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More Answers to Biblical Questions - #3


Scriptural replies to common questions, with Bible study tips.

Many sincere students of the Bible are deterred from joining Christ's
Church because of problems they perceive as being based on the Scriptures.

On this web page, we will look at some of those questions, to see
what light God's Word can give us as an answer.




'THE SABBATH ISN'T SUNDAY.'



There is no doubt that in the Old Testament,
the Jewish Sabbath was Saturday. Some Bible students protest that
Christians who worship on Sunday are actually violating the commandment
to keep holy the sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). Interesting points! But do
they prove that Christians shouldn't attend Sunday services?
From Matthew chapter 12: "At that time, Jesus was going through a
field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began
to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this
they said to Him, 'See your disciples are doing what is unlawful to
do on the sabbath.' He said to them, 'Have you not read what David
did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house
of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions
but only the priest could lawfully eat?...If you knew what this meant,
'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' (Hos. 6:6), you would not have
condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.'"
(Mt. 12:1-4, 7-8). Jesus asserts His authority over the sabbath and
the application of the commandments!

After Jesus' ascension into heaven, we read that the early Christians
at first continued to attend the sabbath worship in synagogues and
at the Temple. But in commemoration of the day of Jesus' resurrection
from the dead, they also gathered together on Sunday: "On the first
day of the week (Sunday) when we gathered together for the breaking
of the bread, Paul spoke to them..." (Acts 20:7).

That this was a common practice is apparent from Paul's words: "Be
imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I praise you because you remember
me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed
them on to you." (1 Cor. 11:1-2). There follows a chapter-long discussion
of the Lord's Eucharistic Supper and matters dealing with related
issues.

One of the 'traditions' of Christ the Corinthians were taught to imitate
was worshipping on the Lord's day, not the sabbath: "Now in regard
to the collection for the holy ones, you should also do as I ordered
for the churches of Galatia. On the first day of the week, each of
you should set aside and save whatever each of you can afford, so
that the collections will not be going on when I come." (1 Cor. 16:1-2;
this is also a reminder for us to give).

2 Corinthians 8:1 makes it clear that similar instructions were given
in Macedonia by Paul, and also to Titus (2 Cor. 8: 16, 23) who we
know was told to: "appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed
you...holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be
able to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents. For there
are also many rebels and idle talkers and deceivers, especially the
Jewish Christians. It is imperative to silence them, as they are
upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should
not." (Tit. 1:5, 9-11). Many lessons can be drawn from these verses.
First, Jesus is "Lord
of the sabbath" and can observe it on any day He chooses! Paul wanted
his oral instructions obeyed regarding Sunday worship. Paul taught
Titus and Timothy to pass on such oral Christian traditions, 'in imitation
of Christ,' which included Sunday worship. Early Christian writings
support this Christian tradition.

Jesus identified Himself with the Church (cf. Lk. 10:16; Acts 9:1-5;
22:4-8), which is "...the Church of the living God, the pillar and
foundation of truth." (1 Tim. 3:15). The early Church began celebrating
the Lord's supper on Sunday, 'the first day of the week', in commemoration
of Christ's resurrection. As Christ's Body on earth, the Church had
authority, in His Name, to govern the worship we owe to God. We must
avoid those, who like the 'Jewish Christians' Paul warned us against,
want to impose old rules on believers: such as forced Saturday worship,
circumcision, and other Old Testament practices.
Many 'issues' are easily resolved simply by believing Jesus' promise;
that His Church would "guide you into all truth." (Jn. 16:13), and
would be with us "always, to the end of time." (Mt. 28:20). If we
trust Jesus, we should trust His Church to teach the truth.





GALATIANS REFUTES 'THE ROCK'



Some say that Galatians 2:11-14 proves that Peter, 'the Rock' was not infallible.
In one sense, they are right. Peter (and his successors), are sinners, just as we are.
Privately, Simon Peter could and did err, most dramatically in denying
Jesus when Christ was arrested. The following verses help
clarify the actual gift Jesus bestowed on Peter.


Privately, for example, Peter tried to talk Jesus out of suffering
and dying to redeem mankind. Jesus told Simon: "You are thinking
not as God does, but as people do." (Mt. 16:23). Jesus dramatized
this point by indicating that Satan was trying to trick Peter.
This doesn't change the fact that Simon was given the "keys to the
kingdom" by Jesus after confessing the Nazarene to be the Messiah.


"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood have not
revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father. And so I say to you,
you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the
gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys
to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, will be bound
in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven."
(Mt. 16:18-19). To this day, in cartoons, shows and literature, we
see the image of Saint Peter as the guardian of the heavenly gate,
since he got the keys!

It is only when Peter officially speaks on behalf of the universal
Church that he is protected from teaching in error on matters of faith
and morals. This is implicit in Peter's role as the shepherd that
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, appointed to tend and feed the Lord's sheep
(cf. Jn. 21:15-17). How could Jesus let His shepherd err?
Note in Galatians 2:7-8, Paul calls Simon "Peter", and in the following
verse, by the Aramaic for Peter, "Kephas", which means 'Rock'. In
the Old Testament, only God is referred to as 'Rock', and in the New
Testament, Jesus is the 'Cornerstone.' So it's the 'Cornerstone' that
dubbed Simon 'Kephas,' the Rock, the first time in known history that
this name is given to a man! The various forms of Peter's name, is
cited over 6 times more in the New Testament than
the 'beloved disciple' John. For those open to the truth,
Peter's authority is Biblically clear.

Finally, the very issue that Paul refers to in Galatians 2:11-14 is
settled in Acts 15. "After much debate had taken place, Peter got
up and said to them..." after his public decision "the whole assembly
fell silent" and the debate ended (Acts 15:7,12). It was Kephas (the
Rock with the keys), the one who could 'bind and loose' that makes
the final debate-ending statement. The Bible never says Peter wouldn't
need advice from fellow presbyters. Peter learns as any man does,
and benefits from the counsel of others; just as Kephas did from Paul's
advice noted in Galatians. Once Peter's successor has prayerfully
studied an issue of faith or morals, and addresses the universal Church
as its leader, then the Holy Spirit prevents the teaching of 'the
Rock' from leading the faithful into error. This fact is supported
by almost 2,000 years of history, proof of God's gift to His Church!




TIPS FOR BIBLE STUDY:



It's helpful for Bible students to use a version
of the Scriptures that is an approved translation. In Revelations
22:18-19, John tells us that those who add to or take away from "this
book" will receive "the plagues" described in Revelations, which are
many! Some have in fact dared to cut books from the Scriptures, or
have added words, or even whole books to the Sacred Text. The same
Church that 'guides us into all truth' preserved faithfully the full
Bible, and has prepared modern translations with study notes and guides
that can help us understand God's Word to us. This is in keeping
with 2 Peter 1:20 and 3:15.

We've noted before how Hebrews 1:1-2 offers an important
insight in Scripture study: "In times past, God spoke in
partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, He spoke to us through a Son,
whom He made heir of all things and through whom He created the universe."


The fullness of God's message to mankind came through Jesus Christ,
His Son. The messages from ''the prophets' are called ' 'partial.''

They obviously weren't complete, or what would have been the need
for a New Covenant and a New Testament? It also says God spoke in
''various ways to our ancestors.'' This is literally true, as a reading
of the Old Testament will reveal books with: history, law, wisdom
literature, political intrigue, military plots, poetic forms and much more.

The Bible shouldn't be read like a newspaper, it helps to understand
what literary form the inspired author was using to convey God's Word.
Also, unique cultural expressions and Jewish idioms are often confusing
until they are learned. To be sure that we fully understand the Sacred
Text, we should utilize a good study Bible, such as the New American
Bible. The Jerusalem Bible, the Vulgate translation and others approved
by the universal Church, such as the interdenominationally accepted
Revised Standard ("RSV" or "Common Bible") are good as well.

Often, people ask, 'Where should I begin reading the Bible?' First,
it helps to know the basics of authentic Christian teachings. You'll
see from experience how much this helps! Then, start with Matthew
and continue reading through the New Testament. Start by reading
the Sacred text. Refer to the study notes only when you feel confused.

Once you've read the entire New Testament, go back and read it again,
this time referring to the notes. Prayerfully consider how God's
Word applies to you. Then read the Old Testament, starting with Genesis,
again using the foot notes only when needed; and then on a later reading,
studying the entire text with the study helps. Once you're comfortable
with God's Word, you'll see it confirms the True Faith, and truly
'lights your way!'



click here for more Bible related answers now.
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