Bible Questions Answered (Part 3)

How did Paul know about the Rapture?

1 Thessalonians 4:15 “For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” [Revised Standard Version]

What may Paul mean as the source of what he is about to declare? It is possible he has a revelation on the matter. We note how the New Jerusalem Bible renders this: “We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching ...” If this be a correct view then we can find within the teachings of the Nazarene two groups of Saints, one living and one dead, and at some future moment will then benefit by being raised. We do discover this in John 11:25, 26, “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live [a) by a resurrection] and whoever lives [living] and believes in me will never die [b) a living person who escapes death].” (NJB) This may be understood to an allusion to Daniel 12:1, 2 where two such groups are seen: a) one awakened from sleep; and, b) another group rescued from a great oppression. Paul reveals such a mystery later to the Corinthians when he again mentions such a mystery -- 1 Corinthians 15:50-52. Is it possible this mystery was revealed to Paul (an inspired understanding of Daniel 12:1, 2 and John 11:25, 26) prior to the time of writing to the Thessalonians and thereafter the Corinthians? If we accept the view that Paul was aware of that teaching revealed in John 11:25, 26. The book of Daniel (including Daniel 12:1, 2) was to be sealed to the end-time or last days of Jerusalem. (Daniel 12:9) Paul is living at that precise time and may be among the first to gain such “knowledge.” (Daniel 12:4) [From note in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

In what did Paul rejoice?

2 Corinthians 12:10 “Because of this I take pleasure in weaknesses - in insults, in necessities, in persecutions and hardships in behalf of Christ. For whenever I am weak then I am powerful.” [21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures - NCMM]

We can imagine that powerful missionary saying this. Rejoicing in infirmities, humiliations, ill-treatment, cases of need, hardships, privations, and other difficulties. Paul knows that through his own limitations the glory goes to God and Christ and not out of his own physical strength or charismatic personality. He says, “For my very weakness makes me strong in him.” [PME] It is noteworthy that when a man is chosen for a special use in God’s purpose it is often a weak or unimpressive person. Compare David, Gideon, and even the Messiah. [Isaiah 53:2, 3] In such cases the glory goes to God and not the person. It is also true that if a person has an apparent weakness, his enemies will take advantage of this, or view him as less of a threat. There may be something of a warning here: Paul’s seeming weaknesses will make him powerful when he visits Corinth.

Some of Paul’s hardships were described in part at 2 Corinthians 11:26-29: “In journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own race, in dangers from non-Jews, in dangers in town, in dangers in the desert, in dangers at sea, in dangers from pseudo-brothers, in labor and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger, in thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Apart from these things of an external kind, rushing in upon me daily is my anxiety for all the congregations. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I am not set ablaze?” [NCMM] [From Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

How can we “fulfill the Law”?

Galatians 5:14, 15 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18] But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” [Revised Standard Version]

This principle stated by Paul is even more interesting when the following phrase is considered. Christ could say he had not come to destroy the Law of Moses, but rather fulfill it. This he did by a life of love, ending in the sacrifice of himself in behalf of others. [Matthew 5:14-16; John 15:13] So Paul’s immediate example of failure to “fulfill the Law” is seen in “wounding and preying upon” others. [TCN] That is, “tearing one another to pieces.” [PME] In Paul’s day the in-fighting resulting from the schismatic Judaizers, and the political battles that resulted, caused former Christians to become un-Christian in their treatment of others. This was manifest largely by the spirit of being judgmental. AND this is manifest largely in how we speak personally about others. [From Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

About what did Paul pray for the Colossians?

Colossians 1:9 “And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” [Revised Standard Version]

Paul’s prayer is for an increased EPI-GNOSIN [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #1922] which literally means over+know, that is a heightened knowing or knowledge. [Or, clear knowledge, deeper knowledge.] [Philippians 1:9] This full knowledge here is associated with God’s will or purpose. [Matthew 7:21-23] The result of this is explained in verse 10 - pleasing God. Associated with this knowledge, or coming out of it, is “spiritual wisdom and understanding.” This heightened knowledge combines with spiritual comprehension and wisdom. This is not an ignorant reaction to God, but one filled with all the human faculties of mind. [Romans 12:2; Proverbs 2:1-7] Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. Understanding is knowing how these facts are related. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge and understanding. The Christian who wishes a deeper and more intimate relationship with God must “form a longing … of the Word.” [1 Peter 2:2] [From note in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What is involved with progressing to perfection?

Hebrews 6:1 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles].” [NCMM]

Paul writes that mature Christians move beyond basic teachings, or elementary Christian doctrine. [TCN] Paul will go on to list these “basic teachings” or “elementary principles.” It will prove interesting what he includes and what he omits. New disciples were to advance beyond these ‘beginnings’ and continue growing in the Word. [Colossians 1:10] In moving beyond the fundamentals they would be “progressing toward maturity.” [WMS] The disciple is to strive for perfect, or mature growth, in relation to the “doctrine of Christ.” Largely this involves the Christian Bible as well as those portions of the Hebrew Bible applied and interpreted by the inspired disciples of Jesus. [1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20; Ephesians 4:13]

In contrast to most church-goers in modern times, Paul exhorts, “let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths.” [PME] The disciple is to pass beyond the introductory truths and progressively understand more and more “the deep things of God.” [1 Corinthians 2:10; 3:10; Proverbs 2:1-9] What are these “basic truths” or “first principles of the doctrine of Christ”? This week we will consider the six doctrines or beliefs every Christian should be well-founded in. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What was the first of six basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….repentance from dead works.” [NCMM]

Paul mentions “repentance from dead works” among the six basic teachings of the fundamental doctrine of Christ. What is “repentance”? What are included in “dead works”? Clearly it indicates the disciple has felt regret over former conduct, speech and attitudes, turning away from and ceasing former “dead works.” Some of the “dead works” would include what Paul lists as the “works of the flesh” -- “Now you know full well the doings [works] of our lower natures. Fornication, impurity, indecency, idol-worship, sorcery; enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of passion, intrigues, dissensions, factions, envyings; hard drinking, riotous feasting, and the like. And as to these I forewarn you, as I have already forewarned you, that those who are guilty of such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19-21 Weymouth Translation] Repentance presupposes that the Nazarene disciple has stopped the habitual practice of these works. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What was the second of six basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….faith toward God.” [NCMM]

The second teaching Paul lists involves conviction in God, or “faith which turns toward God.” [KNX] At first this sounds very simple, but when one considers the subject of God it becomes enlarged. Who is God? What is God and what is God not? What characteristics would you attribute to God? What is God’s “eternal purpose”? Surely the subject of the Trinity would have to be addressed by modern Christians as well as any other local teachings which are not rooted in the Bible. It is noteworthy Paul does not say, “faith in Christ” that that is a truth revealed elsewhere. Of course, faith in God means to also trust in His provision for the salvation of humanity - Jesus Christ. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What was the third of six basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….teachings on baptisms.” [NCMM]

The Knox translation puts this: “instructions about the different kinds of baptism.” This is the third item Paul lists. He uses the plural -- “baptisms.” There are several types of baptisms taught in the Christian Bible. What are these? Water baptism, spirit baptism, baptism into the Body of Christ, baptism into the leadership of Christ, baptism into death. There was also John’s baptism in repentance for violations of the Law of Moses and a baptism into fire which was fulfilled upon the Jews in 70 AD. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What was the fourth of six basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….laying on hands.” [NCMM]

This is the fourth item listed by Paul. Who would lay on hands? This would infer a central authority as demonstrated in the first century Church. [Acts 8:17, 18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22] What are some situations where hands might be laid on others? [See notes on 2 Timothy 1:6] Though gifts of the spirit have ceased or passed away, the appointment of godly and qualified men as elders in offices of apostle, prophet, teacher, shepherd, and missionary by the laying of hands still seems appropriate. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What is the fifth of Paul’s basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….[the] resurrection of the dead.” [NCMM]

The resurrection of the dead is Paul’s fifth listed doctrine. What is the resurrection? Who was the firstfruits of the resurrection? When will Christians be resurrected? When will humankind be resurrected? What is the purpose of the resurrection? [1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-54; Revelation 20:4-6, 11-13] This subject would likely also include: What is the condition of the dead? What is the soul? What are two outcomes to the resurrection? [John 5:29] These are all related questions and subjects to Paul’s 5th basic teachings. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What was the last of the six basic teachings?

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….ageless condemnation.” [NCMM]

Paul lists last as one of the “basic teachings of the Christ” - ageless condemnation. This is also rendered: KJV: eternal judgment; BECK: everlasting judgment; GDSP: final judgment; MOF: eternal punishment. This is Paul’s last elementary doctrine: judgment. The Greek may also mean “condemnation” and here it is of an unending kind. What does the Bible say about “judgment”? When will Christians be judged? When will humankind in general be judged? Who is the Judge? Do others share in this judging? Some might observe certain words Paul did not include in his short list of “basic teachings.” For example: salvation, justification, redemption, ransom, nor even ‘Christ crucified’ - though all of these may be inferred. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What should come with trials?

James 1:2 “Consider it immeasurable joy, my brothers, whenever various trials befall you.” [NCMM]

Happiness and joy are often confused or used interchangeably. There is a difference that should be kept in mind. “Joy” is from a root in LATIN and ENGLISH that refers to the smoothness of the brow -- not frowning. The best synonym for it is “glad” or “satisfied.” It is a state of mental satisfaction that continues despite intermittent moments of grief or exaltation. Thus the Nazarene was able to endure the stake for the joy set before him. (Hebrews12:2) “Happy” is a word from the marketplace where one has made an unusually good buy and this elation of spirit lasts as long as that appreciation for the object bought or the money saved.

Joy is often associated with endurance and trials in the Scriptures. The Bible is a book of Joy and the word-group occurs upwards of 400 times with the first occurrence in Moses “You must become nothing but joyful. [Deuteronomy 16:15] And also, “He will certainly rejoice in his heart.” [Exodus 4:14] In the Christian Bible it is Luke who is called the “Theologian of Joy” using the word over two dozen times in his two letters to Theophilos. The idea of joy and trial is straight out of the Mountain Teachings by the Nazarene. [See notes on Matthew 5:12] It is Paul who exhorts at Philippians 4:4, “Once more I will say, Rejoice!”

This will become so despite afflictions and persecutions. The Christian Jews were persecuted first, then later the non-Jewish Christians. “Trials” may infer other than persecution and include what Paul calls this season’s “groaning pain.” [See notes on Romans 8:22; 1 Peter 4:14] The persecuted are not necessarily “happy” but they can be glad or satisfied (joy) they endure for a godly reason and rejoice in the heavenly reward. The Christian must expect trials of faith as the Nazarene warned of them often -- from his initial sending of the apostles out into the harvest, to End-Time warnings, to his final Passover with them. Trials may be in the form of temptations, personal afflictions, and persecution in various modes. The word “trials” itself occurs only 3 times outside of James. [Luke 22:28; Acts 20:19; 1 Peter 1:6] [Based on notes from Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What results from the Christian’s “testing”?

James 1:3 “ … realizing that the testing of your conviction works out endurance.” [NCMM]

The joy that results from trials will be “the testing of your conviction” which in turn woks out endurance. [See notes on James 5:11 and the example of Job’s sufferings. (Job chapters 1-3)] This truth became much evident throughout the centuries of Christian martyrdoms. The idea of The Test upon each anointed saint occurs frequently. [Acts 14:22; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12] The Nazarene was tested in a manner similar to Job and so must every individual saint. [Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 4:15; Job 23:10; Job 34:36]

The word “test” occurs upwards of 80 times with the first occurrence at Genesis 22:1, “God put Abraham to the test.” Here in James the Greek is dokimion regarding which Dictionary of New Testament Theology [Volume 3 pages 808ff] comments: “Tested, approved, genuine, esteemed . . . test, probation . . . established by trial, investigation, testing (preparatory to installing in an office) . . . to recognize coins as valid currency (Proverbs 25:4 LXX) . . . Used mostly by Paul in the sense of recognized, approved, accepted . . . With dokimazo the stress falls on a positive result in which that which is tested passes and is recognized as genuine.” [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

To what will endurance lead?

James 1:4 “But, let endurance work out completely so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” [NCMM]

There is no partial enduring for the Christian. The race cannot be run half-way but finished. [Philippians 3:14] Faith without the fulfillment of endurance is useless. The end object is to endure and thus become approved in order to be glorified among the saints in the heavenly kingdom. Endurance is a word drawn in English from dru or dur -- the oak tree, something that has grown over many years into a rock solid tree of great size and strength, having weathered every storm, lightning strike, pestilence and fire. Endurance is a strong theme of the Christian Bible with the word-group appearing seldom in the Hebrew Scriptures. The word-group occurs upwards of 90 times and the idea is a dominate theme of James. It is Jesus who first encourages it and sets the example in it. [Luke 8:15; Luke 21:19; 2 Timothy 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 12:7; Hebrews 10:32; Hebrews 12:2; Hebrews 12:3; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:3; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 13:10] Fittingly the word occurs 7 times in Revelation.

Endurance should lead to maturity or perfection. [Or, KJV: perfect and entire, wanting nothing; WMS: fully developed and perfectly equipped.] The whole phrase reads interestingly in the Living Bible: “Dear Brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” This implies mature and healthy. Complete is literally “perfect” [TELEIOI] in some translations. The idea is found in Malachi. [Malachi 1:13; Leviticus 1:3; Isaiah 1:6] By refined and tested faith endurance will be perfect and result in an offering to God perfectly acceptable. [See notes on Romans 12:1.] [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What promise results from prayer?

James 1:5 “However, if any of you lacks wisdom, let them ask God who gives to everyone generously and without any reproach, and it will be given to them.” [NCMM]

All Christians lack wisdom from time to time. [Or, RHM: coming short of wisdom; GDS: deficient in. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge; knowing what right action to take.] No human is possessed of perfect wisdom. We all lack knowledge of how to act on different occasion and circumstances. [Proverbs 2:3; Compare notes on Romans 8:26.] The request here is for the wisdom needed to endure various trials -- the understanding to make right decisions that influence endurance. The spirit of this is right out of the Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings and elsewhere where Jesus stressed persistence and faith in prayer. Jesus taught: “Keep on asking.” [Matthew 7:7] “Everything you ask for in pray, have faith.” [Mark 11:24] “[Jesus taught them] the necessity to always continue to pray and never give up.” [Luke 18:1] The Proverbs encourage this search for wisdom: “Keep seeking wisdom.” [Proverbs 2:4]

God is liberal in His giving wisdom. As the King James Version puts it: [God] giveth to all men liberally. The thought is straight out of the Nazarene himself. [Mark 11:24; see notes on 1 John 3:22] God does this without reproaching the one who asks for it. God never accuses for a lack of wisdom if one is repentant and willing to change, to conform to His will. He will give wisdom to those who persist in asking for it. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

What can prove to be an enemy of faith?

James 1:6 “But, let them ask with conviction, having no doubts at all, for the person who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown by the wind and tempest tossed.” [NCMM]

Doubt is the enemy of faith and one of the Devil’s most powerful tools. That firm conviction and trust in what cannot be immediately viewed is the foundation of endurance. Faith has varied sizes, strengths and qualities. This here is a “tested quality.” Faith that has not been tested, like gold, is of poor and doubtful quality. The greater and more fiery the test the finer the gold poured from the Smelter’s ladle into a heavenly mold. In this battle, doubt is the prime tool of our greatest enemy. It is doubt that moves the Devil to ask the Nazarene, “If.” The idea of refinement like gold occurs often in the Scriptures. [Job 23:10; Proverbs 8:19; Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 27:21; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18; Malachi 3:3; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:10] If one would be gold then one must greet the fire with joy!

The opposite of faith is a terrible weakness in a Christian’s fight to endure. It is “the sin that easily entangles” of Hebrews 12:1. “Doubt” occurs about a dozen times and is often associated with its opposite, faith. Jesus challenged his own disciples: “You with tiny faith, why did you begin doubting?” [Matthew 14:31] The Nazarene stressed: “Believe and have no doubt.” [Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; Acts 10:20; Acts 11:12; see notes on Romans 14:23; see notes on Jude 22]

Doubt is removed by knowledge and meditation. But doubt can even invade a saintly mind at any moment of weakness. Doubt transforms the person of faith into a half-hearted, indecisive person unable to take decisive action on the path to endurance. The Scriptures do not speak well of this type of person. Psalm 119:113 sings, “I hate the halfhearted.” [Compare Hosea 7:8] Doubt robs faith and reduces the person of conviction into a jellyfish of faithlessness. Such a doubter is compared to ocean waves. Here begins the many metaphors or illustrations common to James no doubt learned from the Master Teacher. There are waves, wind, sea, crown, shadow, mirror, bridles, horses, boats, rudder, fire, fountain, fig tree, salt water, mist, farmer, oil, rain, etc. The doubting Christian is seen as a hapless boat at sea blown and tossed about by this evil tempest. [Compare the notes on Ephesians 4:14, 15.] [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

How is the doubter described?

James 1:7, 8 “Let that person not suppose they will receive anything from the Lord. That is a double-minded person, unsteady in everything.” [NCMM]

James concludes his introductory discussion on faith by warning that the doubter may end up receiving nothing from God. [Or, MOF: that man need not imagine he will get anything from the Lord.] Later James warns about asking for the wrong thing: “You ask and yet you do not receive because you ask for the wrong reason -- that you may spend it on your own desire.” [James 4:3 NCMM] What a desperate situation for the person lacking faith in the petition. Such a person is “double-minded” or “irresolute” [BEC]. James was not this kind of disciple. According to tradition the knees of the disciple James were compared to those of a camel because he spent so much time praying on behalf of his people. He has little patience for the doubter or the indecisive. [See notes on 2 Peter 3:16.] [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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