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My question concerns 1 Corinthians 3:1-17:  It sounds to me like this passage says that even though a person may have sin or sinful work (the hay, wood or straw) they themselves will be saved because of the foundation of their salvation and faith (Jesus Christ).

One of the great disservices of denominationalism is its penchant for theological language language that is not found in the Scriptures. The phrase to which you refer is a classic example: "the security of the believer." If we understand this to mean the keeping power of God through faith, as affirmed in First Peter 1:5, the issue becomes clear. If, however, it is considered as something accomplished independently of keeping the faith, confusion enters in. It is "the believer" who is "kept by the power of God," not the one who merely professes faith. A believer is one who IS believing, trusting, and relying upon Christ. That is something that does not take place automatically. There is such a thing as "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:12), and it involves fighting against all that competes against faith.

The passage in First Corinthians three is not about "works" as ordinarily perceived. The works mentioned there are not the good or bad things each believer does. If that is the case, the passage makes little sense at all. In that case, it would mean the believer is judged by his works, but even if they are all burned up, he will be saved anyway. That flies right in the face of the clear and concise teaching of the Holy Spirit. After enumerating the "works of the flesh," the Spirit affirms, "of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:21). A similar statement is made in First Corinthians 6:9-10. Ephesians 5:5-6 makes the same statement: "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."

Our works, when referring to unacceptable conduct, therefore, are not inconsequential. They reveal what our real condition is. If salvation does not change what we do, it is really no salvation at all. That would be like God saving Israel from Egyptian bondage, yet leaving them under the harsh taskmasters. Salvation changes what we are, what we do, and how we think. If the third chapter of First Corinthians is speaking about sinful expressions, it contradicts everything that is said about salvation.

The "works" of First Corinthians 3:1-17 are converts. The point Paul is making is that he has been appointed by God to build people upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. He does this by anchoring their faith to the Savior, thereby enabling them to "grow up into Christ in all things" (Eph 4:15). The "work" of the text is people WHO they are, not what they do. First, he upbraids the people for being "carnal" and walking as men (verses 1-3). This was being manifested particularly in the divisions that existed among them (verses 4-5). In choosing to follow their favorite teachers, and even calling themselves after their names, they had committed a great sin. Paul and Apollos, for example, were working together with Christ in the same work. One planted, and another watered, but God gave the increase. There was, therefore no competition among those who had initially taught the Corinthians. Thus, the people were "carnal," or fleshly, in allowing divisions to exist among themselves as though their original teachers had been divided (verses 7-8).

At this point, Paul affirms Christ's workers had all been laboring together with God, wholly united among themselves. They were working on a special project. From the standpoint of producing fruit to God, that project was a field, vineyard, or "husbandry." From the standpoint of a place where God chose to dwell, it was a building "God's building." That "husbandry," or "building," he affirms was the people themselves: "YOU are God's husbandry, YOU are God's building" (verse 9).

Paul then focuses on the "building" view. He states that, as a wise master builder, he laid the foundation, and others have built upon it. By this he means he started the work, particularly at Corinth. After him, others came and built on the foundation, bringing others into the church. He adds, "But let every man take heed how he bidet thereupon." No one must attempt to blend people who are not trusting in Christ with those who are that is his point (verses 10-11). He then likens converts, or professing Christians, to" gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble" (verse 12). It is the people themselves who are represented in these figures, NOT what they do. We do not "build" our own works, or deeds, upon Christ. It is people who are "added" to the church, not deeds. Converts are referred to as the "work" of those who have preached the Gospel to them. "are not ye my work in the Lord?" (1 Cor 9:1)

The testing in verse thirteen will, take place on the day of judgment "the day." It is the people themselves who will be judged, not merely their deeds. There will be some who will claim to have done "many wonderful works," yet will not pass the test (Matt 7:21-22). They are the "wood, hay, and stubble."

The "loss" will be realized by the person who attempted to place such people upon Christ. His labor will have been in vain, and he will lose something because of it. That does not mean the laborer himself will necessarily be lost because of these inferior converts, for he himself will also pass through the fire of judgment (verse 15). Paul referred to this condition when he said he was "afraid" of the Galatians because of their propensity to Law. He did not want his labor to be in vain (Gal 4:11). He knew if they did not stand the test of the day of judgment, he would lose a reward, having labored in vain among them.

He concludes by reminding the Corinthians they are collectively "the temple of God," and that the Spirit of God is dwelling in them. He is referring to the "building" he mentioned earlier the "building" that is comprised of people, or converts. He then gives a solemn warning to all would-be teachers. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (verse 17). God will not tolerate the person who insists on bringing people into the church, (which is intended to be a place for Himself), who have no genuine identity with Jesus. Such a person will be "destroyed."

This circumstance is why Ananias and Saphirra were eliminated from the "building," or church (Acts 5). It is why the Corinthian fornicator was excommunicated (1 Cor 5). It is why Peter would not tolerate Simon's insolent request to buy the power to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:19-21). Such people were themselves "wood, hay, and stubble." Unless they were changed, they had no part in Christ whatsoever.

Does the Bible indeed teach that the Christian should never drink any alcohol? Our preacher showed us scriptures in the old testament that says the holy priesthood was never to drink hard drink. And in the new scripture it says that Christians are a holy priesthood. So, when Jesus turned the water into wine for his mother at the wedding, was that OK because they were under the Mosaic Law? Is it really a sin to have one glass of wine with dinner?

The word of God does not say Christians should never drink any alcohol. Nothing in Scripture suggests it is a sin to drink one glass of wine with dinner. This whole matter is in he area of conscience, and strict laws cannot be imposed upon one believer by another where God has not spoken. God has, of course, spoken about drunkenness, as well as lusts for things that ultimately defile.

The "wine" of Scripture was not like the wine of our day. It was more like fresh grape juice. Imbibed in heavy quantities, the individual could become drunk. Alcoholic drinks are more like the "strong drink" of Scripture.

As for drinking being all right if you do not get drunk, one would have a difficult time convincing John the Baptist of that. He was a Nazarite. Before he was ever born, the angel of the Lord his father, "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb" (Luke 1:12). Jesus said that he drank no wine (Luke 7:33).

Samson was also a Nazarite. The angel of the Lord told his mother, "Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink" (Judges 13:7). Under the Law, God also forbade the priests to drink strong drink when they went into the tabernacle. if they did so, they would die. "Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die-- it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations" (Lev 10:9).

It seems as though the more God used a person, the less tolerant he was of drinking any strong drink.

So, "No," the Scriptures do not condemn a person for drinking a glass of wine with dinner. But there is more to consider than simply if it is right or wrong. As I have shown, God has been very particular about those serving Him, and the drinking of wine. Too, we are told it is good to refrain from drinking any wine if it is a cause of stumbling to others (Rom 14:21).

You cannot get drunk, you cannot offend your brethren, and you must consider bringing glory to God in all things, even drinking (1 Cor 10;31). With that, you are free to make your determination on the matter, and no one can condemn yo

Is there ever a time when you need to stop questioning every little detail in the Bible, and just accept what it says?

Yes! In fact, there should NEVER be any questioning of Scriptural affirmation. When God speaks, it is not intended to provoke questions, but believing and obedience.

Jesus endured a lot of questions when He was in the world. The majority of them were neither honest nor sincere, and He would turn the subject to the real issue. The questions you mentioned are not asked with scripture in mind, but with human preferences in mind. There is such a thing as wrong questions. They are a way a person has of promoting their own thoughts.

There is nothing wrong about questioning persuasions for which no apparent justification exists. Answers from the Word of God, however, must settle the matter. Too, when a person has more questions than they do answers or contributions to the faith and understanding of others, that person has become a thorn and a hindrance. Here is what God says about unending questions. "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels" (2 Tim 2:23). 'But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, about the person who "has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions" (1 Tim 6:4).

When Christians come together, everything is to be done to build one another up. 'All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Cor 14:26). "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom 14:19). That requirement applies whether one is young or old, male or female.

The EFFECT questions have upon people who love the truth and want to serve Jesus is to be considered. If this individual is causing interruption, quarrels, and disputes by their questions, God requires that they keep quiet. That, of course, means to "shut up."

For my homework I need two explanations for each of the following mysteries; feeding of the 5000, healing the blind, healing the dead, removing of evil spirits. I am really stuck please help! . . . I did the walking on water explanations, possible heat haze or sandbar etc., to give the effect of walking on water. any other suggestions

The events to which you refer do not need to be explained. They are to be believed. All of them are very real -- miraculous, displaying the work of God. That is why they are called "miracles," and not delusions, or illusions, or some other form of visionary distortion. Jesus once condemned a city for not believing the "miracles" that He did (Matthew 11:20-23). Because one city was so dominated by unbelief, He could do not a miracle there (Matthew 13:58). It is false Christ's that work deception, not the Savior of the world (Mark 13:22).

Reread the miracles of the Lord and ask God to help you believe the truth of them.

Will there be different degrees of rewards once we go to Heaven?

Yes. Rewards will be according to every man's work -- and every man's work is not the same (Matt 16:27). Jesus spoke of conduct that would result in a "great" reward (Luke 6:35). Hebrews affirms that strong confidence will also receive a "great" reward (Heb 10:35). In the parable of the pounds, Jesus declared degrees of rewards (Luke 19:17-19). The apostles will have places of unusual preeminence in glory, as indicated by the inscribing of their names on the walls of the city of God (Rev 21:14).

A man comes to you and says he has been struggling with the problem of pornography.
How would you respond?
What kind of practical advice would you give him?
What sort of program would you set up to bring healing?

It depends upon what he means by "struggle." If he means he is being tempted, but is resisting the devil, I would tell him God does not hold him responsible for unwanted thoughts, which are the fiery darts hurled at the mind by Satan -- "It is not I" (Rom 7:15,16,18,19,20).

If "struggle" means he is giving in to the temptation, lust has conceived, and is now bearing fruit in him (James 1:14-15). In order for that to happen, the following had to occur.

01. A place was made for Satan (Eph 4:27).
02. His affection was not placed on things above (Col 3:2).
03. He did not resist the devil (James 4:7).
04. He quenched the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19).
05. He did not keep the Gospel in mind (1 Cor 15:1-3).
06. He did not give heed to Him who speaks from heaven (Heb 12:28).
07. He did not crucify the flesh (Gal 5:24).
08. He rejected the leading of the Spirit (Rom 8:13).
09. He did not pray that he enter not into temptation (Luke 22:40).
10. He did not put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11).
11. He did not use the shield of faith (Eph 6:16).
12. He did not walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16).
13. He forgot he was purged from his old sins (2 Pet 1:9).
14. He forgot that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal 5:21).
15. He did not seek the things that are above (Col 3:1).
16. He rejected the mandate, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15a).
17. He forgot that if a man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15b).

These things ought not be said in a harsh or judgmental manner. However, the individual drawn into this area must realize you cannot sin by accident, or inadvertently fall into pornography, or the lust of the flesh. In the case of pornography, you have to seek it out. It is even against the law for it to be available in public places. People like this must comes to grips with their distance from God. By choice, they have placed themselves in the devil's domain AFTER God put them into Christ (1 Cor 1:30), and raised them up to sit with Him in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6). Not a single one of us should allow such souls to explain their situation to us. It is the result of walking in the flesh, and no solution will ever be realized until that is acknowledged.

WHAT KIND OF PRACTICAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM? Jesus said a word on this. "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:47-48). There are no convenient and painless solutions, because this sin is deliberate -- one of choice, and aggressive choice at that. The cause of the weakness must be removed. Whatever that involves is completely without significance. If gouging your eye out would remove the lust, that should be done. That would not, of course, pull up the roots of lust. This person should immediately refrain from going where such things are available. He should remove from his residence anything that gives the advantage to lust. It is obvious he cannot subordinate lust while living in proximity of things that provoke it. In other words, the person has to come to the point where he resolves before God this will never occur again. If it means running from Potipher's wife, then he must run. The secret is, that at this precise point, God will give grace and strength to carry out the resolve of faith. However, until that firm and unwavering resolution is made (like Joseph did, Genesis 39:9), our suggestions are just noise in his ears.

If God "made" Jesus "a curse" because of our sin being laid upon Him (Gal 3:13), you may be sure He will hold no countenance whatsoever for a willingness on our part to be involved in sin. On the other hand, His love, as demonstrated in the awesome cursing of Jesus, and making Him "to be sin for us" (2 Cor 5:21), guarantees He will underwrite the conscientious effort of every person who despises sin, and want no part of it.

A wife comes to you and says she found pornography on her husband's computer. She wants a divorce because he has committed adultery, based on Jesus' statement that "He that looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart. She feels she now has the right to divorce and marry someone else.

he "adultery" of Matthew 5:28 is NOT the "fornication" and "adultery" of Matthew 5:32. Adultery "in the heart" does not equate to infidelity, even though it is surely sin, and, if not mortified, will lead to the defilement of the body as well as the heart. In marriage, the individuals become "one flesh" (Matt 19:5). That same thing happens when a man is joined to someone other than his wife -- in the illicit affair, the transgressing parties become "one flesh" (1 Cor 6:16). Such impurity is a sin against the "body" (1 Cor 7:18), which is not the point of Matthew 5:28.

The woman who thinks finding pornography in her husband's computer justifies a divorce has jumped the gun. This by no means exonerates the wayward husband. The "adultery" of Matthew 5:32 is the "lying carnally" of Leviticus 18:20, and is the sin of reference in the exception clauses of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. It is a physical, or bodily, involvement, not an activity of the eye.

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.

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).

I would be very thankful for your in sight and comment on 2 Corinthians 12:1-21.

The person Paul is speaking of in this passage is himself. That is clear from verse one, as well as verses 5-9. In verse one he states he is explaining visions and revelations that he had. In the text he is explaining why he was given a thorn in the flesh and experienced various oppositions and handicaps. It was because he had received so much from the Lord. He knew it was the tendency of the flesh to boast, and therefore understood why the Lord had laid such bodily infirmities upon him. Paul glories in the person mentioned in verses 1-4. It was this, and perhaps some other revelations, that moved the Lord to give him a thorn in the flesh, lest he "be exalted above due measure."

As to WHEN he experienced this, we cannot be certain. It was during some time when he was not sure he was dead or alive -- peasant in or absent from the body, words denoting the difference between life and death (2 Cor 5:8). His phrase "whether in the body or out of the body," therefore, means, whether dead or alive. This was not a mere spiritual experience where he was transported away in the Spirit, like John was on Patmos (Rev 17:3; 21:10).

It has been suggested this may have occurred when Paul was stoned at Lystra. The reason for this suggestion is the way the text in Acts reads: "and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, SUPPOSING he had been dead" (Acts 14:19). Luke, who traveled with Paul, wrote the book of Acts. He does not clearly say Paul was dead, although he may very well have been. It is this text that have led some to believe it is the time mentioned in Second Corinthians. I am drawn to that opinion myself -- but it is just an opinion. We really do not know for sure. The texts seem to fit together, but that is really as far as we can take it.

The point Paul is making is not WHEN the event happened, but that it DID, thus requiring that God give him a thorn to keep him humble.

What, in your mind, is the purpose of the assembly (Hebr. 10:25)?

It is interesting to me that there has been so much dialog about why saints meet together. If God "has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Cor 12:18), it seems clear that they have a ministry to one another, else the word "body" makes no sense.

Coming together is to be for mutual betterment. In fact, the Corinthians were upbraided for coming together for the worse, and not "the better" (1 Cor 11:17). We are categorically told that when we come "together," all things are to be "done for edification," or building up of the saints (1 Cor 14:26). Those zealous for spiritual gifts (certainly not something for which our churches are noted), are exhorted to "abound for the edification of the church" (1 Cor 14:15). The believers in Rome were told to follow after things that made for peace "and the building up of one another" (Rom 14:19).

The fourth chapter of Ephesians reveals God's intention for His people. It is quite clear, with no ambiguity. Various gifts, including evangelists, pastors and teachers, are given "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph 4:12). In that building up, or edification, believers come into a unity of the faith, a common knowledge of Christ , and become spiritually stable, so they are not tossed about by various winds of doctrine (Eph 4:11-16).

Believers assemble together to edify one another, sharpen their spiritual focus, encourage, comfort, and make one another more stable in the Lord. Where this is not accomplished, there really is no purpose for meeting. God has distributed various graces to His people, making them stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4:10-11). That postulates a sort of interdependence within Christ's body, just as it does in our natural bodies. A group of believers that do not come together to complement one another's faith is like Ezekiel's valley of scattered and dismembered dry bones. If saints are not the better for meeting together -- if they do not become stronger in the faith, more persuaded, more assured, and stronger in hope, they have neither helped one another nor honored God. This is an underlying premise that is woven throughout the Epistles.

What do you do with an elder (Leland Anderson, 80 yrs. old) who wrangles over words in Sunday school and Bible studies? Do you think the various passages that talk about those who strive over words apply to this man?

I commend you for your tenderness, and desire to do what is right. Yes, the texts about wrangling about words refer to such people. There are several things to consider when you have someone like this in your presence -- particularly when they have an effect upon the brethren.

FIRST, it is important that you properly assess the individual. As you must know, in Christ good things do not simply outweigh or offset bad things. The fact that Judas was himself a commissioned teacher with power over unclean spirits with the rest of the twelve (Matt 10:5-14; Mark 6:7) did not change who he really was -- a devil (diabolos, John 6:70) and a thief (John 12:6). The fact that this man is good and helpful does not offset the seriousness of what he is doing.

If the result of this man's intrusions are division, strife, contentions, wrangling about words, and the likes, here is what the Spirit says. "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself" (1 Tim 6:3-5). That is strong language, but it is nevertheless the truth.

If the man is intent on teaching, the Lord has imposed certain things upon him, and he is not at liberty to ignore them. "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient" (2 Tim 2:24).

SECOND, in your teaching you must take care to be precise in what you yourself say, always using "wholesome words" (1 Tim 6:3) and "sound speech that cannot be condemned" (Tit 2:8). This involves using Scriptural language, or "words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" (1 Cor 2:13, NIV). I am sure you do this now. When this is the case, you can bring the matter right back to the precise language you used, not allowing alternative ways of stating the case to diminish what you have said. It is right and needful to insist that the way God said it is not only proper, but must be accepted.

THIRD, you must do all in your power to get the rest of the people to contribute to the discussions. Ask questions of particular people. Perhaps you could alert key individuals that you are going to do this, and why. Make sure they see the situation as you do, and are not themselves sources of contention. The interruptions of this man will be neutralized if he is only one of several respondents. On a practical level, this is the real secret to correcting the problem. When the resolution is only upon your shoulders, it will be exceedingly difficult to correct it, particularly if the man does not respect you as he should. But when the people refuse to allow his interruptions, he will either correct his behavior, or remove himself from your presence.

The conduct of this man is not allowed in an elder. As an overseer, he is to be "gentle" and "not quarrelsome" (1 Tim 3:3), "not self-willed" and "self-controlled" (Tit 3:7-8), and "not as being lord" over the flock (1 Pet 5:3).

FOURTH, you must not allow this circumstance to discourage or disorient you. You have Christ's mind is abhorring contentions and wrangling about words. The Lord can give you boldness in this circumstance. When you have prepared your lessons before the Lord and sought his strength and grace to deliver them, there is no cause to back down when uncomely intrusions occur. Of course, you must be gentle, not allowing yourself to be drawn into uncomely attitudes. I have every confidence, however, that you are not so inclined, and will conduct yourself admirably.

Be strong now, and of good courage. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33). When an intrusion occurs that causes confusion or interrupts peace, you are confronting something that is not form God, and is to be opposed. God will stand behind you in this opposition.

How do you feel about some being saved on the basis of their faith in and commitment to God without knowing all the facts about Jesus ?

The question you asked depends wholly upon God. He has not provided the details concerning the eternal destiny of those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ. Any conclusion on such a thing is purely human speculation.

Faith in God cannot be assumed by men. God, of course, knows if there is any legitimacy in the profession of a person who has not been exposed to the Gospel of Christ.

On the matter of condemnation, it is always based on the rejection of what God has given. At the bottom end of the scale it is the conscience (Rom 2:15). There is also the resistance of the Holy Spirit, which is specifically related to hearing the Gospel of Christ (Acts 7:51-52). At the top end, it is the Gospel of Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 13:46). I know of no place that declares those who have not heard the Gospel are condemned for not doing so.

On the other hand, neither are such people promised salvation. It is my persuasion that where an honest soul truly seeks the Lord, the Lord will get the Gospel to the person. We have examples of such Divine direction in Cornelius (Acts 11:1-14), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26), the people in Macedonia (Acts 16:9), etc. It seems to me that we must be willing to leave the matter there, making sure no person has been deprived of hearing the Gospel because of us.

A Christian friend, suffering from depression for several years, has had suicidal thoughts this past year. I have asked him to consider the cost. Do you believe a Christian who takes his own life can ever enter heaven?

A person who takes their own life has committed self murder. Life is a gift from God, and those who take it themselves have denied their life belongs to God. The Scriptures remind us that death belongs to us (1 Cor 3:22). That means it will work for our good as we trust in the Lord, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord ( 2 Cor 5:8). If our times are in God's hands (Psa 31:15), then seeking to abort our own life is a denial of that fact. Also, whatever moves a person to consider taking their own life is not as strong as it may seem. Jesus taught us ask God to not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matt 6:13). In taking ones own life, the person has refused to do that, and has taken matters into their own hands. God has promised, "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Psa 50:15).

The child of God is urged to make their requests known unto God, doing so in every circumstance. The promise that follows such a request is this, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:6-7). The person who takes their own life has refused to do what God has asked, and therefore has not obtained His peace.

A professed Christian who takes their own life has done the following.

1. Taken matters into their own hands.
2. Has not acknowledged the Lord in all of their ways (Prov 3:5-6).
3. Has not cast down imaginations, and thoughts that exalted themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:4-5).
4. Does not have faith, for faith overcomes the world (1 John 5:4-5).
5. Has not resisted the devil, for if he is resisted, he will flee from us (James 4:7).
6. Has not called upon the name of the Lord, for whoever calls upon His name will be delivered (Joel 2:32).
7. Has not given their bodies as a LIVING sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1).
8. Has cast away their confidence, giving in to despair (Heb 10:35).

Can such a person enter into heaven? I suggest there is not so much as a syllable Scripture or a grain of spiritual thought that would lead a person to that conclusion. Instead of spending time speculating about such things, those who are tempted to commit suicide should begin living for Christ as they are admonished to do (Rom 6:16-22). It will not be long until such temptations will be overcome.

If a fellow Christian was cremated, can God bring all the original atoms that made up that person back together to have the exact person again?

I am not at all sure that the resurrection is the reassembly of atoms that make up the mortal body. Even atoms are in a state of deterioration. They are not eternal or immortal. I hardly see how immortality could be accomplished by assembling created atoms that, with the rest of creation, have been consigned to mortality.

The resurrection is not contingent upon the manner in which the mortal body deteriorated, and that is not the issue in cremation. Such considerations are mere philosophical speculations, and should find no place in our thinking.

As to any effects cremation has upon salvation or rewards in heaven, I do not believe those are the right questions. It is whether a decision to be cremated can be motivated by faith, and if it brings glory to God. Those are matters of conscience, and must be personally settled before God. Perhaps you have read my article on cremation. In it, I share my thoughts on the matter. The article is of sufficient length to clearly show those thoughts -- and they are precisely that, my thoughts. It can be accessed through the following link.

Now the question is, if God doesn't intend for people of the same sex to get married, then should they be allowed to adopt kids, and whatever happened to God-like morals?

God rejects and will judge those who live in sodomy (Rom 1:24-27). If He does not receive such people, it is folly to suppose children should be committed to their care.

Children are described as "the heritage of the Lord, " or a "gift from the Lord" (Psa 127:3). One thing for sure, He did NOT give them sodomite couples (which is like an oxymoron). And, if He does not give children to two men or two women, who is the man who dares to do so?



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