QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE QUESTION FORUM
Group Number 71
Why donít we see as many healings and miracles today as in the past?
Healings and miracles have never been consistently in the world. They have always been the exception, and never the rule. During the first 4,000 years of human history -- from Adam to Jesus -- the Bible records seventy-one miracles. Using a mathematical average, that would be one about every 56 years. Most of those miracles came in clusters. There are thirty-six of Jesus' miracles recorded in the New Testament Scriptures, We understand from John 21:25 that this is only a sampling of His marvelous works. Fifteen of the miracles wrought by Christ's disciples are recorded, including those done by His disciples when He was yet in the world.
There have been great men of God who never did perform a miracle. The premier example of this is John the Baptist. It is said of him, "He did no miracle" (John 10:41). Other examples of people who are not said to have done a miracle include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, and Isaiah. There have also been periods when there was a cessation of great miracles, such as the time in which Gideon lived (Judges 6:13). Prior to Jesus, there had been several centuries during which no known miracle was performed. Even in the book of Acts, which records the marvelous exploits of the Apostles, there are only five miracles recorded in the last fourteen chapters.
This certainly does not mean miracles are not possible, or that we are to look with skepticism upon the possibility of them being witnessed by this generation.
There are, however, other complicating factors. On one occasion, when people were asking Jesus to perform a sign, or miracle, He said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt 12:39). He said the same thing again in Matthew 16:4. Here, we learn that miracles are not given to generations that are basically wicked, who prostitute their affection for God by serving other things.
Secondly, there are areas in which Jesus can do no miracle. They are so dominated by unbelief and sin that His working is stifled. This was the condition of the very country in which Jesus was raised. Of that place it is written, "Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them" (Mark 6:5). Later, when He healed a blind man from the city of Bethsaida, because unbelief dominated that city, Jesus had to take the blind man out of the city before he could heal him. Even then, for the first time, Jesus had to touch him two times before his sight was completely restored (Mark 8:22-24).
Specifically answering your question, the rarity of the type of miracles found in the Scriptures may be related to the times in which we live -- times that are dominated by wickedness. In my opinion, the primary reason is because the professed church is not filled with faith. If God chooses to work miracles, signs, or wonders, He will do so through the faith of His people. Where that faith is lacking, the people would only scoff at His working.
If God is love, how can people go to hell who have never heard about Christ?
Because that is not ALL God is. He is also righteous (Dan 9:14), righteous in all of His ways and holy in all of His works (Psa 145:17), a consuming fire (Deut 4:24), a jealous God (Deut 6:15), the judge (Psa 75:7), greatly to be feared (Psa 89:7), "is not mocked" (Gal 6:7), and a "Man of war" (Ex 15:3). He is also depicted as "angry with the wicked every day" (Psa 7:11), "against them that do evil" (Psa 34:16), and is said to hate those who love violence (Psa 11:5).
Graciously, God has provided a means to avoid His judgment. That means is the Lord Jesus Christ. At great personal expense, God sent His Son into the world -- a sort of spiritual war zone (John 3:16). Jesus Himself came at great personal expense, laying aside His Divine rights to become a servant (Phil 2:5-8). Because man could not pay the debt sin created, God sent His Son to pay the debt Himself. Through Jesus, not only is the debt paid, the wrath of God is turned from men, and the grace of God is given to them. The requirement for receiving Christ is not a list of great exploits, but believing and obeying the Gospel. That puts the remedy well within reach of everyone who hears the Gospel.
The Word of Christ does not say everyone who did not hear about Jesus will go to Hell. It does say he that "believes not will be damned" (Mark 16:16). As to those who never had the privilege of hearing the Gospel, not even knowing such good news existed, God will judge them according to the knowledge they did have. He does not go into the details of this, but tells enough about Himself for us to know He is not looking for a reason to send people to Hell.
The Bible does mention some souls who did not know about Jesus. They lived during the time of the flood. We are told Jesus went and preached to those spirits while His body remained in the grave for three days. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long-suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water" (1 Peter 3:18-20). While curious souls would like to know much more of this occasion, we are provided very little information about it. Later, Peter says Jesus preached the Gospel to those who were dead, which refers to the above text (1 Peter 4:6).
We must not allow ourselves to speculate about what God is going to do with those who have not heard the Gospel. He has not elaborated on that matter, and neither should we, but has opened the door for hope for such unfortunate souls. He will, however, act in perfect harmony with His gracious and just nature.
Why did God create humankind if He knew they would fall and many would ultimately be condemned to hell?
In order to show heavenly beings His wisdom and power -- that He can deal with rebellion, deliver men from the dominion of the devil, and make new creatures out of them. All of this is done in a war one, dominated by the devil. The Bible says it this way, " . . . to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:9-11).
The great work of salvation is unveiling the majesty of God even further to heavenly intelligences. For those who will receive it, it is also showing mankind how gracious God is -- even to those who have sinned and come short of His glory.
The reason why God undertook this great work is because it was worth it. The people who at last dwell forever with Him will be worth all that He has done. As for the redeemed themselves, all that they have done to appropriate that great salvation will also be seen as worth it all.
My professor says it is a fact that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. Why should I read such a faulty book?
Your professor has not told you the truth. He has only spouted what he has heard or read some other skeptic say. The Bible has been under attack for centuries, and it is still here, blessing every soul who believes it and feeds upon it. It is the sole source of knowledge about God, His salvation, and His mercy and grace. It is the only book that offers the remission of sins, a new birth, fellowship with God, and conformity to the image of God. The ONLY reason anyone would find fault with this book is because those things are of no value him. That, however, has no bearing whatsoever upon the integrity of the Word of God. It only reveals the person is really not interested in what God has said.
God has preserved His Word, declaring it is easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away, than for one little mark to fall off the pages of Scripture (Luke 16:17). God has, however, so constructed His Word as to unveil the corruption of some men's hearts. On the surface, it appears to have contradictions -- but that is only to those who have no faith or true understanding. For those who will seek the truth with all of their heart, God will show the sense of His Word, opening the eyes of their understanding, or heart (Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 1:9). Jesus put it this way, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17). That applies to you also.
God has not charged us with the responsibility of proving to doubters that His word is true. Nor, indeed, has He established men as defenders of the integrity of what He has said. He has, however, revealed that men will be judged by the very Word they doubted and dared to criticized (John 12:48). He has also revealed that God will eventually overcome all those who contradict what He has said, seeking to find fault with it (Romans 3:4).
God Himself will eventually settle all of the disputes about the validity and reliability of His Word. At that time, He will summon all critics to give an account to Him for what they have said about His Word. Your professor will be there, giving an account of himself to God, like everyone else.
In the meantime, you should read the Bible because in it God declares a message you need. That message is His power in order to salvation (Romans 1:16). That Word is able equip you to do what is right and please God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In fact, both Moses and Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
You can decide what words you will listen to. Will it be the words of the Bible, or the words of your professor? Which one has the best track record? Which one is held in the highest regard? Which one has been around the longest? Which one has won the most arguments? Which one has helped people the most? Which one has served to clarify the most? Which one has the best and most encouraging message? Which one holds before you what you really need? Which one produces the most hope? I have no doubt about what you will do when you resolve these questions.
There are so many different Christian denominations. How can I know which one is right?
The same may be said of toothpaste, cars, houses, schools, appliances, etc. Not only are there different kinds of these things, but they are all competing with one another -- each one saying they are the best, and offer the most advantages. There are different brands of food, different kinds of appliances, and a multiplicity of clothing manufacturers. But none of these areas seem to intimidate people. The reason is quite simple. When people feel they really need something, they determine to get the best they can with what they have. In choosing, for example, a toothpaste, they do not merely listen to toothpaste claims. They try out what is offered, and make a determination upon the basis of their preferences and how the toothpaste compares with them.
Finding a profitable church involves somewhat of the same process. A proper church offers what God offers, holding high what He has prepared for the people. It is a place where the Lord, His salvation, and His Word are held in high regard. It is where He is at work, where prayers are answered, and advantages in the complexities of life are gained. If you have determined you want what God offers in Christ Jesus, then choose a church where that can be fulfilled. It is really just that simple.
"I affirmed that life does not begin at conception, but at the moment of birth. We pointed out that something (in this case a fetus) can be alive without having life . . . Aborting a fetus that is not developed enough to live outside the womb cannot be murder because it cannot sustain life." -- Jack Kirby, Cleburne TX
I was troubled by the haberdashery that brother Kirby pawned off in his personal view of the genesis of life. His reasoning was much closer to the earth than to heaven, reflecting human wisdom rather than the mind of Christ. I thought his statement concerning living things was most unique: "something can be alive without living." What a breakthrough in the field of definition! I suppose something can also be dead without dying.
I realize it conforms to the world's way of thinking to say "where pregnancy occurred because of rape, we should not make a woman feel guilty of murder who elects to terminate the pregnancy by abortion in early months." Those with the ability to make such decisions would be better off to pray to the Father, "deliver us from evil." The interesting thing is that when the law approached the matter of rape, it demanded the death of the one who raped the woman (Deut 22:25-27).
The postulate that life begins at birth rather than conception does not account for the growth process. Where is growth every attributed to something or someone that is not alive? In his rudimentary wisdom, even Solomon knew that "bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child" (Eccl 11:5). How is it that Almighty God Himself formed, and knew, Jeremiah before he exited from the womb (Jer 1:5). Why did He choose to identify Jeremiah as a person while he was in the womb?
Why are offspring called "the fruit of the womb" (Gen 30:2; Psa 127:3; Isa 13:18)? Does fruit come from a domain in which there is no life? Job knew that God had made himself, a person, "in the womb" (Job 31:15).
How is it that Jacob and Esau contended with each other while they were in Rebekah's womb? Were they living, or were those contentions merely muscle spasms? How is it that God referred to, what brother Kirby calls "the fetus," as "the children," "two nations," and "two manner of people" (Gen 25:22-23)? That is, indeed, a strange way to speak of two "somethings" that were not living. It cannot be countered that this was merely said in prospect of what they would be, for they are called "children." Unacquainted with brother Kirby's view, Paul spoke of what was conceived by Isaac in Rachel as "the children being not yet born" (Rom 9:10).
When David accounted for his own life, he did not point to his birth, but to his conception (Psa 51:5). It was he that was conceived, not a fetus. Women who were, as brother Kirby would say, "pregnant," are said by the Holy Spirit to be "with child," not "with fetus" (Gen 16:11; Gen 19:36; Ex 21:22; 2 Kgs 8:12; Matt 24:19; 1 Thess 5:3). I suppose it might be conjectured that the child was not living, but it is most difficult to me to think in such a manner.
Where in all of nature is something born that was not living before it was born? A flower was a living bud before it blossomed. If you could talk to cows and elephants, they would probably laugh if you attempted to tell them their calves were not living until they were born. How much more is such a thing an absurdity when it applies to the "offspring of God" (Acts 17:29).
When John the Baptist was conceived, the Holy Spirit chose to say "she conceived a son in her old age," not a fetus (Luke 1:36). When John was yet in the womb, a fetus by brother Kirby's definition, it is said, "the babe leaped in her womb" (Lk 1:41). The word "babe" is the same word (brephos) used to describe Jesus, "the babe in swaddling clothes" (Lk 2:12). It is also used to describe what the shepherds found when they worshipped the babe Jesus (Lk 2:16). It is used to describe the "infants" women brought to Jesus to bless (Lk 18:15), and Timothy who was taught from a "child" (2 Tim 315). In fact, mighty John was "filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb" (Lk 1:15). Can you imagine someone trying to explain to John that he was not living then, but was only "alive" -- that he was only a fetus. I am sure he would tell them it does take life to enable someone to "leap."
In the case of Jesus, if brother Kirby is right, a Living Spirit overshadowing Mary, conceived a non-living fetus within her who became living only when He was born (Luke 1:31-35). The spirit is careful to tell us Jesus Himself was "conceived in the womb" (Lk 2:21).
It would be far better for those who see abortion as approved under circumstances of their own choosing, to simply state their opinion and let it go. There is no need to bring living into the matter, for then God has become a part of the discussion. To present God as conceiving a fetus, and causing it to be living at birth (as in the case of our blessed Lord) is nothing less than foolishness draped with the cloth of intellectuality. Far better to cast it away as foolishness and filthy rags such thoughts. They have been both conceived and birthed by men, not God. Of course, they will give an account for their words.
When you say, "This initially occurs in regeneration," what is your understanding of the timing of that process? Does the regeneration/circumcision of the heart occur as a gift of God after a person has already come to faith in Christ and gone through the 5 steps, or is faith in Christ part of the gift/granting of regeneration? I'm assuming you believe God is the One who cuts the dulling effects of sin away to make the heart more tender, but can a person have saving faith before God actually does that? Or do you believe that circumcision corresponds to baptism in the Col. passage? I can't discern from your answer how you would respond to this series of questions.
Stated more succinctly, my question is: "In your view, does faith precede regeneration, or does regeneration produce saving faith?"
I deeply appreciate your tender heart and love of the truth. They are not always apparent on the Bible List of reference.
Concerning "the circumcision of Christ," that is the cutting away, or separation of, the sinful nature, or "flesh," from our basis persons. Colossians refers to the "putting off," or "removal," of the "BODY of the sins of the flesh." The NASB reads "the body of the flesh," and the NIV reads "putting off the sinful nature." Romans six refers to it as "BODY of sin." This refers to more than our outward frame. The idea is not the mass of transgressions that we have committed, but the source of our persons that is responsible for the sin. The argument in both Romans and Colossians is that we are no longer slaves to sin -- not because our sins have been forgiven, but because the dominion of the sinful nature has been overthrown. This is why, when Paul; was tempted with unwanted lusts, he could say "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom 7:17). Sin did not dwell in his essential part, or the part that is born again. Notwithstanding, the "old" man remains with us, dwelling in our bodies and contending with the "new man." But it has lost its power through "the circumcision of Christ." That circumcision is related to our baptism into Christ, as the completion of the sentence clearly states in Colossians 2:12.
When I said the stony heart was removed, and the heart of flesh obtained initially in regeneration, I meant that is the way everyone begins in Christ Jesus. No one under any circumstances begins to walk in newness of life with a hard heart, or, to put it another way, without a tender heart -- no one! That condition, however, must be maintained by continually rejecting the suggestions of the "old man," or crucifying him, as well as giving heed to the impulses of the "new man" who loves the truth, possessing faith and hope.
The infamous "five steps" are nowhere grouped in Scripture. They are the compilation of men, and however wise they may appear, no inspired man every put them together, and, in the Word, no one coming to Christ was ever apprised of them. This is most difficult for some to believe, but it is nevertheless the truth. It is most peculiar that those who boast of speaking where the Bible speaks, and being silent where the Bible is silent, should adopt a "plan of salvation" that is not mentioned in that manner any place in Scripture. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find any two of them mentioned together. That observation in no way suggests that any of them are invalid, or can be ignored. They are not, however, to be regarded a Divinely revealed plan, or step-by-step procedure.
I have come to so thoroughly loath this "step-by-step" view of salvation (which I myself preached for several decades), that it is difficult for me to speak about it with a tone of civility. Regeneration is a Divinely initiated procedure (Phil 1:6). If that process is not aborted by unbelief, it will be carried to completion. It may be an Apollos needing to know the way of the Lord more perfectly, or some Ephesians disciples who had not heard of the Holy Spirit. If men can be brought to really believe, obedience is no problem. In fact, those who believed in the book of Acts were often on the initiative, asking what they should do.
On the matter of faith, we must insist on there being only "one faith," which is a matter of revelation (Eph 4:5). I understand what you mean by "saving faith," but that term is not used by the Lord, and we should avoid using it. Either a person has faith or he does not. There is no such thing as spurious faith. There may be weak faith that can barely see, but there is no such thing as a faith God will not honor. When James speaks of faith without works being dead, he is saying such faith is really no faith at all -- any more than a body without the spirit is a person.
Faith does precede regeneration, for it is the very means through which regeneration is accomplished. The Holy Spirit saw no problem with saying we are "children of God by faith" (Gal 3:26). Hearts are said to be "purified by faith" (Acts 15:9), and men as becoming "wise for salvation through faith" (2 Tim 3:15). Our blessed Lord Himself spoke of faith as preceding our baptism (Mark 16:16), which thing is also said of the Corinthians, who "believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8). The same thing is said of those in Samaria who were converted under the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:12).
All of the disputes that have arisen over "faith" have occurred because men have viewed faith as primarily intellectual, as though men believed with their mind. But this is not the case at all. It is "with the heart" that men believe, not with the mind (Rom 10:10). Because of this intellectual view, faith is not regarded as very significant. It is viewed as one of several steps, all of which have equal weight. But that is the surmisings of men, not the declaration of God. Faith is what validates anything that is done, whether it is being baptized into Christ's death, or living out our new lives.
We are categorically told that it is "given" to us to believe (Phil 1:29), that faith "comes" (Rom 10:17; Gal 3:23), that it is "obtained" (2 Pet 1:1), and that we believe "through grace" (Acts 18:27). In fact, it is written that "the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 1:14), and that "love with faith" comes to us from the Father and the Son (Eph 6:23). If a person wishes to postulate that all of this occurs only after regeneration -- or, for the sake of those who contend everything hinges on baptism, after one is baptized -- he might as well close the Bible. There is no such teaching in Scripture.
True obedience, whether initial obedience related to coming into Christ, or the life of obedience that follows, proceeds from faith. Obedience is never said to produce or precede faith. Although the phrase is hotly disputed among linguists, Romans 1:5 properly reads, "the obedience that comes from faith."
If God works through our faith, and that is the appointed means through which He works, of necessity it precedes those things which are declared to be "by" or "through" faith. That is, as you know, rather elementary.
When pondering the subject of "faith," it is well to saturate your mind with everything God has said about faith. See if you can find where anyone having faith or believing was rejected by God. Faith consistently, and without a single exception, moved people to do what was right. That includes offering a sacrifice like Abel, building an ark like Noah, or miraculously giving birth like Sarah. Faith is never demeaned, and is never viewed as one of a series of equally emphasized responses.
As much as we can, we should cease to think of regeneration in terms of sequential timing. I do not know that the Spirit ever approaches it in this manner. As much as those with this dreadful inclination believe this, they did not get it from God. It is an intellectual approach that pulls the wonderful things of God down into the arena of flesh and blood. You are always safe and right when you speak of faith like God does -- in the very words He uses. If men do not concur with you, wait until the day of judgment. Then they will see the truth of it all, and God will be vindicated for the WAY He said things, as well as for the sayings themselves (Rom 3:4).
What is the most accurate version of the Bible to read?
It is generally conceded that the most accurate translation of the Scriptures is the American Standard Version. There is very little difference between it and the King James Version. Today there is the New American Standard Version and the New King jJames Version. Both are considered superior, and read much the same.
There are two philosophies of translation. The first is a word-by-word translation. The King James and American Standard versions follow this method.The second is a thought-by-thought translation. Many of the latter type of translations are actually paraphrases, with the translators interpreting what the passage meant instead of what it actually said.
I would recommend the New King James Version to those who feel uncomfortable with the King James version, which is my personal preference.
Besides Biblical accounts - I heard there is prove that Jesus actually lived - do you know where to get Jesus' history in natural history - not Bible history or what the Bible says?
There are several non-Biblical sources that mention the person of Jesus. None of these comment on His relevance, or why God sent Him into the world. Some links are listed below.
Pliny the Younger
I am unsure of the interpretation of Rev 3:14. It seems to indicate that Christ was a creation of God. Any enlightenment on the subject?
The phrase "the Beginning of the creation of God" means the ORIGIN of the creation of God, not the first thing created. The New Revised Standard Version and New American Bible thus translate the expression, "the origin of God's creation." The NIV reads, "the ruler of God's creation."
A similar statement is made in Colossians 1:15, where Jesus is called "the Firstborn of every creature," or "all creation." That phrase is explained in the next verse, "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (1:16-17).
This verse does not say, or suggest, the Person of Christ was created. The very fact that He is "the image of the invisible God" should be sufficient to show that. Hebrews declares He is the "express," or "exact representation" of God's person (Heb 1:3). That is another way of saying NOT created. The word "of" (firstborn OF) does not mean He is part of the creation, but that He is OVER the creation. "Of" is used this way in other places: "Head OF the church" (Eph 5:23), "Head OF all principality and power" (Col 2:10), "Head of the corner" (1 Pet 2:7), "Head over every man" (1 Cor 11:3), etc. The word "Firstborn" also refers to His resurrection from the dead, not His birth into the world. Elsewhere He is called "Firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18). In that reference the same point is made as in Colossians 1:15, namely that He is over all. "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
The term "Beginning of the creation" in Revelation" carries much the same meaning as "Firstborn." It is a word denoting source of and authority over.
Can you explain what is a Covenant. Vow & Contract from the bible? Can you give me an example of each? Can any of these be broken?
COVENANT. A covenant involves two parties who are in agreement on a matter. It is something to which both parties willingly consent and pledge themselves. Abimilech and Abraham made a covenant (Genesis 21:29-32). Another covenant was made between Isaac and certain men, that he would do them no harm (Genesis 26:26-30). The ultimate covenant is the New Covenant, wherein God promises to bless us through Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:6-13). Our faith in Christ is our agreement with Him in that covenant.
VOW. A vow is a personal promise to do something, and is made by one person. Jacob vowed if God would be with him, he would give a tenth of everything he had to Him (Genesis 28:20-22). A Nazarite took a vow to be completely devoted to God, abstaining from all strong drink all of his life (Numbers 6:2-4). Solomon reminded us that vows can be made to God, and when they are, they are to be paid (Ecclesiastes 5;4).
CONTRACT. The word "contract" is only found in NIV translation of the Bible. There it refers to, what other versions call, a "hireling," or a "hired man." In that case, a contract is an agreement to pay for the services of the one that has been hired. In the Bible, this would be similar to a covenant, and would carry much the same meaning.
I heard that there are 3 heavens is this right?
This statement is based upon Paul's reference to "the third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Nothing in Scripture states there are three heavens. Some Jewish teachers feel there are seven heavens.
The expanse over the earth is called "heaven" (Gen 11:4). The stars are similar celestrial bodies are located in heaven (Gen 1:14-17). There is also a heaven that is the residence of God almighty (Matt 6:9). This, some understand, to be the "third heaven" to which Paul refers. From the standpoint of the dwelling place of God, and the hope that is laid up for those who trust in Christ, there is one heaven (Col 1:5). The other domains were created, and are related to the preparation of the earth as a habitation for man.
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