Questions from Readers Answered

Discipling Daily to Maturity

How can I deny myself to be part of the true church?

In our Lord’s instructions on discipleship Jesus said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

There are four imperatives described in this passage in becoming a true disciple of Jesus, and therefore a member of God’s true church – “the church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23).

(1) “If anyone desires…” First and foremost one must have the will or a sincere innate desire to know and follow Jesus. In Revelation 3:20 we have the powerful picture of Jesus standing at the door of our heart and knocking. We must open the door and let Him in; it is an act of free will.

(2) “…let him deny himself…” The second step is self-denial, which is perhaps the most difficult of the four steps in becoming a disciple of Jesus. It clearly implies “losing one’s life for Jesus’ sake” in order that we might find true life in Him. It is what is symbolized in the profound act of water baptism – dying to self-will and being resurrected to a new life centered in the will of God. This can only be achieved through God’s grace and the power of God’s Holy Spirit. That is why Apostle Peter responded as he did to those at Pentecost who were touched in their hearts by Peter’s message and asked “what shall we do?” Peter said to them: Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (see Acts 2:37-41) In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he devotes an entire chapter (chapter 6) to the importance and significance of water baptism (see especially verses 3 & 4). Self-denial must be a daily process in which we continually seek God’s divine grace, wisdom, and power to not only know His “good and acceptable and perfect will”(Romans 12:1-2) but to do His will as well. Part of self-denial is to “put off” our former life style and to “put on” the character qualities of Jesus as described by Paul in Colossians 3:1-17. This is a life-long process.

(3) “…and take up his cross…” The true disciple of Jesus will respond to life’s experiences which are allowed by God from a totally different perspective than those who do not know Christ. Life experiences will be seen as opportunities to help us grow spiritually and to develop a deeper and more intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. The words found in Hebrews 12:1-4 remind us of how Jesus responded to His cross and, therefore, how we should respond to ours.

 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

(4) “…and follow Me.” There is no greater joy in life than sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him, and to follow Him wherever He leads us (Luke 9:57-62).

A.A.P. for CDMI

Faith & Works

Is homosexuality a choice, or are homosexuals born that way?

A usual follow-up question is, “if they are born that way, why does the Bible condemn them”?

Research indicates that homosexuality is a very complex issue. It is a condition that scientists refer to as being “multifactorial” – that is, there are many factors that can contribute to its development. Some of the factors involved include:

A. Genetics: it is clear from research that certain genes which have been identified do contribute to the expression of the condition. Several studies have been done with identical as well as fraternal twins. It is significant that there is a higher “concordance” among identical twins than among fraternal twins. That is to say that if an identical twin is gay or lesbian, the probability of his/her brother or sister being homosexual is around 60%. There is a concordance of only 30% among fraternal twins. This data indicates that genetics is a strong factor but not the only factor. If homosexuality was purely genetic, we would expect a concordance of 100% among identical twins since they share identical DNA (genes).

B. Hormones: an imbalance in certain hormones can have a strong influence on the sexual development of the fetus.

C. Immunological factors: since the immune system of a mother is affected by the baby she carries for nine months, changes in the immune system can have major effects on the development of the child. What scientists refer to as “fraternal birth order effect” is based on the fact that in families with several children there is a greater probability of the development of homosexuality in children further down the birth order than there is in the first or second child.

D. Neurological factors: on occasion a woman will say that she feels as though she is a “male trapped in a female body”, or a man will say he feels like he is a “woman trapped in a male body”. In these instances, the perception of the brain (formed early in development) is in disagreement with the genetic gender of the individual.

Each of the four factors considered here have profound effects on the sexual development of the fetus. The fetus has no “choice” in the matter since these are errors in the developmental process. The only reasonable conclusion is, therefore, that homosexuality is an inborn condition and not a matter of choice.

With that said, what should be our response to those who say that the Bible condemns homosexuals? First of all it is imperative that we make a clear distinction between homosexual orientation (which is inborn) and homosexual behavior or practice (which is a choice). Scripture clearly condemns homosexual practice, not homosexual orientation. In Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous (note: other translations say “..those that practice unrighteousness…”) will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1Corinthians 6:9-11

It is important to notice that in this passage of Scripture, Paul places equal culpability on all ten of the aberrant behaviors he lists. One is not worse than the other because all are the result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Secondly, Paul makes it clear that some of the Saints in the church at Corinth were previously involved in such unrighteous practices. Thirdly and most importantly, he reveals how they overcame such ungodly behavior through the all-encompassing grace of God; the sanctifying power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the unlimited and supreme power of the Holy Spirit. It is only through our loving Heavenly Fathers’ amazing grace that any of us are qualified to be members of His kingdom!

A.A.P. for CDMI

Love

What does “heaping coals of fire upon an enemy’s head mean?

The scripture referred to is Romans 12:20, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

It is should be obvious that this text cannot be taken literally.  Therefore, it must be understood metaphorically as teaching something that the Apostle Paul thought was very important. The thought is that of rendering good for evil. In Romans 12:21 we read, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In Matthew 5:43-44 Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this would be impossible. Stephen prayed for those who were stoning him death. His prayer was, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” This is love in action! This scene was engraved deeply upon the heart of the Apostle Paul, never to be forgotten. Steven gave a godly witness of love in action that was beyond human endeavor; it was the power of Christ in him.

Do you have someone who strongly dislikes you, or someone who seems intent on always putting you in a bad light; one who speaks evil of you, or who would do you harm if they had the opportunity? Such would surely be an enemy. What is our reaction when any of these difficult things face us? Do we try to reciprocate in like manner? This would be the natural, or carnal, thing to do. But if we are in Christ, we are no longer to think or act in a carnal manner.

The thought behind the metaphor is that by continuing to do good to our enemy, in time, the acts of love will burn away his hatred and animosity towards us. No doubt, at first our actions will be received with suspicion or might even be rejected outright. But persistency is the key to successfully winning over enemies. It is a rare thing for someone not to be touched when they are on the receiving end of undeserved good and kindness done to them. The intent or motive for returning good for evil is to bring our enemy into a position of repentance and of realizing the error of their position and thus to be reconciled. When we are able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do this, we have done something in which the Lord is well pleased.

E. W. for CDMI

Salvation

 

Is our salvation guaranteed? Some feel that once God writes your name in the book, he won't remove it. Is this true?

You are right! There is no "once save, always saved" as some use it today. In many, many scriptures, it is stated that IF we do the will of God we will be saved. But it is a conditional "IF", so our salvation depends on us continuing to live to the will of God and always be faithful to him. But there is no possibility of saying anyone is saved from the beginning of his relationship with God to the end IRRESPECTIVE of how he or she lives in between. ALL that occurs in our life between our coming to the saving knowledge of Christ and our death or at Jesus’ return, is extremely important to being "saved".

Thus we read:

Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." This statement is made often, even by Jesus, and is one take to support the "once saved, always saved" theory. However, the word “Believe" here does not mean just a simple admission of Jesus' name, or even that he is the Messiah, but a "living" of all that you believe about him. In Greek, there are not two different words for faith (noun) and believe (verb), but both are from the root of the noun for 'faith', and thus the verb would be 'faithing', or, living in the faith that you have in Jesus. So we see this verse really says, "Live in the faith you have in Jesus, and you shall be saved." So again, it is a very conditional issue, based on a continuingly active faith in all the commands that Jesus taught.

1 Cor 15:1, 2, "Moreover brethren, I declare to you that gospel, which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you also are saved, IF you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- or else, you have believed (had faith) in vain." This statement is very clear again, that salvation is conditional upon living the faith one believes, the commandments that God and Christ have given us, which by obeying, we attain to the fullness of their perfect character, and only thereby are we saved. EVERYONE has to come to the perfect character likeness of Christ to be saved.

Eph 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God; not of works that anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that we should walk in them.

The first sentence in this is often used to prove again that “once saved, always saved” is the truth of scripture, but the last sentence reverses all of this. It clearly says that we are God’s workmanship; that is HE works out in us His will for us, and thus it is he that saves us. And the sentence goes on to say that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, that we should walk in them. This is also clarified in Philippians 2:12, 13, “…..Work out you own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. So God gives us, through his spirit the understanding of his will for us, which builds us up to his perfect character, and thus provides that we will be saved. But WE, have to work it out ourselves in our lives (Very conditional). Another strong statement of this same effect is in Col 1:12, “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But God qualified us, by explaining his will to us, and giving us through his spirit the strength and courage to apply all this in our lives in obedience to him, and because we carry out his will, we become qualified, for the inheritance, for salvation, for eternal life.

Mt 10:22 and 24:13 both say that “he who endures to the end, shall be saved.” Again, very conditional upon our actions and strength of faith.

Acts 4:10-12, Verse 10 refers to Christ. Verse 12 states, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heave given among men by which we must be saved.” This clearly speaks of the strong faith that must he had and lived in Jesus Christ. Outside of this, there is no salvation for anyone.

Rom_5:10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This scripture points out the two-fold application of the value of Jesus in our salvation. Because he died, we received of the ransom he provided, and with this we were reconciled to God. But only because he lives, and works with us daily to direct our lives, are we able to know his daily will for us, and to do it, and though this, if faithful, we shall be saved to eternal life.

2Th 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

2Th 2:10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

2Th 2:11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

2Th 2:12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

The above is a long context, but it shows that anyone who has come into a relationship with Christ, can lose it all, and their eternal life, IF they fall for Satan’s deception and follow him. In this they do not believe in the truth, and they do not follow God, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, and so they perish in second death. At the beginning they believed, and they were conditionally saved, but after they made a conscious decision to follow Satan, they lost all their conditional salvation standing and were lost forevermore.

There are many more scriptures that address “saved”, and some can be used to imply “once saved, always saved.” But others clearly show that all this salvation is based on one doing God’s will and the Son’s will obediently throughout life. And only then is eternal life secure. Then as in Rev 20:6, it says, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection, for over him the second death shall have no more power.” This clearly shows that all during one’s human life, we were under the possibility of second death. But if we are raised in the first resurrection, we will be guaranteed eternal life, and second death is no more a concern. The same will happen to mankind at the end of the 1000 years, when their final judgment occurs. Those who retain life, will be certified perfect, and possess eternally perfect human life.

For further reference see Hebrews 6:4-8 & Hebrews 10:26-31

 

Theological

What does “heaping coals of fire upon an enemy’s head mean?

The scripture referred to is Romans 12:20, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

It is should be obvious that this text cannot be taken literally.  Therefore, it must be understood metaphorically as teaching something that the Apostle Paul thought was very important. The thought is that of rendering good for evil. In Romans 12:21 we read, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In Matthew 5:43-44 Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this would be impossible. Stephen prayed for those who were stoning him death. His prayer was, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” This is love in action! This scene was engraved deeply upon the heart of the Apostle Paul, never to be forgotten. Steven gave a godly witness of love in action that was beyond human endeavor; it was the power of Christ in him.

Do you have someone who strongly dislikes you, or someone who seems intent on always putting you in a bad light; one who speaks evil of you, or who would do you harm if they had the opportunity? Such would surely be an enemy. What is our reaction when any of these difficult things face us? Do we try to reciprocate in like manner? This would be the natural, or carnal, thing to do. But if we are in Christ, we are no longer to think or act in a carnal manner.

The thought behind the metaphor is that by continuing to do good to our enemy, in time, the acts of love will burn away his hatred and animosity towards us. No doubt, at first our actions will be received with suspicion or might even be rejected outright. But persistency is the key to successfully winning over enemies. It is a rare thing for someone not to be touched when they are on the receiving end of undeserved good and kindness done to them. The intent or motive for returning good for evil is to bring our enemy into a position of repentance and of realizing the error of their position and thus to be reconciled. When we are able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do this, we have done something in which the Lord is well pleased.

E. W. for CDMI

What is a legalistic religious organization?

Answer: There are many visible signs that may not be obvious to someone who has been indoctrinated in controlled “religious” thinking and service. Acceptance and good standing of its members are based on works and on a system of beliefs and standard of proper conduct set forth by the leadership. To the average member this is the accepted norm and little or no thought is ever given as to whether it is right or wrong. Unquestioning submissiveness and obedience is expected of its members with no questions asked.

Some other signs are:

  1. Outward performance is used, as a criteria, to judge whether one is a “faithful” Christian or not. What one does outwardly is more important than who one is before God in their devotion and obedience
  2. Traditional fences are set up to establish boundaries of conduct, thus setting aside the work of the Holy Spirit in directing each individuals’ conscience. The organization becomes the person’s conscience and measuring rod. Fences are necessary to protect children, but man-made fences are a hindrance to one’s spiritual growth in true Christian maturity. In Hebrews 5:14 it states that the “strong meat” is not doctrinal knowledge but rather “being able to discern good from evil,” a character likeness to Christ. This is true spiritual maturity.
  3. A spiritual smugness and false security is apparent among its leaders and membership. “We, alone, have the Truth” is the mindset and other Christian groups are considered “nominal” (in name only). A ‘We” vs. “They” attitude of judgment presides and is encouraged by its leaders as a way of holding onto their flock. In such a group, one side-steps the Holy Spirit as teacher and guide to God’s truth.
  4. “Spiritual pride” via intellectual knowledge is more important than character development and being conformed to the image of Christ. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 warns that even if we have “ALL knowledge” and do not have godly “love,” it is of no profit at all to us as followers of Jesus. “Looking unto Jesus” must be the focus of a true Christian walk. Knowledge and outward performance alone will never suffice.

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

There seems to be some contradiction regarding Scriptures about salvation. Can you harmonize Romans 10:9, James 1:21 and Philippians 2:12?

Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” James 1:21: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word, “salvation” implies the thought of deliverance, safety, preservation. First, we are saved from the penalty of sin and death when we realize as sinners our need for deliverance from that condition. This is where Romans 10:9 comes in. It is only through the merit of the sacrifice of Jesus that we can have salvation. Ephesians 2:8 clearly tells us, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” We have all come far short of worthiness. Romans 3:10 states, “There is no one righteous, not even one…” But thank God for His gracious love that He sent the Son of His Love to be our Savior and set us free! Jesus, Himself, tells us in John 8:34-36, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Salvation sets us free, not free to continue living our old lifestyle, but free from a life of sin. Thus, we read in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” We now have the power of the Holy Spirit of God to make the proper choices so as to live out the exhortation of James 1:21: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Lastly, “work out your salvation” in Philippians 2:12. The key to this word “work out” is obedience as stated earlier in this verse; and this obedience is essential in allowing God to work in us His good purpose (vs. 13). One Christian writer has put it this way, “We must work out what God works in us!” How else can He conform us to the image of His Beloved Son (Romans 8:29) if we do not let Him by being obedient.

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

In reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, do these who do not sleep, but who will all be “caught up” die, or do they just not sleep in death?

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

To answer that question I feel we need to consider 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 along with 1 Thessolonians. 4:16-17. It reads, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality.” Those who are “caught up” are the ones who will all be “changed.”

We also read in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

The process whereby, “we will all be changed” is not clearly spelled out in Scripture. It is another one of those things that remains somewhat of a mystery to us, yet is a part of our faith and hope. One thing is sure; the human aspect of those changed will be left behind in the “change” process. They definitely do not sleep in a physical death as is clearly shown in verse 50 that describes the “change” from human to spirit as “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” It will be instantaneous. You might say that at the “change” the humanity of these individuals no longer exists, thus is dead.

We read more of this wonderful hope of our change in 1 John 3:2-3, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Having this hope, let’s be sure that we indeed purify ourselves, by His grace, for we know “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14)!

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

What is the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He (God) made him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf?”

The penalty for sin was death as pronounced on Adam when he sinned in the Garden of Eden. This penalty was passed on to all mankind, and from that time on all were born in sin. Sin is “missing the mark” of perfection. Only Jesus was able to maintain a sinless nature. There is no doubt about our sinful nature: Romans 3:10-12 tells us, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have altogether become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This was God’s plan to redeem men and women from the penalty of sin and death. We read in 1 Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” This impartation of our sins was foreshadowed or pictured in Leviticus 16:21-22 “He (the High Priest) is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.” A”scapegoat” by definition, is someone who is innocent, but is convicted and sentenced because of what someone else has done. Jesus was indeed the innocent “scapegoat” for our sins that He so graciously bore on Calvary’s cross. Isaiah 53:6 agrees perfectly with this same truth, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Then in the 12th verse, it further amplifies this point, “He was numbered with the transgressors; He bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Jesus paid the price that justice required by pouring out His life unto death. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.” Yes, Jesus, the antitypical scapegoat, carried all our sins into oblivion by dying for you and me, and all mankind have been ransomed. He thus became mediator for men and so by faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we all have the opportunity to be justified, sanctified and reconciled back to God. Jesus Christ, is the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God that the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.” It is only because of Jesus’ sacrifice that we can now choose not to sin because we now have access to our Heavenly Father and can receive forgiveness and cleansing. This we find in the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 1:9-2:2, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God, Who is All-knowing, planned this from the earth’s foundation. Revelation 13:8 refers to “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” We read in Isaiah 53:10-11, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

How thankful, how grateful, we should be to our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that They have provided for us release from the bondage of sin and death and have given us a hope that is truly indescribable. Yes, “As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

How do you understand what is meant by “solid food” vs. the “milk” of the word” in Hebrews 5:12-14?

Hebrews 5:12-14 RV - “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food, for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. The writer of Hebrews is making a contrast between “solid food” and “milk” and stressing that solid food in the more important to our spiritual growth. He says that being able to discern good from evil, and thus being able to make proper, godly choices, and not being deceived or give in to evil shows growth and maturity in the spiritual life; one who is able to walk in righteousness before God. God desires to see a change in our characters so that we have the mind of Christ, thereby conforming us more and more into the image of our Lord Jesus. But what is the “milk” that is mentioned in verse 12? First, let me say that “milk” is important and should not be neglected. But, it is not to be the main focus of our spiritual walk or the only thing that we take in or we will fail to grow spiritually. We find sometimes in the Bible a break in the continuity of thought by the insertion of another chapter. This is the case at the end of Hebrews 5. To know what “milk’ is about you need to read Chapter 6, verses 1 and 2 – “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” In my earlier walk I believed that the “strong meat” was doctrinal teachings, i.e., prophesy, types and shadows, the study of Intellectual knowledge, but Paul is clearly pointing out in this context that this kind of ‘head knowledge’ alone will not qualify us to become overcomers. If we fail to go on to live a righteous life with a change of heart, our spiritual growth will be stunted. Let our goal be to have our mind trained by practicing the righteous precepts we have been taught.

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

What did the Apostle Paul mean by his words in Galatians 4:27? – “For it is written: ’Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has the husband.’”

The context of verses 21-31 must be considered to understand the point of truth that the Apostle is making. He is contrasting the Jews who are under the Law Covenant represented by Hagar , and those who are under the New Covenant of Grace (the spiritual Church of the Gospel Age) represented by Sarah. The former is in bondage and the latter is a free woman. In this setting, Paul goes on to develop his point.

When Jesus came upon the scene, and for centuries prior to this, God’s sheepfold consisted only of “the lost sheep of Israel.” See Matthew 10:6 & 15:24. God is said to be a Husband to the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-32: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.” Up to that time the Gentiles were not accepted into the sheepfold of Jesus’ followers. They had been barren of God’s guidance and blessings; without hope in the world. None of God’s promises applied to them. However, all that changed when the Gentiles were accepted into the sheepfold. Jesus prophesied about this in John 10:16: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one Shepherd.”

John 1:11-12 says, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” As a nation, Israel rejected Jesus as their Shepherd. When you add to the believing Jews the number of the Gentiles who come in later to the sheepfold, these would far exceed those of Israel under the Law who had had the LORD for their “Husband.”

This indeed was a matter of rejoicing for the Gentiles, for now they were able to join their believing Israelite brethren to become the “children of God” under the New Covenant of Grace.

© CDMI - Free Bible Students

In Matthew 22:29, what did Jesus mean when He answered the Sadducees, “You err, not knowing the scriptures, or the power of God?”

Our Lord’s answer to the first part of this verse may have referred in part to Gen. 3:16, but especially after the flood when God said to Noah in Gen. 9:1, ”Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” The purpose of procreation was to bear offspring and fill the earth with people. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that this was the method used by which heavenly beings came into existence. After the time to fill the earth has passed, according to God’s purpose, His plan will be for a new earth that will be populated by those who died and will then be resurrected. The Apostle Paul speaks at length in 1 Cor. 15 about the resurrection and a kingdom under the kingship of the Lord Christ Jesus. When all the billions who have died, are raised from the dead, there will be no more need to replenish or fill the earth. During this kingdom, mankind will “learn righteousness” and the wonderful promise of Rev. 21:4-5 will be a reality: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”

The Sadducees should also have known Job’s words, found in Job 19:25-27: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” The Sadducees were a Jewish sect who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. This being so, the question “in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?” was solely for trying to trick Jesus. However, the Lord knew their deceptive hearts, and turned the tables on them, showing them up for what they were – hypocrites. Not only did they not believe in the resurrection, apparently they did not believe that God had the power to resurrect the dead.

Jesus answer not only stopped them cold in their tracks, but even they were astonished at His wisdom.

Is Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant?

Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. On the night He was betrayed we are told that He took the cup after they had eaten and proclaimed "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood." Jesus' spilt blood on the cross at Calvary ushered in a new covenant, a new arrangement between God & man. That is why Paul says in I Tim chapter 2 that now “...there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus., who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time." That testimony is being borne out now in the present age as God is calling out a people for His name, the call of the church. In the age to come, the millennial age, this testimony will be borne when Christ and the church (as the bride of Christ), will reign for a 1000 years rehabilitating all of mankind to the full purpose of knowing the depths of God's infinite love.

What is your understanding of the separation of the sheep and the goats parable?

As to the parable of the sheep & goats found in Matt. chapter 25, there are 2 main views that are presented. One is that the separation happens at the second advent of Christ, that the sheep on His right is the church who will inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Luke 12:32). The goats will enter into eternal punishment, more correctly translated "age lasting correction" in the Greek. They enter the 1000 year judgment period along with the rest of the world, which again is the millennial age, a time of rehabilitation for the world and for those who did not make their calling and election sure during the gospel age. The 2nd view holds that the separation of the sheep & goats happens at the end of the Millennial age after Satan is released one last time to test the people of God as found in Revelation chapter 20.

D.G. for CDMI

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Was the bread mentioned in the “sociable practice” ordinary bread or unleavened? Why is this practice not carried on with by the “Bible Students” when it is practiced at least once a week by many Christian groups including the “Christadelphians” who are on the whole, good bible students?

There are a number of different interpretations of the “breaking of bread” that took place among Christians in the early church, and there is no definitive scripture to tell us exactly what it means.

There is a prevailing thought among a number of Christians that it refers to the “memorial” practice that the Lord instituted after the last supper before He died, because the writers refer to the term “broke bread”, though at the establishment of the that Memorial, He and the Apostles also drank the cup, and that is never referred to in later scriptures when the ‘breaking of bread’ is mentioned.

Paul refers to the solemnity of the repetition of the Memorial in I Cor. 11:24-30. There again he specifically includes the bread AND the cup, and says that doing these “shows forth the Lord’s death till He comes.” Neither the use of the cup, nor any reference to“showing forth the Lord’s death” is mentioned in any of the Sunday references. If someone believes these references apply to the Lord’s Memorial, it is they that put these other implications into those contexts.

No mention of the “breaking of bread” on Sundays that the Christians did, refers to the Lord’s Memorial or to His death, so it is hard to draw that as an obvious conclusion. But
if someone does draw such a conclusion, and that is their true faith, then that is what they need to do. And if someone does not draw such a conclusion, then that is not their faith and they cannot do it. As the scriptures say, “Let each be convinced in his own mind (faith)!”

In regards to your question concerning what type of bread was used depends fully on whether that was a Passover meal, or just an ordinary meal. If it was the Passover meal then it would have been unleavened and leavened for an ordinary meal.

In the breaking of bread accounts you mentioned in Acts 2 and Acts 20, there is nothing in the context of the text themselves to presume that this is anything more than a coming together for a fellowship meal. And in the Acts 27 account, the breaking of bread was for the physical strength needed to endure the shipwreck and reach the island.

Let me conclude by saying this – the 14th chapter of Romans states and encourages all believers to hold to the faith that comes from “thus saith the Lord”. As Romans 14:23 says, “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” If you believe that the scriptures mentioned hold in reference to the Lord’s Memorial, then hold that in faith with a clear conscience, and if you cannot, then you ought not to do so.

Q: Who are the 144,000 ( body of Christ ) and are they already chosen or yet to be chosen?

We believe the 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelation, chapter 14 is a picture of the Church, the bride of Christ. They are the ones who remained chaste, (spiritually faithful) to the Lamb and who await His return and be caught up in the air with Him, the first fruits among all mankind destined to be resurrected The door for making one’s calling and election sure and to be a part of the bride is still open and will close only when our Lord returns in His second advent, a future event that has yet to be realized.

D.G. for CDMI

Who are the "other sheep" referred to in John 10:16?

In the previous verses Jesus has identified himself as the “good shepherd” (vs11) and begins to contrast himself with the “hireling” - a picture of the Pharisees who had just excommunicated a man from the synagogue because he claimed Jesus had healed him ( see John chpt 9). A hireling was one who tended to the sheep but had no vested interest in the sheep themselves A hireling would not risk his life to save any of them from trouble and would flee at the first sign of danger to save himself. But a good and true shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the sheep because there is a bond, an intimate love between them, shown by the fact that they listen to the Shepherd when He speaks . The fold Jesus came first to save was the house of Israel and as we see in the Book of Acts, that the early church was comprised mostly of Jews. (Luke 13:34; Acts 6:1-7). The “other” sheep or fold would be the gentiles who would come into the manifold grace of God because of the nation of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. See also Ephesians 2:13-16 & Galatians 3:28

DG © CDMI - Free Bible Students

In James 1:13 it says that God does not tempt any man. Why then did God lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? (Matt. 4:1) Wasn’t this putting Jesus into a situation whereby he would be tempted?

A.  God did put Jesus in a situation whereby he would be tempted, but God did not do the tempting.  The devil first took advantage of his hunger (turn these stones into bread), then offered a suggestion whereby he could prove he was God’s son in a dramatic fashion (cast yourself from the pinnacle of the temple, for God’s word says he will give his angels charge over thee so that you do not dash your foot against a stone), and finally appealed to the human desire to receive the kingdoms of this world without having to suffer (all these will I give you if you fall down and worship me).  God saw fit to test his only begotten son very early in his ministry.  It was through resistance to temptations such as these that Jesus was made our High Priest (Heb. 2:17, 18). 

An illustrative account of God arranging a situation whereby temptation was his foreseen outcome is in instructing Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The tree was there, the instruction was there, and Lucifer was there.  Lucifer used deceit to entrap Eve and bring the downfall of Adam.  Lucifer wanted the human race for his own purposes and fell in the temptation upon him.  Adam and Eve then fell in the temptation upon them.  So with Jesus, God provided the foreseen situation by which the adversary Satan could tempt our Lord.  But Jesus proved loyal to God in all his temptations and maintained his sinless relationship.

A lesson we can take away from this is that God may put us in a situation wherein we will be tempted to disobedience.  But the temptation will not come from God; it will be from the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Resisting the temptation will give us renewed strength and work in us sanctification.  God allows us to be tempted for our development, but he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  Lay hold on this blessed promise: when we are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that we can stand up under it.  1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

R. Whittaker - CDMI

Verse of The Day

1 John 1:7
//
July 20, 2017

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Verse of The Day

Discipling Daily to Maturity

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