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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?
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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. ...you 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, "...you 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.

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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


Q&A: Are women required to wear head coverings today?

Q: Do women have to wear some sort of covering when praying or in a church service?

This question comes up from time to time because of the Apostle Paul's remarks in 1 Corinthians 11:

1 Corinthians 11:4-7, 10 (ESV)
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.


These comments are pretty strong, but the key to understanding them is found in verse 10 where Paul reveals the PURPOSE of a head covering: "That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head..." 1 Corinthians 11:10 (ESV) You'll notice that Paul refers to a head covering as "a symbol of authority." He is referring to the authority/headship of a man over his wife as established by God.

In Paul's day and culture head coverings for women communicated a strong message of a woman's attitude of respect for the authority God had granted to her husband. This is actually still the case in some cultures, but in many places around the world it is no longer so. Women use other things to communicate their respect for God's order in marriage — which is the whole point of Paul's remarks.

Although in the Apostle Paul's culture a women's head covering carried a very strong message, here in American almost no one would view a woman with her head covered and conclude that she was expressing a biblical respect for her husband. In fact, when women are seen with some kind of "religious" head covering today most Americans assume that it is simply a symbol of a religious affiliation and nothing more.

Q&A: What did Jesus mean when He said to the thief on Good Friday "Today you will be with me in paradise"?


Q: What did Jesus mean when He said to the thief  on Good Friday "Today you will be with me in paradise"? If that's true, why did He say to Mary on the following Sunday, "I have not yet ascended to the Father."?  How could Jesus be with the thief in Paradise on Friday if on the following Sunday He had not yet ascended? I'm confused.

A: I don't blame you for being confused. The statement that Jesus made to Mary at the open tomb has been the subject of much confusion. But it all centers around the fact that Mary had lost Jesus once and she wasn't about to lose Him again. So when she finally recognized Him there by the tomb she grabbed onto Him and wasn't about to let go. So Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me..." which means, "It's okay Mary, I'm not going anywhere." and then He went on to say, "I have not yet ascended to my Father." That's the phrase that people struggle to understand because on the surface it sounds like Jesus was saying He had not yet been to heaven. But in the Greek, this phrase refers to a STATE OF BEING rather than an ACTION. So, in essence Jesus was saying, "I have not yet entered into an ascended state."

Jesus was planning to spend the next 40 days (off and on) with the disciples before finally entering His final "ascended state." So He was communicating to Mary that there was no need to hold on to Him because His final ascension was still many days away. He was NOT saying that He had not yet been in heaven.

Incidentally, a lot of people are curious about what Jesus was doing during that time when His physical body was in the tomb. I believe one of the tasks He had during that time was bring to heaven those who had previously died in faith. We know that under the old covenant people did not ascend to heaven since "the way" had not yet been opened up. (See John 3:13). So, believers were taken to a holding place which Jesus spoke of in a story recorded in Luke 16 which He called "Abraham's bosom." (Luke 16:22) It was a place of comfort where they awaited the completion of our Lord's' work on the cross so that heaven might finally be opened to them. How incredible that must have been for our Lord to usher those folks into the never-removed presence of God!

Q&A: Growing up I was always told that if you sin after accepting Jesus you will lose your salvation.

Q: Growing up I was always told that if you sin after accepting Jesus you will lose your salvation. Is that true?

So basically you were taught that Jesus saves us, but staying saved is up to us! But the Bible teaches that our salvation is a gift from God and the forgiveness we are granted through Jesus is ongoing.  — even when we sin.

One of the most wonderful promises from God's Word is found in 1 John 1:7 which says:

...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

​​The verb ​"purifies" is in the present tense in the Greek, which speaks of an on-going provision ​of forgiveness ​against present and future ​sins.​ It could literally be translated this way:

​and the blood of Jesus, his Son, ​KEEPS ON CLEANSING ​US from all sin.

G​od knows that we are sinful and imperfect and He made a way for the sacrifice of His Son to keep pouring out His mercy on our lives. Please let me know if you have additional questions. God bless you, Josh.