A question about God, the Bible, Faith, and/or how to be Saved

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Derrick sent me the following questions in email:

I have a question about God, the Bible, Faith, and/or how to be Saved

I’m struggling with my faith. All of my life I’ve been told that Jesus is what I should believe and not to question it. But it’s hard to not question things with a rational thinking brain that God gave me. I question that if the trinity is real, why did Jesus pray to God before his crucifixion?  If he were God wouldn’t he be praying to himself? Which seems irrational. Other things is that the old testament and new testament seem to contradict eachother. We are told to be aware of false prophets. Ones who break the laws and perform miracles. And in the new testament, Jesus does these things. He tells us there is no way to the father but through me. Yet we are commanded to not worship or pray to anyone except God. Praying to Jesus seems like idolatry. In the old testament God clearly says He is the one and only God, and there is no one beside Him. I’m not denouncing Jesus or that he taught a good way and Godly way. I just want a better understanding. If we were created for God’s companionship,  why do we need a middle man to pray to? It isn’t the way of Abraham or Noah, or anyone in the Old testament. Also, the story of Jesus was written by catholics when the Romans were at war with the Jews. After Jews converted to christianity after the story was written, Jerusalem was destroyed. Help me find understanding please!

Hi Derrick,

Thank you Derrick for your email and for sharing with me that you are struggling with your faith. You didn’t specifically mention what you have faith in within your email yet from your email I can tell that you are very confused about Jesus, the Bible, what the Bible actually teaches, and you are seemingly concerned about where you stand with God. Hopefully what I’ve written will help you find correct understanding. Yet it is up to you Derrick to continue to be open to learning about what the Bible actually teaches by reading and studying it yourself and studying the evidence supporting the Bible and the teachings within it. It falls to each individual person to want to know God and His love for them. Per your email Derrick, it seems to me that you chose to learn more about and know God better than you do now.

I’m struggling with my faith.

Yes, from reading your email I can tell that you are indeed struggling with your faith. As mentioned above, you didn’t specifically state what you have placed your faith in though in reading your email to me in full, it seems that you are/were in some sort of cult which doesn’t teach the Bible and especially doesn’t teach the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus said that in the last days many false prophets would arise and deceive many (Matthew 24:11,24).

The words “cult” and “occult” are both connected with teachings which oppose the Word of God. The first mark of a cult is its manipulation of Scripture. The Bible is twisted … Their teachings distort the historic, orthodox claims of Christianity.

Cults do not lead to the Christ of the Bible, but to another Jesus and another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:1-4; Galatians 1:8,9). We must therefore reject these false teachings, and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And, of course, remember the Bible also goes on to admonish us that we must do this with gentleness, and with respect. Remember, you must present the message, but you need to recognize that it is only the Holy Spirit that changes the heart

Derrick, from your email to me it is clear to me that what you were taught is directly contributing to your struggle. Especially with regard to faith, what you’ve been taught is causing you grief and confusion.

The Bible does not promote a belief in the irrational or any type of unwarranted “blind faith.”

Some people may say, “Faith takes over where reason leaves off.” Taken this way, rationality is seen as a bridge that reaches only partway across a great chasm; faith is needed to complete the bridge and reach the other side.

People who take this view would say that Christianity cannot be proven, that reason leads us most of the way to God and then we must make a “leap of faith” in order to say that Jesus is Lord. This actually is a very common view among Christians. But this is not what God’s Word teaches about faith.

The Bible itself tells us what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So biblical faith is not blind but is strongly warranted confidence. The phrase “hoped for” does not imply a mere wishful thinking as in “I sure hope the weather is nice next week.” Rather, the Greek word indicates a confident expectation: the kind of confidence we have when we have a good reason to believe something.

Biblically, faith is having confidence in something you have not experienced with your senses. Biblical faith is not “blind”; it’s not the act of “believing without a reason.” Just the opposite; biblical faith is the act of believing in something unseen for which we do have a good reason.

For example, when we believe that God will keep a promise, this constitutes faith because we cannot “see” it and yet we have a good reason for it: God has demonstrated that He keeps His promises.

Thus Christians have faith (trust) that God will keep the promises He made to us.

All of my life I’ve been told that Jesus is what I should believe and not to question it. But it’s hard to not question things with a rational thinking brain that God gave me.

This sentence from you is the key to your struggle. Only a cult would teach you what to believe and to not question what they say you should believe. Cult leadership and members discourage people from making judgments and asking questions about what is being taught.

Should Christians judge (question) the teachings being taught to them? Not only is judging (questioning) permissible, it is our responsibility to do so. Nobody’s teachings are above sound judgment—especially those of influential leaders! Biblically, authority and accountability go hand in hand (Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability (James 3:1).

First, the precedent for making right judgments and questioning comes from Scripture itself. In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to practice sound judgment by thoroughly testing the teachings of their leaders (Deuteronomy 13). Similarly, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians to test all things and to hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21–22). Moreover, Paul lauds the Bereans for testing his teachings (Acts 17:11).

Furthermore, while our Lord cautioned followers not to judge self–righteously (Matthew 7:1–5), he also counseled them to make judgments based on right standards (John 7:24). In the context of his oft–misquoted command “Judge not, or you too will be judged,” Jesus exhorts us to judge false prophets, whose teachings and behavior lead people astray (Matthew 7:15–20). Thus while we are commanded to not judge hypocritically, we are nevertheless called to judge and question what we are being taught.

I applaud you Derrick for making judgments and questioning what you were taught! You certainly used rational thinking with the brain God gave you!

I question that if the trinity is real,

How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t the Bible emphatically state that God is one? These queries are common discussions among Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Bible should be accepted as the final authority for the believer. Therefore, to find out and know about God, we must look to Scripture to learn what God has revealed about Himself in His inspired Word. The famous passage known as the Shema (Hebrew: “hear”) starts by stating, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). The Bible is quite clear: God is one!

The Bible is also clear that there are three Persons who are each called God. This plurality of God is presented in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit] be with you all. Amen” (bracketed information added). With our finite minds it is impossible to fully comprehend the infinite God. It is also difficult for us to apprehend the concept that God is one Being in three Persons.

The New Testament portrays each member of the Godhead as distinct Persons in passages such as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Believers are to go into the world and make disciples and baptize them in the name (singular, not “names”) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus placed Himself and the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father.

Matthew also portrays all three members of the Trinity as involved in the baptism of Jesus. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16–17). In this passage the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove while Jesus was on the earth.

Jesus identified Himself as God in John 10:30 when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” He also declared His divinity during His temptation by the devil when He said, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7).

Derrick, the full understanding of how God is One yet in Three Persons is not within our human grasp due to our finite knowledge and God being infinite. Also, to write about what we do know about God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in an email just doesn’t give enough time nor space to do so. I suggest that you check out the resources below as a starting point to help you better understand our tri-personal God (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).

why did Jesus pray to God before his crucifixion?

Jesus prayed to God before His crucifixion to provide to you and me an example of how to face persecution; take it to God and derive strength from Him to endure. (Matthew 5:10–12)

The night before His Crucifixion Christ Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Even though He had an overriding desire fully submit to the Father’s will, Jesus faced unimaginable torment. The Bible states that “His sweat became like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), a condition associated with the highest degree of stress.

Christ Jesus here on earth as fully human yet God in flesh, knew the fate He was to encounter and endure. He knew that He would be tortured and placed on a cross and die on that cross. Christ Jesus also knew that He was going to go through this torture and death to fulfill the promise God made in Genesis 3:15 (“I [God] will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”)

Above all, Christ Jesus knew that He was about to encounter something that had never occurred before, since, nor ever again; the fact that, as the perfectly pure Son of God, He would soon become sin for you and me which would separate Him from God.

Many people misplace the physical signs of Christ’s stress as concern for the physical persecution He would endure. Perhaps this is because we cannot even imagine the depth of agony He would experience as Christ Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

We must however consider the result. Because Jesus suffered God’s wrath, we have a sure hope for an eternal future full of love, peace, and rest in the glorious presence of God. On the other hand, this same God will pour out His eternal wrath on all who reject His beloved Son’s sacrifice. It is difficult to fear man when considering this.

Whatever man may do to us in this world out of his hatred for God, there is an exponentially greater reward in Christ. We must work to have this perspective if we are going to be effective servants of the King.

If he [Jesus] were God wouldn’t he be praying to himself? Which seems irrational.

Yes, it would be irrational if Jesus had ever prayed to Himself. Jesus is praying to God the Father prior to Hs crucifixion. The New Testament portrays God the Father as the primary recipient of human prayer. Jesus instructed, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.” And, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, ‘Hallowed be Your name . . .’” And, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

Jesus prayed to the Father frequently. Of course, He would not have prayed to himself, but it is interesting that Scriptures reveal no times that he explicitly prayed to the Spirit, nor does Jesus explicitly instruct us to pray to the Holy Spirit.

At least three times Paul tells us to give thanks to God, “even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 1:12; Colossians 3:17). Paul also tells us to bring our petitions to the Father: “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”

Acts and the Epistles provide a number of good examples in which the Father is addressed in prayer, though prayers of petition to the Father are rare. I will now give an example of each form of prayer directed to the Father.

Other things is that the old testament and new testament seem to contradict each other. We are told to be aware of false prophets. Ones who break the laws and perform miracles. And in the new testament, Jesus does these things.

Derrick, so to help me understand what you wrote, specifically how do the Old and New Testaments contradict each other and which laws did Christ Jesus break?

He [Jesus] tells us there is no way to the father but through me. Yet we are commanded to not worship or pray to anyone except God. Praying to Jesus seems like idolatry.

If Christ Jesus was not God, it would be idolatry to pray to Him. Yet, Christ Jesus is God as clearly described in Scripture He is God the Son. Thus, it is not idolatry to pray to Christ Jesus. Jesus accepted prayers of praise and petition while here on earth.

In the Gospels, Jesus was worshipped, and He accepted it (John 9:38). Surely this involved verbal communication to Jesus or prayer. The Gospels are not the only place where worship of Jesus occurs. The angels are told to worship Jesus. There is worship of Jesus (the Lamb) in Revelation by both angels and humans (Revelation 5:8–13).

Since all three members of the Trinity are God, then worship is due to each of them, collectively and individually, because of the nature of the Trinity. Worship involves praise and adoration. It would be wrong to discourage people from addressing each member of the Trinity in praise and adoration. God expects us to worship Jesus. The Jehovah’s Witnesses (a cult) will not pray to Jesus because they think that He is not worthy of worship. Christians pray to Jesus because we know He is worthy of worship, and that He even demands worship. Jesus commanded us to honor the Son just as we honor the Father (John 5:23).

There is a sense in which all of our prayers, even ones we pray to the Spirit or the Son, are ultimately directed to the Father, who is the Head of the Trinity (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 11:3). It is through Christ that we have access to the Father. And we pray in the Spirit to the Father. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The Spirit’s role is important. Romans 8:26 says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness: “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” So we are to pray in the Spirit and through Jesus (on the basis of what He has done for us, and in His authority). However, to actually pray to the Spirit or to the Son while praying in the Spirit does not delegitimize our prayer. When we pray to the Spirit we are still praying to God. And when we pray to Jesus in His authority, we are still praying to God, and in a sense to the Father Himself.

Because prayers directed to the Father are so common in the New Testament, it is certainly appropriate to address the Father on a regular basis (we should pray to him often). But I am confident that God is not counting our prayers to each member of the Trinity to make sure we have prayed to each one in proper proportion. The Trinity is not “jealous” of one another. Of course, if we are leaving one member of the Trinity out completely, then there may be a problem with our view of that member of the Trinity. Communicating to each Person in the Godhead is important for having fellowship with our tri-personal God.

In the old testament God clearly says He is the one and only God, and there is no one beside Him. I’m not denouncing Jesus or that he taught a good way and Godly way. I just want a better understanding.

In both the Old and New Testaments, numerous passages that teach that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are distinct persons and yet each hold the attributes of deity.

The triune God (or Trinity) began to allude to this aspect of His nature in Genesis 1:26–27; “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’ . . . God created man in His image.” Here God is a plural noun, said is in the third-person singular verb form, and we see both the plural pronoun our and the singular His referring to the same thing (God’s image). This is not horribly confused grammar. Rather, we are being taught, in a limited way, that God is a plurality in unity. We can’t say from this verse that He is a trinity, but God progressively reveals more about Himself in later Scriptures to bring us to that conclusion.

In Isaiah 48:12–16 we find the speaker in the passage describing himself as the Creator and yet saying that “the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” This is further hinting at the doctrine of the trinity, which becomes very clear in the New Testament. There are many other Old Testament Scriptures that hint at the same idea.

Go through as a start the resources at the bottom to read more about our tri-personal God (God the Father God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).

If we were created for God’s companionship, why do we need a middle man to pray to? It isn’t the way of Abraham or Noah, or anyone in the Old testament.

We don’t need a middle man to pray to; we need a Savior which is Christ Jesus. Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc. from the Old Testament were waiting on the Savior promised by God (first mentioned in Genesis 3:15).

You and I on our own cannot work or pay out way into Heaven because neither of us are worthy to be near God; we have each knowingly and willingly done wrong (missing the mark or sinning; sin). Per God being pure and our sin making us impure, you and I cannot be near God. The only way that you and I can be seen pure to God is through Christ Jesus. Per Christ Jesus being the only human ever who lived on earth without sinning, His suffering and death on the cross paid the debt you and I owe God for our sinning. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Also, the story of Jesus was written by catholics [sic] when the Romans were at war with the Jews. After Jews converted to christianity [sic] after the story was written, Jerusalem was destroyed.

Derrick please provide the materials you have about your claim.

The early church recognized the importance of worshipping Jesus. In fact, when Athanasius made his case against Arianism in the early 300’s, he pointed out that Christians had prayed to Jesus from the beginning. Athanasius argued that if Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father (homoousios) and was instead only a creature—only of like substance with the Father (homoiousios), then Christians from the beginning would have been committing idolatry by praying to Jesus.(1)

Help me find understanding please!

Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Real knowledge starts with an understanding that there is a Creator God (Genesis 1:1), that man’s sin against His Creator brought death into the world (Romans 5:12), that man is more than just a physical being (Genesis 1:27), that man is in need of salvation (Romans 6:23), and that all wisdom and knowledge is found in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:3).

I hope what I’ve written has helped give you a start at better understanding. I suggest that you read and study the Bible yourself. Don’t take my word for what the Bible says.

Derrick, please feel free to ask questions.

To God be all the glory!

Victor

Resources

  1. McGrath, Alister. 1998. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, p. 26. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

 

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/why-should-we-believe-in-the-inerrancy-of-scripture/

https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/skeptics-dont-want-answers/

https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/answering-the-skeptics/

https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/faith-vs-reason/

https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/is-the-trinity-three-different-gods/

https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/jesus-is-god/is-jesus-god/

https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/how-should-we-face-persecution/

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/jesus-is-god/can-we-pray-to-jesus/

https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/prayer-and-trinity/

https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/god-is-triune/

http://www.equip.org/search/?q=cult%20teachings

http://www.equip.org/perspectives/what-are-common-characteristics-of-cults/

 

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