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Frequently Asked Questions - Doctrines

FAQs - Doctrines

Islam was founded about 600 years after Christianity by Mohammed who claimed to be a prophet of God. History reveals that Mohammed knew about Christianity and the teachings of the Bible, since he met Christians in Arabia. That is how much of the teachings of the Bible are also found in Islam. However, Mohammed refused to accept the teaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he is in fact, God Himself. He saw Jesus as being just a prophet of God. He thought that Christians had corrupted the Bible, and made Jesus into God. Mohammed thought that God had called him to correct this corruption and restore the truth. However, by denying the deity of Christ, Mohammed taught that salvation from sin must be earned by keeping the laws of God, which includes circumcision, fasting, praying 5 times a day.

Christians do not practise these things because the Bible teaches us that these laws are meant to show us how sinful we are and how we need to turn to Jesus Christ to save us (Galatians 2:16 -- "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."). Besides, many of the Old Testament laws such as circumcision, animal sacrifice have either been abrogated or fulfilled in Christ. For the born again Christian the two greatest commandments that he should keep as a result of being saved (and not as a means of salvation) are: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:37-39)

For Christians, salvation can never be wrought by works. Ephesians 2:8,9 assert this, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

After a born again Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven to see Jesus. "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Paul said "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."

Although the soul is with the Lord, it does not have a body yet, until the resurrection, when God gives the soul a new and glorious physical body, just like the the body Jesus had after His resurrection. Philippians 3:20,21 -- "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."

As for those who are not saved, their soul immediately goes to suffer in hell upon death. At the resurrection, they also receive new bodies, but only to be cast into the lake of Fire and brimstone to suffer eternal death. Rev 20:13-15 - "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Paradise and heaven are one and the same, as 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 shows. They are both used in the NT to denote the place where the souls of the saved will go to immediately after death and will live there for eternity (see Revelation 2:7). The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 shows that there is no intermediate state of ‘soul sleep’ (which some cults believe).

The term ‘sleep in Jesus’ is a figurative way of referring to the saints who have died before the rapture. The word sleep is well-known euphemism for death, e.g. Acts 7:60; 2 Peter 3:4. Hence, it should not be taken as a literal sleep. It is a matter of perspective. To us here on earth, it appears that these departed believers are now all ‘asleep’. But to the departed believers themselves they are alive in the presence of the Lord (cf. Mark 12:26,27). Since Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), we have confirmation that the souls of the OT believers are alive with the Lord.

Those who are truly saved will never lose their salvation. Jesus said in John 10:27-29 - "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand." (see also Romans 8:38,39)

But how can we tell if a person is truly born again? One important way is by the life he leads after salvation. There are many who claim that they are Christians, but they are really not: "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." (Titus 1:16). A true Christian will have a changed life, as God works in him. Though he may occasionally still fall into sin because of the weakness of the flesh, he should become better and better. If he backslides into sin, God will chastise him and bring him back to the path of righteousness.

The first thing that we need to understand is that God does not owe salvation to anyone. The fact that He chose to save some out of so many is already amazing. By right, no one should be saved at all, because all alike are sinners worthy of eternal death (Romans 3:10 - "There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."; Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;")

Secondly, the cause for the condemnation of the lost is not that they had never heard of Christ, but their own sin and rebellion against God. God has given every human being a conscience that shows them right and wrong. (Romans 2:14-15 - "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;")

Thirdly, God is always righteous in judgment. No one can accuse Him of being unfair or unjust (Deuteronomy 32:4 - "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.")

The Bible tells us that a person is saved the moment he turns to Christ for salvation in repentance and faith. (John 5:24 - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.") He does not need to have time to prove that he is saved by going to church, reading the Bible, serving the Lord, etc. before he is accepted by God. He is already accepted at the moment of conversion. One of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus Christ turned to Him: "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42,43) The thief died soon after that and was never baptised or had opportunities to read the Bible or obey any of God’s commandments. Praise the Lord! Your mother is therefore really saved even though she did not have the opportunity to go to church, etc. due to her illness.

God does not need to rest on the Sabbath day now, because the Sabbath day was made for man (Mark 2:27), not for Him. God’s rest on the first Sabbath was meant to model our rest for one day every week (Exodus 20:20,11). In a sense, God’s rest began on the 7th day after He began creating the heavens and the earth and is still ongoing. By this, we mean that he has ceased from His work of creation. He is still working to maintain what He has created - "My Father worketh hitherto (even until now), and I work" (John 5:17). That God’s rest continues till the present is based on the fact that believers can still enter into His rest - Hebrews 4:3 - "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."

The spiritual world is real. There are such things as evil spirits and demons. These are actually fallen angels that rebelled against God together with Lucifer. Sometimes they impersonate dead people and appear as ghosts. They do this in order to perpetuate false beliefs about the afterlife, e.g. the practise of burning joss paper to provide money to those in the underworld, etc. These are just part of the means that Satan uses to keep unbelievers under his power.

Those who claim to have the ability to see things in the spiritual realm have probably sought to see such things, out of curiosity or personal interest. But it is not to their advantage. It only makes people more aware of the presence of spirits and fearful of them. When king Saul sought to consult the spirit of Samuel to know what was in store for him, he was granted his request, but the end result was that he was much worse than before (1 Samuel 28:7-25). Christians should not dabble in the spiritual world or the occult (Deut 18: 10-12), but leave this realm to God alone to handle.

The only way to help those who are demon-possessed is to preach the gospel to them and pray for them. Once they fully accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the evil spirit will automatically leave them. Many people have been delivered from demon-possession by turning to Christ for salvation.

Any attempt to cast out the evil spirit without the person’s acceptance of Christ will be futile - "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." (Matthew 12:43-45)

The ministry of exorcism, like the ministry of miraculous healing, tongues, etc. were given only to the apostles. They are not for the church today. Those who claim to have powers of exorcism are claiming more authority over spirits than they should claim - "Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." (Jude 8,9)

Demons have limited power over Christians, and can only go as far as God permits them to touch Christians (Job 1:11,12). Moving out of the house will only relieve the psychological fear or paranoia of evil spirits for a time. As long as the family members remain non-Christians, the evil spirits (whether the same ones or new ones) can still trouble them wherever they are. ‘Blessing’ the house does not help, because as long as there are non-Christians living there, the evil spirit will always feel free to return back to the house.

This strange teaching is based on a misinterpretation of two passages:

1 Peter 3:18-20

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

Ephesians 4:8-10

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)"

Based on this, it is speculated that between the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He descended into hell and preached to the lost souls in hell.

1 Peter 3:18-20, according to Buswell, Hodge, Warfield, etc. means that it was the Spirit of Christ in the days of Noah and through Noah who was preaching righteousness to those who rejected God’s grace, and who as a result of that, are now lost and in prison.

In Ephesians 4:8-10 the phrase ‘lower parts of the earth’ is not a reference to hell (and thus, does not imply that hell is somewhere underground, in the centre of the earth), The term lower parts is to be seen in apposition to the word earth. Hence it means that Christ descended into the lower parts, namely, the earth. It refers to his incarnation as a man.

The wording of the Apostle’s creed has also influenced this misinterpretation, since it states that Christ "descended into Hades". Some thought that this means that Christ went not to hell itself, but merely a holding place ("limbus patrum") for the dead Old Testament saints. He went to preach to them that His work on the cross had accomplished their salvation, and so they could now be released and led to heaven by Him.

John Calvin interprets the phrase in the creed to be a metaphor of the sufferings of Christ on the cross. The Westminster fathers take it to be refering to the state of death that Christ remained in until His resurrection. Both interpretations do not take the phrase literally, to mean that Christ went to a place called Hades.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10