Ask Your Preacher
What is faith? When we have faith, do we have faith like when we sit on a chair or fly on a plane? What type of faith does the Word of God say that we should have? How many different types of faith are there? We all are given a measure of faith, but yet, the Word says that there is only one faith; what does this mean? Do we function on different faith, or do we all function on the same faith… but differently?
Dear Finding Faith,
The word ‘faith’ simply means ‘to place your trust in, to believe’. In the context of the Bible, the word ‘faith’ is specifically referring to our trust in God.
Faith is an inevitable element of life. Anytime you trust something you can’t see, it is an act of faith (Heb 11:1). When we take an aspirin, we have faith that it isn’t laced with arsenic. When we drive, we have faith that the traffic light is telling the other lanes to stop when it tells us to go. We visit restaurants because we have faith in the recommendation our friend gave us, and we buy houses based on our faith in the home inspector’s report. Everyone lives by faith – this is an important aspect of life.
Sadly, most people are quick to place their trust in manmade things like airplanes and cars, but very slow to place their faith in God. The Bible says that faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom 10:17). That is what the Bible means when it says there is only one faith (Eph 4:5). There is only one standard for a faithful life – the Bible. The Bible is the book of the faith and then how we follow the faith determines our level of individual faith.
When we study and then live by the teachings found in the Bible we are living a life of faith in God. It isn’t enough to just say we believe in God, our works must back that statement up (Jas 2:14-17). Even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19), but salvation comes to those who do something about that belief.
We know it was because of God that Aaron turned his staff into a snake and frogs coming out of the water, but what about the sorcerers that did the same thing (Exodus 7:11-12, Exodus 8:7)? By what power did they do this?
The Pharaoh’s magicians used good old-fashioned parlor tricks to turn their staves into snakes. They used their “enchantments” to make the serpents appear – no differently than the impressive, but explainable acts of today’s illusionists (Ex 7:11). The difference was that Moses’ serpent ate their serpents (Ex 7:12)! The evidence was clear; Moses’ “trick” was different. Eventually, even the magicians admitted that the one true God was behind Moses’ miracles (Ex 8:19).
What are the jobs and differences between Bishops, Pastors, Elders, Deacons? What is the chain of command or should I say the order between these positions? Where in the Bible does it talk about each of these positions, or are they manmade?
Rank And File
Dear Rank And File,
Elders are the superintendents of a local congregation, and they are always men. The word elder is one title to describe the leaders of a local church. Other titles include ‘overseer/bishop’ (depending on translation – 1 Tim 3:1) and ‘pastor’ (Eph 4:11). The title of the job explains their role. They have the oversight of God’s people. That oversight only extends to one congregation (1 Pet 5:2), the local congregation that they are among. Each congregation has elders appointed in it (Acts 14:23).
Elders must meet strict requirements before they are appointed. Those qualifications can be found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Elders are always referred to by the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ – thus making them men. Also, one of the qualifications is that they be ‘a husband of one wife’ (Titus 1:6) which makes it pretty clear we are talking about men. Elders also never serve alone. All the churches in the Bible had multiple elders. Elders serve an important role of protecting, leading, and guiding the direction of a congregation. They will give an account for every christian in their congregation (Heb 13:17). A congregation should never take lightly the responsibility of appointing only completely qualified elders.
Deacons are servants of the church. The word ‘deacon’ comes from the Greek word ‘diakonos’ which literally means ‘servant’. The Bible doesn’t give a detailed account of their job because there are so many ways that servants can serve. Deacons in the church are men that meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:8-13.
These deacons are a specific type of servant in the church – they serve the eldership (Php 1:1). Deacons are given authority by the elders to oversee various responsibilities within the church. These responsibilities might be building maintenance, the treasury, benevolence, etc. – whatever tasks the elders need help getting done are the tasks deacons are to fulfill. A good example of how this would work can be found in Acts 6:1-4 when the apostles needed help making sure the christian widows received their daily bread. The apostles had too many responsibilities already, so they delegated that task to seven capable men (Acts 6:5-6).
In short, the local church is led by elders (also known as pastors or bishops) and those elders have qualified deacons that help them fulfill their responsibilities.
Temptation and trials – what is the different between the two? Who gives us trials or do we put ourselves in them? Who gives us temptations or do we put ourselves in them? Why do we go through both? Is it a test for us to pass or to build us up spiritually?
The Bible says that God never tempts us to do evil (Jas 1:13). God never purposefully puts us in a situation with a desire for us to sin. The devil wants to devour you with sin, but God never does (1 Pet 5:8). However, God does put us in situations in order to find out what we are made of. God tested Abraham when He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:1). God put Abraham in a position where he could succeed or fail – but the key is that God wanted him to succeed (Gen 22:14-18). Abraham was tried by God (Heb 11:17), so God could bless him. God may put us in circumstances that are difficult, but His desire is always to benefit us.
On the other hand, the devil tempts us for the purpose of destroying us – just like he did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1). That is why God promises us that He will never allow the devil to tempt us beyond what we are able to handle (1 Cor 10:13). The devil tries to set us up for failure, and the Lord tries to set us up for success.
(This question is in response to “Legal Council”.)
You said, "No congregation has the right to impose their decisions on another local church." But in Acts 15, James, the bishop of Jerusalem (not an apostle) sends a letter of decree to the local congregation that was circumcising Gentile believers. This became binding on that local congregation (and the practice obviously stopped). Also, you said, "The only difference would be that the council in Acts 15 affected the entire universal church because the apostles were there, and the apostles had authority over all the church." Where in the Bible does it specifically say that the authority of the apostles ended when they passed on? Is that just an assumption?
Make A Decision
Dear Make A Decision,
James wasn’t the only one who sent that letter – he was one of the elders from Jerusalem, but the letter was sent by the apostles and the elders (Acts 15:23). The apostles were the ones with the authority to lay the decree down for all the churches. Paul points out that as an apostle, he had that authority and responsibility in 1 Cor 7:17 and 2 Cor 11:28.
It isn’t an assumption that the apostolic authority ended with these first apostles. In order to be an apostle, a man had to be specifically sent forth by Christ (the word ‘apostle’ means ‘one sent forth’) and have witnessed His resurrection (Acts 1:21-26). Elders only have the authority to shepherd the local congregation they are at (1 Pet 5:2). Universal church authority ended with the apostles.