Category: Bible Study


The tearing of one’s clothes is an ancient tradition among the Jews, and it is associated with mourning, grief, and loss. The first mention of someone tearing his garments is in Genesis. “When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes” (Genesis 37:29). A short time later, “Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34) when he thought that Joseph had been killed.

Other biblical examples of men who tore their clothes to express pain and sorrow include David, when Saul and Jonathan were killed (2 Samuel 1:11–12); Elisha, when Elijah was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11–12); Job, when he was bereft of all he possessed (Job 1:20); Jephthah, when he learned the result of his rash vow (Judges 11:34–35); Mordecai, when he learned of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews (Esther 4:1); Ahab, when Elijah pronounced a judgment against him (1 Kings 21:27); and Paul and Barnabas, when the people of Lystra began to worship them (Acts 14:14).

Sometimes, the tearing of one’s clothes was accompanied by other signs of humility and grief, such as shaving one’s head (Job 1:20), throwing dust on oneself (Job 2:12), and wearing sackcloth (2 Samuel 3:31).

There were times when people should have torn their garments but did not. The prophet Jeremiah received the Word of God concerning a soon-coming judgment on Judah. Jeremiah faithfully wrote the prophecy in a scroll and delivered it to King Jehoiakim. The king listened to the first part of the prophecy, but then he took a knife, cut the scroll in pieces, and burned it in a brazier (Jeremiah 36:23). This impious act was met with chilling stoicism from his aides: “The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes” (verse 24). If ever there was a time to tear one’s clothes, this was it; but these men had no fear of God, no remorse, no conviction of sin.

It is interesting that the high priest was not allowed to tear his clothes: “The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not . . . tear his clothes” (Leviticus 21:10). The special nature of the high priestly office dictated a separation from some of the common customs, including that of mourning.

Tearing one’s clothes was a public and powerful expression of grief in ancient times. The practice is continued today in the Jewish practice of keriah. Today’s ritual is less spontaneous and more regulated: the garment is cut by a rabbi at a funeral service, as the bereaved recite words relating to God’s sovereignty. One tradition says that the mourner must tear the clothing over the heart—a sign of a broken heart.

More important than outward shows of grief are true sorrow for sin and genuine repentance of the heart. The prophet Joel relayed God’s command: “Rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:13). The One who sees the heart requires more than external ritual. And the command came with a promise: “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13; cf. Psalm 34:18).

Many of you know me as a man with a million questions. Well, it seem I am not alone. Many people recorded in the bible had questions of their own. Here is a partial list of the most famous or important questions known:

There are many, many questions in the Bible. It is difficult to give a precise number because ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek did not use punctuation—we can’t just pull out the Dead Sea Scrolls and count the question marks! Often, it is difficult to know if a sentence is truly intended to be a question. But Bible scholars estimate that there are approximately 3,300 questions in the Bible.

This list of questions in the Bible is definitely not complete. It is simply a survey of some of the most famous and important questions in the Bible.

“Did God really say . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1)

This is the first question in the Bible and also the first instance of someone questioning God’s Word. Satan tempts Eve to doubt God’s Word. Eve responds by adding to God’s Word: “And you must not touch it.” God said do not eat from the tree. He did not say do not touch the tree or its fruit. Adam and Eve respond to Satan’s question by disobeying God’s Word. It was all downhill from there. And it all started with a little question.

“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

This is the first question asked by God in the Bible. Of course, God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were physically located. The question was for their benefit. God was essentially asking, “You disobeyed me; how is that working out for you? Did things turn out like you wanted or how I predicted?” The question also shows the heart of God, which is the heart of a shepherd seeking out the lost lambs in order to bring them into the fold. Jesus would later come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

This was Cain’s question in response to God’s question of where Abel was. Beyond the fact that Cain had just murdered his brother, Cain was expressing the feeling we all have when we do not want to care about or look after other people. Are we our brother’s keeper? Yes, we are. Does this mean we have to know where they are and what they are doing 24/7? No. But, we should be invested enough in other people to notice when something seems to be out of place. We should care enough to intervene, if necessary.

“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

Yes, the Judge of the earth always does right. Abraham asked this question in his appeal to God to spare the righteous and protect them from judgment. If something God does seems unjust, then we are misunderstanding it. When we question God’s justice, it is because our sense of justice is warped. When we say, “I do not understand how a good and just God can allow such-and-such a thing,” it is because we do not correctly understand what it means to be a good and just God. Many people think they have a better understanding of justice than God.

“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

The entire book of Job resounds with this question from Job’s wife. Through it all, Job did maintain his integrity. Job’s “friends” repeatedly say, “Job, you must have done something really bad for God to do this to you.” God rebukes Job’s friends for attacking Job and for presuming on God’s sovereign will. Then God rebukes Job by reminding him that only God is perfect in all His ways. Included in God’s presentation of His greatness are many questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4).

“If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14, ESV)

Barring the return of Christ in our lifetimes, we will all die someday. Is there life after death? Everyone wonders about this question at some point. Yes, there is life after death, and everyone will experience it. It is simply a matter of where we will exist. Do all paths lead to God? In a way, yes. We will all stand before God after we die (Hebrews 9:27). No matter what path a man takes, he will meet God after death. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” (Psalm 119:9)

The answer: by living according to God’s Word. When we “hide” God’s Word in our hearts, the Word keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11). The Bible does not tell us everything. It does not contain the answer to every question. But the Bible does tell us everything we need to know to live the Christian life (2 Peter 1:3). God’s Word tells us our purpose and instructs us how to fulfill that purpose. The Bible gives us the means and the end. God’s Word is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

The correct answer is spoken by Isaiah: “Here am I. Send me!” Far too often, our answer is, “Here am I—but send someone else.” Isaiah 6:8 is a popular verse to use in connection with international missions. But, in context, God was not asking for someone to travel to the other side of the planet. God was asking for someone to deliver His message to the Israelites. God wanted Isaiah to declare the truth to the people he rubbed shoulders with every day, his own people, his family, his neighbors, his friends.

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Forgiveness is tough. Peter’s suggestion of seven-fold forgiveness probably seemed, to him, to be superbly gracious. Jesus’ answer showed how feeble our forgiveness usually is. We are to forgive because God has forgiven us of so much more (Colossians 3:13). We forgive not because a person deserves it. “Deserve” has nothing to do with grace. We forgive because it’s the right thing to do. That person might not deserve our forgiveness, but neither did we deserve God’s, and God forgave us anyway.

“What shall I do then with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22)

This was Pilate’s question to the crowd gathered at Jesus’ trial. Their answer: “Crucify Him!” Their shout a few days earlier had been different: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). It is amazing how unfulfilled expectations and a little peer pressure can change public opinion. In first-century Jerusalem, people who had an errant view of Jesus and His mission rejected Him; so, today, people who come to the Christian faith with an errant understanding of who Christ is will eventually turn away. We must make sure we accurately present who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about when we share our faith.

“Who do you say I am?” (Matthew16:15)

This question, from Jesus, is one of the most important that a person will ever answer. For most people, He is a good teacher. For some He is a prophet. For others He is a legend. Peter’s answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” is the correct answer (Matthew 16:16). C. S. Lewis addresses the issue of the various understandings of who Jesus is in his book Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36)

If the cost is one’s soul, then whatever is gained—even the whole world—is good for nothing. Sadly, “nothing” is what the vast majority of people strive after—the things of this world. To lose one’s soul has two meanings. First, the more obvious meaning is that one loses his soul for eternity, experiencing eternal death in hell. However, seeking to gain the whole world will also cause you to lose your soul in a different way, during this life. You will never experience the abundant life that is available through Jesus Christ (John 10:10). Solomon gave himself over to pleasure and denied himself nothing, yet he said, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained” (Ecclesiastes 2:10—11).

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) and “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

It is interesting to see the very different responses of Jesus and Paul to what was essentially the same question. Jesus, knowing the self-righteous mindset of the rich young ruler, told him to obey the commandments. The man only thought he was righteous; Jesus knew that materialism and greed were preventing the man from truly seeking salvation. The man first needed to understand that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. Paul, recognizing that the Philippian jailer was ready to be saved, declared, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The jailer believed, and his family followed him in accepting Jesus as Savior. So, recognizing where a person is at in his or her spiritual journey can impact how we answer someone’s questions and change the starting point in our presentation of the gospel.

“How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)

This question came from Nicodemus when Jesus told him that he needed to be born again. People today still misunderstand what being born again means. Most everyone understands that being born again is not a reference to a second physical birth. However, most fail to understand the full implication of the term. Becoming a Christian—becoming born again—is beginning an entirely new life. It is moving from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life (John 5:24). It is becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Being born again is not adding something to your existing life; it is radically replacing your existing life.

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)

We are saved by grace (Ephesians 6:8). When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, all of our sins are forgiven and we are guaranteed eternal life in heaven. Salvation is God’s gift of grace. Does this mean that a Christian can live however he or she wants and still be saved? Yes. But a true Christian will not live “however he or she wants.” A Christian has a new Master and does not serve himself any more. A Christian will grow spiritually, progressively, in the new life God has given him. Grace is not a license to sin. Willful, unrepentant sin in a person’s life makes a mockery of grace and calls into question that person’s salvation (1 John 3:6). Yes, there are times of failure and rebellion in a Christian’s life. And, no, sinless perfection is not possible this side of glory. But the Christian is to live out of gratitude for God’s grace, not take advantage of God’s grace. The balance is found in Jesus’ words to the woman taken in adultery. After refusing to condemn her, He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Children of God will face opposition in this world (John 15:18).The devil and his demons oppose us. Many people in the world oppose us. The philosophies, values, and priorities of the world stand against us. In terms of our earthly lives, we can be overcome, defeated, even killed.  But, in terms of eternity, God has promised that we will overcome (1 John 5:4). What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to us in this world? Death. For those who are born of God, what happens after death? Eternity in the most glorious place imaginable.

There are many other great questions in the Bible. Questions from seekers, questions from scoffers, questions from discouraged believers, and questions from God. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be ready to accept God’s answer when it comes.

In Psalm 119:16, David promises God, “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” In Deuteronomy 11:18-19, God exhorts the Israelites, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” As believers, we know we are to study the Bible, memorize it, and obey it. But does the Bible say what we think it says? The truth is, there are several phrases that sound like they come from the Bible, but do not.

God helps those who help themselves.
The earliest recording of this saying is actually from Aesop’s fable “Hercules and the Waggoner.” A man’s wagon got stuck in a muddy road, and he prayed for Hercules to help. Hercules appeared and said, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.” The moral given was “The gods help them that help themselves.” Aesop was a Greek writer who lived from 620 to 564 BC, but obviously did not contribute to the Bible. As a biblical truism, the proverb has mixed results. We can do nothing to help when it comes to salvation; salvation is through Christ alone. In the work of sanctification—becoming more spiritually mature—we are to join in the work. 1 Peter 1:14-15 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”

Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Despite the strict rules given to the Israelites about uncleanness as a metaphor for sinfulness and ceremonial washing required by the priests (see: Exodus, Leviticus), this phrase is not in the Bible. It originated as an ancient Babylonian and Hebrew proverb, but became very popular during the Victorian era after being revived by Sir Francis Bacon and John Wesley. Is the proverb true beyond the metaphor? A new study shows that people are generally fairer and more generous when in a clean-smelling environment. But Jesus also exhorts us to worry more about the sin in our hearts than the dirt on our hands (Matthew 7:18-23).

In the last days, you will not be able to know the seasons except by the changing of the leaves.
Even a thorough Google search will not reveal the origin of this saying, but it is not found in the Bible. Matthew 24:32-33 uses the budding of leaves heralding the coming of summer as a metaphor for the signs that Christ will return. But nowhere does the Bible mention that seasons will be so altered that only the changing leaves will identify them.

It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than to spill it out on the ground.
This verse is usually used to justify fornication or adultery over masturbation. It is one more misinterpretation of the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6-10. Onan’s brother died, and Onan had the responsibility of marrying his brother’s wife to provide an heir. Instead, Onan “wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.” This passage isn’t even about masturbation; God struck Onan down because he selfishly refused to provide an heir for his brother’s inheritance. In addition, the proverb is inaccurate. In no way would the Bible encourage the use of anyone other than a spouse for sexual gratification. Instead, we are called to not allow physical appetites to control us (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Although this is a biblical-sounding admonition, it is not directly from the Bible. It’s a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. As a guideline, it’s valid. We are to hate sin—even our own. And we are to show love to all others. Gandhi’s quote is coming under fire in the world as more and more people define themselves by their sin and resent the guidelines God has given us in His Word.

Money is the root of all evil.
This is a common misconception with an easy fix. 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” Money is not good or bad, and being wealthy is not a sin; Job was wealthy and described as a man who was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). Loving money, which in the Greek is “avarice” and implies an emotional affection, is the root of all sorts of evil as the desire to accumulate wealth is placed above God and others.

This too shall pass.
This is actually a misinterpretation of a line from “The Lament of Doer,” an Old English poem. Doer has been replaced as his lord’s poet, and calls to mind several other Germanic mythological figures who went through troubled times. Each refrain ends with, “that passed away, so may this.” Several verses in the Bible remind us that our lives and, indeed, heaven and earth will pass away (Matthew 24:35). But while we can find comfort knowing that our earthly sorrows are temporary, we’re still called to rejoice in our trials, knowing that they will lead to endurance and sanctification (James 1:2-4).

The lion shall lay down with the lamb.
Although Jesus is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God (Revelation 5), this phrase does not appear in the Bible. Isaiah 11:6 says, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Similarly, Isaiah 65:25 reads, “The wolf and the lamb will graze together and the lion will eat straw like an ox…” The sentiment reads true, however—hunter and prey will be reconciled and live in peace in the eternal kingdom.

God left us the Bible as a written testimony of His Word. His truth is found in the Bible. Some sayings are simple rewordings of biblical truth, but others are dangerous heresy. Despite how clever or even edifying a quote may be, if it isn’t in the Bible, we have no guarantee that it is the Word of God. And the only way we’ll know is if we read the Bible.

People today are fascinated by the concept and study of angels, called “angelology.” Angels are depicted in everything from jewelry and Christmas decorations to movies and television programs. Many Christians also believe they have the authority command angels to do their bidding, while others believe they can command angels (and even demons) in the name of Jesus.

There are no instances in Scripture where humans were able to give angels commands, either in their own name or in Jesus’ name. There are no passages where man has control over the work of the angels. We do know that they are beings of higher rank, since Jesus had to make Himself “lower than the angels” in order to be born and suffer as a man (Hebrews 2:7-9; Psalm 8:4-5).

The teaching that believers have control over angels is false. The following biblical principles show that angels do not obey the commands of men:

• Moses spoke of when the children of Israel “cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry, and sent an angel, and brought us out of Egypt” (Numbers 20:16). The Israelites did not command an angel to come to them. They appealed to God, under whose command the angels function.

• Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 3:17-18). God in His mercy “sent his angel and rescued his servants!” (Daniel 3:28). The three Hebrews did not summon the angel of the Lord. God sent him. God later “sent his angel” to deliver Daniel from the mouths of the lions in their den (Daniel 6:22).

• The church in Jerusalem prayed for Peter when he was in prison (Acts 12:5). When Peter was delivered, he testified, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating” (Acts 12:11). The Christians praying for Peter were so surprised when he came to their door that they almost did not let him in. Certainly, they had not commanded any angel to rescue him.

Angels are called God’s “holy angels,” who do His bidding, not ours (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 14:10).

In 1 Samuel 15:2-3, God commanded Saul and the Israelites, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'” God ordered similar things when the Israelites were invading the promised land (Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 20:16-18). Why would God have the Israelites exterminate an entire group of people, women and children included?

This is honestly a very difficult issue. We do not fully understand why God would command such a thing, but at the same time we trust God that He is just – and recognize that we are incapable of fully understanding a sovereign, infinite, and eternal God. As we look at difficult issues such as this one, we have to remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9; Romans 11:33-36). We have to be willing to trust God and have faith in Him even when we do not understand His ways.

Unlike us, God knows the future. God knew what the results would be if Israel did not completely eradicate the Amalekites. If Israel did not carry out God’s orders, the Amalekites would come back to “haunt” the Israelites again and again. Saul claimed to have killed everyone but the Amalekite king Agag (1 Samuel 15:20). Obviously Saul was lying…just a couple of decades later there were enough Amalekites to take David and his men’s families captive (1 Samuel 30:1-2). After David and his men attacked the Amalekites and rescued their families, 400 Amalekites escaped. If Saul had fulfilled what God had commanded him, this never would have occurred. Several hundred years later, a descendant of Agag, Haman, tried to have the entire Jewish people exterminated (see the book of Esther). So, Saul’s incomplete obedience almost resulted in Israel’s destruction. God knew this would occur, so He ordered the extermination of the Amalekites ahead of time.

In regard to the Canaanites, God commanded, “However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). The Israelites failed in this mission as well, and exactly what God said would happen occurred (Judges 2:1-3; 1 Kings 11:5; 14:24; 2 Kings 16:3-4). God did not order the extermination of these people to be cruel, but rather to prevent even greater evil from occurring in the future.

Probably the most difficult part of these commands from God is that God ordered the death of children and infants as well. Why would God order the death of innocent children? (1) Children are not innocent (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). (2) These children would have likely grown up as adherents to the evil religions and practices of their parents. (3) By ending their lives as children, God enabled them to have entrance into Heaven. We strongly believe that all children who die are accepted into Heaven by the grace and mercy of God (2 Samuel 12:22-23; Mark 10:14-15; Matthew 18:2-4).

Again, this answer does not completely deal with all the issues. Our focus should be on trusting God even when we do not understand His ways. We also have to remember that God looks at things from an eternal perspective, and that His ways are higher than our ways. God is just, righteous, holy, loving, merciful, and gracious. How His attributes work together can be a mystery to us – but that does not mean that He is not who the Bible proclaims Him to be.

About a week after Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days (Lev. 23:34–42). Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with His disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. The three accounts of this event are found in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.

Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death.

Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. The One who is the new and living way is replacing the old – He is the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.

God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice to obey Him or disobey Him. Adam and Eve were free to do anything they wanted, except eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” If God had not given Adam and Eve the choice, they would have essentially been robots, simply doing what they were programmed to do. God created Adam and Eve to be “free” beings, able to make decisions, able to choose between good and evil. In order for Adam and Eve to truly be free, they had to have a choice.

There was nothing essentially evil about the tree or the fruit of the tree. It is unlikely that eating the fruit truly gave Adam and Eve any further knowledge. It was the act of disobedience that opened Adam and Eve’s eyes to evil. Their sin of disobeying God brought sin and evil into the world and into their lives. Eating the fruit, as an act of disobedience against God, was what gave Adam and Eve knowledge of evil (Genesis 3:6-7).

God did not want Adam and Eve to sin. God knew ahead of time what the results of sin would be. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin and would thereby bring evil, suffering, and death into the world. Why, then, did God allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve? God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to force them to make the choice. Adam and Eve chose, of their own free will, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The results—evil, sin, suffering, sickness, and death—have plagued the world ever since. Adam and Eve’s decision results in every person being born with a sin nature, a tendency to sin. Adam and Eve’s decision is what ultimately required Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed His blood on our behalf. Through faith in Christ, we can be free from sin’s consequences, and ultimately free from sin itself. May we echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The only thing the Bible tells us concerning the Garden of Eden’s location is found in Genesis 2:10-14, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold…The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” The exact identities of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers are unknown, but the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are well known.

If the Tigris and Euphrates mentioned are the same rivers by those names today, that would put the Garden of Eden somewhere in the Middle East, likely in Iraq. However, even a small local flood can change the course of a river, and the Flood of Noah’s day was more than a localized flood. The Deluge completely changed the topography of the earth. Because of this, the original location of the Tigris and Euphrates is uncertain. It could be that the modern rivers called the Tigris and Euphrates are simply named after those associated with Eden, in the same way that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is named after the town in Judea.

If the Middle East region is where the Garden of Eden was, and if crude oil is, as most scientists believe, primarily decayed vegetation and animal matter, then it stands to reason that the Middle East is where we would find the greatest oil deposits. Many people speculate that the vast stores of oil in the Middle East are the result of the decomposition of Earth’s lushest organic materials in the Garden of Eden. While the oil in the Middle East could be the dregs of Eden, but those who promote such ideas are simply theorizing.

People have searched for the Garden of Eden for centuries to no avail. There are various spots claimed as the original location of Eden, but no one can be sure. What happened to the Garden of Eden? The Bible does not specifically say. It is likely that the Garden was completely destroyed in the Flood.

Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical  understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word  ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root  meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that  when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building.  Romans 16:5 says “… greet  the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not  a church building, but a body of believers.

The church is the body of  Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians  1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to  be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him  who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all  believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until  Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

1) The  universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with  Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews  or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1  Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the  body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal  church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus  Christ.

2) The local church is described in Galatians  1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in  Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many  churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church,  Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather  is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised  of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These  members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a  local church.

In summary, the church is not a building or a  denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those  who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1  Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of members of the  universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church  can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging,  teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord  Jesus Christ.

When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of  salvation. Few are interested in whether we have the free will to choose salad  or steak for our dinner tonight. Rather, we are troubled over who exactly is in  control of our eternal destiny.

Any discussion of man’s free will must  begin with an understanding of his nature because man’s will is bound by that  nature. A prisoner has the freedom to pace up and down in his cell, but he is  constrained by the walls of that cell and can go no further, no matter how much  his will might desire it. So it is with man. Because of sin, man is imprisoned  within a cell of corruption and wickedness which permeates to the very core of  our being. Every part of man is in bondage to sin – our bodies, our minds, and  our wills. Jeremiah  17:9 tells us the state of man’s heart: it is “deceitful and desperately  wicked.” In our natural, unregenerate state, we are carnally minded, not  spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually  minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it  is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Romans 8:6-7). These verses  tell us that before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not  submit to God and His law, neither can we. The Bible is clear that, in his  natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In  other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is  not free. It is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained  by his cell.

How then can anyone be saved? Ephesians  2:1 describes the process. We who are “dead in our trespasses and sins” have  been “made alive” through Christ. A dead man cannot make himself alive because  he lacks the necessary power to do so. Lazarus lay in his tomb four days unable  to do a thing to resurrect himself. Christ came along and commanded him to come  to life (John 11). So it is with us. We are spiritually dead, unable to rise.  But “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  He calls us out of our spiritual graves and gives us a completely new nature,  one undefiled by sin as the old nature was (2  Corinthians 5:17). God saw the desperate and helpless state of our souls,  and in His great love and mercy, He sovereignly chose to send His Son to the  cross to redeem us. By His grace we are saved through the gift of faith which He  gives us so that we can believe in Jesus. His grace is a free gift, our faith is  a free gift, and our salvation is a free gift given to those whom God has chosen  “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians  1:4). Why did He chose to do it this way? Because it was “according to the  good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). It’s  important to understand that the plan of salvation is designed to glorify God,  not man. Our response is to praise Him for the “glory of His grace.” If we chose  our own salvation, who would get the glory? We would, and God has made it clear  that He will not give the glory due to Him to anyone else (Isaiah 48:11).

The  question naturally arises, how do we know who has been saved “from the  foundation of the world”? We don’t. That is why we take the good news of  salvation through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, telling all to repent  and receive God’s gift of grace. Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us we are to be pleading  with others to be reconciled to God before it is too late. We cannot know who  God will choose to release from their prison cells of sin. We leave that choice  to Him and present the Gospel to all. The ones who come to Jesus He “will in no  way cast out” (John  6:37).