Mailbag, Prayer

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Prayers” from pagans… “Good” pride… Laying on of hands)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.

What do we do when a non-Christian (or a “Christian” who really isn’t, or someone from another faith) offers their prayers to you in times of need or trial? My husband recently had surgery, and he got good luck money from a Buddhist, prayer from a Catholic/New Ager (who also told her friends to send “their angels” to him). What should we say or do in these instances?

It is a blessing to have caring people in your life, even if they are pagans. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God that He has placed them in your path so that you might have an opportunity to demonstrate your care for them by sharing the gospel with them. This is one of the purposes of our suffering – to point to our Savior and sustainer, Jesus.

I’m not familiar with “good luck money” but I’m assuming it’s not just, “Here, I want to help with your medical bills,” but rather has some sort of spiritual significance in Buddhism.

When Mr. Buddhist comes to the hospital to visit, hands you an envelope with cash in it, and says, “This money has been specially blessed by the Dalai Lama to bring you good luck for your surgery,” (or whatever the case may be) you could say, “Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Mr. B, but I’m afraid God would not be pleased for me to accept this.”. When Mr. B asks why (or if he doesn’t: “May I explain why?”), it’s a perfect opening to explain that you worship the only true God of the universe and that He will have no other gods before or besides Him… and then you’re off to the races with sharing the gospel.

When the Catholic / New Ager offers to pray for you, just turn the tables, “That’s so kind of you to offer, Cath, but would you mind if I pray for you instead?” And then don’t give her a chance to answer. Just start praying. When you’ve finished, depending on which way the wind is blowing, you could launch right into a gospel presentation, or an immediate change of subject (…amen. It was so good of you to come visit, Cath. How’s your daughter doing? I heard she’s about to graduate high school. What are her plans after graduation?)

Sometimes, doing something unexpected like that knocks people off their game enough that you can kindly and lovingly shift the interaction in a direction that alleviates awkwardness and is more pleasing to God.

My question is about pride. Why are we proud (of our children, our country, our jobs well done, etc.) when pride is a sin? If you are going to tell me there is such a thing as “good pride,” please follow with where good pride came from.

I’ve tried to stop saying I’m proud of my children, by saying other things like, “You make my heart happy,” “I’m so glad you’re my son (or daughter),” etc.

Yes, I’ve asked my husband, my pastor, my previous pastor, a like-minded friend and done my own research- I have not found, nor been given, an answer. Can you please clear this up?

Wow, it sounds like you’ve been studying on this a good bit. That’s great! When we have questions like this, we should always go to our Bibles and, if possible, seek counsel from our husbands and pastors.

Even as Christians, we often misunderstand and mislabel our emotions. There is no such thing as “good pride” because the Bible’s definition of pride is much narrower than all of the things the word “pride” covers in the common vernacular.

If you will look up the words pride and proud in Scripture (particularly in Psalms and Proverbs) and begin reading the verses that contain those words as well as the surrounding context, you’ll start to get a better feel for the way the Bible, rather than the world, defines pride. You’ll see the words “pride” and “proud” mostly paired with, and surrounded by words like “arrogant,” “haughty,” “pompous,” “boasting,” and pride as opposed to humility.

As you’re looking at verses containing the words “pride” and “proud,” you’ll come across the stories of some folks who show us what it means to be prideful, but I can’t think of two better examples than Nebuchadnezzar (see v. 30) and Herod (see 22-23), so be sure to read those.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Psalm 10:4

This is the sin of pride. It is the boastful arrogance – whether expressed outwardly or cherished in the heart – that says, “I did this grand and glorious thing myself. It redounds to my glory. Look at me. Look at ME! I didn’t need God to do this thing, and I don’t need Him now.”

Non-Christians might look at their careers, and maybe even their children that way, but Christians don’t. Christians know that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. We know, better than anyone else on the planet, that we are nothing without Him, and that we can do nothing without Him. We can’t even cause our own hearts to beat! The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

So when you look at your kid, if you feel pride – the way the Bible describes it – you’d better repent before you end up like Nebuchadnezzar or Herod. But, I’m guessing that’s not what you feel. I’m guessing you feel just like I do when I look at my kids: a white hot, God-given love that would propel you barefoot over hot coals for them, a heart that is bursting with joy, and undying gratitude and humility that the God of the universe would graciously give you – one so undeserving – a child who is pleasing.

That’s not pride. That’s the opposite of pride.

And, yeah, maybe we should lose, “I’m so proud of you!” for “I’m so grateful to God for you!”.

We had a ladies’ fellowship weeks ago. One of our sisters was going to the hospital to have a procedure and our leader asked us to gather to pray and lay hands on her.

I’m ok with praying, but the laying on of the hands triggered in me an awkward feeling since I was part of the charismatic movement many years ago and that was a common practice. However, I also read in the Bible that the LORD and the apostles laid hands on people although maybe the context was different. It may not be an unbiblical practice and I’m just being too reactive to it. Do you have any thoughts or comments on that?

I can certainly understand why that triggered you, considering your background.

In charismatic / NAR circles the laying on of hands is typically to bestow some sort of supernatural “impartation” – of healing, imbuing someone with a “prophetic mantle,” or “gift of the Spirit,” conferring a position of leadership onto someone, using a person as a touch point to receive a “word of knowledge” about her, etc. They got this (and twisted it) from the passages of Scripture that mention Jesus and others laying their hands on people to heal, confer the Holy Spirit, and so on.

Naturally, if the Lord has saved you out of that hot mess of heresy, you don’t want to see anything remotely like it in your new, doctrinally sound church.

In doctrinally sound churches, the laying on of hands and praying for someone was, at one time, usually reserved for ordination-type ceremonies. One of the practices in the many deacon ordinations I’ve attended has been for the pastor to call upon all the ordained men attending the service to lay hands upon the deacon candidate and pray for him (not confer anything upon him). Sometimes this will be a small group of men who will surround him, lay hands on him, and pray together. I’ve also been to ordination services where there was a line of ordained men wrapped around the perimeter of the sanctuary, and each one took his turn laying hands on, and praying individually, for each deacon candidate. It’s very sobering and very special.

I think this practice, combined with the spirit of James 5:14, is how, in the doctrinally sound church, we sort of morphed into small groups laying hands on the sick or others as we pray for them. In that context, there’s certainly nothing biblically wrong with it. I’ve taken part in praying for people this way, and I’ve been prayed for this way, too. (Honestly, it usually turns into more of a group hug and you have to be careful not to smother the person being prayed for!).

Laying hands on someone isn’t necessary and it doesn’t make your prayers any more efficacious. It just creates an atmosphere of unity in prayer and makes the person being prayed for feel that she’s surrounded by brothers and sisters who love her and are interceding for her (because she is, quite literally). If you’re uncomfortable participating, you don’t have to, but as you grow in Christ and begin growing out of those old triggers, you may change your mind one day.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Mailbag: Asked and Answered

The Lord’s richest blessings to you, readers. It is an honor and a joy to serve you in Christ. Welcome to all the newbies and to you seasoned veterans of the blog.

Because some of y’all are new, you aren’t yet aware of all of the resources here to help you. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and haven’t noticed something that might be helpful. Let’s remedy that!

First, if you’re new (or if you’ve never read it), check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends. It’s like a CliffsNotes intro to the blog.

Second, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of the page. That’s where I keep the info I’m most frequently asked about.

Third, there’s a search bar at the bottom of every page (and one in the blue menu bar at the top of every page) which might help you find what you need.

Fourth, if you don’t find your question answered in one of these ways or below, you might want to check previous Asked & Answered articles and The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.

And finally, let me get you new readers some answers to the questions several of you have asked. Some of you long time friends may have missed these along the way, so I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too!

Do you do have study Bibles you recommend?

I’m looking for a new study Bible. I looked at the ESV John McArthur Study Bible, but I read some alarming comments in its reviews on Amazon that it’s missing Scripture verses from Matthew and a few other books. I’m curious if missing verses are typical of this translation.

A popular question this time around!

I’ve recommended several study Bibles in my article Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them. I’m personally partial to the MacArthur Study Bible in ESV as that’s what I currently use.

The accusations of verses being left out of the ESV (or any other modern translation) are most likely coming from King James Onlyists. Since 1611, when the King James Version of the Bible was published, thousands more – and much older – manuscripts of Scripture have been discovered, allowing modern translators to be far more accurate about which material is actual Scripture, and which might be something like a clarifying note or commentary added later by a scribe, than translators of the KJV were 400 years ago.

It’s not that modern translators of the ESV (or any other accurate and reliable modern translation) have “left out” verses, it’s that the KJV translators, doing the best they could with the manuscripts they had at the time, inadvertently added in “verses” they shouldn’t have.

The Mailbag: What is KJV-Onlyism, and Is It Biblical?

Missing Verses in the Bible – Part 1   Part 2 by Gabriel Hughes

I am looking for a resource to introduce a completely unchurched neighbor to the Bible and the gospel. She is tender and open. 

I’m so glad you want to share with your neighbor. What a good example you are to all of us!

I would recommend working through the verses and materials at the What Must I Do to Be Saved? tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) with her.

If she’s (or you’re) uncertain whether or not she’s saved, try my study Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up.

You might also want to check through the studies and materials in my Bible studies tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) to see what might be helpful.

I was hoping to see where you stood on predestination.

That would be in my Statement of Faith tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

Is the Catholic religion false? Are they going to heaven?

This is such a painful issue for all of us who have Catholic loved ones. If that’s the case for you, dear reader, I’m so sorry I can’t reassure you that your Catholic loved ones are indeed saved and on their way to Heaven.

Roman Catholicism is an anti-gospel, unbiblical, heretical non-Christian religion that has sent millions of souls to Hell by teaching false doctrine. It is one of the accursed “another gospels” of Galatians 1:6-9. You no more belong at a Catholic “church” than at an altar of Baal or in the temple of Artemis.

Catholicism teaches numerous heresies, but perhaps the most grievous is that it anathematizes salvation by grace alone through faith alone. In other words, Catholic doctrine says if you believe this…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

…instead of believing that your good works help earn your salvation (as Catholic doctrine teaches), you are anathema- condemned to Hell.

If someone believes that she can earn her salvation – even partly – by her own good works, she is not a Christian. She is still lost and dying in her sins and will spend eternity in Hell.

Can someone get saved while still attending a Catholic “church”? Yes, praise God – if she somehow hears the biblical gospel from someone or reads it in her Bible, repents, and believes it. God mercifully and kindly saves people out of Catholicism every day, just like He saves people out of Mormonism, atheism, Hinduism, and so on.

Invariably, when I (or any other Protestant for that matter) address a well established doctrine or practice of Catholicism and how/why it isn’t biblical, a Catholic will argue: “That’s not what we really believe!”. If you’re a Catholic and you’re about to make a comment along those lines, here’s my response: That’s what your own “church” teaches, so it IS what Catholics are supposed to believe. If you don’t believe your own “church’s” doctrine, why are you still a Catholic?

The Mailbag: Potpourri (…Catholic statues…)

Roman Catholicism: Mass Confusion at A Word Fitly Spoken

Truth and Love – with Mike Gendron at A Word Fitly Spoken

I am writing to see if you know of any resources for parents of adult special needs as far as Bible reading and studies go. I have 2 special needs daughters that I lead in Bible study. I don’t want to make it too kid like but I also don’t want it too hard to grasp either. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

What a blessing to be able to continue teaching your daughters the Bible even into adulthood!

I have offered some suggestions in my article The Mailbag: Potpourri (NBCS, Homeschool resources, Piper…) (3rd section).

I am curious to get your take on Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).

Here ya go!

The Mailbag: BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

I am wondering if you had a recommendation for a chronological Bible? My sister and I have both desired to get one, yet often Bibles are pricey and thus we don’t want to get one that isn’t excellent.

Great question! I’ve never really looked at a chronological Bible because, to me (now you have to know this about me: I’m pretty frugal – read: cheap) it always seemed like a waste of money to buy a Bible arranged in chronological order when you could just use a regular Bible you already own and like along with a chronological reading plan that’s free.

So I can’t really recommend a chronological Bible since I’m not familiar with any of them, but I can recommend some decent Bible translations…

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

…and a free (and excellent) chronological Bible reading plan:

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2023.

Do you wear a hat in worship?

Not usually, though I have worn a few Easter bonnets in my time. In my opinion, I don’t look that great in hats. But I can rock a pair of sunglasses.😎 (Which I also don’t typically wear during the worship service)

Or is this what you’re really asking about?

Rock Your Role: A Head of the Times- Head Coverings for Christian Women? (1 Corinthians 11:1-16)

(Tell you what, readers – I won’t judge you for covering if you won’t judge me for not covering. Deal?)

I’m turned upside down. For the last several years, I have led a group of 15 women through dozens of Bible studies written by many of the authors your have warned against in your articles. As I grow in my faith and Bible education, I am concerned about the “all about me” trends I see from Lifeway and Bible Study writers/producers. I see a worldly influence in most of what is written today. Who is a safe Bible study teacher? I used to think it was Beth Moore but, after doing her Daniel Study, I’m scratching my head about her reference to levels of heaven. The group I lead needs a structured lesson and isn’t prepared to dig into commentaries to do the work on their own. It would be far too intimidating and time consuming for many of the ladies I am blessed to lead. Is there any study or author that you do recommend?

I had to include your whole email, because I know lots of readers will be as encouraged as I was to read about how God is growing you – and, soon, hopefully, your group – in the knowledge of His Word.

Are there any studies I recommend? Yes. Mine. You’ll find them at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. They’re all free and they’re all suitable for groups or individuals, for study or for teaching.

My studies are designed for women and groups exactly like you and yours. They’re to help you transition from using what I call “canned” studies (books, workbooks, DVDs, etc.) to studying and teaching straight from the text of Scripture. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll never have to ask “Who is a safe Bible study teacher?” again, because you’ll never have to depend on anyone else’s books and materials again, including mine.

I would like to know if you think it is unbiblical to teach my grandson Scripture. He is 16 years old, and I try to hold him accountable to church attendance as well as a private Bible study and memory Scripture. I’m the only one to encourage in that area of his life.  

You go for it, Granny!

Thank God …THANK GOD… for women like you who pour the gospel into their grandchildren. You are in good company with Lois. What a blessing it would be if your grandson turns out to be a Timothy!

The biblical prohibition against women teaching men has a very specific context, and that context isn’t private instruction in the family. It’s public instruction (pastoring, preaching, teaching the Bible to men, and holding authority over men) in the gathering of the church body.

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

Rock Your Role FAQs (see #12)

It would be very helpful if a godly older man at your church could take your grandson under his wing and disciple him, not because you’re violating Scripture, but because your grandson is at an age where he needs male role models and mentors to show him what a godly man looks and acts like.

Is it sinful for a wife to lead family worship (devotions) if the man is unwilling to read Scripture or even pray aloud? In our home that looks like mom gathering the children around, reading a chapter of Scripture, asking a few questions to the kids, singing a hymn, and praying. Sometimes the husband stays in the room. How should a wife handle this?  Should we try to do this before Dad gets home, as to not violate the command of women not to teach men?  

No, Hon, it is not sinful, it’s your responsibility as a Christian parent. Please see my answer to “Granny” above. She’s “Lois,” you’re “Eunice”.

No, I wouldn’t throw it in his face that you’re leading the children in worship, but I also wouldn’t make any special effort to do it when he’s not home, nor discourage him from staying in the room if he wanders in. If he’s not saved, he needs to see your living testimony and hear the gospel. If he is saved, yet shirking his responsibility as the spiritual leader of your home, perhaps the Lord will use your faithfulness to convict him.

I would also recommend that you set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel about all of this (you go alone if your husband won’t go with you). If your husband claims to be a Christian, he probably needs some godly older men to rally around him and disciple him about how to lead his wife and children. If he’s not saved, perhaps your pastor could recommend a godly older woman to disciple you through living with an unsaved husband.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Mailbag: Applying Twisted Scripture to Pseudo-“Christian” Events, Ideas, and Fads

The Asbury “revival”. Jesus Revolution. Bethel. The Enneagram. IF:Gathering...

Week after week, we see the ads, the social media posts, and the news stories of the latest, greatest “Christian” thing on the horizon.

Discerning Christians speak up in our churches, with our friends, and on our Facebook pages and rightly warn about the dangerous teachings and agendas these things push.

Other concerned Christians, genuinely fearing the “baby will be thrown out with the bathwater,” push back on those warnings. And sometimes, though they often have the best of intentions, they misapply Scripture or biblical principles to do so.

During the recent furor over the so-called Asbury “revival,” I saw, and was asked about, several of those misapplied Scriptures and principles employed in defense of the idea that we shouldn’t be so quick or so willing to publicly and confidently say something is not of God.

These Scriptures and principles could be applied to a myriad of things past and present, and will surely be employed again the next time a pseudo-“Christian” event, idea, or fad pops up, so let’s take a look at them and untangle them…

These Scriptures and principles will surely be employed again the next time a pseudo-“Christian” event, idea, or fad pops up, so let’s take a look at them and untangle them…

In response to doctrinally sound Christians decrying the Asbury event, one genuinely concerned lady asked:

What about Scripture that says “whoever is not against us is for us” in Mark 9:38-40? How do we apply this? Only God knows their heart, and I’m sure that people did come to know the Lord because of this.

There are several points in her question I’d like to address:

What about Scripture that says “whoever is not against us is for us” in Mark 9:38-40? How do we apply this?

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.

Mark 9:38-40

Because we know that God’s Word never contradicts itself, and Jesus never contradicted Himself or Scripture during His earthly ministry, we have to understand passages like Mark 9:38-40 within the context of the entirety of the New Testament. In this case, we understand it in light of…

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23 (emphasis added)


“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Luke 6:46 (emphasis added)

Notice Jesus is the speaker in all three of these passages. Again, Jesus did not contradict Himself during His earthly ministry.

We have to understand that there are a great many people out there who claim to be Christians and who, at first glance, look very much like Christians, but are not living in obedience to Christ, and/or are not teaching what accords with sound doctrine. Scripture calls those people liars and false teachers.

So when Jesus says in Mark 9:38-40 and other passages, that whoever is not against Him is for Him and vice versa, He’s defining “for Him” as someone who’s genuinely regenerated, obedient to Scripture, and teaching sound doctrine. Everybody else, regardless of what they might claim, is against Him according to Scripture.

You might think of it like this. When the disciples came to Jesus and said, “We tried to stop those guys because they aren’t part of our group,” and Jesus said, “Don’t. They’re still ‘with’ us,” it would have been similar to Him saying, “Don’t stop them. They’re doctrinally sound Presbyterians. We’re doctrinally sound Baptists. We preach the same gospel. We’re on the same team.”.

What He would not have been saying would have been something like, “It’s OK that they’re [Catholic, Mormon, prosperity gospel, New Apostolic Reformation, or any other heretical religion that claims to worship Jesus]. They say they love Me, so don’t stop them. Maybe some good will come out of this and a few people will get saved.”

Every week during his pastoral prayer, my pastor leads us to pray for a sister church in the area, and in his prayer, he always says, “Lord, we thank you that we are not the only expression of a Bible believing, God honoring, Christ exalting, Spirit filled church in this area.”

It’s kind of like that.

Only God knows their heart…

That’s not an excuse for failing to exercise discernment as Scripture commands us. God doesn’t require us to know other people’s hearts. He does require us to evaluate their observable behavior and teaching, compare it to Scripture, and stay away from it, warn others about it, and eradicate it from the church if it’s false.

“Only God knows their heart” is not an excuse for failing to exercise discernment as Scripture commands us.

…and I’m sure that people did come to know the Lord because of this.

1. That’s speculation on your part. Is it possible some people did get genuinely saved at this event? Yes, but we don’t have any proof of that. It’s an assumption.

2. The only way someone could have gotten saved at this event is if she heard the biblical gospel of law and grace, sin and repentance, and Jesus’ vicarious life, death, burial, and resurrection explicitly preached or explained. Here’s the biblical gospel. Was it proclaimed and explained at this event? If not, no salvations took place.

3. That idea is pragmatism. People come to Christ in all sorts of horrible situations and under all sorts of horrible teaching. People came to Christ in concentration camps, while they were still Muslims, in Catholic “churches,” while working as prostitutes, while practicing homosexuality, etc. The fact that people get saved while in those horrible situations or under that horrible teaching doesn’t magically make those situations and that teaching good. It means that God is so good and powerful and merciful that, through the power of His Word, He can save someone out of those situations and teaching.

But if even one person got saved, wasn’t it worth it?

Let me begin my answer to that question with another question.

Did you know that several medical procedures that have saved the lives of many people were discovered in World War II concentration camps by performing torturous experiments on inmates? Does the fact that those medical procedures have helped so many people justify the torture the Nazis inflicted on their victims?

Of course it doesn’t. Neither does one person (or even a bunch of people) getting saved excuse, nullify, justify, or make sin and false teaching “worth it”.

Stop and take a few moments to meditate on how high, and holy, and worthy of all honor, glory, majesty, praise, and reverence is God, the almighty King of the universe. Think about the excruciating pain Jesus went through on the cross, and the agony of having every drop of God’s wrath against sin poured out on Him. So that He might bear your sin and mine. So that we could be forgiven and free and saved from an eternity in Hell.

How could we ever say that the sewer slime of committing any sin against that God is “worth it,” no matter what the outcome might be?

No. A blasphemy-fest isn’t “worth it”. God doesn’t consider false teaching “worth it” if someone gets saved. He’s perfectly capable of saving everyone He means to save without such events.

You discerning Christians speaking out against this event should just back off like Gamaliel suggested in Acts 5 and let it play out. If it’s not of God, it will come to nothing.

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

Acts 5:38-39

{Be sure to read that passage in its entirety (Acts 5:17-42), so you can get the context and all the details.}

Sisters, we’ve got to get it through our heads that the book of Acts is largely historical narrative like Genesis or Judges or Nehemiah. Not only that, it is also a historical narrative of transition from Old Testament Judaism to New Testament Christianity. Many of the things we read about in Acts are not to be understood as normative of, or instruction to the church today. (Those sorts of things are mainly in the pastoral epistles – 1&2 Timothy and Titus.)

Such is the case with the Gamaliel passage in Acts 5. This is a descriptive passage (it simply tells us what happened), not a prescriptive passage (instructions for us to follow). And be thankful for that, because the disciples get beaten a lot in Acts 5.

Nowhere in God’s didactic instruction to the New Testament church does He tell us to back off an event or teacher that claims to be “Christian” and just let things play out. Nowhere. Instead, we repeatedly see instruction throughout the New Testament (and even the Old Testament) to be wise and discerning, test the spirits, and have nothing to do with false teachers, either as individuals or the church.

We also have to take into account that Gamaliel was a Pharisee who was still hanging out with the rest of the Council. Know what that means? He wasn’t a Believer. You take Gamaliel’s advice, and you’re taking the advice of a lost person – over God’s instructions – about how to handle a situation in the church.

Gamaliel is not the hero of this story. If he were, he would have believed the gospel the disciples proclaimed, and prevented the Council from beating them and forbidding them to preach. And he probably would have suffered the same consequences the disciples suffered.

Gamaliel isn’t the hero of this story. If he were, he’d have believed the gospel the disciples proclaimed, and prevented them from being beaten & forbidden to preach. And he probably would have suffered the same fate as the disciples.

Finally, though Gamaliel, in his limited experience, could cite a couple of instances in which this rubric seemed to work, we have the advantage of looking back across much more history, over many more years, and in many more places, and we can see that his advice doesn’t always work. How long has Islam been hanging around? Hinduism? Mormonism? Buddhism? Catholicism? Certainly none of those religious movements are of God, and still, here they all are.

Don’t take Gamaliel’s advice in these situations, submit to God’s instructions to the church.

Be careful that you are not calling what is of God as not. Very serious thing to do.

It may not always be meant this way, but this kind of warning can come across as a veiled threat.

Be careful you are not calling something “of God” when it is not. That is also a very serious thing to do, especially if what you’re basing your conclusion on is your feelings, opinions, experiences, and out of context, misapplied Scripture, rather than on rightly handled, in context Scripture.

God can bring good out of anything!

Of course He can. God is out for His glory and the good of His people. But that doesn’t make the situation or false teaching itself good or excusable or that we shouldn’t warn against it if it’s bad. Scripture says the opposite.

When God sovereignly brings something good and holy out of a bad or sinful situation, it doesn’t mean that bad or sinful situation is good and holy. It means God is good and holy.

For example: A Mormon who studies her Bible and/or is evangelized can get genuinely saved while still in Mormonism. (And God will save her out of Mormonism.) That doesn’t make Mormonism Christian or good or biblical. That means God is good and merciful and kind.

When God sovereignly brings something good and holy out of a bad or sinful situation, it doesn’t mean that bad or sinful *situation* is good and holy. It means *God* is good and holy.

Be ready. The next “Christian” thing is just around the corner. Study your Bible and be prepared to correctly apply rightly handled Scripture as you carefully evaluate it according to God’s Word.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Shepherds’ Gospel

Originally published December 22, 2015

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.

Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives.

Called Out of Darkness Into Light

The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.

The Clean for the Unclean

The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.

God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours.

Given, Not Earned

Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

Faithful Messengers for God’s Glory

The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the Word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.

Hear, Believe, Respond

When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.

Do Tell

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him.

O Worship the King

How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s Word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?

Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


Movie: Christmas Gone Viral

Originally published November 28, 2017

One third of the world celebrates Christmas. That makes this the perfect time of year to carry out the Great Commission. What could be a more natural transition from chit chat to the gospel than talking about Christmas – the birth of Christ? Watch as Ray Comfort and ordinary folks from all over the world share the good news of Jesus with those they encounter.

If you’re looking for other easy ways to share the gospel in the coming days, check out my article, 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays. You can also order some awesome Christmas-themed tracts to tuck inside your Christmas cards or share as you’re shopping at Living Waters or Bezeugen.