Ask Your Preacher
What about mixing incense with the prayers of God's people? I try not to get caught up into things which I don't understand until I get further understanding. One Sunday, our pastor brought into the sanctuary a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, and he walked around the sanctuary with incense like the Catholics do; we are not Catholic. Then he said we were to write down prayers and place them in this replica of the Ark of the Covenant. It still sits there today; now he says that he is going to burn those written prayers since its been eighty-one days, and they will ascend unto God. And then he said he’s going to do the same practice again. Can you tell me if this ritual is practiced today and what he is doing? And should I participate in this? I didn't before.
This is definitely not a New Testament practice… nor is it an Old Testament practice for that matter! The Bible teaches that our prayers are the incense God wants to receive (Ps 141:2, Rev 8:4). We never see the New Testament church burning incense as a form of worship, and the only people who were allowed to burn incense in the Old Testament were descendants of the high priest, Aaron (Num 4:16, 1 Sam. 2:28). This preacher is adding to God’s Word and is absolutely in the wrong (Rev 22:18-19).
Why do christians celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, and the Bible does not mention that day? Why do we have to follow the Catholic church? It was a day they used to celebrate the sun.
Dear Un-Sunny Disposition,
Many people believe Christmas to be a spiritual holiday, but the Bible never commands us to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th (the truth is, no one knows when Jesus was born, but it was most likely in the spring or summer because the shepherds were out – Lk 2:15). Christians are commanded to remember Jesus’ death every first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 11:24-25)… we are never commanded to remember His birth on an annual basis. Christmas is not a biblical holiday. There is nothing wrong with celebrating it as a family holiday, but it is wrong to teach that there is a biblical foundation to it.
Christmas can be traced back to the Roman pagan holiday of Winter Solstice (also known as ‘Saturnalia’ because it was in worship of the god, Saturn). As Catholicism tried to integrate itself into a pagan Roman world, Christmas was instituted by Pope Julius I on December 25th as a way to assimilate the pagans into a Catholic worldview. In short, Christmas has never been a truly biblical holiday; it is a manmade tradition with no bearings upon your salvation.
(This post is in response to “Only The Best”.)
Does your local congregation use incense in your worship service? If the "pure offering" referred to in Mal 1:11 is the lives of the people of the New Testament Church (as you say), then when does your congregation "offer incense" in God's name? Remember, you have previously stated, "If you avoid or ignore verses, that is just as bad as adding to the Bible (Rev 22:18-19). We have to take every Bible teaching, no matter how unpopular, and accept it in order to truly call ourselves a ‘Bible-only’ congregation."
Burning To Know
Dear Burning To Know,
Just like the offerings mentioned in the previous post aren’t literal animal sacrifices, the “incense” that the church sends up to God isn’t literally on fire. Mal 1:11 is a verse dealing with general principles of the church’s behavior in the way that an Old Testament Jew acquainted with Old Testament worship could understand. The Bible says that the lives of the righteous are like the sweet smell of incense before those that are perishing (2 Cor 2:14-16). Rev 8:3-4 also compares our prayers to burning incense. In either case, nowhere is the church asked to burn incense as a part of worship. Mal 1:11 would have to be taken out of context to use it as a proof text for incense as an act of New Testament worship.
Should people be getting up in front of the congregation and giving testimonies in the Lord’s church today?
Dear Speaking Up,
We are given a couple of requirements regarding speaking in the church assembly. Any testimony that someone gives of how Christ had helped them, how they had been converted, etc., must fit within the biblical guidelines for the church assembly.
One guideline is that women are not supposed to be speaking or in leadership positions during worship (1 Cor 14:34). Therefore, any woman that has a testimony to give about her life wouldn't be able to do it in that setting.
Another guideline is that everything should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40). Many of the churches that have people give testimonials do so in a chaotic fashion with people jumping up to speak or yelling out during services... this is wholly inappropriate. A congregation is required to be thoughtful and prepared with how the worship service is run.
These two guidelines alone clarify things. If a man had a worthwhile teaching to give or biblical message to present, and it was prepared and presented in a way that was proper and decently in order, it would be permissible. Realistically, very few of the churches in the religious world that use the "testimonial system" do that.
How many false prophets does the Bible mention?
Counting The Corrupt
Dear Counting The Corrupt,
The Bible doesn’t mention a specific number of false prophets – it just says that there are many (Matt 24:11). The world is fraught with false prophets who seek to use the Bible for their own gain and lead people astray. This is why John warns us to test all teachers and compare what they say to the Bible (1 Jn 4:1). Sadly, most of mankind is either duped by these false teachers or frustrated. Even within the Lord’s church, false teachers and sin cause people’s love to grow cold (Matt 24:12). False prophets are innumerable, and the way of truth is spoken against because of them (2 Pet 2:1-2). It is an uphill battle, but if christians continue to refer people to the Bible instead of their own wisdom, God’s Word will be glorified.