Ask Your Preacher
Can you explain what's going on in John 20:22-23 where Jesus appears to give His disciples the power to forgive or not forgive sins? Other Bible verses like Hebrews 4:16 and 1 John 1:9 seem to indicate that it is God who directly forgives sins.
Got The Power?
Dear Got The Power,
The passage in Jhn 20:23 is more easily understood when we look at the original Greek. It is very rare that going back to the Greek is a big deal, but in this case, it adds a lot of color. When Jesus says, “Whatever sins you retain, they are retained”, the verb used for ‘are retained’ is a Greek perfect verb. A perfect verb is a verb used when the action has already happened and the effects of that action are still with us. The most accurate translation of that passage is “whatever sins you retain have already been retained, and the effects are still with us”. Of course, that translation is a little bit cludgy, so most translators shorten it up a bit to what you read in the average translation. It isn’t wrong to shorten it, but it does lose a little bit of the color that makes it easier to appreciate Jesus’ words.
Jesus was telling His apostles that they were going to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and the things that they were going to say wouldn’t be of their own opinion. When they taught, they taught God’s pre-appointed laws.
Would you say that baptism is necessary for going to heaven? If so, do you think that if you're unable to get baptized for whatever reason but you've had a change of heart that you will still go to hell?
Dear Double-Checking Destinations,
The most well-documented and clearest doctrine in the New Testament is baptism… yet, it is also the most commonly ignored topic in the religious world. Peter said it best when he said, “Baptism saves you” (1 Pet 3:21). Every person that became a christian in the New Testament was baptized – immediately. You won’t find a single person in the book of Acts that wasn’t baptized. When the first sermon was preached after Christ ascended into heaven, the apostles told the people that they needed to “repent and be baptized… for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul tells us that baptism is a burial with Christ, and only after that burial do we receive a new life (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism was so important to Paul that he was baptized even before eating or drinking (Acts 9:18-19), which shows how important it is because Paul hadn’t had food or water in three days (Acts 9:9)! Belief is not enough; even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19). It is only when our belief is combined with obedience that we have living faith (Jas 2:17-18), and the very first command to obey that God gives us is to be baptized in the name of His Son (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:16). We die to sin when we are baptized.
Now, let’s quickly deal with the second part to your question. The only way you can know with confidence that you are saved is to do what the Bible says (Rom 1:16). If God chooses to make exceptions to that rule on the Judgment Day, that is His right… He is the final Judge (Heb 12:23). However, 99.99% of us have the ability to get baptized, so that is what we should do.
My family and I go to a small Baptist church. One deacon didn't like the preacher even though the congregation loved him. The deacon didn't like the way the preacher walked back and forth across the pulpit, and the preacher was too emotional when he gave testimony. Our preacher resigned, and we lost over half the congregation because of it. My two kids and one other are the only children there now. My husband won't go back because he thinks it is corrupt now. I asked him if we can go visit other churches, and he said, “Why? If one is corrupt, they all are.” How can I convince him they are not all corrupt? I want to keep my family in church. I don't know what to do. My kids are getting where they don't want to go on Wednesday night now because they are the only kids there.
Grasping At Straws
Dear Grasping At Straws,
There are congregations all around the country that aren't corrupted by denominationalism, personal opinions, or traditions. Our recommendation is that you show our article "Down With Denominationalism" to your husband and read it together. There are so many problems with modern religion, and it all comes down to opinions being placed above Scripture. When we leave the Bible pattern, all sorts of chaos and trouble ensues (2 Tim 1:13). The church is supposed to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), but most churches have become places for petty arguments or the latest worship fad.
We know of congregations all over that reject this philosophy and really do put the Bible first. It may be hard for your husband to believe because he has seen so much of the opposite, but it is true. Just because there are lots of bad mechanics doesn't mean that you stop driving a car – just because there are lots of bad churches doesn't mean we can give up on the Lord. Comb through past articles on our site, and you'll see that we do our very best to always give book, chapter, and verse for what we do. Our congregation isn't alone, and if you want, we can help you find one near you that has the same attitude. Feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com with any further questions or if we can help you locate a church.
How do we know when miraculous works/healings ceased?
The Scriptures talk about the miraculous ability to speak in different languages (Acts 2:4-6), prophetic wisdom (Jhn 14:26), and a host of other things. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to the apostles (Acts 2:1-4), and the apostles were able to pass on these gifts to others by laying their hands on them (Acts 8:18). The apostles were the only ones with the ability to pass on the gifts. Therefore, when the last person that the last living apostle laid hands on died… the gifts ceased to exist. God intended for this to happen.
Miracles were needed to prove that Jesus and His apostles were sent from God (Acts 14:3, Acts 2:22, Jhn 9:16). Miracles were used as a proof that what the disciples said was truly God’s Word (Acts 8:6). Now that we have the perfect and complete Bible, we no longer need those miracles – which was Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians. When the “perfect” of 1 Cor 13:8-10 happened, the church no longer needed miracles to further the message of Christ. After the Bible was completed, the church was able to fully see God’s message of salvation (1 Cor 13:12) without further need of prophecies and miracles.
Prove that God is real.
Just The Facts
Dear Just The Facts,
We could spend pages answering your question. The most difficult part of your question is trying to summarize the thousands of evidences for God’s existence. Please consider the following list as an abridged look at the topic.
Top 5 Reasons There is a God:
- The world was either created, or it came from nothing. If we are created, then there is a Creator. Consequently, one of the most basic rules of science is that something never comes from nothing (see an explanation of the first law of Thermodynamics here). The energy that exists in our universe had to come from somewhere.
- Life never comes from non-life. All living things come from other living things. There is no such thing as spontaneous generation. Evolution teaches the opposite. Evolution states that all living creatures descend from one-celled organisms that were randomly created from inorganic material billions of years ago. That is scientifically impossible.
- Life is complex. Complexity requires design – and consequently a Designer. Blood cells, dragonflies, oak trees, giraffes, etc. are all IMMENSELY complex and intricate things. It doesn’t make sense to say that they were randomly formed – they have far too much design.
- Humans feel shame. Shame and guilt are uniquely human conditions that make no sense from an evolutionary standpoint. If we evolved to survive, and only to survive, there would be no reason for humans to have ethics. Why would we care about right and wrong unless we were created by a Creator who instilled these beliefs in us?
- Humans hunger for religion. As a rule, human beings are religious. We crave spiritual knowledge and eternal wisdom. We often seek it in all the wrong places, but the fact still remains that we desire eternal purpose for our lives. A case can be made that there is nothing that we desire that can’t be fulfilled. We hunger; there is food. We thirst; there is water. We want companionship; there is the opposite gender. You are incapable of having a desire that cannot be slaked. This is more of a philosophical argument, but it can be argued that since we all seek God – God must exist.
We can guarantee you that we did not even begin to do the subject of proving God’s existence justice. If you would like to look at the issue in-depth, we recommend going to www.answersingenesis.org to get further scientific evidence for God. We also recommend the books I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler & Turek, Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel and Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells. And last but not least, we highly recommend the movie Expelled featuring Ben Stein. All of these resources will provide you with an intimate and compelling argument that God most definitely does exist.