September 2019 Bible Questions & Answers

  1. Why is there sand on top of Sand Mountain in Alabama, elevation 3,500 feet?
  2. Should a Christian follow any false doctrines on social media?
  3. If the church is made up of Christians, is it wrong to say, “We’re going to church”?
  4. Hebrews says that Jesus was from the order of Melchizedek.  What does that mean?
  5. What does it mean to “lift up holy hands” in 1 Timothy 2:8?

Why is there sand on top of Sand Mountain in Alabama, elevation 3,500 feet?

In answering this question, it must first be noted that I am in no way a geologist. I have never been to Sand Mountain and have only visited Alabama a couple of times in my life, usually while driving through the state. So my knowledge of the location of which this question inquires is limited.

From my online research, I’ve found that Sand Mountain is a sandstone plateau in northeastern Alabama which has an average elevation of around 1,500 feet above sea level. Its soil is solid sandstone bedrock. I was told by someone whose brother lives in the area that the region has lots of sandstone and that the subterranean rock in the area is shallow, as little as four to six feet in some places. When this person’s brother’s well was drilled, they found solid sandstone rock over 75 feet thick just six feet down.

Not knowing who asked the question and thus their reasons behind asking this question, I’ll assume that the purpose of the question in a Bible Q&A forum has to do with whether Sand Mountain provides evidence of the global flood of Noah’s day. Since I’m not in any way familiar with the geology of Sand Mountain, I am not in a position to answer this question with any certain specificity.

However, I am aware that several aquatic fossils have been found preserved in rock at Black Balsam Knob in North Carolina, which has an elevation of 6,214 feet. Water-dwelling fossils have been found worldwide and at all altitudes. This is because “the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (Gen. 7:19).

Should a Christian follow any false doctrines on social media?

Let’s consider how one would “follow” false doctrine on social media. Are you paying close attention to the promotion of false doctrine on social media, as in “I’ve been following this Facebook discussion about Calvinism very closely”? If so, why are you paying close attention? Is it because you recognize the biblical truths which contradict Calvinistic tenets and you wish to share them with the participants of the online discussion in an effort to bring them to the truth (2 Tim. 2:24-26)?

If so, that’s certainly proper since you’re working to expose error and speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:11; 4:15). My only advice is to do so with tact, patience, and wisdom (2 Tim. 4:2; Prov. 15:1; Matt. 10:16), recognizing whether to continue the discussion if you see you’re dealing with someone with an open, honest heart (Lk. 8:15) or end it if you’re dealing with someone with a hard, closed heart (Matt. 10:14).

Are you following the false doctrine online in the sense of conforming to it? If so, that would be a grave sin that would put your soul in danger (Rom. 16:17; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; Tit. 3:10-11; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Matt. 7:13-27).

It would be much better to have the mindset of the Bereans, whom God considered to be “noble” because, after hearing a man preach, “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Treat any theology that is promoted on social media as you should with the theology promoted in this Q&A forum and any sermon, Bible class, blog post, article, or book…by testing it against the parameter of rightly-divided Scripture in its totality and choosing to “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 2:15; Ps. 119:160).

If the church is made up of Christians, is it wrong to say, “We’re going to church”?

The Greek word ekklesia is translated “church” in English Bibles. It literally means “called out” or “assembly.” Ekklesia is used to refer to those called out universally from sin (Matt. 16:18), local congregations of Christians (Gal. 1:2; Rom. 16:16), and even secular assemblies like courts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

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

This means that whenever you read the word “church” in your Bibles, you’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,” a biblical description of the religious “assembly” of the “called out” from sin (1 Tim. 3:15).

So when you say, “Let’s go to church,” you are technically saying either “Let’s go to the assembly of the called out,” or, “Let’s go to the Lord’s house,” both of which are biblical and basically mean the same thing.

We should also remember that God warns us to avoid “unhealthy cravings for quarrels about words” because they produce “dissension…evil suspicions, and constant friction,” proving that we “understand nothing” and are “deprived of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:4-5). The inconsistent policing of the term “church,” the suspicion of error or even apostasy produced by such policing among some who hear their brethren say “Let’s go to church,” and the lack of knowledge and understanding about the origins of these terms all combine to show a prime example of what the Spirit of God is saying here through Paul.

How? Several inconsistencies are made by those who tell their brethren that they shouldn’t say, “Go to church”:

1. Technically, we should say “called out” or “assembly” instead of “church” because of the meaning of ekklesia, but we don’t and no one has a problem with it.

2. The etymology of “church” shows that it originally meant “Lord’s house,” which is a biblical description of ekklesia (1 Tim. 3:15). Why quibble over something that is technically biblical?

3. Ekklesia was also biblically used to refer to a secular court (Acts 19). 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”?

4. When Paul said that it’s shameful for a woman to speak “in church” (1 Cor. 14:35), how is that different from saying, “We’re in church”?

Just something to think about.

Hebrews says that Jesus was from the order of Melchizedek. What does that mean?

The Old Testament account of Melchizedek is found in Genesis 14:18-20.

The purpose behind the book of Hebrews was to persuade Jewish Christians to not fall away from Christianity and return to Judaism. Thus, the inspired author gave several arguments throughout the book as to why Jesus is superior to various aspects of Old Testament Judaism. In Hebrews 7, the author used Melchizedek to prove the superiority of Jesus to the Levitical priesthood.

Under the law of Moses, priests had to be from Levi’s tribe (Heb. 7:5). They stopped being priests once they died (Heb. 7:23). However, Melchizedek was a priest not from Levi’s tribe. This is because Melchizedek lived long before the Levites came into existence as a tribe.

Furthermore, we know nothing of Melchizedek’s ancestry, birth, or death (Heb. 7:3). This made him and his priesthood very different from the Levitical priesthood.

Jesus is very much like Melchizedek (Heb. 7:17; Ps. 110:4; cf. Heb. 7:11-25). Christ also was not from Levi’s tribe (Heb. 7:14). While Melchizedek was metaphorically a priest forever due to the absence of a record of his death, Jesus is literally a priest forever. That’s why He is more like Melchizedek than the Levites, and His priesthood is superior to theirs.

Likewise, the Israelites would pay tithes to the Levitical priests (Heb. 7:5). However, Abraham – the ancestor of the Levites – paid tithes to the priest Melchizedek (Heb. 7:6-9). In fact, in one sense even Levi himself paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham (Heb. 7:9-10). This shows Melchizedek’s priesthood to be superior to that of the Levites (Heb. 7:7).

Jesus’ priesthood is similar to that of Melchizedek’s (Heb. 7:17; Ps. 110:4) in that they both are superior to the Levitical priesthood. This is because we as Christians give to Jesus, our High Priest, who in turn blesses us and thus shows His superiority over us.

What does it mean to “lift up holy hands” in 1 Timothy 2:8?

One frequently sees people lift up their hands in denominational worship these days. They tend to raise one or both hands while singing, listening to sermons or classes, and while praying. Some erroneously conclude that this practice is related to the “lifting up (of) holy hands” in 1 Timothy 2:8. This is a mistaken conclusion for several reasons.

First, “lifting up holy hands” was specifically said to be done while praying, not while singing or while listening to preaching or teaching. Furthermore, the passage says that it was to be done only by “men” (aner in Greek, literally males). Therefore it was not meant to be done by both men and women as is commonly seen in denominations.

Secondly, “lifting up holy hands” is likely an expression Paul got from the Old Testament practice of raising one’s hands while praying (1 Kings 8:22; Ps. 28:2; Is. 1:15). However, the Bible also records people praying while standing (1 Sam. 1:26), kneeling (1 Kings 8:54), prostrate (1 Kings 18:42), with bowed head (Gen. 24:26), and with uplifted eyes (John 17:1). This shows that a particular posture in prayer is not a binding pattern and was not the intent behind Paul’s usage of the phrase, “lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8).

Thirdly, from a literal standpoint “holy hands” do not exist. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech known as the synecdoche (the part put for the whole.) “Holy hands” metaphorically stands for a holy person, just as “haughty eyes”(Prov. 6:17) refers to a haughty person and “lying lips” (Ps. 120:2) refers to a liar.

Fourthly, and in relation to the last point above, denominational churches are not of God because they follow man-made doctrines in addition to God’s Word, which teaches there is one church and one faith and condemns religious division (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:4-5; cf. 1:22-23; John 17:17, 20-23; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Thus, those in denominations are not holy people from a biblical standpoint, and so they cannot truly lift up “holy hands.” Only Christians as defined by the New Testament are holy (sanctified, set apart).

The point being made in 1 Timothy 2:8 is that men who lead in worship must be holy men. While there is nothing inherently wrong with men raising their hands while praying in the public assembly, one should still be cautious about the practice for several reasons. One would be the possibility of leaving the impression that one is inclined either towards the emotional, charismatic worship of the Pentecostals and others like them or the more emotionalistic, less reverential worship found in more liberal congregations. Another would be the possibility that raising your hands might create a distraction for others as they are trying to worship.

These last reasons are all matters of judgment. Nonetheless, a wise Christian might want to reflect upon them.