Sunday, September 5 FBC once again brought fun times at church. We finished our Old Testament series with Q & A from the congregation. Many of the questions I answered during the services themselves but there were two completely different sets of questions. Those interested in hearing all the questions and answers should likely get the audio—which should be available for podcast from the church website soon, and we will try to also provide some CD’s at church. I told the congregation yesterday I would blog the questions we didn’t have time for. To maintain the feel of these as questions that were texted to us during the service, I have kept the questions exactly as they came.
1. Do you believe that this generation will likely see the rapture?
No, not really. First, I’m not convinced a ‘rapture’ event is even described in the Bible, so I prefer to talk about the return of Christ, which I wholeheartedly affirm. However, every generation seems to believe their’s is the last. My answer to that is we should live like today might be the last one we have, but nevertheless prepare for the future. One of the great shortcomings of many evangelicals is that such great emphasis is put upon an imminent ending of the world that long-range patterns of generational ministry and preparation go neglected. That might be why, for example, we see so many younger folks without theological foundations. Their parents who believed in the Lord thought he was returning soon, so, why bother teach your children anything about love, justice, the Trinity or such when all we need to do is ge them ‘saved’ and prepared for the apocalypse.
2. will god send or condemn a person for there sexual orientation and will He still love you
Tough one. We spoke about homosexuality in the sermon itself but what I would like to address here is the condemnation part of it. God always loves us. Nothing changes that. However, willful disobedience to his ways leads to punishment (condemnation); which is essentially separation from the Lord. Punishment from the Lord is what we earn by continuing to engage in sinful behavior. Homosexuality is a sin.
What I refuse to do, though, is to create a special category of sinner called ‘homosexual’ and highlight that as if it were unique. We are all sinners, and for some people our sin is homosexuality. To follow Christ is to admit our sin and begin to follow him and let him remake us in his image. It is through that process that we begin to see our sin for what it is. This is not a popular take on the issue today which wants to remove any talk of sin in terms of any sexuality; but that would be something other than what the Bible teaches.
[note—the media ministry people tell me we had many questions about homosexuality during the time. It did not fit the theme as being about the Old Testament, but the leadership back there appropriately viewed it as a pastoral need and put the question on the screen anyway for me to answer. As I stated above, I dealt with that during the service, so for more info see the audio]
3. Can i keep on sinning and god forgive me? is not that required by god statements in the bible?
Yes, the Lord will always forgive you. He teaches us to forgive, and he certainly is greater than we are. However, one has to ask the question about their life regarding the nature of our sinful patterns. A Christ-follower will desire to stop sinning. If a person has no desire to stop sinning but instead uses the automatic ‘forgiveness’ button as a trap to make God perform then one has to question the sincerity of the individual. God is not mocked—and I think that includes people who try to manipulate him by abusing his grace.
4. Why is the book of Esther in the bible if God is not mentioned once?
Because Esther was a hero of the Jewish people. The book of Esther is a great example of God’s hand in history even though he is not overtly active in supernatural events. Compare Esther’s deliverance to that at the Red Sea with Moses. Faith says God was involved in both; but in dramatically different ways.
5. If God wanted Israel to be a royal priesthood whom the nations would come to know God through, why do we see Israel’s most godly leaders (Joshua, David, Elijah, etc) act so violently towards others?
Short answer—they lived in violent times. Longer answer—the Hebrews were in a theocracy in which to protect the nation was to protect the way of life. By analogy, the greatest patriots of the United States were all violent people as well—Washington, Lincoln (who perhaps was responsible for killing more Americans than anyone else, yet it was his duty to do such to safeguard the republic), Patton, Eisenhower, Kennedy etc… Eisenhower is a particularly good example in that he sent many, many young soldiers to their death—Allies and Axis, but he had to to stop a great evil. Longer answer yet—Christ never raised a sword to anyone. By the time the New Testament is revealed, the Hebrews had so-not-lived-up-to God’s expectations that faith no longer is wrapped up in politics. The Christian messages transcends national boundaries.
6. how can god love us so much, and still send us to hell
See numbers 2 & 3 above. The answer is essentially the same. Hell is not as much a place prepared for evil as it is the logical outcome of those who consistently reject the Lord and his ways on earth. Eternal life is the gift of God to those who love him and respond in faith. Those who do not love and follow him do not receive the gift.
7. What am i to believe about demonds being among us?
Believe that they are among us, but do not fret. Be careful never to go down the dangerous path of spending time and energy on what the devil is doing. Our job is to serve Christ and his kingdom. Let the Lord deal with the devil and demons; we should just worry about growing in our follow-ship. I do not need the devil or demons to mess up—I can do that all by myself.
8. So goin back to the creation topic there is a theory out there that before the creation started in Genesis, God had made out the universe but he didnt make everything in the beginning he made and controlled evolution and our fossil record is the record of that universe but then when Lucifer fell and became Stan he destroyed everything except the Earth but he destroyed everything on Earth leaving just a lump of rock then he started again with the record in Genesis?
Okay—that’s a long question. This is a form of the “Gap Theory” which was very popular in the 1980’s. It explains the “void” and “chaos” of Genesis 1:1-2 as being contrary to what God would make—since God makes everything beautiful and pristine. The theory goes that God made the earth perfect but when Satan fell with his demons he was cast to earth as punishment (some punishment?). The subsequent “fall” destroyed earth like a giant meteor might have done. Then, with Satan on earth, God made the earth as we know it.
I like the “what if” of this theory because it leaves the door ajar for mystery and unexplained phenomena. I like that. As I said before I do not think the distant past is easily explained or scientifically comprehensible. But, this theory has real problems with it as a whole. First, if this were so, I think the Lord would have told us. Second, it hinges upon piecing together many different Bible verses, out of context, for it to hold together. Third, it gives the Devil too much power, as it conceives of earth as ‘enemy held territory.’ I’m not saying it is not true but I am saying it doesn’t seem like the most likely explanation for the world as we see it today.
NOTE–AFTER THIS BLOG WAS WRITTEN, TWO ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS WERE FOUND WRITTEN ON SCRAPS OF PAPER (FRAGMENTS?) I ANSWERED THEM IN OUR WEEKLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER, BUT ALSO AM POSTING THEM HERE AS WELL, JUST TO BE THOROUGH.
I have had many positive comments about the services on Sunday with the Question and Answer session. Perhaps it is an itch we should attempt to scratch more often. I think maybe we will ponder that for 2012. In the meantime, I promised to answer the questions we received as follow-up. Most of these have been published on my blog at jdgreening.wordpresss.com. After I posted that blog I discovered two other hand written questions that came in on scraps of paper. So, here they are, along with my attempt to answer them.
1. Could you please explain the priesthood of believers? What is the implication of this phrase upon our lives.
The priesthood of (all) believers is a particular doctrine that Baptists have championed for a long time. However, it has fallen on hard times in recent years for various reasons which I choose not to go into now. The essence of the doctrine—and it is a doctrine, is that Christ alone is our one true priest and therefore no human intermediary is necessary. All people are capable of relating to God directly, therefore they are, in essence, their own priest under Christ the great high priest. This means that each believer can discern God’s will directly and, likewise, has the responsibility for responding to the Lord and his word.
The implication of this doctrine in the church is that a church does not need a pastor to make church happen. The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, prayer, preaching and all the things that churches do are not made effectual by the presence of a pastor (priest?) but by the presence of the Holy Spirit when people are gathered in the name of Christ. The priesthood of the believer is also the root doctrine used to defend congregational polity—every member has equal vote because every member has equal access to God.
The doctrine of the priesthood of believers denies that ordained clergy have any special inside knowledge of track to God. Now, most people affirm that, but I turn around and ask—why do so many people want to make sure the pastor prays for them? It is likely that they deep down believer the pastor’s prayers have a better chance of getting through than their own! Of course, that is false.
2. What is the Greek name of the King of Salem in the Old Testament?
A name is a name, whether it is Greek or English. Sometimes the pronunciations change, but it is still the same name (i.e. Jesus=Yeshua=Joshua) regardless of the language employed. Now, by King of Salem I think the question means Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24) and it is Hebrew. Melchizedek is a fairly quiet figure in the Old Testament, appearing only here in narrative and referenced in the Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5 and 7. The name, a compound name of “righteousness” and “king” means “my righteous king.”
Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, who, as the ancient King of Salem likely foreshadowed, at least in the mind of the writer of Hebrews, the truth King of Salem (Salem=Peace) who is Christ Jesus. The book of Hebrews makes it explicit through logical deduction and theological proofs that Jesus is greater than Abraham and Moses and therefore to follow Christ is greater than following the law or Jewish rules.