There are trivial ones and there are life-changing ones. There are correct answers and wrong answers. There are answers that are accepted and answers that are ignored or rejected. Questions are asked to stimulate thought or for specific information. Answers are given when and where the questions are asked. This last thought is critical in properly understanding the Word of God, i.e. Bible.
Let’s begin with a simple, everyday illustration. Before I leave on my trip from California to Florida, I ask, “How far is it to Florida?” and I am told it is 2,000 miles. As I travel eastward, I asked the question in Texas, “How far is it to Florida” and I am told 1,500 miles. When I get into Louisiana, I asked the question, “How far is it to Florida?” and I am told 500 miles. Of course, we understand the answers are different, though correct, because they were answered where the questions were asked.
Now we will apply this principle to the same subject/question asked four times: “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16); “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37); “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10).
The young man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). His response was, “…if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17) and then listed six commandments. These were part of the commandments/laws/covenant God made exclusively with Israel/Hebrews/Jews. The answer was given where the question was asked.
There were present in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation on this Pentecost. Peter, as a mouthpiece for Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-14), summarizes his message, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Being cut to the heart and believing the message, in response to their question, “What shall we do?,” they were told, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (verse 38). The question was answered where/when the question was asked.
Paul and Silas were placed in the inner prison in Philippi after being beaten. Their positive influence on the jailor eventually prompted him to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). His question tells us two things: the jailor was not saved and he did not know the answer. The question was answered where the question was asked. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (verse 31). He was an unbeliever. Faith is the foundation, the starting point. (John 8:24; Mark 16:15,16) Paul and Silas then taught him about the one he was to believe in, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (verse 32). His journey on the road to a new birth continues, “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds.” This was an indication of a change of heart, i.e. repentance. “And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” They have arrived on the journey of the new birth. The question was answered where/when the question was asked.
Saul, i.e. Paul, on the road to Damascus, in response to his question, “What shall I do, Lord?” was told, “Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do” (Acts 22:10). Ananias was the messenger: “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (verses 14-16). He was in the final stages of the new birth. He obviously believed in Jesus as the Messiah and repented of his sins or he would not have been commanded to be baptized. The question was answered where the question was asked.
The answers to the same question are not in contradiction with each other or in conflict with salvation by mercy and grace through Jesus, the Christ. Recalling our journey from California to Florida illustration, the Philippian jailor was still in “California” when he asked the question (he did not believe), those on Pentecost were in “Texas” (they did believe through hearing and accepting the message) and Saul/Paul was in “Louisiana” (he believed in Jesus, the Messiah and repented of his past life).
Note carefully the warning spoken by the Holy Spirit through Peter, “as also in all his (Paul) epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Caution must be taken to direct the question to the right source. Such an example is noted in Matthew 16:13-20. Incorrect answers came from men, but the correct answer came from “My Father who is in heaven.” Learn the lesson well.
Dear reader, it does not take a Ph.D, MA, BS, DD, etc. to understand the powerful, amazing grace of God. But it does take an open heart/mind/spirit to hear, receive and obey the glorious gospel of Christ. The history of the preaching the gospel in Acts introduces us to such open hearts and the power of Truth.
Frank Parker is a Sebring resident. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.