Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Culture and Christianity XX

Word RTF


Question #1:

May I also ask about the proper elements for the Lord's supper. Is it necessary to only partake of grape juice or wine and cooked plain flour-water mixture in order to correctly symbolize our Lord's sacrifice of his blood (fruit of the vine - commonly grapes) and body (unleavened bread)? I was told that using softdrinks and biscuits are unscriptural because they are not proper symbols.

Response #1:

The importance of communion is in what goes on in the heart, not in what goes into the stomach. The bread (or food) represents our Lord's body which He sacrificed for us, taking on a human body for us, letting it be crucified for us, and bearing all of our sins in it, being judged for them all in the three hours of darkness on Calvary. The wine (or drink) represents His blood – not His physical blood but His work for us on the cross in being our Substitute, dying in our place for our sins that we might live forever with Him (see the link: "The Blood of Christ"). Nothing is more important – but in my experience most churches/groups don't have a clue about the true meaning of the symbolism of communion, so instead they squabble over outward forms which mean nothing. Here are a couple of links on this:

What does scripture say about communion?

The meaning of the communion memorial (in BB 4A)

Question #2:

Hello Dr. Bob,

I'm sorry for not responding right away.

To link to my previous email, in a patriarchal culture where I was born and live, husbands/men ought to be the one working to feed the family. To be a husband and unemployed is shameful especially when it is the wife who is working, though there are now young families that have "reverse roles" and is not making who-the-breadwinner-in-the-family-is an issue.

In a third world country where I live there is not a lot of options for work. Ours is country where a big chunk of the trained and skilled labor force is exported to other countries (commonly called "brain drain") because of unemployment at home. There are many graduates of colleges, technical/vocational institutes who could not land jobs this year. These add to the unemployed backlog of previous years who are still unemployed up to now. Those who got employed overseas would rather endure loneliness working abroad and send money back home to support their families than stay here together and be involved in petty crimes to survive or sell drugs to earn a living and put their and their families' lives in danger of imprisonment or of being killed. To be employed here, one has to know someone or be close to that someone who is already inside the firm or bureaucracy to help him get a job or pay at least three months worth of wages in exchange for a position. But these openings are close to nil. This is called red tape or a form of corruption which is common in poor countries.

Response #2:

Good to hear from you, my friend – write any time (no problem with delayed response for whatever reason).

I don't know of any scripture which says it is wrong for a woman to work outside the home, especially if that is necessary, or of any scripture to say that there is something wrong with a man not working when that is impossible under certain circumstances. Laziness is to be avoided. Not being able to get a job is something else again. Things in this country are apparently not as bad as where you are, but they can be very bad. Being of "that age", I know a lot of older people, and I can tell you for most us becoming unemployed over 60 means probably never ever being able to get a job again – certainly not a good job, and sometimes not even any job. There are always exceptions – and our God is a God of exceptions for those He considers exceptional, namely, believers who come to Him in prayer and in faith. Are you lacking employment at the moment? Let me know and I will certainly put that on my prayer list. I have had some big "issues" of my own at the university lately (probably I told you about them), but God helping me I'm still employed, even though pay has been knocked back and I'm trusting the Lord that there will be "enough" when I get to the next stepping stone in crossing this creek. The world we live in was never an easy place, and the troubles and challenges of the "modern economy" are not small and in many ways unprecedented. Scripture doesn't condemn someone trying to work who is being stymied by the circumstances. I have not seen that in the Bible – happy to discuss individual passages.

Question #3:

Does it follow that it is always the case that husbands should be the breadwinner and the wife stays at home no matter the reverse circumstances and specifics in each family? There are conservatives who are strict on this. Is the language or how the passage was written by Paul does not permit for a different meaning?

Response #3:

Scripture commands wives to manage the household well (1Tim.5:14) but says nothing that would lead anyone getting their truth from the Bible to suggest that men have no role in that; indeed, husbands are told to "rule their own households well" (1Tim.3:12). In the ancient world women mostly did supervise the household and men mostly did work outside the house, but on a farm, even in the ancient world, there is barely an area where their work wouldn't overlap and be cooperative, and there is nothing in the Bible to commend strict separation of roles. As long as the husband rules his home in love and the wife respects her husband's role (Eph.5:22-33; Col.3:18-19), the particular circumstances beyond that are not delineated or commented on by scripture, no doubt because there are myriad possible circumstances.

Question #4:

About marriage and family in the OT. Abraham and Isaac instructed their sons to have wives from their own idol-worshipping relatives. Does it make a big difference if they would have the "daughters of Heth"? The spiritual path the family takes is leaning towards being influenced by idolatry anyway. Is it right to think that their reason for this is not about planning for a family that worships God but to secure the family wealth? We can see this condition of idolatry in the family when Jacob told his big family, after leaving Shechem before going to Bethel, to discard their idols. (The Bible mentions Rachel hiding Laban's teraphim before the incident; the others must have brought their own also) This incident happened after the massacre of the Shechemites who want to intermarry with them. (Simeon and Levi's excuse about Dinah being defiled is just a pretext for their violent attitude and greed because a marriage is offered to make the offense right. Maybe they also see through the Shechemites deception and the Shechemites were outwitted. A case of "deceiving and being deceived") I also think of Job offering sacrifices for his children's sake in case they sinned; the fact that his wife told him to "curse God and die" leaves no doubt about her spiritual condition. There must be only some believers in these patriarchs' huge household. Being a believer during those times (especially for the patriarchs themselves) must be difficult because of one's household not seriously following God.

Response #4:

I'm not sure I understand your question about "marriage and family in the OT". You do a good job of outlining the fact that none of these families or arrangements were perfect – far from it; and there is a lot to be learned from that. But it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about what we are to do today from the bad examples found in the behavior of some of the patriarchs and their offspring. Genesis is a historical book and records what was done without necessarily condemning it or condoning it. So when Abram takes Hagar as a concubine, it doesn't mean it was not a mistake just because it was Abram who did it – and it most certainly WAS a mistake.

Question #5:

Criminals like kidnappers or planned shooters have been inspired to turn their lives around on occasion because their victim or would-be victim treated them with respect.

Kindness in most people--especially to those who have been tortured by bullying--has been known to produce undying loyalty.

Response #5:

This has been your personal experience? Sounds more like a Disney movie (and there is never any hint of Christ in any Disney movie).

I think of all the Lord did for Satan, yet he rebelled.

I think of all the Lord did in dying for unbelievers, 99% of the human race, yet they have no use for Him.

I think of all the Lord did for His contemporaries and how they repaid Him – with crucifixion.

I think your thesis is flawed.

But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
John 2:24-25 KJV

"Total depravity" is in fact the norm – that's one thing the Calvinists are correct about, pace Marx and co. who got it completely wrong.

Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
Isaiah 26:10 NKJV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thank you Professor

I am on your site now getting some reinforcement from something I have previously read yet tend to not remember clearly unless I reread. I read some of the excellent comments about your work which happily are so true. Tried reading your site and watching TV show (at the same time) on the planets, solar system, galaxies and universe. The Hubble telescope pointed to a “blank” area in sky came up with countless other stars and galaxies. I immediately thought of your lessons concerning the spiritual sacrifice in his body that our Lord suffered for us and something to the effect that it surpasses even the glory of the universe. (Not expressed by me properly but I do go back to clarify for myself). No wonder we shall worship Him, The Lord Jesus Christ forever. I do not understand all things and still have questions. I do believe in the Word.

I pray for you daily.

As always your student in the Lord.

Just as a PS to my last email. I did not realise you were on jury duty.

About your work and ministry, I explained to my boys that one of the reasons I hold you in such high regard is that studying the ancient languages “is not all beer and skittles” as we would say here (i.e. not all a fun and easy time). Rather it can be a hard slog.

Please do not feel the need to reply to my emails. There will be people waiting for your next work. As for myself what you have onsite will keep me going for quite a long time. At some stage I probably will have questions, though I read through as much as I can to find answers on your site. Even then I am content to wait until you think it needs an answer on one of your yet to post emails online. I have already found most of my answers just from reading others questions to you and I read your new posting of emails immediately. While I remember (and this does not need an answer right away. Just putting it here to remind myself for later)"

1. Though I am fairly hopeless at singing hymns, I did enjoy that part of the service as a former mormon, especially as you say with the dearth of any solid bible teaching as against indoctrination. I note your deserved reservation that they might not be accurate doctrinally (most certainly the case with some mormon hymns). Having left mormonism, we together with others from differing religious backgrounds, do sing two or three hymns when we meet to fellowship with other believers (very small house meeting).

A) Are you able to recommend any hymns that are doctrinally safe? As you say, if we find some Psalms with music sheets that my friend could play that would be doctrinal. I was thinking is there more traditional hymns as possible candidates ?

B) Is it likely that the anti-christ will use hymns to stir believers and unbelievers into a frenzy. Hymns such as Battle Hymn of the Republic come to mind, given the anti-christ’s military campaigns and even are possibly used now by some (a pity as I do enjoy the occasional stirring hymn as well as the more reflective ones such as How Great Thou Art) as possible choices for promoting zeal? Just a cautionary thought I had after reading some of your thoughts on songs for the times ahead.

No need for a reply right now as I will go to your email and subject list to pursue what I can find on your thoughts from scripture.

Your student in Christ Jesus Our Lord

Response #6:

It's always good to hear from you, my friend. Got off early today so I'm able to get to my "inbox".

I've written about the music issue a number of times and will give you a list of links below. In a nutshell, it's a matter of degrees. A small dose of "Christian music" where the mistakes or misplaced emphasis is not glaringly wrong is somewhat akin to eating a chocolate cake when one needs to lose weight: it may not kill you or wreck your diet long term, and you like to do it, so . . . Problems come when eating cake and the like begin to be done without restraint or judgment, and serious problems come when such junk is finally substituted for any healthy food at all. That last state is where a goodly number of Christian groups find themselves today. I'm certainly not worried about you. As you grow, the impurities in the little bit of junk food you are indulging in will become all the more obvious.

Music, of course, is highly emotionally manipulative. It occupies our thoughts and attentions easily and motivates us to "do" whatever it is that the music is recommending, be courageous in battle, pine for a lost sweetheart, etc. For that reason "Christian music" which is doctrinally "off" may lead immature Christians to believe things that are not true – or, what is probably even worse, lead them to be only slightly off on some important point, a little hole in the dike which, over time and without fixing, may eventually widen and result in a flood pouring through which may do a good deal of damage. People who write "Christian music" are no doubt very talented and gifted . . . in music . . . but that does not make them spiritual giants nor does it mean that they actually have a close relationship with the Lord nor that their lyrics are actually "good" from the divine point of view. And yet if the music itself (not the text) is "really good", musically speaking, it will penetrate into the heart in a way that the false or somewhat "off" sentiment could never do outside of a musical context.

In terms of its meaning, Laodicean music may seem wonderfully powerful when in fact for the most part like all things Laodicean it is "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev.3:17 NKJV). Earlier hymns may be some better – and we all have our favorites – but we need to ask ourselves, why do we enjoy singing them? Generally, it is for the joy of the music (not so much the text) and our emotional response to the experience. And to the extent that we are responding to some sentiment in the lyrics (it's really all about the lyrics, good or bad), something which is indeed biblical sound, that is all to the good. But to the extent that the sentiment is "off" (as is usually the case, even if only to a small degree), to that extent we are doing some damage. It may only be a single chocolate cake – but if we are not careful it may turn into a steady diet of lard. And, after all, emotions are funny things, potentially very dangerous things. Our spirit, responding to the truth and the Spirit, is supposed to rule our body and natural mind or heart (where spirit and body come together), and the emotions, like a good race horse under strict control, can be helpful. But if we let the horse eat loco weed and spit out the bit, we are in for wild and rough ride (see the links: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?" and "Fighting the Battle within"). 

Here are those other links:

My favorite hymn

The role of music in church

The Unknown Hymn

The Influence of Music

Christian Music

More on Christian Music

Negative Effects of Christian Music

"Worship Services"

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Professor

Thank you for your reply on hymns.

Part A) “My Favourite Hymn” gave me one of your favourite hymns. Do you have others?

Part B) The anti-christ using “hymns” as one of his rallying tactics?

You did not directly respond to this part.

I did read the links you sent me and I noted that I had read them previously and understand the dangers of emotions, false doctrines, substitution for real bible teaching, even perhaps in the more traditional hymns. Was good reading them again.

I certainly came to learn truths from a search of scriptures and most particularly from your teachings from the bible and not from hymns.

I find myself not being a fan of the modern “Christian” music. Apart from the words the whole performance is too close to pop culture. Unfortunately it seems to play big part in the lives of other Christians I meet with on a social basis which invariably turns to discussions of scripture. Some or perhaps all are much more learned than myself, having studied for many years and even wrote books on the Old Testament etc.

My sense is that music is being used adversely now by the evil one. Why would it not be part of the strategy also of the anti-christ, even using the more traditional type hymns to justify his claims?

Just an update on my weekly social “cuppa” meeting. We are all different flavours of belief; non religious believers, Baptist, Anglican (whose wife is the qualified pastor); and yet to be determined positions of belief. I invited one learned chap who has a ministry with children in the town, here for breakfast yesterday. I am generally a bit of a loner but feel I need to change somewhat.

Do not feel you need to respond at this time as I know you are flat out busy.

I am grateful for your dedicated service to the Lord. Gives me encouragement and knowledge to keep preparing as we all need to.

Thank you Professor.

Your student in our dear Lord Jesus.

Response #7:

Thanks for your good words as always, my friend.

To be honest, I try to stay away from music generally. I have a lot to do, and I don't do it as well with distractions. When I am eating a meal, I'd rather watch the news to keep up on things. When relaxing after a meal, I'd rather read something or do a crossword puzzle.

I have no doubt that the beast will make use of all manner of devices to advance his cause. He will pretend to be Christ, after all, so any present hymn or other "Christian music" that does not refute his claims will be perfectly good to use, I'd imagine. After all, they sing hymns in the Roman Catholic church too, but to a person everyone who has ever come to this ministry as a refugee from said religion has avowed that it is impossible to be a born again believer therein, music notwithstanding (cf. your own experience in the Mormons). So those hymns not only did not help – they were consistent with a religion which does not actually serve the Lord (as will be the case with antichrist).

Best wishes for all of your good efforts to share the Word of truth, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Bob,

I hope you are well. Yesterday I went to a small independent music festival that was on all day in the city. It was great to see the music live and some of the musicians and singers were very accomplished. The thing is, I now realise how odd I feel in secular culture. Just because it is secular does not make it neutral I have realised, especially these days. By and by there was the odd singer that sung old fashioned songs about unrequited love and simple ballads but they were really in the minority. Other bands were singing about decadence and a rock and roll life style. Another one injected random swear words into their lyrics for shock tactics I guess. There was one woman who had a really beautiful voice and her songs were really seductive and enchanting but were full of pagan lyrics about being an earth mother and communicating with spirits. There was one band who were very young and very, very talented and are probably destined to go far. We both were taken aback with their talent. I couldn't hear the lyrics that they were singing and so I Googled them on the bus ride home. I shouldn't have been shocked but I was. The songs were all about casual sex and watching pornography!! I felt really duped and foolish and ridiculously naive. It was as though I was expecting the world to change with my beliefs. I think I may still be in a little bit of denial about how wide the devil has cast his net. These bands are not yet established and yet they are obediently doing the devil's work for him. It was a shame that such talent was wasted on fruitless subject matters. Some of the kids I saw on stage where very talented yes, but they sang about life as though they were empty vessels. That's how I saw them, as empty vessels and I couldn't see the souls in their eyes which made me very sad. The acts who were more soulful were the ones who were either singing political or spiritual songs, but the politics were against so called conservative Christians and the spirituality was of a pagan and wiccan one. It is funny how visceral and stimulating and energising it was while we were there and yet I felt empty as we travelled back. We booked the tickets for this festival over a year ago and I have changed a lot during this time. I have noticed more and more that I cannot enjoy the things I once did as it jars with my Christianity more and more. Is this normal? At first this jarring sensation depressed me and I did mourn losing the worldly things for a while but now I am not missing them, it is strange. All of these things are falling away from me and I am seeing it all in a different and new light.

One of the artists has just released a new album. One of the songs was called "My Jesus Phase". I was intrigued by the title and so I researched the song. The artist was using the title as a cheap gimmick and was calling to attention how weird she thinks it is to be Christian. She literally couldn't understand why anyone would ever say out loud "Jesus is my best friend". The funny thing Bob is that I cannot understand how she cannot even slightly understand Christianity. It feels as though the line in the sand is becoming more and more prominent. You cannot sit on the fence any more. You must pick a side. Jesus is amassing his followers and the devil is amassing his. Why does it feel as though the devil has more on his side? Is this what is meant by the narrow path?

Are you able to listen to secular music any more? I haven't heard any recent Christian songs that sat well with me. Is it true that the devil has all of the best tunes? It is certainly the most seductive and does tickle the ears more. I like old Gospel songs but as they often have a touch of the R&B in it or rock and roll I wonder if they have been compromised. If in doubt I listen to a great deal of classical music. Then my mind can rest and enjoy the beauty. How do you feel about secular culture in general Bob? As always, I am very curious to know your take on these things.

Yours in our loving saviour Jesus Christ,

Response #8:

I'm very pleased to hear of your growing spiritual discernment. I must admit that I have become no particular fan of music even though I loved it earlier in life. That is not to say that I never listen to it – or rather 'hear it' (pretty hard not to bump into it in any media, even in elevators, grocery stores and phone queues, etc.). Music is very emotionally manipulative, and as your experience confirms very seldom conveys a good message to go along with that emotional manipulation. Indeed, it seems that the instances nowadays where the message is not damaging and dangerous are few and far between.

It is impossible for Christians to bury our heads in the sand to the point where we are no longer exposed to any sort of negative cultural influence whatsoever – nor do I think it would be a particularly good idea to try. But we do have to be discerning. Less is certainly more here, and there are definitely some things which are SO bad for us that we need to turn our back on them completely, even if we used to like and enjoy them. In fact the more we like something, the more dangerous it may be for us if the influence or message is problematic.

That is one of the reasons why "Christian music", especially of the contemporary kind, can be surreptitiously dangerous: we think we are listening to a friend but in fact we are hearing a serpent (in some cases). Getting my "constitutional" walk the other day, I passed a youngish man dressed in sporty athletic clothes washing a brand new SUV which had to have cost more than my yearly salary; he was clearly "getting into" and singing along with a "Christian" song blaring from his stereo, repeating over and over something like "I am for-saking it . . . ", like a Buddhist mantra. A very emotional experience, I'm sure, but divorced from the truth in fact. That sums it up, in my view. Christian music allows lukewarm Laodicean Christians to feel as if they are walking with the Lord because they are listening to godly music when in fact they are indulging in the things of the world full bore and doing very little to advance their personal spiritual growth, run a good race for Christ, or help others do likewise through ministry – the very reasons we are still in this world after salvation.

Here are some pertinent links:

Sing as a command?

Hymns in the Bible

The Unknown Hymn

The Influence of Music

Christian Music

More on Christian Music

Negative Effects of Christian Music

"Worship Services"

Keep on fighting the good fight for our dear Lord and Savior.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Dr,

I hope all is well with you, your family and your ministry. Please let me know of any urgent prayer needs. As for me, I would like a personal prayer for strength and endurance and for my walk to be a witness to God's grace in my life so I can be a shining light unto me. (MT 5:16)

I would like some clarification and feedback as it refers to your recent mailing, Culture and Christianity, around "Alcohol is sin".

I agree alcohol itself as a product is not sin, as most products are, but I use again 1 Thess. 5:22, "Abstain from all appearances of evil" as my scriptural support that even drinking one sip or glass is spiritually and morally hurtful. First, for conscious sake, we as believers have to be different in our actions and attitudes than the rest of the world. We shouldn't do anything that might cause someone to stumble and all things are lawful but not expedient due to "things" becoming our witness, for good or evil. So the product alcohol is not sin but the mere appearance of indulgence doesn't give glory to God because of the effect the drink can have as your witness for Christ. Second, this is critically important in my eye and what is missing from the discussion. Yes the Lord turn water into wine but we know that wine can make someone drunk. So in effect , Are we saying that the Lord condone drunkenness? No! Even if it takes one or ten glasses based on the person tolerance, the issue still lies, the product itself can cause a poor witness to the Lord. This is totally different than taking medication because of an illness that might have an effect on your mind versus something willingly. But what scripture doesn't highlight but we know to be a fact because of the character of Christ, that those present at the wedding didn't get from this miracle, so therefore it is more than likely the wine had to be unfermented drink of the highest quality. The reason I use 1 Thess. 5:22 for my argument is one sip, out of choice, can make a person not have the mind of Christ and we are suppose to always in season and out of season present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto the Lord. (Rom 12:1) By abstaining from something that doesn't glorify God while not sin, is the best means of glorifying God.

Response #9:

I will certainly continue to keep you in my prayers for growth and production and a good witness – which I am certain you are already fulfilling that in fact.

Here is my translation of 1st Thessalonians 5:22, a much misunderstood verse:

Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:22

This is a command to believers to refrain from things which they suspect might be bad (not to try and not look bad to others in some sort of legalistic hypocrisy). If we have even that suspicion, it's better to stay away. It is not a command to avoid doing / saying things which some others will take the wrong way; i.e., it's not OUR appearance that is the issue here, but the appearance of things we observe which gives us an indication of spiritual danger regarding which we should be prudent.

There is of course the law of love. If a brother or sister was breaking bread with a recovering alcoholic, it would not be "of love" to consume alcohol in his/her presence. However, a believer who enjoys wine, for example, should not fear to drink it in the privacy of his/her own home or seek to "hide it away" for fear some legalistic member of the church is going to give them a hard time about it. Our Lord and all of the disciples/apostles drank wine – as did everyone almost without exception in that time (Nazarites temporarily abstained but only for the period of their vow).

The wine at Cana was wine; that is very clear from the Greek. There was, in fact, no such thing as non-alcoholic grape juice in antiquity because there was no refrigeration or additives to prevent fermentation. So even newly pressed wine, "new wine", always had an alcohol content (cf. Acts 2:13). Could God supernaturally create wine without alcohol? Certainly – but there is absolutely no basis in the Bible for assuming that about this incident, not from what the text actually says, and there was no reason for doing so (except in the minds of some legalistic preachers).

I think it is a fine thing for a Christian to abstain from alcohol. There may be some benefit to drinking it (Paul famously advises Timothy to do so), but that was more the case in the ancient world where mixing wine in with the water disinfected it. What is truly deleterious, however, is to look down on a brother or sister for consuming alcohol on the one hand, or to take legalistic pride in not drinking on the other. If the only two alternatives were to be arrogant and not drink or to be humble and drink occasionally, the latter would be far preferable.

There are plenty of passages to be adduced here, but I think you probably get the idea. A quick concordance search for wine etc. in the Bible will tell you all you need to know (see also the Ichthys subject index, s.v. "Alcohol").

I'm also praying for your situation, my friend, I am hopeful of hearing good news anon. Nothing is impossible for the Lord.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

What is 1st Corinthians 7:9 saying? Like, is it talking about a couple that are dating and should marry quickly because of burning desire for each other? Or is it talking about a person who was married and is in another relationship? Finally, what about a person who is not dating and has never been in a relationship? Is the verse saying they should find somebody to marry just to make temptation less likely? Or should they stay single? Is it ok to say to myself that I want to stay single or would that make life harder? Like, if a single person never in a relationship is struggling with lust should they consider marriage even if they want to stay single and don't know anybody? Or is it something they will just have to overcome by the power of the Holy spirit? I ask because I was having a discussion with some other people about this.

Sorry if this has already been answered. I do appreciate what you do and it has been a blessing.

Response #10:

Good to hear from you.

The verse has to be understood in the context, and the context is one of Paul answering the Corinthians in an on-going discussion. They had previously asked him if celibacy was "OK"; he had told them "yes". But because (apparently) there was still much misapplication going on in Corinth (a common thing on many issues there as the two epistles to that church taken together make very clear), Paul uses this opportunity to clear up many other points. The main rejoinder seen in verse two (1Cor.7:2) is that in practical terms most people are unable to live in a celibate way and for that reason it would be better to marry. Also, it was a wrong application on the part of some to think that celibacy WITHIN marriage is even right (it is not, except for very short periods; 1Cor.7:3-5). In the next three verses (1Cor.7:6-8), Paul reaffirms the point that it really is advantageous to stay single and not mandatory to marry (1Cor.7:6), but celibacy – that is, the ability to remain unmarried without falling into serious sin – is a gift that few Christians have (1Cor.7:7) – but if a person is capable of remaining single and not falling into sin as a result then that is the best possibility (1Cor.7:8). Now we come to the verse you ask about (1Cor.7:9).

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
1st Corinthians 7:9 NKJV

The "they" here are the "unmarried and widows" of the previous verse – which covers everyone who is not in a marriage relationship. Most commentators (myself included) take "burn" as "burn with passion", with the idea being that such a person is distracted and preoccupied with the lack of a spouse that even if serious sin is avoided, it is a dangerous situation to be in long-term, and on top of that the brother or sister in question is likely to be ineffective spiritually because of preoccupation with the opposite sex – this issue then dominates their thoughts, even if they are able to keep out of sinful activities.

In the time in which this was written, the number of unmarried men who would fall into this category of having an option was small. There was no such thing as "dating" the way we understand it, and whether in Israel, Greece or Rome, most people were married by the arrangement of their parents at a fairly early age. This is why Paul devotes space later in the chapter (1Cor.7:25-28) to the issue of whether or not to marry the woman to whom a man has been espoused – and he tell such persons that there is no necessity of doing so. So for the most part, in Paul's time, the unmarried who were also adults and capable of making their own decisions (not still under the authority of their parents and living in their household) was a small number and consisted mostly of 1) those who were espoused by arrangement but not yet married, and 2) those who were now free to marry because of the death of their partners. The biblical position is that marriage is not mandatory, but that it is a practical necessity for most people who, if they are honest with themselves, are going to fall into trouble if they attempt to go through life without a marriage partner.

Where is romantic love here? Totally absent. Now I'm not saying that people didn't fall in love then or now – of course they did and do. But in Paul's day this was most just an unfortunate part of life, because, if married, any thought of love outside of that marriage was disaster (as is the case today); and if not married, the chances of an unmarried and unobligated person finding a suitable potential spouse even to have the opportunity to fall in love with were very small. That part of the equation of course has changed dramatically in our day. At least the opportunity part.

For that reason, I think young Christians today have a very difficult "row to hoe" in this regard. Never has sexuality and the temptations it brings been more ubiquitous and difficult to avoid than in our day – and that is saying quite a lot when compared with pagan Greece and Rome. And never has it been more difficult to find a spouse without making a terrible mistake: arranged marriages, at least in our country, are largely unknown, and venues for safely finding Mr. or Mrs Right are largely non-existent. There is "church", but since most churches are legalistic and/or not teaching the truth with any depth or substance, what does it say about a person one might "find" there. If the person looking is really putting the Lord first in his/her search for the truth, that is going to produce compatibility problems with someone who is only lukewarm (there is lot about this in the email posting: "Marriage and the Bible VII": see Q/A #16ff.). And given the nature of society today, divorce has largely lost its stigma and is very easy to procure, so one cannot count on marriage continuing if the other person is not "happy".

I do know this. First, as Paul also says in this chapter, "the time is short" (1Cor.7:29ff.). That was true then (i.e., life itself is short and the time we have to devote ourselves to the Lord and His priorities in this life has always been limited), and it is all that much more the case now since the Tribulation is just over the horizon. And now just as then, we are not in this world after salvation to "pursue happiness" but to serve Jesus Christ. But also now just as then, if we are too distracted because of this issue, then "single bliss" is probably not for us.

I know this too. If we really do need a spouse – and the Lord certainly knows the answer to that question better than we do – then He is certainly able to provide. We could analyze a thousand resumes and go on a hundred dates and never make the right decision – and might even with that effort not have a genuine chance to do so for the want of someone "right" being in the pile. But the Lord is able to provide for us just the right person if we are faithful AND if we are patient. Waiting on the Lord in all things is of critical importance. How much more so in this case where no one wants to be patient.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

The individual in question 16 at your link was thinking the same thing I was thinking, but I have my answer now after reading your response. Back to my email though, something still bothers me. If I misunderstood what you said, let me know. If the majority of believers are probably unable to stay single, doesn't that kind of make it sound like they will not be able to control themselves till marriage and thus they are pretty much guaranteed to continue struggling with sin till they do marry? I know all sin is wrong and that God holds us accountable for it, but it would seem to me that it would be very difficult to endure through that time period without continuously struggling with sin.

Ok, let me say this. Would the answer be the following? "A Christian is able to overcome the sin during that time of "single bliss" but if he finds it overly or unusually difficult to do so, he should marry to make it easier on himself whenever the Lord provides the right person."

I guess sometimes I know the answers to many things, but I just want assurance for them so I can solidify them in my mind.

In Christ

Response #11:

I think "your answer" is a good one.

Yes indeed we are certainly responsible "not to sin". Life is complex and there are all manner of difficult situations a believer might be called upon to face, pressures which tempt us to all sorts of wrong conduct. This topic is just one, but it is one common to us all regardless of what else is going on in our lives and in the world.

A person without the gift of celibacy is responsible to be celibate unless and until married. As mentioned, because of the nature of our society and our culture, this is more difficult for young people today possibly than ever before, in my opinion. But that doesn't change the responsibility.

What the lack of the gift of celibacy means is not that a person without it can't withstand the pressure and is thus not capable of not sinning. Indeed we all CAN refrain from any sin (but of course being perfect is not possible: 1Jn.1:8-10). Because of the unique dangers of porneia discussed by Paul in the preceding chapter (1Cor.6:18), this is one place to make doubly sure that here of all places we do not fall into sin in spite of our imperfections and sin nature.

What the lack of the gift of celibacy means for those who have not yet gotten married, then, is not being fated to sin (there are no doubt plenty of cases where marriage just never worked out for such individuals and yet they still never fell into porneia). What it means is that this issue will be a distraction for them in a way that it will not necessarily be for those with the gift. All will be tempted, but those with the gift will be able to get on with their lives and not have this issue dominate their thinking to an unreasonable degree. They will not be constantly "burning" and fixated on potential love and marriage. After all, you and your friends (who may not have the gift) are thinking about this, talking about this, and this is your second email to me on the subject. That is not a criticism; just an observation. A person with the gift of celibacy would be able, if growing and following the Spirit, to move onto other things more readily.

I should hasten to add that sexual temptation does not end for those who are married – just consider David and Bathsheba, or king Solomon (who was led astray by the desire to possess many foreign wives). So to some degree we are all in the same boat. A person who is not married has more time and effort to spend of the things that are pleasing to the Lord, but if that time and effort are being wasted because of preoccupation with this issue (and that brings dangers with it), then "it is better to marry than to burn".

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

What is the meaning of this bolded part?

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
(1 Timothy 6:17)

Response #12:

The world is an awful place, being ruled by the evil one and being in the grip of the Genesis curse. But even though it is groaning (Rom.8:20-22), the beauty of its original creation still shines through. Similarly, everything God made for us to sustain us in this world, in spite of having to work for it at present through the sweat of our brows, is meant for us to enjoy, giving thanks to Him for all of His provision to us (cf. Acts 17:25).

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
Psalm 104:14-15 NKJV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

[Trying to reach someone for Christ]

Response #13:

I certainly wish you success, but, honestly, we do have to be realistic about who it is with whom we are dealing. If the person is clearly seeking the truth well and good; if the person shows signs of being entrenched in darkness, then we need to take care. We are supposed to be loving, but also wise enough to protect ourselves (Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20; Prov.14:18). We are supposed to love and to share the truth, but not if it involves endangering ourselves for the sake of those whose demeanor and actions demonstrate their unworthiness (Matt.7:6). Second guessing ourselves is sometimes good, but often the result of the evil one using guilt-feelings against us. Personally, I think you were well within the bonds of common sense to find disturbing signs disturbing. If you do decide to make contact, I would strongly advise doing so in a public place or else taking someone with you. Protecting yourself is a godly thing to do.

BB 6A: Peripateology, the study of the Christian walk, has a lot to say about all sorts of related issues.

It's always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend! Do feel free to write any time at all.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

What does Paul mean about this verse?

Charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
2 Timothy 2:14

Response #14:

From a posting about Messianic legalism:

I think all this is a perfect example of what Paul means when he says that it is unprofitable to "fight about words" (1Tim.6:4; 2Tim.2:14), not the defending of the truth in terms of important doctrines, but rather getting involved in disputes that have to do with an extra-biblical layer of pseudo-truth such as Gnosticism or, as in the case of your recent correspondent, hyper-legalism.

And from a similar posting:

I know of no verse in the Bible which commands us to refrain from using particular words, except of course if they be pornographic, blasphemous, or scatological. Since that is not the case for any of these words about which you ask, your notice of the scriptures which counsel avoiding conflict over such things is well-taken (1Tim.6:4; 2Tim.2:14).

And from Peter #13:

Too much self-inflicted doctrinal controversy is spiritually unhealthy (2Tim.2:14). So when you find something you know to be good, stick with it and give it a full and fair hearing.

So Paul is speaking about pointless controversies which do not have as their true basis a search for truth or a refutation of what is false, but which are either entirely false on both sides or even if ostensibly having to do with the truth are really only pointless quarrels which produce no edification but only strife. In other words, this is exactly the sort of thing I strive to avoid at Ichthys, namely, not the willingness to stand up against false teaching, but engaging in "commentary like" or Talmudic fascination to a morbid degree about things (words) which make no difference except to the disputants for "counting coup". Such things may be hard to describe, but as with Potter Stewart's quote about obscenity, we all know it when we see it.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

What do these proverbs mean?

"The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires."
(Proverbs 11:6)

Response #15:

Hebrew proverbs more often contain two elements which reinforce or explain each other, so they have to be understood together as a pair:

Proverbs 11:6:

a) Better to be righteous – God delivers you.

b) Better not to rebel against Him – you will fall into the very pit you are digging.

So if you are doing right, God is with you; so beware of doing wrong, or you'll reap the consequences of your action without help from Him since you've abandoned Him. Two sides of the same coin.

Question #16:

"A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised."
(Proverbs 12:8)

Response #16:

A person who is thinking and acting according to the truth has a good outcome.

A person who has twisted thinking from despising the truth has a bad one.

Question #17:

"Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look."
Proverbs 25:23

Response #17:

If clouds come, it will rain (unavoidable). And just so . . .

If a person gossips, he will tick some people off and receive the consequences (inevitable).

Question #18:

Hi Dr Luginbill,

May I ask you an odd question? There is a TV show I like to watch with another good Christian friend. It is a new thing for me to watch TV shows and not feel guilty, actually sometimes the guilt starts up and I have to stop it. In this show's universe, there are sort of super-powered fighters and so-called deities, and there are some fights against evil beings. There are times when one of the good guys power up, I kind of feel awe regarding them, but later I almost feel I am betraying God by allowing myself to feel awe. Do you think it is bad, or maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing? I don't want God to feel I am betraying him. But I know I tend toward legalism, and it is useful I think to have something to take my friend and mine's minds off the stresses of life onto something light.


Response #18:

Watching TV is not a sin – at least not in principle. It might, like many other areas of application in this life, involve sin. For example, driving a car is not a sin – but if I get cut off in traffic, get mad, and start to "curse and swear and tear my hair" as a result, well . . .

Likewise watching the news is not a sin. But if some commentator comes on and starts saying things that I not only disagree with but find totally absurd and obnoxious and worse, and I start to "curse and swear and tear my hair" as a result, well . . .

Absolute solutions when it comes to matters of application are usually wrong ones, especially if they are engaged in very soon and abruptly as a reaction to something. If we stop driving or stop watching TV . . . or stop anything . . . as a matter of course, gradually, over a long period of time, as a result of better and better application of the truth, that is fine. "Giving it up for Christ" usually does tempt to legalism if it is not already outright legalistic (that depends upon what is in the person's heart, after all).

Here are a few links:

Forsaking TV violence?

TV 1

TV 2

TV 3

TV 4

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

I mean no disrespect sir, everyone rejects certain activities outright without every getting into them. And sometimes their reason is that they think it is stupid, childish, bad, etc. Unless you prescribe that everyone must get into everything so they can go through that process of slowly getting out over time you mentioned-in which case we will spend our lives first getting into card games, then growing out, then getting into sports, then growing out, then getting into TV, then getting out, then getting into music, then growing out, on and on, if we aren't allowed to reject them outright.

It just seems like over and over I come across this principle of people who don't care as much being just fine or better off than people like me who get told not to care so much. I really think I just want to be like that way now. I see it at work, in church, in family, in the Bible, everywhere. I mean if God doesn't care, why should I care?

You seem to be implying that giving it up would be the end result of someone growing in the truth. From someone learning not to be legalistic and feel guilt, it feels daunting to me that first I have to overcome all the legalism and guilt, and then eventually get to that point (starting out way behind everyone else). I hate this immaturity that I like when I try try try this strategy that strategy to hear someone and 99% of the time they don't meet even meet me part way (they will watch me struggle to touch their level and continue whispering), so I throw myself against a wall again and again and sometimes still can't get where everyone else is naturally at. I just feel like giving up. Sigh. But thank you, you do always answer right away and try to help. I showed my good friend Ichthys by the way. He might ask you a question. Thanks for your patience.

Response #19:

I don't have any problem whatsoever with you giving up TV.

In fact, if that is what the Spirit is telling you to do, then that is what you should do.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

I didn't mean to get upset again, I am sorry. God bless you! Have a good day!

Response #20:

I'm not upset, just trying to help.

Balancing principles in application to real life is an issue for all Christians trying to live a godly life. The important things are to act with spiritual common sense and perspective (wild gyrations of behavior are never a good sign), and to do things for the right reasons:

If we are giving up cards to take up bowling, it's not much of a difference; if we are giving up cards to have more prayer time, then that may be a good thing.

If we are giving up watching sports (because we get angry), and take up cards as a substitute (and still get angry), that's not much of a difference. If we are giving up watching sports (because we get angry), and go for long walks instead, that would be avoiding a bad thing.

When it's not a case of activity "X" being an outright sin, then it is a matter of application that only the believer in response to the Spirit using some spiritual common sense can "get right".

We have limited time in this world, after all, and we need never to forget the reason we are here. We are not here to "have a good life and enjoy ourselves" (though we would all like to have this be true for us at least sometimes); we are here to carry our cross from point A to point B, and we will be rewarded for how well we do this, with putting Christ first leading to higher rewards while putting ourselves first has the other result. Every choice we make is important. Putting away childish things and focusing instead on spiritual growth, progress and production is the way to glorify our dear Savior and win the rewards He wants us to have. Wasting our precious spare time on unimportant things, even if not sinful and merely banal, is no strategy for a good outcome at the Judgment Seat of Christ. All who leave this life with faith in Him still intact will have life eternal, but only those who fought a good fight will reap a good reward. None of us is ever going to be able to put out a perfect 100% effort for the Lord 24/7 – but even 50% is a lot better than 0% (which is where most Laodicean Christians are today).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Ichthys Home