September 2018 Bible Questions and Answers

Topics:  the plagues of Egypt, “nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:14), the 10 Commandments found in the New Testament, the meaning of “apostolic” and what Apostolic Churches believe, men wearing hats in worship, whether Satan or Eve committed the first sin, physical or spiritual beings in heaven

Why did God include the firstborn cattle to be killed in the tenth plague?

When one combines the biblical record of the plagues with the Egyptian historical record of their worship practices at that time, it becomes clear that the plagues were used by Yahweh to indict the false gods worshiped by the Egyptians as false and powerless and thus prove to them that He was the one, true God (Ex. 7:4-5, 17; 8:10, 22; cf. Is. 44:9-20). Exodus 12:12 records God specifically citing that a reason for the tenth plague was “on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord.”

Accordingly, the first plague of turning the Nile River into blood discredited the Egyptian Nile god, Hapi.  The second plague of frogs showed God’s power over the frogs which the Egyptians worshiped as gods as well as Hekt, a frog-headed goddess of fertility adored by the Egyptians.  The third plague of lice coming from dust shut down the operation of the Egyptian priesthood, whom the historian Herodotus said were very careful concerning physical hygiene even to the point of shaving their heads and bodies every three days to get rid of any vermin that might be there. It also was aimed at the agricultural god Osiris.

The fourth plague of flies continued to show the folly of the Egyptians’ idolatry, in that they worshiped flies and all winged insects.  The reason the fifth plague killed all the cattle of Egypt was due to the fact that they also worshiped their domestic animals, such the bull god Ptah or Apis.

The sixth plague of boils resulting from dust and ash thrown into the air by Moses was aimed at the Egyptian idol Typhon.  Typhon was an actual grate wherein the Egyptians burned “Typhos,” men and bulls whose ashes would then be dispersed into the air and, according to Egyptian superstition, would keep a person from bodily defilement should any of that ash fall upon them.

The seventh plague of hail and fire and its subsequent destruction of Egyptian plant life was aimed at the Egyptians’ pagan worship of fig trees, peach trees, pomegranate trees, barley, sorghum, and vines, as well as against their sky-goddess, Nut, showing that she could not protect the Egyptians.

The eighth plague of locusts which subsequently destroyed every green plant and all the fruit which had survived the hail came about to show the folly of the Egyptians’ idolatrous worship of nature’s beauty and their worship of the plants which produced fruit and vegetables, as well as another strike against their worship of winged creatures.  Because the Egyptians also worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, the ninth plague of darkness came upon the land to show Yahweh’s mastery over those heavenly bodies.

Finally, the tenth plague’s killing of all the firstborn of Egypt, from the oldest son and heir apparent of Pharaoh (who himself was worshiped as a god) to the firstborn of the cattle (who, as previously stated, were also worshiped as gods) was a punishment against Egypt as a whole for refusing to free Israel, God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22-23). It also was a strike against their god Ptah, the god of life.

Why did the writer of Colossians use the phrase “nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:14)?

One of the problems in the early church was the problem brought about by the Judaizers, a sect of Christians who demanded that non-Jewish converts to Christianity be forced to adhere to certain tenets of the Old Testament Law of Moses such as circumcision (Acts 15).  Paul, the writer of Colossians, subsequently addressed this problem in this and in many other of his letters to the early church. One of his major points was that the Law of Moses was no longer in force. He made this point here in Colossians 2:14-23 and elsewhere (Rom. 7:1-4ff; Eph. 2:11-22; Gal. 3:10-29).

The reason he called the Law of Moses “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” and said that God “set (it) aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14) is made clear when one takes into account the inspired words of the Hebrew writer:  “Therefore (Christ) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.”   (Heb. 9:15-17)

Therefore, the notion that God took the Law of Moses, the old covenant, and “nailed it to the cross” is a metaphor for what the Hebrew writer said: that Jesus, the author of the new covenant, must first have died in order for that new covenant to come into effect and replace the old covenant. This Jesus did when he died from being nailed to a cross.

Where are the New Testament connections with the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments? Are all of the Old Testament Ten Commandments repeated in the New Testament? Are any of them changed?

Compare the following:

  • Exodus 20:3 to 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
  • Exodus 20:4-5 to Galatians 5:20 and 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • Exodus 20:7 to Matthew 6:9, Luke 1:49, Romans 2:24, Ephesians 1:20-21, Philippians 2:9-10, James 2:7, Revelation 13:6 and 16:9
  • Exodus 20:8-11 to Hebrews 4:1-11, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, and Revelation 1:10
  • Exodus 20:12 to Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20, and Romans 1:28-32
  • Exodus 20:13 to Romans 1:28-32, James 2:11, 4:2, and 1 John 3:12
  • Exodus 20:14 to Matthew 19:3-9, Galatians 5:19-21, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • Exodus 20:15 to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • Exodus 20:16 to Colossians 3:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10
  • Exodus 20:17 to Romans 1:28-32, Ephesians 5:3, and Colossians 3:5

After comparing the Old Testament Ten Commandments to the New Testament passages cited above, it is clear that all of the Ten Commandments save one are also commanded in one form or another in the New Testament.

The sole exception is the commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. In the New Testament the day set aside as the Lord’s, the day on which Christians worshiped, was the first day of the week. The Hebrew writer makes it clear that the Old Testament Sabbath Day rest foreshadows the eternal rest waiting in Heaven for faithful Christians after Judgment.

What does the word “apostolic” mean and what do Apostolic Churches teach?

Merriam-Webster defines “apostolic” as:

  1.  of or relating to an apostle
  2. of, relating to, or conforming to the teachings of the New Testament apostles
  3. of or relating to a succession of spiritual authority from the apostles held (as by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox) to be perpetuated by successive ordinations of bishops and to be necessary for valid sacraments and orders

The New Testament does not teach a succession of spiritual authority from the apostles through successive ordained bishops necessary for valid sacraments and orders. Rather, the Scriptures teach that authority comes from the Spirit-inspired writings of the apostles and prophets which make up the New Testament (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23; 1 Cor. 2:12-16; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Thus, the first two definitions of “apostolic” are scripturally valid.

The Apostolic Church is a man-made denomination originating from the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century in Britain. While claiming to view the Scriptures as the supreme authority and inerrant Word of God (with some of their teachings and practices being aligned with God’s Word), their theological tenets stray from scriptural teachings in several ways.

This is most noticeably seen in their practice of instrumental music in worship, special choirs, and their belief in Holy Spirit baptism with subsequent miraculous signs such as “prophesying” in “tongues” (which in reality is gibberish rather than actual societal, national languages per Acts 2:4-11).  These beliefs and practices go against the New Testament teaching to sing congregationally and its teaching that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased upon the completion of the New Testament (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 13:8-10; cf. James 1:25).

Does the Bible teach that men shouldn’t wear hats in worship or during prayer or is that more of a cultural tradition? Where did it originate?

The immediate context of the passage relevant to the question is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Contextually, this falls right after 1 Corinthians 8-10, the record of Paul instructing Christians to be willing to give up personal liberties in order to avoid being a stumbling block to spiritually weaker brethren whose consciences would be violated. That is something to keep in mind.

The historical context is also important to remember. In that Roman culture, 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. Back then, 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 Corinth church generally kept God’s commands, but needed to respect His arrangements concerning male authority in the home and in the church (1 Cor. 11:2-3). In that culture, a man wearing a veil would appear effeminate, thus showing disrespect for his gender role and also 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.

So 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. Rom. 14:1ff).  God hasn’t specifically commanded 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.

With that said, I cannot help but notice that while God went out of His way to inspire Paul to specify that He had not given WOMEN in the universal church a divine obligation to follow that cultural tenet to cover their heads during prayer, He conspicuously did not extend that same clarification to MEN covering their heads during prayer.  In other words, the text doesn’t say, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a MAN to pray to God with HIS head COVERED?…If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, no do the churches of God.” It only says it’s a personal judgment concerning women praying with heads uncovered. It does not say it’s a personal judgment concerning men praying with heads covered.

Thus, the course most in keeping with the totality of the scriptural information would be for Christian men to continue to observe that custom of praying with their heads uncovered. I encourage men to continue to pray with heads uncovered as a sign of respect to their Head, Christ, and as a sign of respectfully striving to not overlook or disregard any command or principle given to them in the Bible.

Was the first sin really Eve’s sin or was it Satan’s when he was cast from heaven?

Satan is a created being in that he is not eternal since God created “all things…in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). If he was created during the creation week of Genesis 1, he would have originally been “very good” like everything else (Gen. 1:31).

At some point between chapters 1 and 3 of Genesis, Satan was condemned because of pride (1 Tim. 3:6). Some angels, beings who were also likely created during the creation week of Genesis 1 (Col. 1:16; Job 38:7), also sinned and were cast out (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).  Satan, taking the form of a serpent, then subsequently tempted Eve to sin, which she did, followed by Adam (Gen. 3:1-6; cf. 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Rev. 12:9).

Thus, it could be said that the first sin committed by God’s human creation was committed by Eve and Adam.

Will we be physical or spiritual beings in heaven?

While talking about the day of Judgment, Paul wrote, “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50). That statement segued into a discussion of how our physical bodies will be changed into an eternal, immortal body on that day (1 Cor. 15:51-55).

Since God and angels are spiritual beings (John 4:24; Heb. 1:14) who are in heaven (Ps. 11:4; Rev. 5:11), it is reasonable to conclude that our physical bodies will be changed into spiritual bodies before we enter heaven.