August 2020 Bible Questions & Answers

  1. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” what was he referring to that is finished?
  2. Is donating to Christian missions different than donating to the church?
  3. Matthew 6:34 says not to worry about tomorrow. How can we tell if worry becomes sinful?
  4. If we are created in the image of God, why can’t we be jealous and seek vengeance?
  5. If God has revealed all things we need, does that mean that all discussion God had with prophets are recorded? If not, then does this lend way for the concept that God is still speaking through prophets?

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” what was he referring to that is finished?

“Finished” comes from the Greek term teleo which means “to bring to a close, to finish, to end,” “to perform, execute, complete, fulfill, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said, the order, command, etc.),” “with reference also to the form, to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfill.”  So when Christ said, “It is finished,” he was basically saying, “It is accomplished.”  “It is ended.”  “It is completed.”  “It is brought to a close.”

Right before Jesus said, “It is finished,” he said, “I thirst.”  According to John, he said, “I thirst,” because he “(knew) that all was now finished (teleo)and wanted to fulfill the Scripture which prophesied that he would thirst and receive vinegar to drink (John 19:28; cf. Ps. 69:21).  The “all (that) was now finished” (completed, ended, fulfilled) refers to the Law of Moses.  Paul wrote that Christ broke down and killed “the dividing wall of hostility” which was “the law of commandments and ordinances,” and did so “through the cross” (Eph. 2:14-16), referring to the Law of Moses.  The Old Testament itself foretold of being replaced by the New Testament, a prophecy fulfilled by Christ when he made the first covenant “obsolete,” “growing old,” and “ready to vanish away” when he died (Heb. 8:6-13; 9:15-17; cf. Jer. 31:31-34).

Christ had spent his life fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 18:15, 18-19).  He had just said, “I thirst,” to fulfill yet another Old Testament prophecy.  The kingdom which was “at hand” had been prophesied in the Old Testament as well (Mark 1:14-15; cf. Dan. 2:44).  To fulfill the Law and the Prophets was one of the main reasons he had come (Matt. 5:17-19).  His death, resurrection, and ascension would fulfill them.  For these reasons he said, “It is finished.”

Is donating to Christian missions different than donating to the church?

The New Testament commands and example of giving provides some insight into this question.  The churches (ekklesia, assemblies) of Galatia and Corinth were told to take up collections every first day of the week to support the needs of Christians who were starving due to a famine and lay it aside so that Paul could receive the totality of it when he arrived, at which point it would be taken on to Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4).  When it arrived, it would be given to the elderships of the churches in Judea (Acts 11:29-30), who would then exercise their responsibility of oversight (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 13:17) in determining how it would be dispersed.  Churches were commanded to provide financial support for preachers and missionaries (1 Cor. 9:1-18), and we have several examples of churches providing financial support to Paul during his missionary travels (2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 4:15-16).  As to how the churches produced this financial support, the only method recorded in Scripture is the commands concerning Sunday free-will offerings of the members (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9).  One could reasonably deduce that the elderships of each of these churches exercised oversight by determining the amount of money to be used to support preachers and missionaries, the amount used for benevolence, etc.

So when one gives to the church, their contribution will be used in various works done by that church under the judgment and supervision of that church’s leadership, of which missions could be a part.  It could therefore be said that when one donates to the church, one might be donating to Christian missions in an indirect way based on the judgment calls of the church’s leadership.  Yet we also read of individual disciples of Christ who contributed directly to the financial support of Christ and his apostles while they were involved in domestic mission work (Luke 8:1-3).  Paul’s needs as a missionary were supplied both by churches and by “the brothers of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 11:9), who could have been contributing as individuals or giving Paul what the churches in Macedonia had collectively donated; the text does not specify.  It is implied that Gaius donated directly to the needs of traveling missionaries (3 John 5-8).  So we also have scriptural precedence for individual Christians donating directly to Christian missions outside of their donations to the church.

From these contrasts it is clear that there is a difference between donating directly to Christian missions and donating directly to the church, whose leadership would then disperse one’s donation to various works, among which might be Christian missions.

Matthew 6:34 says not to worry about tomorrow.  How can we tell if worry becomes sinful?

“Worry” comes from the Greek term merimnao, which has two definitions: “to be anxious, to be troubled with cares” and “to care for, look out for (a things), to seek to promote one’s interests, caring or providing for.”  The context of the Matthew passage shows that worry and anxiety over obtaining the necessities of life is the definition Jesus had in mind (Matt. 6:25-34).  On the other hand, the definition of merimnao which has to due with “caring or providing for” is used to describe the responsibilities spouses have towards each other (1 Cor. 7:33-34) and Christian brethren have towards each other (1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:20).  A derivative of this Greek term was used by Paul to describe his “care” or “anxiety” (depending on the translation) “for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).  So there is a type of care and concern which is perfectly acceptable to God.

One commentator said that merimnao originally meant “distracted.”  Jesus used this Greek term to describe Martha, who was “anxious and troubled about many things” to the point that she failed to “choose the good portion” and recognize what was truly important (Luke 10:38-42).  None of us are immune from worry and anxiety.  Yet from this we gather that worry becomes sinful when it distracts us from “setting our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2), as it did with Martha.

Paul also used this Greek term to command us not to be “anxious about anything,” but instead to take everything to God in prayer which would result in the incomprehensible peace of God “guarding your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).  Thus, one could conclude worry becomes sinful when we fail to bring our cares and concerns to God and thus fail to receive the peace which would guard our hearts and minds (cf. 1 Pet. 5:7).

Finally, the context of Matthew 6:34 shows that worrying over obtaining and keeping the necessities of life such as food and clothing indicates a weak faith (v. 30) and a worldly rather than spiritual mindset (v. 32).  Christ would rather us “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” trusting that God will provide what we need (v. 33).  Part of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness is being willing to work for a living to the best of one’s ability (2 Thess. 3:7-12; Col. 3:23), and also to allow others to help you in your time of need (Gal. 2:10; 6:2, 10; Matt. 25:31-46).  Worry would become sinful when we allow it to be the reason for an unrepentantly weak faith, a mindset that is more similar to the world than God would have us, and/or the result of not seeking God’s will as one’s top priority.

If we are created in the image of God, why can’t we be jealous and seek vengeance?

“For I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5) has been described as an anthropomorphism, where God describes himself with human characteristics so that we may understand him.  Therefore, we should not view his “jealousy” as identical to ours.  Being God, the only true power and the source of everything, God is inherently worthy of all glory, honor, worship, praise, and fealty.  He will not give his glory to another (Is. 42:8; 48:11), nor should he.  Furthermore, our jealousy stems from pride or selfishness.  Yet the context of Exodus 20:5 shows that God’s “jealousy” exists to keep men from wandering into idolatry (Ex. 20:3-6).  Idolatry is both sin itself as well as the catalyst for other sins such as immorality and cruelty, all of which results in eternal separation from the Lord in hell (Is. 59:1-2; Rev. 21:8).  Thus, God is “jealous” not on his own account, but out of concern for the eternal welfare of mankind.  We tend to be jealous out of self-centeredness, which is why we are commanded to avoid jealousy.

In similar fashion, one should compare human vengeance to divine vengeance.  Human vengeance is done out of “the anger of man,” which “does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).  Consider the context of Romans 12:19, the passage which quotes Deuteronomy 32:35’s “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Christians are told to “be patient in tribulation” (v. 12), “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (v. 14), and “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (v. 17).  Instead of avenging ourselves, we are to show charity to our enemies (v. 20) and are commanded: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21).  As with all commands given to us by God in Scripture, these commands exist to show us the more godly, righteous path to take rather than the carnal direction we would normally pursue (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  They show us the true nature of the vengeance we would pursue, that which is centered on self and hate.  We very rarely inherently choose to be patient when wronged, bless our persecutors instead of cursing them, and avoid repaying evil for evil.  In contrast, God is both loving and just (1 John 4:8; Deut. 32:4).  He loves his creation, and when we are wronged he wants us to receive justice.  The vengeance he would seek is for the wrongs done to us and is motivated by his love and justness.  Since vengeful human nature is very different from his divine nature (Is. 55:8-9; cf. 2 Pet. 1:4), he wants us to leave vengeance to him and the agencies through whom he chooses to administer it (Rom. 12:19-Rom. 13:7).

If God has revealed all things we need, does that mean that all discussion God had with prophets are recorded?  If not, then does this lend way for the concept that God is still speaking through prophets?

A prophet by definition is a spokesman, an oracle (1 Pet. 4:11), someone who speaks on behalf of God, God’s messenger.  In biblical times, miraculous prophecy took place more times than not in that God spoke to the prophets directly through the Holy Spirit, who would then share God’s message with the people.  We will discuss that in more detail below.

It is true that prophets gave messages from God which are not on record in the biblical canon.  Paul had written a letter to Corinth prior to 1 Corinthians in which he gave them a command (1 Cor. 5:9).  Being a prophet, that command would have originated from God (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37), and yet that original letter to Corinth was not included in the New Testament canon.  In the early years of the church before the apostles and prophets were inspired to write the New Testament scriptures (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 2:9-16), they were still directed by the Holy Spirit concerning the messages they gave to the people orally (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; Matt. 10:19-20; cf. Acts 2:4).  We know the apostles and prophets in the early church preached via inspiration daily and regularly (Acts 5:42; 11:19-21; 19:8, 10; 20:31; 28:30-31).  Yet only some of those oral messages are included in the biblical record, such as the sermons to Jerusalem and Athens (Acts 2-3, 17).

The fact that not all discussion God had with prophets is part of the biblical record does not mean that God is still directly speaking through prophets.  Miraculous prophecy – i.e., God giving a message to the prophet directly via the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11, see v. 10; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 1 Cor. 14:37) – was said to be “in part” (1 Cor. 13:9), i.e., not the whole but what leads up to the whole, the infancy stage before maturity.  The coming of “the perfect”telios, that which is complete, whole, mature – is said to result in the cessation of “the partial” (1 Cor. 13:10).  The New Testament canon was not yet complete at the time Paul wrote this; indeed, by virtue of prophesying this by written inspiration Paul was working towards the completion of the New Testament!  When the written New Testament canon became complete (cf. Rom. 12:2; James 1:25), the miracles which were said to be “in part” would cease, including miraculous prophecy. Additionally, by virtue of being complete God gave us in written form everything we would need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  No other revelation would be needed or is forthcoming (Jude 3; Gal. 1:6-10; Rev. 22:18-19).

This is why the Holy Spirit inspired the prophet who wrote the book of Hebrews to inform us that “in these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).  Jesus received his message from his Father (John 12:49-50).  He promised his apostles that after his departure, the Holy Spirit would receive from Christ the message he would in turn pass on them through inspiration (John 16:12-15).  So when we read our Bibles or hear a sermon or Bible lesson from an uninspired preacher or teacher in which every part of the message is completely based on rightly divided Scripture (2 Tim. 4:2; 2:15), we are receiving a message from God which he spoke to us through his Son, who in turn gave it to us through the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles and prophets who wrote the Scriptures which we are reading or hearing (Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 14:37).  Any prophets who exist today are uninspired spokesmen from God who are simply preaching the Word as the Bible commands.  Since direct, miraculous prophecy passed away upon the completion of God’s Word, God no longer gives messages directly to prophets as he did in biblical times.