March 2018 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  Satan’s origins, smoking cigarettes, withdrawing fellowship from congregations, the children qualifications of elders and deacons, the law applying to Gentiles during the Old Testament

Where did Satan come from?

Satan is not eternal.  “For by him (Christ) ALL THINGS were created, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH, VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE…” (Col. 1:16).  That would include Satan.  Thus, Satan was created by God.

We don’t know much about his origins.  The possibility exists that he was originally an angel created during the week described in Genesis 1; if so he would have been among “the sons of God” (the angels) mentioned in Job 38:7.  If he was created during creation week, then originally he was “very good” like everything else God created (Gen. 1:31).

Some call Satan Lucifer due to what is said in the King James Version’s rendering of Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!…”  Yet if one examines the context of verse 12, specifically verses 1-15 of Isaiah 14, you’ll see that Isaiah is actually talking about Babylon’s king and is making a prophecy about him.  Thus, if Isaiah 14’s Lucifer is to refer to Satan at all, it would only be in a figurative sense, if that.

In like manner, some look at Ezekiel 28:16-17 which says, “…I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God…Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.  I cast you to the ground…” as a reference to the origin of Satan.

However, the context of verses 11-19 of Ezekiel 28 shows that Ezekiel is actually talking about the king of the nation of Tyre, not Satan.  Thus, any application to the origin of Satan from Ezekiel 28 would be figurative at best.

All we know for certain is that Satan was condemned because of pride, something specifically stated in 1 Timothy 3:6.  We also know that God gave the human beings he created free will (Josh. 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21).  We know that God tempts no one to do evil (James 1:13).

Thus, the only logical conclusion we can make based on the little information we have is that Satan also had free will to choose to obey or disobey God.  He chose to sin due to pride and was cast down.  The rest of his origins are not known to us, thus being part of the “secret things which belong to God” referred to in Deuteronomy 29:29.

Is it a sin to smoke cigarettes?

The Scriptures do not address smoking directly (i.e., “Thou shalt not smoke”), but there are still principles in Scripture which go against the practice of smoking.

The Bible condemns the consumption of drugs and poisons.  One of the works of the flesh of which it is said that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” is “sorcery…and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).

“Sorcery” comes from the Greek pharmakeia (where we get “pharmacy”), which is defined not only as “sorcery” but also as “the use or the administering of drugs” and “poisoning” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

Scripture does allow drug consumption for medicinal purposes or as part of regular food consumption.  The ethanol alcoholic content of wine is a drug, yet God inspired Paul to prescribe small amounts of this drug to Timothy for medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23), thus showing that God allows small amounts of drug usage for medicinal purposes.  God also declared all foods clean and allows us to consume them (1 Tim. 4:3-5), including foods which contain small amounts of drugs like painkillers (chili peppers) or stimulants, like areca nuts, cocoa (theobromine), and coffee (caffeine).

As is commonly known, cigarettes contain the drug nicotine (the drug being named after nicotiana, the tobacco plant from whence cigarettes are made).  Nicotine is found in extremely small amounts within some vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, green peppers, black tea) and can thus be ingested with divine permission.  It has also been proven to have medicinal value as an ingredient of toothpaste or a medicinal salve, among other things.

Yet it has no proven medicinal value resulting from it being smoked, nor do smokers smoke it for that reason.  On the contrary, tobacco smoking causes over 3 million deaths per year via cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema and the nicotine found within cigarettes causes addiction (another scriptural reason to not smoke, 1 Cor. 6:12’s “I will not be enslaved by anything.”)

Thus, cigarette smoking would fall under the category of the drug consumption for non-medicinal or non-nutritional purposes and the poisoning condemned by the work of the flesh pharmakeia “…and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).

I know the Bible teaches withdrawal from individuals who refuse to repent of public sin after the proper steps have been taken, but does the Bible teach fellowship withdrawal from entire congregations?

The church at Thyatira was rebuked by Christ Himself for tolerating the false prophetess Jezebel and endorsing her false teaching and immoralities (Rev. 2:20-23).  Yet He also acknowledged that there were some at this church who did not hold to her teaching (v. 24).  In like manner, the church at Sardis was rebuked for being spiritually dead in spite of their reputation of being alive (Rev. 3:1-2); yet Christ acknowledged that a few at Sardis “have not soiled their garments” and “will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (v. 4).

For this reason we should take pause before choosing to withdraw fellowship from entire congregations of the Lord’s body.  Withdrawing of fellowship must be done after unrepentant sin has been proven (Matt. 18:15-17).  It can be very difficult at best to prove unrepentant sin on the part of every saint at a different, autonomous congregation.  We are told to judge righteously and not according to appearance (John 7:24) and to prove all things (1 Thess. 5:21); if we aren’t even members of this congregation, how can we know for sure whether there are some among them who have not yet soiled their garments?  It could be very hard or even impossible to know for sure.

The autonomy of local congregations according to the scriptural pattern must also be considered (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2).  Shepherds are told to watch over their own flocks, not the flocks of others.  Churches may choose to partner with each other in various works and thus have fellowship with each other in that way, and thus can choose to not partner with each other if there is a concern over proven differences in doctrinal matters.  Yet the primary focus of each church must be on itself, its own members and their relationship with God, and its own efforts to bring the gospel to the lost.

Do elders and deacons have to have children?  (What if a man is incapable of having children?)

Let’s look at the following passages which list the qualifications of elders and deacons when it comes to their children:

Titus 1:5-6
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

1 Timothy 3:4-5
4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

1 Timothy 3:12
12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

From what these verses show, elders and deacons must have children.  Elders must have believing children, i.e., children who are faithful Christians.  This is part of the proof needed to show that they know how to care for God’s church as its overseers and shepherds.  While not required to have “believing” children (Christian children), deacons are required to have children and to manage them and their households well.

Circumstances of life prevent many from having children or meeting the other familial requirements of the offices of elders and deacons, but those requirements are still there.  They are there for a reason, and we are prohibited from showing partiality with them or adding to them or taking from them (1 Tim. 5:21-22; Prov. 30:6; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19).

By which law shall the Gentiles be saved under the old covenant?

Paul said that the Gentiles who did not have the Law of Moses yet did what the law required (likely referring to following the moral aspects of the Mosaic law) were “a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…” (Rom. 2:14-15).  This shows that the Gentiles (non-Jews) who were not obligated to obey the Law of Moses while it was in effect had God’s law – which educated their consciences – written on their hearts.  How?

The old covenant – the Law of Moses – was given to the nation of Israel only and not to any other people on earth nor to Israel’s ancestors before Sinai (Dt. 5:1-3).  Thus, Gentiles were never inherently obligated to obey the old covenant of Sinai.

Before Sinai, God gave commandments to people directly, normally to the patriarchs of families who were prophets as seen repeatedly in Genesis.  The Old Testament shows that nations other than Israel sinned and needed to repent (i.e., Nineveh in Jonah’s time).  Yet, sin cannot exist without there being a law of God to break (Rom. 7:8b; 1 John 3:4).

Thus, God had to have given those other nations laws which they then broke.  The only scriptural precedent we have is that He would have continued giving those laws directly and/or through prophets as He did in Genesis.

That is how Paul could say that the Gentiles had God’s laws written on their hearts and their consciences thus educated by them, even though they did not have the Law of Moses.