Pastor Dave Chambers
Genesis 4 begins with the story of Cain and Abel. The account is well known as the first murder in human history. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to God. Cain was a farmer and his offering was the fruit of his crops. Abel was a shepherd and his offering was a firstborn from his flock. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. Cain was very angry over his rejection and in the end murdered his brother. What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God?
Genesis says little about why God accepted Abel’s offering. In Genesis 4:7 God tells Cain, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” God’s assessment of Cain’s sacrifice was that Cain did not do good, but Genesis does not tell us in what way Cain erred.
Hebrews 11 adds a little insight to Abel’s sacrifice. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.” The reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice was because Abel made his offering “by faith”. The difference between Cain and Abel was faith.
Cain brought an offering to God. He obviously believed in God and believed God should be worshiped. Cain’s lack of faith was something other than doubt about the existence of God. The rest of Hebrews 11 describes faith as believing God’s Word to be true and obeying His commands. In some way Cain did not believe and obey God’s Word.
Hebrews 11:4 says that God spoke well of Abel’s gifts. This may suggest that the kind offering Abel brought was part of what made it acceptable to God. The description of Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering in Genesis 4 seems significant. Cain brought produce, Abel brought a sheep. The pattern of sacrifices found later in the Bible reveals that God required His people to offer animal sacrifices. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” While Genesis does not say that God commanded Cain and Abel offer animal sacrifices, maybe Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he did not obey God’s requirements for sacrifice.
In Genesis 3:15 God promised Adam and Eve He would send a deliverer who would rescue them from the horrors of sin. Maybe Abel was accepted because he believed God’s would send a deliverer and his offering was a reflection of his faith in God’s promise.
Possibly one of these suggestions is the correct answer. Possibly a combination of both. The Bible does not give a definite answer. Some questions cannot be fully answered with all the details we would like. The Bible clearly states that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he offered it by faith. Even today faith is required to come to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a reward of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Every year various natural disasters hit around the world. These tragedies, especially the ones in America, draw responses indicating that certain major disasters are the the judgment of God on the nation or the particular city. Are things liek hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes and terrorist attacks the judgment of God on a nation?
The Bible contains numerous specific accounts of destruction coming upon cities as part of the judgment of God, cities like Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Gomorrha and Jerusalem. The reason we know these disasters were the judgment of God is because the Bible tells us so. God did not tell us about other cities. He does not tell us about the tragedies that happen in cities today. A person cannot assume that a terrible event is the judgment of God on those people. Jesus speaks about this in Luke 13. A tower in the town of Siloam fell and killed eighteen men. Jesus asked the crowd, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” They were not judged for their wickedness. Jesus used their death to warn that judgment is coming upon all men.
The philosophy that disasters are God’s judgment is based upon an idea that believes God brings physical cursing upon those who do wrong and physical blessings to those who do good. In the Old Testament God promised Israel to bless the nation for her obedience and punish her for disobedience. Those promises were part of the Mosaic covenant made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai. They never applied to any other nation. Through the death of Christ God ushered in a New Covenant. The New Covenant included people from all nations of the world, not just Israel. In this New Covenant there is no promise of physical prosperity or tragedy. God has given no warning to bring natural disasters upon those who disobey Him.
The New Testament gives a list in Romans 1 of the judgments of God upon a nation. The judgments of God are an increase of sexual perversion, proliferation of homosexual behavior and the rise of all manner of violent, deceitful and hateful activities. The judgment of God on a nation is seen in the wickedness of its people. (Romans 1:24-32) God is not judging America for things like abortion and homosexuality. Those things, and many others, are the judgment of God upon America. Ultimately, God’s judgment on a nation is to leave it to itself, to let its people wallow in their own wickedness and destroy themselves in their depravity. God judges the nations that reject Him by giving them what they want. He leaves them to their own devices.
This does not mean that natural disasters are to be thought of as nothing more than geological or meteorological events. God is actively at work in the world. All natural disaasters are a part of His perfect plan. The heavens always declare the glory of God. The landscape always shows His handiwork. The sky declares God’s glory when it is blue and when it is black with tornadoes. God’s hand is seen when the earth is still and when it quakes violently. The hand of God that blesses and judges should be seen in all the events of the world.
God is the just judge who will one day perfectly and completely bring justice upon all sinners. The tragedies of this life warn of the need look ahead to the coming judgment and seek His mercy today.
Jesus told a parable about a widow who sought justice for her wrongs. She made her plea to a judge who cared nothing for justice. At first he would not give her a just ruling. She kept pestering him, troubling him over and over again until he finally heeded her pleas. Jesus taught this parable to show that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” In Matthew 6:8 Jesus says, “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask Him.” In the very next verse He taught the disciples how to pray. Why? Since God knows all things, including the needs of every person, the desires of the individual’s heart and the requests that will be made in prayer, why pray?
Christians pray because God commands it. The Bible assumes prayer will be a regular part of the believer’s life. The New Testament is filled with commands to pray. Throughout the apostle Paul’s letters God commands the church and the Christian to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 simply says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Prayer is commanded of God for His pleasure and for the benefit of the believer. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is his delight.” God has great pleasure in those who trust Him and rely on Him for their needs. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:11) Christians pray because it expresses their trust and hope in God which pleases Him.
Christian’s pray because it is a vital part of their spiritual preparation and readiness. The New Testament describes the praying Christian as a soldier on guard. Jesus warned Peter to “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” (Mark 14:38) 1 Peter 4:7 says, “Watch unto prayer.” Christians pray because prayer prepares them for the daily spiritual battles.
Christian’s pray because God has chosen to work through the prayers of His people. God does not need people to inform Him of needs, but He ordained that He would work in this world through prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:17) This is not because the righteous have secret power or that the right words will force God to do what the person wants. God always does His will. He has chosen to work His will through the prayer of His people. Christians pray because God accomplishes His plan through prayer.
John Calvin said, “Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.”
Homosexual marriage is an emotionally charged topic. The issue becomes even more difficult when someone you know and care about invites you to their same-sex marriage. Because a wedding invitation is usually received by those who are part of the lives of the people getting married, friends, family or neighbors, the invitation to a homosexual wedding creates many personal, emotional and relational dilemmas. Many Christians have been confronted with this question. Should Christian’s attend a homosexual wedding?
Marriage is clearly defined in the Bible. Marriage is not a social construct. People do not get married because the white, European churches decided marriage was a good idea. Marriage was created by God. Jesus said in Mark 10:6-8 that God created marriage in the Garden of Eden. God’s original work of creating male and female is not coincidental. He made them different to join them together in marriage. The two are made one flesh. The two, male and female, are joined together by God. Without two genders, male and female, there is no marriage. This is God’s idea.
The wedding functions as the public commitment to one another of the male and the female. In America the wedding serves a civil function by which the state recognizes a couple as joined together in matrimony. The civic function of the wedding is secondary to its moral function. Through the wedding the couple make known their commitment to one another. The solemnize their covenant before their friends, family and neighbors. The attenders at a wedding are not merely an audience, they act as witnesses to the oath.
For decades Christian wedding ceremonies have declared the importance of marriage. “Marriage is a sacred institution, the basis of human society, and should be held in high honor among men and women. We are assembled here in the presence of God, to join this man and this woman in holy marriage; which is instituted by God, regulated by His commandments and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.”
Since marriage is God’s institution, designed and ordered by Him for the good of all mankind, every Christian should be a staunch defender of Biblical marriage. Every Christian should oppose that which perverts God’s original design for marriage. No Christian should give support, even thought it only be implied, to homosexual marriage or to any other marriage contrary to God’s design.
Attendance at a wedding is more than just watching. Attendance honors the couple and celebrates their union. Can a Christian really honor a “marriage” that perpetrates perversion? Can the child of God celebrate the union of a woman and woman? Attendance at a wedding communicates support for the couple and their marriage. How can a Christian give the appearance of support to that which he knows God’s Word condemns?
Christians often feel pressured to show love to the unsaved homosexual by attending the wedding. The accusation is that it is not loving to refuse to attend a wedding. The opposite is true. Love refuses give support or encouragement to sin. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.” The correction of the righteous friend is a boon to the soul of men. Though it is painful it is helpful. The words of Leviticus 19:17 are especially pertinent, “Thou shalt not hate they brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” Not rebuking a brother or neighbor for his sin is a silent hatred. The loving Christian will confront sin, not sit in silent, implicit approval of the sin.
The real issues at stake are the truth of God’s Word, the integrity of marriage and the eternal soul of others. Sometimes the most compassionate thing a Christian can do for another is refuse to have any part in his sin.
October 31, 2017 is the five hundredth anniversary of one of the most significant events in church history. On October 31, 1517 day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg protesting the sale and abuse of indulgences. Though he did not intend to start a revolution Luther’s actions are considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian and Anglican churches came directly out of the reformation. From those churches sprang many more that have spread across the world.
The protestant reformation began as a protest against Roman Catholic errors that initially sought to bring reform to the Catholic church. When these reform efforts failed the reformers became leaders of protestant churches. The reformers boldly preached the Word of God and trained others to do the same. They rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the dogma of salvation through works and many other distinctly Catholic teachings. The reformation spread across Germany and Switzerland, into France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland. By the end of the 1500’s the Protestant church was fully established across much of Europe.
The roots of the Protestant Reformation can be found in the 14th and 15th centuries in men like John Huss and John Wycliffe who opposed the Roman Catholic Church. The 15th century brought an increased focus on the text of Scripture. Martin Luther studied the New Testament to learn how to become righteous. His reading of passages like Romans 1:17 and Galatians 2:16 led him to conclude that righteousness is received only through faith and that salvation is given only by the grace of God without any effort or merit on the part of the person.
At the same time Luther was protesting indulgences Ulrich Zwingli was leading a reformation movement in Zurich, Switzerland. He began to preach from Scripture, verse by verse, instead of following the church calendar. Soon his parishioners stopped observing Catholic rituals and in 1525 the city council of Zurich voted to abolish the Catholic mass. Ulrich Zwingli insisted that only those things taught in the Bible were to be practiced by Christians. He led his parishioners ot abandon many of the rituals and regulations that so influenced the lives of those living in Catholic Europe.
The Protestant Reformation sought to return to Biblical truth to find the answer to questions about the salvation of men and the authority of the church. The primary answers to these questions came to be summarized in five “only” statements. Salvation is only received through faith and not through any act of obedience or religious observance. Salvation is only by the grace of God not any works of men. Salvation only comes through Christ and there is no salvation in any one else. The only authority of the Christian life is the Word of God. God saves men for His glory and the Christian to live his life only for the glory of God.
Some have asserted that the presence of sin and suffering in this world are evidences that God is not perfect. His character and power must be flawed or else He would have created a perfect world free from all bad things. Some have suggested that the perfection of God is an idea brought in from western philosophy and is foreign to the Bible. What does the Bible teach about the perfection of God?
The angels in heaven praise God because He is “Holy, holy, holy”. The saints before the throne of God declare that God alone is holy. (Revelation 15:4) Believers in both Testaments are commanded, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The claim that God is holy can be found throughout the Bible. A holy thing is different from all other things, separate from all else and free from any corruption or contamination. God is unique, separate and sinless.
The Bible teaches that God is not the author of sin. He never tempts any one to sin, neither is He tempted to sin. (James 1:13). He does not approve of sin and He does not overlook sin. (Habukkuk 1:13) Sin is antithetical to everything that God is.
God’s perfection is such that all He does is free from sin and is exactly what He intends it to be. The creation account of Genesis 1 says repeatedly that God considered His work and saw “it was good.” God’s works are always what He desires them to be. This does not mean that God’s works are always what man would desire them to be. God’s work is always right, just and perfectly suited to His eternal purposes.
In Matthew 5 Jesus teaches what it means to be truly righteous. External, shallow righteousness is not real righteousness. Jesus concludes His teachings on righteousness by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” God is perfect, He never sins in word, thought, action, attitude or by accident. His perfection is a positive perfection. Not only does God not commit sin, He always does what is good, wise and best.
Perfection does not mean God does everything according to the way a majority of humans think it should be done. God’s perfection does not mean that this world is not broken and flawed. Creation suffers because of sin. God is not responsible for the suffering, sorrow and trouble of this life. The world man experiences right now is marred and distorted by the sin of man. Living man has not seen the perfect handiwork of the holy God.
God is perfect. Man’s ability to understand God has been shattered by sin. Though man may not be able to understand genuine perfection, God is eternally and entirely perfect.
Baptism is a ritual familiar to anyone who knows anything about Christianity. Various Christian groups have different beliefs about baptism. The major views can be broadly described as: the Catholic view which believes baptism brings the infant into the church and washes away the sin nature of the child; the Lutheran view believes that when the Word of God is joined with the water in baptism the Holy Spirit gives to the infant the gift of faith through which she is saved; the Reformed view sees baptism as setting apart the child of Christian parents into the community of faith, it is, like circumcision in the Old Testament, the visible sign that the person is a part of the people of God.
The Baptist teaching on baptism is unique in that baptism is limited only to those of an age to profess their salvation and it is always, and only, a response to having received salvation. Most baptists teach that the only proper way to be baptized is by immersion in water.
Christian baptism is unique to the church age. John the Baptist borrowed a Jewish idea of ritualistic cleansing, or washing, in water and used it as a testimony of repentance for those who were preparing for the coming Messiah. Jesus Himself was baptized by John and commanded His disciples to baptize others in His name. On the day of Pentecost the new converts to Christ followed His command and were baptized as a testimony of their conversion.
Baptism was to be a normal part of the ministry of Jesus’ disciples. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Those who received the gospel were to be baptized. This kind of baptism is found throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 2 Peter instructed those who believed in Jesus to be baptized. In Acts 8 the Samaritans who believed were baptized, “But when they believed . . . the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” The Ethiopian eunuch was told he could be baptized, “If thou believest with all thine heart.” The consistent pattern of baptism in the book of Acts is that baptism follows believing. Baptism is viewed by the New Testament as the believers confession of faith.
Don’t the passages that talk about households being baptized prove that the disciples baptized adults and infants? None of the household passages mention the ages of the members of the household. The passages do not even describe the members of the household. Those who support infant baptism teach that these households included babies. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates whether this is true or not. Nothing can be proved the age of the people being baptized from the household passages.
Acts 16 describes the baptism of the household of the Philippian jailer. After telling the jailer he would be saved if he, “Believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”, Paul preached the gospel to the jailers entire household. That same hour, they were all baptized. Baptism clearly followed the command to believe and the preaching of the gospel to all.
Baptism is the immersion in water of a new believer as a public testimony of his salvation. Baptism does not save. Baptism confesses of salvation received.
Funerals seem to be decreasing in popularity. Instead of a funeral families are frequently opting to not have a service of any kind, to limit the service to a brief time at the graveside, to hold a family gathering to scatter the ashes or to have a “celebration of life”. Are funerals important? Does the Bible teach that people should have funerals?
The Bible does not depict any funeral service as we would know it today. Scripture does describe various aspects of the rituals and ceremonies observed during times of death. A summary of the Biblical data reveals that the deceased were generally treated with respect. The body was buried relatively quickly. The New Testament describes the first century practice of wrapping the body and covering it in spices. Acts 9 tells of Dorcas’ body being laid out in an upper chamber prior to her burial. These rituals followed the practices of the culture, not the instructions of the Bible. The Bible does not command the observance of any specific ritual or the holding of special services when someone dies.
Death is a recurring theme in the Bible. Though the Bible does not give any specific instructions regarding what kind of service should be held after someone’s decease it does give many principles that should guide the Christian’s thinking about funerals.
Most important is the Biblical truth that every person is an immortal being comprised of a body and soul. Though the body has died, the spirit remains. The person is an eternal being who has entered into an eternal existence. Only the Word of God can teach man what happens in eternity. The funeral provides an opportunity to share the truths of Scripture. The funeral interrupts the daily barrage of the fleshly and the worldly to remind people of the spiritual and heavenly.
The Bible also says that the wise man considers the short span of life. I suspect the tendency to do away with funerals is a part of the culture’s tendency to avoid anything that is painful or negative. Most people do not like to consider the end of life so they do away with those things which remind them of it. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4) Psalm 90 says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10, 12)
Funerals remind us that mourning and weeping are fine. Grief is painful and sorrow is unpleasant but they are not wrong. Tears bring healing to the wounded heart. The wise man recognizes there is profit to be found in grief. The wise man learns wisdom by considering how short life is. A funeral is not required by the Bible yet most times a funeral is to be preferred. The funeral offers a chance to somberly consider the realities of life and death. By grieving together, remembering together and being comforted together with the truths of God’s Word a good funeral can give lasting benefit to those left behind.
A popular complaint among theological and political liberals is that most evangelicals vote Republican. The most recent presidential election gave additional reason to complain with election day polls showing that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump. This bit of information is wielded in various ways but seems to be treated as proof evangelicals are bad people who don’t care about the poor, the marginalized, the environment or the rights of women.
The complaints against evangelicals continue for their supposed partnership with the Republican party. One cannot deny that many evangelical Christians vote for republican candidates. Some well-known evangelical leaders have been vocal supporters of the Republican National Convention. Evangelical voters are a significant part of the Republican party’s political base.
This should come as no surprise to those who understand what evangelicals, and other theological conservatives, believe about the Bible. Evangelicals are a segment of Christianity, mostly from Protestant denominations, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God and the authority over their lives. Evangelicals tend to read the Bible literally taking its claims and commands at face value. Evangelicals believe in the need to be born again and feel an obligation to tell others how to be saved.
The authority of the Bible over the life and thinking of the evangelical is at the root of why many refuse to vote for candidates from the democratic party. The Biblical moral standards are held in great esteem. As a result evangelicals generally hold conservative and traditional positions on the modern moral battlegrounds. People who take seriously the Bible’s command, “Ye must be born again” are also very likely to take seriously the Bible’s teachings regarding the value of human life and the evil of homosexuality. The Democratic party’s official platform promotes behavior that is contrary to the plain reading of the Bible. As a result, conservative evangelicals refuse to vote for those who oppose Biblical truths. While things like health care and income security may be important to many evangelicals, holding to Biblical positions about sexuality, marriage and human life takes precedence.
The simple fact is that many evangelicals vote for Republicans because they find themselves sharing values with the Republican candidates. Some evangelicals vote Republican because it seems to them to be the lesser of two evils. Instead of throwing away a vote by voting for a third party who has no chance to win they would rather cast their vote against a candidate who is for the promotion of evil. Many evangelicals may support other aspects of the official Democratic platform, but they cannot in good conscience vote for someone who officially supports things the Bible condemns.
It is not fair or legitimate to characterize evangelicals as white middle class individuals who vote for what will keep them in power or keep the world the way they remember it. Evangelicals can be found throughout all races and demographics. Many evangelicals vote based upon right and wrong, not to preserve or restore an idealized vision America.
It is not fair to say that being a Republican is part of what it means to be an evangelical. Conservative Christianity and Christianity in general is not defined by political affiliation. Christianity is not about establishing a political empire but proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved and calling men to trust Christ for salvation. While there are always some who seek power and control, many evangelicals are attempting to make the best choice they can to promote Biblical morals in this nation. No question about human behavior can be given a simple answer. Motives and habits are complex things, but many evangelicals are Republicans because they find Republican candidates align best with the moral values the evangelical holds most dear.