Should Christians love equally?

To answer this question, let’s first define love:

love (agapao) v. – a preferring; a deliberate choosing of one over the other(s).

How is love measured?

Love is measured through its demonstration. (The greatest love is sacrificial.)

Now, let’s look at how God loves:

God loves all people (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), but he does not love all people in the same way. The Bible teaches that there is a love reserved for those who are “in Christ,” i.e, those who love and obey God. (Psalm 103:11, Luke 8:21, John 15:10, 1 John 3:1, Jude 1:21)

As Christians, how should this knowledge affect our behavior?

First and foremost, we should love God. Then we should love all people, but we should love those who belong to the household of faith (our faith family) in a different way. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 John 3:16-17, Galatians 6:10)

We should love like God. (Matthew 5:43-48, 1 John 3:18)

What does it mean to be “in Christ”?

What does it mean to be “in Christ”?

It means that through faith we have been united with Jesus Christ in a covenant relationship. (This unity is symbolized in the act of baptism.)

As a result of our inclusion in this covenant that Jesus established,

  • our sins have been forgiven.
  • we have been declared righteous.
  • we have received God’s Spirit to help us mature spiritually.
  • we are united with other believers (the Church).
  • we are identified as “children of God” and as “saints.”
  • we are given the privilege and responsibility of sharing the good news of reconciliation with others.

All who remain in Christ will be resurrected after death just as Jesus was, and we will inherit immortality and live with God forever! Those who abandon the faith will be declared enemies of God on the day of judgment and destroyed with the unrighteous. (John 15:6, Romans 2:5-8, 1 John 4:16-17, Hebrews 10:23-39)

Begotten of God

Why does the Bible call Jesus the begotten son of God? (Heb 1:3-6)

Theologians are not in complete agreement on “how” or “when” Jesus was begotten—some say at the beginning of time, some say at his incarnation, and some even say at his resurrection.

I can’t say that I have the definitive answer, but I think Jesus is called the begotten son of God because he was begotten (fathered) by Yahweh approximately two thousand years ago when God’s Spirit impregnated Mary. Of course the Word of God (Logos) existed long before this. In the beginning, the Word of God was with God (theos) and was God (theos). And all that was created was created through him. However, Jesus the human Messiah did have a beginning.

Although Jesus did have a beginning, since he was the Word of God who took on flesh, he was also able to say, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

*I know the Nicene Creed says Jesus was “eternally begotten,” but this description does not come from scripture and I’m not sure anybody really knows what it means.

Remain in Christ!

God reveals himself to all in different ways. As a result, some place their faith in him, and enter in to the new covenant. As a result of our faith, we are united with Christ and share in his righteousness. Because of our union with Christ, our faith is reckoned as righteousness. God seals us, which means he affirms that we are in Christ and then his Spirit indwells us.

So how do we remain in Christ?

We trust and obey. Faith is trusting God and obeying his commands. (James 2:14-26)

But what happens if we choose not to remain in Christ?

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.
For yet in a very little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay.
But My righteous one will live by faith;
and if he draws back,
I have no pleasure in him.
But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life. (Heb 10:35-39)

And Jesus said, “If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

How much $$ should Christians give?

Since tithing was meant to end with the Old Covenant, should Christians give to their local church, and if so, how much should they give?

Should Christians give to their local church?

Yes! We are told in Galatians 6:6 that “the one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher.” We have a moral obligation to support financially those people or institutions that are feeding us spiritually. This doesn’t mean that we should only give to people or institutions from whom we receive a benefit. For example, giving to missionaries or to charitable organization such as Compassion International are ways we can be good stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us.

How much should we give?

The Old Covenant required simple percentages. *Jews knew how much was required. The New Covenant has no set percentages; however, the Bible does give us guidelines:

  • We should give proportionately. The more God has prospered us, the more we should give. (1 Cor 16:2)
  • We should give cheerfully. We are not under compulsion but our love for God and for others should cause us to give cheerfully rather than reluctantly. (2 Cor 9:7)
  • We should give as we are able. When we can, we should give to Christian brothers and sisters who are in need and when we are in need, they should return the favor. (2 Cor 8:14)
  • We should give in ways that do not draw attention to ourselves. (Mat 6:2)

Here’s a question that may help you determine how much you should give to your local church: How much are you willing to pay at a restaurant for a meal?

My budget doesn’t allow me to take my family out very often (there are 7 of us), but we do go out occasionally, so I have a pretty good idea how much it costs to feed my family. And I do feel that the teaching and encouragement my family receives on Sunday (and mid-week for the kids) is more valuable than the food we eat when we go out.

*Israelites under the Old Covenant gave between 20-30% in tithes; however, their giving was typically in the form of livestock and crops. Since they lived under a theocracy, their tithes were used to support the priests as well as the government.

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Theophany? Christophany? Other?

When we read in the Old Testament that certain people “saw” God, are we to apply a literal meaning? (Gen 18:1-33, 32:28-30, Ex 13:21-22, 24:9-11, Judg 13:21-22, Isa 6:1, etc.)

Were these cases of mistaken identity? Were these true Theophanies (God manifesting himself in a physical form) or Christophanies (pre-incarnate appearances of Christ)? Were the writers merely using figurative language?

Let’s take a look at the verses referenced above:

In Genesis 18:1-33 we are told that Yahweh appeared to Abraham but the account tells us it was 3 men who approached him. Some believe that these were mortal men sent by God, and Abraham talked to them but he also had a conversation with God whose voice he heard from heaven. Others say that although the text says “three men,” it was actually a visitation from three angels (and a separate conversation with God). Another popular view is that it was two angels and God, or the son of God. This view finds support in v22 which says the men left and went toward Sodom but Abraham remained standing before Yahweh and twelve verses later we are told that two angels enter Sodom.

In Genesis 32 we are told that Jacob wrestled with a man. But in v28 the man tells him he has struggled with God (Elohim) and with men. And in v30 Jacob said, “I have seen God (Elohim) face to face.”

In Exodus 13 we are told that Yahweh went ahead of the Israelites–a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.

Later, in Exodus 24, we are told that Moses and 73 others were invited by God to come up to him and in v9 we are told they went up and saw God (Elohim) and under his feet they saw a pavement of sapphire.

In Judges 13 we are told that a man with the appearance of an angel (identified as the Angel of the Yahweh) appeared to Manoah’s wife (Sampson’s mother). Since Manoah did not see him the first time he visited, Manoah asked Yahweh to send him again. God (Elohim) listened to Manoah and sent him again. After talking to Manoah, the Angel of Yahweh departed in the flames of the fire that Manoah had built which caused husband and wife to fall on their faces and say, “We’re going to die because we have seen God (Elohim)!”

In Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah wrote that he saw God (Adonai) sitting on a throne with a robe that filled the temple. He also saw Seraphim standing above.

So what do we do with these passages since the Bible tells us that God is spirit and cannot be seen? (John 4:24, John 1:18, John 6:46, 1 Tim 1:17) And in Exodus, God told Moses that no one could see him and live? (Ex 33:20)

Well, we can say that these were Theophanies or Christophanies. These seem like easy explanations, but they also seem to have little biblical support.

Another option is to say that Jacob and Sampson’s parents were either mistaken when they said they saw God or that they were not referring to Yahweh since the title “Elohim” is also used to refer to angels and even men. And we can say that the Israelites only saw a manifestation of God in the pillars of cloud and fire, not God himself. We can also say that Abraham’s visitors were men or angels. But although we are told Moses and the group of 73 saw Elohim, the context seems to clearly identify this title with Yahweh. And although the passage from Isaiah reads like a vision expressed in poetry, he seems to be clearly referring to Yahweh as well. So what do we do with these passages?

I don’t know :)

Are we a soul with a body?

C.S. Lewis wrote, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

Is this true?

N.T Wright says it isn’t and asserts that this kind of dualistic thinking, which is so prevalent within Christianity, comes from Gnosticism and not from scripture.

He argues that the Old and New Testament writers never speak of souls being immortal. He says we are all psychikos, merely human / mortal. Humans are bodies (soma) animated by souls (psyche).

Wright contrasts this with the pneumatikos person–the body animated by God’s Spirit, i.e. the immortal human. The Spirit of Christ indwells the Christian in this life giving us a foretaste of the post-resurrection self.

So what happens at death?

Wright points out that the Bible has little to say about the intermediate state. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him in Paradise. The apostle Paul says to be absent from the body is to be with the Messiah, which he says is “far better”; however, he describes this state as being “naked,” which he regards as undesirable. He says the desire of the believer is to be clothed with an immortal body from God at Christ’s return. (2 Cor 5:1-8). Paul also refers to believers who have died as “those who sleep” (1 Thes 4:13).

Wright describes this intermediate state as a time of restful, conscious existence in the presence of the Lord, while awaiting resurrection.

Is Wright right?

Maybe, maybe not. Like he said, the Bible doesn’t give us a clear picture; however, his view does seem to align with the Hebrew perception of personhood (nephesh hayyah). In addition his view of death and the intermediate state appears similar to views expressed by various Old Testament writers (1 Kgs 1:21, Job 14:12, Ps 13:3, Dan 12:2).