Category: Doctrines

Important Biblical Principles On Giving

Important Biblical Principles On Giving

In chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians, we read that one of the most important ministries the apostle Paul had during his third journey was the gathering of a special “relief offering” for the poor believers in Jerusalem.

While this special offering was not the same as our Lord’s Day collection, it does give several important biblical principles on giving for believers today.

Giving is an Act of Worship

I believe it’s tragic when church members give only as a duty and forget that our offerings are to be spiritual “sacrifices” presented to the Lord (Philippians 4:18). Giving should be an act of worship to the resurrected and ascended Savior.

It’s interesting that Paul mentioned the offering just after his discussion about the resurrection. In the original manuscripts there were no chapter breaks, so the readers would go right from Paul’s hymn of victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-56) into his discussion about money.

Doctrine and duty go together, so do worship and works. Our giving is not in vain because our Lord is alive. It is His resurrection power that motivates us to give and to serve.

Giving Should be Systematic

Some Bible students suggested that many people were paid on the first day of the week during that time in history. But even if they were not, each believer was to set aside his offering at home and then bring it to the assembly on the first day. Paul did not want to have to take up a number of collections when he arrived in Corinth. He wanted the whole contribution to be ready (1 Corinthians 16:2).

If today’s church members were as systematic in their giving as they are in handling their other financial matters, the work of the Lord would not suffer as it sometimes does.

*Related Article: Biblical Principles of Tithing

Do you know that members of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea founded by Pastor David Yonggi Cho, would go to the bank days before worship day to exchange their old paper bills with new ones for their tithes and offering? And if they have no time to go to the bank they would iron them flat, making them crisp and looking new.

Preparing our tithes and offerings at home is a good practice to adapt. The word of God says, “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give …” (2 Corinthians 9:7). What better way to decide how much we should give than seeking God at home before going to church.

Giving is Personal and Individual

Paul expected each member to share in the offering, the rich and the poor alike. Anyone who had an income was privileged to share and to help those in need. He wanted all to share in the blessing.

Do not wait to get rich before you start giving to the Church. As someone once said, “Little can become a lot in the hands of Jesus.” Do you want God’s blessings? Be a blessing!

Giving is to be Proportionate

“A portion of the money you have earned” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT) suggests that believers who have more should give more. The Jewish believers in the church would have been accustomed to the tithe, but Paul did not mention any special proportion.

Certainly, the tithe (10% of one’s income) is a good idea to begin our stewardship, but we must not remain in that level. As the Lord gives us more, we should plan to give more.

Honor the Lord with your wealth - Proverbs 3:9-10

You must be familiar with the quote that says, “When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.” But when Brother Jess Cortez (a guest author of this website) exhorted tithes and love offering at Church, he said that God’s principle is actually the complete opposite of this.

Based on Proverbs 3:9-10, the sequence is: 1) Do not raise your standard of living, 2) raise your standard of giving, 3) and then God will bless you to overflowing.

Final Thoughts

Christian giving is a grace, the outflow of the grace of God in our lives and not the result of promotion or pressure. An open heart cannot maintain a closed hand. If we appreciate the grace of God extended to us, we will want to express that grace by sharing with others.


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The How’s and Why’s of Praise and Worship

The How’s and Why’s of Praise and Worship

In my previous article “The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship,” I dealt with the Tabernacle of Moses from which praise and worship in churches today had its origin. In this article, we will look at the how’s and why’s of praise and worship. Why and how should the people of God praise and worship the Lord?

As a redeemed Christian, I am pretty sure you are familiar with the “praise and worship” part of the church service. Some even say it is their favorite part, aside from the sermon or message, of course. But how much do we really know about praise and worship?

The book of Psalms is a good place to start, for it is all about praising and worshiping God. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tackle all chapters that deal with this topic and compress them all into just one article.

However, I am convinced that Psalm 95 gives us a basic understanding of praise and worship:

Psalm 95:1-7 (NLT)

1 Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to Him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to Him. 3 For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. 5 The sea belongs to Him, for He made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7 for He is our God. We are the people He watches over, the flock under His care.

Understanding Praise and Worship

The Hebrew word “Yadah” translated “praise” means “to stretch out the hand.” That is, to hold out the hands in reverence, to open the hands and let go of everything.

Alban Douglas made a very good point when he said (in his book 100 Bible Lessons) that if we hold the Lord in the highest state, respect or adoration, it would be easy for us to praise Him. That is because we only praise something or someone that we honor and regard so highly.

Why we praise the Lord

Worship, on the other hand, has several meanings in the Bible. Worship in Hebrew is “Shachah” meaning, “to prostrate, to bow down, to fall down or to stoop.” In the Greek New Testament, there are 3 words translated as worship:

a) Pruskuneo – meaning “to kiss (like a dog licking his master’s hand), to fawn or crouch to, to adore.” It occurs 59 times in the New Testament, carrying with it the idea of falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.

b) Latreuo – used 21 times in the New Testament, which means “to render religious service of homage.”

c) Sebomai – used 10 times in the New Testament, and it means “to reverence or hold in awe.”

Difference Between Praise and Worship

Basically, praise means looking up, while worship means bowing down. Do you know that some people who enjoy lifting their hands and shouting do not enjoy bowing their knees and submitting?

True worship is much deeper than communal praise; for worship involves realizing the awesomeness of God and experiencing the fear of the Lord and a deeper love for Him

How to Praise and Worship the Lord

The psalmist tells us that our praise should be joyful and enthusiastic – he even commands us to sing and shout, and wholly focused on the Lord (Psalm 95:1). How do we worship the Lord? By bowing down and kneeling before Him (Psalm 95:6).

Too often Christian praise is nothing but religious entertainment; it never moves into spiritual enrichment in the presence of the Lord. It is important to understand that praise and worship is not a show whose goal is to appeal to the flesh or natural part of man.

The verb “come” (Psalm 95:2) means “to go to meet God face-to-face, and be in His presence.” Do we have a personal encounter with God during praise and worship? Or do we treat this part of church service only as a form of entertainment?

Why We Praise and Worship the Lord

A. We praise the Lord because He is great and above the false gods of this world (Psalm 95:3).

The Scriptures are very clear God; we are to worship the Lord our God only (Luke 4:8; Psalm 45:11) and we are not to worship idols. God is a jealous God and does not want to share His glory with anyone (Exodus 20:5). No wonder that when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the command to not have any other god besides Him is first on the list (Exodus 20:2-3).

Unfortunately, many people in the world worship idols of wood and stone, either out of ignorance or because they do not believe in the one true God – the God of the Bible. Many worship idols of self, money, business, possession, power, pleasure and family.

True worship

Let us not forget how God punished the nations for ascribing worship and adoration to false gods. He even punished His chosen people, Israel, for repeatedly falling into the sin of idolatry as a result of living alongside these nations and intermarrying with them.

We should delight in praising God because He is not only the Creator of the universe but He also controls all things. The depths of the sea and the earth, and the heights of the mountains all belong to Him. The Lord knows what is going on in the waters as well as on the earth (Psalm 95:4-5).

*Note: Christians should not praise the Lord only in health and prosperity, but also in sickness and in adversity. We should praise the Lord in anything and everything (Philippians 4:6). Because the true Christian is one who can trust and praise the Lord even through blinding tears.

B) We worship the Lord because He is our God; we are His people and He watches over us and cares for us (Psalm 95:7).

The object of worship is God. He alone is Yahweh the Lord, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. He is our Maker and our Shepherd (Psalm 23). Jubilation has its place only if it becomes adoration and we fall prostrate before Him in total submission, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

*Are you a worship leader or an aspiring worship leader? Here’s a short video on how to make a line up for praise and worship:

Conclusion

In closing, let me just say that there are a lot more reasons why Christians should praise and worship the Lord. But in this age, when inventing clever new worship forms is a common practice and novelty is slowly replacing theology, the Word of God is a vital part of Christian worship. Hearing and heeding God’s word must be central if our worship, private or corporate, is to be truly Christian.

Praise and Worship

And whether we worship at home or in the church is immaterial. What matters to God is our spiritual condition. Our goal in praise and worship is not only to sing songs of praise and adoration for God; we must come into His presence in total surrender so we can hear His voice and be able to tap into His power and anointing.

What motivates you to praise and worship the Lord? How do you do it? Please let us know in the comments below.


*Are you interested to take up Christian drum lessons? Join worship guitar class right here.

What about Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?

What about Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul gives instructions about a subject which seems irrelevant today in many cultures – eating food sacrificed to idols. What was the problem faced by Paul’s readers at that time for him to consider it necessary to address this issue? More importantly, what principles in this passage can be applied today?

When Paul advised the believers in Corinth about meat or food sacrificed to idols, idolatry and sacrifices were as familiar to his readers as shopping centers are to modern audiences. On the other hand, people today are as bewildered about the practices of idolatry as a Corinthian would be in a supermarket.

The Problem Faced by the Church at Corinth

In the ancient world, there were 2 sources of meat: the regular market where the prices were higher and the local temples where meat from the sacrifices was always available. The Handbook of Life in Bible Times helps us understand the situation:

1 Corinthians 13:8 Bible Study

So Paul writes the 8th chapter of 1 Corinthians to help them see this problem from a Christian perspective. First, he tells them that in one sense he doesn’t really care whether they eat food sacrificed to idols because “an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

Secondly, Paul realizes that food is spiritually neutral – meaning, food does not bring us near to God. In other words, we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We aren’t any better if we eat nor are we worse if we do not. However, Paul realizes that “not everyone possesses this knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8:7-8).

The “strong members” of the church knew that idols could not contaminate food, and so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. After all, who does not love a bargain? Not only that. They would also attend feasts held at the temple or in the home of their unconverted friends and eat sacrificial meat served to them.

The Christians who felt free to eat at the idol temple may have based their freedom on the correct knowledge that idols are nothing. But Paul is asking them to think about those who are not knowledgeable about this. He affirms what they know about an idol being nothing but he tells them that showing love to their fellow Christians is more important to God than being right (1 Corinthians 8:1).

It’s possible that the Corinthian Christians were reasoning like this: “Since idols are really nothing, it must mean nothing to eat meat sacrificed to them; it must also mean nothing to eat in the temples used to worship idols who are nothing.”

But all of this offended the weaker Christians, many of whom had been saved out of pagan idolatry. Paul was concerned that because they had been deeply involved in idol worship prior to their conversion, they might misunderstand if he and others ate food sacrificed to idols.

The Weaker Christians

When Paul speaks of a “weak brother” in 1 Corinthians 8:11, he does not necessarily mean someone who is easily tempted to sin. He is also not talking about being weak or strong in regard to self-control, but in regard to knowledge. Paul has in mind an over scrupulous Christian who is extremely careful to always do what is morally right and proper.

So Paul exhorts the strong Christians in the church – the believers who had spiritual knowledge and experience and who understood their authority and freedom in Christ – to care for the weak. And they are to do this by building them up and using their knowledge in love (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Some people have the false notion that the strong Christians are the ones who live by rules and regulations, and who get offended when others use their freedom in Christ, but such is not the case. It is the weak Christians who are afraid to use their freedom in Christ and must have the security of law.

In reality, it is the weak Christians who are prone to judge and criticize stronger believers and to stumble over what they do. As a result, it becomes more difficult for the strong “saints” to minister to their weaker brothers and sisters.

Becoming a Stumbling Block to Others

The real issue here isn’t idol meat, but rather that the exercise of your right does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” In other words, Paul does not want us to do anything that might cause other Christians to sin by violating their consciences, for this would wound or destroy them.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 8:9-12 (NIV):

Do not be a stumbling block to others“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”

Why is their conscience weak? Their conscience is weak not because it isn’t working, but because it operates on the idea that an idol is really something. They have consciousness of an idol and when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, they eat it as something offered to an idol.

Rather than taking the risk of offending the weaker brethren, thus sinning against them and against God, Paul concludes: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat again meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13).

Application for Christians Today

Perhaps the issues today where most stumble in that are relevant to Christian liberty include entertainment such as movies, music or television. Does the kind of movie or TV show we watch or the music we listen to have something to say about the level of our spirituality? What about drinking liquor and smoking?

The principle here is clear: Our actions should never be based on what we know to be right for ourselves; we also need to consider what is right in regard to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not cause a fellow believer in Christ to stumble over an issue that has direct relevance to the person in question.

It’s pretty easy for us to say, “I answer to no one but God and God alone.” But in doing so, we ignore a weaker brother or sister. It’s true that we will answer to God and God alone, but we will answer to Him for how we have treated our brother or sister.

At the Jerusalem Council, abstaining from food sacrificed to idols was one of the things discussed and commended for some churches (Acts 15:29). But Paul’s discussion of the issue with the Corinthian believers does not in any way contradict what has been agreed upon by the church leaders at the Jerusalem Council.

It must be made clear that the Council’s decision in regards to abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols was not intended to be normative for the churches all the time; it was only temporary as a means to advance the cause of the gospel among the Jews.

Conclusion

In summary, Paul is telling the Corinthians and the Christians today not to eat food sacrificed to idols if it causes those who are weak to follow their example. We are not to allow the freedom (in any area) we have in Christ to become a stumbling block to others. Rather, we should only do those things which build up others in love.

Freedom in Christ

Christians should not abuse their liberty and think that it is a small matter to offend their weak brethren. If what we do causes the weaker brethren to stumble and sin, then we should not do it. Christian behavior is founded not on knowledge but on love; and the goal of the Christian life is not knowledge but love.

Is God in Complete Control of Everything?

Is God in Complete Control of Everything?

One of the areas Christians often struggle with has to do with trusting God’s hand in every situation. When things do not happen the way we want them to, we immediately assume that God is silent. But the Bible assures us that God is in complete control of everything.

In theology, this doctrine is called “Divine Providence.” It is the means by which God directs all things – seen and unseen, good and evil, animate and inanimate – toward a worthy purpose. We may not always understand the reason behind every event that transpires in the world and in our lives personally and individually, but God wants us to trust Him because He always works things out for our good.

In just about every book in the Bible, we see God’s Providence at work. God has a hand in everything and He is never OUT OF CONTROL. We also see this taught in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

The verse says, “all things,” which means ALL things – whether good or bad. It may seem to us like evil is tearing the world apart, but if we look at it from God’s perspective, we realize that it is actually playing a secondary role for God to carry out His greater purpose. God allows things for a reason and His plan is always good.

God’s Providence in the Life of Joseph

The Joseph Narrative contained in Genesis chapters 37 and 39-50 is one of the best illustrations of God’s providence. When we read through these chapters, we see that Joseph is the central human character at nearly every point.

Who is Joseph? And how did God use every detail in his life to fulfill His plan? Joseph was the 11th among the 12 sons of Jacob, he was the first son of Jacob with Rachel, he had a younger brother named Benjamin and he was Jacob’s favorite and most loved among all his sons.

A. Joseph Sold by His brothers

Out of hatred, Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him when he followed them to Shechem and into Dothan pasturing their flocks (Genesis 37:18-20). They hated Joseph for three reasons: 1) he reported to his father the bad things that they were doing (Genesis 37:2), 2) he was their father’s favorite son and made him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3-4), and 3) he told them his dreams of arrogant superiority (Genesis 37:6-8, 9-10).

“Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph – a beautiful robe.” – Genesis 37:3

But God used Reuben, their eldest brother, to deliver him out of their hands (Genesis 37:21-22). Eventually, they sold him to the Ishmaelite traders for 20 shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28), who in turn sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard (Genesis 37:36).

B. Joseph becomes a Successful Administrator in Egypt (Genesis 39)

While in Egypt, Joseph worked for his master Potiphar and became a successful administrator. Why? Was it because he was smart and possessed extraordinary administrative skills? Not really!

The Bible clearly identifies the reason. Joseph succeeded in everything he did because the Lord was with himthe Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3) and for Joseph’s sake, the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household and all that he had (Genesis 39:5).

Unfairly jailed, Joseph rose to inmate administrator (Genesis 39:19-20). Why? Again, the Bible leaves no doubt as to who is responsible for Joseph’s success. The Lord was with Joseph in the prison; He showed him mercy and gave him favor in the sight of the warden, who put him in charge of all the other prisoners and everything that happened in the prison (Genesis 39:21-23).

“But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison … the Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” – Genesis 39:21, 23

The inspired narrator pointed to God as the One working things out for Joseph. It’s all God. God is in complete control of everything that‘s happening in the life of Joseph. Whatever managerial skills Joseph might have had clearly played a secondary role in God’s intervention in his life.

C. Joseph Interprets Two Dreams (Genesis 40)

When we read that Joseph was thrown into prison, we would think that it’s the end of the narrative. But God isn’t finished yet, not by a long shot. When Pharaoh’s chief cup bearer and chief baker who were put in prison by their master each had a dream, Joseph interpreted it for them. However, the chief cup bearer who was restored to his former position as Joseph predicted forgot all about him (Genesis 40:23).

D. Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams and was Made the Ruler of Egypt (Genesis 41)

Two full years had passed when Pharaoh had two dreams that no one could interpret; not even the magicians and wise men of Egypt. And that was when the chief cup bearer remembered Joseph who was still in prison. He told Pharaoh about Joseph who interpreted his and the chief baker’s dreams.

Pharaoh sent for Joseph and asked for the interpretation of his two dreams, which are about the 7 years of plenty that are about to come followed by 7 years of famine. Because of the wisdom that God gave Joseph to interpret his dreams, Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over all Egypt, second in rank to him.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” – Genesis 41:41

During the 7 years of prosperity, Joseph gathered and stored an immeasurable amount of grain in Egypt. So when the 7 years of famine began, people all around the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.

E. Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

While in Canaan, Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt. So he sent his sons, except Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain. After 13 years, Joseph came face to face with his brothers once again. But they did not recognize him.

After several trips to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers settled there. Their father Jacob also went to Egypt, along with all his descendants, livestock and goods, and they all settled in Goshen.

God’s Greater Purpose in the Life of Joseph

The entire process of Joseph’s fall and rise to power was God’s doing. His release from prison because of his God-given interpretation skills, his exaltation to power and the opportunity to help his family during the famine all point to God’s providence.

The focus in the narrative was on God, and He can accomplish what He wills. Even the evil intent of Joseph’s brothers toward him was used by God to fulfill His purpose. As he said to his brothers, “Am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).

The chain of events that took place was part of God’s bigger plan for Israel as a nation. God sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of his family in order to make way for the preservation of the Canaanites and Egyptians together with them during the time of famine. How did God get Joseph to Egypt? By allowing his brothers the freedom to sin.

As it turned out, Egypt was where God built up and multiplied His people. God prepared them there for the exodus and conquest that He would use to give them the land that He promised to Abraham – the land that’s flowing with milk and honey: Canaan.

Conclusion

God is in control of everything. In the same way that God worked in the life of Joseph, and used even his mistakes and allowed him to experience misfortunes in order to accomplish His purpose, God is also working in the life of every believer who loves Him to carry out His will.

Whatever you’re going through, know that God will use them all for your own good. He can even turn the bad things into blessings for you. God called all believers for a purpose and He will accomplish it. We can make many plans but in the end, it’s the Lord’s purpose that will prevail (Proverbs 19:21).

Church Discipline: Correcting Another Believer

Church Discipline: Correcting Another Believer

Church discipline is something that we talk a great deal about but seldom do anything about it. What should we do when another Christian has sinned against us or caused us to stumble? What is the biblical principle of correcting another believer?

Discipline means taking corrective measures as punishment in order to maintain the good conduct of church members. But church discipline is a not only a practice that is seldom made effective in our churches today, it is also a ministry that is often neglected.

Now, why is this so? Is it because we have grown weak and cold, and fear to act on our principles? Is it because we have all attained a state of perfection and no longer require it? Is it because our churches are afraid of losing church members? Or are we afraid that the church will be reduced if we punish sin?

Instructions for Church Discipline

The Lord Jesus gave several instructions in Matthew 18:15-17:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

1. Keep the matter private. Approach the person who sinned and speak with him or her alone. – Matthew 18:15

Always give the person the benefit of the doubt. It is possible that he or she does not even realize what he or she has done. Or, even if the act was deliberate, our own attitude of submission and love will help the person repent and apologize. Unless there are concerns for physical safety or propriety, it is best to go in person rather than talk over the phone.

By the way, don’t try to prove that the person is wrong and you are right. Your objective in approaching the person is not to show him his faults and win the argument. Rather, your goal is to get him to listen in order to win him back to the Lord. We do not want to win the argument and lose the person.

All Scriptures is given by inspiration of God

And the best way to convince someone of his sin is with the use of Scriptures. Your opinion does not matter; God’s Word is the authority. If the person who sinned knows and feels that you genuinely care for him, he will be more likely to listen and respond positively..

2. If he or she resists, take with you two or three brothers as witnesses. – Matthew 18:16

The witnesses you bring in are those who already know about the problem, which may include church leaders. The reason for this is to strengthen the reproof so as to cause the offender to realize the seriousness of the situation. Again, your goal is to bring the sinning person to repentance and restoration.

3. If he continues to harden his heart, inform the church. – Matthew 18:17a

In the passage mentioned, Jesus did not specify how this is done but other Scriptures indicate that this should be administered through the church leaders to whom God has given the authority over the church (Hebrews 13:17).

But before disclosing this matter to the congregation, the church leaders should make an effort to reach out to the offender and warn him that if he does not repent before a set period of time, his sin will be made public.

It is also important to note that before seeking to discipline a member, the church assembly should be at its best spiritually. This is because when a church disciplines a member, a church is actually examining and disciplining itself. We cannot discipline others if we ourselves are not disciplined.

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11

Once the matter has been made public, the church is given instructions on how to relate to the sinning person. In 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul exhorts the church to not associate nor eat with the person. He says the same thing to the Thessalonians but then adds, “Yet do not count him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

This means that not all contact is forbidden. We must still communicate with the person to let him know that we love him and want him back in the fellowship. But we must make it clear that we do not condone what he is doing and we can’t accept him back until he genuinely repents.

4. If he insists on resisting, the next step is to expel him from the church assembly and treat him as an unbeliever. – Matthew 18:17b; 1 Corinthians 5:13

Just as children in the home need discipline, so God’s children in the church need discipline. If by the time the matter comes to the whole church and the offender has not yet changed and repented, then this person cannot be treated as a spiritual brother or sister. But he may or she can only be treated as one outside the church – not hated but not held in close fellowship.

I know there are a lot of questions as to what it really means to “expel” or “ex-communicate” a church member. We read about people being expelled by their churches for one reason or the other. And in almost all cases, people keep asking whether or not the expulsion was really done according to biblical principles. You may want to check out Jay E. Adams’ Handbook of Church Discipline.

5. Public restoration after genuine repentance.

Until the offender expresses genuine repentance, he or she should not be accepted back into the fellowship. But how do we know that the person is sincere? True repentance involves godly sorrow in the part of the offender (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

But there should be a specified period of time for the repentant person to prove his repentance is really genuine before putting him again into positions of ministry and leadership. It is also advisable that he undergoes some discipleship training to help him grow and avoid the sin in the future.

The Purpose of Church Discipline

Church discipline is carried out for the spiritual restoration of fallen members as well as the consequent strengthening of the church. The church does not discipline its members for the purpose of throwing people out of the church or to feed the self-righteous pride of the leaders.

The purpose of church discipline is not to embarrass people or to exercise power and authority in an unbiblical manner. Instead, church discipline aims to restore a sinning believer to holiness and bring him back into fellowship with the assembly.

Conclusion

Discipline and discipling in the church community is never easy nor simple. But it is an important calling within the Christian community in order to help individuals mature. Discipline has to be done as it is vital not only for the (spiritual) health of the individual but also for the church community as a whole.

I would love to know your thoughts regarding this matter. Do you know of somebody who needed to undergo some kind of disciplinary measures as a result of their sins? Please share your views on how the church is to properly carry out discipline among members who are sinning persistently in the comment section below.


*Recommended Resource:

Handbook of Church Discipline: A Right and Privilege of Every Church Member – eBook
By Jay E. Adams

This is a handbook for pastors, elders, and all Christians who want to see how Scripture presents the process of discipline that should operate in the Christian community.

It was written in response to the various concerns that threaten to tear apart marriages, families, friendships, and congregations—concerns that call for a biblical approach to discipline that can heal fractures, restore right relationship, and ensure the health of the church.

Developed around the five corrective steps found especially in Matthew 18: 15-17, this book helps church leaders deal with the sorts of problems that require the church’s disciplinary response. Charting a course that combines discernment with appropriate action, this simple, readable handbook can have a profound effect on the community of believers.

Why it is Important to have Faith

Why it is Important to have Faith

Much have been written and said about faith and how it works in our Christian life. It is defined and described in so many ways, with each definition reflecting the very essence of its meaning. So what is faith? How does the Bible define faith and what is the importance of faith in the Christian life?

Christians are blessed to have the precise definition of faith in the Bible, the written word of God. Although the authorship of the book of Hebrews is still in question, the fact that it was established as canonical gives it the same authority as the other books in the Bible have.

Definitions of Faith

On one hand, the world defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof (ref: Webster dictionary). It is believing on something that we are not sure of because of lack or non-existence of any evidence to back-up the belief.

On the other-hand, in spirituality, (ref: Genuine Faith: The Faith that Saves), faith in God rests upon the best evidence, the infallible Word of God. The author goes further to describe that faith impels loving obedience and good works. However, most popularly defined in the Bible, faith is having the things hoped for happened, the evidence of things that we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

How Do We Receive Faith?

Contrary to what the world says, Christian faith, is a firm belief in God; not without proof but is undeniably founded on the unerring, incomparable richness of the living Word of God, which is the Holy Bible. Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the words about Christ (Romans 10:17).

Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God
Photo credits: RZIM

If faith comes from hearing the message, then as Christians, we should not hesitate to share the message whenever we have the chance to do so. While it is true that a deeper study about the Bible, the life and deity of Jesus Christ is highly recommendable in sharing the message, it is however not an excuse not to share the good news even if we neither have a bachelor’s, a master’s nor a doctorate degree in theology, or studies of divinity.

Apostle Paul teaches us that we do not need to be eloquently relying purely on acquired wisdom of man to share the gospel but by the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Genuine faith is rooted on the powerful Word of God. The Word that has been given to us to be used for teaching, rebuking, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Importance of Faith in the Christian Life

1) We receive salvation by grace through faith.

Our Christian life began the moment we received Jesus as our personal Savior. This confirms our salvation by His grace which we have received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). While salvation is precisely a (free) gift from God by His grace, faith, the channel to which salvation abounds is in the part of man. It is our response to God’s invitation of salvation.

We can never please God without faith Hebrews 11:6) and without faith, we cannot receive the best gift that God has prepared for us. It is further written that faith without good deeds is dead (James 2:26). Good works are a result of our faith and the fruits of salvation.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Sadly, in the lives of many people, despite hearing and witnessing the love and wonderful works of Jesus in their personal lives, it is still very difficult for them to truly believe and put their total confidence on Him. In the bible, Jesus has spent three years with His disciples. They were able to see Him face to face and personally interacted with Him.

Yet, when He appeared to them after His resurrection, one of His disciples (Thomas) couldn’t even believe that He came back to life until he saw Jesus’ nail-pierced hands. He needed to see Jesus’ nail-pierced hands and put his finger on His wounds to believe (John 20:24-29).

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

We, the Christians after the life of Jesus here on earth, are blessed because we have not seen Him yet we believed. This has all started once in our life when we have heard the message about Christ, believed in His infallible words, and believed on His promises as they unfold right before our own eyes in our daily lives. We continue in our walk with Christ, looking forward to the salvation that we will experience in heaven which is yet to come based on His promises.

2) Through faith, we overcome the world that leads to a fruitful life.

Jesus has overcome the world when He died on the cross so that we may live. He has risen back from the dead for us. We should not be taking this greatest sacrifice for granted. He has won the victory with a price so that whoever believes shall overcome (1 John 5:4-5).

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b

We can overcome all the things of this world; all the works of the devil through our faith in Jesus (1 John 2:16). The devil has already been defeated and has no more authority on us, for Jesus has paid the ransom with His own flesh and blood. We need not wait for heaven to experience victory in our lives for it is God’s purpose that we be blessed with a victorious life even we are still here on earth. He wants to bless us so that we can live life abundantly (John 10:10).

*Related Article: What is the victorious Christian life?

He has come to prepare everything for us and He wanted us to remain in Him, our faith to be rooted on His words that brings life, that through our trust and confidence in Him, we shall never fail to bear fruits in season (John 15:5; Jeremiah 17:7-8).

3) We overcome trials through faith.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we learn that each of us shall go through trials and temptations that are common to man. God allows these trials to come our way so that through all these trials, we are pressed closer to Jesus. The closer we are pressed, the clearer His image is inscribed in our hearts as we grow more like Jesus. Each trial is designed such that Jesus will see us through it. He never leaves us alone and through our faith in Him, we overcome trials.

In times of trials, let our prayers be for the asking of a renewed and strengthened spirit so there is nothing we can’t bear. The pain and troubles we go through are temporary and if we persevere in endurance with the spirit, the difficulties we face are nothing compared to the joy that awaits us (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

We will never learn what is in store for us and what we are really made of if we do not face these trials. An American author John A. Shedd once wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” God has created us to be an overcomer and He is always faithful in His promises. There is nothing in this world that can trample us if we only believe and have faith in God. He has overcome the world and nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

When Jesus told Joshua not to be afraid of the enemies for they have already been given into his hand and that no one of them are able to withstand him (Joshua 10:8), God is literally speaking about the enemies that Joshua and his army will be facing in every war there is.

To us, the present day Christians, this “enemies” figuratively mean the trials that we have to face. God has already given them into our hands through our faith in Him and he who has faith in God overcomes the world!

Learning to have Faith as the Great People in the Bible did

Many people in the Bible have experienced the hands of God through faith by whom anyone can be inspired.

1) Noah and the Great Flood. Noah was instructed to build a huge ship in preparation for the great flood when there was no sign that it would rain at all. But Noah believed God and put his trust in Him, so his family and every kind of animal has been saved from the floods.

2) Abraham, by faith never doubted God’s promises. He was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, believing God will raise him up from the dead (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), for God has promised him earlier that through Isaac he will become the father of many nations.

3) Sarah who by faith was enabled to bear a child at an old age (Romans 10:10). Sarah remained faithful and believed God’s promise of an heir. For 25 years, she and her husband Abraham waited and indeed, she bore a son in the most unfavorable situation anyone could ever imagine, that is, being old and barren.

4) The Centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:8-13, was described by Jesus Himself as the kind of faith that He never saw existed in all Israel. The centurion needed not more that Jesus’ words to believe that his servant is healed.

5) The people, who by faith, crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Exodus 14:15-16; 21-22). The people were being chased by the Egyptian soldiers from behind and they are approaching a huge body of water, the Red Sea. God promised Moses that by his leadership and God’s blessings, they will escape from the hands of the Egyptians, and by faith, they were able to cross the Red Sea on dry land.

Other Significant Things Related to Our Faith

F – Fulfillment (Philippians 4:11-12). Under any circumstance, faith brings forth fulfillment in life.

A – Assurance (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing more secured than the assurance that we have received by putting our faith in God. It is because of His love and grace for us, that He gave His only one begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

I – Impossible (Matthew 19:26 and Hebrews 11:6). It is impossible for man but for God, nothing is impossible. We need only to believe because without faith, it is impossible to please God.

T – Trust (Isaiah 26:3). We can have perfect peace if we only put our trust in God.

H – Hope (Romans 4:18-19). By faith, we see hope in hopelessness.

Conclusion

In ending, it is by God’s grace through our faith that we experience the greatness of God’s works in our lives. In the midst of difficulties that we encounter in life, let us put our trust and faith in God the way Abraham, Moses, Noah and many more did.

Let us use the examples of Joshua and Caleb who focused more on the positive side of the news rather than on the inconveniences from its negative side. For it is only in believing and putting our trust in God that we receive the gift of salvation. Through faith, we can overcome the world with Him and live a victorious life even while we are still here on earth.

Man: A Tripartite Being with Body, Soul and Spirit

Man: A Tripartite Being with Body, Soul and Spirit

How many parts are there to a man? The Bible says that man consists of three component parts: body, soul and spirit. Man is a triune being because he is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), who Himself is a Trinity. But what is the difference between the body, soul and spirit?

The view that man is made of three parts is called “trichotomy.” But there is an idea also that prevails largely today that man consists of only two component parts: namely, body and soul/spirit (dichotomy). They say that “spirit” is not a separate part of man, but simply another term for “soul”, and that both terms are used interchangeably in Scripture to talk about the immaterial part of man, the part that lives on after our bodies die.

Those who hold to this view argue that Scripture uses the word spirit (Hebrew rûach, and Greek pneuma) more frequently when referring to our relationship to God, but the use of such is not uniform, and the word “soul” is also used in all the ways that spirit can be used.

But this view has often caused confusion in the minds of Christians. While soul and spirit are so closely related that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish accurately between them, the Bible makes it clear that they are not the same; they’re divisible.

The Origin of Man

The Bible says that God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27); but this does not mean physical likeness because God is Spirit (John 4:24). Being in the image of God refers to our personality, conscience, intelligence, awareness of right and wrong, etc.

We are individual and moral creatures capable of loving, sacrifice, doing good deeds and many more, because we were created in the image of God.

God created man in His own image

If Genesis 1:26-27 records the fact chronologically that man was created on the 6th day, Genesis 2:7 tells us how it was done. It says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

The three parts of man are referred to in this verse: the body of man which is made of the dust of the ground, the spirit breathed into man’s nostrils by the LORD God and the soul which is the union of the other two.

Man is a Tripartite Being composed of Body, Soul and Spirit

There are two passages from the Bible that clearly establish the fact that man has three parts.

A. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This verse clearly states that man has three separate, distinct parts; the distinction maybe slight but they exist nevertheless.

B. Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Although some people teach that the soul and spirit are two words that mean the same thing, this verse definitely tells us that they are divisible. While it’s true that the terms soul and spirit are used interchangeably in Scriptures, there are other passages where this is impossible.

The Body

Man: A Tripartite Being with body, soul and spiritThis is the part of man which we are most familiar with – the physical part. Everything physical is our body and it is the part of us that decays over time and will eventually cease to exist and function when we die.

The Bible tells us that our body – our flesh and bones, was made of the dust of the ground. Did you know that dust contains 96 elements which are the same elements found in man? What a wonderful proof of creation!

Some of these 96 elements include: calcium, carbon, chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen, iodine, iron, magnesium, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and sodium. The body of man also has five senses: hearing, taste, sight, smell and touch. All pain, sensation or ability is expressed in and through the physical body.

After the fall, God in pronouncing curse upon man says, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

And after the fall, the body became a dying, death-doomed body. Ever since man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, every man born has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27).

The Soul

The soul is the seat of all affections.The Hebrew term for soul is “nephesh” and it is found more than 780 times in the Old Testament. We read in Genesis 2:27 that man not only has a living soul; he is a living soul. It is the immaterial part of man midway between the body and the spirit, yet it is not a mixture of the two, though at times it seems to take on characteristics of one or the other.

The soul is self-consciousness; it stands for the individual, personal life. The ingredients which make us human beings belong to the soul. The intellect, thought, ideals, love, emotion, understanding, decision, choice and other like qualities are all associated with the soul. In other words, the soul is also the seat of all affections and Satan knows this very well that is why he operates making his appeal to the affections and emotions of man.

*Read here how to love the Lord with all your soul: The Greatest Commandment of God

It is the soul of man that Jesus died to redeem on the cross (Hebrews 10:39; Psalm 49:8). But the soul is never directed towards God until after the spirit has become regenerated. Man is not able to love God or the things of God until he is born from above.

Man’s desires and affections are turned toward God when he realizes his sinful condition and accepts God’s gift of salvation. But even though we have died to sin and been raised to life through Christ, our souls still need to be transformed and purified by the washing of the word (Ephesians 5:26).

Unlike the body, the soul cannot be destroyed by physical death but lives on beyond the grave. The soul does not die when the body dies because Jesus said to not fear those who can kill the body, but rather fear Him (God) who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

The Spirit

The spirit of man allows him to connect with GodJohn 4:24 says that “God is Spirit” and the spirit of man is the part that resembles God most. This is manifested in our assurance of salvation when it says in Romans 8:16 that “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

It is the spirit that gives man the ability to have an intimate relationship with God; it is that part of us that is enabled by God to know and worship Him. The spirit of man is what gets born again or regenerated. Just as the soul is the sphere of activity where Satan operates, the spirit of man is the sphere of activity where the Holy Spirit operates in regeneration.

*Related Article: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit

When we become new creations, it is in our spirit that the Spirit of God comes to reside. Man in his unregenerate state does not understand the things of God because the spirit of man is limited to the things of man (1 Corinthians 2:14). The spirit of the unregenerate man has no more capacity to appreciate the things of God than a dog has to appreciate holy things (Matthew 7:6).

Conclusion

God created a tripartite being to love the Lord and to enjoy life and nature. Man was made for God; the spirit of man was made to commune with God.

As we prepare for the day of resurrection when our component parts will be reunited and we will stand before the Judge, let us continue in the process of renewing our minds and transforming our souls to line up more and more with the Spirit of God that is working in us.

Let us then put more effort to learn what the Bible really says about who we are in Christ once we’re born again and live according to the will of Him who called us.

Do Pets Go to Heaven when They Die?

Do Pets Go to Heaven when They Die?

One question that Christians have often asked over the years is whether or not there will be animals in heaven. Do pets or any animals go to heaven when they die? And if you have researched this topic, I’m sure you have seen and heard many different answers and opinions.

Most people have pets and they love them dearly like family. Couples who are childless even consider their pets as their own children. Our family has pets, cats and dogs, and we love them like family. Unfortunately, we have lost quite a number already. And I am left wondering if I will ever see my dearly departed pets again.

We know from the Bible that there are only two destinations for man when he dies, heaven or hell. Hebrews 9:27 says, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Clearly, man faces judgment immediately upon death. In other words, we will know right away where exactly we are headed the moment our physical life on earth ends.

A very sad day

The day that I had to fly back to the Middle East where I am currently based, our one-month old puppy Darna succumbed to her death due to dysentery. It was already too late when we realized what was going on with her. Had we known earlier that she was terribly ill; we would have done something to save her.

Everybody was sad, especially my mom, because she was the one who adopted Darna. Our neighbor’s dog gave birth to four lovely puppies and decided to give one to us. Mom named her Darna and we all thought it was perfect for her. We all loved and adored her even though she was a bit stubborn at times.

But after just a month or so, we had to say goodbye to her. It was a very sad day indeed, because not only did we lose the newest member of the family, but it was also the day that I had to go away again because my vacation days are over.

Maybe some of you are thinking, “C’mon, it’s just a dog.” You know what; the pain of losing anyone of our pets is real. If you are a pet-owner, I’m sure you can totally relate. We are deeply affected by the loss of our pets because we love and treat them as family, especially when they have been with us for years.

Dealing with the loss of a pet

What does the Bible say?

While many Christians believe that God will allow our pets to cross over in heaven after they die, there are also a significant number of Christians who believe otherwise. But what does the Bible say?

It is very difficult to give a precise answer to this question because Scriptures do not conclusively tell us whether our pets will make it to heaven. God does not specifically say one way or the other whether or not any of our personal pets, or any animal for that matter, will be crossing over to be with us in heaven.

Many of the noted Bible scholars and theologians also agree with this opinion as they could not find any passages or verses in the Bible that gives us a definitive answer to this question. Nevertheless, I believe that the Bible does provide us with some significant clues on the subject matter.

But before going any further, it is very important to state that if pets do go to heaven, their owners will also have to go to heaven to see them and be with them. The Bible makes it pretty clear that the vast majority of people won’t make it to heaven (See Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-25).

The narrow gate

The road to heaven is extremely small and most people, even those who call themselves Christians, will not find it. In fact, even people who think they will go to heaven just because they call Jesus “Lord,” and have done many wonders in the name of Jesus may not make it (Matthew 7:21). That’s why it is critical that we get right with God, otherwise, our chances of seeing our dearly departed pets are zero.

What does the Bible say about animals?

First of all, the Bible does not explicitly say that animals have souls. However, it states that both man and animals have the “breath of life;” (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 1:30; Genesis 7:15, 22) that is, both man and animals are living beings. While I agree that animals are not saved, applying general biblical principles, I believe we can conclude that animals do have souls. They have the capacity to think and feel.

The primary difference is that man is made in the image and likeness of God, while animals are not. And being made in the image and likeness of God, man, like God, is capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion and will and they have a part of their being that continues after death. Man has the capacity to choose or reject God’s gift of salvation while animals do not.

A. In the Garden of Eden

Before God even created man, there were already animals and various types of living creatures in the Garden of Eden. God had literally created the animals before creating Adam. Perhaps God did this so Adam would have everything he would need to be happy and fulfilled.

Although God saw that Adam needed a helper comparable to him (Genesis 2: 18) besides the animals, the fact that God had created animals and these living creatures in the first environment He had set up for us speaks volume of their importance in living with us on this earth. If God did not think animals were important in the big picture, He would have never created them in the first place.

Adam and the animals in the Garden of Eden
Photo Credits: The Atlantic

B. In heaven

God did not only put all these animals on earth but there may also be animals living up in heaven right now.

Revelation 19:11-14 describes Jesus Christ riding on a white horse as He comes back to earth in His Second Coming. And not only He will be riding on a white horse, but so will all of His saints who will be coming back down with Him.

If Jesus and all of His saints are going to be coming down from heaven on these white horses, then there literally has to be white horses up in heaven right now. And there could easily be other types of animals and creatures living up there as well.

C. In the coming millennium

Scripture tells us that not only has God put animals upon this earth when He created it and has kept them here after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, He will still allow animals to exist in the coming millennium kingdom where the King, our Lord Jesus will be ruling the entire earth from the city of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 11:6-9 says that there are going to be wolves, lambs, leopards, goats, calves, lions, cows, bears and cobra snakes in the coming millennium kingdom. And there are probably going to be a lot of the animals that God has created in the past as well.

And take note that these wild animals that exist during the millennium will not be wild and won’t be attacking anyone like many of them do today.

Will there be animals in the new heaven and the new earth? Will our pets be with us?

Revelation 21:1-2 describes a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away. God will also be bringing with Him the holy city of the New Jerusalem where both He and Jesus will rule forever and ever.

But is God still going to have animals, like our pets, existing and living among us in this New Heaven and New Earth?

The Bible does not give us a clear and definite answer to this question and tradition has often leaned more towards a “No.” However, I do think there are good grounds to hope that God will raise our deceased friends.

The Bible says we only “know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10) while we are living down here on this earth. So yeah, the question on whether pets go to heaven is probably one that we will have to wait until we get to heaven in order to see who have guessed it right.

In Romans 5:5, the apostle Paul says, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” I believe we can rest on the certain truths that whatever heaven is like and whatever God has decided on this or any issue for that matter, it will be good, perfect and without error.

Three reasons to hope that we will see our beloved pets in heaven:

1. God loves animals too and has ensured their survival.

Going back to the creation narrative in Genesis, God releases His blessings for the first time to the animals He created (Genesis 1:21-22). God not only saw His work as “good,” but He blessed the creatures He has made.

Did you know that this the first time the word “bless” is used in the Bible? God’s blessings enabled the animals and other creatures to reproduce abundantly and to enjoy all that He had made for them.

God’s blessing of progeny is later given to man in Genesis 1:28 with the added gift of “dominion” over all creation.

Later in Genesis 6:18-19 when God decides to destroy the earth with a flood because of its increasing wickedness, God makes a covenant with Noah reaffirming the blessing to be “fruitful and multiply,” at the same time ensuring the survival of every kind of animal.

Animals in Noah's Ark
Photo Credits: ArchitectureIMG.com

2. Animals are an integral part of the Bible’s story.

Can you honestly tell the story of the Bible or story of the cross without animals? Animals are interwoven into Scripture narratives either as actual actors or important metaphors.

Here’s to name just a few:

a) Many of the plagues of Egypt include animals as servants of God’s will (frogs, lice or gnats, flies, livestock, locusts).

b) Jonah is swallowed up by a large sea creature (Jonah 1:17).

c) Balaam’s donkey displays the power of God by speaking (Numbers 22:27-30).

d) Jesus rides as King on a donkey in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-7).

e) The Devil takes the form of a serpent (an animal) in order to deceive Adam and Eve.

f) Jesus is described by John as the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

With all these references to animals, many of which are integral to the story of Scriptures, it seems strange for God not to make a way for them to be with us in the afterlife. God obviously loves animals and He knows that we do too.

3. God is good and He loves us.

God loves us and He wants us to be happy. God demonstrated His love for us while we were yet sinners, by giving His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay for the penalty of our sins, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life (Romans 5:8; John 3:16).

To want to see our dearly departed pets and ask that they’ll be with us in the future is not to say that God is not enough to make us happy and content. Of course, in the presence of God there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:110) but God also promised that He will make everything new.

Will our pets be present in God’s new kingdom? We do not know for sure. But if animals populated the Garden of Eden, there is a precedent for believing that they will populate “restored” Eden as well.

Conclusion

In closing, I would just like to say that while we cannot say for certain if the pets we enjoy today and those we have lost will make it to heaven, some of the keenest thinkers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft are convinced that not only animals in general, but pets in particular, will be restored in the resurrection.

Listen to what Dr. Michael Brown, a Jew who believes in Yeshua as the Messiah, has to say as regards to the question of pets going to heaven.

If God will be giving us all a glorified body at the resurrection, who is to say that God cannot resurrect our pets so they will be able to live with us in heaven and then eventually in the New Heaven and New Earth for all eternity?

God resurrecting our pets would be in total keeping with His overwhelming grace, love and goodness. Do I hope to see my pets in heaven? Absolutely! I could be wrong, but I personally trust God that at the end of the day, He knows what makes me happy and always has my best interest at heart. So no matter what, I know it will be what’s best.

Do you also hope to see your pets in heaven? Please do share with me your thoughts by leaving your comments below.

 

 

What is the Assurance of Salvation

What is the Assurance of Salvation

Assurance is the state of being sure or certain about something; it is a strong and definite statement that something will happen or that something is true. But how can you know anything for sure, especially when it has everything to do with where you will be spending eternity? What assurance do Christians have with regards to their salvation?

I still remember the day when I took the board examination for Medical Technologists years ago. Stepping out of the examination room, I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass and be given a license to practice. Well, I thought I did well and I could tell you that I really gave it my all but I was still uncertain about the outcome. That feeling of uncertainty definitely made me anxious over the next 3 days while waiting for the result to be released.

In a similar way, how do you know your hope of heaven will hold up when God’s earth-shattering judgment comes? What guarantee do you have that you will not fall away from Christ, remain a Christian until you die and will in fact live with God in heaven forever?

What does it mean to have assurance of salvation?

To have assurance of salvation is to be absolutely confident that we are saved and that if we die suddenly, we would go immediately to heaven. Assurance of salvation means possessing salvation – possessing the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Salvation is eternal life; it is the life of God; it is Divine life. If we possess eternal life, then we are saved!

However, many Christians do not believe that it is possible to be sure of salvation now. They feel that they need to keep working in order to meet God’s standard. If we were saved by works then they would be correct. But salvation is a gift received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

It should be noted that this is one significant disagreement among evangelical Christians for a long time. Many within the Armenians and Wesleyans have held that it is possible to lose your salvation, while Reformed Christians held that it is not possible for someone who is truly born again.

Scope of the doctrine of assurance of salvation

The doctrine of assurance of salvation also referred to as the perseverance of the saints, means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere until the end, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.

This definition has two parts:

A. First, it indicates that assurance is given to those who are truly born again, for it reminds them that God’s power will keep them “in Christ” until they die, and they will surely live with Christ forever in heaven.

There are many passages that teach that those who are truly born again, who are genuinely Christians, will continue in Christ until death and will then go to be in heaven with Him.

1) In John 6:38-40 Jesus says that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. He says that He will raise that person up at the last day – which, in this context of believing in the Son and having eternal life, clearly means that Jesus will raise that person up to eternal life with Him (not just raise him up to be judged and condemned).

Moreover, this text emphasizes that Jesus does the will of the Father, which is that He should “lose nothing of all that He has given Me” (John 6:39). Once again, those given to the Son by the Father will not be lost.

2) Also in John 10:27-29 Jesus says that those who follow Him, those who are His sheep, are given eternal life. He further says that “no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (v.28).

Although some have objected to this and reasoned that even if no one else can take believers out of Christ’s hand, we might remove ourselves from Christ’s hand. But it’s important to note that the most forceful phrase “they shall never perish” (v.28) is emphatic and might be translated more explicitly as, “and they shall certainly not perish forever.”

3) Paul’s writings and other New Testament epistles also indicate that those who are truly born again will persevere to the end such as in Romans 8:1 where it says that no condemnation remains for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the entire penalty of their sins has been already paid.

4) Another assurance of true believers persevering to the end is Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6 that the work God has begun in them will continue and will be completed at the day of Christ’s return.

B. The second half of the definition makes it clear that continuing in the faith is one of the evidences that a person is truly born again. This aspect of the doctrine must be well understood and kept in mind to avoid giving false assurance to people who were never really believers in the first place.

While Scripture repeatedly emphasizes that those who are truly born again will continue to the end and will certainly have eternal life in heaven with God, there are other passages that speak of the necessity of continuing in faith through life.

1) 1 Peter 1:5 says that God does not guard us apart from our faith, but only by working through our faith so that He enables us to continue in Him. So those who continue to trust in Christ gain assurance that God is working in them and guarding them.

2) In John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the Jewish believers that “if you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Jesus is saying that one evidence of genuine faith is continuing in His words, that is, continuing to believe in Him and living a life of obedience to His commands.

Similarly, Jesus says in Matthew 10:22 that “he who endures to the end will be saved” as a means of warning people not to fall away in times of persecution.

3) Other passages that emphasize the importance of continuing in Christ include:

  • Colossians 1:22-23 – those who continue in the faith show that they are genuine believers.
  • Hebrews 3:14 – this verse provides an excellent perspective on the doctrine of perseverance. We can know that we have come to genuine faith in Christ if we continue in faith until the end of our live.
  • 1 John 2:19 – John clearly states that when people fall away from fellowship with the church and from faith in Christ, it shows that their faith was not real in the first place and that they were never part of the true body of Christ.

It is evident from Paul’s statements in Galatians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 11:26 and 2 Corinthians 11:15 that many false believers are being ushered into the church and disrupt the fellowship. But this does not necessarily mean that all unbelievers within the church are false brothers and sisters. Some of them could be in the process of moving towards genuine saving faith.

What can give believers genuine assurance of salvation?

If those who finally fall away are said to have never been saved to begin with, then what will serve as evidence of genuine conversion? What can give real assurance to a genuine believer?

A. Present trust in Christ for salvation

Do you trust Jesus today for the forgiveness of your sins and have confidence that He will take you without blame to heaven for all eternity? John 3:16, the most famous Bible verse about salvation, uses a present tense verb that maybe translated “whoever continues believing in Him” may have eternal life. A continuing present relationship with Jesus is evidence of genuine salvation.

B. Evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:16 says “the Holy Spirit bears witness within our hearts that we are God’s children” and this is just one aspect. (See also Galatians 4:6) But if the Holy Spirit is genuinely at work in our lives, He will be producing the kind of character traits that Paul calls “the fruit of the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do you see these character traits exemplified in your life? Do you build others up in the church and not tear them down or discourage them? Do you edify others in every conversation, every prayer and every work that you put into your ministry?

Another evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit is continuing to believe and accept the sound teaching and doctrines of the faith. Those who begin to deny the major doctrines give serious negative indications regarding salvation.

Finally, a major area of evidence that we are genuine believers is found in a life of obedience to God’s commands (1 John 2:4-6). Of course, we will never live a perfect life while we’re on earth but we must strive to imitate Christ every single day and aim to be like Him.

C. Long-term pattern of growth in our Christian life

Peter tells us that there are some character traits, which if we keep on increasing them, will guarantee that we will never stumble or fall. He tells us to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. He then exhorts us to be more zealous and diligent to confirm our call and election (2 Peter 1:5-10).

The way to confirm our call is to grow in these character traits; for us to grow in our Christian life (sanctification). This implies that our assurance of salvation can grow and increase over time. Thus, young believers can have a stronger assurance in their salvation as they grow over the years toward Christian maturity.

Conclusion

Assurance of salvation is necessary because a person is either saved or lost. Either he’s “in Christ” or outside. If we are “in Christ” then we ought to have assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is not presumption or pride but taking God’s word for it.

On the other hand, the doctrine of the assurance of salvation, if properly understood, should cause genuine worry and concern to anyone who is backsliding or staying away from Christ. Such person must be warned that only those who persevere to the end have been truly born again. Anyone who falls away from their profession of faith in Christ and life of obedience in Him was never really saved.

Only in Christianity is there assurance of salvation because of the finished work of Christ. Jews who practice Judaism are doing their best to follow the Law while Muslims could only hope that at the end of their journey here on earth, their good deeds will far outweigh their bad deeds.

Things to ponder: Do you have assurance of salvation? Are you continuing in your faith in Christ? Are the fruit of the Holy Spirit evident in your life? Are you growing in your spiritual walk with God?

Recommended Resources:

Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation – eBook   By John MacArthur

Am I really saved? Am I going to heaven? How can I know for sure? Every believer has wrestled with these questions at some point in their journey. Saved Without A Doubt tackles this challenging topic by examining scripture to uncover the truth of salvation, while addressing tough questions that can hinder our faith. Readers will develop a Bible-based theology of salvation and be encouraged to securely rest in their personal relationship with Christ.

For Pastors and Preachers:

The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own – eBook  By Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Known as the ‘Thursday night discourse’ chapters 13-17 in the gospel of John constitute what is perhaps the most intimate teaching of the disciples by Jesus. But chapter 17 is of particular interest because it records an the most intimate interaction–a prayer–between Jesus and God the Father. It is striking, revealing, and intense.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, widely regarded as one of the finest and intense expositor’s of the Bible is perhaps the ideal preacher, for unpacking and opening up this prayer both to our hearts and our minds. In The Assurance of our Salvation: Exploring the Depth of Jesus Prayer for His Own Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides his customary verse-by-verse exposition of John 17 and in doing so lays before us the richness, the depth, the wonder–and teh assurance–of God’s plan of salvation.