Ask Your Preacher
We went to a church that believed if you were married more than once you couldn't be a deacon or preacher. This is because the Bible says you can only be the husband of one wife. Is this a correct interpretation?
Dear Counting Criteria,
The qualification you are referring to can be found in 1 Tim 3:12. The phrase ‘husband of one wife’ literally means a ‘one-woman man’ in the Greek. He must be devoted exclusively and faithfully to his one wife. A man who is widowed and then remarried could still be properly described as a ‘one-woman man’ because he was completely devoted to his first wife until her death, and now is fully devoted to his current wife.
The question a congregation has to wrestle with is if a divorced brother has shown the character trait of monogamous fidelity. Why did he get divorced? Was it for infidelity? Was he always faithful to her? Did she leave him, or did he leave her? How does he behave with his current wife? How long has he been married to his current wife? The answers to these questions will help assess whether he is a faithful ‘one-woman man’.
Divorce is a red flag that should make us pause before appointing a man as a qualified deacon, but depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, the man may still be qualified.
Did Stephen feel pain when he was stoned? It said he looked as if he had seen an angel and then he fell asleep.
Dear Pain Free,
There is nothing in the text that would lead us to believe that Stephen didn’t feel pain when they stoned him to death. When Stephen was dragged off to that kangaroo court, it says that his face looked angelic (Acts 6:15). It doesn’t say that he had seen an angel. However, Stephen did see the glory of God and Jesus looking down at him from the heavens (Acts 7:55-56). Certainly those things gave him a great deal of comfort and peace as the end came, but that doesn’t remove the pain of having your body bludgeoned to death by rocks. Stephen was a great man of faith and he paid the ultimate price for that faith.
At what point in the plan of salvation does the sinner "die with Christ?" Romans 6 seems to indicate this takes place at baptism, but I've heard different explanations for the meaning of Romans 6. Is baptism the burial of a person who is already dead to sin? Or do we die to sin at the point of baptism? Thanks.
Dear Baptism Broodings,
You are right in saying that baptism is when we die with Christ. The most well-documented and clearest doctrine in the New Testament is baptism… yet, it is also the most commonly ignored topic in the religious world. It is impossible to be saved without being baptized. Peter said it best when he said, “Baptism saves you” (1 Pet 3:21). Every person that became a christian in the New Testament was baptized – immediately. You won’t find a single person in the book of Acts that wasn’t baptized. When the first sermon was preached after Christ ascended into heaven, the apostles told the people that they needed to “repent and be baptized… for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul tells us that baptism is a burial with Christ, and only after that burial do we receive a new life (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism was so important to Paul that he was baptized even before eating or drinking (Acts 9:18-19), which shows how important it is because Paul hadn’t had food or water in three days (Acts 9:9)! Belief is not enough; even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19). It is only when our belief is combined with obedience that we have living faith (Jas 2:17-18), and the very first command to obey that God gives us is to be baptized in the name of His Son (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:16). We die to sin when we are baptized.
We offer the Lord’s Supper in the evening to those who choose to miss morning worship for whatever reason, be it their job schedule, illness, or just to sleep in. It seems to me that, as was done in the early church, the Lord’s Supper should be offered once on the first day of the week. If a congregation chooses to have an evening Bible study, at least some, like myself, might not wonder whether I am, in fact, forsaking the assembly by not attending evening services. What is your position on this matter?
Two Too Many
Dear Two Too Many,
Let’s deal with the “job schedule, illness, or just to sleep in” statement first. If a congregation is actively saying that it doesn’t matter if you wish to skip part of the services on Sunday, they are wrong. God tells us that Sunday is “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10), and the pattern we see is that faithful congregations emphasize attendance and emphasize prioritizing classes, services, and active involvement with the brotherhood. That certainly is the pattern we see in the early church (Acts 2:46-47). If a congregation has moved into the “multiple services, come if you feel like it and it is convenient” mentality – there are already bigger problems than whether or not you offer the Lord’s Supper twice.
Now having said that, a second offering of the Lord’s Supper is an issue that many good brethren wrestle with. Does a congregation have the right to offer the Lord’s Supper twice on Sunday? Is it biblical for a local church to offer communion in the morning and then offer it again at a Sunday evening service? We believe so, but we also believe that there is room for disagreement on this issue, and if a brother or sister doesn’t feel comfortable with a second serving of the communion, they should abstain. We must all seek to serve God with a clear conscience (1 Tim 1:19), and if you can’t do something in faith, you shouldn’t do it (Rom 14:23). Having said that, here are our thoughts on the subject of offering the Lord’s Supper twice on Sunday.
The Bible never tells us the amount of times that a congregation must offer the Lord’s Supper; it only tells us that it must be taken by the saints sometime on Sunday (Acts 20:7). This leaves us a twenty-four hour period in which a christian can gather with the church and fulfill this command. The specific times we choose to meet are an expediency… simply a matter of preference.
1 Cor 11:33 says that a congregation must “wait for one another”. 1 Cor 11:21-22 clarifies that the problem in Corinth was that they were eating the Lord’s Supper as a common meal and not waiting to do it solemnly together. The problem in Corinth was that they were eating communion for the purpose of filling their bellies instead of remembering the Lord’s death (1 Cor 11:34). The goal of waiting for one another was to provide a scheduled time to fulfill this command together. It didn’t mean that every christian needed to be present (otherwise, a congregation couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper unless every member was accounted for), and it didn’t mean that they couldn’t schedule multiple times to wait for one another. It simply meant that they had to treat the Lord’s Supper as a holy and spiritual meal of remembrance. The church is responsible for doing things in a decent and orderly way (1 Cor 14:40). Offering the Lord’s Supper in the morning and evening fulfills that command for order and decency. The congregation is providing specific orderly times for members to fulfill their command to gather with the church and take the Lord’s Supper.
The church is commanded to provide opportunity for christians to take the Lord’s Supper with the church, but the individual is responsible for taking it. If a congregation offers the Lord’s Supper in both the morning and evening, it is doing its job – providing opportunity. It is the same as the command to take up a collection. Most congregations provide opportunity for individuals to give financially at both the morning and evening services – which matches exactly with the command in 1 Cor 16:1-2. No one bats an eye when a congregation offers the collection basket twice. In fact, we would probably be shocked if a congregation refused to take someone’s contribution because they missed morning services. Yet, this is exactly the same as offering the Lord’s Supper twice. It is a matter of expediency. When a congregation offers the collection and the Lord’s Supper at both services, it is simply trying to provide opportunity for all (even those who were unable to attend in the morning) to fulfill God’s commands to give and take the Lord’s Supper on Sunday.
What churches did the apostle Paul plant? And approximately when were they planted?
Dear Church Farmer,
Here is a rough timeline for when the apostle Paul started various congregations (all dates are approximate):
- Various congregations in Cyprus – 48 AD (Acts 13:5-12)
- Churches in the cities of Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe – 48 AD (Acts 13:14 – Acts 14:24)
- Philippi – 51 AD (Acts 16:12-40)
- Thessalonica – 51 AD (Acts 17:1-10)
- Berea – 51 AD (Acts 17:10-14)
- Corinth – 51-53 AD (Acts 18:1-17)
- Ephesus – 53 AD (Acts 18:19-20)
Paul may very well have started other congregations, but those are the ones we can specifically attribute to Paul’s labors.