Category Archives: Bible

Does God Hold Me Responsible For What I Do In My Dreams?

It’s unlikely God holds us much more accountable for the fantasies that appear in our dreams than He does for the predispositions to sin that we all share, including temptations or evil thoughts that drift into our minds. In fact, some of the things that happen in the theater of our dreams may help us be more aware of our deepest longings, conflicts, and fears.

Sexual fantasy, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and seemingly uncontrollably in dreams. We don’t know how much we are capable of regulating behavior in dreams. Some of the ascetic church fathers thought we are responsible for what we do in dreams, but Scripture nowhere indicates that this is true.1

Dreams are generally things that “happen to us,” not things we consciously choose to do. To the extent that our dreams are “lucid”—that is under the control of our conscious mind—we may find we encounter some genuine temptation. (See What should I think of what I experience in dreams? and Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

If troubled by dreams, we should commit them to the Lord, asking for protection as we sleep. We should also ask Him to instruct us as we sleep and strengthen our ability to resist both conscious and unconscious temptation.

  1. Furthermore, Scripture nowhere implies that we adopt the other extreme forms of self-discipline the ascetics embraced, such as living in isolation, eating starvation diets, tormenting themselves with hair shirts that constantly itched, remaining unbathed so that lice could multiply, and so on. Back To Article

 

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Did Jehovah, the Father, Tell Jesus What to do?

The relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is considerably more mysterious than is implied by the expression “persons of the Trinity.”

The word translated LORD in the King James is always the tetragrammaton YHWH.1 This word is used in combination with other words to emphasize specific qualities of God. Whenever either Jehovah or LORD is used in the King James Bible, it is used in reference to YHWH.

The King James translators translated YHWH as Jehovah Yir’eh, “The LORD provides” (Genesis 22:8,14); YHWH Shalom, “The LORD is peace” (Judges 6:24); YHWH Tsidkenu, “The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6); YHWH Shammah, “The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).

When the most commonly used Hebrew word for God, YHWH, was translated into Greek, the word Kurios (Lord) was used. This is the same Greek word used by the followers of Christ to refer to the Savior.

The New Scofield Reference Bible has a helpful comment on this aspect of God’s redemptive name:

Jehovah is distinctly the redemption name of Deity. When sin entered the world and man’s redemption became necessary, it was Jehovah Elohim who sought the sinning ones (Gen. 3:9-13) and clothed them with coats of skins (Gen. 3:21), a beautiful type of the righteousness provided by the LORD God through sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-25). The first distinctive revelation of Himself by His name Jehovah was in connection with the redemption of the covenant people out of Egypt (Ex. 3:13-17).

As Redeemer, emphasis is laid upon those attributes of Jehovah which the sin and salvation of man bring into exercise. These are (a) His holiness (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:1,2; 20:26; Hab. 1:12,13); (b) His hatred and judgment of sin (Deut. 32:35-42; cp. Gen. 6:5-7; Ex. 34:6,7; Ps. 11:4-6; 66:18); and (c) His love for and redemption of sinners, which He always carries out righteously (Gen. 3:21; 8:20,21; Ex. 12:12,13; Lev. 16:2,3; Isa. 53:5,6,10). Salvation by Jehovah apart from sacrifice is unknown in Scripture.

However, we should not limit the use of the name Jehovah to Jesus Christ alone. The Old Testament is not as explicit in the identification of the persons in the Godhead as is the New Testament. There are three primary names for God in the Old Testament but these do not really correspond with the three Persons of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament. There are some occasions when the name Jehovah might better apply to the Father or the Trinity as a whole.

  1. The Webster’s New World Dictionary explains that the term tetragrammaton (tetra = 4, gramma = letter) refers to the four consonants of the Hebrew name for God that was too sacred to be pronounced aloud. When it was necessary to refer to God aloud, the term Adonai (Lord) was used. Back To Article
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Is Deep Sorrow Necessary to be Saved?

The term repentance in Hebrew means “to turn or return and is applied to turning from sin to God” (The New Bible Dictionary). In the New Testament, the term repent has the meaning of “a change of mind.” Repentance involves grief for sin and a willingness to set one’s priorities aright in faithfulness to the gospel message.

Jesus Himself linked repentance with conversion (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3; 17:3). A person can’t willfully continue in conscious sin and assume that God will automatically forgive him should he die before he can change his ways.

Genuine repentance always involves genuine fear (See the ATQ article, Is Fear Ever an Appropriate Motivation for Conversion?) and genuine sorrow. However, salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. It isn’t our sorrow or the extent of our sorrow that saves us. We can’t earn salvation by means of our sorrow or anything else we do.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16 ).

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Repentance is necessary for conversion. But if we think our sorrow over sin must reach a certain “depth” before we can be saved, we are making our salvation dependent on something we do.

Genuine sorrow is always present with sincere repentance. However, just as repentance and godly sorrow for past sins don’t “earn” God’s forgiveness and grace, repentance and sorrow don’t end after we become Christians. They will continue throughout the rest of our life as the supernatural process of sanctification makes us increasingly aware of our personal corruption and sin (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 13:20-21). With spiritual growth comes sensitivity to the sins we committed in the past. Our sorrow for those mistakes—and our desire to avoid repeating them—is an essential part of our becoming new creatures in Christ. We will experience deep sorrow as part of the process, although deepest sorrow never occurs at the beginning. In fact, it is impossible for us to sorrow as deeply for our sins when we begin our relationship with Jesus Christ as we will when He enters deeply into our lives and consciousness.

The sweet comfort that God provides to us in times of godly sorrow is also deeply affirming to our faith in Him.

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Does Deuteronomy 22:5 Imply that Women Should Not Wear Pants But Only Skirts?

Neither men nor women wore pants in Bible times. Men and women both wore tunics, which were very similar in their design. (The woman’s outer tunic descended to her feet, while the man’s descended only approximately to the level of the knees.) The Ryrie Study Bible note on this verse states:

In that society male and female dress were similar, making distinctive styles for the sexes especially important.

The New International Study Bible makes the following observations:

Probably intended to prohibit such perversions as transvestism and homosexuality, especially under religious auspices. The God-created differences between men and women are not to be disregarded (see Lev. 18:22; 20:13).

Obviously, God was not requiring women to dress in a radically different manner from men. If that were the case, the Jewish people would have been required to have a clear distinction between the clothing worn by men and the clothing worn by women. (For example, if a drastic difference were required, Hebrew men would have worn pants as men do in our society, and women would have worn dresses.) However, since both men and women wore tunics, it is apparent that what God was concerned with was the conscious imitation of male clothing styles on the part of a woman or female clothing styles on the part of a man. Since our culture has long considered the wearing of slacks to be acceptable feminine attire, we don’t believe that the commandment in Deuteronomy 22:5 would in any way forbid it.

In 1 Peter 3:3-6, women are encouraged to seek the beauty that comes from within (“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”). Women should seek to dress in a manner that honors their femininity but is at the same time tasteful and modest. It is important that a woman place her main emphasis not on her exterior beauty but on the things of the Spirit—her spiritual beauty.

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Where Was Jesus Before His Resurrection?

Jesus’ clear statement to the believing thief on the cross implies that He was in heaven between the time of His death and His bodily resurrection:

And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:38-43).

Nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian pastor David Brown paraphrased our Lord’s reply this way:

Thou art prepared for a long delay before I come into My kingdom, but not a day’s delay shall there be for thee, thou shalt not be parted from Me even for a moment, but together we shall go, and with Me, ere this day expire, should thou be in paradise.

The term paradise as used in Luke 23:43 can designate a garden (Genesis 2:8-10), a forest (Ezekiel 31:7-9), or (as in 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7) the place of peace and blissful consciousness that exists for the redeemed in the presence of God.

Just before dying, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). This implies that when He died He went immediately into the presence of the Father. Both He and the repentant thief were in heaven that day.

On the third day, Jesus was resurrected with a glorified body. But He had not yet ascended to the Father in His glorified body when He encountered Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). Jesus appeared and disappeared during the next 40 days, leaving heaven and appearing on earth in His glorified body, so His ascension wasn’t the first time He had been in heaven since His death. It was merely a deed done publicly to strengthen the faith of His disciples and to clearly demonstrate that His ministry on earth would now be replaced by that of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).

When Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him because He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father, He wasn’t implying that He hadn’t yet seen heaven. He was saying that there would be a time in heaven when Mary would once again be able to embrace Him. Now, however, she must not cling to Him, for His earthly work was done.

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Does the Bible Permit Women to Run for High Political Office?

The Bible was written at a time when women were not allowed prominent positions in society. The structure of ancient culture denied women many of the opportunities they rightfully enjoy today. However, in spite of the fact that women were suppressed by culture, the Bible contains many examples of influential women. In the Old Testament, for example, women served as prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Numbers 12:1-2; Judges 4:4; 2 Chronicles 34:22), and judges (Judges 4–5).

Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and founder of the Christian faith, accepted women as equals in an age when women were regarded as inferior. He recognized no authority besides that of the leader who takes the role of a servant. He defied many of the customs of His day that tended to keep women secluded and in subjugation.

In the New Testament, Priscilla instructed the famous preacher Apollos (Acts 18:26). In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul seems to be assuming that women will be speaking openly in mixed church gatherings. Earlier we learn that women had the authority to preach in the apostolic church (Acts 21:8-9). There are many passages in the New Testament that describe the important role played by women, a role they held in spite of many severe, culturally imposed limitations. A significant number of women were included in Paul’s list of valued coworkers in Romans 16.

In general, Scripture clearly portrays the equality of the sexes before God (Genesis 1:27; Acts 10:34; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 3:28). The prophet Joel spoke, after all, of both men and women prophesying (“your sons and daughters will prophesy,” 2:28), and when the gifts of the Spirit are listed and described in the New Testament (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:7-16) no distinctions are made on the basis of sex.

Although there is some controversy over the specific roles women should play in church leadership, there is no reasonable scriptural basis for believing that women should not serve in secular leadership roles, including top political roles such as United States Senator or President. Candidates running for such important roles should be selected on the basis of their character and wisdom, not because of their race, sex, or any other nonessential criteria.

 

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Does James 2:10 imply that God doesn’t consider some sins more serious than others?

James 2:10 states: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all” (nkjv).

Some people have mistakenly thought that this verse means that all sins are equal in God’s view, that no sins are worse than others.

In the Old Testament, there were sacrifices to atone for sins done in ignorance or through weakness. But deliberate, premeditated transgressions were a more serious category of sin for which the law couldn’t atone (Hebrews 10). People who committed such sins (Leviticus 6:1-2; 10:1-2; 20:1-27; Numbers 15:32-35; 16:26-32) either had to make restitution (as in the cases of theft or lying) or be put to death (as in the cases of adultery, violating the Sabbath, cursing one’s parents). When David premeditatedly committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he wrote, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:16-17 nkjv). David knew that no sacrifice could atone for what he did, and that he could only, like other Old Testament believers who committed such sins, cast himself on God’s mercy. The law provided no forgiveness. He needed grace.

Paul’s declaration in Romans 2 that God will judge “according to works,” “light,” and “opportunity” implies that there are degrees of guilt, as did Jesus’ declaration that rejecting Him and His gospel was a more serious sin than the sin of Sodom (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24). If there are no degrees of sin, then it would be pointless to struggle to seek the lesser of two evils in the kinds of situations we all sometimes face.

What James is confronting in this verse is the self-righteous attitude that we don’t depend as much on God’s grace as someone who has committed more obvious and heinous kinds of sin. This kind of thinking is self-deceiving and encourages complacency. Any violation of the law is enough to keep us from being justified by the law’s standards. A person who doesn’t murder or commit adultery but shows partiality to the rich should not feel self-righteous. He is a lawbreaker too. The function of the law is not to justify but to bring awareness of sin (Romans 4:14-16; 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56). We should be humbled and conscience-stricken by the many sins we do commit, and not feel superior to those who sin in ways we don’t.

 

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What did Paul Mean When He Wrote that God Loved Jacob and Hated Esau?

In Romans 9:13, we read that God loved Jacob but hated Esau. Some people think this means that God actively chose Jacob to go to heaven and Esau to go to hell.

The word hated didn’t have the same meaning to the biblical writer as it does to us. To the biblical writer, you “hated” someone when you chose another person for a position of more favor or honor. For example, in Genesis 29:31, we are told that God saw that Leah was hated by Jacob, so He opened her womb. Yet we have every indication that Jacob was fond of Leah. He loved Rachel more, but he treated Leah with kindness. (Before Jacob died he asked to be buried with Leah.) Luke 14:26 gives another example of the biblical use of the term hated. Jesus said that we should “hate” our parents for His sake. He certainly wasn’t telling us to dislike them or to wish them evil. He only asked that we regard them as less important than Him, which is completely reasonable given who He is.

When the apostle Paul declared that God “loved” Jacob but hated Esau, he was affirming that the Lord had chosen Jacob, not Esau, to be the channel through whom He would carry out His covenant promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3). God’s choosing had nothing to do with election to heaven or hell.

The election of Esau and Jacob as described in Romans 9:13 had to do with privilege and covenant blessing, not with individual salvation. The door of salvation was open for both of these men and to all of their descendants. God offers salvation to all.

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What is the Difference in the Meaning of the Terms Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew?

The terms Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew are used interchangeably in the New Testament, but not in the Old Testament.

Abraham was called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13), which means “to cross over.” (He had crossed over the River Euphrates.) The blessings God promised His descendents were passed along to the children of Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28). It was his name that was given to the “children of Israel” or the Israelites. One of Jacob’s sons, Judah, is the man from whom we get the term Jew. The term was not used until many years later (2 Kings 16:6 KJV).

Following King Solomon’s death, his realm was divided into northern and southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah respectively. Some members of the 10 tribes who lived within the southern kingdom chose to remain with Rehoboam, King of Judah (1 Kings 12:23-24). Others returned when Asa was Judah’s king (2 Chronicles 11:14-17), following the Assyrian deportation of the upper classes of the northern kingdom in 721 bc, and during the religious revival under Hezekiah. Another return occurred under Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:9), and representatives of all 12 tribes were present in the returns under Zerubbabel and Ezra, signified by the fact that Ezra “offered at the dedication . . . twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel” (Ezra 6:17 KJV).

The term Jew undoubtedly began as a designation of one of the members of Judah as distinguished from the 10 tribes. But as the term Israel gradually began to refer to the kings of Judah (see 2 Chronicles 21:1-2 in connection with Jehoshaphat; 2 Chronicles 28:19 in connection with Ahaz), the term Jew began to include all who remained loyal to the Mosaic Law and the city of Jerusalem, whether they were descendents of one of the 10 northern tribes or the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The terms Israelites and Jews became synonyms. Note that the Jewish prophetess Anna, who lived in the temple, was from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36).

Along with the amalgamation of the 10 tribes with Judah and Benjamin, multitudes of proselytes were converted to Judaism as well. So even though the people we know as Jews today are not necessarily physical descendents of the tribe of Judah or even of Abraham (See the ATQ, Are today’s Jews the physical descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?), they symbolically represent not just Judah but all 12 tribes. (It’s important to note as well that the Judaism that grew out of Judaism’s corporate rejection of Jesus Christ is not the same as that which existed at the time of His coming. See the article, Is Judaism today basically the same as Judaism at the time of Jesus Christ?)

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With so many Translations, how can we know the English Translation we’re using is Accurate?

It is important to be concerned about the accuracy of the Bible translation we’re using, but the fact that the wording varies in modern English translations is no reason to think they aren’t reliable. The Lord Jesus and the apostles considered the Old Testament Scriptures the very Word of God, but they weren’t troubled that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Greek-speaking Jews) differed slightly from the Hebrew text. The Old Testament quotations that sprinkle the New Testament are not word-for-word translations from the Hebrew text. The apostles quoted loosely from the Septuagint. Of the 175 Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament, not one of any length carefully follows the Masoretic Hebrew text. In general they are closer to the Greek Septuagint.

Jesus himself never sought to quote the Old Testament in a rigidly word-for-word way. An example is Luke’s account of His reading of Isaiah 61: -2 in the synagogue at Capernaum (Luke 4:17-21). We don’t know whether Jesus was reading from the standard Hebrew text or not. He may have freely translated it into Aramaic. In any case, Isaiah 61:1 (KJV) closes with the words: “Proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Luke 4:18 closes with the words, “Preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The wording is far from exactly the same. Does this mean that Isaiah 61:1 as we find it in the King James Version is not the Word of God or that the words recorded by Luke do not carry authority? This has obviously not been the conclusion of the Christian church through the centuries. We are confident that the inspired words of Isaiah are faithfully recorded and that Luke accurately recorded the words of Christ. A slight difference in the wording doesn’t trouble us, because both passages have the same basic meaning.

We believe the example of Jesus and the apostles serves an important purpose. If the Lord and His disciples didn’t get hung up on a minor difference in wording, we shouldn’t either. If the best available texts seem to call for small changes in the contemporary language we use to express the content they contain, they should be made. Our core concern should be the accuracy with which the inspired concept or idea expressed in the Scriptural text is conveyed.

 

 

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