Stuff Folks Say: Theology

➡ Average Reading Time: 45 minutes Stuff Folks Ask: Theology The material in this document is generally centered around questions that have a general theological connection in them. There is some grouping as to subject matter. Theology means “thinking about God.” Biblical Theology means “thinking about God as the Bible presents that concept against the story of the Bible interpreted within its historical context.” Practically, to understand theology then is to study the main source, i.e., the Bible, and all the relevant background material. It is particularly concerned with the diverse literary and historical contexts of the story. It attempts to find the meaning of the story by using the terms of the story itself as those words had meaning in the story timeframe.


↓ How was Satan thrown out of heaven?
↓ Sexual Evangelism?
↓ Can a wife withhold sex from her husband?
↓ What about a church board member “living with” his fiancée?
↓ Is it wrong to remarry…?
↓ What about premarital sex?
↓ What about sex before marriage?
↓ Does the Bible speak about an open marriage?
↓ What about Nudity?
↓ What is the meaning of the kingdom of God?
↓ What is the biblically defined role of a pastor?
↓ What is the function of elders?
↓ What about Apocalyptic Literature?
↓ Who was crucified upside down?
↓ Did Women Sing in the Sanctuary?
↓ Will there be any pets in heaven?
↓ Where in the Bible did God appear as an angel?
↓ Do you use the KJV of the Bible?
↓ What does Scripture say about physical appearances and plastic surgery?
↓ Son of God and Son of Man
↓ Chronological Bible
↓ How long do I live?
↓ What about Spiritual Gifts?
↓ Are there any stories in Scripture about the environmental cleanliness?
↓ What does the word threescore mean?
↓ Can you tell me where I can get an Englishman’s Concordance?
↓ Where is that verse?

QUESTION: How was Satan thrown out of heaven?

In the Bible, does it ever describe how Satan (Lucifer) was thrown out of heaven? If yes, where? If no, how did this theory come about?

Beginning Answer

Some have taken two passages from the Old Testament (Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14) as describing the fall of Satan. There is no agreement among scholars about the interpretation of these passages. Some believe that Satan fell before creation. Some believe that he fell at the story in Genesis 6.1-4. Others believe that he fell in the Intertestamental Period, now often called Second Temple Judaism, the period of about 400 years between the last prophet of the Old Testament period and the beginning of the New Testament story.

A Small Digression: The Serpent

Let’s take a small digression from the text and take a look at the concept of the serpent. The word “satan” is used in many ways in the Hebrew Bible. The term refers to:

  • To the angel of the Lord who may be an adversary (Numbers 22.22, 32)
  • To another person who may function as an adversary (1 Sam. 29.4; 2 Sam. 19.22; 1 Kings 5.4; 11.14, 23, 25; Psalm 109.8).
  • Finally, to an angel in the angelic host as seen in the book of Job.

The word “satan” appears eighteen times in the Hebrew Bible. Out of the eighteen, fourteen times it appears in Job chapters one and two. We should note with interest that in all but one of these eighteen times that “satan” appears (the exception is 1 Chronicles 21.1), the article is attached to the word and it reads “the satan.” This form indicates that it is a title, not a personal name. The term “satan” does not describe “who” but “what.” The term is not a proper name. We must carefully understand that in the ancient world not having a name was to be reduced to nonexistence.

Genesis 3 reveals that the serpent was one of the creatures that the Creator God created. The serpent was not eternal or divine. The storyteller reveals that this creature was “more subtle” than any other animal. This is not a disparaging term. As a matter of fact, the word, which is translated “subtle” for us, is used in Proverbs several times (12.16, 23, 13.16, 14.8, 15; 18; 22.3) and is translated “the prudent [one, person, man]. This prudent one is contrasted with the “fool.” Elsewhere the word is translated as “crafty” which is something that God dislikes (Job 5.12, 15.5). In this story, the storyteller only speaks of the serpent’s destiny (Genesis 3.14-15).

Explanations abound about who the serpent was. Some believe that it was a mythological character that had magical powers. Others think that the serpent was a symbol of human curiosity. Still, others believe that the serpent was a symbol of some ancient fertility cult. Some see the serpent as a symbol of chaos or evil. Some believe that the voice of the serpent is only the voice of the “inner person.” Among Christian and Jewish interpreters, the serpent is often identified as Satan’s instrument. Luther, as an example, believed that “the devil was permitted to enter the beast, as he here entered the serpent. There is no doubt that it was a real serpent in which Satan was and in which he conversed with Eve.”[ref] Martin Luther, Luther’s Work Lectures on Genesis 1-5 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 151. [/ref]

The word “serpent” is the general term for the snake. The reptile played a significant role in the ancient world. It was an object of reverence and worship. Serpents are found in ancient myths and represent life, recurring youth, death, chaos, and wisdom. Scripture also possesses the same association for the serpent (the rejuvenating effects of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, Numbers 21.9 is an example).

In the ancient world’s Epic of Gilgamesh, the serpent was perceived as the opponent of humankind. Gilgamesh searched for the famed survivor of the flood, the immortal Utnapishtim so that he could learn how he might obtain eternal life. Utnapishtim revealed to Gilgamesh a secret known only to him and the gods. There was a plant in the deepest part of the sea that could rejuvenate one’s life. Gilgamesh obtained the plant and named it “Man Becomes Young in Old Age.” However, the plant was stolen by a serpent, who carried it off and shed its skin (a process of rejuvenation).

In the community that God was creating in the wilderness, the snake was classified as an unclean animal because of its movement on the ground (Lev. 11.41-45). Serpents were associated with the judgment of God for Israel’s complaints against God in the wilderness (venomous snakes, Numbers 21.6) as well as being the source of rejuvenation.

So is the serpent in the Garden story Satan? Most likely not, or at least not for the teller of the story.[ref] Winn Griffin, God’s EPIC Adventure (Woodinville, WA: Harmon Press, 2007), Appendix 6: 336-337 [/ref]

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QUESTION: Sexual Evangelism?

If you are witnessing to someone and they start having sex with someone else while you’re witnessing to them, should you keep witnessing to them? I’m not joking, I’m serious.

Beginning Answer

I’ve heard of friendship evangelism, off-the-map evangelism, power evangelism, presence evangelism, and maybe a few more. But, I don’t think I have ever put sex and evangelism together or for that matter is seen anyone else put them together either. But, according to this question, there is a new category: Sexual Evangelism, or How to Sleep Your Way into Salvation.

I would say that following Joseph’s strategy with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis would be a great solution to this problem this question asks. I think the category of evangelism found in this question falls outside the Story of God that followers of Jesus should be living in.

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QUESTION: Can a wife withhold sex from her husband?

Can you please show me where in the Bible [where] God tells a wife it’s OK to withhold sex from her husband? I know that a husband should do Eph 5:25, does it say that if he doesn’t at all times it’s OK for his wife to withhold sex? When I’m doing Eph. 5:25 and my wife still withholds sex, it’s hard to continue with Eph. 5:25. I do still try, but I am only human and I am here in the flesh.

I have found that sex within marriage is not a negotiable thing. God says a husband and wife should satisfy each other’s sexual needs, (1 Corinthians 7.3). And not withhold sex except when both agree and for a time to pray and then resume their normal sexual relations with each other.

However, if you cannot control your desires, you should get married. It is better for you to marry than to burn with sexual desire. (1 Corinthians 7.9).

I am married and still burn with sexual desire when my wife withholds. Did I miss something in God’s word or am I just stupid?

Beginning Answer

First, let me say that I have no reason to think that you are stupid!

Ephesians 5.25 does not have a sexual context. There is nothing in the text that speaks about the subject of sex.

Second, the 1 Corinthians passage (7.9) does speak about marriage partners withholding sex during a specific time devoted to prayer, but then they should come back together. This passage is a correction to those in the church at Corinth who may have thought that once they had become Spirit-filled they no longer had to involve themselves with mundane human stuff like sex. Paul writes to correct them. I don’t think that Paul is saying that every day that you are going to pray those mates should abstain from sexual intercourse.

As a pastor for many years, I know that sexual problems within marriage are only a sign of deeper marriage problems. You might suggest that you both talk about what might be causing your wife’s response (remember, I am only hearing one side of the story here). Problems within marriage are usually not one-sided and there is usually fault on both sides.

If you cannot talk about it in private between each other, you might want to seek professional help.


Another useless answer for those seeking help…I have been there done that, seen professional help, it’s all useless after awhile the wife will just say she is not doing what the professional help suggest-ed. She is determined it’s over, as she is filled with HATE for her husband, he can be a very good man, and God-fearing, and truly loves his wife. And yet she will treat him in this way. Preachers mostly have wives that love them and they never have to go years without sex, while having a woman in the house. It’s terrible stress for the man, living with desires that will never be met, sex, love, romance, a touch, a soft word…all he gets is hate and discord. I was married 19 years and year 2 started off and fast went to a no sex marriage. I stayed as long as I could as the marriage got worse, she would hurt me in the house to come and bitch me out, I built me a room in the basement to get away from her, she would then come down there screaming at me. She screamed at me up-stairs, She screamed and hated me so much, I was truly surprised after my divorce when I could see more clearly her total hatred for me. I then could begin to stop loving her. I wished I left sooner for my son’s sake.


Jack, thanks for your response. Sorry, you think it was useless. From your response, it sounds like a horrible place to be in. However, as I said in the original answer to the post, you are only presenting “your” picture of what happened. There are always two sides to every complaint. Thanks for sharing yours.


The male sex drive is a gift from God. The only legitimate place a man can direct his sex drive is with his wife. It’s very clear in Corinthians what the rules are… In many cases, we see women withholding sex from their husbands because they are mad at them for struggling with temptation or sin. God says Women need to respect (affirm) their husbands, and men need to love their wives like God loves the church; it must work both ways. But when a man is trying, I believe the wife needs to stop using sex as a penalty, all it does is crush his self-image. Men put a very high value on their ability to please their wife through the gift of sex and when the wife says no, the reject-ed man hears “you can’t please me” or ” I don’t want you.” No wonder sex eventually turns into a routine. Fearing rejection, the husband shows no romance, puts his head down, and charges the bed hoping he can convince his wife to participate. If he is persistent, she may say” no” a few times and gives in but says something like “do we have to do this every night?” (that’s not love nor respect on either part.)…. could this be why God said “The wife hath not the power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not the power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it, be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency.” I believe a lot of problems would be resolved if more wives observed this scripture, however (men need to do their part, too, and it won’t work without love.) Maybe husbands and wives could benefit from the communication that takes place during sex; it may be the most productive time they spend together during times of trouble and times of peace.


It surely is true that withholding sex from a partner can be painful. But, it is a two-way street. When men complain, it is usually directed at the wife, but the opposite is also true, women could and sometimes do complain and that is directed at the husband. It is difficult in this kind of forum to hear both voices. If this is male writing, don’t know by the initials provided, but seemingly from the tone of the post it is, then you might want to ask the question of your wife, to find out what you are doing wrong that causes this dysfunction to occur. So, when the wife uses withholding sex as a penalty, what does the husband withhold, or what has the husband withheld from the wife? As I said in the original post, there are always two sides to the story.


It’s pretty much all the same, before marriage the women will do anything and act exactly perfectly. After marriage, especially after children, the hook is there, then starts the non-essential sex or just get it over, pretend. We’ve been married for forty-three years and this is the hardest part. I talked, explained, prayed for help, none of these lasted for more than a couple of days. It kills men of faith to go through these times, because of the strong drive God gave to them. Women and, I’m convinced most of them are the same way, become such do-gooders and of course that no one could condemn them, it’s always the poor stupid man’s non-affectionate and ineptness that is the real cause to them. Society stands firm; it must be the man’s lacking somewhere. Somehow the words in Ephesians and Corinthians seem void to most women. But yet as a man, we are to stay the course, without blemish this is torture. And I agree with some of the other men – Dr. Winn, you are not listening – We have been to psychologists – they will always take the side of the good-looking women- so sweet!


First, I’m not sure of what I’m not “listening” to you means.

You write, … “before marriage, the women will do anything and act exactly perfect.” I find that to be the case for both men and women when they are courting, not just the woman. As I said in a previous post, there are two sides to every story about sexual malfunction within a marriage. It is never one-sided. Because I don’t know your wife’s side of the story and am only hearing yours, which seems to be painful for you, I can’t take aside. While you may think that the “words in Ephesians and Corinthians seem void to most women,” it is just as possible that most men might not understand what Paul is saying as well. I trust that you figure a way to resolve your sexual issues with your wife. I really do!


I have only been married for 3 years. My libido is higher than my husband’s, so I have had to control it, however, when we do make love my husband does not follow thru and satisfy my desires after they are met. I have tried to explain what to do to help him, but he declares I am just fussing at him. I wrote him letters, made his favorite dinner, gave him backrubs, tried all the things he has asked for. I am at the point that when he is ready, is it him or me withholding from the other? I want to bring this to this blog. It is hard for me to have terrible feelings and be forgiving. I am trying to not look at what he is doing wrong but to look at myself and I keep trying new things that he asks for and try over long periods to listen to what his concerns are and respect them. It is the toughest part of my life because it feels like rejection when It does not seem to get the results I need, but for some reason, I know God is telling me to do them willingly and without getting anything in return. Maybe one day whatever baggage I harbor that makes what he does feel like rejection or what he feels I do makes him feel like I am nagging will be answered in seeking answers in all aspects of the Bible. That may be why prayer is so important. Either way believes that God will answer our pain and sorrow in the time we will be open in our hearts to receive it. Forgiveness is one of the toughest things, especially when we are so close to someone we feel has hurt us. But if he puts a crown of thorns on me, or my son whips me and tears off my skin, cuts my side with a sword, drives nails in my hands and feet and puts me on a cross to die, can I forgive? I am supposed to. I am pretty sure if I continue to look at it that way, these hurtful feelings I have will eventually find their perspective, but because I am human, it doesn’t mean it is easy to do the right thing. The stupid devil in my closet makes my life a living hell; he always makes doing the wrong thing look so easy for the moment and then I realize the moment is fleeting, and wrong moments turn into baggage I will carry with me.


Usually, most problems in a marriage concerning sex occur because of no information or bogus information. Maybe a good place to start is by gathering some information that you and your husband can listen to together to open up a channel of communication between you about the problem you are sharing. In light of this, here is a set of materials that you might listen to along with your husband.

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QUESTION: What about a church board member “living with” his fiancée?
Is it okay to have a Christian, who is living with his fiancée, to partake as a church decision-board member? The knowledge about his living condition was found out after he was selected to be a board member.

Beginning Answer

If you mean “living with his fiancée” as a euphemism for sexual immorality, then there is some clear teaching in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 about such. If “living with his fiancée” means “renting a room,” then that is something else. I am not trying to be coy, but the meaning of words is important. The sexual standard in Scripture is the same for everyone, clergy, leader, or laity. There is no one standard for one group and another for another. These problems arise in the church because we are all fallen creatures, living from time to time outside the Story of God. There is not enough information provided for me to give a precise answer.

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QUESTION: Is it wrong to remarry…?

Beginning Answer

Is it wrong to remarry while your spouse is still alive? It says that if a man leaves his wife he causes her to become an adulterer. It also says that there may be legitimate reasons to leave your spouse, but it doesn’t mention remarriage while that spouse is still living.

Two passages come to mind. The first is Matthew 5.31-32 and the other is 1 Corinthians 7.12-16.

Matthew 5.31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulterous, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)

A stronger case may be made for translating “unbeliever” as “unfaithful” in the 1 Corinthian 7 passage. If unfaithful to one’s spouse, it allows divorce in the case of adultery. It does advise reconciliation in such cases, but clearly states that the spouse is free to remarry if the unfaithful one leaves (divorces). This may be the understanding of the phrase: “A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.” We may presume that a divorce would be obtained and the marriage legally ended.

Barclay has a wonderful historical look at the background of this passage. See: William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Matthew Chapter 7.

  • The Everest of Ethics (Matthew 7:12)
  • The Golden Rule of Jesus (Matthew 7:12 continued)
  • Life at the Crossroads (Matthew 7:13-14)
  • The False Prophets (Matthew 7:15-20)

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QUESTION: What about premarital sex?

What does the Bible say about premarital sex? What did Jesus say?

Beginning Answer

Jesus speaks of a list of humankind’s habits of life in which sexual immorality is mentioned. The term “sexual immorality” is the word fornication and means “sexual intercourse” outside of the marriage relationship. Jesus’ list can be seen in the Gospel of Mark at 7.20-23.

In the New Testament book of Galatians written by Paul, he also writes a list of humankind’s habits of life, which are not pleasing to God. They are called the “works of the flesh.” (Gal. 5.19-21) The first three “works” and the last one comment on sexuality.

Sexual Sins

  • Sexual immorality: Sexual intercourse outside the marriage relationship (Illustration: 1 Cor. 5.1ff). Intercourse outside marriage breaks down the stability of a family. The word “adultery” found in the KJV does not appear in reliable manuscripts.
  • Impurity: The general word for immoral activity that shuts a person off from God’s presence. The opposite lifestyle is found in Matthew 5.8 where Jesus says that God will bless those who have a pure heart. One could translate “pure in heart” as “with no ulterior motives. Those empowered people will have continued fellowship with God. It is fair to say that our motives should be adjusted to God’s motives. This is a change of Story, for the story we live into God’s Story.
  • Debauchery: This means a lack of restraint. A love for sin is so reckless that the one sinning has ceased to care what God or man thinks of his/her actions. No attempt is made to hide the sin; it is committed in the open (1 Pet. 4.3; Jude 4). Debauchery shocks public civility. It does not care what God or people think.
  • Orgies: Sexual orgies were characteristic of pagan worship.

I trust this answer will help in your ongoing discovery process.

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QUESTION: What about sex before marriage?

Where in the Bible does it say that it is a sin to have sex before marriage?

Beginning Answer

Sex is an important part of life. It should not come as any surprise that sex attracts a lot of interest and raises many questions. Your question suggests that there might be a verse somewhere in Scripture that answers the question. Scripture, however, is not a list of rules and regulations, but a story about the love of a Creator God who has the best in mind for his creation.
The common word for sex before marriage in the NT is porneia. It occurs 26 times in the NT and is translated by different English words in different translations (fornication in the KJV and sexual immorality in the NIV). Its usual meaning is to participate in sexual intercourse outside marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 6.18, Paul exhorts the members of the Corinthian church to flee from sexual immorality (porneia) after telling them that having sex with a prostitute (i.e., having sex with one with whom a person is not married) is not acceptable behavior for a believer.

There is probably a lot of preachy stuff out there about the subject of premarital sex, which is a great turn off to those who are struggling with their sexual appetites. It may be well to remember that those who call themselves believers in Christ are called to live by a different standard of life than those who are not believers. When faced with a situation of having sex with a partner to whom you are not married, you might ask yourself the question: If Jesus were you in that very situation, how would he act?

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QUESTION: Does the Bible speak about an open marriage?

Since marriage only allows two people to get married. I would like to know if the Bible’s opinion of open marriages and engaging in homosexuality while in a marriage? I think that if anyone can not be committed to one person, they shouldn’t get married.

Beginning Answer

The ancient world in the age of the New Testament had open marriages. The male was married, had concubines, and visited prostitutes. However, the New Testament text offers a different way of viewing marriage, a different Story to live into, if you please, one woman with a man or one man with a woman at a time. It seems clear that Scripture does not allow for any same-sex relationships in or out of marriage. Read First Corinthians and Romans (especially the first couple of chapters) for Paul’s thoughts on the subject of same-sex sexual relationships.

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QUESTION: What about Nudity?

I read an article by the Catholic Pope recently, in which he concludes that while lust may be associated with nudity, nudity in itself is not wrong. The basis for his conclusions seemed to derive from the fact that Adam and Eve were created nude and were declared at the same time, to be ‘very good.’ I agree! I have seen beautiful works of art, which depict nudity (e.g. Goya’s ‘The Nude Maja’), and have not felt the need to lust. Being a normal male person with a pulse, however, I have indeed felt sexually aroused by images of nudity that I have seen in the media. To deal with this problem, I consulted with several of my male Christian acquaintances as to what to do. They all told me that I needed to avoid looking at such images so as not to be tempted to lust. However, most of them have since fallen over by getting involved in pornography and the like. In response, I have adopted a different strategy. Instead of just trying to avoid being tempted, I have made it my practice to go out of my way to meet sexy looking females, for example, so that I can practice a multiple of mental routines aimed at disciplining my natural tendencies to become aroused and lust after them. I do the same thing with images depicting female nudity. While the process was difficult at first and I did fall over a few times in the beginning, it is all second nature to me now. I no longer feel ill at ease and sexually tempted by exotic looking girls, or images of them, regardless as to how undressed they might appear. I am now regarded with considerable suspicion and disdain by many in my congregation, however, who see me as being engaged in a sinful process. I am not convinced, however. The strategy that I have used, works a lot better than the “hear no evil, see no evil” type of approach that was first recommended to me. As far as I can see, all I have been doing is practicing how not to lust in the face of temptation, to build up an immunity against my natural tendencies to be tempted by female beauty and sexuality. I cannot find anything in Scripture that says that it is wrong to talk to good-looking women (especially if I am doing so to be accomplished at not lusting after them), or as per the Pope’s view, that there is nothing wrong with nudity in itself (once again – especially if I am using images of it to practice not being tempted or improperly influenced by it). What do you think?

Beginning Answer

It is fair to point out that when humankind was created, they were nude. But, when they disobeyed God’s only commandment, they discovered their nudity and their response was to cover it up and God later confirmed their solution by providing clothes for them. The inference here may be that in their fallen state that nudity would lead to more problems in their lives than they were presently facing. This seems to play itself out in that in the business of religious systems in the ancient world, nudity played a significant part in their worship life and these rituals were condemned by Judaism.

God seems to suggest, in his action of providing clothes, that it is important to have a social relationship where body parts are not the object of being social. One story of interest in the New Testament was the demonized person in the cemetery who was nude when he approached Jesus and after he was released from his demons, he set clothed and in his right mind. One must ask why Jesus didn’t leave the man nude.

It appears that nudity is not a biblically socially acceptable practice.

I don’t think that if you could ask the Pope about your interpretation of what he said about nudity that he would have come to your present strategy. He would not acquiesce that what he meant or what you have interpreted that he meant in the article you read as the same thing. You might want to ask yourself WPDI (Would the Pope Do It)?

Living in God’s Story means living in a story that has a different character about it. So, I would suggest that you should keep your clothes on, keep the clothes on those “good- looking” women you are meeting, keep your pants zipped, and ask for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help you overcome your present practices.

Well, there’s what I think!

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QUESTION: What is the meaning of the kingdom of God?

Beginning Answer

There are two ways to understand the concept of the kingdom of God.

  1. Realm: Kingdom is normally understood as a realm over which a king rules. A modern-day example of this idea was the United Kingdom, which was made up of many nations: Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, etc. People live in the Kingdom (a place) and are subjects of the King or Queen who exercises his or her authority over his or her subjects.
  2. Reign-Rule: Another way to view the idea of the kingdom is found in its dictionary definition: “The reign or rule a king has over his subjects.” This definition is closer to the primary meaning of the He-brew and Greek words than the concept of realm. In Hebrew, the word for Kingdom is malkut (mal-coot). The Greek word is basileia (bah-see-lay-a).

It is the meaning of the first concept above that the sacred text to which the New Testament gives preference.

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QUESTION: What is the biblically defined role of a pastor?

What is the actual biblically defined role of a pastor and why do they so often gravitate to perform-ing duties similar to an Old Testament priest?

Beginning Answer

This is a fascinating question. The word pastor only appears once in a list in Ephesians 4.11 and there it is combined with Teacher. There are not five gifts mentioned by Paul in this passage, only four. The Greek prohibits the understanding of five gifts in the so-called “five-fold ministry.” In some circles, this idea makes for “good preaching” and so it is taught, but in my opinion, it is theologically unsound preaching and just plain ignorance of the original language. Okay, enough ranting!

The role of pastor has evolved from the New Testament church that did not have pastors as we have in the church today. There was no such thing as a “professional” pastor in the New Testament era. The beginning of pastoring as such began to take place early after the New Testament books were written, which was early in the second century. It evolved into the priesthood in the Roman tradition and when Luther broke with the church, he continued the tradition of pastor/priest.

The Biblical concept of church governance and the modern concept of church governance are opposites. Only in the last few hundred years have we evolved into corporate churches with CEOs dressed in cleric robes.

If we were true to our calling as the people of God, everyone would get to play, i.e., minister as God has called and placed his blessing on a time of ministry. As an example, you may witness to someone who becomes a believer and you have a pool in your back yard. You could feel free to take the new convert and baptize him or her. I wonder how the New Testament got along without buildings, places within the building to baptize folks, and pastors whose duty it is to do the baptizing.

Of course, the idea of being a shepherd is impregnated within the Story of God. It has found its expression in different cultures in different ways. As usual, we have to try and sort out what we see in a culture and how we practice our beliefs as sometimes two different things. Not exactly bad, just different. What often happens is that we take a practice that has a theological backdrop and then sanctions it as the biblical way of expression. Then, endless arguments occur. I can hear the resistance. But, there need to be some boundaries, does just anything go? Sure, there are boundaries, but, they are just broader than we would like to admit.

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QUESTION: What is the function of elders?

Does the N.T. make a distinction between elders and pastors? What would be a good understanding of the function of elders in a local church? Part of what I’m trying [to] see is what could be the appropriate boundaries for elders. Is this more situational and relational than doctrinal? Can you direct me to the material I can read to gain a better understanding of the role and function of elders?

Beginning Answer

Elders (presbuteroi pres-bu-ter-oi) formed the governing body of the Jewish congregations. The Jerusalem church under James was likely modeled after this pattern.[ref] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 285.[/ref] This word does not appear in Paul’s writings before 1, 2 Timothy, or Titus.

New Testament specialists usually believe that the Jerusalem church, under the leadership of James, was patterned after the synagogue with elders in leadership. If that is so, there is a direct tie to the apostles that would show continuity for this form of government as being the correct one. One may arrive at this conclusion if the presupposition is held that unity means conformity. Unity does not have to be regimented conformity. Both unity and diversity appear in Scripture. If unity and diversity are understood as a motif in Scripture, then there may have been two different styles of systems of government in the church. One may be called a Pauline functional type that was charismatic. The other might be called an institutional style moving from function to form by the time of the Pastoral Letters. It has been suggested that the authorship of the letters to Timothy and Titus was an edited Paul, which leaned toward an institutional approach of church government that had developed by the time of the editing. What is more important than the authorship of these letters is what they teach.

The letters written to Timothy and Titus may be the first illustrations of progressive institutionalizing, which has affected every modern movement of spiritual renewal, usually in the second or third generation. By the time of Timothy and Titus, the freshness of the renewal experiences, which brought the movement about, had hardened into rigid set forms. The second and third-generation leaders may have been less creative and sensitive toward the Spirit. They began to treat the experiences of the founding fathers as faith. The teaching and experience of the founders become the sacred words, hallowed heritage, which is to be preserved, guarded, and handed on, but never re-visited or reinterpreted. The present becomes only a channel whereby the religion of the past can be transmitted for the next generation in good order. The vitality of the founders usually disappears and the second generation tries what is not possible, to live out the past experience in the present. This has not fully happened in the letters to Timothy and Titus, but the processes are well-advanced and possibly irreversible.[ref] Dunn., 349-350. [/ref]

When Paul speaks of the work of associates and individuals within the New Testament Church, he consistently avoids these words.[ref] Dunn., 285.[/ref]

With only one exception (Phil. 1.1), Paul never addresses a single group of leaders or a specific class of people as the ones responsible to organize or provide for the spiritual well-being of others over whom they give oversight. The letter to the Corinthians would have been a perfect place for Paul to give specific directions to an individual leader or a group of leaders to solve the significant problems within the church. The fact that there was not such an individual leader or group of leaders may be a blunt implication that if leadership was going to be required, the Spirit would have to provide it.[ref]Dunn.[/ref]

The point is that there does not appear to be a hierarchical system of church government appointed by Paul in the Corinthian church or any of his churches to which he could appeal for help in solving the problems. Paul was the leader of the church, but the instructions he wrote were given by the Spirit to the whole church to help them correct the problem.[ref]Winn Griffin, Spiritual Gifts for Boneheads, 44-45. This was the original attempt and was used as teaching student notes. Its final version is in book form entitled: Gracelets: Being Conduits of the Extravagant Acts of God’s Grace v1.5.[/ref]

I have also found Arthur G. Patzia’s The Emergence of the Church: Context, Growth, Leadership & Worship[ref]Arthur G. Patzia, The Emergence of the Church: Context, Growth, Leadership & Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).[/ref] useful with this kind of question.

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QUESTION: What about Apocalyptic Literature?

I was wondering what you thought the value that apocalyptic literature holds in today’s society and how it has been used in church history. Also, do you think that there are any dangers associated with engaging in these texts?

Beginning Answer

In my online study of the book of Revelation entitled: “Decoding the Apocalypse,” I devote a session to Apocalyptic Literature called “Apocalyptic What?” The following is that session that can be found at “Decoding the Apocalypse” Apocalypt What?

When I was a kid, I used to sit with my dad and listen to baseball games in the cool of his barbershop in the blistering heat of Florida summers. In our neck of the woods, we could only get Yankee games (that’s the NY Yankees for those of you that are not familiar with American baseball). I would sit, listen, and try to imagine what it was like to be in the park watching Mickey Mantle play.

Often, I would hear the announcer say that the batter was looking to the third base coach for a sign. I had no idea what that meant because I had never seen a live baseball game, even a high school game, at that point in my life.

Some years later after my folks bought the first TV in the little Southern community that I lived in and we finally were able to receive something besides “snow” and an occasion signal, I saw my first major league game.

Then, I understood what signs were, but did not understand what they meant. Baseball signs go back to the late 1800s when a deaf player named Dummy Hoy, certainly not a politically correct way of referring to someone today, requested the third base coach to raise his left hand to indicate a ball and his right hand to indicate a strike. As a deaf player, the pitchers were quick pitching him while he was asking the umpire if the previous pitch was a ball or a strike. So “signs” in baseball were born. They developed into some pretty sophisticated stuff over the years. The purpose: to keep the other team from knowing what is going on as the next possible play.

Ever listened to quarterbacks call plays? They are in code. The players with the code in hand understand what is going to happen; the opposite team, well, they are left to guess what’s coming.

When I was serving in the military in the US Air Force, I had a Top Secret clearance. We would get coded messages and someone had to decode them. If you read the original message, you would not know about what was being said. You needed the codebook to help understand it.

It is fair to say, that different areas of life have different codes and we have all kinds of codes that we read. We can understand them because we have the code to understand them.

In the first session of Revelation, we spoke (wrote) briefly about the genre of literature of the book we call Revelation. It is Apocalyptic Literature, and it is early-coded material. If we try to read it as the Left Behind writers have done, along with hundreds of other authors trying to decipher the text, without giving due attention to what the possible codes are, we will surely misread it, misunderstand it, misuse it, and often put words into the mouth of God that he never said and does not intend to say.

When I say “code,” I do not mean some mystical code hidden deep within the words of the book that requires you to have a magic formula to decode words every so often in the text wherein the real message of the text is hidden. I’m not talking about having some kind of urban-legend-decoder ring popular in USAmerica beginning in the 1930s. I am not talking about the rash of recent “code” books claiming to help us uncover “hidden” meaning in the text. These books all had Gnostic insiders feel to them.

Let me confess upfront. I don’t have the codebook. However, I do know something about the kind of literature that the book purports to be. If we get a grasp on that angle, we will have an easier time reading and understanding the text. The following may be helpful.

Why Apocalyptic Literature?

In the story of the Old Testament, we discover that Israel had an undefeated and indestructible hope that they were the chosen people of God (Gen. 12.1-9).

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

From Abraham forward, the Jews began to believe that they were destined to be the greatest nation in the world and would eventually have world supremacy because they were the people of God. Solomon was viewed as the apex of this nationalistic belief.

The Hebrew prophets of the eighth and seventh centuries BC still cherished the hope that Israel’s repentance and renewal would lead to the recovery of this lost ideal. The term day of the Lord, which denoted the desire for God to intervene and promote Israel to a superior place, was ever-present in the message of the prophets. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who were prophets of the Exile, believed that Israel would be restored and revived in her homeland. They believed that Israel, as a purified nation, would fulfill her appointed destiny in the world and she would have a new king from the family of David.

Prophetic hopes were nourished through the Babylonian Exile (586–536 BC). It was difficult for them to reconcile that they were God’s chosen people who were destined for world supremacy, but yet they were captive in a foreign land first by Assyria, then by Babylon, then Medo-Persia, and lat-er Rome, with only a brief respite during the Maccabean period.

Captivity and Exposure to Zoroastrianism (A Stimuli for the Hebrews)

Added to this onset of pessimism and rejection was the contact that Israel had in the Exile with some ideas of Iranian religion. This ancient form of Persian Zoroastrianism taught:

  • A cosmic struggle between good and evil.
  • A hope of the sudden arrival of a god on the earth.
  • Resurrection and judgment of all men.
  • A world destroyed by fire.
  • A final victory of a god with a new beginning of world history.

The Restoration Period showed a rise in this kind of literature, (Ezek. 40-48; Daniel 7-12; and Zech. 1-14).

The Intervention of God (Intertestamental / Second Temple Judaism)

When one lives with expectations, but finds no resolution for the expectations, a feeling can often rise that nothing can be done about the present situation. This happened to Israel during this long period. They believed that God must intervene in human affairs and fulfill his promises to them as a nation. They still held the conviction that their destiny was to be the greatest nation, which would afford them world supremacy, but they discovered that they had to adjust to the present situation.

The Development of Time

In this segment of their history, the Jews developed a belief about how time occurred. How were their expectations going to play out and be fulfilled? How could they understand where they were in God’s plan. From this period of turmoil in their national history, they developed the following way of thinking about time.

  • The Present Age: The present age was wholly and totally bad. It was beyond redemption and could not be transformed. There was only one way out: total destruction. The Jews waited for the end of all things as they were.
  • The Age to Come: The age to come was wholly and totally good and righteous. It was the Golden Age in which God would be in charge. In this age, God’s chosen people would at last be vindicated. They would receive their rightful place in world history. Out of this development of their concept of time arose an obvious question: How was the present age to become the future age?
  • The Transition: What was the transition? The transition would be when God would blast the Present Age out of existence. The day when God would come to destroy the present age was called the day of the Lord.
  • The Day of the Lord: The day of the Lord would be a terrible time of terror, destruction, and judgment. During this time, things, as they are, would be totally destroyed. The day of the Lord would be the birth pangs of the new age to come. Apocalyptic Literature is set within the background of these events: the Present Age, which is evil; the Transition Period, which is the day of the Lord; and the Age to Come, which would be the Golden age of good with God in charge.

What is Apocalyptic Literature?

Apocalyptic Literature is literature, which is composed of dreams and visions. There are five features, which historically mark most examples of Apocalyptic Literature.

  1. Visionary Experience. The visionary experience of the seer would announce the content of his message, which was usually conveyed in an extended dialogue between himself and a heavenly counterpart (e.g., Zech. 1.18f.; 4.1). The writer is visibly overcome by the situation, which meets him, usually the encounter with a heavenly reality. He may fall into a trance, or lie prostrate on the ground, or manifest great agitation in his spirit.
  2. Ancient Names. The use of ancient names like Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and Ezra to conceal the identity of the seer is a common device, which leads to the description of Apocalyptic Literature as pseudonymous, though there was no intention on the writer’s part to deceive the reader.
  3. Dualistic. The present struggle between God’s people on earth and their enemies is unequal because of the cosmic setting of the real conflict. Their thought is dualistic. They see the earth-ly struggle of the Jewish people in light of the great rivalry between God and his enemy, Sa-tan, or Belial, or Mastema, or Azazel. The ultimate victory of God is assuredly predetermined.
  4. Symbolic Language. Because the setting of the apocalyptic literature is other-worldly, it is natural that the language used is symbolic and dramatic. Angels and demons are the contest-ants. They engage one another through the medium of mythological and zoological figures, such as dragons, monsters, members of the animal kingdom, and species of reptiles.
  5. Hope and Encouragement. The apocalyptic writer addressed a message of hope and encouragement to his readers as well as a call for patience in the interim between the dark present and the glorious future.


It needed to be cryptic, i.e., use symbols and pictures. There was a continual attempt to describe the indescribable, to say the unseeable, and to paint the unpaintable.

Why Cryptic?

The more tyranny, the more vengeance one wanted! The more held down, the hotter the vision of deliverance. Events were written in code. They were deliberately couched in language, which was unintelligible to an outsider. Many events will remain covered because the code is lost.

It would appear that the more you know about the historical background and the situation of such books, the better you can interpret and grasp their meaning.

A Listing of Jewish Apocalypses

The Book of Enoch contains visions of world history and the history of Israel, from the time of Enoch to the present-day, and looks toward the impending end. The Sibylline Oracles were written in Greek by a Hellenistic Jewish apologist who was thought to imitate the pagan oracles. The Ascension of Isaiah has a definite Christian character and contains a prediction of the prophet’s death, being sawed in two. The Assumption of Moses was written originally in Aramaic but extant only in a Latin translation of an earlier Greek translation. Moses is portrayed as predicting the history of Israel from the time of the entry into Canaan to the time of the writing. The Apocalypse of Baruch contains a discussion on the problem of suffering and evil and provides an answer: the present evil age will soon pass from existence and the Messianic age will come. Fourth Ezra records seven visions given to Ezra in Babylon. It contains much imagery and phraseology that appear in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Revelation.

  • Book of Enoch. Known as 1 Enoch or Ethiopic Enoch, dating from c. 170 BC and follow-ing. It contains visions of world history and the history of Israel, from the time of Enoch to the present-day, and looks toward the impending end. It is by far the most important of the non-biblical apocalypses. Read the Book of Enoch here.
  • The Sibylline Oracles. Written in Greek by a Hellenistic Jewish apologist who was thought to imitate the pagan oracles. Words are put into the mouth of a prophetess named Sibyl who is identified as Noah’s daughter-in-law, who purports to predict the course of world history and the coming of the Messianic age with its peace and prosperity. Read The Sibylline Oracles here.
  • The Ascension of Isaiah. It has a definite Christian character and contains a prediction of the prophet’s death by being sawed in two. Read The Ascension of Isaiah here.
  • The Assumption of Moses. It was written originally in Aramaic but extant only a Latin translation or an earlier Greek translation. Its date is somewhere between AD 6-30. Moses is portrayed as predicting the history of Israel from the time of the entry into Canaan to the time of the writing. The book centers on the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes (169-164 BC) and has a pronouncement concerning the coming Kingdom of God and the end of the world. Read The Assumption of Moses here.
  • The Apocalypse of Baruch. This book is closely related to 2 Ezra’s dating (AD 100-130). It contains a discussion on the problem of suffering and evil and provides an answer: the present evil age will soon pass from existence and the Messianic age will come. Read The Apocalypse of Baruch here.
  • Fourth Ezra. This book is a mixture of Jewish and Christian thoughts. Dating AD 90-100, it records seven visions given to Ezra in Babylon. It contains much imagery and phraseology, which appears in the NT, especially in the book of Revelation. Read Fourth Ezra here.

Christian Apocalypse: REVELATION

The book of Revelation was written using the pattern of two ages (the Present Evil Age and the Age to Come) with a Transition period (the day of the Lord). The major difference between the Jewish and Chris-tian Apocalyptic is the Second Coming in Revelation is often thought to equal the day of the Lord in Jewish Apocalyptic writings. I think the genre of the text needs to be understood and interpreted within the boundaries of the kind of literature it is. Like all literature, if you don’t know what kind it is, poetry, narrative, etc., you might discover that when reading it you might come to a different conclusion than the author’s intent because you do not know what kind of literature he/she is using to convey the message to the reader/listener.

I would encourage you to look at: Decoding the Apocalypse here.

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QUESTION: Who was crucified upside down?

Beginning Answer

It is believed that some of the apostles met their death in such a way. Peter is the most notable. However, the death of the apostles is not recorded in Scripture (except James) and we find our information from the writers in the early church of the following centuries. You might check an encyclopedia or a Bible Dictionary under each of the twelve disciples’ names to discover what church historians say about their deaths.

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QUESTION: Did Women Sing in the Sanctuary?

During the Bible days, did women sing in the sanctuary?

Beginning Answer

I am unclear by what you mean by the sanctuary. If you are thinking about the Old Testament, I’m not aware of anywhere that the subject is addressed. If you are using sanctuary as another word for church in the New Testament, we must realize that they had no church buildings to meet in. They met in homes.

I would say that in the church (and I don’t mean building) that Paul’s injunction in Galatians 3.28 that in God’s new creation, the church, there is neither male nor female, that singing by both male and female would be acceptable. There is no prohibition against women worshiping or ministering in the NT that I am aware of.

If you are interested, here is a talk that I shared about women in ministry.

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QUESTION: Will there be any pets in heaven?

Do you know in scripture where it supports that pets and animals will be in heaven?

Beginning Answer

I know of no Scripture that suggests that pets or animals will be in heaven. Animals are real in Scripture as well as often used as metaphors. One has to be careful not to build a theology around a metaphor as something that is factual. So when Scripture says that outside the New Jerusalem there are dogs (Rev. 22.15), the author is not referring to real dogs. This is a metaphor as shown by who these “dogs” are.

One further comment. There is a misconception in popular theology that when a Christian dies, he/she goes to heaven. Scripture does not teach such. It is almost completely silent on the subject. The best we should say is that eternity begins when a person meets Jesus in this present evil age. Eternal life continues after we leave this body. N. T. Wright is fond of saying that there is life after life after death. There is a point in the future when the resurrection occurs and believers inherit their resurrected body; between physical death and resurrection, Scripture has little to say. One thing is clear: there is nothing in Scripture that supports a “free spirit” without a body after physical death. At some point in the future, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. That is where eternity’s future will be played out.

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QUESTION: Where in the Bible did God appear as an angel?

Beginning Answer

I am not aware of any place where God appeared as an angel. Below is part of an article on angels in the OT from Dictionary of Paul and His Letters that might be helpful.

Angels in the OT and Judaism.

Although angels are frequently called “sent ones” in the OT, they may also be referred to as “holy ones,” “sons of gods,” “sons of God,” “hosts,” “ministers,” or in certain instances, they may be given the title “commander,” Josh 5:14. Angels in the OT appear as messengers or representatives of the heavenly world, frequently sent by Yahweh himself. They are part of the created order and serve God’s purposes, assisting and carrying out important transactions be-tween God and humans, but primarily between God and Israel. They mediate revelation (2 Kings 1:3), come to the assistance of individuals (Gen 16:9), are associated with manifestations of Yahweh (Gen 18; 32:1), serve as part of the heavenly council (Ps 89:6-9), and make up the heavenly army (Deut 33:2; Zech 1:11). An angel is sent to accompany and direct Israel through the wilderness journey (cf. Ex 23:23 and Ex 33:2), and an angel brings judgment against Jerusalem (2 Sam 24:16). In visionary and apocalyptic settings, angels take on more distinct roles as manlike figures who guide the seer within visions and serve as interpreters (Ezek 40:3; Zech 1:7-17). In Daniel, angels take on a variety of roles, the most notable being that of the great archangel Michael, the protector of Israel (Dan 10:13; 12:1).

The title “angel of the Lord” seems to refer to an angel of rank or stature who carries out special missions for Yahweh. Such an angel appears to Moses in the flaming bush (Ex 3:2), leads Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise (cf. Josh 5:13-15 and Judg 2:1-5), and appears to Gideon (Judg 6:11) at an hour of crisis.

Jewish texts outside the OT testify to an expanded understanding of the nature and role of angels in some sectors of Second Temple Judaism. Much of this was simply an extension and development of what was to be found in the OT. Angels protect individuals (1 Enoch 100:5), execute judgment (1 Enoch 56:1-8), act as heavenly scribes (Jub 1:27-29), populate the heavenly court (1 Enoch 14:18-24), take part in the heavenly liturgy (1 Enoch 61:9-13; 4Q400-407 ([Song of Sabbath Sacrifice in the Dead Sea Scrolls]), come to the aid of Israel in warfare (3 Macc. 6:18-21), are differentiated by rank and name (1 Enoch 61:10; 2 Enoch 20; T. Levi 3), and guide heavenly visions and interpret mysteries (1 Enoch 17-36). One notable new development is the notion of two opposing forces of angelic powers: a force of good angels led by God or an archangel, and a force of evil angels led by an evil angelic power known as Sa-tan, Mastema, or Belial. [ref]Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 20-21[/ref]

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QUESTION: Do you use the KJV of the Bible?

Beginning Answer

I only use the KJV on occasion in my study. I primarily use the New International Version or the New Revised Standard Version.

  • The Facts on the King James Only Debate by John Ankerberg and John Weldon [ref]John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the King James Only Debate (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996).[/ref]
  • The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by D.A. Carson [ref]D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1978).[/ref]
  • King James Only Controversy, The: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by James R. White [ref]James R. White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Ada, MI: Bethany Publishing Group, 1995).[/ref]
  • How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions by Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss [ref] Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2007) [/ref]

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QUESTION: What does the Bible say about physical appearances and obsession with plastic surgery?

I will be giving my first teaching to a group of women at a day retreat. I feel I need to speak about our “obsession with outer beauty” and plastic surgery. What does the Bible say about physical appearances and obsession with plastic surgery?

Beginning Answer

Scripture does not take on every topic that might affect modern humankind. Proverbs 31 does cite some information about the virtue of a wife. I’m not sure that we can apply that to every female by extension. One might point to the women who emerge as spouses in the Bible—” Sarah, Rachel, Ruth, Mary—are known to us solely by their godly and virtuous character, and not at all by physical appearance. However, this observation is not the primary teaching of their stories.

Plastic Surgery is not a new phenomenon. Written evidence cites medical treatment for facial injuries more than 4,000 years ago. Physicians in ancient India were utilizing skin grafts for reconstructive work as early as 800 BC However, progress in plastic surgery, like most medicine, moved glacially for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the specialty forged ahead both scientifically and within the medical establishment in both Europe and the United States. America’s first plastic surgeon of note was Dr. John Peter Mettauer, who was born in Virginia in 1787. The colorful Dr. Mettauer performed the first cleft palate operation in the New World in 1827 with instruments he designed himself.

One might want to talk about self-image in this case. It is not necessary to have Bible verses to support or prove one’s point of view. Scripture was not created by God to prove anything. We, however, want to use it to prove everything. One might go through the Song of Songs and see the fascination of the husband with the outer beauty of his wife.

Of course, this may all be moot now for the above-mentioned occasion if it has already passed.

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QUESTION: Son of God and Son of Man

In the book of Mark, Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of God.” In the middle of chapter 9, Jesus then uses the term “Son of Man.” What prompts this change in His reference, and can you describe the difference between these two titles? I have a good understanding but am having trouble putting it into words for our small group setting. Thanks!

Beginning Answer

In popular writing and thinking, “Son of God” is usually thought to reference the divinity of Jesus while “Son of Man” represents his humanity. Gallons of ink have been spilled over this topic. It is difficult to summarize. So let me say, to begin with, the above simplification does not seem to hold theological water. Most likely “Son of God” in some way identified Jesus with God but never came from the mouth of Jesus speaking of himself. It was a designation of another about Jesus. On the other hand, “Son of Man” seems to be Jesus’ own designation of himself. The “Son of Man” designation is more likely to mean within the context of Second Temple Judaism, a god-man who will come to deliver God’s people from their bondage.

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QUESTION: Chronological Bible

I am interested in locating a Bible online that is chronological. We were discussing psalm 26 and we questioned when it was written versus David’s sin?

Beginning Answer

I have a chronological outline on my web site. In addition, I have written a book: God’s EPIC Adventure,[ref]Griffin, GEA.[/ref] which follows a chronological concept of the story presented in the Bible.

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QUESTION: How long do I live?

Where in the Bible does it state how long God has given us to live and how long is it?

Beginning Answer

There is no clear indication of the “exact” time of life. Some folks read Genesis 6.3 “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years’” as a literal time frame for life. It is more likely the time delay that allowed the people to repent before the flood actually occurred.

There seems to be ample evidence that in the post-flood, the recorded ages steadily decline (Jacob: 110 years, Gen. 50.26; Moses: 120 years, Deut. 34.7; Joshua. 110 years, Jos.. 24.29; only Aaron exceeds 120 years and lived till 123 years of age, Num. 33.39).

Psalm 90.10 indicates that life is still shorter:

Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

The question might be framed as follows: In the amount of time that God has allowed me on this earth, how much of it will I use for ministry to the world around me?

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QUESTION: What about Spiritual Gifts?

Who receives the gifts of the Spirit?

The following conversation was posted on my blog on Friday, May 09, 2003, and were the results of the questioner reading a set of bulletin inserts that I had written on the topic of Spiritual Gifts.


You said that the Holy Spirit does not give all the spiritual gifts to every believer and I can believe that regarding the corporate setting of the church. That is where the office of giftings flows. However, John Wimber taught us that the Holy Spirit has all gifts, and if we are a believer we have the Holy Spirit inside us and He can work and manifest all of the gifts through us. When you say the Holy Spirit only gives out the gifts to those whom he chooses, are you talking about office gifts for the corporate church setting and not the individual’s personal giftings for daily living?

Beginning Answer

I believe that “when the church comes together” that God gives gifts as he desires for the edification of the church gathered. The answer to each of the questions posed by Paul at the end of 1 Cor. 12 is “No” within the context of “when the church comes together.” Therefore in that context, one person will not receive all the gifts, and may not receive any gift during that period. Paul is dealing with a limited problem (the abuse of tongues) and providing a solution for the Corinthian church at that point.

I agree with John’s point that the Holy Spirit can flow any gift he desires through us. I do not believe at this point in my journey that we “have” gifts in the sense that we can discover them, develop them, and deploy them. I believe the gifts reside in the Holy Spirit and we are the conduits through which they flow. The one to whom the gift is given receives the gift. As an example, I do not believe that anyone has the “gifts of healings” as a resident/constituted gift to use at will. I do believe that when I am praying for a person to be healed that God, at his will, can flow a gift of healing through me to the person being prayed for and she or he receives the gift of healing.

I do not understand what you mean by “where the office of giftings flows.” I don’t believe that there are office gifts for the corporate church setting vs. personal giftings for daily living. One is only a pastor when he or she is pastoring. As an example, you may call yourself Pastor of a Vineyard, but this is a modern idea, not a biblical one. You and others may pastor the people that identify with the Vineyard in your community as God sends the gift of pastoring through you and they receive it.


The Late John Wimber was my pastor for ten years in Anaheim. I understand God giving gracelets for pastoring or teaching your own family or a kinship of believers and there is a much more powerful gracelet needed for the office of pastor or teacher to a flock of a 100 or 1000 for sure.

Beginning Answer

Again, I don’t believe in a constituted gift of pastor. John himself was fond of saying that he was a pastor when he was pastoring, and elder when he was elding, etc. The structure of the church today is far removed from the structure/formation of the church in the New Testament. There was no hierarchical structure there. We have inherited our structures from the Roman Catholic Church through Martin Luther, not from any biblical idea. What the Roman Catholics and Martin Luther brought to bear turned into a corporate business at the turn of the twentieth-first century. In America, we need to rethink our concept of church. We are so prone to think about “going” rather than “being” the church for the sake of the world.


Do you believe that all believers can receive the gift of tongues for their personal edification? I think that one who gives a corporate prayer tongue should be able to interpret it also if he is going to give it in a corporate church setting, therefore the office of ministry through tongues to the church in the corporate setting has a much higher grace requirement. Is this what you are talking about? I was taught by John Wimber and teach it in my church that all new believers can receive the gift of tongues as a personal prayer language between them and God. Can you help me with this question?

Beginning Answer

I believe that the term “praying in the spirit” in Paul’s books is a technical term that includes praying in tongues (what today has often been called “prayer language”). Praying in the Spirit would be open to any believer. I do not believe that this is the gift of tongues that Paul refers to in the Corinthian letters. I believe that a person can be used by God with the gift of tongues in a worship service even one who has never spoken in tongues as a prayer language (praying in the spirit) before and may never speak in tongues again. The text is clear that one who speaks in tongues is speaking to God, not to men and women. He or she is not required to interpret only to pray for the interpretation if there is not another who gives the interpretation. I believe that the interpretation of tongues is a Godward message, not a manward message. Tongues and interpretation are not equal to prophesy except in edification value. We must remember that Paul is not teaching the church at Corinth about tongues, he is correcting them in their abuse of this gift “when the church was gathered together.” I would resist talking about “office” gifts. The two lists in 1 Corinthians 12 (as well as other places like Ephesians and 1 Peter) are just lists. There are no more important or less important gifts. Lists in the New Testament are representative, not complete. That is to say that the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 (and elsewhere) are the only representative of the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, not a complete list of all the “gifts” that the Holy Spirit will ever or could ever give.

If I have not been clear in trying to answer the questions you asked, we can continue the conversation, if you wish to do so.

↑ Back to Questions

QUESTION: Are there any stories in the Bible about the cleanliness of the environment

I want to locate Bible stories or passages that talk about the cleanliness of the environment.

Beginning Answer

The basic story of creation (Genesis 1.1-2.4a) suggests that humankind is responsible for the creation. I am not aware of any specific stories that relate to this rather modern issue.

As an additional thought: Passages of scripture pulled from their context to support issues is not a proper use of Scripture. Scripture comes in a historical context to solve the problems of ancient people. While it still has a message to us today, it does not address all of the modern concerns that we may bring to it. I am often amazed at how we go to the Bible to find “support” for some ideas that we have. God did not answer all the questions that humankind could ask in his storybook.

↑ Back to Questions

QUESTION: What does the word threescore mean? It is used in different ways?

threescore years | threescore silver | threescore people | threescore cubits

Beginning Answer

“Three scores” is an old way of saying sixty (60) or 3 x 20 (20 is a score). So your example would be 60 years, 60 silver, 60 people, 60 cubits.

↑ Back to Questions

QUESTION: Can you tell me where I can get an Englishman’s Concordance?

You may find the books you were looking for at the following address:

  • The Englishman’s Concordance of the Old Testament[ref] George V. Wigram, The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of Old Testament: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing 1996).[/ref] by George V. Wigram
  • The Englishman’s Concordance of the New Testament[ref] by George V. Wigram, The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of New Testament: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996).[/ref] by George V. Wigram

↑ Back to Questions

QUESTION: Where is that verse?

I’ve got a question that I can’t seem to find the answer to. About a year ago, I heard a verse that went like this, “The Joy of the Lord is my strength” (or something like that). There is also a song that has that in it. Can you tell me where in the Bible I can find that?

Beginning Answer

The verse is found in Nehemiah 8.10, which reads: Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The problem that you can surmise from the question asked is that the quote only points to part of the verse that is being searched out. Verses, as we have written elsewhere, were inserted into the text in the 1500s. They were inserted to help the scholarship of the day find text. It was with the ingeniousness of the Enlightenment that we Westerners have turned a “search” idea into a “quote” idea. Thus, we are often guilty of quoting a verse or only a part of a verse to the exclusion of the context it is found in. It is my opinion that this form of using the sacred text is not helpful and in reality, is harmful to the reader. We should become intentional about ridding ourselves of this spurious habit.

End of Session

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)