Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Six Questions

There are six questions that you may hear often that you should have a prepared answer. Remember, you will not convince or convict anybody of the Truth that Jesus is the Christ with these answers. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Your job is merely to be a witness to the Light. If you are prepared for these questions then you will be a good witness and the Holy Spirit will have some seeds with which to work.

These answers are merely “my” answers and are therefore brief and incomplete. You may use them to build your own personal answers or find or develop completely different answers.

  1. What language was the Bible originally written in? (Used as a setup question for number 2.)

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek although Jesus and his disciples spoke Hebrew and Aramaic as well. In the third century B.C. the O.T. was translated into Greek by 72 elders. It was called the Septuagint. Church father Jerome produced the official Latin version in 340-420 A.D. This is called the Vulgate meaning the Bible of the common people. In the 1500’s Martin Luther translated the Bible into German and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English (the forerunner of the KJV).

  1. With all those translations, isn’t the Bible full of errors?

Some differences do exist between manuscripts with some translations containing what I would call outright errors. KJV includes the word “corn” 102 times. KJV was written in 1611 just after the explorers had returned from the new world with corn for the first time. The correct translation should read “grain.” Does this error contradict the essential message of the Bible that we need a Savior and Jesus Christ who is God Himself is that Savior. I think not.

  1. Can’t I just try to be as good as I can and hope that God finds me good enough to go to heaven?

The Bible is clear on this. Nobody is good enough “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6. A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Gal 2:16.

  1. What about the Jews?

Romans 9-11 gives a full answer but the highlights are: For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And so all Israel will be saved.

  1. Just saying you believe isn’t good enough for salvation. I see Christians behaving the same way I do, so what it is the difference?

This is exactly James’ point. James is not giving a new doctrine of Faith plus works. He is defining what type of Faith saves. Even the demons believe (believe=faith) but it does them no good. A faith that produces a change in you toward the righteousness of God and is therefore evident in your works is the faith that saves. So just believing doesn’t save, but allowing that belief to change you into His image does save.

Oh, and by the way, what other people profess and how they behave is not the right question. The question is Who do you say that Jesus is and what are you going to do about it?

  1. Isn’t it very arrogant to think that Christianity is the only way to heaven?

John 14:6 says it clearly. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Gal 2:21 Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26:39. Since the cup was not taken from Him, I must conclude that there is no other way for our salvation.

I think the arrogant statement would be, “I can get to God on my own. I don’t need the sacrifice that Jesus made for me.”

Six Words

When I first started reading the Bible for myself, I was told that I would need a Bible Dictionary, an English Dictionary, and a Bible Commentary to help me read. I thought that was silly and I was just going to read it for myself and understand it for what it plainly says. Well, I was wrong. I have been surprised how many times I have felt the need to go consult all of the above sources. There are definitely some words in the Bible that need to be defined in order to accurately understand what is being said. My top six words that need to be understood are Faith, Death, Salvation, Angel, Hell, and Soul.

Faith: “Faith” and “believe” pretty much mean the same thing. So when you see one word you can pretty much replace it with the other. We are told that we must “believe in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18. “We are justified by faith in Christ.” Gal 2:16. But what do these two words mean? I think a “saving faith” is best defined as “trust.” The essence of Christianity is that we can not save ourselves, but that we need a Savior. So we must admit that we can’t save ourselves, but TRUST that Jesus will save us. There is also a “faith that does not save.” It is merely an acknowledgement of the truth.

Death: This means “separation,” not extinction. Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit. (James 2:26) Spiritual death is the separation of a person from God. (Eph 2:1) The second death is eternal separation from God. (Rev 20:14) Death to sin is separation of a person from the ruling power of sin in their life. (Rom 6:6-7, 14)

Salvation: I used to think that salvation meant, “I get to go to heaven when I die.” Well, that is part of the salvation meaning. Salvation actually has three facets: a past salvation from the penalties of sin, a present salvation from the power of sin, and a future salvation from the presence of sin. The $10 words that apply to these three are: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Since Justification happened when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and Glorification will happen when we meet Jesus Christ face to face, then our focus should be continually on the Process of Sanctification.

Angel: This word is used in three different ways. Sometimes angel refers to God (Acts 7:38), sometimes to men (Rev 2:1) and sometimes to spiritual beings (Luke 1:26.) So when you see this word, you should not think immediately of “spiritual being also created by God,” but read the supporting material around the word to get its appropriate meaning.

Hell: There are four words that get translated as hell in English. 1. Sheol: This is a Hebrew word used throughout the Old Testament. It moves between the ideas of the grave, the underworld and the state of death. 2. Hades: This is a Greek word used in the New Testament that denotes the same ideas as Sheol. 3. Gehenna: This is a valley outside of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire in connection with pagan rites. It was used in Jesus’ day as a place where they burned trash. This word was used by Jesus and James to invoke the idea of the Lake of Fire. 4. Tartarus: This word is used only once. Peter used it in 2 Peter 2:4 to denote the place where God has sent some of the angels that rebelled. It is best thought of as an abyss of some sort.

Soul: In order to determine the difference between soul and spirit, it is helpful to look at the concept of the composition of man. There are two main theories: the two-part man and the three-part man.

The two-part man

This theory says that man is made up of a body and a spirit and together the two make a soul. This is actually a very convincing statement when you consider the literal meanings of the words translated into English as soul and spirit. The Greek and Hebrew words for soul both mean “has life.” Any living thing then is a soul, because it is alive. Man therefore does not have a soul, man is a soul. When the spirit leaves the body, death occurs and the soul no longer exists. The spirit goes to God and the body goes to dust. When the resurrection happens then the spirit comes from God and is reunited with the resurrected body and the soul exists again. The word “death” means separation. Add to this the literal meaning of spirit, which is “breath” or “wind” and the concept sounds perfect. The “breath” leaves the body and death occurs.

I have two problems. First, the concepts of “has life” and “breath” do not account for the conscious person or the persons “personality.” What is it that “goes to God?” So the spirit must be more than just “breath.” Here it becomes obvious that we are using human words with literal meanings to define things that are unseen and/or unknown. So using the literal meaning to answer the question is In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) useless. Second, the bible says that man is made in the image of God. God is three-in-one so IMHO man must be three-in-one as well.

The three-part man

This theory says that man is made up of a body, a soul, and a spirit. The Pentecostals have determined that the literal definitions of these words are not sufficient. They have continued to use these words as they are biblical and traditional, but they have changed their definitions. The new definitions attempt to define that unseen and/or unknown part of man. They define the soul as “the mind, will and emotions.” They define the spirit as “the inner most part of a person; that part through which God speaks to us.”

As you could well assume, I do like this theory better because it solves both of the problems of the two-part man. However, I think there is room for improvement on this theory. Take the idea of “the inner most part of a person.” Doesn’t that sound like a person’s personality? What is a person’s personality, if not his wants and not wants; his likes and his dislikes? So, I think it would be better to define the soul as “the mind” and the spirit as “the will and emotions?”

Biological man

Let’s leave the spiritual composition of man for a moment and see what the biology teacher has for us. We are aware that we have a body, a mind, and a sub-conscious mind. The sub-conscious mind is aware of everything in the body and does many things for us without our conscious involvement. I don’t think anybody disagrees with this image of man.

So if we line these two up we see that body=body, soul=mind, and spirit=sub-conscious mind.


I use that word “hum?” intentionally because it is the exact response my pastor had when I presented this idea to him. I suspect he hasn’t given it a second thought since.

If nothing else, it is an interesting idea. Play with it, mull it around and then throw it away. Just be sure to Glorify Jesus Christ as you go.

What the Authors meant by Soul and Spirit

So when you read the bible, can you just replace the word soul with mind and spirit with subconscious mind and then understand what the author is trying to say? NO! The authors of the bible (most of the time) use the words soul and spirit interchangeably. They are almost always talking about “that inner most part of you, the part through which God speaks to us.” But when you see phrases like “heart, mind, soul, and strength” or “body, soul, and spirit,” then understand those phrases to mean “all of you who are.” Now you will understand what the authors are trying to say.