Ask Your Preacher
What things besides the Bible (e.g. a knowledge of history, culture, languages, etc.) are prerequisites to understanding the Bible? How can our plea be "Bible only" if so much additional knowledge is needed just to understand the Bible itself?
Dear No Theologian,
The Bible is the only thing we use as our guide, and anything that we can use to help better understand and appreciate the Bible is useful… but it all comes back to God’s Book. If someone doesn’t know how to read, they can still study their Bible by having others read it to them… but literacy sure makes them more effective students! You don’t need to know world history, Jewish culture, or Koiné Greek to learn the Bible, but they each offer things that can enhance your studies and give you a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. All of these are simply tools to help us be better Bible students… but in the end, knowing Bible is the goal and at the heart of all we do (Rom 1:16).
Is salvation by faith only or by both faith and works? Passages like Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, 3:27-28, 4:2-5, 5:1, 10: 9-10, 11:6, Gal 2:16, 3:11-12, Eph 2:8-9, Tit 3:5, 2 Tim 1:9, and Php 3:9 all say that faith is just needed. Especially a standout here is Eph 2:8-9 because I see this verse used often by the Pentecostal/Evangelical Charismatic preachers to prove their idea that faith is all you need and nothing else, not even baptism. I often see these guys preach this idea to young people because they believe they will be more likely proselytes, especially someone who has never even touched a Bible in their entire lives.
But according to passages like Ps 62:12, Matt 16:27, Rom 2: 6-7, Pr 24:12, Eccl 12:14, Jer 17:10, 32:19, Jhn 5:29, 2 Cor 5:10, Php 2:12, Jas 2:14-26, Heb 6:10, 1 Peter 1:17, Job 34:11, Gal 6:7, Col 3: 23-24, and Rev 22:12, works do matter! So what are we saved by, and why are there some passages that talk about only faith and other passages talk about both faith and works?
Dear Mixed Messages,
The Bible says that we are saved by faith (Eph 2:8), but it never says that we are saved by faith only. The Scriptures mention a lot of things that are involved in our salvation. We are saved by hope (Rom 8:24). We are saved by baptism (1 Pet 3:21). We are saved by the love of the truth (2 Thess 2:10). All of these things are involved in your salvation. In order to understand a topic, we must look at the sum of God’s Word on that subject (Ps. 119:160).
We are told that in order to be saved, we must believe in Jesus (Jhn 3:16), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), be baptized (Mk 16:16), and continue to grow in the knowledge of Christ through the Bible (2 Pet 3:18). Faith is hearing what God says (Rom 10:17)… and then acting upon it. James says that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17). It is impossible to be a faithful person and live an unrepentant life. Faith is more than belief; even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19). Faith is belief combined with action. We must be hearers and doers of God’s Word (Jas 1:22).
The common sleeping pills have their affect on the brain by binding to GABA receptors, potentiating a sedative effect. Alcohol binds to the same receptors and produces the same effects. If it is "okay" to use a prescribed sleeping pill, would it be equally okay to drink alcohol for the same reason? I had a medical doctor tell me I could either take an Ambien or drink a glass of wine before bed, so this is a true concern for me. Please advise.
Dear Medical Matter,
Alcohol has always been a problem in society, and Christians are rightfully cautious about any connection with liquor. This isn’t a new concern; Christians have always felt this way. In 1 Tim 5:23, Paul had to specifically tell Timothy that using alcohol medicinally was okay. This is the exact same scenario you are facing. If your doctor prescribes alcohol medicinally, your situation would fall into the same category as 1 Tim 5:23. Having said that, if your conscience offends you, you should choose alternate medical routes (after all, we are blessed to live in a time with so many medical options) because anything that isn’t done in faith is sinful (Rom 14:23).
Just to reiterate, this only pertains to medical prescriptions, not recreational or social drinking.
Is divorce ever "okay"? If so, when? When there has been unfaithfulness, abuse, neglect?
Curious About Causes
Dear Curious About Causes,
Divorce always involves sin. God is never okay with divorce, but He does allow it in certain circumstances. In Mal 2:16, God says that He hates divorce and compares divorce to an act of violence and bloodshed. In every divorce, you will see that one or both parties have committed sin.
In Matt. 19:9, Jesus says that divorce is wrong between two believers unless fornication has been committed. ‘Fornication’ means ‘sexual immorality’. Adultery is an allowed reason for divorce.
The other reason is found in 1 Cor 7:12-15. In those verses, the apostle Paul explains that a Christian that is married to an unbeliever can accept a divorce if the unbeliever wishes to break up the marriage. This doesn’t mean that the Christian can instigate a divorce from an unbeliever, but they aren’t sinning by accepting the divorce.
Those are the two circumstances when God says that divorce is allowed. In other situations, separation would be allowed, but not divorce.
If you would like more information on what Jesus taught regarding Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage - this link will take you to a series of lessons we taught on the subject.
The recent questions on tithing have got me thinking. If someone gives out of their personal funds to things related to their specific congregation... say, they buy class materials or pitch in for building upkeep. Could that be considered as part of their giving for the week? We are on a strict budget and sometimes have to buy things for the church but feel bad if when the collection plate rolls around on Sunday morning, we've already spent that money earlier in the week.
On A Shoestring
Dear On A Shoestring,
There is nothing wrong with factoring other spending you do on behalf of the church into your giving, but the biggest thing you need to do is to factor these things in at the beginning and not when Sunday rolls around. 2 Cor 9:7 says that we should “purpose in our hearts” what we should give, and 1 Cor 16:1-3 talks about giving in a purposeful, planned way. If we are reading your question right, what is happening is that you have a budget, and whatever is left at the end of that budget is what you give. That is the opposite of how giving should be done. When you first get money, you should plan ahead what you will give (factor in extra church giving expenditures you may need to prepare for), set that money aside, and then the decision is made well before the plate comes by. That way, you can feel confident that what you are giving is purposeful and cheerfully planned.