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Answers to common Biblical Questions


There are a number of common questions and issues that arise in discussions among Bible believing Christians. In this chapter, we'll explore a few of those topics, to see what light the Scriptures themselves will shed on the truth our Creator and Savior wants us to know.




STATUES AND RELIGIOUS OBJECTS



In Exodus 20:4,5 we can read: "You shall not carve idols (graven images) for yourselves...you shall not bow down before them and worship them." Many sincere Bible students who contemplate this Scripture passage feel that the use of statutes, crucifixes (crosses with the image of Jesus), and other objects of religious art are prohibited by this passage. But is that what God really intended?


Drawing of the Ark of the Covenant. This image was commanded by God to be made - see Ex. 25:1-21


Notice that in Exodus chapter 25, God gives Moses some other commands for His People. "This is what the Lord said to Moses..."They shall make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst. This Dwelling and all its furnishings you shall make exactly according to the pattern that I will now give you. You shall make an ark...In the ark you
are to put the commandments which I will give you...make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends...the cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the....propitiatory you shall place above the ark."
(Ex. 25:1,8-9,10,16,18, 20,21)
Here, and in numerous other places in the Bible, God ordered His People to build a very ornate statue, in this case of two angels which seem to be facing the Ten Commandments, as if they are praying or meditating about them.

So it should be clear that if God himself ordered statues and religious symbols, that the use of such items by Christians is not in itself evil. A careful reading of Exodus 20:4-5 in context clarifies God's teaching: He doesn't want people WORSHIPING an idol, as if the idol were itself a god. Since such idol worship was common among the pagan nations around Israel, the Lord was simply trying to prevent His Chosen People from falling into the sin of worshipping a 'graven image' or false god. But statues or other objects associated with the worship of the True God were not only permitted but commanded by God; the
Lord was making a distinction for believers between using religious objects properly and improperly.

So churches that use statues and religious objects as aids to prayer are not violating the Bible. In fact, they are following the pattern that God Himself established for man's worship! Does your church use such religious art?


Ananias, Saphira & Peter=Acts 5:1-11-circa 300 AD. Such art was used to teach.


As some closing thoughts on this point, do you have photos of your family? Do you 'worship' those photos? No. They are there as reminders of people you care about. Statues and religious art have existed from the earliest days of Christianity, as a tour through this web site reveal. They used that art as you use a photo of a loved one! It is clear that the first Christians didn't worship these images, and that their Christian art was used to teach, inspire and enhance the faith that they had in their Risen Savior!


ancient Chi Rho, first two letters of Christ in N.T. Greek    Drawing = Heb. 13:8 - Jesus yesterday, today & tomorrow    IXOYC was code for 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior' spelled fish in Gk.





ONE MEDIATOR FOR MAN.



"For there is one God, and one mediator between
God and men, the man Jesus Christ."
(1 Tim. 2:5)
Anytime someone quotes from the Scriptures it is good to keep in mind that the devil himself quoted from the Scriptures in his attempt to cause Jesus to sin (Mt. 4:1-11). It's obvious that Scripture can be taken out of context to say almost anything, so it is important to carefully consider the intended meaning of the inspired writer, and other Scriptures that may relate to the same subject as well. A good example of this is the verse we have started with above.

Some Christians insist that we should not pray to angels or saints, on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:5; implying such prayer violates Christ's role as the "sole mediator" between God and man. Yet, consider these related Scripture verses:

"For this reason He is a mediator of a new covenant..." The writer of Hebrews in this verse (9:15) reminds us that Jesus is our mediator, yet later in chapter 13:18-19 he writes "pray for us...I especially ask for your prayers that I may be restored to you very soon."

Chapter 11 recounts many of the 'heroes' of the Old Testament, those who have died "approved because of their faith" (Heb. 11:39) and in 12:1 we read "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses"...now, it is clear from this context, that these faithful saints are witnessing for believers before God in heaven on our behalf! These witnesses
can lead us by example to a closer relationship with Christ, as the writer exhorts us, "...while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2). We see examples of intercessory prayer in Hebrews, reminiscent of John's vision of heaven in Revelation, where the heavenly "elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Rev. 5:8).

Remember too that Romans 8:35-39, Paul tells us that death cannot separate us from God. Paul also encouraged the Ephesians (6:18) "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,"
- not just living saints, but all the saints. This can also be translated as 'before' all the saints, which makes asking for the prayers of saints - living and departed - all the clearer.

So Christians asking the angels, saints or other Christians for their prayers can't be 'unBiblical', as the verses above indicate. The intercession/mediation of one believer with Christ on behalf of another doesn't diminish the role of Jesus as THE Mediator with the Father.


Ancient nimbus symbolized Jesus or God when it had three rays on the 'halo'.       A plain nimbus was used to draw or paint a saint, apostle or angel.



Jesus is free to mediate for us directly, or through His friends, the angels God created or the saints in even or the 'holy ones' on earth. "Therefore, confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. For the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful." (Jas. 5:16).

James cites the example of Elijah in the verses that follow, urging us to copy that saint's faith. Such examples of other intercessors - living and departed to heaven - in Scripture, proves that 1 Timothy 2:5 doesn't forbid Christians from such prayers.




CALL NO MAN 'FATHER.'


"As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi' [teacher].
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on
earth your father, you have but one Father in heaven."
(Mt. 23:8-9).

Many object to the use of titles for presbyters (priests in the Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian faiths) on the basis of this Scripture. On the surface, it certainly seems that ''call no one on earth your father,'' would be hard to misunderstand. Let's dig deeper to see what is being taught here to faithful Bible believers!



First, it is worth noting that no one objects to calling someone a 'teacher', in spite of this same verse, and there are surely more 'teachers' in the world today than ministers who use the title 'father.'

But that alone proves only the inconsistency that people have in applying this verse.

Does Jesus teach us here that we are LITERALLY to call NO ONE a father? Does that include our 'dad?' If that were true, then God the Father Himself violated this teaching, in giving the Ten Commandments to Moses (see Exodus 20:12)!

If we are try understanding this verse literally, then the Apostle Paul also 'violated' this interpretation of Scripture. In 1 Cor. 4:15, Paul applies the title 'father' to himself in the same way as priests do: "Indeed, in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Gospel." Since Paul didn't became the paternal father of his readers and listeners, clearly he meant he was their spiritual father.

Since there are many other instances in the New Testament where the word 'father' is used (see Acts6:14, 7:2, 21:40, 22:1; Rom. 4:16-17, Philemon 10, 1 Jn. 2:13-14, etc.), clearly Jesus did not mean His words in Matthew 23 to be literally understood.

The meaning of this often misused passage is clarified by Jesus: "you have but one Father in heaven." It would be wrong to give someone ANY title (teacher, father, master) , or ANY honor without keeping in mind that God is our ultimate Teacher, Father and Master! We are being taught to be humble before God: "The greatest among you must be your servant." (Mt. 23:11).

Just as Paul served his spiritual children as a father would, so too we must humble ourselves and serve our brothers and
sisters as Jesus and His Apostles did. This is the proper understanding of this often misunderstood verse: is it the one your Bible study
group or minister taught you? Just as the Bible teaches us to rely on 'two or three' witnesses before establishing some fact, so too
Bible believing Christians must be careful NOT to take a single Scripture out of context.





USING THE BIBLE ALONE



"All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable
for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness..."

(2 Tim. 3:16). Many use this verse to assert that Christians should use the Bible alone as the sole rule for faithful living. But both logic and the Scriptures refute that understanding of this verse.

If the Bible were completely clear on its meaning, then why are there so many thousands of different churches, each with their own 'interpretation' of the Scriptures?

Jesus prayed that His disciples "may all be one", just as He was one with His heavenly Father (Jn 17:21). Yet we see such a sad division among Christians today, in spite of Christ's intent for us, and ironically, the divisions are often based (in theory at least) on the Bible - God's Word.

Yet 2 Peter 1:20 clearly says: "First of all you must understand that no prophesy of Scripture is a matter for one's own interpretation."

Peter goes on to say, in writing about Paul's letters, "In them there are some things difficult to understand, that the ignorant and unstable distort, to their own destruction, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Pet. 3:16). Clearly, the Bible can and IS misinterpreted by people.

In the book of Acts, the Ethiopian official was "Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah" on his trip back from Jerusalem. "The Spirit said to Phillip, 'Go and join up with that chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?' So he invited Philip to get in and...Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him." (Acts 8:28-31,35).

Now who was Philip to interpret the Scriptures to this Ethiopian Bible student? The book of Acts tells us that Philip was chosen by the leaders of the early Church to be a deacon, a minister: "the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them." (Acts 6:6). Philip was a minister of the Church that Jesus established in Matthew 16:18.

Jesus promised that His Church would survive: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Mt. 16:18). To the early Church, Jesus gave power and authority over believers, in part to make sure that there would be a safeguard against the false teachers that Jesus predicted would follow. He told the Apostles of His Church: "He who hears you, hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Lk. 10:16).

It is the Truth that Jesus said sets us free (Jn. 8:31-32), not our opinions. The Bible clearly wasn't meant to be self-interpreting, as both the Bible, common sense and experience proves. We should seek His Saving Truth by seeking the Church that Jesus established, the Church which correctly teaches the Bible!


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