“How can we be happy in Heaven if all of our loved ones are not there?”


THE WALL: a blog of Baptist Voice Ministries


It’s hard to imagine that we can be happy in heaven if we have an awareness that those we loved on earth are not present. We do know that when we arrive in Heaven, we will not have anything to be saddened by. Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Missing our loved ones would presumably fall under the category of pain or mourning. Perhaps we will have no knowledge or remembrance of them at all. Perhaps we will have come to see things from a heavenly perspective and will understand why our loved ones not being there somehow glorifies God and will rejoice. We do know that we will finally see everything from God’s perspective, something which is impossible now. “Now all we…

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Are any black people mentioned in the Bible?


 The Bible does not specifically identify any person as being black-skinned. The Bible also does not specifically identify any person as being white-skinned. The vast majority of the Bible took place in the Middle East, in and around Israel. Neither “black” nor “white” people are common in these regions. The vast majority of the people in the Bible were “Semitic,” light to dark brown in complexion. Ultimately, it does not matter what skin color the people in the Bible had. Skin color is meaningless in the message of the Bible. We all need to take our eyes off of the skin and focus on the soul.

Some scholars guess that Moses’ wife Zipporah might have been black since she was a Cushite (Numbers 12:1). Cush is an ancient name for an area of Africa. The Shulammite may have been black (Song of Solomon 1:5), although the context indicates that her skin was dark due to being out in the sun. Some propose that Bathsheba (2 Samuel 113) was black. Some believe that the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1) was black. The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:37 was likely black. Ethiopians are mentioned about 40 times in the Bible, and the Prophet Jeremiah asked, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin …” (Jeremiah 13:23). “Simeon called Niger” in Acts 12:1 may have been black. The Bible, though, does not specifically say that any of these people were black.

Most Bible teachers believe that black people are descendants of Noah’s son Ham (Genesis 10:13-20), but we cannot be sure since the Bible does not specifically say. Why aren’t there more black people in the Bible? The vast majority of events in the Bible took place in the land of Israel. Although black people were common in many regions nearby Israel, Israel has never been an area where many black people have settled.

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?”


Answer: There are several important differences between Catholics and Protestants. While there have been some attempts over the last several years to find common ground between the two groups, the fact is that the differences remain, and they are just as important today as they were at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The following is brief summary of some of the more important differences:

One of the first major differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is the issue of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the source of God’s special revelation to mankind and teaches us all that is necessary for our salvation from sin. Protestants view the Bible as the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. This belief is commonly referred to as “sola scriptura” and is one of the “five solas” (sola is Latin for “alone”) that came out of the Protestant Reformation as summaries of some of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

While there are many verses in the Bible that establish its authority and its sufficiency for all matters of faith and practice, one of the clearest is 2 Timothy 3:16, where we see that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Catholics reject the doctrine of sola scriptura and do not believe that the Bible alone is sufficient. They believe that both the Bible and sacred Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding upon the Christian. Many Roman Catholics doctrines, such as purgatory, praying to the saints, worship or veneration of Mary, etc., have little or no basis in Scripture but are based solely on Roman Catholic traditions. Essentially, the Roman Catholic Church’s denial of sola scriptura and its insistence that both the Bible and tradition are equal in authority undermine the sufficiency, authority, and completeness of the Bible. The view of Scripture is at the root of many, if not all, of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

Another disagreement between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the office and authority of the Pope. According to Catholicism the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” (a vicar is a substitute) and takes the place of Jesus as the visible head of the Church. As such, the Pope has the ability to speak ex cathedra (with authority on matters of faith and practice), making his teachings infallible and binding upon all Christians. On the other hand, Protestants believe that no human being is infallible and that Christ alone is the Head of the Church. Catholics rely on apostolic succession as a way of trying to establish the Pope’s authority. Protestants believe that the church’s authority comes not from apostolic succession but from the Word of God. Spiritual power and authority do not rest in the hands of a mere man but in the very Word of God. While Catholicism teaches that only the Catholic Church can properly interpret the Bible, Protestants believe that the Bible teaches God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all born-again believers, enabling all believers to understand the message of the Bible.

Protestants point to passages such as John 14:16-17 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (See also John 14:26 and 1 John 1:27.)

A third major difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is how one is saved. Another of the five solasof the Reformation is sola fide (“faith alone”), which affirms the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). However, Catholics teach that the Christian must rely on faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Essential to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation are the Seven Sacraments, which are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. Protestants believe that, on the basis of faith in Christ alone, believers are justified by God, as all their sins are paid for by Christ on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to them. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer by “grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must supplement the righteousness of Christ imparted to him with meritorious works.

Catholics and Protestants also disagree on what it means to be justified before God. To the Catholic, justification involves being made righteous and holy. He believes that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation and that the individual must build upon that with good works because God’s grace of eternal salvation must be merited. This view of justification contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in passages such as Romans 4:1-12, Titus 3:3-7, and many others. Protestants distinguish between the one-time act of justification (when we are declared righteous by God based on our faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross) and the process of sanctification (the development of righteousness that continues throughout our lives on earth). While Protestants recognize that works are important, they believe they are the result or fruit of salvation but never the means to it. Catholics blend justification and sanctification together into one ongoing process, which leads to confusion about how one is saved.

A fourth major difference between Catholics and Protestants has to do with what happens after death. Both believe that unbelievers will spend eternity in hell, but there are significant differences about what happens to believers. From their church traditions and their reliance on non-canonical books, the Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” On the other hand, Protestants believe that because we are justified by faith in Christ alone and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us—when we die, we will go straight to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 and Philippians 1:23).

One disturbing aspect about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is the belief that man can and must pay for his own sins. This results in a low view of the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross. Simply put, the Roman Catholic view of salvation implies that Christ’s atonement on the cross was insufficient payment for the sins of those who believe in Him and that even a believer must pay for his own sins, either through acts of penance or time in purgatory. Yet the Bible teaches that it is Christ’s death alone that can satisfy or propitiate God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:23; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). Our works of righteousness cannot add to what Christ has already accomplished.

The differences between Catholicism and evangelical Protestants are important and significant. Paul wrote Galatians to combat the Judaizers (Jews who said that Gentile Christians had to obey the Old Testament Law to be saved). Like the Judaizers, Catholics make human works necessary for one to be justified by God, and they end up with a completely different gospel.

It is our prayer that God will open the eyes of those who are putting their faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is our hope that everyone will understand that his “works of righteousness” cannot justify him or sanctify him (Isaiah 64:6). We pray that all will instead put their faith solely in the fact that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24-25). God saves us, “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“Can a Christian today perform an exorcism”



Exorcism (commanding demons to leave other people) was practiced by various people in the Gospels and the Book of Acts—the disciples as part of Christ’s instructions (Matthew 10); others using Christ’s name (Mark 9:38); the children of the Pharisees (Luke 11: 18 – 19); Paul (Acts 16); and certain exorcists (Acts 19:11-16.

It appears that the purpose of Jesus’ disciples performing exorcisms was to show Christ’s dominion over the demons (Luke 10:17) and to verify that the disciples were acting in His name and by His authority. It also revealed their faith or lack of faith (Matthew 17:14-21). It was obvious that this act of casting out demons was important to the ministry of the disciples. However, it is unclear what part casting out demons actually played in the discipleship process.

Interestingly, there seems to be a shift in the latter part of the New Testament regarding demonic warfare. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity, yet do not discuss the actions of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the armor to stand against them (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are told to resist the devil (James 4:7), be careful of him (1 Peter 5:8), and not give him room in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). However, we are not told how to cast him or his demons out of others, or that we should even consider doing so.

The book of Ephesians gives clear instructions on how we are to have victory in our lives in the battle against the forces of evil. The first step is placing our faith in Christ (2:8-9), which breaks the rule of “the prince of power of the air” (2:2). We are then to choose, again by God’s grace, to put off ungodly habits and to put on godly habits (4:17-24). This does not involve casting out demons, but rather renewing our minds (4:23). After several practical instructions on how to obey God as His children, we are reminded that there is a spiritual battle. It is fought with certain armor that allows us to stand against—not cast out—the trickery of the demonic world (6:10). We stand with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer (6:10-18).

It appears that as the Word of God was completed, the Christians had more weapons with which to battle the spirit world than the early Christians did. The role of casting out demons was replaced, for the most part, with evangelism and discipleship through the Word of God. Since the methods of spiritual warfare in the New Testament do not involve casting out demons, it is difficult to determine instructions on how to do such a thing. If necessary at all, it seems that it is through exposing the individual to the truth of the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”


 

 

Whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween   can be a very controversial topic. Some Christians celebrate Halloween simply by dressing up in a costume and having fun, seeing it as innocent and harmless. Other Christians are equally convinced that Halloween is a satanic holiday established to worship evil spirits and promote darkness and wickedness. So, who is right? Is it possible for Christians to celebrate Halloween without compromising their faith?

 

Halloween, no matter how commercialized, has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians tend to have various ways to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween. For some, it means having an “alternative” Harvest Party. For others, it is staying away from the ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., and wearing innocuous costumes, e.g., little princesses, clowns, cowboys, super-heroes, etc. Some choose not to do anything, electing to lock themselves in the house with the lights off. With our freedom as Christians, we are at liberty to decide how to act.

 

Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31:20:6,27). The New Testament teaching about the occult is clear.Acts 8:9-24, the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don’t mix. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19).


So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No, there is not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely! If parents are going to allow their children to participate in Halloween, they should make sure to keep them from getting involved in the darker aspects of the day. If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27). There are many churches that hold “harvest festivals” and incorporate costumes, but in a godly environment. There are many Christians who hand out tracts that share the Gospel along with the Halloween candy. The decision is ultimately ours to make. But as with all things, we are to incorporate the principles of Romans 14 We can’t allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord.

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?”



A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubinage, a condemnation can be foundimplicitlyfrom the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21-24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships (2 Samuel 11;2-4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubinage.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.

It appears God allowed the sin of concubinage, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because Godallowsa sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g.,Genesis 50:20).

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