December 2019 Bible Questions & Answers

  1. Were the apostles baptized?
  2. Are there angels among us?
  3. Is 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 applicable to us today?
  4. Please explain the differences between God’s religion and man’s religion.

Were the apostles baptized?

They were undoubtedly baptized for several reasons.  Some of them, such as Andrew and John, had been John the Baptist’s disciples before they came to Jesus (John 1:35-42).  They would have therefore been baptized with John’s baptism which was associated with repentance and for forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).  The apostles, after they had become Jesus’ disciples, had also been baptizing when John had been baptizing (John 4:1-2), so they would have been baptized too to set the proper example.  Plus, Jesus had been baptized by John in order to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:14-15).  Thus, His disciples would have also been baptized to follow His example (Luke 6:40).

However, John’s baptism was made invalid upon Christ’s command to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20).  We know this because after the church began Apollos and John’s disciples, who were only familiar with John’s baptism, had to have had God’s Word explained to them more accurately and were baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 18:24-26; 19:1-5).  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, and upon His command to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, it is clear that all – including the apostles – would have had to have been baptized with the “one baptism” into His death so they could be raised as He was (Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 4:5; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Thus, we can be certain that the apostles were baptized into Christ just like every other Christian, most likely on or shortly before the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Are there angels among us?

Angels are said to be “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14).  The beggar Lazarus’s soul “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” after his death (Luke 16:22; cf. 23:43), thus indicating that angels might do the same with the souls of departed saints today.  Christians are also told to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).

Thus, it is very likely angels are among us in some fashion.  However, we should take note that the Bible very noticeably avoids giving specific details about when and how they interact with us (cf. Eph. 4:15; John 17:17).

Is 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 applicable to us today?

Because the brethren in Judea were suffering from a worldwide famine, Paul went around the Roman empire collecting money from various churches to send them relief (Acts 11:27-30).  The 1 Corinthians 16 passage is one of several instances in which Paul wrote about that specific universal, brotherhood-wide contribution (Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9).

However, the passages about that specific contribution are not all that the New Testament says about giving.  The entirety of the biblical data must therefore be considered in order to determine the modern relevance of 1 Corinthians 16 (cf. Ps. 119:160).

The New Testament teaches that the Law of Moses was “a shadow of the good things to come” in the law of Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1).  Under Mosaic law, the priests and Levites were supported by the regular offerings and tithes of Israel (Lev. 6:14-18, 24-29; 7:1-9; Num. 5:9-10; 18:8-32; Deut. 18:1-6).  Paul correlated this with the divine command that churches financially support preachers (1 Cor. 9:13-14; cf. 2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 4:15-16).  The question now before us is whether the New Testament gives any guidance as to how the church obtains the financial support they would give to preachers.

To answer that, notice that the church was giving in support of those in her number who were in need from the very beginning, years before the needs of the Judean brethren discussed in the Romans and Corinthians letters.  In the very beginning of the church, she was continually supporting those of her number in need under the direction of the apostles (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-5:11).  Luke indicates that this began on the very first day of the church’s existence, the day of Pentecost which was incidentally always on a Sunday (Acts 2:42; cf. Lev. 23:15-16).

In the context of describing the events of Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:1-41) and the early church financially supporting each other (Acts 2:44-45), Luke in Acts 2:42 writes that the first disciples “continued steadfastly” (i.e., started doing something regularly) in “the apostles’ doctrine” (the preaching of the Word – 1 Thess. 2:13), “the breaking of bread” (the Lord’s Supper – 1 Cor. 10:16-17), “prayer,” and also “fellowship” (koinonia, translated “contribution” in Romans 15:26).  This indicates the strong possibility that from the very beginning the early church gave of their means during their Sunday assemblies.

This informs us as to how the early church was able to financially support preachers per the Lord’s command in a manner reminiscent of the regular support given to the Old Testament priests and Levites (1 Cor. 9:13-14).  It also gives insight as to why Paul directed the Corinthian and Galatian churches to give in support of their Judean brethren specifically on “the first day of the week,” literally in the Greek “every week” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  He was simply appealing to something they had already been doing, only now directing them to focus their Sunday contributions to the support of their Judean brethren suffering from the famine.

There are some today who give the indication that the directives to the Corinthians about giving are not a command for us today.  Some theorize that the Corinthians passages were not even a command given to the Corinthian church.  Rather, they suppose from 2 Corinthians 8:8 that the inspired comments about giving were not meant as a command but rather as an encouragement to give voluntarily, with the 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 directives applying only if one had volunteered to participate in the offering.  This view ignores how the Macedonians’ participation in the contribution was “by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5).  It also ignores how God had told the Macedonians that they “ought” (opheilo, owed, had to the duty) to give in support of their Judean brethren (Rom. 15:26-27).  Thus, 2 Corinthians 8:8’s “I say this not as a command” actually applies to the exhortations Paul then gave to Corinth to not impoverish themselves in their giving as had the Macedonians (2 Cor. 8:8-15).

To sum up, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 should be looked at as applicable to us today even though it was giving direction concerning how to fulfill a specific need in the early church.  The totality of the biblical data (Ps. 119:160) shows that weekly Sunday giving under the direction of the apostles had been taking place from the beginning not only to help those in need, but also to financially support gospel preachers.  In keeping with the biblical principle to not go beyond what is written in Scripture (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; 1 Cor 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19), Christians must give liberally, cheerfully, and sacrificially as God has prospered them on the first day of every week.  This is how the church must obtain the funds needed to carry out evangelistic, edifying, and benevolent work today.

Please explain the differences between God’s religion and man’s religion.

Let’s first define religion.  The dictionary defines “religion” as “a particular system of faith and worship,” “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,” and “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”  The New Testament term “religion” is found in Acts 26:5, Colossians 2:18, and James 1:26-27.  It is from the Greek word threskeia, defined as religious worship, religious discipline, and external religion (i.e., ceremonial religion).  The term “religious” is found only in James 1:26 and comes from the Greek word threskos, meaning to fear or worship God, to tremble, to be trembling or fearful.

When Paul spoke of “religion” (threskeia) in Acts 26:5, he was talking about the religion of Judaism and how he had been part of its strictest sect, the Pharisees.  Judaism had originally come from God to Israel, delivered to Moses through angels at Sinai and containing the ordinances of God found in the Law of Moses.  It was fulfilled and replaced by the new covenant at Christ’s death (Deut. 5:1ff; Rom. 7:1-6; Gal. 3:19, 23-25; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:7-13; 9:15-16).  The Pharisees were repeatedly condemned by Jesus for hypocrisy and for adding their man-made traditions to God’s laws in Judaism and making them a higher priority than God’s laws (Matt. 15:1-9; 23:1ff).  Thus, Paul was speaking of man’s religion in Acts 26:5.

When Paul spoke of “worship” (threskeia, religion) in Colossians 2:18, he was speaking of the “worship of angels.”  This was in the context of warning Christians not to be influenced to go back to the rituals and laws of Judaism (Col. 2:16-17).  He was also warning his brethren to avoid being influenced to include in their Christianity the false humility shown by asceticism (severe self-denial), the worship of angels, giving adherence to supposed visions, or unreasonable pride that is the result of a sensuous, worldly mind (Col. 2:18).  He also warned them against submitting themselves to ascetic regulations which are actually human precepts and teachings and which have “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but…are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23).  Thus, Paul was speaking of man’s religion in Colossians 2:18.

When James spoke of one who seemed to be “religious” (threskos) and having “religion” (threskeia) in James 1:26, he was talking about a person who “thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart.”  He went on to describe this person’s “religion” as “worthless.”  Thus, James was speaking of man’s religion in James 1:26.

Yet when he spoke of “religion” (threskeia) in James 1:27, he called it “pure and undefiled before God the Father” and defined it as this: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  In the Greek, “to visit” orphans and widows refers to more than a social call; it speaks of continually providing for their needs.  Keeping oneself “unstained from the world” cannot happen without being washed clean from sin, initially at baptism and then continually through penitent confession of sins and obedience of God’s will (Acts 22:16; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7-9).  Thus, James is speaking of God’s religion in James 1:27.

To sum up, man’s religion adheres to a religion which is not rightly divided Scripture.  It adds one’s own doctrines and traditions to Scripture and/or makes them of higher importance.  It inflicts upon oneself and others severe ascetic sacrifices.  It encourages the worship of beings other than God such as angels.  It gives adherence to visions.  It allows pride and worldliness to rule in one’s heart.  It is practiced by those who do not make continual effort to watch what they say, thus deceiving themselves into thinking they are what they are not.

Yet those who follow God’s religion are servants who help those in need, putting others’ needs before their own.  They are faithful Christians who keep their soul continually clean from sin by penitently and faithfully obeying God’s commands in Scripture.