Ask Your Preacher
We've been described by several in our group as a "blue collar” church. We have many adults in attendance who don't read well.
Can a church teach reading, English, history, philosophy, Greek, or anything else necessary to understand deeper Bible concepts?
Every command that you find in the Bible has specific and general qualities to it. For example, when God told Noah to build the ark, He told Noah to use a specific kind of wood (gopher wood – Gen 6:14) and build the ark to specific dimensions (Gen 6:15-16), but He left the details of how to cut, fasten, and construct the ark up to Noah. It would have been wrong for Noah to use oak or birch, and it would have been wrong for Noah to change the dimensions of the ark, but aside from that, Noah had freedom to use his own wisdom in the engineering of the ark. The things that God was specific on, Noah had to be specific on to… but the things God was general about, Noah had freedom to decide for himself.
Now that brings us to your question. The church has the authority to do whatever is necessary to teach and preach the Word (Acts 15:35) – the specific quality of that command is that the church must forward people’s understanding of God’s Word. However, as any good teacher knows, you have to start teaching your students from where they are. The church shouldn’t become a secular academic institution, but if providing someone with a better understanding of world history, Bible times and culture, language, etc. helps to further their grasp of Bible concepts, it is perfectly permissible. God left the command to teach and preach as a general command for a reason; the specifics of teaching are left up to the Bible teachers.
When my grandpa passed away, we believe he came back here on earth temporarily for two reasons:
- Right when he died, my uncle said nothing about it to his wife or kids; he was planning on telling them later, but Ellie (four at the time, I think) ran up to him and said that Grandpa died! She sounded happy because she didn't know what it meant. My uncle asked how she knew, and she replied, “Grandpa told me!” and skipped away. My uncle asked his wife if she told Ellie, and she said, “No.”
- At his funeral, my older cousin, Maddie, was walking with Ellie, and Ellie said, “Ooh, angel!” and Maddie asked, “Oh, you want to see the angel?” as she led her over to the angel statue. “No, over there!” Ellie jerked away from her and pointed to midair where there was nothing.
Do you think that was my grandpa coming back to pay her a visit? If so, why her? Grandpa was a very great Catholic, and their whole family is as well. Thank you.
Your experience is fascinating, and we can’t explain to you exactly why Ellie said what she did, but we can ease your mind that it wasn’t your grandfather returning from the dead. Luke 16:1-31 tells us what happens to both the faithful and the wicked when they die. Jesus told His disciples about the death of two men: Lazarus (a faithful man) and a wicked, rich man. When they died, Lazarus was immediately escorted by angels to Paradise (Lk 16:22), and the rich man immediately awoke in torment (Lk 16:23). An important detail is that the rich man was told that neither he nor Lazarus could return to earth to visit the living (Lk 16:27-31). Once we die, we go to face God and await the judgment (Heb 9:27). Which is why it is so important that we prepare ourselves by becoming christians (read “Five Steps To Salvation” for details) and becoming active members of His church (read “Finding The Church” for how to find a faithful congregation).
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false? What must I look for? Thank you for your time and help.
On The Alert
Dear On The Alert,
Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.
Why does Jesus love us so much? Is there a specific reason?
The specific reason God (and Jesus as His Son) loves us so much is because of God’s character. His love for mankind has nothing to do with how great we are, any achievements we have performed, etc. The short answer is God is love (1 Jn 4:8). His love toward us is part of who He is and His great and unfathomable character. God’s love is the beginning of all love because we are made in His image (Gen 1:26). We love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:10).
Did God (the Father) kill Jesus?
Absolutely not. Jesus was killed by the Roman government at the request of the Jewish people (Acts 4:10). The Father didn’t force Jesus to die. Jesus said that He willingly laid down His life for us (Jhn 10:17-18). At any point, Jesus could have called for angels to save Him from the cross (Matt 26:53), but He didn’t because He loved us enough to die for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).