December 2020 Bible Questions & Answers

1. Is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 talking about a married couple?

2. Romans 13 says to submit to the governing authorities. What if the governing authorities are corrupt and evil? Are there any situations in which a Christian does not have to submit to governing authorities?

3. 1 Corinthians 11:10 says, “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority over her head, because of the angels.” What symbol is being talked about here, and why is it because of the angels?

4. In Luke 6, how is it not a sin that Jesus picks grain on the Sabbath?

5. Is there an example of a child being disciplined physically in the Bible? If not, how have we deduced that “Spare the rod…” implies hitting a child with a rod?

6. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Does this mean that Christians are not ever to defend themselves?

(Written answers are below the video.)

 

 

Is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 talking about a married couple?

Contextually, Solomon is talking about the work a person does with his hands (Eccl. 4:4-8).  When someone is good at their job, it can cause others to be jealous of them (v. 4).  Solomon points out the foolishness of laziness and how it is better to be relatively poor with quiet contentment than to work too much to acquire lots of wealth that won’t satisfy you in the end (vs. 5-6).  His overall point is that all the work and hardship one goes through to acquire much wealth is ultimately “vanity and a striving after wind” (vs. 4, 6), especially if one is alone and thus has no one to care for and thus be motivated to work hard (vs. 7-8).

It is while speaking of working hard while being alone that Solomon then says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (vs. 9-12).  Basically, what Solomon is saying here is that is better to have friends and companions while you work at your job because those friends can help you as you work together.  When one of you falls or is opposed in some way at work, having friends to back you up and help you is a good thing.

Is this passage talking about marriage?  Not directly, as we’ve seen by examining the context. However, the principles laid out in these verses in the context of talking about the value of having friends in the workplace also have application to marriage.  Marriage exists because God observed that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18-24).  Thus, the marriage relationship of “two” – the husband and wife – is “better than one.”  Both the husband and wife are commanded by God to love each other (Eph. 5:25; Tit. 2:4), and biblical love requires they support one another during times of hardship (“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”)  Only in the marriage relationship is the intimacy of the sexual relationship both permitted and encouraged by God (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:1-5), thus having application to Solomon’s point that “if two lie together, they keep warm.”  Jesus also pointed out that it is God who is the “third party” in a marriage in that he is the one who joins husband and wife together (Matt. 19:6), thus finding application in Solomon’s statement that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

So to sum up, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 as written in its context is not talking about married couples.  However, the principles laid out in the passages can very much indirectly apply to married couples.

Romans 13 says to submit to the governing authorities.  What if the governing authorities are corrupt and evil?  Are there any situations in which a Christian does not have to submit to governing authorities?

There are three passages in the New Testament that command Christians to submit to and honor governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17; Tit. 3:1-2).  Historically, all of them were written while Nero was emperor of Rome.  Nero was a tyrant, an extremely immoral pagan who is best known for persecuting Christians, including ordering the deaths of Paul and Peter, the apostles who wrote these passages to submit to and honor the emperor and other rulers.  It is said of Nero that he was so depraved that he would light Christians on fire while they were still alive simply to provide light to see his garden at night.  Other rulers who were in power around the time Paul and Peter were inspired to write these passages include Pilate, the governor who ordered Jesus’ death although he knew he was innocent; the Jewish council, who tried Jesus illegally and found him guilty of wrongs he did not commit and later persecuted and ordered the deaths of many disciples in the early church; and Felix, who held Paul in prison for two years because he was hoping for a bribe.

Yet in spite of the fact that corrupt and evil men were in power at the time, God still inspired Paul and Peter command Christians to “be in subjection” (hypotasso, “to rank under,” “to subject oneself, to obey, be subject,” “to subordinate,” “to submit to one’s control”) to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1, 5; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13).  Paul also brought out that governing authorities “have been instituted by God” and that those who resist them “resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” and “God’s wrath” (Rom. 13:1-2, 5).  Peter likewise commanded that Christians be “subject…to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him” for “the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13-14), calling it “the will of God” (v. 15). 

Are there any exceptions to this?  The New Testament shows only one.  The Jewish authorities had specifically said to the apostles, “We strictly charged you not to teach in (Jesus’) name” (Acts 5:28; cf. 4:18).  Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; cf. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15).  From this we gather that if a governing authority specifically commands a Christian to do something that directly is in opposition to what God has commanded that Christian to do in the Bible, the Christian is not under any obligation to obey that ruling authority.  However, that does not give the Christian license to disobey the ruling authority because of that ruler’s personal unrighteousness or because of dislike of that ruler’s policies which may or may not be wrong but yet do not directly require that Christian to personally sin.  It must also be noted that the early Christians did not call for revolution and secession against the Jewish ruling authorities after they had given them that sinful command.  They simply chose to not obey the command and obey God instead, but they didn’t call for the church to fight with arms against the Jewish council or against the tyranny of Rome (cf. John 18:36).

Additionally, Peter also commanded that Christians “honor everyone,” even going so far as to also command, “Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17).  Contextually, he associated giving honor to governing authorities with “doing good (so that) you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (v. 15).  Paul likewise commanded to “pay…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7) in the context of speaking of governing authorities whom he calls “God’s servant” (v. 4).  Like Peter, Paul also associated “speak(ing) evil of no one” and “show(ing) perfect courtesy toward all people” with rulers and authorities (Tit. 3:1-2). 

At the time of this writing, many Christians are very politically-minded and are dissatisfied with the state of government and who is in power in America.  Over the years, I had observed many Christians insult and dishonor governing authorities with whom they disagree politically and whom they personally dislike.  I have seen this done both to authorities who are personally evil and those who are personally moral.  This is causing some to either ignore or try to twist these passages we’ve looked at into things they don’t mean.  I’ve been recently told that the governing authorities we are told to submit to are principles, not specific individuals who are in power.  That is not true.  Peter spoke specifically of the emperor and the governors under him (1 Pet. 2:13-17).  Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar clearly had the king in mind in passages like Daniel 2:21, 4:25, and 5:21.  I find it no coincidence that this re-imagining of what these scriptures mean is happening when a man very unpopular with most Christians is about to take power. 

Over recent weeks, I’ve also seen several Christians promote disobedience to the government in the form of revolution and secession.  These mindsets and habits go against God’s inspired commands to us through the pens of writers who were referring at the time to rulers who were far more evil and tyrannical than anything currently seen in America today.  When we are more inclined to go to man-made documents like the Declaration of Independence instead of focusing on what God has commanded of us, that’s a problem.  Personally, I love the Declaration of Independence and the freedoms we have in this country which came about because of that document.  I am a proud American and I do not like the direction in which this country is headed in several ways.  However, my first allegiance must be to God and his revealed will in the New Testament (Matt. 6:33).  My first and highest citizenship is in his kingdom.  He is my King and Lord, not only mine but also over all who bear the name of his Son.  He wishes all of his followers to honor rulers instead of insulting them and mocking them.  He commands us to submit to the governing authorities in all things, with the only exception being if those governing authorities directly tell the Christian to personally violate God’s revealed will in Scripture.  Let us all follow his commands, setting our minds on the things above rather than on the things of the earth (Col. 3:1-2).

As Peter wrote while speaking of submitting to and honoring governing authorities:  “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16).

1 Corinthians 11:10 says, “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority over her head, because of the angels.”  What symbol is being talked about here, and why is it because of the angels?

Contextually, this verse is in the midst of a discussion found in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which falls at the end of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians to give up personal freedoms in order to avoid being a stumbling block to others (1 Cor. 8-10).  The culture of Paul’s day required all respectable women to wear a veil over their head in public as a sign of subjection to male authority, a practice still observed in most Middle Eastern cultures today.  During Paul’s day, 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.

Paul commended the Corinthians for keeping the inspired apostolic traditions he had given them, but they still needed to understand God’s arrangements concerning authority in the home and in the church (1 Cor. 11:2-3).  In the culture of the time, a man who wore a veil in public would appear effeminate, showing disrespect for his gender and its divinely appointed role, and thus showing disrespect to God (vs. 2, 7).  In like manner, a woman in that culture who chose not to wear a veil would disrespect her gender and its divinely appointed role, and thus show disrespect to God (vs. 5-6).

Now we come to the passage in question.  Paul brings out how woman was made from man and was created for the man (vs. 8-9; cf. Gen. 2:18-23).  In that culture, respect for that male authority was shown by women wearing a covering over their head in public.  This veil is the “symbol of authority on her head” (v. 10).  The head covering symbolized in that culture that respect for male authority.

So, who are “the angels” and what do they have to do with this?  “Angels” (angelos) literally means “messengers.”  Most of the time when this term is used in the Bible, it refers to celestial, non-human messengers from God (cf. Lk. 1-2).  However, there are times when the term is used to refer to humans, Christians who proclaim God’s message to the world (cf. Rev. 2-3).  This is likely one of those cases.  The mission of the Corinthian church was to preach the gospel to the lost (Mark 16:15), and to do so without presenting offending anyone in ways that would keep them from being receptive to the gospel (1 Cor. 10:31-33).  It is in that context that Paul tells these Corinthian sisters in Christ who were apparently violating cultural norms by going around in public with their heads uncovered that they should abide by societal norms and wear that symbol of authority on their heads.  They should do this, he says, “because of the angels.”  Literally, “because of the messengers.”  In other words, “Don’t flout cultural norms and offend people, thus making them non-receptive to the message of Christ which our messengers (preachers) are preaching to them.”

In Luke 6, how is it not a sin that Jesus picks grain on the Sabbath?

The episode in question is recorded in Luke 6:1-5, with parallel accounts recorded in Matthew 12:1-8 and Mark 2:23-28.  Jesus and his disciples are walking through a grain field, and his hungry disciples begin picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands to remove the husk, and eating the raw grain.  Pharisees accuse his disciples of breaking the Sabbath laws about labor.  Apparently to the Pharisees, picking a few heads of grain was the same as harvesting the entire field.  Jesus defended his disciples with several arguments.

First, he pointed out that David had eaten of the sacred bread in the tabernacle when he was hungry, and no one found fault with him for doing so  (Lk. 6:3-4).  He also cited how the priests worked on the Sabbath and were not condemned for doing so (Matt. 12:5).

Even more significantly, he points out that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27).  In other words, God intended the Sabbath to be a blessing rather than a burden.  To tell his disciples that they couldn’t even do something as minor as pick a head of grain off of a stalk to eat it when they are hungry was not the rest from work God had in mind for the Sabbath.  As Jesus also pointed out by citing Hosea 6:6’s “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice” (Matt. 12:7), God placed more importance on relieving suffering and helping those in need than fulfilling man-made rituals.

Most importantly, Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, Deity himself.  He out-ranked their human traditions, their temple (Matt. 12:6), and the Sabbath itself (Lk. 6:5).  If anyone had the authority to determine what could or could not be done within the frame work of the Old Testament laws concerning the Sabbath, it was Jesus.  Since he was defending his disciples’ actions and thus condoning them, it is clear that no sin was actually taking place.

Is there an example of a child being disciplined physically in the Bible?  If not, how have we deduced that “Spare the rod…” implies hitting a child with a rod?

The sentence “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is actually not in the Bible.  The phrase comes from a poem written in the 1600’s that has nothing to do with disciplining a child, a poem about fornication titled “Hudibras,” by Samuel Butler.

Yet the concept of corporal punishment of children is found in Scripture.  I was unable to find any examples where one reads about an episode in which a parent spanked a child in the Bible.  However, there are a lot of biblical principles connected with spanking.  The New Testament rhetorically asks, “For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?…Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them” (Heb. 12:7, 9).  Christian fathers are commanded, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  At the time Ephesians was written, the only guidance one had as to what “the discipline of the Lord” consisted of was found in the Old Testament.  With that in mind, consider the following passages from Proverbs:

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Prov. 13:24)

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15)

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.  If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” (Prov. 23:13-14)

“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Prov. 29:15, 17)

Spanking a child can be done in the wrong way, and the Scriptures imply this.  For example, disciplining a child through corporal punishment in an unfair, tyrannical way, while showing no love or kindness to the child when they are good and bad, is exactly what will “provoke them to anger” (Eph. 6:4), exactly what God told us not to do.  Obviously, one can also kill someone by “striking them with a rod”; the fact that God while talking of disciplining children says, “If you strike him with a rod, he will not die,” indicates that God does not want corporal punishment of a child to damage the child in any way. 

Instead, what we gather from the above verses is that the sting of spanking, combined both with other kinds of disciplinary action that fit the occasion and especially with the showing of love, kindness, empathy, and fun to the child when they are being good, will produce in the child wisdom instead of foolishness, a motivation and a desire to do what is right and respect authority instead of what is wrong.  These characteristics, taught and reinforced in children early and throughout their childhood, will result in good lives for them as adults and happiness, pride, and peace for you as parents.

Jesus said to turn the other cheek.  Does this mean that Christians are not ever to defend themselves?

Contextually, Jesus was correcting the misinterpretation of Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21 that had been commonly taught to the Jews by the scribes and Pharisees of that time (Matt. 5:38-41).  They were teaching that “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” gave license for private vengeance.  In reality, those statements were in Old Testament passages that contextually were directed to authorities responsible for official judgments concerning proven wrongdoing.  Indeed, the purpose behind these statements was to limit the punishment being given for the crime to what would be appropriate instead of unfair.  Promoting personal vengeance against wrongs done to you by someone else was not what those passages were meant to teach.

Thus, Jesus corrected that erroneous teaching by teaching his followers to not seek personal revenge for wrongs done to them.  If someone “slaps you on the right cheek” (a common form of insulting someone back then), instead of retaliating in kind, “turn the other cheek.”  If someone is unjustly suing you for your tunic, give them more!  “Let him have your cloak as well.”  If a Roman soldier exercised his tyrannical legal right to force you to stop what you were doing and carry his belongings for one mile, “go with him two miles.”  To the one who does wrong to you, instead of trying to retaliate or seek vengeance (“Take my eye, and I will take yours!  Take my tooth, and I will take yours!”) – the mindset condemned in the command, “Do not resist the one who is evil” – show them love instead.

Does this mean that self-defense is condemned by God?  Not necessarily.  Total nonresistance to evil would only encourage wrongdoing.  Furthermore, we see Paul seeking to defend himself against those who tried to assassinate him instead of passively offering no resistance to their murderous efforts (Acts 23:12-31).  Jesus on one occasion encouraged his disciples to buy swords, weapons that are designed to wound or kill (Lk. 22:36-38).  While Jesus certainly would not want them to use those swords for aggressive violence or personal vengeance, the only reason left as to why he would condone their purchase is self-defense.  Christians are told to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), and certainly protection is included in what they are to provide for their loved ones.

There is a difference between self-defense that is done out of a desire to protect oneself and one’s loved ones from harm, and violence done out of hate and vengeance.  Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek” was made in the context of condemning the latter, not the former.