Questions Submitted by Readers
Can you explain what is necessary to have a scriptural Bible study?
The short answer is: A Bible and an open mind.
The long answer is: Be serious about learning in order to be better pleasing to God (Proverbs 1:7).
Keep it intimate. One on one, two or three, a family, or household is always acceptable (examples: Paul’s conversion Acts 9:10-17, Acts 22:12-16; Cornelius’ household Acts 10:24-48; Apollos’ edification Acts 18:24-26; the jailor’s conversion Acts 16:24-33).
Never assume that a Bible study is a substitute for, or an addition to, the corporate worship. Therefore, if a study departs from a private conversational setting, the rules of public assembly apply, namely: Only men speak 1 Cor. 14:34-35; and one at a time with an interpreter if necessary 1 Cor. 14:26-33. Likewise, congregational services are NOT to be divided (Hebrews 10:25; Paul calls assembly “coming together” 1 Cor. 11:18, 20, 33 & 34 and 1 Cor. 14:23).
It really is that simple. If it’s public at all, the rules of the assembly apply.
Why does it seem that not as many are being saved today? Is this a sign of the End Times?
As Solomon once said that there was “nothing new under the sun” in Ecclesiastes 1:9, we can see that there are sometimes trends (generations) of godly and ungodly behavior in the world. Paul told Titus (Titus 1:15), “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” In the book of Romans, chapter one, Paul addresses the fact that the just shall live by faith and the unbeliever will grow more foolish and darker.
Jesus said (Matt. 22:14), “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Though the scriptures speak of “perilous” times and great departures from the faith, this does not indicate that we are in the last few days of Earth’s existence. We cannot know the day that Christ will return, only the Father knows that day (1 Thess. 5:2; Acts 1:7). However we can know this, that the gospel age is the “last days.” There shall be no other dispensation of time as there was for the Patriarchs or for the Mosaics. The gospel era will close with judgment.
With that being said, we can better understand what John meant when he said (1 John 2:17-26), “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” Notice that John’s message, written to the early church, stated that it was the last hour and that anti-Christ had already come. This tells us that sin was a force against the gospel even in the age of inspired men.
If you peer into the New Testament and look for the word ‘mystery,’ you will find that there are chiefly two kinds: one the ‘mystery of godliness,’ and two the ‘mystery of lawlessness.’ These two forces have always been at work. The preaching of the gospel is the only power that bolsters the faithful and converts the lawless.
Do not fear the end time, only be ready. (1 Tim. 4:16) “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
If Jesus observed the passover before his death, then why does the Bible say that He was taken off the cross on the “preparation day for the Passover”?
Let me first say that this question caused me to study fervently. I made a chart and simply listed the events from when the Passover “drew near,” to the resurrection of Christ. In this chart I divided each gospel account and compared the information.
The statement is found in John 19:14, “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” The phrase, ‘preparation day of the Passover’, is not the same as Exodus 12:1-8. The Exodus account is the preparation of the lamb and meal. The statement in John is referring to the preparation day for the Sabbath that occurred during Passover week.
Jesus kept the law perfectly, including the rules of Passover. Passover was one feast, while the feast of unleavened bread was a separate feast that followed the very next day and continued for seven days. The former remembered the time when God “passed over” Egypt and killed the first born of every house (Exodus 12:11-14). The latter celebrated the following days when God was victorious over the Egyptian’s army (Exodus 12:17).
Notice this statement, Luke 22:1 “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.” Since these two feasts were observed back to back, they were often called by both names.
Jesus kept the actual Passover Feast. He was arrested and taken during the night at Gethsemane during his time of prayer (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, & John 18). This was after Passover but during the beginning stages of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Passover began on the 14th of the month Abib/Nissan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th day and continued to the 21st. During those seven days there would have been a regular weekly Sabbath. On Sabbath no work could be done, not even kindling a fire (Exodus 35:3). However, on the Sabbath that occurred during the feast, an exception was made to the resting rule that allowed cooking (Exodus 12:16), but a need for other preparations would still require a ‘preparation day.’ This is why we find that Jesus’ body was not fully prepared for burial and the women were returning to finish the job (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 19:39-42; 20:1).
Remember that the O.T. was a shadow of things to come, not an exact copy. Jesus kept the Passover without violation. In the time “called Passover,” He was taken and killed for the remission of sins for all who would believe and obey.
Will you explain what is being taught in Romans 8:26?
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
The subject of prayer used in Romans 8:26 is just one example of how the Holy Spirit helps our spiritual weaknesses. We may not always know what to pray for but we learn from the Spirit-inspired gospel. While prayer is mentioned as an example, the main focus of the verse is the helping of our weaknesses.
The Holy Spirit works with our own spirit to help us live as Christians. He reminds us of the gospel that we have already learned, He does not offer new knowledge. Consider Romans 1:16-17, Paul says that the gospel is the power of salvation where the righteousness of God is revealed.
Also consider, 1Cor. 2:9-16 “But as it is written: “EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The deep things of God are revealed to us by the Spirit in the Word. That particular work is being described in 1 Cor. 2:9-16 and Romans 8:26-27. It is the opinion of this writer that the “intercession” here is taking place between the spirit of man and the principles of the word of God that the Holy Spirit has delivered.
Galatians 5:16-17 further accentuates this thought. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Do Christians have to forgive themselves in order to be saved?
In a word, Yes. If Christians are still carrying guilt after doing what is required to receive forgiveness from God, then there is a potential problem or two.
By not being able to forgive one’s self after asking forgiveness from God (and the person[s] that may have been wronged), repentance may not have fully come. To repent means to change. Strong’s/Thayer’s Greek lexicons say that to repent means: “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” If a person continues to carry the “pre-forgiven” feelings then maybe he or she has not fully surrendered control to God.
In Acts 24 when Paul preached to Felix, did Felix tremble because God could not or would not forgive him? Neither, he trembled because he would not allow himself to be forgiven! Read Acts 24:25. Jesus said in Mark 8:32, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The Holy Spirit inspired John to write, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”-1 John 3:7. A person should not deceive themselves on this matter either.
If repentance isn’t the actual problem, then perhaps it’s doubt. James teaches in James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” To ask something from God and then doubt it will happen is offensive to God. God is not willing that any should perish, so He’s always waiting on people to repent.
Perhaps the best example is the Apostle Paul. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”-1 Timothy 1:12-17. In the above passage, Paul tells that he was a wicked man but changed for the better that he might show other sinners that God DOES forgive. In this way, Paul was helping folks see that their repentance and conversion would not be in vain.
On a side note, Christians are commanded to forgive one another, Matthew 6:4, shouldn’t we forgive ourselves as well?
How were people saved under the Old Testament?
People were saved in the Old Testament the same basic way folks are saved under the New Testament.
There is a PATTERN that transcends every dispensation in the bible. Hearing and obeying God is always the means of righteousness. Here are some examples of the same principle in different settings and circumstances.
1. When Adam was placed in Eden there was one central command: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” –Genesis 2:16-17. God spoke, Adam heard and obeyed and was pure UNTIL Satan beguiled Eve and Adam.
2. The world was so wicked that God was going to destroy it with a flood. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and God spoke to him. Noah was told to build the ark (hearing God). Noah built the ark to God’s specific plan (obeying God). When the flood came, Noah was safe inside the vessel (righteous man was saved). “So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.”—Genesis 7:23
3. Abraham, a descendant of Noah’s son Shem, was called by God to leave his homeland, leave his kinsmen, live in a new land, [and many other specific events] and bring forth the offspring that would bring Messiah. God spoke to him (hearing God). Abraham followed his orders (obeying God). Abraham was called the friend of God. “For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”—Romans 4:3.
4. Moses went to see the burning bush on the mountain of God. God told Moses to go back to Egypt and say to Pharaoh, “Let MY people go.” (Hearing God). Moses went back to Egypt and got the Israelites released and led them towards the promised land of Canaan (obeying God). Moses was a righteous man for hearing and obeying what God commanded him. “And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward…”—Hebrews 3:5
After seeing these examples, we can see that this is always the way of salvation. Other words for saved are justified and righteous. When reading and these key words occur, notice the pattern of hearing and obeying God.
HEARING + OBEYING = SALVATION
In the N.T. this is no different. We are saved when we hear the gospel (hearing God), and when we respond by repenting, confessing Christ, and being buried in baptism (obeying God).
The difference in O.T. and N.T. salvation is the fact that sins were covered in the O.T. while they waited for the remission by the blood of the Messiah. In the N.T. sins are NEVER covered, they either remain or are cleansed. The cleansing process is what makes the N.T. a perfect work.
“For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD HAS COMMANDED YOU.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” –Hebrews 9:19-28.
If Jesus died before the thief on the Cross, then how can we say the thief was saved under the Old Testament?
Let’s see what the Bible says about the “thief on the cross.” Luke 23:42-43 “Then he [the thief] said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” The statement “today you will be with Me in Paradise” is without doubt the granting of salvation.
In the Gospel of John 19:31-33 we read: “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” In these verses we can understand the use of inference, that is, something that is implied. It is implied that the breaking of legs would speed up the death of the crucified. However, because Jesus was already dead this was not done to Him. So that means that the thieves were in fact alive. If we can understand the simplicity of that, we can surely find the answer to the question.
We cannot forget that while Jesus was a man, He is also the Son of God. Throughout the New Testament Jesus stated that He was here to do the will of the Father. In fulfilling that will, Jesus was given ALL authority. Beginning at His baptism and continuing through to His resurrection, Jesus proved His authority. Note these examples:
• When questioned about getting food on the Sabbath, Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5)
• When Jesus taught the people, His authority was evident (Matt 7:29; Mark 1:22-27)
• When Jesus raised Lazarus, He said, “I am the resurrection.” (John 11:25)
Consider Hebrews 9:16-17. “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” Just like it is to this day, when a person dies a will is read and the administrators and recipients must follow it to the letter. However, while a person is alive, he may dispense gifts to whomever and in whatever fashion he sees fit. While Jesus was alive, He too was able to perform many things by His own authority, including the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:48). This is how Jesus could offer salvation to the thief on the cross. Even though Jesus died before the thief, He granted the thief admission to Paradise while He was still alive.
Today, we must follow the will of Christ for our salvation, just as the administrators (the Apostles) have commanded us. Until Jesus comes again in the last day, the gospel-will of Christ is preached and probate (gathering of all heirs) continues.