April 2017 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  “going to church,” God allowing loved ones to perish, comparing Sodom to the U.S.A., defining the antichrist, women covering their heads

Is it wrong to say that we’re “going to church”?  The church is the people, Christians, not the building.  So is it a sin to say that we’re “going to church” when we’re talking about going to the building?

The Greek word ekklesia is translated “church” in English Bibles.  Ekklesia means “called out” or “assembly.”  It’s used to refer universally to those called out of the world by obedience to the gospel (Matt. 16:18).  It’s also used to refer to localized congregations of Christians (Gal. 1:2).  It’s even used to refer to secular assemblies like courts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

The term church has an interesting origin.  It comes from the old English word cirice or cyrice, which in turn comes from the Dutch word kerk and the German word kirche.  These Dutch and German terms are in turned based on the medieval Greek term kuriakon doma (“Lord’s house”).  In medieval times, kuriakon doma (Lord’s house) was used synonymously with ekklesia (called out, assembly) because the ekklesia was referred to as “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Therefore whenever we read the word church in our Bibles, we’re reading a word that should technically be translated “called out” or “assembly.”  However, the reason it’s translated “church” is because “church” originally meant “Lord’s house,” which is a biblical description of the religious “assembly,” the “called out” (1 Tim. 3:15).  So when we say, “Let’s go to church,” we’re technically saying either, “Let’s go to the assembly of the called out,” or, “Let’s go to the Lord’s house.”  Both expressions are biblical and mean basically the same thing.

We need to remember that God warns us to avoid “unhealthy cravings for quarrels about words” because they produce “dissensions…evil suspicions, and constant friction,” proving that we “understand nothing” and are “deprived of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).  This warning is shown to be legitimate these days when we observe the inconsistent policing by some concerning how brethren use the term church, the suspicion it produces, and the lack of knowledge and understanding shown by it.  There are some who insist that a lower-case “c” be used in writing “church” when using the proper noun “Church of Christ,” even though doing so is grammatically incorrect and thus makes the church look unprofessional and uneducated to outsiders who read our letterheads and published articles, all because they want to avoid being thought of as denominational in any way.  Others promote the idea (which prompted the above question) that saying, “Let’s go to church,” is somehow unbiblical.  Respectfully, this proves their inconsistency and shows lack of knowledge and understanding in several ways.

For one, from a technical standpoint we should say “called out” or “assembly” instead of “church” due to the actual meaning of ekklesia, but we don’t and no one has a problem with it.

Also, the etymology of the term church shows that it originally meant “Lord’s house,” which is a biblical description of ekklesia.  So why quibble over something which technically is biblical?

Let’s also remember that ekklesia was used in the New Testament to refer to a secular court (Acts 19:39).  No one has a problem saying, “Let’s go to court,” “Court is now in session,” or “I’m representing myself in court.”  So why have a problem saying, “Let’s go to church,” “Church has started,” or “I’m in church”?

Finally, it’s interesting that similar phraseology to “I’m in church” is found in the New Testament when Paul said that it is shame for a woman to speak “in church” (1 Cor. 14:35).

Yes, we definitely need to heed the warning of 1 Timothy 6:4-5 and turn our focus away from such minor things and focus on the bigger picture.

Why does God let our loved ones die?

Death is the result of sin entering our world due to Adam and Eve’s sin and continuing with our own (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12; cf. 3:23).  Because everyone sins, death is a part of life.  It’s been that way from the beginning.

Yet we should remember that while God allows us and our loved ones to die physically, He also allows us to live forever with Him beyond the physical if we choose to receive His grace.  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt. 22:32).

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 also gives some insight as to the spiritual value of mourning the death of loved ones, and thus gives another possible reason as to why God allows loved ones to pass on.  The reason “it is better to go to the house of mourning” is because it is a reminder to those who still live that death “is the end of all mankind.”  Hopefully “the living will lay it to heart,” i.e., be motivated to prepare themselves to face eternity by obeying the gospel.  Those who do such show how “the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.”

 Please compare the continuous evil thoughts and actions of Sodom to the current state of affairs in the United States.

Sodom was punished because of their ungodliness (2 Pet. 2:6), their fornication in the form of homosexuality (Jude 7), and their selfish, prideful lack of benevolence to the needy in spite of their excess of food and prosperous ease (Ezek. 16:49).

The Bible teaches that cities who unrepentantly rejected Christ when He was here on earth would be in a worse predicament than Sodom on the day of judgment (Matt. 10:15; 11:23-24).  We also read that God was willing to spare Sodom if 10-50 righteous people were found within it, possibly .5% of its population at most (Gen. 18:22-33).  We also read that the entire male population of Sodom was so sexually depraved that they were willing to commit homosexual rape of strangers (Gen. 19:4).

America’s overall ungodliness and immorality is headed toward Sodom’s levels…but are we there yet?  Homosexuality is embraced by many in this country…but are all or even most of the population of this country in favor of homosexual rape of strangers?  It is probable that more than .5% of the population of America are righteous or are sincerely searching to be righteous.  Christ is generally accepted here far more than could have been said of the Galilean cities of His day, of whom it was said were in worse shape than Sodom.  America is prosperous, and we are undoubtedly pridefully selfish with our excess to a degree…but we are also well known for our benevolence towards many both domestically and abroad.

If we continue down the road we’re on, we will arrive to where Sodom was, perhaps within a generation or three.  Yet now, there is still much positive good in America, and we as Christians can make an impact for even more good.

But only if we are far more evangelistic than we currently are.

Who is the “antichrist”?

The Christians of John’s day had heard antichrist was coming in the last hour.  During that time John wrote to them that “many antichrists” (note the plurality) have come, thus proving the Christian age is the final age (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3b; 1 Cor. 10:11b).

Anyone who lies and denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior and Lord of man is antichrist (1 John 2:22).  The spirit of the antichrist is every spirit which is not from God, which is every spirit that does not confess Jesus (1 John 4:3a).  Any deceiver who has gone out into the world and does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh is antichrist (2 John 7).

Basically, the antichrist is not one man and is not some supernatural satanic force appearing at the end of the world during the so-called “Rapture” as denominations teach.  The antichrist is any person who is against Jesus in any way (anti Christ, against Christ).

Should women cover their heads while worshiping God?

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is the passage which deals with this question.  Contextually, this falls right after 1 Corinthians 8-10, the record of Paul instructing Christians to be willing to give up personal liberties such as eating meat offered to idols in order to avoid being a stumbling block to spiritually weaker brethren whose consciences would be violated.  We must keep this in mind.

The historical context is also important to remember.  In the Roman culture of Paul’s day, all respectable women always wore a veil over their head in public as a sign of being in subjection to men, a custom still in practice in most Middle Eastern cultures today.  During Paul’s day, the only women known to go about with their heads uncovered were prostitutes, who were also known to go so far as to have their heads shaved.

The church at Corinth generally kept God’s commands, but needed to respect God’s arrangements concerning male authority in the home and in the church (1 Cor. 11:2-3).  In Roman culture, a man wearing a veil would appear effeminate, thus showing disrespect for his gender role and thus showing disrespect to God (1 Cor. 11:4, 7).  A woman not wearing a veil in that culture would not only show disrespect for her gender role and thus to God, but would also be assumed to be a prostitute, thus bringing more shame to her and to the church (1 Cor. 11:5-10).

In the church (“in the Lord”), men and women each have their respective gender roles and depend on each other (1 Cor. 11:11-12).  They must not ignore their gender roles as defined by the customs of their culture, even though God did not command the universal church to observe those particular customs, because doing so would harm the influence of the church (1 Cor. 11:13-16; cf. vs. 4-10).  This is in keeping with the context of chapters 8-10, where Paul urged them to give up personal liberties to avoid being stumbling blocks to others.

How does this apply to the church today?

The universal church was given no command for women to cover their heads (1 Cor. 11:16).  Thus, doing so is a matter of conscience and personal judgment, both of which must be respected by all (1 Cor. 11:13; cf. Romans 14:1ff).

God hasn’t specifically command that we observe non-sinful customs of our culture.  Yet practicing our freedom to ignore them will likely harm our influence for Christ and bring shame upon ourselves and the church.  If such should be the case, God wants us to give up our freedom and observe the non-sinful customs of the day in order to avoid being a stumbling block to others.