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QUESTION: What Did Jesus Do While He Was Dead?


I received two similar questions within a short time of each other, so I answer them together.

What was Jesus doing during His three days in the tomb? – Eddie.

I have heard that when Jesus died he went to Hades for 3 days to bring the key of death to free us from the devil. I have read Ephesians 4: 8-10 about it, but I wanted the chapter of the Bible that shows He went to bring the key. My friend did not understand that Jesus went to Hades and I need to prove to her what I know is true. – Illy

The Bible is virtually silent on what Jesus did during those three days, except that He was in Joseph of Arimathia’s new tomb.

The passage you may be thinking of is Revelation 1:18, where Jesus said,

I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

The word Hades is not an English word. It is a “transliterated” Greek word. That is, it is a Greek word with an English spelling. The translators chose not to translate this word. The word literally means, “place of the dead.” It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol, which is also transliterated (not translated) from the Hebrew into English. The Hebrew sheol simply means “the grave.” For Jesus to hold those keys means He has power over death and the grave.

Some people believe 1 Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Jesus’ activity during those three days, but I do not think so.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built….

This passage speaks of His preaching through the Spirit to “the spirits in prison,” identified as those “who disobeyed long ago … in the days of Noah.” No one has satisfactorily explained why, if this is what He did during the three days, He only preached to those who disobeyed while Noah built the ark.

Further, this does not speak of Jesus Himself doing this preaching, but of doing it “through the Spirit.” Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). A logical assumption is that He preached through the power of the Holy Spirit. If so, 1 Peter 3 likely refers to Noah’s work of preaching, “while the ark was being built.” Jesus used the Holy Spirit in Noah to preach then, just as He used the Holy Spirit in Peter to preach on Pentecost.

Ephesians 4:8-10 speaks of Christ descending “to the lower, earthly regions” (NIV), though some translations make this the “lower part of the earth,” as a reference to Hades. The ascent is His return to Heaven (see Acts 1:9). He ascended to Heaven from Earth (Acts 1:3). From Heaven, he poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh, giving gifts to men (Acts 2:31-33). Some believe the “captives He led in his train” are the “spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23) whom, in this understanding, Jesus freed from Hades during the three days.

Yet, in Hebrews 11:40 the writer says these righteous men will become perfect only together with us. This sounds like the general resurrection in the last day, not an activity of Jesus during the three days He was in the tomb.

In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from Psalm 16:8-11, which says in part,

…my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, not will you let your Holy One see decay. – Acts 2:26-27

Peter explained that David’s tomb was with them to that day. He spoke here as a prophet of the Christ, and that God did not abandon Christ to the grave and nor let Him see decay. The word translated here in the NIV as grave is the word Hades. The KJV translates it as hell. This leads some to believe Jesus went down into hell – as some of the historic creeds declare. I believe the NIV gives a correct translation (grave), not a transliteration (Hades), or a mistranslation (hell), as many other translations of the Bible do.

All of this shows that speculation about what Jesus did during the three days is very “iffy.” Men draw this theory from little hints mixed with much conjecture – plus, for reasons not discussed above, Greek Pagan philosophy.

In the absence of a definitive statement of Scripture, I hesitate to speculate about where Jesus was, other than in the grave, or what He was doing, other than waiting. Could He have been in Hades freeing the prisoners there? That may be true, but frankly, I do not know, and I doubt it.

COMMUNION MEDITATION (19) Missed Opportunity


Bread and WineJesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” – Matthew 19:21.

In Matthew 18 Jesus’ disciples came to Him wanting to know which of them was the greatest. Here in chapter 19, a young rich man came asking how to have eternal life.

Jesus first told him to obey the commandments. That is, follow the law. He was not fazed. He proudly said, “All these I have kept.” The law, though, is not enough. Rule-keeping does not bring life. The law just reveals our flaws – if we can see them.

The young man did not see his own failings. He did not see his covetousness, the lust for money, possessions, and recognition that he had in goodly measure. He said, “All these I have kept,” not knowing that he had broken the first and the last commandments at the same time. He made wealth his god – and it kept him in the bondage of sin, whose wages is death.

Jesus exposed him to himself – and to all others for all time. “If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” This young man loved wealth more than he loved himself or the Lord. He walked away because he had much wealth.

He asked for some good thing to do to receive eternal life. In effect, Jesus showed him that eternal life is a free gift that costs us all we are. The Law left him empty. Surrendering to Jesus would have brought him to eternal life.

Will I give up my life to gain Eternal Life? Will I hold on to the trappings of life as I walk away from the source of all Life? Or will I throw myself at His feet and walk with Him in Life that is truly Life?

How can I say giving is “separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper”? Isn’t my giving at least part of what being in the Kingdom of Heaven is all about? How can I really remember Jesus without giving myself and my all?

NEXT – (20) Position or Service?
PREVIOUS – (18) Who Is The Greatest?

QUESTION: Re Christian Hubby’s Business Ties with an Unbelieving Ex


My Christian husband still has business ties with an unbelieving ex-wife and I was wondering if that could hinder God blessing our lives?

Red Question MarkI am sure you are thinking of 2 Corinthians 6:14 where Paul charged the Corinthians, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

In another context, the same apostle also wrote, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral…. In that case you would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Comparing these two, you can see that there is need for judgment. In some circumstances, we are not to be “yoked” to an unbeliever. Yet, it is not possible to avoid all association with unbelievers as long as we live in this world. The crucial factor is the nature of the association.

If our association with unbelievers is such that they are able to drag us down to their level, we need to avoid it. On the other hand, our association with them can be the means of lifting them to a higher plane. This is why Jesus chose to associate even with immoral people while the hypocritical Pharisees would not. He said, when some complained about this, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Of course in your question, it is not just any unbeliever with whom your husband has business ties. It is his ex-wife. That adds another dimension to the question. At least one aspect of that dimension is your fear of her in view of their former relationship.

You need to ask yourself if you have reason to fear what could develop from this business relationship. it may be that both of them are completely virtuous in this business relationship. It is also possible that your husband is innocent, but his ex-wife is not. Again, it is possible that she is innocent, but he is not. The fourth possibility is the worst of all, for it is possible that neither of them is innocent and virtuous. Which is it? I have no way of knowing.

You did not indicate the nature of their business relationship. Does it demand that they have frequent close contact, working directly together? Or is their personal association in this business more distant?

After all, many divorced people have some sort of “business relationship” with their exes, even if it is limited to arm’s length transactions such as paying alimony or child support.

So I cannot answer your question definitely. Is it possible? Yes, it is. Is it likely that this relationship is causing God to withhold His fullest blessings from your marriage? You and your husband are in a better position to answer that than I.

As you consider your answer, you need to do two things: discuss the situation with your husband, and also consider if you have unfounded fears because you may not feel secure in your marriage.

Leadership (12) Leadership in the Home


Family leadership may be the most important leadership of all. It has always been so. Even before the flood, the Bible reflects the need for good leadership in the family. Eve led Adam into sin – and he let it happen. Cain’s influence lived on in his descendant, Lamech (Genesis 4:19-24). Who knows how much faithful Noah was influenced by the memory of his great grandfather Enoch who “…did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5; see also Genesis 5:21-24, 32) ?
WHY HOME LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED

The family is the training and proving ground for leadership in the church. Both elders and deacons are to demonstrate in their leadership at home that they are capable of guiding the church. The family is not a “mini-church,” but the church is the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15; See also Ephesians 3:14-15). How a man does as a husband and father will show a lot about how he will do as an elder or deacon. Experience in the household will prepare for work in the church. So, it is fair to say that without good leadership in our homes we are not likely to have good leadership in our churches either.
Leadership is essential, not only for strong churches, but also for strong families. Lack of family leadership led to disaster in the homes of otherwise great men – and to tragic consequences for the people of God.
David was guilty of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. This sin led to terrible results in David’s own family. When Nathan, the prophet, confronted him with a story of a rich man who stole a poor man’s only ewe lamb, David exploded with wrath. He wanted to kill the man, but he said, “He must pay for that lamb four times over.” When Nathan said, “You are the man,” David repented of his sin – but he still paid the consequences in his family. The child of the adulterous union died. David’s oldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar, and was then murdered by Absalom, David’s next son and full sister of Tamar. Later, Absalom led a rebellion against his father, David, and was killed in the battle. The next son, Adonijah, was handsome and gracious – but “His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” When David was on his deathbed, Adonijah tried to make himself king. Nathan and Bathsheba thwarted this move – but after David’s death and Solomon was king, Adonijah tried again to take the throne by trickery. So, Solomon had him put to death. Four of David’s sons died tragic deaths; David paid for Bathsheba four times over. [The story of the adultery and murder is in 2 Samuel 11. Chapter 12 tells of Nathan’s confrontation and the death of the child. Chapter 13 tells of the rape of Tamar and murder of Amnon. Chapters 14 – 20 tell of Absolam’s rebellion and death. 1 Kings 1:1-52 tells of Adonijah’s attempted coup while 1 Kings 2:13-25 relates his later treachery against Solomon and his death.]
Eli, the priest and judge in Israel and mentor of the great prophet Samuel, did not give leadership to his own sons. They used their priesthood as an opportunity for extortion and adultery. When Eli mildly rebuked them, they refused to listen because “they had no regard for the Lord.” An unnamed prophet accused Eli himself: “Why do you honor your sons more than [the LORD] by fattening yourselves on the choice parts?” (1 Samuel 2:12ff).
David and Eli both erred in leading their families. Both of them were negligent in giving guidance to their progeny – and the nation paid the price for their neglect. The church and the nation today are paying a similar price.
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses charged them:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Leadership in the home was crucial to Israel’s continued well being in the land as God’s chosen people. Is it any less crucial in our age of disintegrating families and soaring crime?
THE KINDS OF LEADERSHIP NEEDED
Parents
Parents are responsible for their children – not only to feed, clothe and school them, but also to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) This speaks specifically to fathers, but godly mothers also plan an important part in the Christian leading of their children, as we observe in the way Eunice and Lois reared Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).
Unfortunately, many homes have abdicated parental and grandparental leadership. Many children are brought up “in the instruction and training of the TV programmers” with little concern for Christian guidance. Frequently, Christian parents put schoolwork, sports, entertainment and social affairs ahead of worship, Bible class, home devotions, moral training and church activities.
Every preacher, elder and Bible class teacher can tell of parents who want “somebody to do something” about their children. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the parents have wasted the most opportune years by stressing everything else to the neglect of the child’s spiritual training and discipline.
Even activities that are good can become detrimental when life is filled with things that do not contribute to godliness. Little League can crowd out Bible Class, and homework can take the place of family devotionals. As a child grows older, flipping hamburgers at McDonalds can make it harder to find time for worship. It seems that children, even at a very early age, are under as much time pressure as their parents. It is up to parents to help make those choices that will begin to put first things first from the time of their youth. After all, that is when we are to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Jesus had balanced growth “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He was “well-rounded” with intellectual, physical, spiritual and social growth. Many youths from Christian homes are short-changed when it comes to the spiritual side of things. They receive scarcely more godly training that the young people of the world. The world will not give religious training (nor should we expect it to!). The church cannot give all that is needed. The “prime provider” for the moral training and Christian education of our children must be the home and the leadership of Christian parents.
Single Parent Homes
This is true whether it is a traditional “father, mother and the kids” family or a single-parent home. While single parents face increased difficulties, these are not greater than those faced by one Christian parent with a non-Christian mate. Timothy’s father was a Greek – yet his godly mother and grandmother communicated their faith to him. This was at least as difficult (if not more so) than for a single parent to communicate faith today. My observation has been that single parents who are faithful do a credible job of rearing their children. Where this is true, it is because those parents have exercised real leadership.
Husbands
God gives leadership in the home to the husband (Ephesians 5:22-29). This is not a popular position in this age of unisex equality in all things, but Scripture gives some special reasons for it. One reason is that the husband- wife relationship is supposed to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church, his bride. When husbands do not take their God-given place in the home, we have lost a powerful example of how we are to relate to our heavenly bridegroom.
Unfortunately, many men read Ephesians 5:22 (which is addressed to their wives) without reading verses 25-29 (which is addressed to them).

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. – Verse 22

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church…. – Verses 25-29

They want their wives to be submissive, but do not want to be responsible for loving their wives sacrificially.
Our standard of loving leadership is that of Christ for his church. Just as Jesus loved and gave himself for the church to make it holy and pure, so also the husband is to love his wife and give himself for her. He is to feed and care for her – not only physically, but also spiritually.
Submission to such leadership is not a burden; it is a blessing in the home. A preacher was teaching a class in which he referred to 1 Peter 3:6 where Peter speaks of Sarah obeying Abraham. He commented that we needed more women like Sarah. A wise woman in the class replied, “If we had more men like Abraham, we would have more women like Sarah.”
Most wives have little difficulty in accepting the leadership of a godly man. If your wife is restive under your guidance, dear husband, perhaps you ought to examine yourself!
Unfortunately, many husbands are more concerned with following their assorted hobbies than in seeing to the spiritual nourishing of their families. Many spend more time in either playing or watching sports than they do with their families. The time they do spend with the family is more devoted to recreation than to “new creation.” An egocentric pursuit of pleasure and/or possessions motivates much of what they do.
The families of such men are robbed of the spiritual leadership God expects them to give. Even the world recognizes “workaholic” men and “golf-widow” women – and knows that these conditions are not healthy. When Christian husbands neglect their God-given role as spiritual providers in the family, homes are in deep trouble.
Wives
Let’s not forget the Christian leadership of godly wives either. Remember that Christian leadership comes through service. Who can read Paul’s description of godly women who are to be recognized in special ways, and not recognize the leadership of these women?
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. – 1 Timothy 5:9-10
This leadership role is emphasized a few verses later in the chapter (v. 14) where younger widows are counseled to marry, have children, and “manage their homes.” The kind of home management in view here is the kind described in Proverbs 31:10-31 where the “worthy woman” is described. That woman was certainly a leader in her home in every way!
Such women even lead their husbands. Peter indicates that godly purity and subjection can even lead unbelieving husbands to receive the Word of God .

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. – 1 Peter 3:1-6

Even Christian men are led into greater service by the godly character and inspiration of their wives. Truly, a home where husband and wife complement and encourage one another in their Christian lives will be a great source of Christian leadership at home and in the community.
CONCLUSION
The key to such leadership in the home is found in Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35, Emphasis added). The key phrase is “undivided devotion to the Lord.” Parents who put first things first will teach their children to do the same. Christ will teach husbands who love him how to love their wives. Wives who serve God will, by that service, become leaders in their homes.
Sadly, our world today tends to distract us from that undivided devotion. The ever-present blare of TV and stereo; the clamor of sports, school and socializing; along with the demands of work for both parents and ever-younger teens – all combine to make “undivided devotion” difficult. We need to remember the Parable of the Sower, though and reflect on the fact that the seed among the thorns was unfruitful (Luke 8:24). Let’s not let the thorns of our world today distract us from our devotion to the Lord. Otherwise, our families may end like those of Eli, Samuel and David.
Christian leadership in the home will inevitably spill over into the church and the community. The church looks to its homes to find its elders and deacons, its teachers and preachers. The community will turn to solid families to find stability in time of crisis. Christian leadership in the home is not an after-thought with God. It is the source of virtually all Christian leadership anywhere.
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
  1. Why do otherwise great men often show poor leadership in their own families?
  2. How can parents and the church cooperate in the spiritual training of children?
  3. Should Deuteronomy 6:6-7 be followed today in spiritual Israel? If so, discuss some practical applications of it for today’s families.
  4. Discuss the husband’s role as spiritual leader in the home. What can the modern man do to fulfill this responsibility? Can he do so without being a Neanderthal?
  5. How can a godly wife be a leader in her home and be in subjection to her husband at the same time?
  6. How can a wife lead her unbelieving husband to the Lord?
  7. How can we lead our families in “undivided devotion to the Lord?” Do we have to take ourselves out of the world to do this?
  8. How can we set priorities for life that will give our children the well-rounded balance Jesus had in growing up?


NEXT
– (12a) More on the Family – Developing Boys into Men Who Lead

PREVIOUS – (11) The Gospel Preacher

Leadership (12a) More on the Home: Developing Boys Into Men Who Lead


Andy n OpieWay back in the late 1970’s I wrote an article for our church bulletin called, “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?” This was one of a series of articles I wrote analysing the results of a survey we had done on congregational attitudes toward our Bible School program. The survey was passed out in morning worship, done on the spot anonymously, and handed in.

As I began examining the results, I divided them by demographics (sex and age group). In the group of 25 – 45 year-olds, there were very few men. Women were present in good numbers, but there were few men. Hence, the question: “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?”

In the late 1980’s, I read a book on Leadership by Ian Fair, then the Dean of Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Religion. He made the observation that our nation had never had a president from my generation – whose fathers went off to WWII. He also said that we probably never would. John McCain was the last great opportunity for someone from this generation to win the presidency. Ian’s prediction is holding true.

I had also noticed previously that most congregations, during the period from 1975 – 1995 had difficulty finding men to serve as elders. The elders in that period were mostly those who were of age during WWII, and few men were willing to serve other than these until the “baby boomer” generation moved into church leadership.

In other words, we missed a generation of leaders, both in the nation and in the church.

Why?

I have developed a theory (technically, probably only a hypothesis) about this.

When boys do not have a strong male influence in their early formative years, they do not develop the qualities of leadership needed in Christian men.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Biblically we might think of Timothy. Yet, even Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith” – and Paul’s admonition to him that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity,” (2 Timothy 1:7) might suggest Timothy tended toward shyness.

Some boys, in the absence of a father in the home, find some other man to fill that void. In my young boyhood (preschool, from 3-5 years), my father was away (1943-1945), but we lived near my grandfather. I still believe there were some things I missed during those early childhood years, but there was a fairly strong male influence in my life.

Looking Ahead

With all of that said, what does this portend for the future – in the nation and in the church – if my hypothesis is correct, which I hope it is not?

Today there are more single family homes led by women than at any time in our history as a nation. This is also true in the church.

Where there are fathers in the home, many times they are effectively “absent” due to work or being absorbed in their sports or hobbies. Sometime, they are able to involve their sons in these things as well, but many times they do not. As a result the young men miss out on the potential leadership training they should be getting from their fathers.

In the past, there were many avenues for boys to have strong male influence. Their school was more than likely led by a male principal who had influence with the students, who was not just an administrator whom they barely knew. If they were in sports, there was a coach who more than likely was more interested in his team than he was at “winning” at any cost. There were neighbors who would take an interest in boys for their good, not as someone to exploit for their own selfish, unholy purposes.

Where is a young boy without a father in his life to find these things today? His school principal is likely a woman, and there may not be any men at all working in his school. If there are, the principal is likely an administrator whom the students barely know because the schools are so large, AND many schools are by their policies trying to teach boys to act like little girls. The most likely close contact with a man in the school context is with a coach. Again, the size of the schools means that sports are available only for those talented – and the pressure to win is enormous, even at the high school and junior high school level. Also, parents are understandably skeptical of any neighbors who take an interest in their young boys!

Replacing What Is Missing

What all of this means is that churches need to pay special attention to their boys and young men if they want to have effective leadership in the future. Church-based scout troops, men in Sunday school classes for children, and Lads to Leader programs are some of the formal ways churches can address this issue.

However, nothing will beat a dedicated Christian family with both mother and father taking a single Mom under their wing to help her in giving healthy male leadership to her sons. When this can be sustained over a period of time, the results, I believe, will prove to be impressive.

NEXT (13) Discipline: The Basis of Leadership
PREVIOUS (12) Christian Leadership in the Home

QUESTION: My Lover Doesn’t Go To Church. Should I Dump Him?


Red Question MarkI have been with this man for 15 years. I know its wrong not to be married, but we are supposed to marry soon. My question is that I am a church goer and love JESUS, but he does not go to church. I don’t know what to do… do I dump him just because he does not go?  Thank you; I need advice.

The world we live in says that you have no problem. You, however, realize that you do have a problem. Otherwise you would not be asking for advice. You wonder if you should dump him because he will not go to church with you. That is one problem you see. Yet, you also say that you know that living with him without a covenant of marriage is wrong. That is another problem.

So, there are two problems here: your present relationship with this man and whether you should dump him or not.

Among many passages in the Bible that show your present relationship with him is wrong is Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Though our society sees nothing wrong with almost any sexual conduct between consenting partners, the God who made us knows us better than that. He knows that sex without the commitment of marriage leads to much pain and suffering – not only within the people involved, but also their families and even society at large.

Accordingly, His plan for sex is that it be restricted to marriage. In fact, His ideal is one spouse for life.

You need either to marry, as you indicate you have plans to do soon, or else get out of your present relationship. My advice is that you not wait, but do one of these immediately.

That would solve the problem of your current relationship with him, but should you dump him? Do you want to be married to a man who will not go to church with you? Paul talks about a believer married to a non-believer in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15.

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances. God has called us to live in peace.

Since your man is content for you to go to Christian assembly without any obstruction on his part, it sounds as if he is satisfied to live with you. If you were married to him, Paul says that you should not leave him. But you are not married to him. If you were married and he were not content to live with you as a Christian, then you should let him leave,but a Christian partner should not initiate any separation.

If he refuses to marry you because you want to do what God teaches you to do, then you should leave him, and ask God’s forgiveness for the fifteen years of living with him.

But there is something I do not understand. You say you are trying to worship and serve God, but you have lived with a man not your husband for 15 years while you know that this is wrong. While living with him, you agonize about whether or not you should “dump him” because he does not go to church. To me, this smacks of “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

My judgment is that you should get married as soon as possible. Even if you do get married, still pray to God for forgiveness for the 15 years you have lived with this man out of wedlock.

Take your relationship to God seriously, which you have not been doing for the past 15 years. Then perhaps you will be able influence your husband to serve God along with you (See 1 Peter 3:1-6).

God is merciful and gracious. He says that what you are doing is sinful, but He wants to forgive you and help you to have a better life. Jesus said He came that we might have abundant life (John 10:10). To have this abundant life, though, we need to recognize Him as Lord. This means we must follow Him. Let me encourage you to do that. Accept His way and His plan for how you should live your life. What is past is past – and can be forgiven in Christ. The point is to do as he said to one woman who was dragged to Him after being caught in the act of adultery, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

 

QUESTION: Re Lot & His Daughters’ Incest


QUESTION:

I was reading a part of Bible  in Genesis where Lot’s daughters slept with their father and they had children – Ammonites and Moabites. That is disturbing. What is the meaning behind that? Did they go to Heaven?

You are right. This is disturbing. There are many disturbing things in the Bible. God wants to disturb us enough that we are shaken from our complacency and really seek to know His heart.

Lot, the nephew of Abraham, “pitched his tent toward Sodom” when Abraham offered to let him go where he would because the land was not able to support the vast herds of cattle they had between them. Lot saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered, and chose to go in that direction, leaving his uncle to contend with more barren regions. (Genesis 13)

God blessed Abraham, but Lot ended up in Sodom, a city so wicked that God determined to destroy it. Ezekiel 16:49-50 gives the full reason for that decision. We usually think of Sodom only in terms of sodomy, the sin of homosexuality that is named for the city. You can read about this part of their sin in Genesis 19:5-10.

Lot does not acquit himself well in that episode either, as he offered his virgin daughters to that sex-crazed mob instead of the guests (messengers of God, or angels) the men of the city wanted to have sex with and to whom Lot gave lodging in his home.

It was the next day that these “men” from God practically dragged Lot and his daughters out of the city. His wife did not make it, as she looked back with yearning and turned into a pillar of salt.

Lot and the daughters eventually ended up in a cave where the final chapter of this ugly story took place. There, the daughters got their father drunk and slept with him. They became pregnant with sons who became the fathers of the two nations, Moab and Amnon.

Ever since, students of the Word of God have puzzled over this. Peter referred to Lot as a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2:7-8) because of Lot’s distress over the ungodliness of Sodom. But we wonder how could a righteous man (1) offer his daughters to the men of Sodom or (2) get so drunk he could impregnate his own daughters and not even know he had done it? We also wonder how his daughters could have concocted their plot to do this.

I wish I knew the answer to these questions, but I do not. I can make the following observations, however:

  • One of the “evidences” that the Bible is really from God and not man is that men would not likely include such disgusting stories about their heroes. This is not the only one. Abraham lied about his wife by saying she was his sister – to save his own life. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover it up when Bathsheba was pregnant. God tells the truth about us, and the truth is not always pretty. The full story of my life is not pretty – and I suspect that if the full tale of your life were told, there would be some parts of it that you would not want anyone else to know, lest you be shamed.
  • One of the reasons for this is so that we can see how desperately all of us need a Savior, without whom none of us can find fellowship with our Creator.
  • Our choices and actions have consequences. Lot chose to pitch his tent toward Sodom. He took his family into that wicked city. The consequence was that his wife came to love the city and looked back. His daughters were tainted, as one writer said,” with “the scent of the city.” While God’s messengers brought them out of the city, they did not get the city out of Lot’s daughters. We need to be careful about choices we make that may affect our families in ways we have difficulty countering.
  • We do not know what finally happened to Lot and his unnamed daughters. Their sons became the progenitors of two nations, both of which were at times enemies of God’s chosen people. What will be their fate in eternity? We just do not know.

In spite of these things, we can know that our God is merciful and forgiving. Did Lot, once he realized what he had done, repent with bitter tears and beg God for His forgiveness? I like to think that he did – but I do not know. God is certainly capable of forgiving one for a sin, even as heinous as the one committed by Lot and his daughters.

This gives hope to us as well. Certainly, this should not encourage us to sin, thinking that we may blithely go out and sin in terrible ways and just trust God to forgive. That is a distortion of the good news of salvation in Christ (see Romans 3:7-8 & Romans 5:20 – 6:2). We can never say, though, that we have sinned so grievously we cannot find pardon in Christ. If Lot is spoken of as a righteous man, there is hope for all of us!

Does God approve of what Lot and his daughters did? No, He does not. Nor does He approve of many things I have done.

Will God’s disapproval of Lot’s actions keep Lot out of Heaven? If Lot persisted in his sinful ways without seeking God, then it well might keep him from Heaven. We need to remember, though, that God always seeks a way to bring the estranged person home (2 Samuel 14:14).

I hope that these few words may be of some help to you. If you would like to read further on this matter, you may find some excellent comments at http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx292.htm.

LEADERSHIP (11): The Gospel Preacher


Preacher_small1For most people, the most visible leadership role in the church is that of the preacher. He is the person that the casual visitor sees most prominently. If we are honest with ourselves, he is the person most people in the average congregation relate to most readily. This is the man “out front” as a spokesman for the church and to the church.

As such, he tends to get most of the credit or blame for what happens in the church. Like most people, most preachers do not mind accepting credit; they prefer not to confess to blame. Probably, most of them do not deserve as much of either as they receive.

Most church members tend to focus their concept of the success or failure of the congregation on the preacher. In fact, more people are uneasy not having a regular preacher than about not having elders in the local church. New congregations work diligently to secure two things: a preacher and a building. Neither of these is absolutely essential to the existence of a church, though each of them may be useful. Let’s be careful, though, to put the preacher (and the building) in the proper Biblical perspective.

WHAT IS AN EVANGELIST?

We do not use the expression “gospel preacher” as widely as we once did. This is unfortunate, for it is an easily understood, accurate translation of the Greek word usually translated evangelist. The Greek family of words includes words for the act of preaching good news, the good news itself, and the one who proclaims the good news. Respectively, these are euaggelizomi, euaggelion and euaggelisths (euangelizomi, euangelion and euangelistas). The emphasis in the word-family is on the message, its proclamation and its spokesman. The continued use of evangelist tends to obscure the real nature of this work, just as the continued use of the word baptize tends to obscure the fact that to baptize is to immerse. Evangelist is not a translation, but a transliteration. That is, it is a Greek word with an English spelling.

Likewise, the use of the word Minister (notice the capital letter?) applied exclusively to the preacher tends to obscure the fact that in the New Testament church all of its members are ministers or servants. See the previous post in this series for a fuller discussion of this word.

What is an evangelist? The popular mind associates this word only with the tel-evangelists who have gained much notoriety in recent years. To most people, an evangelist is one who conducts huge crusades or preaches in the media – and frequently does so with little or no accountability to any one. The very word, to many, has become synonymous with hypocrisy and venality. There is little in this view of the evangelist to connect this word and its work with the local church.

The Biblical picture of the evangelist is very different from this “pop-religion” view. The word itself, as noted above, simply means gospel preacher. The noun evangelist appears only 3 times in the Bible, but the word for to preach the gospel is there 55 times. The noun gospel appears an additional 77 times. The Biblical emphasis is more on the activity of preaching and the message proclaimed than on the person of the preacher.

Modern usage has moved a long way from this. If you do not believe it, just open the newspaper to the religious advertisements and witness the focus on the preachers rather than on the Lord or on his saving gospel. If you still doubt it, look at a collection of advertisements for gospel meetings or revivals and note the same phenomenon. Churches today tend to put more emphasis on the preacher than on his work or his message.

Only two men in Scripture are specifically identified as evangelists. Philip, chosen as one of “the seven” in Acts 6, was later referred to as “Philip the evangelist” When the Jerusalem church was scattered, he had preached in Samaria, to the man of Ethiopia, and to the villages along the Mediterranean Sea from Azotus to Caesarea. Some twenty years later, Paul and his companions visited him in Caesarea when he seems to have been a resident evangelist (see Acts 8 & 21:8).

This is also the role Timothy apparently had in Ephesus when Paul charged him to “do the word of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

The only other use of the word is in Ephesians 4:11 where this office (or work) is included among those given for the maturing and edifying of the church.

Thus, all occurrences of the word evangelist are in the context of a local congregation: Philip in Caesarea, Timothy in Ephesus, and the “gifts” to the church in Ephesians. The work of the evangelist is to preach the gospel, whether to those lost in the world or to those saved in the church. He may travel from city to city as Philip did for a time, but this is not inherent in the word, as some have mistakenly insisted.

WHAT IS HIS WORK?

Paul describes the work of the evangelist in his letters to Timothy and Titus. An excellent summary follows from 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Preach the Word

Evangelistic ministry is first of all a ministry of the Word of God. It is proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified. The focus is on the gospel with all of its ramifications and implications for the lives of men. Hence, the evangelist must be a man of The Book. He must feed on the Word so he can feed others. He must never forget that the primary testimony of Scripture is to Jesus Christ (see John 5:39).

His task is not to sermonize, but to Christianize. God called him to proclaim Christ, not to prepare sermons. Morality lectures are not the same as gospel preaching. His task is to focus the life and work of Jesus through the Word of God so it sets the hearts of men on fire with the love of God.

Paul declared to the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). To argue about whether we should preach “the man or the plan” is futile. In Scripture, the man is the plan. Jesus himself stated, “I am the way” (John 14:6). Peter and John affirmed, “Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Yet, there are “gospel preachers” who seldom mention the Word of God – either the written word or the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Any sermon that does not exalt Jesus is not truly a “Gospel Sermon.” It may contain truth, but not The Truth (cf. John 14:6). It may even contain much Scripture – but it will still have missed the whole point of the Scriptures, for Jesus said, “These are the Scriptures that testify of me” (John 5:39). Charles Spurgeon once said,

I have heard of ministers who can preach a sermon without mentioning the Name of Jesus from beginning to end.

If you ever hear a sermon of that kind mind that you never hear another from that man. If a baker once made a loaf of bread without any flour in it, I would take good care that he should never do so again; and I say the same of a man who can preach a Christless gospel. Let those go and hear him who do not value their souls; but dear friends, your soul and mine are too precious to be placed at the mercy of such a preacher. (As cited by Walter B. Knight, Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), p. 328.)

Set An Example

You cannot separate the messenger from his message. He must not only preach Christ; he must live Christ. It is as essential to “walk the walk” as it is to “talk the talk.” This is why Paul stressed the importance of example in his instructions to Timothy and Titus.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both your self and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

Paul not only taught his sons in the faith to “practice what they preached.” That is how he lived himself.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)

It is as important for a preacher to have a “sound life” as it is for him to have “sound doctrine.” In fact, the various descriptions of false teachers found in the New Testament have more to say about the false, hypocritical lives of the teachers than about the false, erroneous doctrines they teach.

Develop Leadership

As God’s gift to the church for its maturing, the evangelist is to train and develop leaders. He must commit the Word he has received to faithful men who will teach others 2 Timothy 2:2). He is to train and appoint elders (Titus 1:5). When a church has gone for years without developing godly elders, at least part of the blame is on its preacher(s). Even when elders are present, he is to rebuke them when necessary, but not harshly (1 Timothy 5:1, 19-20).

The gospel preacher is not to be a hireling, simply “hired” by the elders to do their biding. The preacher and elders are partners, “laborers together” in the Lord’s vineyard. When power struggles mar their relationship, something is wrong. Yes, bishops have the oversight of the congregation. But evangelists are also charged to rebuke sinful elders. Thus, there is mutual accountability: the preacher is accountable to the elders and the elders are accountable to the preacher. Neither of them is to “nit-pick” the other, for “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). This is in a context speaking of intra-church relationships. Peter goes on to point out that there are different ways of serving, but all are working to the praise and glory of God. If this is true of the church as a whole, how much more should it be true of the preacher and the elders.

The evangelist is not to be the errand boy for the congregation but is to minister the Word of God to it. He is not to preach what their itching ears want to hear but what their Lord wants them to hear. He is not an administrator, but a herald. He is not the focal point of the congregation, but a glass through which the church should be able to see Jesus.

Though he may work within a local church, he must never forget that the field is the world (see Matthew 13:38 and its context). His ministry is not only to the church, but also to the community, the county, the country, the continent, and even to the cosmos. He must be a man of vision, and his vision must include Christ for the nations. This is a vision he must share with the congregation.

QUALIFICATIONS OF A PREACHER

What sort of man does this take? What “qualifications” should the preacher have? Here is at least a partial list:

  • Personal integrity of life and character.
  • Knowledge of God’s Word.
  • Ability to communicate.
  • Vision of Man’s need and God’s remedy.
  • Understanding of people and the dynamic of their relationships to one another
  • “A sense of urgency, a sense of balance, and a sense of humor.” (The quote is from Johnny Ramsey.)

This sort of man will be able to communicate, nay he cannot be prevented from communicating, the love of God to those whose lives need to be touched by it so desperately. A church may support such a man to preach, or he may support himself while preaching. He may preach from a pulpit or he may preach where he finds people to listen – but preach he will because he can do no other! He says with Paul, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

  1. Where is the focus of the preacher’s life and message? Why
  2. What is the work of the evangelist or gospel preacher?
  3. What “philosophy of preaching” would you encourage a young preacher to develop?
  4. Why must an evangelist be a “Man of the Book?”
  5. “Sound doctrine” literally means “healthy or balanced teaching.” Why is a sense of balance essential to a preacher?
  6. In what way does the life of the messenger enhance or damage the gospel message he brings?
  7. When a church supports an evangelist, should it treat him as a hired hand? Why or why not?
  8. If you were writing a job description for a new preacher in your congregation, what would it contain?


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– (12) Christian Leadership in the Home

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– (10) Deacons As Leaders in the Church

QUESTION: Can Communion Bread Have Cinnamon Sugar?


At the _____ church of Christ, they serve homemade communion bread with cinnamon sugar sprinkled over it.

On my first visit there, I was communing and was taken by surprise by the brown something on top of the bread. I pinched off the whitest part but still tasted something sweet. Of course, the idea was tantalizing, so on my return, I planned to worship there again. Sure enough—cinnamon sugar. Is this acceptable?

The Scriptures do not give us a recipe for communion bread. The Old Testament simply says the “shewbread” (KJV) placed on the Table of Shewbread fresh each week and then eaten by the priests, was to be “unleavened.” Also, the Passover meal included unleavened bread.

We assume that because Jesus used unleavened bread at the Last Supper, we must use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. This may be an accurate assumption – or it may not. The text did not say anything about “unleavened bread,” but only “bread.”

First Corinthians 5:6-8 may speak of the Festival of the Lord’s Supper, though there is nothing in the immediate context that demands this. These verses speak of Christ as the Passover sacrificed for us. These verses call for unleavened bread, but then define the term as “the bread of sincerity and truth” in contrast to the leavened bread “of malice and wickedness.”

In any case, I hardly believe cinnamon sugar is leaven. I’ve never seen it on communion bread at the table, but I know of nothing in Scripture that would keep us from using it.

I have known of people who thought this bread could not be salted either – even though the “recipe” for the grain offering calls for salt (Leviticus 2:11-13), but no leaven or honey.

Of course, this question comes from a mind-set that looks for every detail of our worship to be “authorized” by an express word from Scripture – or prohibited by the God’s silence on the matter. I really do not believe that we should read the Bible expecting to find such detailed instructions. Had God wanted us to use a particular recipe for the bread in the Lord’s Supper, I believe He would have given it to us – and not left us to try to puzzle it out on our own. Where God has given instructions, we need to obey them; where He is silent, we should not make laws to fill in the silence.

COMMUNION MEDITATION (18): Who Is The Greatest?


Bread and WineWhoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.     Matthew 18:4

What vain beings we humans are! We boast of our accomplish­ments as if they had value. We strut about as if we were some­body. We vie for fame as if the opinion of the world matters.

As we do this, nearby is a child –  at play or in school. A busy child, unconcerned with our competitive ways. Just going about his or her “business” of living, learning and loving.

Jesus said I must be like that child to be great in the kingdom of God. Some things I must seek to find. But not King­dom Greatness. There, I seek only Jesus, not my greatness.

Jesus did not come seeking greatness; He came seeking me, to rescue and redeem me. He focused on me, not Himself and His reputation. But in giving Himself to deliver me from the powers of darkness in which I lived, He found His greatness.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

Jesus humbled Himself – and found greatness. Do I think I will find greatness “struttin’ my stuff” or will that make me look at least faintly ridiculous? Will human recognition make me great? Or will I find it the same way Jesus did? In cross-bearing.

Jesus always honored His Father. He always served those around Him, giving them what they needed. Mostly, they needed Him! Finally, He gave Himself to die.

Remembering Him is what this table is all about. Not just the final hours of His life. His whole holy life. All of it. In all of it He showed me the way to genuine greatness.

Will I learn from Him? He beckons. Will I follow Him?

NEXT – (19) Rich Young Ruler: Missed Opportunity

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– (17) My Metamorphosis

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