Ask Your Preacher
Sometimes I get a little lost when reading the Bible, and I come across names of Bible characters that are either the same or have different names for each character. Obviously Saul, who later was called Paul, in the New Testament is not the same as King Saul in the Old Testament. And we have Peter who was also called Simon in Mark 14:37.
But what about:
Acts 12:25 "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.
So, is it this "John" that wrote the book of "Mark"? I am under the impression that Mark was the son of Mary (Acts 12:12) and the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10).
Also, the book of Revelation was written by the apostle John. Is this a different John, or is this Mark?
I really wish they had cameras back then!
There are several names that are so common in the Bible that it can leave your head spinning as you try to keep them all straight. The name ‘John’ is especially common. So is the name ‘James’. We’ll see if we can break it down for you.
The name John:
- John the Baptist – born six months before Jesus; John the Baptist preached in the wilderness that the Christ was soon to come (Matt 3:1-2). John the Baptist was killed by Herod (Lk 9:9)
- John the son of Zebedee – this John was a fisherman who became one of Jesus’ apostles (Matt 4:21-22, Matt 10:2). James the son of Zebedee, his brother, was also an apostle – therefore ‘John son of Zebedee’ is also referred to as ‘John brother of James’ (Mk 5:37). This is the same apostle John who wrote the gospel according to John, 1st through 3rd John, and the book of Revelation.
- John the father of Simon Peter – To further complicate things, the apostle Peter’s father’s name was John (Jhn 1:42). This John is of no relation to the others.
- John Mark – John Mark was a zealous christian that Paul and Barnabas took with them on their journeys (Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5). Some people say that John Mark wrote the gospel of Mark, but there is no decisive evidence concerning this. John Mark was also Barnabas’ cousin (Col 4:10). His mother, Mary, is mentioned in Acts 12:12.
The name James:
- James the son of Zebedee – one of the apostles and brother to John, son of Zebedee (Matt 10:2). He was the first apostle to be killed for the Gospel (Acts 12:2).
- James the son of Alphaeus – another one of the apostles that is rarely mentioned. He is also referred to as ‘James the less’ (Mk 15:40).
- James the brother of Jesus – Matt 13:55 mentions that Jesus had a younger brother named James. This James is also mentioned as one of the elders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). This James is also attributed with writing the book of James.
Hopefully, that helps with the confusion a little bit. There is no doubt that studying the Bible takes hard work and attention to detail!
What happened to the souls of the people who died before Jesus died for our sins?
Dear Ancestral Angst,
Jesus’ blood covers the sins of the faithful who came before Him and the sins of the faithful who came after. Abraham went to Paradise, and his sins were forgiven (Lk 16:23). When David’s son died, David understood that when he died, he would go to heaven and be with his son (2 Sam 12:23). Moses and Elijah both appeared with Jesus at His transfiguration, making it clear that they, too, were in heaven (Matt 17:3).
When Jesus died on the cross, He spilt His blood once and for all (Heb 9:12). Jesus’ redeeming blood redeemed both those who would come after Him and those who lived before the crucifixion (Heb 9:15). Jesus’ blood flows in both directions.
Some of my friends take missionary trips to third-world countries; when they talk about going, I don’t really know how to respond. I am not entirely certain about the Bible's stance on missionary trips as well as how to explain why I am not participating in them. Furthermore, is there a better term for those individuals who go to a country like China for three weeks and spread the Word as best they can? Pretty much, what is a standard missionary trip, and what does the Bible say about them?
Sincerely, Savvy Traveler
Dear Savvy Traveler,
Paul’s life was dedicated to the “mission field”, and yet Paul would roundly condemn what poses for “missionary work” in today’s religious communities. It is important to note that the term ‘missionary’ is never found in the Bible; it is a modern term, not a Biblical one. The word ‘missionary’ was originally used to refer to a preacher who went on a ‘mission or assignment’ to preach the gospel in foreign lands. This is completely Biblical. In this sense, Paul was an excellent missionary (but, again that is term coined by men, not the Bible). God Himself sent Paul on a mission to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Paul believed it was his solemn duty to bring the gospel to parts of the world that had not yet received it (Rom 15:20-21).
Unfortunately, when people talk about going on ‘mission trips’ today, they rarely are using the term to refer to evangelism. Today’s churches normally use the phrase ‘mission trip’ to refer to trips where people go and build houses, roads, etc. for the impoverished in third world countries.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing kindness to the less fortunate. God commends individual Christians for helping others who are in need (Jas 1:27). However, it is wrong for a congregation to take on the work that belongs to us as individuals. The church’s job is to evangelize and teach people, to feed their spiritual needs. Many, many churches have substituted spiritual work with physical work. This is wrong. Christ said that we will always have the poor with us, but spiritual matters are of greater importance (Matt 26:11). The religious world as a whole has stopped evangelizing and become focused on civic duties and community welfare. Many churches care more about soup kitchens and daycare programs than they do about bringing people the Word of God.
So if a church is on a mission to help people, by all means, they should go preach the Word. That is the need for which every soul really hungers and thirsts… and the need that God’s church is designed to satisfy.
Was the letter sent after the conference on circumcision in Acts 15 binding for its recipients, or did it merely constitute strong advice? The letter ends with an exhortation to "abstain from things sacrificed to idols" among other things (Acts 15:29), yet elsewhere the Scriptures show that eating things sacrificed to idols is not inherently wrong (1 Cor 8:4-6).Clearly there is no conflict for the Corinthians, since they did not receive the letter sent in Acts, but what about those from Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia? Would they have been sinning if they had eaten something sacrificed to an idol after receiving this letter?
Sincerely, Letters in the Law
Dear Letters in the Law,
The letter sent to the Gentile churches in Acts chapter 15 is a binding set of laws. All of the things listed: eating meat sacrificed to idols, eating blood, and fornication (Acts 15:29) should be avoided by Christians. The Bible even says that the Holy Spirit commands that it is necessary to avoid these things (Acts 15:28). The only reason that we get confused about the issue is because later on Paul will say that eating meat sacrificed to idols isn’t always wrong (1 Cor 8:4). However, it was wrong as long as there were Jewish Christians worshipping with Gentile Christians.
In the first Corinthian letter, Paul says that when meat is sacrificed to an idol, nothing happens to the meat because idols are fake gods (1 Cor 8:5-6). The meat is not inherently bad. However, if your eating of the meat offends a brother, then it is a sin to eat it (1 Cor 8:13). When the apostles wrote the letter in Acts chapter 15 to the Gentile churches, every one of those congregations would have Jews in their congregation that would be offended by meat sacrificed to idols. Therefore, it was more than just strong advice… it was absolutely vital that they avoid idol-tainted meat. Eating meat that was knowingly sacrificed to an idol was just as sinful as fornication because it would destroy God’s work to unite Jew and Gentile under Christ (Rom 14:20-21).
Luke 24:1-12 is the story about the women finding the empty tomb of Jesus. The Scripture identifies the women as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.
Women were the first ones to discover that Jesus had risen. I was wondering how this speaks to the value of women in God's eyes and within Christianity. Also, even though the women did discover this first, it didn't seem important until Peter came and discovered that Jesus was gone.
Sincerely, Femininely Focused
Dear Femininely Focused,
Women are given great value within the Scriptures – exactly the same value as men. Indeed, it was women that first found the empty tomb (Lk 24:1-2). Entire books are written about faithful women (Book of Ruth & Book of Esther). Several women are listed in Hebrews chapter 11, the ‘hall of faith’ chapter (Heb 11:11, Heb 11:23, Heb 11:31). The fact that the news of Christ’s empty tomb didn’t begin to spread until His apostles began spreading the word of it, doesn’t make the tender act of the women bringing spices to His grave any less meaningful. His apostles’ report of an empty tomb would have carried more weight than anyone else’s.
The Bible is clear that men and women have different roles within the church. Men are to lead the congregation as elders and deacons (1 Tim 3:2, 1 Tim 3:12). Women are to teach in more private settings and by their godly demeanors (Tit 2:3, 1 Tim 2:9-10). Husbands are to lead their families in sacrificial Christ-like love (Eph 5:25), and wives are to bind together their families by their respect for their husbands and love for their children (Tit 2:4, Eph 5:24). Yet, in all these differences, God makes it clear that neither male nor female is greater than the other (1 Cor 11:11-12). They are equals and joint-heirs of salvation in Christ (1 Pet 3:7).