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Q&A: Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

 Q: Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

Actually, that's kind of a loaded question and one that is impossible to answer with a simple yes or no.

The Bible tells us that God first chose Abraham and made him many wonderful promises, including the fact that through his offspring all nations would be blessed. (Galatians 3:8) These promises were then repeated to his son Isaac and later to his grandson, Jacob, who was  renamed Israel. So, when we speak of Israel as God's chosen people, we're really saying that God chose Abraham and his descendants after him through his son, Isaac.

So, why doesn't it seem as if Israel is a favored nation today? 

At this time in history God is working through the Church (the Body of Christ) and those who belong to Jesus are also referred to in the Bible as God's "chosen." (1 Peter 2:9) However, that doesn't mean God has abandoned Israel. Far from it.

No other nation in the world was set apart for God in the same way as Israel, and God still has future plans for them. In fact, much of what the Bible has to say prophetically about Israel remains to be fulfilled. And when Jesus returns physically to this earth, He will return to Israel. 

But God's timetable for Israel has been put on hold during what we call The Church Age. Once the Church is removed in the Rapture (outlined in 1 Thessalonians 4) God's special timetable for Israel will begin once again, ushering in the culmination of His plan for that nation and its people. 

So, although both Israel and the Church are referred to in the Scriptures as "chosen," there are significant differences between the two. Israel possesses a physical kingdom. The Church possesses a spiritual kingdom. The promises God made to Israel in the Law of Moses are physical blessings. The promises made to the Church through Jesus Christ are spiritual in nature. (Ephesians 1:3) Israel is not the Church and the Church is not Israel, yet both have a very special place in God's plan of redemption.

Q&A: If God created all things "good" then where did sin and evil come from?

Q: If God created all things "good" then where did sin and evil come from?

This is a really challenging question and all the more because we are talking about angels (a subject about which we know precious little), plus we usually attempt to reconcile such things with our own reality as human beings. And yet angels are "higher beings" than are humans (according to Psalm 8:5) and therein lies the mystery.

But Jesus gives us an interesting tidbit of insight when He spoke about Satan saying:

John 8:44 (ESV)
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

The wording here is most interesting. Jesus referred to Satan as "...a liar and the father of lies." When the Bible refers to someone as the "father" of something it speaks of that person as the originator or starting point for something. For example, Abraham is called "the Father of the Jews" since the Jewish race began with him. (Luke 1:73; Romans 4:1) 

This term is also used prophetically to speak of Jesus in a popular passage from Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Did you notice that Isaiah said that Jesus would be called "Everlasting Father"? This is not because He is being confused with God the Father, but rather it means "Father of the everlasting" or, if you will, "father of eternity" which biblically means the originator of all eternity.

So, when Jesus calls Satan the "father of lies" in John 8, He is saying that Satan is the originator of lies. That means lying and deception started with him. How? We aren't told since no evil existed before...but that is what makes Satan so evil. He originated it before it ever existed.

Ezekiel 28:14-15 (ESV)
You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. 

So, the origin of sin is a fascinating study but all biblical evidence points to Satan as the mysterious originator of sin, lies and deception. 

Pastor Paul

Q&A: If I'm really saved WHY do I keep sinning?

Q: I just can't figure out how it is possible that my sins are forgiven if I keep repeating them — even though I hate repeating the same sins. If I trusted in Jesus 100% wouldn't I stop sinning? 

A: This is an incredibly common question. There is a strong assumption among believers that salvation ought to bring about a sinless lifestyle. It does not. However, there's more that needs to be said. Coming to Jesus can bring victory over sin, and the last thing I want to do is to cause someone to become comfortable with their sinful habits. So, let's figure this thing out.

The reason we need to have a thoroughly biblical understanding of this issue is because Satan absolutely loves to get a hold of the hearts of those who struggle with sin. As "the accuser of the brethren" he is then free to accuse and condemn the tender-hearted believer, causing them to doubt their salvation and become tormented with thoughts that they can never be saved.

If this is something you've been struggling with I want you to pay close attention to the passage I'm going to share here.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)

This passage makes it clear that Jesus died for us while we were the most undeserving. When sin was our master, when we were immersed in darkness and enemies of God  that's when He laid down His life for us. There was absolutely nothing in our lives that was deserving of redemption, and yet that is when He paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. And when we come to Him with faith in His finished work on the cross He showers us with salvation and gives us His Holy Spirit. Praise God!

But this is where the trouble comes in. Now that you've accepted Jesus as your Savior, there ought to be some kind of change in your behavior, right? I hear all those amazing testimonies about people coming to Christ and being set free from all kinds of sinful practices. So why are you still struggling with sin? 

These are the thoughts that believers become obsessed with, but instead of reaching biblical conclusions, the questions just spin round and round in their hearts and minds and they eventually fall to the satanic suggestion that all this evidence only proves that they were never saved in the first place — and probably never will be.

But what they fail to realize is that they've been suckered into believing that salvation is something we earn — though they would probably never use those words. Most of the people with whom I correspond about this question are able to confess all the right things. They believe with all their heart that Jesus died to pay the penalty of their sin, and most of them freely and passionately confess that salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned. The problem comes because they've added something to salvation at the end and it goes like this: Jesus saved me by dying on the cross, but I must keep myself saved by living a holy life and always walking in victory over sin.

Sound familiar?

I can't even begin to tell you how common this is. But the problem is that when you boil it all down you still end up with a salvation that is earned by works. Even if that salvation comes at no cost in the beginning, if you have to do anything along the way to keep yourself saved, it's still a works-based salvation. There's no getting around it.

In almost every case where I meet someone struggling with this question they almost universally say this to me: "Pastor, I absolutely hate my sin!" My response to that is: "So, where do you suppose that hatred of sin comes from? Did you think you came up with it on your own? And did you hate your sin before you came to Jesus?" New Christians simply don't realize that their hatred of sin is one of the most powerful indications that they've been saved. That hatred of sin comes from God's indwelling Holy Spirit living within you. 

So here's the deal: All Christians struggle with sin. It's part of what it means to be a born-again Christian. And you will continue to struggle with sin until the day you are released from your body of flesh. But there is hope. You just need to realize that the power to overcome sin does not come from you. Instead it is found in Jesus Christ and it is activated BY FAITH. So stop giving in to the enemy and doubting your salvation, Put your complete and total trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. Don't be lured into looking at all your failures — keep your eyes on Jesus.

Next, you need to immerse yourself in a biblical understanding of all these things. I would strongly suggest that you listen or watch the teachings below, which all deal with the subject of sin in the life of the believer. They can be found on our CCO website in the study of Romans. The messages you need to focus on are these:

Romans 6 (Part 1) :1-14 - Baptized Into Christ's Death
Romans 6 (Part 2) :15-23 - Freedom From Sin
Romans 7 (Part 1) :1-13 - Sin and the Law
Romans 7 (Part 2) :14-25 - "Who Will Deliver Us?"
Romans 8 (Part 1) :1-17 - Life in the Spirit

God bless you as you grow in Christ.

Pastor Paul

Q&A: Are we ALWAYS to obey the government — even if it's corrupt?

Q: Romans 13:1-2 tells us to be subject to the governing authorities. How far does that go? Does it mean that if another Hitler were to rise to power we are commanded to follow him and do everything he tells us? I find this difficult to come to terms with.

Many times throughout the history of Christianity true believers have found it very difficult to live under and support certain government bodies. And we should have difficulty when those authorities become corrupt and ungodly.

Let's start by remembering what Paul wrote in Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1-2 (ESV) 

It's important to remember that when Paul wrote those words the ruling government at the time was run by a man who was literally out of his mind— Emperor Caesar Nero. He used to set Christians on fire at night to light his garden.

When Paul wrote that we should obey the governing authorities he was well aware of the corruption that had taken place in men's heart due to sin, and he knew full well that some of the worst of those men had and would continue to rise to power in government. However, in Romans 13 Paul was not saying that the governments of men are the final voice of authority for believers. The fact is, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and as such we are obedient to a higher authority than any man-made government. Jesus is our final authority and the most powerful government official must ultimately bow the knee before the King of kings.

So, that is how we are to interpret Paul's remarks in Romans 13. We are told to obey the laws of the land insofar as they do not overstep the revealed will of God. When that happens we are under no obligation to comply.

There's actually a biblical precedent for this in Acts chapter 4. The disciples of Jesus were forced to appear before the Sanhedrin who demanded that they cease and desist in their proclamation of Jesus Christ as Messiah. Do you recall their response?

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20 (ESV)

They appealed to a higher authority, and so must we if the governing authorities were ever to ask us to do something that was contrary to God's Word and/or will. This is called "civil disobedience" and it has its place, but Christians ought never to enter into such a thing lightly. We are to always be respectful and honoring to those who have positions of authority over us. It is only when we are asked (or commanded) to violate God's Word that we have the freedom to respectfully decline.

I hope that answers your question.

Q&A: Questions about Alcohol, the Bible and Christians Drinking

Q: What does God think about alcohol? Did Jesus turn water into actual wine? Is it right that some Christians drink?

The topic of alcoholic drink is one that can easily get Christians lathered up on both sides of the debate. Some decry any and all use of alcohol and others insist they have liberty in Christ to imbibe on occasion.

The bottom line is that the Bible does not denounce all drinking of alcohol, but it passionately condemns drunkenness. The warnings given in the Word about "strong drink" are many and there are also some narratives in the Bible of ill-fated outcomes as a result of unrestrained drinking.

A good example of one of the biblical warnings concerning drinking says: Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1 (ESV)

I would add that to ignore the plethora of biblical warnings is also "not wise."

Did Jesus turn water into actual wine?
Yes He did. (Believe me, they didn't serve grape juice at weddings.) It was real wine, and even though it was often served watered down, it was still the real deal.

Is it right that some Christians drink?

As much as some would like me to give a one-size-fits-all response to this question, I cannot.  The question itself stems from a faulty premise which is that alcohol is the thing that is bad or evil. It is not. The human heart is the evil component in this equation, often producing a troubling lack of control. That coupled with the potentially devastating effects of alcohol have produced untold suffering and heartache in people's lives for countless centuries. It would be exceedingly foolish to fail to take into consideration all the needless pain that simply drinking alcohol has caused. But let me reiterate: alcohol is not the villain here — it is the sinful heart of man that fails to see danger when it presents itself. And alcohol brings a boatload of potential danger along with it.

So, rather than say this is right or that is wrong let me instead say that drinking alcohol is potentially unwise for the vast majority of people. The chances of being "led astray" by alcohol are pretty high and anyone who refuses to recognize that possibility is a fool in light of the Bible's many warnings. The Bible says: The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) Alcohol coupled with the human heart is one big danger zone that I believe is best to avoid. And personally I do.

For those Christians who feel the liberty to drink

I have a simple question for believers who feel the freedom to drink on occasion: Are you aware that others are watching how you live? Are you also aware that some of those who are watching are not free to do what you do, and would be quickly overcome if they were to follow your example?

I have to confess that my heart is grieved when I see Christians raising a glass of some alcoholic beverage in pictures plastered all over social media. This reckless lack of concern for their weaker brothers and sisters in Christ is both shocking and saddening. If you are one who feels the freedom to drink, let me remind you that you do not have the freedom to cause your brother in Christ to stumble. The Apostle Paul said, "It is good not to...drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble." Romans 14:21 (ESV) Caring for others ought to come before the exercise of your freedom.

Q&A: I'm hearing conflicting information about tithing and whether or not God commands us to do it

Q: I understand from your teaching that tithing was part of the Mosaic law and that we are no longer under the Law. I also know that God is pleased with a cheerful giver. But recently someone reminded me that Abraham tithed in the book of Genesis in an act that predates the Law. Also, Jesus speaks of tithing in Mathew 23:23 as something that is important. Now I'm confused. Should we tithe or not?

You're right, tithing does predate the Mosaic Law, but just because someone is seen doing something in an Old Testament narrative, that doesn't mean we are commanded to do it today. But more than that, it is important to realize that the New Covenant is not about keeping rules. God wants His children to be Spirit-led — not governed by external regulations. That's why the Apostle Paul wrote:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion...2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) 

What Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians is precisely the kind of giving you're seeing in Genesis 14. Abraham didn't give a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek because he had to or because he was under some external compulsion to comply. He gave because he had determined in his heart to give. That's the kind of giving we are exhorted to imitate under the New Covenant. 

In the Matthew passage Jesus is simply acknowledging the principle of tithing in the Scripture, but once again, His comments are given in the hearing of Jews prior to the establishing of the New Covenant. The Apostle Paul's remarks in 2 Corinthians are God's present-day instructions for the Church on the subject of Spirit-led giving.

Q&A: Can you please clear up the confusion surrounding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Q: Why does there seem to be so much confusion over the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? I hear one thing and then I hear something else that seems to contradict what I heard earlier. Can you please clear it up for me?

I hope I can. You're absolutely right when you say that there is much confusion concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it comes from both sides of the aisle. In other words, there is confusion coming from those who reject the present-day activity that the Baptism of the Spirit provides, and there is much confusion coming from those who believe and embrace this baptism. Let me begin by showing where the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is found in Scripture and what we can learn about it.

We're told in the Bible that Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of about 40 days after His resurrection, and during one of those meetings He exhorted them to wait for a work of the Spirit that was coming that would prepare them for ministry. Here's how it is recorded by Luke:

Acts 1:4-5, 8 (ESV) 
...while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Jesus is the One who first used the phrase "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and He was very clear why the disciples needed to wait for it — they were in need of power. And that is what the Baptism of the Spirit is all about: POWER to be witness for Christ.

It is only after the Baptism of the Spirit that we begin to see the activity of spiritual gifts. Prior to the Baptism of the Spirit those gifts are not present in the lives of the disciples. It's clear that this is the "power" Jesus referred to when He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem and is therefore the purpose behind believers being baptized by the Spirit.

I have identified 5 myths that are being perpetuated concerning the Baptism of the Spirit which are listed below.

Myth #1: The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit are no longer for today.

This is called "Cessationism" and it is the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to function in the church. There is not one shred of biblical evidence to support the belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for present-day believers. We continue to need God's power to witness for Christ just like believers in the first century.

Myth #2: The Baptism of the Spirit and indwelling of the Spirit are one and the same thing. (or, We receive the baptism of the Spirit when we come to know Christ as Savior.)

Not so. This is a confusion of the indwelling work of the Spirit and the Baptism of the Spirit. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness we receive God's Holy Spirit to indwell us. This is a once-for-all event. But the Baptism of the Spirit happens repeatedly in the Bible even to the same people! The indwelling work of the Spirit is for salvation. The Baptism of the Spirit is for power —two very different works of the Spirit which are separated biblically by the pronouns "in" (speaking of the indwelling of the Spirit) and "on" (or upon) referring to the Baptism of the Spirit.

Myth #3: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the definitive sign of being born again.

Wrong. Jesus did NOT say, "You will be saved when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." He said, " will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." It is very possible for someone to be saved and a child of God and still not have received the Baptism of the Spirit.

Myth #4: If you haven't spoken in tongues you haven't been baptized by the Spirit.

This is probably one of the most pervasive, and I believe most troubling, statements that is perpetuated about the Baptism of the Spirit. It creates an enormous pressure among Christians to prove they are just as spiritual as others which results in a lot of "faking it." Christians write me often asking if the gibberish they hear passing for "speaking in tongues" is genuine. These same people are belittled and rebuked by others for even asking the question and told that if they had faith they wouldn't question what they hear. (By the way, that's called spiritual bullying.)

The gift of tongues is wonderful but Jesus did NOT say that it was the final evidence of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. He said the real evidence is "power." (Acts 1:8) That power can manifest in many different ways or gifts — tongues being just one of them.

Myth #5: Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are more spiritual than those who are not.

This is fundamentally untrue. The believers at Corinth enthusiastically embraced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and with it all its accompanying gifts of the Spirit, and still the Apostle Paul referred to them as "people of the flesh." (1 Cor. 3:1) who desperately needed to grow in spiritual maturity.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the most wonderful things God has given to the Church to enable and empower us to accomplish the work He has called us to do. I encourage believers to pray that they might be baptized with the Spirit and to do so often. We all need supernatural power from on high to shine the light of Christ in a very dark world.


For further study we recommend Pastor Paul's series on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit along with the following teachings:

Acts 1 (Part 1) - Jesus Promises Power
Acts 2 (Part 2) - The Gift of Tongues
1 Corinthians 12 (Part 1) - Spiritual Gifts - Introduction
1 Corinthians 12 (Part 2) - The Gifts He Gives
1 Corinthians 14 (Part 1) - The Gift of Tongues Explained
1 Corinthians 14 (Part 2) - Order in the Church