Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 15 No. 12 December 2013
Page 15

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to rushmore@gospelgazette.com

Authority for Meeting
on Wednesday Night

Louis Rushmore

Louis RushmoreSomeone inquires, “Where is the authority for the church coming together for Bible study on Wednesday night?” First, “Wednesday night” is not the real issue underlying the question, because some congregations opt to have Bible classes for the local church on another day of the week, such as on Thursday. In addition, by whatever authority a church comes together for Bible classes on Sunday is materially the same as for the congregation having Bible classes on a weeknight. Therefore, the heart of the question is, “Where is the authority for the church coming together for Bible classes?” If by chance, Bible classes are not what are meant by reference to “meeting on Wednesday night,” then the crux of the inquiry pertains to a congregation coming together on another day besides Sunday, irrespective of the time of day (or night).

When is it wrong to study the Bible? When is it wrong to study the Bible with fellow Christians? Why would it be wrong to study the Bible specifically with others of our own maturity level? We are commanded to study of the Word of God. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). Church leaders, elders in particular, have a responsibility to feed their respective congregations with spiritual nourishment. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Since the details of how God expects elders to accomplish that task are not stipulated or otherwise indicated, church leaders may exercise their own discretion on how to accomplish “feeding the church.”

As members of a congregation that has opted to “feed the church” through the use of Bible classes (i.e., Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc.), we are obligated to follow the instructions of the elders to come together for that purpose. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). Therefore, summarized, the authority for meeting on Wednesday night for Bible study relates to (1) the responsibility of church leaders to “feed the church” and (2) the responsibility of church members to comply with the efforts of church leaders to “feed the church.”

Spending the Church Contribution

Louis Rushmore

Someone inquires, “Can money for food and school giveaways be taken from the contribution?” This question pertains not to the worthiness of expenditures as much as it is about on what the church contribution can be spent.

If a proposed expense is a benevolent expenditure, then the answer is, “Yes.” “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 NKJV). “[W]hile, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men” (2 Corinthians 9:13). There are two classes of people from the perspective of these two verses—the saved and the lost. Both the saved and the lost are potential candidates for the reception of congregational benevolence—including from the church treasury. Though some brethren tenaciously clutch church dollars, refusing any acknowledgement of a possible congregational response to benevolent needs of non-Christians, the context of Galatians 6:10, for instance, permits congregational benevolence toward non-Christians. In the same series of verses, Galatians 6:6 pertains to paying the preacher for his services (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:4-14; 1 Timothy 5:18). No one contends, preacher or church member, that individual Christians and not the congregation from the treasury are exclusively responsible for compensating the preacher. Since the congregational treasury may pay the preacher in verse 6, likewise the congregational treasury may spend benevolent money in verse 10 on either Christians or non-Christians, only that there is a preference for Christians.

Aside from benevolence, the church must spend funds from its treasury on things that may pertain directly or indirectly to other areas of its divinely appointed work. Already noted was an expense for preachers, but full-time elders are specified in Scripture as possible recipients of a salary, too (1 Timothy 5:17). Other general areas of church responsibility on which a congregation ought to spend money from the treasury as needed include worship (e.g., meeting place with its attendant peripherals, communion supplies, etc.), evangelism (e.g., mass evangelism via radio, TV, Internet and printing, travel, lodging, meals, advertising, etc.), edification (e.g., meeting place, supplies, literature, meals, lodging, etc.) and so on.

The elders of a fully organized congregations and male Christians in the absence of elders are responsible for making the locally appropriate inferences from inspired implications where the Holy Spirit did not provide the details. When church leaders do not countermand God’s commands or direct statements, apostolic approved examples and divine implications, the rest of the members need to abide by the decisions, even if some of them would have done it differently. As long as the New Testament’s commands or direct statements are general and without inclusion of specifics, church leaders may use their best judgment how to accomplish divine instruction locally; other church members are obligated to follow their direction in such things (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Yes, it is feasible that money from the church treasury could be used to purchase food for any number of reasons. Of course, I have no way of knowing the details respecting the question respecting purchasing “food” and “school giveaways,” but it is not too difficult to imagine circumstances under which such expenses may correspond to a church effort in one of its areas of responsibility. Finally, barring obvious, grievous disregard for Scripture, church members need to support the decisions of their church leaders.

Did Satan Take the
Form of a Serpent?

Louis Rushmore

“Did Satan just take the form of a serpent when he tempted Eve?” Various commentators have these thoughts on whether Satan took the form of a serpent when he tempted Eve or whether he spoke through a serpent when he tempted Eve. “The tempter was a serpent (Satan in the form of a snake), thus suggesting that temptation comes in disguise, quite unexpectedly, and that it often comes from a subordinate (someone over whom one should have exercised dominion; cf. Gen. 1:28)” (Bible Knowledge).

When he came into the Garden, Satan used the body of a serpent, one of God’s creatures that He had pronounced “good” (Gen 1:31). Eve didn’t seem disturbed by the serpent’s presence or its speech, so we assume that she saw nothing threatening about the encounter. Perhaps Eve hadn’t been introduced to this species and concluded that it had the ability to speak. (Bible Exposition)

“God allowed Satan to make the serpent his instrument and to speak through him” (Geneva Notes). “It was the devil in the likeness of a serpent. Whether it was only the visible shape and appearance of a serpent (as some think those were of which we read, Ex 7:12), or whether it was a real living serpent, actuated and possessed by the devil, is not certain…” (Matthew Henry’s).

Of course, the whole person of the serpent that appears in this tragic scene also includes a certain identity with Satan himself, as indicated by Paul’s reference in 2 Cor. 11:3, the indication there being that the same serpent who seduced Eve is, in this dispensation, engaged in seducing the Church of Jesus Christ. Also, Satan is called, “The great Dragon, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9)…. Therefore, Satan himself was the person speaking in the serpent of this verse. (Coffman’s)

Bible students have misgivings whether Satan appeared to Eve in the Garden of Eden masquerading or pretending to be a serpent, or whether Satan took control of a serpent, using it somewhat as a marionette or puppet. From the biblical text, it seems to me that Satan possessed a real serpent or snake to misguide Eve, because subsequently, God punished serpents as well as mankind and Satan (the devil).

Frequently, the consequences of sin extend beyond sinners to innocent victims. Apparently, serpents were created by God to walk upon the earth, since in Genesis 3:14 God punished the serpent for being an instrument in the downfall of humanity. That would hardly make any sense if it were the case that serpents or snakes were already crawling on their bellies. Therefore, Satan (the Devil) possessed a snake to tempt the first pair. God punished Satan, serpents, humans and the natural world (e.g., thorns, etc.). The consequences of sin are far-reaching.

Works Cited

Bible Exposition Commentary. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Victor, 2004.

Bible Knowledge Commentary. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 2000.

James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU, 1989.

Geneva Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

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