as we mentioned earlier was that the ability to hear and belief is a necessary part of this process (infants aren’t capable of this). Secondly, none of these instances mention infants which is necessary to assert infants should be baptized. A “household” does not necessarily include children. Many years ago there were infants in my household, but not now.

If you believe with all your heart…

If you were sprinkled with water as a infant and want to follow the pattern you read about in the Bible for those becoming Christians, you, as an adult who is able to hear the word, repent of your sins, and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you should be baptized. There are several other passages that include baptism that you should study to better understand baptism and what it is for.

Who determines what I should believe?

(Answered on 09/26/2015 Program)

The short answer: God does; but let’s discuss how we may seek what we should believe.

Each of us has the choice to believe what we want and can look to any source for what to believe. Having discussed it does matter what we believe, it’s important to then consider where do we look to find what we should believe. While few stand up and tell us “this is what you should believe“, we willingly listen to some people for advice or guidance. For any topic, it is prudent to identify who is a reputable source for information we might believe. Regarding spiritual matters, we may trust the conclusions of a council of authorities or some knowledgeable teacher, but shouldn’t we be listening carefully to the Creator of life Himself? He designed life; He should know how we should live and what is worthy of belief. So what does God say one “must believe” who comes to Him wanting to please Him?

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

God establishes a base-line of what He expects for belief:

  • At the very minimum, God says we must believe He exists
  • Faith is necessary to please God
  • Seeking God will be rewarded

Believing the Bible is God’s word, I can read my Bible and learn from this passage I need to trust God’s existence is actually truth and have full confidence in Him (faith) in order to please Him. Knowing part of God’s means of communicating His truths are through people teaching the gospel, I might have learned this from others. Here we’re back to asking who should I trust to help me determine what I should believe?

Why this is important is because even the respected authorities on religious matters may be wrong or have motives that distort the message they deliver. The Pharisees were religious leaders who claimed the law God gave to Moses was the source of their teaching. In John 9, the Pharisees even question the authority of Jesus who healed the blind man they were interrogating:

John 9:28-29  28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”(NASB)

Jesus had repeatedly rebuked these religious teachers for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23), improper motive and even corruption in their teaching others. Jesus had pointed out their failing to believe Jesus was the Messiah showed they didn’t actually know Moses’ writings that prophesied of Jesus:

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (NASB)

In Galatians 1:6-12, Paul also cautioned against teachers who would teach a perverted version of the gospel message about Jesus. Paul reasoned that standing for the message he truly knew was from God meant he would gain no favor from people:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (NASB)

Here, Paul makes a distinction about who a teacher is desiring to please that explains how the gospel message can become distorted. Even in the first century when Apostles like Paul received revelation from God (Galatians 1:11-12), there were religious teachers with a following who taught a message that did not please God.

So if even respected teachers may lead others astray, you might think it is safer to look to a source the majority of people are following. Recall how Jesus illustrated how only a disciplined few will find the way that results in eternal life:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NASB)

This metaphor depicts the masses following some way of life (guided by their belief) that leads the wrong way. The contrast indicates those making efforts to follow a certain path (based on some belief) enter a gate that ensures safety to their life. While this passage shows our personal responsibility to search to find the gate most will not find, in the passage just following this (Matthew 7:15-20) Jesus warns them to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

Seeing we must take care in who we look as a reliable source of truth, fortunately you have access to the source of God’s word in the Bible. If we are looking to the sayings of any, consider the consequential words that we will be held accountable for:

John 12:48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day

These are the words of Jesus who puts the obligation on the listener to receive His teachings or choose to reject Him. He declares it is by His words that we will be judged.

If this has stimulated thought, let it move you to evaluate the sources for what you believe. When you decide in what you should believe, make sure it is founded on truth. You are capable of understanding the Bible when you read it. Read and digest God’s words and may it be the true source to determine what you should believe.

Does it really matter what I believe, as long as I sincerely believe?

(Answered on 09/26/2015 Program)

This question might be broken into a few questions to help answer it:

  • Am I free to believe what I want? (“free will”)
  • What specifically am I supposed to believe? (“truth”)
  • Does sincerity matters most when it comes to belief? (“consequences”)

There are several examples in the Bible that illustrate people are truly free to believe what they choose. Consider when Joshua prompted the Hebrews to publicly decide if they will choose to follow the Lord who had helped them over many years:

Joshua 24:15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (NASB)

In Joshua 24, Joshua had just reminded them of the blessings and curses God had promised to deliver to the those who love and obey Him or to those serving other gods. Though they should have known specifically what the Lord expected of them,  Joshua gave them the choice to serve God and live just as Moses before him had invited them in Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

Choice And Consequences

With that freedom to choose what we believe comes the responsibility to make our choice with care. There were consequences for those in Joshua’s time and also in the New Testament period when Paul brought the message of Jesus to the Jews:

Acts 13:44-46, 48-49 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. (NASB)

Jews who knew God’s history should have recognized Jesus so were brought the gospel first, yet they rejected the message/messengers. Paul declares their choice to reject the word of God showed them to be “unworthy of eternal life“. Specifically, they were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah whom they should have recognized from the prophecy given to the Jews. The response of the Gentiles to accept the word of the Lord and believe resulted in their being “appointed to eternal life“. All hearing the message had the freedom to choose to believe it or not, heard a specific message to believe, and their acceptance or rejection of the message (belief) had eternal consequences.

The fact that humans have the freedom to choose what they believe and that there are consequences to the choice they make has been true even all the way back to the beginning of our history.

Genesis 2:16-17  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (NASB)

God’s commands were clear and He warned there were consequences to their choosing to disobey. Notice that belief has a connection to obedience. They had the opportunity to choose to believe/obey God or not. The next few verses in this chapter of Genesis 2 show us that, with the serpent’s encouragement, they decided not to believe God.  The consequences that followed show that God’s words were indeed true. Did it matter what tree they ate from? Apparently it did, but they did have the opportunity to choose.

Sincerity

It’s interesting that only in religious matters do we ask “Does it matter what I believe?” In arithmetic or physics or even history, we would not even consider we had the option to believe what was “true”. Though I might not know t = -6 solves the following equation, I can know it is either true of false.

Algebra using square roots

Likewise in religion, there is truth in spiritual matters. Yet, because I believe something, even sincerely, it doesn’t make it factually true (I might believe God is a dolphin). Truth is always independent of belief. No matter how hard I may believe my pick-up basket ball games at the YMCA have prepared me for the NBA, it doesn’t make it true. Certainly, there are matters in the Bible some may believe “ain’t necessarily so” (David sleighing Goliath, Jonah in the whale, Methuselah living 900 years), though the historical accuracy of these being true or false is dependent on if the Bible is reliably the word of God throughout (a topic for another show).

Let’s look a the biblical example of an intelligent and religiously well-educated Pharisee who sincerely believed something that was truly wrong. Saul of Tarsus (later named Paul) was acting in “good conscience” when he severely persecuted the Christians. But he discovered what he believed was true, turned out to be uninformed (ignorant) of God’s purpose for Christ’s church. The following passages show Paul’s actions reflected his believe he was doing was right followed by his realization what he believed was not true.

Acts 8:3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (NASB)

Galatians 1:13 or you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; (NASB)

Acts 26:9 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (NASB)

Acts 23:1 Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” (NASB)

1 Timothy 1:13, 15 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 5 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (NASB)

Paul’s expressed his true sincerity when he said “I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God”. Paul concluded “I acted ignorantly in unbelief” when he was shown the truth and recognized his mistrust of the church of God (his “unbelief”) was wrong. Also Paul’s saying “I was shown mercy” indicates it did matter what he believed about Jesus and God showed mercy instead of what consequences he might have been due. The faithful Christians were even warned of some people who would kill them sincerely thinking they were offering service to God (John 16:2).

Jesus Said It Matters

Jesus said what you believe matters.  If you choose to believe the Bible is true, Jesus states you must believe in Him (the Son of God) in order to have eternal life.

John 3:36  He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NASB)

Here just like we saw in Genesis 2, there is a connection with believe and obedience that Jesus affirms. Whatever it encompasses to “believe in the Son”, we at least known it includes obeying Him in order to not receive the wrath of God. Seeing these eternal consequences of what we believe in, it is a worthy endeavor to seek to understand better what it means to believe and obey Jesus. A few chapters later in the gospel of John, Jesus tells more about what we need to believe about Him:

John 8:24  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. (NASB)

Jesus makes it clear what the consequences would be if we do not believe that He is the promised Messiah; that is, the chosen one sent by God to save the world from their sins. Note in Matthew that Jesus even cautions those who say they believe in Him and sincerely thought the things they were doing were pleasing to God the Father:

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Definitions

  • Kingdom of Heaven:  from the Greek words basileia and ouranos, indicating “that realm where the Messiah reigns” (See Strong’s number G932 and G3772). This can describe heaven where those believing in Jesus and doing God’s will are given eternal life.

From this, we see believing in Jesus and doing things in His name do not qualify us for the kingdom of heaven. It is the obedient belief in Jesus that understands what it means to do God’s will.

What’s Your Choice?

You are free to choose whatever you’d like to believe and live out your life accordingly. Just like those following Moses and Joshua, God wants you to choose to believe and obey Him, especially considering there are life and death consequences. Paul found he was sincerely wrong in what he believed and concluded there were eternal consequences that God was merciful to forgive based on Paul’s response to the truth. Jesus has let you and I know in the Bible that we need to believe in Him, obey Him and do His Fathers will. I hope you will also conclude, it does matter that you believe there is truth in spiritual matters. Now seek further what you must believe by reading your Bible.

How can I know the spiritual advice I get is from God or man? And does it matter?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

Consider how the Berean Christians approached this when hearing spiritual teaching:

Acts 17:10-11 10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica,for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.  (NASB)

These disciples were commended for examining for themselves whether the things they had heard were indeed consistent with the scriptures. We are wise when we do the same with advice from someone we trust.  Considering you are reading our commentary on Bible passages on this website, we recommend you too read the scriptures yourselves to verify if these convey an appropriate understanding.

Consider this passage from the Bible about how to handle the God’s word:

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Accurately handling:  from the Greek word orthotomeō, meaning “to make a straight cut or to dissect correctly” (Strong’s number G3718). This conveys the idea that God’s word should be interpreted or expounded on with care.

Context: This is a letter to Timothy from Paul who is instructing him about carrying out his duties to meet God’s approval over any motive to please men.

Here Paul instructs Timothy about the need to work and study in order to properly handle and treat the word. This would be for him to accurately understand what the words are saying and to be sure anything he teaches is truly what God intends. Paul’s practice was also to take care to reason from the scriptures to persuade others:

Acts 17:2-4 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.

Just as we see Paul going directly from the scriptures to reason with others, Philip used the scriptures to help the Ethiopian eunuch understand what he was reading:

Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him

It is the scriptures that are used to teach the truth about Jesus. So we know the spiritual advice we get is from God or man when it comes from the scriptures. There is such a great responsibility given to the teacher to teach scripture correctly, a very strong admonish is given to those that would who would teach the word of God:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (NASB)

James indicates that teachers will be held to a higher standard for the important spiritual matters they are teaching others about. Teaching the message of Christ correctly was important because even in the first century Paul cautioned Christians who were embracing a distorted message about Christ:

Galatians 1:6-9  I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Distort: from the Greek metastrephō, meaning “to pervert or corrupt” (See Strong’s number G3344)
  • Accursed: from the Greek word anathema, meaning “a thing setup or hung” (See Strong’s number G331). The meaning describes being doomed to destruction just as a sacrifice being kept for an offering was hung on a wall.

Paul describe how serious it is to teach a message that is contrary to what the inspired apostles taught. He also described them as “false prophets”:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. (NASV)

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NASV)

It is important to note that these false prophets were “among you”. The warning for any of us today is the same; we should verify the truth of what anyone says by looking to the scripture. This is especially important when we have heard things preached for years and always assumed they were scripturally correct without our personally taking responsibility to “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” just as the Berean’s in Acts 17 did.

These scripture hopefully have given an answer how we should verify if advice is from God; we should look to the scriptures to confirm it. Of greater importance, it does matter if the teaching we get from others is in keeping with what is taught in the Bible. Those teachers will be condemned and we the listener maybe lead astray from the truth God wants us to know.

Can the Bible help me change and improve my life?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

Psalm 119:9-11
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You. (NASB)

This is a picture of a heart seeking guidance. The question asked shows an openness to reach a higher standard for themselves. This passage says that it is God’s word that can keep a life pure. The result of one who chooses not to wander from God’s commandments and treasuring God’s words are a life that does not sin against God (sin is breaking His laws and separates us from Him).

Change and improvement in life assumes there is some solid foundation from where you have as a base to grow.

Matt. 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (NASB)

This is a very simple metaphor that illustrates the importance of building on a sure foundation. The idea here is that those who hear and act on the words God has provided have the wisdom based on a sound and reliable foundation for life. Each one of us is building a life so the foundation we are building on matters. The words of men are like ever-shifting sands of the while a life built on the solid foundation of the word of God can endure hard things. Improvement includes preventing a fall in life and that will depend upon what we build our life upon.

I may choose my own foundation and way of life, but this next scripture suggests I may not always know as well as the Creator what is best for me:

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. (NASB)

This might seem absurd to suggest I do not know enough to direct my own way in life; people do all the time. Yet, I can’t say know what the rest of today brings, let alone tomorrow. In fact, I can’t say I know how everything is supposed to work in my life. Where I have been wrong so many times in my life that I can see I don’t know all the answers, it is the Creator’s words that can guide my way with insight I might only gain from Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (NASB)

This passage suggests we should rely on God for wisdom and not on our own understanding of life. When we consider Him in all aspects of our life (all your ways), He can ensure our way of life can have a good course.

Regarding being “wise in your own eyes“, we can sometimes see how we can too confidently rely on ourselves and take wrong paths in life. Think about the last time you got new item like an appliance or tool and you just tossed the owner’s manual in a drawer without reading how the item is supposed to be used. When we struggle to figure out how to work it and resort to trying things that frustrate us or damage it, we realize we need the knowledge of the manufacturer. Don’t we often treat the Bible that way? Like it is some Owner’s Manual for life that we just have no time to read. Considering God is our Creator, He should know how life is to be lived since He designed it.

Considering these passages from the Bible, the Bible can be a source of information from our designer that if we follow can lead to a way of life free from sin and based on a foundation that is sound. We can realize we may think we know how to live out life, but God offers wisdom that will allow us to withstand storms of life and be an actual guide to life.

Why should I pay attention to what the Bible says?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  (NASB)

Definitions:

The Bible’s claim is that it (the scriptures) is inspired by God. That is, wisdom from the very breath of God is useful for life. This passage indicates the wisdom from the Bible leads to salvation for those with faith in Jesus Christ, and that these scriptures can be used to teach, give evidence, to correct, and train how to be righteous. The end goal in looking to the Bible that has these purposes is to equip the hearer to be well prepared for good work.

Romans 1:16-17 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”  (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Gospel: from the Greek euaggelion, meaning “good news”, telling of the message telling about Christ (See Strong’s number G2098)
  • Salvation: from the Greek sōtēria,  meaning “deliverance or safety from harm” (See Strong’s number G4991). The gospel message relates to being saved from the punishment that is due those who break God’s laws (sin)

Paul was bold in teaching the message (gospel) and described it as having the power to bring salvation for those having faith in Jesus Christ. This salvation that is offered to all who choose to believe was spoken about in the first century when the writings of the New Testament began, and also before in the Old Testament times (Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4) that described those righteous people lived by their faith in God.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.  (NASB)

Definitions:

Seeing faith is key to salvation, this passage explains one has to hear to acquire faith. Also the word of Christ (God, in some translations), or those things uttered by God help us hear what is needed to believe. So there is something in the message that informs us of what is important in gaining that faith that plays a part in salvation.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. (NASB)

The word of God has such creative power, with it He spoke (breathed) creation into existence. From this God, we also have His word in the Bible that can have its affect on us.

2 Peter 1:19-21 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Interpretation: from the Greek word epilyō, meaning “explain or unloosen” (See Strong’s number G1956). This word is used to indicate the origins of those prophecies are from God and not from man who might have his own explanation of truth.
  • Moved by the Holy Spirit: including the Greek words pherō, meaning “carried or influenced by” (See Strong’s number G5342) and pneuma, describing the third person of God (See Strong’s number G4151)

Context: This chapter in 2 Peter reminds those faithful to Jesus Christ of the knowledge God has provided that can keep them fruitful and tells them of their responsibility to diligently mature in their faith. Peter distinguishes between man-made stories and the message he is delivering that is verified by historic prophecy foretelling of Jesus and his being an eye-witness When God the Father in heaven affirmed Jesus was His Son who came for a special purpose.

Peter points out we would “do well to pay attention” to the prophetic word that told of Jesus. He stresses the origins of these words that are like a shining lamp were given by God to men through the the Holy Spirit. These words in the Bible are not the words of men, but those from God who are important to hear.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.  (NASB)

The people here were commended for an attitude recognizing that these words were indeed the word of God and not just the advice of mere men. Jesus also spoke about the value of His words:

John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. (NASB)

Here we can see that Jesus tells us that there is something vital about His word. They are full of Spirit and life.

Context: Jesus had just finished teaching a crowd of followers with some teaching that were uncomfortable for them to hear and as a result, in the next couple of verses many turned away. This makes the following verses really stand out as it relates to a way of gaining eternal life:

John 6:67-68 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. (NASB)

Even if the words of God are difficult to hear, they are the words of life, indicating they are important as they related to our life that will go on eternally.

1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life

John shows his purpose for writing his letter was so believers could know whether they have eternal life. I certainly want to know.

From these scripture, the Bible is worth paying attention to because they are the words of God that can bring salvation and are useful in life to prepare us for good work. Hearing the words of the Bible can help us to obtain the faith in Jesus Christ who has the words relating to eternal life.