Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I am a christian and have a hard-earned doctorate in a prestigious field. My peers and colleagues think that the idea of God is antiquated and ludicrous. Meanwhile, christians at my church have little education, menial jobs, and minimal interest in esoteric matters. This may sound cruel, but I would be embarrassed to bring my colleagues to services. I am ashamed of my discomfort but am still unwilling to invite my professional friends to church. Why can't christians seem smarter?
Sincerely, Between a PhD and a Hard Place
Dear Between a PhD and a Hard Place,
You are assuming God defines ‘smart’ the same way as you do. God doesn’t care about esoteric debates and controversial questions – in fact He mocks those who build their lives upon such things (1 Cor 1:20, 1 Tim 6:4).
God defines ‘smart’ as those honest and humble enough to seek Him (Lk 8:15). The intelligent person seeks the truth regardless of whether it is fashionable, impressive, or easy. The intelligent person makes sacrifices in this life, so they might have treasure in the next (Lk 9:23). The intelligent person confesses Christ openly, so Christ will confess him openly before God (Lk 12:8).
‘Smart’ is in the eyes of the beholder. Your colleagues know much more about the ways of this world and academia than the average person does. Yet, does this make them smart considering this world is passing away (2 Pet 3:10)? If I place all of my trust in the knowledge and power of man, will I not be considered a fool before God on the Day of Judgment? Is that not the message of the parable of the rich man (Lk 12:18-20)? It is not the brethren who are dumb but the overly-educated scholastics who deny the need for God.
God says that very few scholars of this age will obey the gospel (1 Cor 1:26)… this makes you a very rare and special gift to your colleagues. You are numbered among the few of academia that have realized the importance of eternal wisdom. This makes your responsibility to your peers all the more poignant. You have a rare opportunity to shine brightly for God’s Word in a world that tries to suppress it. Do not hide your light (Lk 11:33).
Thanks for tackling this question earlier. You gave a good explanation of how offering the Lord's Supper twice is consistent with the command to "wait for one another" in 1 Cor 11:33, but your answer left me with a few more questions. We often talk about how we need to have a command, example, or necessary inference for everything the Church does. In this case, I'm not aware of a command or example to have the Lord's Supper twice, and the inference doesn't seem necessary to me. Where is our authority to do this?
Many of the exhortations in 1 Cor 11 imply that communing with our brothers and sisters in Christ is an important aspect of the Supper. Why is it that when we come together we all sing, we all pray, we all meditate on the Scriptures together, but only some of us take communion? It seems like we all should participate, or none of us should. What if only one person comes forward to take communion in the evening? Who are they communing with?
Sincerely, All or Nothing
Dear All or Nothing,
If one person takes the Lord’s Supper, they are communing with the Lord (1 Cor 10:16), the same as if a hundred people took it. The point of the Lord’s Supper is:
- Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26).
- Examine ourselves (1 Cor 11:28).
- Remember His suffering on our behalf (1 Cor 11:25).
All three of those items are an individual command. The Lord’s Supper is taken individually and offered collectively. In this case, we have to split hairs. A congregation is responsible for offering the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) and to offer it in an orderly way (1 Cor 11:18); the individual is responsible for taking it when it is offered.
The issue of command, example, and necessary inference for all Biblical practices still holds true in this case. Christians are commanded to take the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:24). We have an example of the church offering the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). We necessarily infer that if the churches partook on the first day of the week, we also should do so. The question comes down to how to logistically make that happen. Every congregation must offer the Lord’s Supper in an orderly way, so that all members have opportunity to fulfill the command to partake of it. One congregation offers it only in the morning; another offers it in the morning and at night… both fulfill the Lord’s wishes. As long as it is offered every Sunday, a congregation has the freedom to organize this particular part of worship as they see fit.
Can a woman continue to teach a baptized christian boy after he is baptized?
Sincerely, Age Appropriate
Dear Age Appropriate,
Baptism doesn’t make you a man; it makes you a christian. The Scriptures are clear about a woman teaching a man – she can’t do it (1 Tim. 2:12). Your question doesn’t deal with a woman teaching a man. Instead, it is addressing when a male becomes a man. That issue is a much more difficult one because there is no exact answer. There are two parts to your question:
- When do we recognize a boy as a man?
- What should a congregation do in order to have harmony when a boy is baptized?
The first question is easily answered – I don’t know. The Scriptures never say. Society recognizes 18 as adult enough to be considered completely responsible for oneself. Even that is just an arbitrary number. In reality, every child matures at a different rate, and there is no magic moment of transition from childhood to adulthood. Everyone agrees a 10 year old is a child and a 20 year old is an adult, but it is the ages in between that leave us scratching our heads.
The second question is an issue of dealing with opinions. Realistically, when a young person is baptized, some will consider him or her an instant adult; others will recognize it as a decision that shows maturity but not adulthood. Consequently, in the case of a boy, a congregation will have some that feel he can no longer have a woman Bible class teacher, and others will think it is still appropriate. Both views are an opinion, and we can’t stand hard and fast on either view. Rom 14:13 says that in such cases, we should do whatever will not cause division or hurt anyone’s conscience. If the congregation is being torn apart by a woman teaching a newly baptized boy, put him in a different class with a male teacher. If a woman has been teaching him and no longer feels she can do it in clear conscience, she should be allowed to recuse herself as his teacher. No matter what, in issues of opinion, peace and edification should be sought above all else (Rom 14:19). Wisdom will have to be used to decide what is the best course in each circumstance.
I am reaching a point with my girlfriend where I am beginning to consider that she is ‘the one’ for me. I really love her, and she challenges my faith and challenges me to be a better and more compassionate person. I really think I want to marry her. The problem is that she is Catholic (I am a christian). We've talked about this and prayed over it, and we're both against converting because we know that we'd be doing it for the other person and not necessarily for faith.
Is this a problem? What is the Bible's approach in regard to inter-faith marriages?
Sincerely, Future In The Balance
Dear Future In The Balance,
‘Inter-faith’ marriages have disastrous results, an awful track record, and God warns against them. The Bible’s most notorious example of this is Solomon. Solomon’s idolatrous wives turned the heart of the wisest man on the planet away from God (1 Kgs 11:4). If Solomon in all of his wisdom couldn’t resist the pull of a false religion, we should consider ourselves just as vulnerable. There is too much at stake. If your heart is turned away from God, your soul will be eternally destroyed (Heb 3:12).
No matter how much you love each other, there are only four possible outcomes for your marriage, and only one of them is good:
- She eventually converts and obeys the gospel, becomes a christian, and is saved (GOOD).
- You eventually convert and obey the Catholic church, and you are both lost (BAD).
- You both make compromises in your beliefs, and you no longer fully serve the Lord (BAD).
- You both eventually renounce both of your belief systems, and are both lost (BAD).
The only positive outcome is the first one, and that isn’t any more likely to happen after you are married than before. Either she will eventually convert, or she won’t – getting married won’t increase the odds.
God warns against being ‘unequally yoked’ to someone with different values than you (2 Cor 6:14-16). Once you get married, you are ‘yoked’ to that person with a lifetime agreement. A godly marriage is designed around unity (Gen 2:24). If you aren’t unified on your core belief system, then everything else will be affected. Where will your children go to church? How much money will you contribute to the Catholic church vs. God’s church? What happens when she wants to put up Catholic emblems around the house? These are just a few of the thousands of day-to-day problems you will run into. God tells us that a christian should marry someone ‘in the Lord’ (1 Cor 7:39). If she really does love the Lord as much as she loves you, her honesty and humility will guide her to accept the truth. If not, you are both better off knowing before entering into a heartbreaking marriage.
What is the role of elders? Can women be elders? Why or why not?
Sincerely, Quality Control
Dear Quality Control,
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.