Ask Your Preacher
What scriptures can we look at to show us that pastors, elders, and bishops have all the same meanings and duties?
Dear Name Nomenclature,
Pastors, elders, and bishops are all referring to the same job in the church. We see this by looking at multiple passages that show that these titles are used interchangeably. Tit 1:5-7 uses the terms ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ as synonyms. Acts 20:28 refers to bishops shepherding the local church (the word ‘pastor’ means ‘shepherd’). 1 Pet 5:1-3 also refers to elders as those who pastor/shepherd the church. When you see that these three terms (pastor, elder, and bishop) are all used interchangeably, it means they are synonyms.
A brother in Christ is turning forty this coming Sunday. His wife has planned a surprise party to be held in the church building after evening worship. She has asked that we should all write a message to be included in an "honoring note" to this brother. The preacher is collecting these messages of "love, respect, and appreciation" and urging us to respond as soon as possible. I am having a terribly hard time with this, not because I don't appreciate and love this brother, but because I feel a birthday party in the church building isn't scriptural, and the idea of writing an "honoring note" is giving me a very uncomfortable feeling. I don't want to offend this brother and his wife, but I am having a huge struggle with this. I don't know what to do. Please help! The honoring messages are due within the next couple of days.
Dear Birthday Blah,
The key to the whole issue is to remember what the work of the church is. The Bible specifically outlines three things that the church has a responsibility to do: care for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preach to the lost, and teach the saved (Acts 15:35). Anything that a church does with its financial assets needs to fit into one of those three categories. A church’s building is part of a church’s finances (the same as your house is part of your finances), and it is important that whatever we use the church’s finances for be authorized by the Bible. 1 Tim 3:15 says that there is a certain way that the church must behave when we work together collectively. 1 Tim 5:16 takes it one step further and says that there are certain financial things the church shouldn’t be burdened with. Once our money goes into the church collection on Sunday (1 Cor 16:1-2), it becomes the Lord’s money – not ours. The church can spend its money on the church’s work... and that's it.
Bible classes, worship services, etc. all easily fit into the work of the church… but what about a social gathering? The problem is that socializing is never shown to be part of the church’s work. It certainly is important for individual christians to spend time with one another… but that is a command to individuals – not the church. Individuals have a lot more freedom in what they do than the church does. Social gatherings in the church’s building simply don’t fit the Bible pattern of the church’s work. We don't want to condemn the attitude of these folks – we'd like to think their intentions are pure, but zeal isn’t the same as Bible accuracy (Rom 10:2). We have looked and looked, but we cannot find Bible authority for the church’s building, which is part of the church’s assets, to be used for a purely social gathering.
When the church collectively decides to use the building for a primarily social gathering, there is a problem. As Paul said, “Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in?” (1 Cor 11:22). Paul lambasted the church in Corinth for making the church’s work a social event. There was a time when churches needed to hold potlucks because people traveled such long distances by horseback or foot that it was impossible for people to stay for the full day of worship unless they had a midday meal there… if they went home for a meal, they might as well have stayed home. This was an appropriate use of potlucks because they were an expediency for worship. This is the same reason that meals during work parties are no problem – the food is an expediency to make it possible for everyone to take care of the building... no different than if the preacher brings his lunch, so he can eat while working in his office. However, the argument that the church should have a birthday party after services is no longer about an expediency to help people that traveled two hours by horseback. A birthday party is purely for the purpose of socializing, not furthering the work of the church. If the work of the church is to socialize, we also ought to have gymnasiums, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. Once we begin to do small things that don’t have Bible authority for them, we’ve cracked the door to more and more behavior that goes beyond what God has written (1 Cor 4:6).
As we said, we aren’t trying to condemn the intentions of those who planned the party... we’re sure the folks have good desires, but it sets a dangerous, unbiblical precedent. Like King Saul sparing the animals to bring them as a sacrifice to God – good intentions, but it got him in trouble because it wasn't what God asked for (1 Sam 15:22).
I have a lot of questions that I would like to ask, but I am going to only ask one – even if it is a crazy one. I am scared to die, but I want to go to a good place. How do I get rid of the scared feeling of dying?
Dear Coffin Coward,
The Bible tells us that if Jesus is on our side, we can approach the throne of God with confidence (Heb 4:14-16). We fear the unknown, and fear of death diminishes when we know where we are going after we die. All humans have a natural survival instinct, so it is completely normal to have a natural fear of death, but God also tells us that christians can have hope that death is just the beginning of an eternal life in heaven (Jhn 6:40).
So how do we get eternal life? The Bible says that Jesus is the way to eternal life (Jhn 3:16). If you are in Christ, you are saved (1 Cor 15:22). So how do we get into Christ? Gal 3:27 says that when we are baptized, we put on Christ. Baptism is the final of five steps to become a christian (read “Five Steps To Salvation” for the full plan of salvation). When you are in Christ, you have hope and don’t near to fear the Judgment Day.
I was told that there are two salvations: one in heaven and one on earth. Some chosen christians will go to heaven, and the others will stay on a paradise Earth after the millennium and when all evil has ended. Is this true?
Dear Making Reservations,
No, that isn’t true. What you are talking about is a popular teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it isn’t a biblical teaching. There was an earthly paradise; it was called the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8). Mankind was cast out of that paradise because of sin (Gen 3:22-24). We are told that the next paradise faithful people see will be a heavenly paradise. Jesus referred to Paradise as a place that God’s people will see once they die (Lk 23:43). Paul refers to Paradise as existing in heaven, not on Earth (2 Cor 12:2-4). Eventually, this world will be totally destroyed by intense heat (2 Pet 3:10-13), and this earthly age will pass away and be replaced by a spiritual one for all eternity (1 Cor 15:49-54). Jhn 14:2-4 says that we will dwell where God dwells (heaven) and that even now, Jesus is preparing a place for us. Matt 24:35 says that heaven and earth will pass away – unlike God’s Word. When the Judgment Day comes, the faithful will go to heaven. There will be no earthly paradise.
Did God create Himself?
Dear Big Bang,
Asking who created God is kind of like asking, “What color is round?” The question can’t be answered because ‘round’ isn’t a color. God isn’t a created being. The Bible tells us that God was “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1) and that He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps 90:2). Everything that we see in the physical universe has a beginning and a point of creation. However, God isn’t a physical being. God is a spiritual being (Jhn 4:24), and the same rules don’t apply to Him as they do to us. Apparently, in the spiritual realm, God has always existed and never was created. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev 1:8).