Sixth and Washington Street Church of Christ

 

  534 Sixth Street, Marietta, Ohio 45750. Office Phone 740-373-3240.

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(04/03/17)Q. My question this time is about groups in a congregation.  Some brethren prefer having what is called church working groups mainly involving women and youths.  These groups have their own leaders and funds collected for what they say to run the Lord’s work.  From this point of view already three different storages exist as for (far) as church funds are concerned.  According to the word of God is this right?  Please help us clear our doubts.

 

 

A. The answer to your question really involves a number of other questions not answered in the background you have given.


  1.  Is the work being done by the various groups mentioned work the church ought to be doing?

  2. Are the “leaders” working under the oversight of the elders, and if the congregation does not have elders, are they working with the approval of the congregation?

  3. If the work being done is authorized in Scripture, and it is being carried out under the oversight of the elders, then the question is one of bookkeeping practices.


     Clearly there is a need for funds to carry out the work of the church.  Even Jesus and His disciples had a money bag (common treasury), and Judas was in charge of it (John 13:29).  And, when Paul and others set out to collect funds from Gentile churches to aid their Jewish counterparts in Jerusalem, specific instructions were given for the collecting of those funds on the Lord’s Day (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).  Brethren were urged to give generously, and to do so with a good attitude (2 Corinthians 9:6-9). 


     The Bible gives no specific instructions as to proper bookkeeping practices beyond the fact that everything should be carried out in an honest and open way (Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:21), so that there is no hint of impropriety.


     The way funds are accounted for is not determined in Scripture.  This issue becomes a matter of expediency.  Should there be one common fund out of which amounts are designated for specific works, or would it be more convenient to develop separate funds for each work?  That seems to be a matter for the elders to determine, assuming the church has elders.  If the church is scripturally unorganized (still does not have elders and deacons) the decision may fall to a business meeting.

     What seems most crucial is the realization that all of the work God envisioned for the Lord’s church was to be financed by the free will offerings of His people (Christians).  We should not have bake sales, garage sales, or other means of fundraising.  Let us give, and give generously for the work of the Lord, and let us practice liberty in areas where God has not given specific direction.  In the end, all that is freely contributed to the Lord’s cause is the Lord’s money, whether we give to a specific area of work, or to the general collection, we must make sure the money is being used wisely for work the Lord wants His people to do!

 

 

(10/12/16)Q. I would like to know the right element to be used as far as the Lord’s Supper is concerned.  Should it be grape juice, fermented grape juice, or would either be appropriate?


A. On the evening of His betrayal, Jesus met in the upper room with His disciples.  It was then that He instituted the Lord’s Supper.  Being the time of the Passover, He used unleavened bread as a monument to His body, and the cup (fruit of the vine) as a memorial to His blood.  Regarding the contents of the cup He said:


“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).


“Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25).


“For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke 22:18). 


The question is: What exactly is the “fruit of the vine.”  Does the text demand fermented or unfermented grape juice?  First, I would point out that whether fermented or unfermented, it is still the fruit of the vine, or juice of the grape.  Second, according to Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament: “The language here employed does not make it obligatory to employ wine rather than pure grape juice if one wishes the other” (Vol. 1, page 210). 


Therefore, there seems to be no Biblical reason to insist on one form of the “fruit of the vine” over the other.


(10/12/16)Q. Is it right to have more than one congregation in one location of not more than say ten square kilometers?  People try to justify and promote division by applying the Jerusalem case during the first century when persecution scattered Christians to various places.


A. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to dictate the proximity of one congregation to another.  Obviously, locations should be determined by things like ease and reasonableness of travel and population density.  Jesus’ prayer for His church was for unity (John 17:20, 21).  Paul pleaded with the saints at Corinth to be united (1 Corinthians 1:10). 


A new congregation should not be formed every time brethren have a difference over matters of opinion.  Only when a congregation has completely apostatized would it be appropriate to form a new congregation where the truth is faithfully preached and practiced. 


It should also be noted that there are no perfect congregations.  A careful reading of Acts through Revelation will expose problems in nearly every congregation, but the call was not for division and the establishment of another congregation, but rather repentance and a return to a biblical framework for the church.

The case of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8) has no real bearing on the situation described.  These were in all probability saints who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the Passover and had stayed until Pentecost and beyond (Acts 2).  When the persecution arose in Jerusalem, they were compelled to scatter, but they took their new faith with them.  This persecution worked providentially to spread the borders of the kingdom more quickly.  The example of those saints should not be misappropriated to justify the division of the local church.

 

(7/6/16)Q.  Is it wrong to sing during the service while the contributions are being made?  (Some people say since the church service on the first day of the week has five elements: that’s praying, singing, giving, Lord’s supper and preaching, each one of them should be performed separately.  Please help!)

 

A.   It is certainly true that the worship of the church in the New Testament consisted of the five elements our questioner mentioned (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  Further, Jesus specifically addressed the subject of acceptable worship when He said:  “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24).  From His statement we learn that worship must be directed toward the right object (God), it must be done with the right motivation and heartfelt (in spirit), and it must be done in truth (according to the word of God - see Romans 10:17).

 

     We have no New Testament account of a complete worship service, though, as already acknowledged, we do know exactly what constituted acceptable worship in the early church.  We do not know how many hymns were sung, how many prayers were prayed, or at what point in the worship a contribution was taken up.  We do know that they came together on the first day of the week (Sunday) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), but we do not know at what point in the worship assembly the supper was observed.  Therefore, there is no proscribed order for worship, though the elements of acceptable worship are clearly delineated.  The order is therefore a matter of expediency.    

 

     To sing during the Lord’s Supper, during a public prayer, or during preaching would certainly not be conducive with acceptable worship.  It would distract from the other aspects of worship.  In relationship to our contribution, it should be planned (as he purposeth in his heart - 2 Corinthians 9:7).  It might be possible to sing a spiritual song or hymn while the contribution is being collected, but it is not necessary and certainly should not be done if it in any way creates strife or division in the congregation.  

 

     Further, it should be remembered that we must “let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).  

 

     When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of safety.  We know what constitutes acceptable worship.  We know when we are to assemble.  We know what we are to do, and we know how to do it without creating any controversy.  And, we must always put the welfare of the entire body before the desires of any individual or group.  Our purpose must always be to “please God” and not ourselves (Galatians 1:10). 

 

(6/7/16)Q. Why can’t women be preachers and pastors?

 

A.  The Declaration of Independence contains the following statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  But, did the drafters of that document fully understand the import of what they had written? Are men (and women) created equal?  The answer to that question is as varied as the sources consulted.

 

     From the “wisdom literature” of the Neo-Babylonian period (ca. 700 BC) we read: “A woman is a hole, a ditch, a woman is a sharp iron dagger that cuts a man’s throat” (Civilization, pg. 62).

 

     Aristotle seems to have shared a similar disdain for women.  Writing regarding the qualities required of a character in a tragedy, he said: “Good is possible in every class of persons; for even a woman and a slave are good; yet a woman is perhaps an inferior thing while a slave is wholly inconsequential” (The Poetics, pg. 29).  Further, he wrote: “It is not fitting that a woman be manly or clever.”

 

     Shakespeare must also have shared the low view of women when he wrote: “Women will all turn monsters” (King Lear, Act III, Scene VII).

 

     Some might even argue that the church shares a similar “low view” of women, and further style the church “an all-boys club” because only men are placed in leadership roles and serve in public ways.

 

     I am quick to point out that the Bible does not share this low view of women.  Women like Sarah, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Hannah, and Ruth are remembered with fondness for the significant roles they played in Old Testament history. The New Testament certainly has its share of heroines.  Women like Mary the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus, Dorcas, Phebe, and Lois and Eunice come to mind.  The “price of such women is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).

 

A Higher View of Women

 

     In the beginning God looked at His creation and said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).  It was only at the close of day six when woman had been made that He could again survey His handiwork, and this time He said, “it is very good” (Gen. 1:31).  Creation without woman was incomplete!

 

      The Bible presents women neither as man’s inferior or superior.  There are tragic stories associated with women like Eve, Potiphar’s wife, Jezebel, and Athaliah, but there are far more accounts of great women of faith, devotion, and service to God and man. The Savior came into the world through a woman (Matt. 1:18-25). The first to see Jesus following His resurrection was a woman (John 20:11-16).  One of the greatest workers in the early church at Joppa was Tabitha (Dorcas), a woman whose life was full “of good works and alms deeds which she did” (Acts 9:36).  At her death Peter was summoned to Joppa where he was greeted by “all the widows” who stood by “weeping, and showing the coats and garments” which she had made (Acts 9:36).

 

     Where would the church be without those like Dorcas?  So much of the work of the church is done by women.  That is true in every congregation, and has been true from the beginning.

 

Equal Status - Different Roles

 

     The Bible does not say, nor does it imply that women are inferior to men.  The reference to the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) has nothing to do with man’s superiority or woman’s inferiority.  It merely acknowledges the fact that on average men are physically stronger than women!

 

      The New Testament is clear in acknowledging that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).  The Apostle Paul made it clear that there are no ethnic, social, or gender barriers between us and God (Galatians 3:28).  Men and women are equally loved by God.  However, equal worth does not mean identical roles.  A couple of illustrations may help us understand this distinction.

 

     Suppose a farmer had a $30,000.00 sports car, a $30,000.00 pickup truck, and a $30,000.00 tractor.  Since they are of equal value, would the farmer be wise to plow with the pickup, haul hay in the sports car, and drive the tractor to the mall?  Why not?  Aren’t they all worth the same money?  Yes, but they have different roles!

 

     Or, suppose a student bought a $10.00 dictionary, a $10.00 atlas, and a $10.00 text book on logic.  Would he reason that since they were of equal value that they had identical roles?  Would he use the dictionary when he was lost, the text book to find the meaning of a word, and the atlas to prepare for his logic exam?  Why not?  Equal value does not mean identical roles!

 

     The New Testament limits the role of women in the public assembly:

 

1 Cor. 14:34-37    34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

 

1 Tim. 2:11, 12    11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

   

     Women did not serve in leadership roles in the New Testament church.  No woman was an elder (pastor), deacon, evangelist, or preacher.  And, no woman taught or took any other public leadership role in any mixed assembly of the church.  Women, were not restricted in teaching other women or children.  In fact, just the opposite, they are commanded to engage in such teaching (Titus 2:4, 5).  And, in a private setting a husband and wife team (Pricilla and Aquilla) took a man (Apollos) aside and explained the way of God more accurately to him (Acts 18:26).

     God ordained male leadership in the home (Eph. 5:21-33) and in the church (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).  Jesus did not change that organizational and leadership structure!

 

False Arguments to Set Aside Clear Biblical Teaching

 

     Some argue that the prohibitions on a woman’s role in the church come from the pen of Paul.  They then assert that Paul was a misogynist.  There is absolutely no biblical support for this assertion, and to argue such is to deny that Paul was inspired and that what he wrote was to be received as the “commandment of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37).

 

     Others assert that Paul only expressed his personal opinion.  Again, this is a denial of  Paul’s inspiration.  He commended the church at Thessalonica because they received the word from him (Paul), “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).

 

     In an effort to get around the clear statements of Scripture, there are those who argue that these were cultural prohibitions and relevant then, but not now.  Culture may change, but God’s word does not (Psalm 119:89)!

 

     Finally, it is argued that Jesus changed the role of women, and Gal. 3:28 overrules other prohibitions.  But, if Jesus changed the role of women, why was there not an apostle called Mary, Joanna, or some other female, and where exactly in the gospels does Jesus change the public role of women?  It is not there.  Further, Galatians 3:28 is addressing the subject of equality of worth or value, and not of roles.  All people, regardless of gender, social standing, or ethnicity are equally loved by God and find salvation in Christ through baptism.

 

HER GREATEST ROLE

 

     The most important work a woman does is done in her capacity as a wife and mother (1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:4, 5).  I would also argue that a man’s greatest work is to be a godly husband and father.

 

     Society has tried to minimize the importance of a mother’s role.  Women are told that they must look beyond the home and their role as a wife and mother to find true meaning and happiness in life.

 

     Mrs. Gale Oler, writing in the Christian Woman on the subject of women in the business and professional world, had this to say: “Women are in the working world to stay.  Reasons are varied.  Some are bread winners, some think they need a larger loaf, and some work to keep from baking bread at home” (The Christian Woman, March, 1955).  That is not to say that women cannot function, and function at a high level in the nine to five world outside the home.  But, it is not necessary to look beyond the home to discover true meaning and purpose in life.  It is shameful that so many have been taught that a choice to be a godly wife and mother is somehow less fulfilling than the life of a professional woman.  When life is nearing its end and we look back, it will not be the promotions, awards, or financial gains that will bring the greatest comfort and joy, but rather the relationship and bonds formed in the home as a godly wife and mother. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

     To put it plainly, women cannot serve as preachers or pastors because God limited their role in the public assembly.

 

(5/9/16)Q.  Is the sun where heaven and hell are?


A.  Heaven and hell are not located on a map.  They are not physical or material places, but are in the spiritual realm.  Notice in Matthew 10:28 where Jesus said: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  The soul is destined for the spiritual realm, and depending on our choices here in respect to Jesus, it will be either heaven or hell.

 

Further, the Scriptures tell us that flesh and blood, or our physical bodies, cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is understood in context to be God's dwelling place (heaven).  Again, it is a spiritual realm, and thus cannot be located in the physical realm (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
 

Finally, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:2 says: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked."  

 

Heaven is God's home.  God is a spirit (John 4:24), and is not bound by the restrictions of the physical and material realm, nor can His home be located in the physical realm. 

 

(2/2/15)Q: Is the saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" a part of Biblical Scripture, or is it only a common saying?

 

A:  "The road to Hell is paved with good intention" is in the same category as several other well-known phrases like: "cleanliness is next to godliness," "God helps those who help themselves," "confession is good for the soul," "we are prone to sin as the sparks fly upward," "money is the root of all evil," and "honesty is the best policy."  They may have a biblical ring, but are not actually Biblical quotations. 

 

(1/06/15) Q:  What does the Bible say about prayer?  When I talk to God, does He really hear me?  Does God really know when I talk to Him?  Would you please, show me what the Bible says about prayer?


A:  The Bible confidently affirms that God hears and answers prayer.  "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).  "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Psalm 145:18).  "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 4:16).  "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 John 5:14).


     There is power in prayer, but many of us use it like we use the spare tire in the trunk of our car, just in cases of emergency.  It should not be that way.  Prayer ought to be the pulsation of the Christian faith.  It should be an expression of reverence, gratitude, and the felt presence of God.  Our God is not a distant God, but an ever present Father who not only hears, but also answers the prayers of His children.


     Many of us view prayer much the way a six year old looks at his Christmas wish list.  "Dear Santa, I've been a good boy.  Please give me a new baseball glove, a computer, a wagon, et cetera."   Wise parents never give their children everything they want, but they do seek to provide all that is needed.  There's an old Chinese proverb which says, "Give a boy and a hog all that they want and you will have a very good hog and a very bad boy."  As youngsters, what we think we need, and what we actually need, are not the same.  I suspect that it is no different as adults.


     God hears and answers our prayers, but His answer is not always the one we seek.  Paul prayed three times that God would remove his "thorn in the flesh."  God's answer to Paul was “No!" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).  On another occasion, Paul made four separate requests to the Father (Romans 15:30-33).  When we examine what Paul sought, and how God responded, we find God saying to Paul, "No, wait a while, yes, and yes, but my way not yours."  Too often, when we don't get what we want we think that God has not answered.  It may be that He is telling us no, or not yet, or yes, but my way not yours.  Remember, God knows best!


      As Christians, we must keep on praying, and trust God to give the answer which is best for us!  We believe in the power of prayer, because we believe in a God who cares.  We believe that God extended a man’s life by fifteen years because he prayed (Isaiah 38:1-3).  We believe that a man’s prayer brought a three and one half year drought upon Israel, and because of that same man’s prayer, God sent rain to end it (James 5:17, 18).  We believe that God dispatched an apostle to preach the gospel to a sinner in answer to that sinner’s prayer (Acts 10:1-48).  And, although we can’t point to a single contemporary example and dogmatically say that it was the result of answered prayer, we still believe in prayer because we believe in God.


     It’s not difficult to pray.  Prayer demands no special language, and requires little time. It is not the length of our prayers that is important.  It is the sentiment expressed therein that matters.  Jesus even warned his disciples against excessively long prayers and reminded them that “vain repetition” and “much speaking” did not make for a more effective prayer  (Matthew 6:7).


     Prayer should be the sincere outpouring of the heart.  Our prayers ought to reflect our own personalities and faith.  They should be expressions of reverence, gratitude, praise, and devotion to the Almighty.  All that we seek in prayer should be in harmony with the will of God, and brought before Him in the name of Jesus (1 John 5:14; Ephesians 5:20).  Notice the following:


     A Seaman’s prayer:   “Oh God, Your sea is so great, and my boat is so small.”


     An Irish general’s prayer:  “O Lord, you know how busy we shall be today.  If we forget you, do not forget us.”


     Sam Houston, before going into battle, stopped his troops and said, “Men, it will soon be morning and we will engage the enemy beyond those hills.  I want each man to pray.”  One old Texan knelt by his horse and said, “Lord, if it be your will, help us whip those Mexicans.  But, if it isn’t your will, lay low ‘cause you’re going to see the biggest fight you ever saw.”


     Then there was the little girl who heard a sermon on “Is God Dead?”  When she said her prayers that night they included the following request: “And please, God, don’t die, because if you do we’re all sunk!”  Prayer works, so “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).


    Today some folks express displeasure with those who mention the name of Jesus in prayers before government meetings and sports events.


     For those who are genuinely concerned with what the Bible says, the name of Christ is nothing to be ashamed of.  He is the world’s only hope.  Or, to use the language of Scripture, “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


     A believer must be baptized in the name of Jesus.  Peter told those at Pentecost: “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” (Acts 2:38).


     Even if men reject Him now, a time is coming when all will acknowledge His precious name.  “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).


     For Christians (Acts 11:26) our faith revolves around Him.  We are admonished: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).


     And, in regard to the matter of prayer, the New Testament could not be clearer.  Jesus told His disciples that whatever they asked the Father in His name He would give them (John 16:23, 24, 26).  Of course such prayers must be in harmony with God’s will (1 John 3:22; 5:14).


     Further, we are to give thanks for all things in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 5:20).  We understand that that which is done in His name is done by His authority.  He is uniquely the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  We do not seek to force Him on those who do not want Him, but we will not deny Him because some find his name distasteful!


     What about the prayers we offer?  Are they the kinds of things we should concern God with?  Are they focused on others or are they selfish in nature?  Did Jesus or the early disciples pray about the things we pray about?


     Let’s look at the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus:  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:14-21).


     We have already acknowledged that it is right to pray for the sick, to pray for those who govern us, to pray for those who are in need, but notice what was at the heart of Paul’s prayer?  First, that they would be strengthened in the inner man.  Second, that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.  Third, that they would be rooted and grounded in love.  Fourth, that they would understand the depths of God’s love through Christ.  Fifth, that they would be filled with the fullness of God.  Did you notice the emphasis?  It wasn’t on the physical and material, but the spiritual or inner man.  We should all be praying a similar prayer for ourselves and others.  These are the things God is concerned with, and He sent His Son to prove it!

 

(1-23-14) Q.  What exactly must a person do to be “saved” and into heaven?  Also, is a “death bed” confession enough to get you into heaven?

A.   It is probably the most important question of life.  "What must I do to be saved?"  The question has eternal significance, therefore an incorrect answer is unacceptable.  We must seek the truth.

     The Universalist responds that we need do nothing.  God's love is so all-encompassing that no one will be lost.  If we cannot be lost there is no need to concern ourselves with salvation.

     The Faith Only Advocates argue that we need only believe to be saved.   It is true, we can never do enough to merit our salvation, but it is not true that faith alone (only) will save.  James wrote: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).  Faith, by itself, places one in the company of demons who "believe and tremble," but it will not save apart from our obedience to Jesus Christ (James 2:19; Hebrews 5:9).

     The Pentecostal demands an experience.  We must have a special call of God and be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to be saved.  The Spirit, they argue, will empower us to perform mira­cles like the early disciples.  We should speak in tongues, heal the sick, and raise the dead.  If we are lost, it won't be our fault.  We can blame the Spirit for not calling us.

     The Bible offers the only acceptable answer to our question.  Jesus said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).   The devil says, “He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved."   That's the same devil who told Adam and Eve, "Ye shall not surely die."  They shouldn't have listened to him then, and we can't afford to listen to him now.  Salvation is provided by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).  It is provided to those who believe and obey Him.  It will be realized by those who are faithful to Him (Matthew 10:22).

     On our own we would be powerless to doing anything about our plight, but we are not left to our own devices.  Though undeserving, God loved us and sent his Son into the world to redeem us.  It was an act of grace on the part of our Creator.  Without His grace through Jesus (Titus 2:11, 12; Ephesians 2:4-10), salvation would not be possible.  But God loved us in spite of our sinful ways, and Jesus came to redeem us from our sins.  God’s part in our salvation is love and grace, and our part is faith and obedience.

     Are you saved?  Should death strike or Christ return, would you be ready?  If not, here's what you need to do:  1) read and study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15);  2) believe what the Scriptures tell you (Romans 10:17);  3) repent (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38, 3:19);   4) confess the blessed name of Jesus (Matthew 10:32, 33; Romans 10:9, 10);  5) be baptized for the remission of your sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38);  and 6) live your faith daily (Philippians 1:27; Romans 12:1, 2). 

      Some will respond that they cannot see how baptism plays a part in our salvation, but the reality is that God’s demands are just that, His demands.  Genuine faith does not question what God commands.  Genuine faith simply obeys (Hebrews 11).

      Jesus came into this world to save us (John 3:16, 17).  But Jesus can save only those who want to be saved.  We can throw a drowning man a life preserver, but if he refuses to take hold of it, it will not save him.  So it is with Christ.  God sent Him, but we must accept Him!  Just as rescue for a drowning man demands that he both take hold of the life preserver and continue to hold on, so it is with us and Christ.  We must accept Him as our Savior on His terms, and then remain with Him faithful to the end (1 Cor­inthians 15:58).

     Our obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ provides initial cleansing of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  By remaining faithful to Christ and our commitment to Him, what John called “walking in the light,” His blood continues to cleanse us of sin (1 John 1:7).  Christians are not sinless, but we are continually being cleansed by the blood of Jesus so that we can live in the real hope of heaven someday.  Our salvation is therefore not earned or deserved, but is made possible by the blood of Jesus, the bearer of God’s grace.  That salvation is available to all men, but will only be realized by those who trust and obey Him.

     Concerning the second question regarding “death bed” confessions, it is important to note that the longer one delays his response to Jesus the less likely he is of obeying.  Thus, Solomon wrote:  Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  The Bible warns of the urgency of obedience, and the danger of delay (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:1-3).

     The devil’s most effective lie is that there is time enough, yet.  In a modern parable, the devil summons three apprentice demons to his side.  Each is asked what he would say to lead a soul astray.  The first said, “I will tell them there is no God!”  The second said, “I will tell them there is no hell!”  But, the third said, “I will tell them there is no hurry!”  To the third Satan said, “Go, for you will lead many to their doom!”

     It should be obvious that the longer one delays obedience to Jesus, the less likely it is that such obedience will ever take place.  Still, in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), Jesus did teach that His invitation is open to men even at the eleventh hour.  One can obey Him near the close of life and enjoy the rewards of heaven for eternity.  But, that does not mean that the demands of our Lord in response to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” can be set aside.  The terms of pardon remain the same - faith, repentance, confession, baptism, faithfulness.

     Remember, our responsibility is to teach the truth regarding these matters.  Our focus is not on who is right, but what is right.  We can be confident in judgment that Jesus will render the correct verdict for each soul.

     It’s been said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It’s true!  I don’t deny that many have the best of intentions when it comes to following Jesus, but intending to follow Him will not compensate for our failure to do so.  The call of Christ is for real action, not good intentions.  It is possible to wait until it is too late.  There may come a time when we are physically unable to comply with Christ’s demands.  We will have no one to blame but ourselves.   He says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

     Do it now, before it is too late!

(11-06-13) Q.    What are some verses that explain that God does not choose whom he will save?

A.     First, the Scriptures are clear that God desires all men to be saved.  God "desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).  Further, Peter wrote that "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). These passages emphasize coming to a knowledge of the truth and reaching repentance.  That involves personal choice.  Those who chose to live in ignorance, or refuse to repent, will not be saved.  God does not make those choices for men, but men make them for themselves.

Second, the Bible clearly says that "God is no respecter of persons," or "shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34).  Peter then said that "in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:35).  If God arbitrarily chose who would be saved and who would be lost, He would become a respecter of persons, and man would have no responsibility for his eternal fate.  

Third, those passages which speak of predestination (Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:5, 11) address the role of Christ in the salvation of man.  God predestined to save those who follow Jesus.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

According to our Lord, a day of Judgment is coming (John 5:28, 29).  The apostle Paul confirmed this judgment in Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11.  The writer of Hebrews wrote: "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:27, 28).

The apostle Paul, wrote the following: "This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12).

Special attention should be given to the fact that vengeance will be taken on "those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."  The saved are therefore those who know God and obey the gospel of Jesus, and not those that God arbitrarily chooses to save or condemn.

The promise of salvation is made to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 11:6).  Faith comes through the word of God (Romans 10:17).  It is true that Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). But, God draws a man to Him by means of the gospel, and not by some arbitrary selection process.  Each man must choose to accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some say that faith is all that is required of a man in order to be saved, but Jesus also said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5).  Also, one should consider Acts 2:38 and the demand to "repent and be baptized." Still others would say that this is where man's response to the gospel ends, but the Scriptures also demand a public confession of Christ (Matthew 10:32, 33; Romans 10:9, 10).  Again, some stop here, but Jesus and His disciples also demanded baptism (immersion in water) as a part of our obedience to the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; 22:16; Romans 6:3, 4).  Of course, as already noted, our ultimate salvation is realized after death and judgment.  Discipleship demands faithfulness to the Savior (Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 15:58). This does not require perfection on the part of a Christian, but it does require faithfulness.  God has determined to save those who accept the Savior (His only begotten Son) in the manner the Scriptures demand. Thus, we, and not God, make the determination as to whether we will be lost or saved.  He has provided the means of our salvation through His Son. We may choose to accept or reject the pardon offered through Jesus. Perhaps it would be helpful to note the words of Christ Himself: "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day" (John 12:48).

Because of God's love, mercy and grace, Jesus was dispatched from heaven to earth to be man's Savior.  God loves all men, but all men do not love Him.  Only those who accept His offer of salvation through Jesus on the terms outlined in Scripture will ultimately be saved.  We must hear, believe, obey, and live by the word of God, for someday we will be judged by it. Thus, we choose whether heaven or hell is in our future by our response to Christ and His gospel.  Come Judgment Day, God will be compelled to honor the choice we made in this life.

(09-10-12) Q.    What does a person do when their grown child in their 20's leaves the church for so called non-denominational organizations that obviously are offspring of denominations with still some or much false teaching?

A.    Let me say how sorry I am for the pain and heartbreak you are experiencing. No matter how hard we try to bring our children up in "the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4), there are no guarantees. Yes, Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." This is not a hard and fast rule, but a generalization to which there are exceptions. So, don't blame yourself. Sometimes, children with solid backgrounds in the church turn from the truth, and others with no biblical training come to know the truth and embrace it.

     There are some very positive things you can do. Pray for you child every day. I suspect you are already doing that, but don't despair. Never underestimate the power of God to change hearts and attitudes.

     Keep the lines of communication open. When opportunity presents itself, have conversations about what led to the change. Ask what they saw in the church which they found objectionable, and what there is in the non-denominational church which they find appealing. Do so with a genuine desire to understand, not to antagonize. Ask if they are making decisions based on biblical teaching or on personal feelings. Also, seek to determine how much they are being guided by their friends, and how much they have been influenced by culture and academia. Learn to listen more effectively and you will be able to respond more productively.

     Prepare yourself for loving discussions by developing a better knowledge of the Scriptures. Be prepared to address some of the following:

1) The church of Christ is just another denomination. If so, where is our earthly head? Where is our earthly headquarters? When was the church born if not at Pentecost (Acts 2)?

2) Our fellowship is to narrow, restrictive, and judgmental. If one believes the Bible, the idea that most people will eventually be saved is absolutely indefensible (Matthew 7:13, 14; Luke 13:23, 24). Our emphasis is not on who is right, but what is right. We do not sit in judgment of anyone. Only the Lord is judge! The world argues that there are many ways to God, but the Word says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

3) We place too much emphasis on works. This is a charge from those who believe that salvation is by faith alone. This idea comes not from Scripture, but from Reformation history. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is by faith (Hebrews 11:6), but never does it assert that it is a matter of faith alone. That is a purely denominational concept (James 2:14-26)!

4) We don't understand grace. This charge is also false. One cannot believe the Bible and reject the role of grace in our salvation. None of us deserve to be saved. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). It is only by the grace of God that we may be saved. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:5-10), but that text does not say we are saved by grace alone, or faith alone.

5) Baptism is not essential to salvation. We do not believe that water cleanses. That is the role of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). But when are we saved? The correct answer is that we are saved when we respond to God's grace in obedient faith and are baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

6) We take the Bible too literally. Yes, will still believe the Bible to be the inspired, authoritative, all-sufficient, inerrant word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). We do not believe that it is outdated or irrelevant. Nor, do we believe that it is subject to the will of the majority or changes with the times to conform to modern culture.

     Note: These are all denominational views, many of which are held by so-called non-denominational churches.

     There are also some things to avoid. Don't badger your son or daughter thinking that you can wear them down. That kind of action will only lead to withdrawal, resentment, and a refusal to discuss the issue further.

     Be careful not to lose your temper and say things you will later regret. Always communicate your love for them, and let them know that you will always be there for them. If God still loves us, even when we have rejected Him, then surely we must love our children even when they disappoint us. However, our love must not lead us to ignore sin or overlook spiritual problems in their lives.

     Be patient. No one wakes up one morning and suddenly decides to abandon their core beliefs for other beliefs. This is normally a long process, and it may take a long time to win them back to the truth. Do not become discouraged!

     Remember, this is not a problem unique to you. Many parents have had similar experiences, and many are dealing with these same issues right now. Keep your faith! Continue to study God's word. Pray often. And, don't lose hope. Many a prodigal has returned to the Father, and I pray your son or daughter will do the same. Be there to greet them and celebrate their return to the family (Luke 15:11-32).

(05-01-12) Q.  My son is angry with God. He says he doesn't want anything to do with a god who is all powerful yet allows cruel and evil things to happen to good people. I did my best to help him understand but I don't think my best was good enough. What scripture can I use to help him see the truth?

A.   This question has been asked since the beginning of human civilization.  A brief answer is impossible, and for some no answer will ever be satisfactory.  We can, however, draw some helpful insights from the Bible.

     None of us doubts for a moment that some day we will have to face difficult times. The issue is not "if" we will face suffering (physical or psychological pain and distress; an experience that is painful or distressing), but "when."

     Few subjects have elicited as much speculation and discussion as this one. The presence of suffering in this world is said to be the strongest argument atheism has against the existence of God.

     The argument goes something like this:  It is said that God is omnipotent (all powerful) and benevolent (good).  If He is omnipotent He has the power to prevent suffering, but since He does not, He must not be benevolent.  If He is benevolent, but cannot prevent suffering, then He is not omnipotent.   When we speak of God being omnipotent we simply mean that He has the power to do anything that power can do!  That does not mean, however, that He can do anything.  He cannot make a square circle, which by definition is impossible.  Nor, could he create a world without suffering and with free moral agency.  But, more about that in a moment.

     Why do men suffer?  Some suffering is simply inexplicable.  This was the case with the man who had been born blind (John 9).  There is no explanation.  Yet, out of that difficulty Christ was able to exhibit His power and in restoring the sight of the blind man, point him in the direction of God.  For Christian this explanation is enough.  We "walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

     Some suffering is directly tied to man's inhumanity to man.  Wars, famines, and even some diseases are the direct result of our failure to treat others as we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).  It was said of Noah's generation: "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11).  This was not God's fault, but man's!

     Some suffering is self-inflicted (smoking, overeating, drinking).  Throughout Biblical history, this seems to be the philosophy which dominated man's thinking.  It was implied in the question raised regarding the blind man (John 9:2).  It was also stated by Eliphaz as an explanation for Job's suffering:  "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?  Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same" (Job 4:7, 8).  Some suffering comes through our own bad choices, but it is incorrect to argue that all suffering is self-inflicted.

     Some suffering is simply bad luck, based on chance or happenstance, being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

     All suffering is the price of free will. If we are to be free moral agents, then choices must have consequences.  Could God have created a world in which nothing bad ever happened; where there was no sickness, no birth defects, no death, no suffering of any kind?  Yes, but such a world would not allow men to love, to act, to make choices.  We would all be nothing more than human robots incapable of free will.

     It is also worth noting that our world was not always as it now is.  It began in a perfect state, and remained such until sin entered (Genesis 2, 3).  With the advent of sin everything changed.

     Does anything good come from suffering?  The Scriptures affirm that there are benefits that come from suffering.  Suffering can make us more understanding and compassionate (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  Think of it this way.  Do you have wind chimes at your house? The next time you face a storm, listen carefully. Along with the howling wind, you might hear a beautiful sound from the chimes. They are making music in the midst of a storm.  That is a parable of our lives.  In the face of the greatest storms of our lives, we can make beautiful music.

     Suffering can make us aware of our weaknesses and our need for God.  That seems to be why the Apostle Paul had his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).  Three times he asked God to remove it, and three times he was refused.  Thus, he wrote:  So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.   But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

     Suffering makes heaven more appealing.  Romans 8:18 says:  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

     When life comes crashing down around us we are confronted with the realization that in Christ we are destined for better things.  Paul wrote:  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling...  (2 Corinthians 4:15-5:2).

      Some seem to have far more than their share suffering.  Some seem to go through life unscathed.  Life isn't fair.  Jesus said: "...for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45).  Men have always struggled to understand the problem of evil and suffering.  I don't claim to have all the answers, and don't know anyone who does.

     In conclusion, I believe that God's existence is the only viable explanation for my own existence.  And, I believe that suffering is the price we pay for the privilege of free moral agency (the right to make our own choices). 

(04-20-12) Q. First I want to make sure that it's understood that I'm asking this question because I'm searching for truth and not to cause any division or strife. What I want to know is  why is it okay to use a modern bible that was translated from the Alexandrian texts which have so much disagreement among them? I've read that there are really only two families of ancient new testament texts and that all new testament manuscripts come from them. They are the Alexandrian texts (minor texts) and the Antiochian/Byzantine texts (Majority texts). Since God warned his people repeatedly not to trade with or go back to Egypt, why is it ok to accept their version of the scriptures especially when a great deal of them don't even agree? 

A. Modern translations of the New Testament are not made from a single text but rather from an exhaustive examination of all ancient Greek manuscript evidence including papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries.  The Greek New Testament from which translations are made today is far superior to the sparse textual evidence available to the translators of the King James Version.

What is more important in discussing the value of any translation today is not so much the integrity of the text as it is the approach of the translator.  There are essentially four approaches to translation:  1) formal equivalency in which the translators make a conscious effort to make a word for word translation from the original language to the receiving language to the extent possible.  2) dynamic equivalency in which the translators attempt to capture the meaning of the original rather than a word for word approach, and in the process creating the same response in the modern reader as would have occurred in the original.  In this approach translators become commentators.  3)  Tendentious translations are those done with a specific bias designed to uphold a specific doctrine or religious belief.  4)  Paraphrases are not really translations, but are efforts to abbreviate or restate the text in different language, usually under the guise of making the text more easily understood.

If one wishes to study the Scriptures for himself/herself, then the formal equivalency translation is by far the best.  Examples of this type of translation include the KJV, ASV, NKJV, NASB, ESV.

There really is no reason for us to question the text of either the Old or New Testaments in their original languages.  We can be confident that we have a reliable text for both, and neither are supported by only one, or only one family of texts. 

(08-18-10) Q. How can we know that we bare fruit for the Lord and we are not a dead branch being cut off?

A. This question comes out of the context of Jesus' teaching regarding the vine and the branches contained in John 15:1-11.  First, it is important to determine what fruit is to be born by those who are attached to the vine.  It is sometimes argued that the fruit a Christian is to bear is another Christian, and although we are to be evangelistic people, this is not what Jesus had in mind here.  Using the analogy of the vine and the branches, the fruit of a branch is not another branch.  The goal of a cucumber vine is not to produce more cucumber vines, but to produce cucumbers.  The Scriptures describe the fruit we are to bare as the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22, 23).  A related passage is found in 2 Peter 1:5-11.  A dead branch will not bear this kind of fruit.

Second, we must maintain our connection to Jesus.  No fruit can be born by the branch if it does not remain attached to the vine (John 15:4-6).  Only those who abide in Christ bear fruit.  This necessitates faithfulness in worship, prayer, study, and commitment to Christ.  He is to have first place in our lives (Colossians 1:18), and we are to seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).  If we cut ourselves off from Him we become a dead branch and destined for the fire.  We are to conform to His example (1 Peter 2:21).  He is to live in us (Galatians 2:19, 20).

Third, His word must abide in us (John 15:7).  We must know His will and commit ourselves to doing it.  He said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). 

Fourth, we must continue in His love (John 15:9).  There is nothing mysterious about this.  He went on to say, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love..." (John 15:10).  And, then Jesus followed that up with an admonition to love one another (John 15:12, 17).

When the fruit of the Spirit is seen in our lives; our ties to Christ are strong and maintained by worship, prayer, and study; His word abides in us, and we continue in His love by keeping His commandments; we can be confident that we are not a dead branch, but a fruitful branch for the Lord.

(06-18-10) Q. How many times can a person be baptized?

A. The word "baptism" comes from a Greek word which originally meant "to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge; to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, page 94).  But, in the New Testament  the Greek word "baptisma"  means "immersion, submersion" (Thayer, page 94).  John the Baptist baptized (Matthew 3:7; Mark 1:4).  Jesus demanded baptism (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16).  Jesus and His disciples were more successful than John at making and baptizing disciples, even though Jesus did not immerse anyone Himself (John 4:1, 2).  Baptism, contrary to what some argue today, is part of the "new birth" which Jesus demanded in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:3, 5, 7).  The elements of the new birth are "water and the Spirit" (John 3:5).  The new birth includes baptism, but if the Spirit is missing, then in spite of the fact that an immersion occurs, a new birth does not take place.  One could be repeatedly immersed without ever being born again.  Suppose that someone is immersed (baptized) to please a mate, a boy friend, a girl friend, etc., it could be said that they had been baptized but not born again.  The perquisites for baptism are hearing (Matthew 28:19; Romans 10:17),  believing (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24), and repenting (Acts 2:38).  One must be properly taught, believe the gospel, and willingly repent of sins before baptism is valid.  It is possible to be baptized many times and never be born again or experience the new birth.  The New Testament actually offers an example of about twelve men who were baptized a second time.  Paul encountered these men in Ephesus.  They knew nothing of the Holy Spirit, but had been baptized into John's baptism.  Paul explained the difference to them, and they were then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:1-7).  A person may be baptized many times, but the new birth occurs only once, and once is all that is necessary.  Just as physical birth is a single event, so is the new birth of which baptism is a vital part.  It occurs only once!  There is therefore no need for repeated baptisms for the remission of sins.  When a Christian sins he/she must repent and seek God's forgiveness through prayer and not re-immersion (Acts 8:22).

(11-22-09) Q. Is saying words like gosh, golly, heck, darn, dang, etc. the same as saying the "bad" words?

A. The words which are mentioned are euphemisms. Euphemism comes from a Greek word meaning "auspicious, sounding, good," and involves the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Gosh is a euphemism for God, as is golly. The meaning of any euphemism is easily determined by consulting a good dictionary. Christians should make every attempt to insure that their speech is compatible with their Christian profession. Christianity demands a bridled tongue (James 1:26). Jesus reminded His disciples that the words we use are a reflection of our hearts, and that we will be justified or condemned by our own words (Matthew 12:34-37). The apostle Paul warned against profanity, slander, and lying in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 3:8-10). Further, Christians are charged to "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6). And, "Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). Sins of the tongue are common to all men. James writes that the man who does not stumble in what he says, is a perfect man and able to bridle his whole body (James 3:2). He then went on to write: "...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:8-10). We must watch what we say, and how we say it! Euphemisms are "softer" expression of "harsher" words. It is hard to imagine Jesus using either. We would all be well advised to pray the prayer of the Psalmist: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). Although euphemisms are certainly preferable to the harsh, vulgar and foul language of the world, it would be far better not even to use them!

(11-15-09) Q.  Is suicide a sin, and if so, how does the victim repent and be forgiven, supposing he had already been baptized?

A. Suicide is "self murder," and murder of another, or of self, constitutes sin (Exodus 20:13). It is also contrary to the concept of "self-love" which is expressed by Paul in the statement: "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church" (Ephesians 5:29). Clear and right thinking people do not intentionally inflict pain or harm upon themselves in an attemp to take their own life. Behind many suicides or attempted suicides are underlying mental, emotional, or chemical imbalances which result in thoughts and actions which would not be the case if the mind was working properly. In the case of Judas, probably the best example of suicide in the New Testament (Matthew 27:1-10; Acts 1:16-20), he was in a deep state of emotional turmoil, resulting in his taking his own life. He certainly could have repented, as did Peter upon denying the Lord, and found the same forgiveness, but he did not. It is impossible to repent of suicide, but it is also true that many suicides are the result of mental instability, the inability to properly process information and make sound judgments, and thus the actions of one incapable of thinking clearly. God, who is all wise and merciful, will certainly take into consideration the mental state of one who takes his/her own life. We must leave that judgment in the hands of the ONE who alone knows best and always does what is right!