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Combating Legalism VI

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Question #1:  Dear Sirs;  I am serving on a Pastoral Committee in my local church and the question has come up regarding a divorced man being considered for the position of Senior Pastor. It has always been my understanding that a divorced man cannot serve as pastor or deacon in the church.  I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible. Thank You,

Response #1:  It is certainly true that in many main-line and traditional denominations, as well as many other conservative evangelical groups, there was for a very long time a general consensus against hiring pastors who had ever had anything to do with divorce, and in circa 1940 the odds certainly were that a given group would not allow it. That is not so often the case today as many (and possibly most) groups do have at least an exceptions policy for this (if not outright disregard for the issue). Since you are asking me this question, I assume that your church is independent of any denominational superstructure, binding tradition, or association beyond your walls. If I am wrong in this, then, of course, you would need to consult the authority in question.

Ichthys.com is a ministry unattached to any such superstructure, tradition, or association, and every effort is made to base the studies, interpretations, and advice provided here directly on the scriptures. To my knowledge, the only thing that the Bible says directly about this subject is in 1st Timothy 3:2 (and Titus 1:6; cf. 1Tim.3:12 for deacons) where it states that "The overseer (i.e., pastor) is to be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . .". This phrase is generally interpreted in one of three ways: either 1) that a pastor has to be married; or 2) that a pastor can only ever have had one wife (remarriage following a divorce or even after being widowed beings seen as prohibited); or 3) that a pastor cannot have multiple wives. In my view, based upon exegesis of the Greek text, view #1 is unlikely because this is by far not the best or clearest way to make such a point if that were what Paul was trying to say (i.e., it would be much more natural in Greek just to say "he must be married").  Also, by this logic, the stipulation that he must have believing and obedient children (Tit.1:6) would then have to mean that a pastor must have children, and not only that, but children old enough to be subjected to this test, and young enough to still be at home so as to be tested in this way.  I think rather that just as the offspring stipulation means "if he has children in the home", so the marriage stipulation means, "if he is presently married"; view #2 is unlikely because of necessity it entails forbidding remarriage after being widowed, something that scripture does not prohibit elsewhere (and also because it would have been very easy for Paul just to say the person must not be divorced if that is really what he means, something which he does not say directly); view #3, therefore, is the most likely based upon the clear sense of the words in Greek, and squares nicely with the problems we may expect Paul to be heading off in his pastoral epistles. Rome never countenanced polygamy, and by Paul's day it was unusual in the Greek-speaking part of the empire. But the very fact that it was not unusual for Roman and particularly Greek marriage contracts of the day to spell out expressly the prohibition of a second, simultaneous marriage shows ipso facto that such things did indeed occur. Beyond that, there is also the fact that "concubinage" was a very widespread institution in both Greece and Rome at this time. The Greek text in both Timothy and Titus says, literally, "the man of one woman", since there is no specific word for either husband or wife in Greek. One can well see how Paul would want to make the point that it would not do for a potential pastor to have a second "woman" in tow, whether or not she was officially married to him, for that peculiar institution did not have the same stigma then as it does today.

This doesn't answer your question, but it does show that to find an answer one will have to interpret other scriptures rather than rely on the Bible for a direct answer in regard to divorced or unmarried pastors. For example, in the same passage we have the requirement that a pastor is to be "above reproach". One could argue that having been divorced is a reproach, but on the other hand, few of us have passed through this life without making any mistakes that at least some other person would consider a "reproach", so that I really believe that this requirement is talking more about present facts of a person's current situation at the point of being considered for the pastorate than the long-dead past. Given the Bible's emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, it seems to me that there has to be some allowance on this score for recovery from past mistakes. The key idea in this "no reproach" clause is clearly that the person you are hiring must a person of character and integrity – not a perfect person (for such do not exist), but a genuinely good and righteous one. On top of this, it would be a sad state of affairs indeed if you hired the wrong person, having let the right person go on an erroneous basis (whatever that erroneous basis might be).

Finally, since scripture allows for divorce under some circumstances (e.g., Matt.5:32), and, as the discussion above is meant to demonstrate, there are no additional biblical requirements for a pastor on this score, the real issue here is not divorce per se but remarriage. If the person is divorced and has remained single, it would seem to me that such a divorce would only have a scriptural application if something about it brought "reproach". Remarriage, on the other hand, or the marrying of someone who is divorced, is another question. I always take pains to tread lightly here, as the biblical picture on this issue is not easy to state in brief (please see the following links: A conversation about divorce and remarriage; Divorce and Remarriage; More on Divorce and Remarriage).

In short, this is not an easy question, and I cannot give you a definitive yes or no, because I do not believe that the Bible does so. Certainly, in choosing someone for a position of such responsibility, one would wish to consider everything that may be deemed important. On the one hand, I would not wish to hire a pastor whose judgment was terrible or who took his commitments lightly or who had done anything grossly sinful and remained unrepentant about it. On the other hand, I would not want to let slip away out of over-zealous legalism the very person whom God may have chosen for the position.

So this is a test of your committee as much as it is a test of the person(s) being considered. God is both loving and righteous, and it takes wisdom, discernment, prayer, and a deep, accurate knowledge of the Word to decide whether mercy or judgment is appropriate in any given circumstance.

May the Lord grant you discretion and bless your deliberations.

In Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:   

Dear Bob,

Lately, I seem to sense that God is seemingly a God of dichotomy. For example, it seems that in order to be successful in the Christian walk, a believer must simultaneously embrace two opposite ideals. As the daughter of the King, I am a Princess. Yet scripture also clearly shows I am to be a servant. We are told that the meek will inherit the earth and not to consider ourselves better than we ought, yet we are also told to be strong and courageous, and bold. Faith vs. works, Trials vs. triumphs, being in the world but not of the world. It is enough to make one's head spin! I have found myself vacillating between the two extremes, but am having a hard time learning to live in the tension of both/and, instead of either or. Advice? Secondly, seeing as how this life/world will all pass away, should I be "wasting time and $" doing things associated purely with creature comforts? Lately, I have felt uncomfortable with the fact that I own a home, spend money on decorating, etc while other believers don't have enough, or where the money could better be used to further the Word in so many ways. Are we to live as paupers as far as we are able? Please understand that my lifestyle is not at all extravagant. I earn an average salary, and my home cost much less than the area average. But if I am able to be content on almost nothing, is that how I should live? Third, I have an opportunity to go into full-time ministry. While I am delighted at the opportunity, I am also terrified! How does one know when they are ready to step out in faith as opposed to doing something just because they desire to serve and wish they were ready? Finally, and completely non-related to the above, I have many questions about healing. One "camp" declares that God still raises people from the dead today, so can and does miraculously heal any and all ailments today if we only ask with faith. Another "camp" prays for strength to endure and assumes that healing will not come. Have you done any studies in this area? Again, I think this requires a both/and approach as discussed above. Yes, God CAN heal, and yes God's grace is sufficient to cope if He doesn't. However, I have not done an exhaustive study at all, and don't have the language background (Yet!) to be able to study the original texts. Any input you offer would be welcome. I thank you again for your willingness to help me explore my questions. For the first time in a long time I feel intellectually stretched in the area of my faith. God bless you and your work, and may today bring you one step closer to the Lord.

Response #2:  

I think you are absolutely correct, and this dilemma has defined the human state of affairs since our eviction from Eden. For we are indeed not "of" this world although we are in it. The main point is, I believe, that our true lives are in heaven, but temporarily we are still here on earth for the purpose of spiritual growth, progress, and service to the Lord (Col.3:1-11; cf. Col.2:11-12). Instead of being a point of difficulty, you have hit upon a perspective which is absolutely critical for all Christians to maintain. For we see the world with our fleshly eyes, but we have to train ourselves to see the invisible Lord Jesus Christ with our eyes of faith (e.g., Heb.11:27; 1Pet.1:7-9; cf. 2Cor.4:16-18; 5:7; Heb.11:1). As believers, we have to learn to turn our backs to the visible world even as we train ourselves to open our eyes and turn our gaze to the invisible realities of what really matters, the spiritual life, the spiritual realm, the resurrection and the reward we seek, the observation and evaluation of all we think and say and do by our Lord, etc. This is a life-long challenge and no one ever gets anywhere close to developing a perfect moment to moment "Sabbath rest" of being focused on the Lord and His truth at all times instead of on the world and its pointless noise and temporary dust (Heb.4). In my opinion believers in this day and age, the "Laodicean age" of lukewarmness, are falling farther short of the ideal than all the generations past – even as we are congratulating ourselves for all the wonderful things we think we are doing! The reason is twofold: 1) without question the opportunities and possibilities for sin, idolatry, and general worldliness are exponentially greater than at any time in prior world history, especially in the west, even as the distractions and complication of modern life, even for those who are trying to live good Christian lives, are arguably more intense and demanding than ever before, and 2) just when we need to be devoting ourselves to the Word of God as never before, really getting deep into it in Bible study and then aggressively applying it to every facet of our lives, there is a palpable apathy in the church visible about any serious or substantive consideration of the Bible (not as exciting as "doing something" that might appear on television, e.g.). For this reason it is always refreshing to meet those like yourself who are bucking the trend. I encourage you to stay "red hot" for the Lord and His Word (whatever the source from which you choose to draw the water of life).

As to the proper application of personal resources, on the one hand I do believe it is good to think about these things from time to time and make adjustments as appropriate. As always in such matters, it is prudent to do as Ecclesiastes suggests and avoid both extremes (Eccl.7:16-18). On the one hand, complete selfishness is wrong; on the other hand, if we sell all our belongings we will be homeless and helpless and a burden to others rather than a help to the Church (Jesus' command to the rich young man to that effect was to that fellow only and only in the context of joining Christ's sacrificial ministry for the next several years – a ministry that was supported by the contributions of others who had not sold off every single thing they had; cf. 1Cor.7:23; 13:3 [in the Greek: "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be sold"). This is a matter of application and spiritual growth. It is always good to "sleep on things" like this, and it is also a good rule of thumb – at least in my observation and experience – that if you are feeling guilty so that you think you should do something, then you probably should not do it at all. Feelings of guilt are often a sign of conflicted motivations with other issues bubbling beneath the surface which indicate that one's understanding of the issue and of one's own true motives are far from resolved. In such cases, waiting and praying is indicated. Imperfect creatures that we are, there are limits to the sacrifices we can (or even should) make in material terms, because stinting in some areas past a certain point will affect our abilities to cope and minister as we should. This is a subjective standard, but then we are all different.

I certainly don't mean to lob it up as an excuse for selfish excess (which clearly does not apply in your situation in any case), but it is true that well-meaning Christians often take this to ridiculous extremes. In seminary I ran into a fellow who allowed as how he felt guilty about giving his wife flowers when there was such poverty and suffering in the world! My view on such matters is that: 1) while it is good to be generous when the objective is the salvation and spiritual growth of others, we are not here to try and fix the world; the world is un-fixable until Jesus returns because the devil runs it; and 2), regardless of what sacrifices we may be willing to make that affect only us personally, making those we love suffer is a sign that such actions of self-sacrifice are wrong and almost certainly falsely motivated in some way; even if all we are doing is making ourselves vulnerable or needy in the eyes of our loved ones, we are in a sense burdening them by such conduct; and 3) denying ourselves all normal human comfort and joy is a dangerous extreme; it is certainly true that the Lord honors the sacrifices we make for Him; however He does not honor sacrifices made not for Him but really for us; hyper-asceticism is almost always an extreme that appeals to some inner sinful streak, paradoxically very similar to the contrasting hyper-self-indulgence; avoid extremes – they are seldom of God; and if I were to be an extremist, it would be in my love for the Word of God, learning it, believing it, living it, and helping others to do the same through ministry – that is the only extremism I can endorse.

As to your opportunity, I don't think it would be wise for me to advise you on this even if I were much better acquainted with your situation. This is something that only the Lord can answer. I will certainly say a prayer for you on this though! In the abstract, I have seen these things be blessings and cursings, the best thing that ever happened and the worst, a life-changing genuine opportunity from the Lord and a test failed by taking the devil's bait. It's a question with two sides: 1) God's specific purpose for you; 2) the specifics of the opportunity. God certainly honors your desire to do more for Him and His Church; He also has a right way for you to accomplish this desire.

Finally on healing, I think you have framed up the issue exactly right. God can and does heal. But sometimes, oftentimes, He waits to resolve health issues over time, a situation which builds our faith as we trust in Him; and sometimes, we are being built up by the testing of the experience (cf. Paul's "thorn in the flesh": 2Cor.12:7-10). Please see the link: Faith Healing.

Thank you again, for your zeal for the Word of God. Keep fighting that good fight of faith. And don't hesitate to write me back about any of this.

Thanks again for all your kind words!

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:    

My friend drinks alcohol in moderation and some of my Christian friends quote Proverbs 22:6 to show that even drinking in moderation is a sin and that Jesus did not drink fermented wine because it states in Proverbs 22:6 not even to look upon fermented drinks and can't drink it if you are to stay away from it. They also used 1 Corinthians 6:12 - All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. They also told me that alcohol has power over the brain, and it's not wise to be brought under that power, even in moderation. It isn't edifying to a Christian. Is this biblically correct?

Response #3:

I don't think you meant Proverbs 22:6; Proverbs 23:6 might be what you meant, but there is no direct mention of drinking there. So if you would clarify the reference, that would be helpful. As far as the premise is concerned, to my mind it is as Paul says about meat, namely, that we are no better off if we eat meat and no worse off if we do not. So with alcohol, we are no better off if we drink, and no worse off if we do not. Drinking alcohol is generally not necessary, but that does not make drinking a sin. Alcohol does have some medicinal effects which the Bible commends for both physical (1Tim.5:23) and emotional therapy (Prov.31:6), and it is a traditional and biblically legitimate social comfort (cf. the biblical etymology of Noah: Gen.5:28; and our Lord's changing of the water into wine in Jn.2). But it is certainly not necessary for a Christian to drink, just because it is not biblically prohibited. There are plenty of instances where the Bible condemns profligate drinking, and the problems posed by alcohol are impossible to ignore. So while drinking is not a sin, drunkenness certainly is, and there are also times when it would be better for the sake of the Body for a Christian to abstain (although to refrain permanently from alcohol merely because of legalistic bullying is another extreme that must also be avoided).

In short, I find no biblical basis to prohibit other Christians from drinking if that is their personal application, however it would certainly behoove any Christian to swear off of alcohol if its use causes them any serious trouble at all. In the Mediterranean civilizations, the use of alcohol is so entrenched from an early age and so natural that most people have no difficulty using it in moderation without experiencing any serious difficulties. In our society, by way of stark contrast, because drinking is considered an adult privilege and associated with "fun" rather than being part of normal dining, there is a far greater likelihood that any given person will use alcohol to excess sooner or later (and usually sooner). Using alcohol to excess is a sin and inevitably leads to all sorts of other sins, not to mention the fact that even in secular terms it is extremely self-destructive. For this reason, Christians who do decide to drink ought to be doubly careful about encouraging others who may not have their level of self-control to do the same, whether overtly or merely by way of [negative] example. But, as always, my spiritual radar goes off when I hear of Christians characterizing behavior of which they disapprove as "sin" even when the Bible does not agree. Taking this sort of attitude and going the further step of attempting to make other believers adhere to their own false standards is legalism at its worse, and has the potential of doing even more spiritual damage than the considerable damage that may be done by alcohol abuse.

Please see the following link:

Should Christian leaders refrain from drinking in public?

In our Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #4:

This person was telling me that it's wrong for me to have any piercings on my body and that it's a sin. He wrote:

"As far as piercings go, I believe the same verses that forbid tattooing also apply here:

Leviticus 19:28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 21:5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh."

Please help!

Response #4:   

The two passages quoted here are talking about different things. The first one is talking about the pagan practice of mutilating oneself as a show of grief over a lost loved one (cf. the priests of Baal who cut themselves calling upon the god to answer their request for fire in the contest with Elijah in 1Ki.18); so that definitely does not apply to this issue. One could make a stronger argument with the second passage, but in my view it is pretty clear that the passage in Lev.21 is talking about making 3-D tattoos by cutting or branding. Since piercing is also a sort of body ornamentation, one could argue that these things are similar, but if I am correct, piercings are done in order to display jewelry and not as body markings in their own right -- and we certainly know from scripture that godly woman have worn jewelry (cf. Gen.24:22).

The thing that I would wish to stress here is that while it is one thing to discourage young people from getting tattoos or piercings or whatever else we may feel is contradictory to a perfect witness for Christ, the fact of having such things is certainly nothing to get overly uptight about. We all make mistakes, whether or not one feels that these things are truly mistakes. I think it is fair to say that probably a majority of godly Christian women in this country have had their ears pierced in order to wear ear rings, and that certainly has not affected their spiritual state in the least. If a person has a tattoo or a piercing, that doesn't disqualify them from being a good Christian even if after the fact they decide it would have been better not to have gotten the thing. In short, this is really a non-issue. As long as we are not encouraging people, especially young people, to do so, the fact that a brother of sister has done so should certainly not be something we hold against them. Spiritually speaking, it has zero value one way or another after the fact. The Lord is concerned with what is in our hearts, not with the shape or size or condition of our bodies. Certainly, if we are convinced in our hearts that the Lord does not want us to do something, get a tattoo, for example, and then we go ahead and do it anyway, well, that does have spiritual consequences, not, I would argue, because of the nature of the act but because of the perceived disobedience of the act (Rom.14:23: "everything that does not come from faith is sin").

It is very easy to fall into legalism with such things. Even if we could come up with a definitive answer here, it would miss some very important points:

1) these are regulations of the Mosaic Law which are not repeated in the letter from the Jerusalem elders to the churches in the book of Acts, and, since they resemble dietary instructions in terms of their application, may be good to follow but are certainly not spiritually decisive.

2) if a person is or isn't tattooed/pierced has no impact whatsoever on their spiritual life, especially if such things precede their salvation and/or their decision to life for Jesus.

3) while agonizing about such things can do no good, it can certainly do a lot of harm; this is another one of those areas where would-be followers of the Law over grace (i.e., legalists) are wont to beat other believers about the head and shoulders with false issues, either preventing them by bullying from conduct that makes no difference or torturing them about past conduct which is no longer relevant.

In the case of #3, please note that in either circumstance the actual sinfulness or non-sinfulness of the action/behavior in question is not the point. Legalists are truly only interested in establishing their own self-righteousness at the expense of others. By bullying people out of doing things that in reality have no spiritual significance or by tormenting them about past actions that cannot now be undone (regardless of whether they were really sinful), they feel "holier than thou". But it is a sick form of pseudo-spirituality when someone can only feel accomplished at the expense of other Christians – and in fact is not true spirituality at all. True spirituality is loving, tolerant, and forgiving, and does not make an issue of trivialities. In my own view, it is very unlikely that most legalists are even Christians, and if they are, they are certainly very poor Christians.

Not to get too personal, but it is clear to me at least from our extended e-mail conversation that the Word of God and living to please Jesus Christ are very important to you. Whether or not you have had any piercings – regardless of how one takes these verses in Leviticus – is of the smallest possible moment in your spiritual life, spiritual growth, and spiritual production. Personally, I don't think there is any serious spiritual significance to it. The only way it could become an issue is if you let somebody get to you about it, because inordinate guilt over actions that are past and done can be a huge distraction in the Christian life. The devil knows very well what things in our past bother us (they are usually out of a;; proportion to their actual sinfulness, real or imagined), and he is always very eager to get us looking backward instead of doing what we should be doing here and now: looking forward to the return of our Lord and doing our best to be following Him day by day in the meantime.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14  NIV

In the One who loves us and died for us that we might be one with Him forever, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

This was one response I received from someone who insists that the Sabbath is to be observed on the Seventh Day. He attempts to proves this scripturally.

"The Disciples Kept the Sabbath

84 Times in the book of Acts

There are many scriptures that verify the Sabbath day being the 7th day of the week. All throughout the 'New testament', the first day of the week is called "The first day of the week" and the 7th day of the week is called "The Sabbath". This fact alone should prove when the Sabbath truly is.

However, let us examine the pattern of the disciples after Yahushua's resurrection in the book of acts to determine what day that they attended Sabbath Services and what day they expected others to observe. We will keep a count of how many times the Sabbath is observed.

We see one example in Acts 17:1...

Acts 17:1 (NKJV) Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Acts 17:2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and [saying], "This Yahushua whom I preach to you is the Messiah." Acts 17:4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Here we see that Paul went to a Sabbath service where there were both Jews and Greeks. The scripture also mentions that this was a regular custom of Paul. Was this also the custom of Yahushua the Messiah?

Luke 4:16 (NKJV) So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.

So here we can see that 22 years after Yahushua's death and resurrection the disciples were attending Sabbath services. In no place do we see Paul or any other disciple teaching them that they should come back the next day for a 'first day of the week' service. But they went to three Sabbath services where there were both Jews and Greeks present. So then the doctrine that says the Jews have their day (the 7th day) and the Gentiles have their day (the 1st day) is foreign to scripture.

Some would argue that Paul was at the synagogue only because that is where he would find people to witness to...not to observe the Sabbath. But the scripture does not say that. This is an assumption that those who refuse the simplicity of the scriptures want to make, not one that the scriptures support. Again, the Seventh Day is called "The Sabbath day" in this passage.

So lets see where we are at now..

Seventh day - 3 First day - 0

Another example is found in Acts 13...

Acts 13:13 (NKJV) Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. Acts 13:15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men [and] brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on."

So here is another example where Paul and the other disciples came to the Synagogue in Perga to attend the Sabbath Service.

Seventh day - 4 First day - 0

A little later in the chapter, after Paul shares Yahushua with them we see that the Gentiles were quite interested.

Acts 13:42 (NKJV) So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

Now here is a perfect situation for Paul to tell these Gentiles "Hey just come back tomorrow, we keep the Sabbath on the first day now!" But we don't see this written anywhere in scripture.

Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of Yahweh Acts 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of Yahweh.

So here is the fifth time that the disciples attended a Sabbath service on the day that Yahweh sanctified at creation. Again, the seventh day is called "the Sabbath" in this passage.

Seventh day - 5 First day - 0

Here is another example in Acts 16...

Acts 16:11 (NKJV) Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next [day] came to Neapolis, Acts 16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. Acts 16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met [there].

It was the custom of the Jews of that day for the rabbi to shut down the synagogue if there were not at least 10 men that would show up for the Sabbath meeting. This could very well be why there were women meeting by the riverside for prayer. Nevertheless, we see that the disciples sought a place to meet for the Sabbath and they did. Again, the seventh day is called "the Sabbath Day" in this passage.

Seventh day - 6 First day - 0

Acts 18:1 (NKJV) After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. Acts 18:2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. Acts 18:3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

So we see that he worked on the other days as a tentmaker...but on the Sabbath He was not. And here again we see that both Jews and Greeks are in the synagogue and on the Sabbath. Paul also is among them attending the Sabbath services. The interesting thing about this verse is that instead of the scripture saying that they attended only one or three sabbath services, it says that he was there every Sabbath persuading both Jews and Greeks. Again, the seventh day is called "the Sabbath" in this passage so we know that we can at least count one. Let's do that..

Seventh day - 7 First day - 0

Now if Paul was in Corinth and was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath, if we could find out how long he stayed in Corinth then we would know how many Sabbaths he actually attended. Let's look furthur..

Acts 18:5 (NKJV) When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews [that] Yahushua [is] the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook [his] garments and said to them, "Your blood [be] upon your [own] heads; I [am] clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain [man] named Justus, [one] who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Master with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. 9 Now the Master spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he continued [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

A year and six months! Finally the ruler of the synagogue was converted to Yahushua and Paul was there a year and six months! So the scripture says that Paul was there every Sabbath and that he was there for a year and six months. If we counted this by our present calendar that would give us 52 Sabbaths in a year plus 26 Sabbaths in the following six months which gives us a total of 78 Sabbaths! Now lets add this to our present total:

Seventh Day - 84 First day - 0

So we can see that the disciples observed the Sabbath and attended a Sabbath service 84 times in the book of acts alone! Again, the seventh day is called "the Sabbath" in this passage.

Now how many times do we see them meeting together on the first day? Some would cite one example in Acts 20. Let's examine the text...

Acts 20:6 (NKJV) But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. Acts 20:7 Now on the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

Here we see an example of the disciples gathering together on the first day of the week. There is no mention of a Sabbath being observed in this verse. Nowhere is this day called "The Sabbath". In fact, we know that Paul was ready to depart the next day. According to verse 7, Paul spoke to them a message because for this very reason.

Now some would say that coming together to 'break bread' constitutes a meeting that includes the observance of partaking in Yahushua's body. But this is not true...consider this verse:

Acts 2:44 (NKJV) Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising Yahweh and having favor with all the people. And Yahweh added to the assembly daily those who were being saved.

According to this scripture, breaking bread was not an uncommon thing to do on a daily basis. It was one of the customs in those days to eat their 'daily bread'. Even in Yahushua's prayer He said "Give us this day our daily bread".

So we cannot confirm that this scripture in Acts 20 is a Sabbath day observance. In fact, nowhere does it say that the first day of the week is the Sabbath. But the 7th day of the week is always called "the Sabbath" in the 'new testament.' Unless you don't believe in the New Testament, you would have to conclude that this was not a Sabbath meeting. So what was it really? Many may not realize that in scripture, a new day begins at sundown. This would mean that at sundown on 'Saturday', the first day of the week begins. This was most probably an 'after Sabbath' fellowship meal where Paul continued to speak until midnight because he wanted to get as much teaching in as possible before he departed the next day.

Nevertheless some will hang onto this one verse so that they don't have to forsake tradition and keep the true Sabbath. But you can search the scriptures from Genesis to Revelations and you will not find a single verse that says His Sabbath was changed to a different day. There is not a single verse that tells us that the Ten Commandments are not to be kept. And there is not a single verse that prophesied either of these two events occurring! In fact, the scriptures declare the seventh day to be the Sabbath in the Law, in the words of the prophets, in the writings about Yahushua and in the acts of the apostles as well as in the scriptures that speak of Yahweh's kingdom. Therefore that final tally will remain at:

Seventh Day - 84 | First day - 0

There is also evidence that the early disciples kept the Sabbath on the true day:

"The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews;.therefore the Christians for a long time together, did keep their conventions on the Sabbath, in which some portion of the Law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council." The Whole Works of Jeremey Taylor, Vol. IX, p416 (R. Heber's Edition, Vol.XII, p.416)

"The ancient Christians were very careful in the observation of Saturday, or the seventh day..It is plain that all the Oriental churches, and the greatest part of the world, observed the Sabbath as a festival...Athanasius likewise tells us that they held religious assemblies on the Sabbath, not because they were infected with Judaism, but to worship [Yahushua], the [Master] of the Sabbath, Epiphanius says the same." Antiquities of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Book XX, chap. 3, Sec. 1, 66.1137, 1138

"Ambrose, the celebrated bishop of Milan, said that when he was in Milan he observed Saturday, but when in Rome observed Sunday. This gave rise to the proverb 'When you are in Rome, do as Rome does,' " Heylyn, The History of the Sabbath, 1613

Constantine later enforced keeping a Sabbath on the first day of the week, which he calls "the venerable day of the sun." Venerable means 'commanding respect'.

The text of Constantine's Sunday Law of 321 A.D. is:

"One the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for gain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

This doesn't even really sound like Yahweh's Sabbath which forbids any kind of work at all on His day!

Later, those who observed the Sabbath were persecuted and killed by the Catholic church. When the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier arrived in India he immediately requested to the pope to set up the Inquisition there.

"The Jewish wickedness" of which Xavier complained was evidently the Sabbath-keeping among those native Christians as we shall see in our next quotation. When one of these Sabbath-keeping Christians was taken by the Inquisition he was accused of having *Judaized*; which means having conformed to the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law; such as not eating pork, hare, fish without scales, of having attended the solemnization of the Sabbath." Account of the Inquisition at Goa, Dellon, p.56. London, 1815

"Of an hundred persons condemned to be burnt as Jews, there are scarcely four who profess that faith at their death; the rest exclaiming and protesting to their last gasp that they are Christians, and have been so during their whole lives." Ibid p.64

Today, some of the leading Baptists even have admitted that the Sunday Sabbath isn't in the scriptures:

"There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not on Sunday...It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week....where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament. Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of a sun god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!" Dr. Edward Hiscox, author of The Baptist Manual."

Do you agree with any of this? Thanks in advance!

Response #5:  

First, none of this addresses two key points any such discussion should consider, namely that 1) the Bible tells us that the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, was considered the Lord's day by the time the apostles were leaving the scene (Rev.1:10; cf. Acts 20:7 and 1Cor.16:2), and 2) the Bible tells us that now we are not observe any single day as a "Sabbath" but every moment in our walk with the Lord (Heb.4; cf. Col.2:16-17). To be fair, it doesn't seem that this person has had the benefit of considering those facts. But just to reiterate, it is the Bible to which we must look, not church tradition (so that the extra-biblical "evidence" included above is of little moment), and specifically to what the Bible says by way of doctrinal direction. What I mean by this is that most major heresies, fallacies, confusions, and distractions in church function and teaching in our present day come from the terrible misunderstanding and false teaching that just because the Bible describes a practice that it necessarily endorses it.

For example, in the book of Acts, the religious zealots at Jerusalem stone Stephen to death. Surely, they were horribly wrong to do so and just because we find this "in the Bible" or "in Acts" does not allow us to conclude that therefore we are allowed to stone to death anyone we disagree with. Most people understand this when it comes to such actions which are clearly evil and being committed by evil people. However, when it comes to other less clearly "wrong" historical descriptions which are also clearly not doctrinal teachings there is a large gray area that, if we are not careful to interpret everything the Bible says, especially where it does give doctrinal, prescriptive statements, we run the risk of falsely elevating a historically accurate statement that is not meant to be taken as doctrine over clearly prescriptive statements which are so meant. For example Paul's description for rhetorical purposes in 1st Corinthians 15:29 of the bizarre practice of being "baptized for the dead" is sometimes, as in Mormonism, wrongly taken to be an endorsement of it, but when all of scripture is taken into account, the idea of intervention for anyone in any way after death is clearly seen to be antithetical to everything scripture states (as well as to the whole purpose for which we are here on earth, namely, to express our choices for God through free-will faith, an opportunity which expires just as soon as we do).

Water baptism, the holy kiss, specific types of church polity, speaking in tongues, and a whole host of other issues, including this one, Sabbath observance, are all examples of this phenomenon where something is merely being described in Acts (or Judges or any of the books of the Bible where there are descriptive as opposed to prescriptive statements), but people take this accurate description to be an endorsement, falsely concluding "well then, this is what we should be doing too".

The hermeneutic principle of necessarily distinguishing between description and doctrine is especially critical when considering information in the book of Acts, because that book describes several periods of transition with critically different circumstances, many of which do not apply today. This is easier in the case of the Old Testament. We certainly understand, for example, that even if Jephthah did offer his daughter as a human sacrifice (and I have my doubts: cf. Deut.12:31 etc.), that is not only something we should not emulate, but today, since there is no temple rite for such things to be repeated (or misunderstood and falsely emulated), and vowing itself is prohibited (Matt.5:34; Jas.5:12), it would be hard to make a case for emulation. Nevertheless, there are any number of legalistic heresies which are indeed based upon faulty application of portions of the Law (usually wrongly understood) to our present age of grace (the practice of tithing, for example).

The book of Acts, covering as it does several periods wherein different spiritual "rules" apply, i.e., before the gift of the Spirit; directly after the gift of the Spirit but before it had been given to the gentiles; after the gift had been given to some gentiles but generally only via the hands of the apostles; and finally after the gift became universal at salvation (the situation today), presents a far more complicated picture, with the result that it is very dangerous to build doctrine solely upon its historical descriptions. This was a period before, during, and after the development of local churches and systems of Church polity, a period at the beginning, development, and (toward the end of) apostolic oversight of the Church, and a period of beginning, writing, and (toward the end of) completing the New Testament. Now that we all have the Spirit, now that we all have the complete Bible, now that there are no longer apostles, there are very good reasons why some of things that happened in the transitional period described by the book of Acts were one time events correctly described but not meant to be repeated as even the apostles were in process of learning about how things would operate after our Lord's ascension, the gift of the Spirit, and the writing of the NT, and the establishment of the local churches.

Generally speaking, these sorts of doctrinal mistakes (to give the people that make them the benefit of the doubt that they don't have ulterior motives) are mostly made in areas where the behavior described is neither necessarily good nor bad, but more "neutral" in its effects. For example, in Acts 4:32ff., we find all the disciples living in what amounts to a communal state to the extent that "no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32). Now this has indeed been taken by some groups as a mandate for Christian communal behavior, but I would argue instead that it correctly and historically reflects what was happening for a very short time in Jerusalem on account of the unique circumstances at that incipient stage of the early Church. However, for people who want to claim authoritative and directive status for the passages in Acts, e.g., which support their own doctrinal positions (in all cases where the behavior indicated is definitely not sinful or on the part of unbelievers), then it seems to me that they are obligated to take all such passages in this way. That is to say, there is no logical or justifiable hermeneutic reason to accept, say, water baptism because it is practiced in Acts but not also accept the communal living described here as equally necessary. That creates quite a problem for these sorts, however, because very soon thereafter this communal living stops, and nothing we find later in Acts (or the NT) is consistent with believers living in such a state.

That brings us to the "84" examples. And here, most of these examples do not even rise to the level of what we have been discussing because in almost every case it is a case of unbelieving Jews who are meeting on the Sabbath. Now since it was practical and indeed theologically necessary (cf. Acts 13:46) for the Jews to be given the gospel first, how else could the early evangelists do so except by approaching them in their place of worship on their day of worship? Therefore the fact that Paul and co. are so often described as going to the synagogues on Saturday has no bearing on this question whatsoever – that was and is the day when Jews who are not believers in Jesus meet together according to the Law.

I have not dissected this long piece with a "fine tooth comb", largely because as I outline above it is not necessary to do so since the methodology is flawed. But I will address one passage included where the person has entirely missed the point, Acts 20:7. Here we clearly have a description of the teaching of early believers on the first day of the week, that is, on Sunday, not Saturday. The fact that this person does not want to call this a "Sabbath observance" entirely misses the point: there is no more Sabbath observance on a particular day any more, but what we do have in this passage are Christians meeting together, breaking bread, and teaching/learning the Bible – certainly sounds like the main day of meeting to me. Now I certainly do not defend any particular day for a "main meeting", and it matters little to me whether people want to meet on Saturday or Sunday or Wednesday – it is all a matter of tradition and/or convenience. But one thing we can certainly say for sure on the basis of the testimony of scripture is that there is now no more a particular "Sabbath day" which believers are commanded to observe (and I note that this person does not attempt to include such a command); rather there is now a moment by moment Sabbath walk with our Lord, for all who are following Him in truth. This new, moment by moment Sabbath (Heb.4:8-11), the peace that Jesus left for us (Jn.14:27; 16:33), the peace that passes all understanding (Phil.4:7), is "written in the heart" of all who follow Jesus Christ as part of the New Covenant which has replaced the Old written on tablets of stone (2Cor.3:3). The high upward calling of Jesus Christ requires that we worship Him "in Spirit and in truth" (Jn.4:23-24), not according to legalistic interpretations of the letter of the Law, for "the letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life (2Cor.3:6).

In our Lord who is the truth.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

I received this from a brother in Christ that said that Daniel was a Eunuch. He wrote:

"Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah were eunuchs.

Daniel 1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

It would make sense to me that kidnaped young men would be made eunuchs in order to serve the king forever. The king would not want them lusting after women when they were supposed to serve him. This was not a saved king so I have no doubt that he did this to all of his young captives, especially since the Bible said that man was the prince of the eunuchs...in other words...in charge of all the king's eunuchs. Coupled with the prophecy to Hezekiah I think that you have the right conclusion. The king would not exalt common men or use them as his wise men or counselors. See this passage as well:

Daniel 1:3-4 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."

Do you agree with this? I sent this to my friend too and I don't want my friend to become a Eunuch after reading this.

Response #6:    

Most scholars would agree with this as likely being the case. It should be noted that the Bible nowhere says that Daniel was a eunuch, so we cannot say for certain that it was the case, but it would not be unlikely. It would certainly explain how there is no indication of him or his friends being married or having any children. This is also not a decisive argument to prove he was one, but given that we have some rather extensive discussions of various episodes in his life, the absence is notable. And, as the verses quoted show, it was apparently a rather common practice for those in this sort of special royal service to be such and not just in Babylon (cf. the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8).

Scripture certainly indicates that this is not a desirable state. Any mal-formation or injury of the male apparatus was grounds for disqualification from the priesthood (Lev.21:20; cf. Lev.22:24), and for separation from the community (Deut.23:1). Generally speaking, being a eunuch gave cause for regret rather than rejoicing (Is.56:3). Jesus words about being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are not talking about physical emasculation but rather about the choice to remain celibate in order to better serve the Lord (cf. 1Cor.7:1; 7:7). So, by all means, it would be a terrible mistake for anyone to emasculate themselves physically, especially on the erroneous assumption that God would take any pleasure in that. The decision to live a celibate life is one that takes a good deal of time and soul-searching to make, and it is not uncommon for a person to change his/her mind about this later on. As Paul says on this point about his own single status, "I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God" (1Cor.7:7 TNIV). The point is, it is difficult for anyone to know without fail God's will about this for his/her life instantly. Physical self-emasculation forestalls any possibility of carrying out God's will if that will turns out to be marriage and family. But whatever His will, I am convinced from scripture that physical self-emasculation is never in His will, but is instead a self-willed action that is folly at best, and the most pernicious sort of legalism and works at worst. Finally, let no one undertake such a course of action under the misguided assumption that this will eliminate lust: we have St. Augustine's testimony that it doesn't work.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Bro. Bob:

I browsed at the subject index in your website and found no subject about fasting. I noted that Moses, Elijah, Ezra, Daniel fasted, Jesus fasted too before starting His 3 years ministry and Saul was without food and water for 3 days after his conversion on his way to Damascus, before he started his ministry. There are Christians advocating fasting and praying like the late Bill Bright, Derek Prince, Pastor Jenetezen Franklin and others. May I know if you recommend fasting and praying for health and for spiritual reasons. I am about to start fasting but before I do that I would like to know if you recommend this practice and if not what are your reasons.

Yours in His service,

Response #7: 

I think that there is value in fasting, but only if it is correctly understood and applied. There isn't much on the website about the issue, true, but as I suggest under the link "The value of cumulative prayer", fasting is definitely biblical (cf. Dan.9:3; 1Cor.7:5 in the Greek, though left out of most English versions). Like cumulative prayer, persistence in prayer, and the spiritual status of the one praying, fasting is an "accelerator factor" primarily because it forces deeper concentration on the Lord and spiritual things when practiced correctly while at the same time it promotes the divorcing of one's concentration from the secular world and its necessities and priorities. Fasting does not necessarily, in my opinion, "score points with God", nor does fasting make a person "more spiritual". But fasting is an important and sacrificial method of drawing closer to the Lord especially for the purpose of particularly important petitions. Fasting is not for everyone, and in my view should be considered a rare and exceptional activity (otherwise it loses its special importance). To fast correctly, the first thing to emphasize is that the person should never ever let other people know he/she is fasting (cf. Matt.6:1-18). For if a person fasts to get recognition from others they are not going to get it from God. Since privacy is key in fasting, it is also clear that for most of us the times when we will even have an opportunity to fast are very rare indeed. Few of us are so free from the responsibilities of work, school, family, church, "life" that we can take an entire day or two off to close the door, turn off the phone, and devote ourselves to fasting and praying. In my understanding of scripture, fasting does have an impact on the power of prayer if only because it focuses the person on the power of God, the will of God, and the truth of God much more clearly and intensively. Fasting is not something I generally recommend, because unless it is done right, the potential for harm through self-righteousness and legalism, or through spiritual immaturity is very likely to offset any additional good that may be done in the prayer life. In short, fasting is a specialized and special means of shutting out the world in order to concentrate on the petition that one is laying before the throne of grace. In my view, wherever it is mentioned, fasting goes together with prayer and in general prayer is the reason behind the fast (i.e., to intensify concentration and accelerate result). I can't speak to every situation so I think I'll stick to the principle. Jesus told us to go to lengths not to let anyone know we were praying or fasting or giving. God knows what's really in our hearts and can easily sort out whether what we are doing is for Him or for us. So I would tend to support the idea of fasting for an individual who is spiritually mature and is placing a particularly important petition before the throne of grace, especially when it is done in complete privacy, while I would be very skeptical of corporate fasting which is accompanied by a lot of legalistic "group hoopla" and "credit taking" and "self-congratulation" for the fast (to give examples of the two extremes). Fasting correctly, doing it right in my reading of scripture, is very difficult and sacrificial and not to be undertaken lightly, but, when done the right way with the right attitude in the right spiritual cause, can be an effective aid to prayer, if only because it temporarily "puts the world to death" and allows us to see the Lord and the true spiritual realities more clearly. Obviously, without a good deal of truth in the heart, without a good deal of spiritual growth and a fairly high level of spiritual maturity, this sort of focus on the depths of the truth of God will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve, so that true fasting tends to be the province of mature believers, while it tends to be entirely counter-productive for all who are spiritual immature or involved in any sort of legalism.

In Jesus in whom all of our prayers are heard and answered,

Bob L.

Question #8:   

Hi Dr. Luginbill:

What did Jesus mean when He said, "This kind does not go out except by fasting and prayer?" Under what circumstances should we fast?

I pray that you are well.

Blessings,

Response #8:  

The word "fasting" does not occur in the original text of Mark 9:29. It is a later addition. However, your question is certainly a valid one. I would start by saying that while there is no scriptural command to fast, nevertheless there is plenty of evidence in scripture of great believers fasting at critical times. The earliest account of biblical fasting we possess is not called fasting but "afflicting the self" as part of the Day of Atonement (Lev.16:29 and 31; 23:27 and 32; Num.29:7). This probably comes as close to the showing us the purpose of fasting as anything else. The Day of Atonement was a time for the nation Israel to reflect upon its sinfulness and its need for God to propitiate their sins. Fasting therefore has no value if its purpose is "mortifying the flesh" (cf. Col.2:20-23). What refraining from food (and possibly from drink as well) accomplishes through its self-induced weakening of the body is a temporary ability to focus more intently upon the Lord and the heavenly realities which earthly eyes cannot see (thus reducing the normal preoccupation with earthly things). Thus fasting and prayer often go together, because if we really want to concentrate on the Lord in making a particularly important petition, then fasting is a way to help us temporarily turn away from the world to a greater degree than we would ordinarily be able to do and give our full concentration instead to the prayer offensive in which we are engaged (cf. Dan.9:3). David, for example, often fasted in times of pressure and stress in making his petitions to the Lord (2Sam.12:15-23; Ps.35:13; 109:24), and occasionally as a sign of grief and solidarity as well (2Sam.3:35; cf. 2Sam.1:12; 1Chron.10:12). Our Lord fasted for forty days in the desert as preparation for the ministry of life He was about to undertake (Matt.4:2). The believers at Antioch's fasting preceded the selection of Paul and Barnabas, the beginning of the great wave of evangelizing the gentiles (Acts 13:2). And Paul and Barnabas fasted before choosing elders for the new churches (Acts 14:23; analogous to our Lord's praying all night before choosing the twelve: Lk.6:12). And fasting is also sometimes part of a genuine and repentant change of heart (e.g. the people of Nineveh in Jonah 3:6-10; cf. Judges 20:26; 1Sam.7:6; Joel 2:12).

So while fasting with false motives is a dangerous and legalistic thing to do (e.g., Is.53; Zech.7; Matt.6:1-18), there is true value in genuine fasting. In my observation and reading of scripture, it is not something for the spiritually immature, and not something that most believers will do on a regular basis. Rather it will be something exceptional for exceptional circumstances. Clearly, for those of us who are "fully engaged" in the struggle of the Christian life, not only earning our bread but using our spare time and resources to minister to the Church of Jesus Christ, the opportunities for fasting will be few and far between. Even for a single person with no children, locking the door, turning off the phone, the computer, the TV, and concentrating on prayer in a fast of a mere 24 hours is something that would be pretty difficult to pull off most of the time. It is an important weapon in the arsenal of the advancing believer, but one that has to be used with discretion at critical times and with a definite purpose. As I have written before, fasting can be seen as a sort of "prayer accelerator" (see the link: "The Value of Cumulative Prayer"), not because God is impressed with our self-denial (as if He gains anything by that), but because of the increased concentration on the prayers we offer and reality of the truth of God behind the prayer that the clarity of fasting can bring (and He does take note when we are more clearly focused on Jesus who is the truth). Paul in 1st Corinthians 7:5 tells husband and wife to restrict the times when they hold solitary prayer vigils and fasts – not because these are not good and beneficial, but because the reality of life sets limits on such things (and that is always going to be the case with genuine, biblically conducted, properly motivated fasting).

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:    

Hi Doc!

Prov 23:1-3: 1When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:

2And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. 3Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.

I would think it similar to going to a buffet or a big "fellowship" with lots of food. I know at a buffet if it were cost per plate I would be eating a lot less; thus the sin of greed is added

as well. What does it mean to put a knife to thy throat? (eat sparingly or in other words just what you need to survive or...?)

Proverbs 23:21: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Deuteronomy 21:20: And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

Gluttony is mentioned with the drunkard. Seems to be quite serious. I hear of this preaching against alcohol, but I don't think I've ever heard them preach against gluttony. (at least in north America). So my question is what exactly is gluttony? Is it just overeating (that would vary per person, since everyone needs a different amount). Or does it include eating garbage as well. Such as ice cream, pop, cake, candy bars, etc. Or is eating that garbage only a sin if one has the knowledge of how bad those things are for them?

Thanks in advance!

Response #9:

The Proverbs 23:1-3 passage doesn't have anything to do with how much a person consumes. Rather it is concerned with the greed of the wealthy. You would think that people who have more than the rest of us would be naturally generous because they have such an abundance, but instead of course they are usually more greedy than those who have little or nothing – such is the sin nature. In the situation envisioned in Proverbs, the poor man goes into the presence of the mighty and the powerful and assumes that their friendly attitude and feigned generosity is real. But if he thinks to ask them for something or to do something or to get something or actually takes them up on their false offers, he will suffer for it (that is why he should put a knife to his throat and refrain from their hors d'oeuvres). Best to leave them to their own devices. God will provide all the manna we need when we need it in the perfect way; we should not rely on the "beneficence" of the rich and powerful.

The other Old Testament passages on "gluttony" use the Hebrew word zalal, a word which is not really directed at the amount consumed but at the expense in consumption. A "glutton" according to these and other biblical passages is someone who, like the prodigal son, squanders his/her resources of pleasures and other things of no account, one who is not a responsible steward of what God has given. So there is no Roman Catholic deadly sin of "gluttony" in the Bible where "gluttony" means eating too much. I can't think of any biblical passages which condemn a person simply for eating more than the next person or for weighing more than the next person (i.e., for every Jer.5:28 there is an Is.10:27). I think that it is indeed a correct biblical application to suggest that prudence and moderation in consumption is appropriate just as it is in all other areas of life. But where to draw the line here is (as in all those other areas where sin is not spelled out) between the individual concerned and the Lord. Conscience will have to dictate what is really too much. As long as we approach such questions honestly and with a tender conscience, we won't have to worry about falling into the category of gluttony (even though as I say this is not really a biblical "sin" but a Roman Catholic invention based upon failure to understand the above).

In our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi again Doc!

I was wondering about these verses about overeating and it's relation to gluttony.

Numbers 10:32-34 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

"Psalm 78:29-31 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel."

The "fattest" I believe is talking about the ones that over ate the worst. There are many lessons that can come from this passage, contentment with Gods provision, following proper authority, etc. but overeating would seem to be the last straw to Gods longsuffering in this case at least...but I am open to correction. Someone had told me that just because I enjoy a 40$ meal once in a while that I am living like a glutton, because I'm squandering what God has given me. And that me flaunting wealth on food in the face of all of those that are not so well off is at least ten-fold worse a sin. This kind of hurts me because most of my resources go towards God's kingdom. Is this person correct?

Response #10:   

The KJV means by "fattest" "most vigorous" or "most robust" (see the other versions and the BDB Hebrew lexicon). After all, those who were slain didn't live long enough to get fat from the quail. The problem here is not over-eating, but rather one of not being satisfied with what God provides. God provided a perfect food – manna – and yet the Israelites longed for what they had eaten in Egypt (where they were very poor, after all, and not likely to have been in a position to indulge in over-eating very often). What they objected to was the type of food and the lack of variety. No doubt they thought/said that the food was insufficient (i.e., "we need meat"). By slaying the most healthy/vigorous of those who lusted for meat/quail, the Lord demonstrated that health and vigor are not a result of what you eat but rather are gifts from God – gifts in this case which He took away from some of those who grumbled against Him and didn't appreciate the perfect and gracious provision He had made for them.

On spending money for food in eating out (or in for that matter), this is also a relative thing. No two people are going to shop or eat the same or have the same attitude and/or habits when it comes to eating when not at home (whether by choice or necessity). But this is true of so many things in this society. One person's necessity is another person's luxury and vice versa. I would be willing to bet that the person who gave you a hard time about eating out spends money on some things you would deem non-essential. Let's not forget: God is wealthy beyond our imagination. The idea that there is a shortage or limited sum of resources is really nonsense. True, we have to operate on limited resources, but that is because of the Genesis curse, the devil's rule of the world, and the way in which God is working out His plan. If we needed it, He could (and WOULD) rain down all the manna we required (or the equivalent). Few Christians have not experienced this aspect of our Lord's gracious provision for us. That does not mean, of course, that we should not be careful stewards of what we have – of course we should. But extremism in this regard is likely to become legalism and be much more dangerous to spirituality than any marginal benefit that might come from economy – and that is especially the case when it comes to legalistically judging someone else's application. God could eliminate poverty worldwide in the blink of an eye, but Jesus told us that until His return there would always be those who are poor no matter how much we scrimp and save and give. So we should be wise, but celebrating is not wrong (consider the prodigal son's father who sacrifices the fatted calf on his son's return; and consider that the Passover and other feasts under the economy of the Law are celebrations and not inexpensive). And we should exercise economy, but not to the point of self-righteous condemnation of other people's behavior (after all, it was Judas who complained that the anointing of Jesus with the myrrh was "a waste", but we all know that his true motivations were evil in the extreme).

So I would say that while excessive over-eating to the point of dangerous obesity is obviously not something to recommend, and that while lavish and conspicuous consumption beyond any reasonable norm is also something to avoid, beating oneself up over an anniversary dinner out to eat is ridiculous, and criticizing other people for the like is the worst sort of legalism. We who are trying to follow the Lord carefully and who make it a point to weigh out everything we do have little to worry about in these respects. But those who put on massive daily banquets and indulge themselves in all the lusts of the flesh to an extreme degree would clearly be out of line – especially if they are doing so from the proceeds of "ministries"! And those who spend their time in nosy consideration of the details of other Christians' lives while failing to take the log out of their own eye are equally likely to have a lot of explaining to do before the judgment seat of Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi again Doc!

I'm a little confused because this is what Strong's Concordance says.

4924: !mXm mashman, mash-mawn'; from 08080; fat, i.e. (literally and abstractly) fatness; but usually (figuratively and concretely) a rich dish, a fertile field, a robust man:--fat (one, -ness, -test, -test place).

8080.: !mX shaman, shaw-man'; a primitive root; to shine, i.e. (by analogy) be (causatively, make) oily or gross:--become (make, wax) fat.

I seems that "fat" means literally fat. I was stating that "fattest" more than likely meant those that ate the most at that time. Perhaps it was related to their gluttony at that time, not there body size. I am not sure if there were greatly overweight do to the fact that it was rare for anyone but the rich to be a great deal overweight in those days. They had not been rich...I have heard someone, even a thin person, say they felt "fat" after a large meal? I think the fact that it carefully mentions that even the most conservative people still "gathered" a great excess of quails would tend to support that the "fattest" is speaking of gluttons. And I looked up the Hebrew look up the meaning of "well filled" in this passage.

"Psalm 78:29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;"

I am open to correction. Thanks in advance!

Response #11:  

To use your Strong's quote, it also says "but usually (figuratively and concretely) a rich dish, a fertile field, a robust man:" – by this Strong's means "don't get hung up on the literal wording because that sends a wrong message as to what the word actually meant to the Hebrew speakers who wrote and read it". To be "fat" in ancient Hebrew parlance carries entirely different connotations from what have in 21st century USA, but certainly is not unprecedented elsewhere: being "fat" was a good thing. Indeed, as recently as pre-WWII, for example, being "fat" was considered a very positive thing in most cultures around the world (and still is in some), because it meant not that a person was overweight or undisciplined, but that a person was well-nourished, healthy, prosperous, or robust. That is the meaning in this context in Psalm 78:29-31, and why a field, for example, can be "fat" (always a good thing; never a bad thing). And again, since it says in this context that God slew them "while the meat was yet in their mouths", we certainly can't think that this one meal made them instantaneously fat – there wasn't even time for them to digest it before their were slain for their lack of faith. As to their having enough to be satisfied ("filling"), the verb sabha' used here generally also refers to something good; that is to say, it doesn't carry the connotation of excess but of blessed sufficiency. I think it is clear enough even from the English context that the sin here is not one of overeating but of finding fault with God's provision (i.e., of lusting for the wrong things). He gave manna, but they wanted something other than the perfect food the Lord had provided. There is a real lesson here. God's Word and the teaching of it are precious things, blessed provisions. But most of the contemporary church visible is not satisfied with what the Lord has provided; they want other things, showy entertainment and sermonizing for example, rather than the manna of substantive Bible teaching designed to promote spiritual growth. We would be so much better off as a Church if we set our sites on God's grace provision of the truth rather than getting hung up on the legalistic hobby-horses of a few individuals who are seeking to focus attention on themselves instead of on the Word of God.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

 

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